Snowboard trip to Hyder, AK with the Manboys

 

Last February I was invited on a road trip to Hyder, Alaska with the Manboys, a snowboard film crew based in Whistler. We were having a terrible snow year in Southwestern British Columbia so a road trip really was the only option! We decided to go to Terrace first and see what the conditions were like.

trucks and snowmobiles on the side of highway 99 north
On the road again, the Manboys heading North
A truck with a trailer weaves through a rockfall on the duffey lake road
Do Not Stop, RockFall Hazard

 

Terrace is about 15 hours drive from Whistler, so we assembled the convoy, and we were off. The drive was pretty uneventful until we reached Prince George. For the next four hours I was in front, and it was snowing so hard that I couldn’t see the road. There was about 6 inches of snow on the road too, so even if I could see the lines were covered! When we eventually arrived, we spent the night at the Costa Lessa motel (great name) and headed up for our first day sledding.

Day One
snowmobile in powder on a sunny day in the mountains
The snow was deep and the sun was out, things were looking good!

The morning was amazing, it had just snowed several feet, and the sun was coming out. We spent some time breaking trail in to the alpine, and by the time we got there conditions were perfect! Until my sled broke… And then it got super warm and the snow turned very heavy… After some fiddling with my sled we finally got it down, and I had to head straight to the mechanic. Of course this was on a Monday, the day of the week that all snowmobile shops are closed… So I had to wait until the next day to get it fixed. Well the next day happened to be a holiday as well! I decided to make the most of it and took a scenic drive to Prince Rupert along the Skeena River.

Bald Eagle sitting in a tree by the Skeena River
An inquisitive Eagle in a tree

 

fishing boats in the harbour at Prince Rupert, BC
Nice little harbour at Prince Rupert, BC

My snowmobile ended up being a relatively minor fix, and we decided to head back out the next day in the pouring rain, hoping the snow would still be good at higher elevations.

It wasn’t.

We built a jump anyway, just so it wasn’t a total waste of time, and this photo actually ended up being one of two used in KingSnow Magazine.

snowboarder hitting a backcountry jump on a cloudy day
Rusty Ockenden spinning in the rain
One more chance

We figured since we had come all this way, we would give Terrace one more chance. The next day we drove down to Kitimat to see if we could get to a higher elevation since it was supposed to be sunny. A few of us had actually been to this zone before, so we were actually a bit excited. The trail up had a few obstacles…

snowmobile crossing a creek in Kitimat BC
Matt Belzile doing his best not get soaked in this raging creek

We did make it up to the alpine, and we were too late. The sun had already baked the snow, and it was actually quite terrible. Nice to look at, but not to snowboard in. Terrace was done.

snow ravaged by the melt freeze cycle in Kitimat BC
Melt/Freeze/Melt/Bake
Time to move on

Thinking it might be better somewhere else, we decided to hit the road again to Stewart, BC, which was only another 4 hours driving north. The drive was very nice and scenic and we were all excited to get there and see if the conditions would be any better.

truck and trailer with sleds by Bear Glacier
Scenic pullout in front of the shrinking Bear Glacier

Stewart is a tiny little town, and at the western end of town is a border station with Hyder, Alaska. The sled zone we were going to is actually in the US, so we had to cross the border each morning and night, which isn’t a big deal, as long as its open…

We arrived at the trailhead on the first day and it was pissing rain again. We knew by the time we got to the alpine it would turn to snow so we headed off in the rain.

By the time we got up to the alpine it was extremely foggy. None of us had been here before so we didn’t really know where we were going, but we pushed on anyway. Sure enough, after a few more km’s, we broke through in to some sun, and some amazing views of the Salmon Glacier. We were all excited to get some snowboarding in, and maybe get some photos and video! However, as soon as we found something worth doing, we realized the snow really wasn’t that good…

three snowmobilers breaking through the fog in to the sunny mountains
Finally seeing some sun
Salmon glacier ice cap on a sunny day with a few clouds
The Salmon Glacier
Diaper Jump

We were all feeling pretty defeated, but I reminded the guys that my son had been born only a few weeks ago, and that I had already been away for over half of his life! I said they better suck it up, build a jump, and hit it so I could make this whole trip seem worthwhile! So they sucked it up, we built a jump, and they hit it a few times. We ended up calling it ‘The Diaper Jump’, as the only reason they hit it was so I could make a few dollars to go home and buy diapers, haha!

snowboarder hits a backcountry jump in Hyder, Alaska
Chris Rasman making it work on Diaper Jump

So after the diaper jump, we decided to head down and check the weather for the next few days. It didn’t look promising. We would have to stay and wait for a week at least before we would see some more sun. None of us were really in to sitting in this crappy motel for that long, so we decided to pack it up and cut our losses.

snowboarder waves to the camera above the valley cloud in front of the Salmon Glacier
Earth to Matt Belzile
snowboarder mooning the camera in down town Stewart, BC
Rusty Ockenden thinks he has the best buns in Stewart
three young men in the middle of the street in Stewart, BC
‘The Manboys’

The next day we thought about trying to do whole drive in one go, but then realized that was ridiculous. So we spent the night in Prince George. The rest of the drive was totally uneventful, and then within minutes of dropping off Rusty at his house in Whistler, his trailer got a flat tire. Perfect way to end a not so perfect trip. After all that I got 2 photos published, which actually came close to covering the fuel expenses for my truck haha. Can’t win them all I guess!

Rusty Ockenden fixing a flat tire on a snowmobile trailer
Rusty fixing a flat within 20km of home

 

2 Responses

  1. Good story and stunning pictures.

  2. Despite the lack of good snow, still looks like a pretty good tour.

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