Dead And Buried: Prince George’s Sandblast

I used to live in a small city in Canada called Prince George, a place I have no desire to ever visit again, never mind reside.  I’d rather pay for my friends still there to travel and visit me than go there myself. (Hi, Kimmy.)

Prince George has the 19th worst crime rate in Canada, and the two nearest large towns, Quesnel (120km away) and Williams Lake (240km away) have the 5th and 9th worst crime rates (dis)respectively.  Three other towns in northern BC are also in the twenty worst.  Their proximity likely makes crimes connected, with the United Nations street gang and Renegades motorcycle gang dominating the area and forcing other street and motorcycle gangs out.  (It’s called the UN because of its many ethnicities – white, First Nation, Vietnamese, Chinese, etc.)

That city is also the origin point of the Highway of Tears where at least a hundred First Nations women have been murdered over the past forty years.  There are three convicted serial killers in prison, possibly more, and the RCMP accused of many physical and sexual abuses themselves. (The RCMP claim less than forty murders, showing how little they care for the victims or First Nations people.)

Did I ever tell you I used to work as a security guard in that city?  Confrontations with the gangs and violent abusive men were regular occurrences.  There has only ever been one security company in the city.  At least three security guards (that I know of) were murdered on the job, one I knew personally who was stabbed and killed at a motel I used to patrol. I only did that job because it allowed me to attend college (work nights and study on the job, attend classes in the day).

The worst were men intent on Intimate Partner Violence against women escaping them, staying at motels.  Gangs are known quantities, identifiable and predictable.  Random individual men aren’t.  It’s a hunting area, so legally owned long guns were common, even before illegal handguns were acquired by gangs.

I wasn’t planning to write about the city, I was looking up news stories, facts and other things (what a dreary place to live) to remind myself of why I don’t want to go back there.  Then amongst the videos listed on youtube, a story about Sandblast appeared (seen below).

Sandblast was a “ski race” that took place every August from 1971 to 2003 when it was finally banned.  Just north of the city by the Nechako River is a steep hill called the Cutbanks.  Someone had the idiotic idea of holding a race there, down a 150 metre slope of sand and gravel.  It was popular over the decades and people travelled long distances to participate, including skiing filmmaker Warren Miller.  Amazingly, no one was ever killed or suffered permanent injury, but the last straw was a crash in 2003 so bad that insurance companies refused to cover the event ever again, leading to a permnanent ban.  The crash appeared on the shock TV show, “Destroyed In Seconds”.

The video below speaks wistfully about the event, though I wouldn’t.  I only attended two as a spectator, and that was enough to put off any ideas of doing it.  I miss skiing, but suicide was never my thing.  British Columbia has many ski resorts (some several thousand metres high) so there were plenty of willing victims for Sandblast over the years and lots of used equipment.


  1. jenorafeuer says

    Hunh. I was actually born in Prince George, though I have no memories of it because we moved away before I was a year old.

    Actually, that’s not entirely true: my main memories of Prince George come from smelling it on the wind occasionally while living in Quesnel back while I was going to kindergarten. This was back in the mid-70s when the pulp mill was still a major industry there… anybody who’s ever had to live downwind of a pulp and paper mill knows what I’m talking about; it is not a smell you soon forget.