Living the Deep
It’s been snowing a lot in Northern BC. Not an unusual thing, really, considering it’s one of the snowiest places in the world. In fact, it’s been snowing a lot everywhere in BC this winter. But there are few places where that snow makes for some real magic but one of those is the town of Stewart. This former mining town of less than 500 people sits at sea level on the north end of the 72km long Portland Canal, which isn’t a canal at all, but one of the longest fjords in North America.
Stewart is a bit of a frontier town. It’s the end of the road, literally. BC Highway 37a ends in Stewart. There’s still mining in them hills (gigantic, glaciated mountains, actually) but it’s less than it once was. Summer tourism is probably the biggest game in town but it’s also become a bit of an epic winter destination, too. Mainly because it serves as one of two locations operated by Last Frontier Heliskiing. And right now, Stewart and the mountains around it have been going off in the snow department. Consider that at sea level, there is 120cm of snow in town. Imagine what it’s like 6, 7 or 8 thousand feet higher than that. Metres, not centimetres.
When it’s on like this something happens to the folks who get to ski snow that deep. We’re seeing it around BC, but in Stewart, for some strange reason, it becomes clearer. Maybe it’s the remote setting or the fact that it’s far from, well, everywhere. But when you and the people around you, in this case our guests, our staff and our guides, are shredding fresh pow every day, a stillness starts to settle in.
Sure there’s the pow madness that grips us all when there’s a few feet of fresh on the ground, but when it’s like that every day, a calm, almost enlightened state begins to take over. It’s the deep that does it. It can be tough to explain. Surfing perfect waves, riding fresh loam or climbing splitter granite is different. It’s fleeting. It’s not constant. Skiing deep snow, every day? It’s like nothing else in the world.
Sometimes, you’ll see it at resorts, when there’s an insanely epic winter afoot. But even then, it’s rare. Runs get tracked out and the crowds are always encroaching. But when you’re skiing lap after lap, untracked, for days on end, in the middle of nowhere, living the deep, life becomes simpler and more focused. We see what we need to see and feel only what’s necessary. But it’s not our needs or our stresses we feel, it’s the bliss of being in a remote environment, away from the world, with the time to feel what life is all about.
Time is the commodity that makes all the difference. Because unlike a 30 second wave, being able to shred snow like that all day for a week or three is the only thing I have ever experienced that makes all of life’s other worries completely and utterly melt away. Everything becomes gravy when you’re not clicked into your bindings. Everything else in your days become just an added bonus, there to be cherished. A good a meal, a warm beverage, a conversation with a friend. All of that is the real bliss. The snow is just what brings us there.
So if you get a chance, make some time to visit and see what it’s like to ski every lap untracked, day after day for as long as you can handle it. See what it means to worry only about the next helicopter ride to the next lap to the next face shot. Feel your stress take a backseat to living blissfully, where the focus is crisp, clear and only about the next turn.
Be safe, ski hard.