Smithers, B.C., A town for all seasons


“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

Located halfway between Prince George and Prince Rupert, with a population of just over 5,000, Smithers is a unique northern B.C. town with an alpine theme. Smithers has a town bylaw that requires businesses on Main Street to construct their buildings in an alpine style. At the entrance of Main Street is a statue of a man blowing an alpine horn. It has become the town symbol, commonly known as the Alpenman or Alpine Al. Residents of Smithers are called Smithereens.

Great place to eat!

This store is packed with handmade sausages, meat, cheeses, something for everyone. If you weren’t hungry when you went in, you will be. I am not going to tell you how much I have spent there over the years.

A new micro-brewery. I am not a beer drinker but this looks a pretty cool place to enjoy a cold one.

An outdoor concert area.

A pretty neat outdoor coffee shop. The name is derived from the “bugwood” they used, the result of the pine beetle infestation that took a lot of Northern B.C.  Check out their story at

The courthouse which houses Crown Counsel, Court Registry and the Sheriff’s plus a few more services.

The railway station.

A little bit of Mexico at this restaurant.

Besides the restaurant, the railway station also houses the Smither’s Community Services Association.

Even the public library has an Alpen flaire.

For a small town, Smithers is packed with something for everyone and any season. You can hike the 13 km gentle linear walking park that surrounds Smithers and if you want something just a little more challenging the Hudson Bay Mountain ski area could be an option. You can walk as long as you want, from a day to a week.

If you are into skiing, then Smithers is the place. It is known for its world-class skiing. Hudson Bay Mountain has the driest powder conditions in the country. For other winter options, you can cross-country ski or snowmobile, snowshoe, or snowboard.

The rest of the year affords other choices like mountain biking, golfing, horse trips, hunting and wildlife watching. You can fish for lake trout, salmon and steelhead, or just paddle around the lakes or rivers.

If music and concerts are more to your liking, then Smithers provides top-notch performers including Juno-award-winning Alexis Puentes (Alex Cuba), country musician Dean Brody, and actress Gina Holden. Every June, Smithers stages the annual Mid-Summer Music Festival. Spirit of the West and Barenaked Ladies are just some of the famous acts that have performed at the Festival.

Starting in May, the Farmers Market runs every Saturday beside the old courthouse which houses the museum, dance studio and art studio.

I learned that the first prototype of egg carton was invented in Smithers!

I look forward to my frequent visits to the Farmers Market. It is amazing the talent that you can find in these markets and the Smithers Market is no different. Amazingly talented and hardworking vendors present wares that they have made, baked or grown. I met some pretty amazing people. Let me introduce some of them to you.

The Table Man, Evalt Miller. An apt name for his business. Very well made tables and you can tell that he has spent hours working on them and takes pride in the finished project. If you want to know more about his tables you can contact him at 250-698-7620

What started as a hobby has turned into a business with beautiful pieces of art. Some practical, some for decoration. Tom Miedema has certainly learned the craft of blacksmith very well. If you want to contact Tom, you can email him at or at 250-845-1350.

Barb Schroeter certainly has an eye for design. She has so many beautiful pieces that it would be difficult to choose just one. If you want more information please contact her at

Lance and Shirley Hamblin’s sign says it all. The Moo chews are delicious. You can reach them at

Telkwa Honeybee. I bought a couple of jars and I am almost through one already. Henry and Sharon Andringa told me that they have 50 hives. I thought that was a lot but they said they lost 100 over the severe winter. That is a huge loss. They also sell bee equipment. Contact them at 250-846-5388

Walcott Wood Works for some very unique pieces. Contact Ed Weston for more information. 250-846-5608

I had trouble not buying everything at this table. The idea is awesome and the craftmanship is impeccable. So many ideas for yourself or for gifts. You can contact Wanda Watts at or on Facebook at

Unfortunately, I did not get to talk to everyone but here are a few more of the businesses at the Market.

You can sit with a freshly brewed coffee and perhaps a treat and listen to some local artist.

The market is in the parking lot of the Bulkley Valley Museum.



Getting there:

Via Rail has a stop in Smithers.

By car. Smithers is 371 kms/231 miles from Prince George

Car rental:

For tours, accommodations etc.



In search of grizzly bears and other wildlife

“And then there is the biggest risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”  Randy Komisar

When you have a passion for something, and you work at it, life has a way of giving you what you want. That certainly is the case for Doug and Debbie Davis. Doug was a tugboat captain who worked all over the B.C. coast. Doug always felt that there weren’t enough reliable water taxis in B.C. and had a boat built and leased it out. Doug and Debbie quickly got up to a fleet of five which they leased to logging camps, fish farms, etc.

Doug continued to work away from Prince Rupert, as a remote tugboat captain, for 17 years, leaving Debbie and their two young sons for months at a time due to the lack of jobs in Prince Rupert.

In 1992, they became a limited company, Westcoast Launch. Around that time, the Pilotage Authority in Prince Rupert approached them and said that they could use a reliable water taxi. They started with the Pilotage and then the Shipping Agents wanted to use the water taxis as well. Back in the early 90’s they bid on the Dodge Cove Ferry, an island that has a small community and the airport. They are still running the Ferry. When they bid and got the Metlakatla school ferry, they needed another boat, and so they got the Georgia Master. They would bring the students over to attend school in Prince Rupert and then the boat would sit until 3 p.m. when the students were returning home. After leasing the boat to a fellow working up in the Khutzeymateen Valley Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, Doug said, “Well, we’ve got the boat sitting all day, why don’t we do tours during the day?” So their tourism started. They would ferry the students in the morning, do tours during the day and then ferry the students back. When the slow season started for the grain ships, from May to September, Doug and Debbie decided to use the other boats for tourism.  They started Prince Rupert Adventure Tours which became a limited company as well.They had the “big” boat built at the cost of 2.5 – 3 million dollars. They couldn’t justify that expense if they didn’t have Westcoast Launch. Doug and Debbie say that tourism was 80% effort and 20% revenue and after 20 years, it still hasn’t broken to 50 – 50 yet.  They love the tourism part but know that they need to balance it with everything else, and work year round.

They now have a fleet of 7 boats, and a new large one is coming in spring.

Prince Rupert Adventure Tours have an online booking system, and because they have done this for so long, they can do the calendar a year in advance.

They used to try to do many things in tourism, but they quickly found that concentrating and doing well with one or two things was the best way to go. They certainly do things well.


They have attended the Canada West Market Place, a huge trade show for travel agents, tour groups and people with product for the past 15 years and now it is paying off. The tour buses that would come to Prince Rupert to go on the B.C. Ferry to Alaska would either stay one night or bypass Prince Rupert altogether. Now, Prince Rupert has become a destination area. The buses are starting to stay for more than one night. This is good not only for their company but Prince Rupert as well for the hotels, restaurants, etc. More and more international customers are booking their holidays based on the grizzly bear season.

Bear season is May, June, July and sometimes will run into August.  The tour will take you into the Khutzeymateen Valley which is home to one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in North America.  Of course, you might see porpoises, whales, seals,  bald eagles, blue herons and sea lions along the way. Once the boat arrives at the sanctuary, they will cut the boat’s engine very close to shore. Passengers are not allowed to talk as it will disturb the bears and they will leave. The only sound you hear is the clicking of cameras. The bears must be used to the boats. They don’t pay any attention to the big yellow boat, and you can get fairly close to them. Only six permits are given for the Khutzeymateen Valley. They have to apply every five years. There are strict rules for being able to access the Valley. A portion of the cost of the permit goes back to Parks Canada.

I asked Debbie if climate change has affected the tours. She stated that they have had to change the months that they go to the Valley. Approximately three years ago when we had 60 days of sunshine, and it was very hot, they had to end the bear season early as the berries were all out and it was so hot that the bears did not want to be on the shore. The sedge grass, which is the main food and their first food when they come out of hibernation, went to seed. So with the sedge grass going to seed and the berries coming out early, there wasn’t a food source for them on the beach. Because they had to cancel some trips and refund the money or exchange to the whale watching,  they now limit the season to end July 23rd or 25th.


Environmental changes have also affected the tours. When a company was doing the sound testing for the proposed LNG plant, the area where they were testing, you could go and watch the whales in November, but now the whales no longer go to that area.

Whale watching starts in August and runs for two months.

Doug and Debbie just want people to have the best experience. They receive a lot of positive comments from people all over the world who think it was the best experience they have ever had. I can certainly attest to the awesome experience. I took my Dad on the grizzly bear tour, and he talked about it for years. So did I.

Every day as a tour guide is different. Different people, different experiences. A lot of fun. That is what happens when you follow your passion.

Thanks to Doug and Debbie for providing most of the pictures. I think Doug takes more pictures than the tourists! He is an avid and talented photographer.

Here are the links to their website:

Facebook link: