Brian Hall had been looking for a backcountry ski area around Smithers, British Columbia, since he moved there in 1988. He dreamed of a place where people could go and recreate without pulling out their wallets, a place that would be there just for the community to use, to tour, to ski. So he made one. Salomon TV’s short film Hankin Evolution dives into the story.
In 2010, Hall and his daughter started developing what would become Hankin-Evelyn, British Columbia’s no-lifts, no-lodges ski area. Hankin-Evelyn has 14 ski runs, one day-use shelter, and a refurbished fire lookout on the back side that people can use overnight. There are no shops, hotels, or restaurants. It’s community-operated, supported by local sponsors, and run entirely by volunteers.
Hankin-Evelyn is just one example of a movement happening within the sport of backcountry skiing. Ski “areas” are being rethought, re-imagined, and operated differently than traditional resorts. Small operations like Shames (just 2.5 hours west of Hankin-Evelyn) or Silverton, Colo., utilize single lifts that access huge swaths of backcountry terrain. Others, like Hankin-Evelyn, only offer runs and a map of skin tracks to get to them.
Some similar backcountry ski areas have struggled to take off. Colorado’s Bluebird Backcountry announced its indefinite closure last July. A lagging economy, slow startup funding, and poor proximity to its customer base forced the mountain out of business after just three seasons.
But Hankin-Evelyn is proof that the backcountry ski area model can succeed and that people will use it. The sport is growing at an insane rate, and more people than ever are looking for outlets like this. Hankin Evolution is a backcountry skiing success story that’s far from over.
Runtime: 11 minutes