Scattered across British Columbia are many ghost towns that at one time were among the largest cities on the West Coast of North America. Through the mid-to-late 1800s, towns along the Gold Rush trail were booming, with thousands of residents raking in piles of money from their gold claims. If you head into the Kootenay Mountains, again you can find multiple ghost towns with crazy histories from the mining era. When these towns were in full swing, the miners had their choice of many drinking establishments (and brothels) where they could spend the spoils of gold or silver finds.
The towns were built on steep drainages where gold was found, with clear-cut mountains above them. Today, they still have many partially standing buildings, as well as abandoned mining equipment, trains, machinery and open mineshafts. All of which make perfect jump spots. And, located in BC’s deep, blower powder snow belt, they couldn’t make for a more perfect ski scenario.
Early last winter, I joined the Salomon Freeski TV crew and hit the road to Barkerville, BC, a restored ghost town in the northern Cariboo Mountains. A fire destroyed the town in 1868, just as the Cariboo Gold Rush was ending, but there was enough wealth still to be found that the remaining residents rebuilt Barkerville before the town faded out to only a few residents in the 20th century. The old mining roads and more modern logging roads that crisscross the area’s mountains provide snowmobile access to great subalpine and tree skiing.
Later in the season, we made our way to the Kootenays, visiting towns such as Nakusp and New Denver, along with Sandon, Zincton, Cody and Retallack, actual ghost towns with amazing terrain and typical blower Kootenay pow. With snowmobiles and touring gear, you can access multiple drainages with basically unlimited tree skiing and burly pillow lines. There’s a reason that this region is home to some of the best heli- and cat skiing on the planet: an annual average of over 59 feet of snow, all of it cold, cold smoke.