Shreddin’ the gnar along highway 16

🕔Dec 15, 2009

We didn’t plan on being rock stars for a week—it just happened that way.

The Vision

Shred the Gnar Tour 2009 was inspired by a challenge put out to all snowboard shops in North America by Burton Snowboards, one of the largest companies of its kind. A thousand dollars would go to the shop that devised the best way to promote women’s participation in the sport.

Tara Wilson, co-owner of Ruins Board shops in Terrace, Prince George and Quesnel, asked her fellow female snowboarders for suggestions. After a round of excited emails, a group of us from Terrace plus one in Prince George planned a road trip along Highway 16 to hit as many hills in northern BC as we could. And ‘Shred the Gnar’ Tour 2009 was born.

Burton was impressed by our fervor, but didn’t think we could make the idea fly. The money went to a store in the States that hosted a pizza and movie night.

Boy, did we surprise them!

Ramping Up

With or without Burton’s contribution, once the idea of a tour was out there we couldn’t let it go.

The ladies in Terrace started holding planning meetings, keeping our Prince George partner Sam Lewis in the loop.

Priority number one was to brainstorm a theme. First, show how great the ski hills in northern BC really are. Second, show how incredible northern BC is as a whole. And third, show that regardless of age, skill level or background, all women can shred.

We set an itinerary for the second week of February, then set about spreading the word and fundraising.

We held bottle drives, bake sales and a fundraising party that included a silent auction. We contacted ski hills, snowboard companies, tourism organizations and accommodations for sponsorship; we’d print their logos on our tour clothing in exchange for swag and support. Two writer-photographers in the group also pitched stories about our trip to media and magazines throughout the region, province and country.

It’s really happening!

At the end of the day, Shred the Gnar 2009 included six hills, seven days and eight women—Tara Wilson, Sarah Zimmerman, Sam Lewis, Stacey Blake, Boby Wagner, Laura Barton, Julia Hill and me. Our ages ranged from early 20s to late 30s, while skill levels ranged from park tricksters and powder-mongers to groomer babies.

Transportation included two gnarly trucks. Four of us rode in the Ruins mobile and four of us rolled in a glossy new Sport Trak plastered with the message “Terrace is Hockeyville.” At this point, Terrace still needed votes to win the title of Hockeyville and the committee entrusted us with a promo vehicle to help convince the rest of northern BC to support its goal.

Our efforts truly paid off, no small thanks to the amazing support of our communities and those we visited. Many of those we contacted came through with money, gear, products to give away, free or discounted lift tickets, and free or discounted accommodation.

The day we left, our trucks were packed with 11 snowboards, extra bindings, seven “Terrace is Hockeyville” jerseys, 48 cans of Red Bull, 10 flats of Dude Beer, 80 Roxy hoodies, 24 “Shred the Gnar” T-shirts, a stack of snowboarding stickers, four boxes of snacks and food, six cameras, two video cameras and four lap-top computers, plus personal and miscellaneous items. We also had a stash of fundraised cash including $500 from Burton, who donated the money and some gear after seeing our proposal come alive.

We were set, we were pumped, and we were in total disbelief. We were high on humility at how lucky we were.

The Journey

The trip was a blur and, needless to say, a blast. We seriously felt like rock stars. There we were, your average lasses, hill-hopping and being welcomed with open arms and hearts by owners, staff and, often, local media to six incredible ski resorts. Sometimes, local guides showed us around. Other times our hosts left us to explore on our own and we checked in and chatted with them throughout the day.

Every mountain we visited made us proud to be from northern BC.
Speaking for the Terracites of the trip, we’ve always prided ourselves on how great Shames Mountain is—the snow, the terrain, the welcoming community, and the easy backcountry access. But this trip proved that every ski resort is special in its own way. It also confirmed that locals in every ski town love their mountain and want others to appreciate it as much as they do, just as we feel about Shames.

As for the group dynamics, we chickies succeeded in averting any major drama. Being the kind of girls who hung around guys for a large chunk of our lives, a few, if not all, of us were slightly apprehensive to be in such close quarters for an entire week with only females, some of whom we hardly knew. But besides a few tense moments—understandable after little sleep, just a few drinks here and there and a serious lack of personal space—the tour was pretty much smooth sailing.

We also lucked out with the weather. We didn’t get any fresh powder that week, but we had bluebird skies and sunshine every day.

Here’s a quick low-down on the mountains we visited.

*Troll Resort – Quesnel *

After picking up Sam in Prince George, we arrived at Troll Resort, 45 kms east of Quesnel, well after dark. Hilder, the mountain’s owner who lives in a house at the base of the hill, led us to an empty cabin, gave all eight of us mattresses, sleeping bags and pillows, and fed us soup while we chatted in the resort’s cozy lodge. That’s true northern hospitality!

The next day, resort regulars gave us a tour. We checked out the incredible skills park and zipped through stashes of tree powder. The mountain even opened one of its T-bars especially for us.

Troll Mountain is a family hill with 1,700 vertical feet and two T-bars. Loyal regulars even have their own Troll Resort mugs, kept at the lodge. Before we left, Hilder presented us with our very own mugs, which we treasure to this day.

Hart Highlands – Prince George

Hart Highlands was the smallest hill we hit—one could run to the top of it in less than five minutes—but it was also the most intimidating. One of the lifts is a fast moving zip-line that riders grab with their gloves. We watched as children half our size flew to the top, but had a hard time quelling our fears. We had all taken the challenge by the end of the night, but some of us are still in shock.

Located within the Prince George city, Hart Highlands is amazingly easy to reach and open in the evenings. Incredibly committed volunteers keep the mountain running, manning the lifts so that local youth have access to safe and fun recreation.

Murray Ridge – Fort St. James

Murray Ridge has the longest T-bar in North America so your inner thighs will be tight by the end of a ski day. The resort has long, fast-flying groomers flanked by fun little jumps and trees. The wooden lodge at the base of hill is especially roomy yet cozy, with three levels and a warm wood stove that heats them all.

We stayed here for some après-ski snacks and drinks, chatting with the staff who had shown us around for the day. Funny photos and big hugs later, it was hard to leave.

Powder King – Mackenzie

Powder King is known, not surprisingly, for its powder. We rode here for two days, hoping for some cold face shots but got sunrays instead.

While many sleep in Mackenzie for the night and some even drive from Prince George, the Shred the Gnar crew was lucky enough to stay in a huge log cabin, one of a few, a few minutes walk from the main lift. After some hiking and traversing, we managed to find some powder, see an incredible 360-degree view of surrounding peaks, and lose some of our team.

No problem. We all met up with each other—and some of the locals—later that day at L’Avalanche Dining Room & Lounge in the mountain’s lodge. It was rocking by evening time and, again, hard to leave.

Hudson Bay Mountain – Smithers

I’m embarrassed to say I slept through most of the Hudson Bay Mountain experience. By the time we arrived in Smithers, on the morning of our second-last day, I was in desperate need of down time. I did a couple runs in the morning then checked into the hotel and slept for the day.

My partners in crime, more capable of functioning with no shut-eye, had a blast, however. They spent the day riding the hill’s two T-bars and Skyline Chair, enjoying the views of the valley and town below. They were especially stoked on skiing out at the end of the day on the mountain’s new run that goes all the way to town—a total of some 3,500 feet vertical drop from the top of the hill.

I wasn’t totally useless: I picked the girls up at the bottom.

Terrace – Shames Mountain

Home sweet home—for seven of us anyway. Shames Mountain welcomed us back with a champagne and pancake breakfast, and we couldn’t have asked for more.

For the rest of the day, we reconnected with our friends and the mountain’s staff. Sam had never been to Shames though, so we showed her the west-coast ropes with a hike-and-ride in the afternoon.

Shames Mountain, located between Terrace and Prince Rupert, gets massive dumps of powder almost annually. It has one chair and one T-bar but the incredible backcountry access here makes its terrain truly endless.
Exhausted from the trip, most of us fell asleep on the way home while our friends and partners manned the wheel for the half hour drive back to town.

Missed Opportunities

Northern BC has two more resorts we would have liked to visit but couldn’t because of limited time or hours of operation that didn’t fit the schedule: Tabor Mountain Ski Resort and Purden Ski Village are both close to Prince George. Tabor is slightly smaller, fifteen minutes from downtown and offers night skiing. Purden is 60 kms east with two chairs and a T-bar.

Marmot Basin, a 20-minute drive from Jasper, Alberta is another resort that could have been tacked onto the trip. It’s bigger than the hills in Northern BC, but much smaller than Lake Louise.


We truly feel blessed for being part of this journey. As a bonus, our total cost for the trip was less than $100 each, not including personal expenses.

To thank all the mountains and their staff for their incredible hospitality, we took hundreds of photos along the way and sent each mountain a disc of images they could use for promotion.
We’ve discussed the possibility of Shred the Gnar 2010, but this time taking it to the mountains in the Interior. We doubt we can recreate the magic of the first time, though.

We have all agreed on one thing if we do go for a second round: less driving and more time on the slopes shredding with the locals!