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Finding Holy Ground in the Shames Mountain, BC Backcountry

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Terrace, BC—there is another side to the story about Shames Mountain. Situated like a little ant hill amongst giant supernatural beings, Shames is a key access point to some of the sickest terrain in the world. While it continues to struggle financially, there is a solid group of ski touring people in the area who have pioneered the surrounding zones. I consider it to be snowboarding’s holy ground, sacred territory, and feel blessed to have connected with people who are willing to share their knowledge. The mountains up here have a power to them that is different than other places I’ve been.

The typical mentality of pro snowboarding puts us in a situation where we are constantly needing to take from the mountains to sustain our lifestyles: getting shots, constantly seeking powder, new terrain and experiences. We typically approach and view the mountains as objects to ride or as terrain with which to challenge ourselves, often having little connection to the area’s other plants and animals. In other words, most of our view towards the mountain is centered around how we can use them.

Yet, cultures on the Northwest Coast have another view of mountains. In many of these cultures, mountains are regarded as the domain of the supernatural, and the mountains themselves are regarded as supernatural beings. What a shift in perspective this has been for me. I have began to bring offerings to them, much in the same way as I would to a cedar tree when I strip it’s bark for weaving materials. I bring a small offering of thanks and gratitude for the experiences that I take from it: the powder slashes, the cliff drops, the chutes and the fun lines. The mountains up here are powerful and aware, and I believe that they are responsive to the individual—they know what is in your heart when you go into them. I believe that they offer and share themselves in relation to the mindset that you bring to them.

About two years ago I moved up here, driven not only by my artwork as a Northwest coast textile weaver, but also by the desire to live and ride in the mountains surrounding Terrace, BC. It has been only recently, after a year of working with mountain goat wool, that I have found the magical space I had came here for with snowboarding. Recently, I’ve teamed up with Talon Gillis, a talented local rider and photographer, who after a two-day camping trip to Hidden Lake in the Shames backcountry last year, decided to work for eight months to materialize the dream of living back there for the majority of the season. He bought an Arctic Oven tent, which has a woodstove in it and opens up the reality of extended stays in the backcountry. It’s awesome. We took it out early January for a test along the Skeena River and got a taste of what it will be like to haul it into the backcountry, how much wood it burns, and how well the toboggans work for touring.

Directly after this trip we had the opportunity to head out to Middle Creek with a local ski crew who are such a dedicated, dialed in group of people. Middle Creek is a zone not associated with the Shames area, but it does have a recently-built cabin, which Talon helped with. What we found waiting up there were gifts—the kind of gifts that only mountains give to those with eyes wide enough to know it when they see it. The kind of story I am in is the kind that takes years to materialize. It’s exciting times up here and I’m finding out what I have always wanted as a snowboarder.

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