If you own a snowmobile in British Columbia, you've heard of Bralorne. It's sneaky, famous, in circles for phenomenal sled-accessed skiing and snowboarding. But you won't find it in any resort directory. Look at a map and you can find it. North of Pemberton and west of Lillooet. A detached dot, a hidden powder stash for the adventurous. But it's more than that. The history of Bralorne, BC is thick with feast and famine. The small mining town rose as quickly as it fell. Gold was discovered there in 1858, and with the collapse of world markets in 1930 (during the Great Depression), gold's price remained a solid sanctuary. It was not until then that the Bralorne-area mines ramped up, becoming critical to BC's economy. Over seven years, from 1932 to 1939, the region produced over 370 M's in gold. The tiny town employed hundreds of gold diggers. And houses, churches, post offices, schools, and rec halls were built upon its lucrative land. At that time, Bralorne even boasted a ski hill. Sure, it was only a cabin and a rope-toe, but it was something. When the economy corrected itself in the early 1940s, the price of gold plummeted, and Bralorne was quickly abandoned—left forgotten. Empty buildings lined the streets, open to all who wanted to squat, strip, or damage them.
During these wild transitional times in the middle of the 19th century, no one knew how much radicle snowboard potential lived in the peaks that towered above the town. Hell, modern snowboards wouldn't even exist for another half-century. The shreddable terrain was initially scouted by helicopter from Whistler. Legendary snowboarders Johan Olofsson and Alan Clark were early adopters of riding Bralorne's jagged peaks. For a few seasons around the turn of the century, they'd call Bralore home and dedicated themselves to the mountains and isolation. Tales of their drug and alcohol-induced binges paired with big-mountain progression ran through the snowboard community. And the footage they captured was groundbreaking.
Here and now, decades later, on March 21st, 2022, Jess Kimura, Taylor Godber and Johan Rosen showed up to follow in the footsteps of gold rushers and snowboarders who pioneered Bralore before them.
By Jesse Fox | photos by Crispin Cannon
Featured in King Snow Magazine Issue 14.3
There's been a renewed interest in Bralorne living. Recreational properties are popping up amongst the town's dilapidated remanence of the 1930s. A tight group of locals are happy living and exploring the mountains in solitude. But Bralore life isn't easy livin'. No gas station, grocery store or nine-to-five businesses exist in town. All vital necessities must be hauled in. A reminder of how soft resort town living can be.
Our mission was planned like a heist. The goal: three days of pillaging as much powder and terrain we could lay our P-Ttex on. A long list of supplies and tools paired with meeting times and locations. We met up loaded to the brim with food, gas, snowmobiles, shovels, booze, and we hit the road. There were six of us in total. The talent: Jess Kimura, Taylor Godber and Johan Rosen. Crispin Cannon behind the camera, Ben Bilocq the gifted snowboarder, videographer and the swiss army knife of snowboard missions. And myself, the tag along with prose and limited purpose.
We stayed at The Bralorne Adventure Lodge, an equipped cabin for rent at the edge of town. Conceived by legendary ski photographer Blake Jorgensen, the Adventure Lodge exists for missions like ours. The lodge is well-executed and has everything we'd need. Drying room, beds, kitchen, fireplace, hot tub, sauna. After 10-hour days on snowmobiles, those comforts are an appreciated oasis.
Only one of us had experience riding in the area before and barely scratched the surface of what the mountains had to offer. And staying at the nexus of the infinite connections of peaks and valleys felt overwhelming. We had heard the given names of mountains and zones spoken from friends who knew. Names like: Lone Goat, The Land Before Time, The Books, Lord of the Rings... but as with most great secrets, people aren't eager to share. Over the phone we asked our host Blake for directions, he offered rough and almost cryptic hints, a vocal treasure map of turns and landmarks before insisting, "You'll figure out where the goods are... but when you do. You know... no Geotags."
When you pick a date two months out, based on schedules and availability, you hope for the best but also prepare to stir up some lemonade. Unfortunately, we found ourselves at the lemonade stand. A classic, "You should have been here three days ago!" scenario. Missing the window is a situation we are all accustomed to. Thankfully our crew took the glass-half-full approach. The sun was out (most of the time), and pockets of proper snow were found among the wind scour and fluctuating freezing line. The riders made great use of the snow we found and made it fly. We adventured through rugged mountain beauty and filled the soul with great moments. Good company, great times, and we left Bralorne getting a nice taste but a thirst for more.
BRALORNE THE BOLD
One of the rules in the Adventure Lodge's guest book stated: "No shooting guns within 1.5km from town." I look out the front window and see a playground a stone's throw away. Fifteen-hundred metres from town to fire bullets seems like a reasonable request. It's that kind of place—a town people shoot guns for fun, where the bar is only open three days a week, a place where you can go sledding every winter day and never run into another crew. Bralorne is a lifestyle, and it's easy living, but not an easy life. As I said there's no grocery store, no Uber Eats and the closest 7-Eleven is a six-hour drive. The only convenience is the insane mountain access. Which also isn't easy, but it's worth it. The locals spoke highly of their isolated paradise. And after only skimming the surface for 72 hours, we discovered precisely why people come and why they go. There’s still gold to be found in Bralorne, the cold, white, knee-deep blower-type of gold. It's not a place for the weak or the timid, the untrained or unadventurous. But If you're up for it, it's ready for you.