When you’re up before dawn, to catch first chair and charge, you need a ski boot that’s as committed as you are. Enter the Mach1 series from Tecnica. Mach1 stands for best-in-class all-mountain performance, a precise fit and the ultimate level of customization. Available in a Low, Medium, or High volume and developed with an anatomically shaped C.A.S. shell and liner, Mach1 provides a great fit right out of the box but can be fully customized if need be. Wherever you want to go, trust Mach1 to take you there all day long.
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During the bleak early days of the pandemic, when authorities advised us to stay at home and go out only for essential trips, even local footpaths were “closed.” This seemed counterintuitive—could you really catch Covid in the woods? I’ll confess today that my five-year-old daughter and I found incalculable solace through our daily visits to a near-home section of public forest, one I knew was seldom visited. We hiked, skied or snowshoed around a pond created by decades of beaver activity, every day hoping for a sighting in the half-frozen shallow water or surrounding cedar groves and fringes of dogwood. But, unlike us, the beaver was doing the right thing for public health and sheltering in place, not risking a face-to-face.
Every unspoiled piece of forest, rock, soil or water is key to humanity’s salvation.
A few years later I remain hopeful that we’re (mostly) wiser for the experience of Covid, though certain problems seem to be magnifying. We may not be feeling the worst of the climate crisis here in Ontario, but anyone with a passing acquaintance with world news can’t ignore the increasing prevalence of heatwaves, wildfires, flooding and drought, as well as the lack of reliable snowpack. Eco-anxiety is now widely recognized as a common disorder. (The Canadian Mental Health Association describes eco-anxiety as “a deep fear of environmental doom and human catastrophe, which can bring
on the same kinds of symptoms as anxiety—like panic attacks and sleeplessness—and depression.”)
Those who deny the hard science proving the catastrophic impact of humans upon earth’s systems also suffer from eco-anxiety, in my view. They just won’t or can’t admit it. Reading or watching the news these days is a battering experience and I can almost sympathize with the millions who have reacted by ignoring facts and embracing a zombie-like state of hostile ignorance and delusion. But I need to keep believing that extremist ideology and conspiracy theories have a short shelf-life.
During the lockdown, most of us became habituated to staying inside most of the time. It didn’t feel good, exactly, but it felt safe. Cocooning on the couch with a favourite streaming service is undeniably comforting, especially as temperatures start to drop again.
But finding a higher motivation can be as simple as looking to our good neighbours. In this issue, we provide inspiration by celebrating those who’ve taken positive action to improve the earth for everyone, even if no one asks them to. Every last one of us can also take action, whether that means donating to conservation efforts, joining a bike club, volunteering for a cause or picking up trash on a trail or beach.
Every unspoiled piece of forest, rock, soil or water is key to humanity’s salvation. We need to work to protect and enlarge it all, and we need to immerse ourselves in it whenever possible. It’s the only effective treatment for eco-anxiety. –Ned Morgan, Editor
As an antidote to all the scary news out there, here’s something to encourage less doomscrolling and more ACTION-TAKING. We’re highlighting people and initiatives tackling challenges of all shapes and sizes, from the personal to the regional to the planetary. Meet the good neighbours making a difference in our backyard.
“He’s probably one of the most diplomatic people
On the soft shoulder of a winding, tree-covered sideroad, Bruce King stands at the back of his Subaru, passing shovels, rakes and pickaxes to volunteers before stacking more tools and supplies into his own battered wheelbarrow. As we file behind him into the woods, the unlucky guy shouldering a 30-kg beam calls out, “So, how far are we going in today?” And King, far ahead now, responds with only a chuckle. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Our destination this morning is the fork of a new cross-country trail segment, the first one added to the Kolapore Wilderness Trails in almost three decades. The impetus for this sizeable project is an upcoming anniversary: December 2023 marks 50 years since the first ski tracks were set at Kolapore.
In the early 1970s, crosscountry skiing experienced a surge in popularity, and young Baby Boomers flocked to the wintery woods, scouting routes and establishing clubs. King, a university student at the time, envisioned a system of trails in the unspoiled Kolapore Uplands, and got the ball rolling by helping to secure a labour grant.
Then a part of the University of Toronto Outing Club, the first trails cut by members were long and technical, some extending to the far edge of the Uplands. It was expert stuff, not for the faint of heart. That ungroomed, wilderness spirit has remained, although the border-rimming trails have disappeared in favour of more central ones, and both beginner and intermediate trails have been added over time, making the 50-km network (which is 90 per cent on public land) accessible to all levels.
“Bruce and [his wife] Val have taken it upon themselves to care deeply for this certain piece of land, not only as a recreational space but also as an important watershed. And he has always been the one person who stepped up to lead, to take on that stewardship role,” says Stephen Couchman, a long-time Kolapore board member. “When you go out with him on the trails, it’s like being with somebody in his garden. It’s Bruce’s kingdom; he has a deep ownership of it.”
On the trail, King pauses to snip an overhanging limb then, further on, flags a problem spot. He points out an expansive boardwalk recently completed, a project he calls “The Brock Walk” in gratitude to the volunteer who spearheaded the effort. In a soft, needle-bedded section, light-choked by soaring 20-metre white pines, he stops and extends his hand to knee-height. “I remember when these trees were just saplings,” he muses before charging on.
When we arrive at the project site, a work crew is already busy side-cutting a sloping trail, relocating small rocks and schlepping stacks of lumber. The group, roundabout university age, listens as the elder King patiently offers his knowledge of trail drainage. He points out an alternate but ill-suited path for the trail, explaining the lower route would be nothing but “mud, mud, mud.” Then he laughs, “We’re not into mud.”
Describing an older, steep trail recently rebuilt with erosion control in mind, he says, “Cross-country skiers like straights and gradual curves, but good mountain bikers like much windier trails. If it’s good for cross country skiing, then it can be used for mountain biking. We just want to make the trails good for everyone.”
For 50 years, he’s organized volunteers, chaired meetings, filed paperwork, painted signs, created newsletters and maintained not only trails but crucial relationships with landowners, gover nment offices and trail users. It’s simply impossible to disentangle what is now known as the Kolapore Wilderness Trails Association from Bruce King.
Everyone except winter walkers on XC trails, of course. The majority of Kolapore is famously off-limits to hikers and their dogs in winter months, as the boot and paw tracks wreak havoc on the singletrack, backcountry-style trails. But the ever-composed King, wearing his red Trail Guide vest, has earned notoriety for his friendly, composed conversations with wayward walkers and snowshoers, quietly directing them to the new trails built specifically for them.
“He’s probably one of the most diplomatic people I’ve ever met in my life,” says Richard Ellen, a skier and volunteer with the trails for nearly all of its history. “He believes in positive leadership and that the trails should have a good reputation.”
As the Kolapore system has evolved—welcoming mountain bikers, diverging from the Outing Club and eventually incorporating—it’s almost invariably been King at the helm. For 50 years, he’s organized volunteers, chaired meetings, filed paperwork, painted signs, created newsletters and maintained not only trails but crucial relationships with landowners, government offices and trail users. It’s simply impossible to disentangle what is now known as the Kolapore Wilderness Trails Association from Bruce King.
Back in 1973, King didn’t envision the preservation of a small corner of the planet as his lifelong vocation. But as the decades progressed, Kolapore did grow into that role. “The Kolapore trails are simply the most important thing in Bruce’s life. The rest of us haven’t done anywhere close to a fraction of what he’s done,” Ellen adds. “Kolapore is his love and his passion, and his work there speaks to his dedication to the community and to service.” –Kristin Schnelten
February isn’t the usual window of opportunity for a recreational canoe paddle along the shores of Lake Ontario.
For Waasekom Niin and Waawaashkeshii Nini Henry, their 120km paddle traverse from the mouth of Niagara River to Ward’s Island, Toronto, in the winter of 2020 wasn’t about recreation. They were taking bold action to make visible the impacts of a changing climate on the Great Lakes while acknowledging and honouring the protective and caring ways of their ancestors—the minisinook (warriors) who defended and protected the region not so long ago.
“This is a form of inquiry, as well as a way of documenting climate change and giving a voice to the water,” says Waasekom. “We’re in desperate times. These are the desperate measures we’re taking to find an answer.”
Niigaani-gichigami (“the leading sea,” also known as Lake Ontario), is the final water body in the Great Lakes chain before water flows into the St. Lawrence River and on to the Atlantic Ocean. “It’s an indicator for the health of the other lakes because it’s the same water,” says Waasekom.
The winter paddle was Waasekom’s fourth ceremonial jiimaan (canoe) journey. In his work as a water advocate, Waasekom has observed firsthand the effects of climate change in real time from
meteorological extremes—intense heat waves during his 2019 summer paddle around the peninsular territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation on Lake Huron, as well as the unusually warm conditions during the winter sojourn. These journeys also produce insights as to how extreme changes are affecting wildlife on the lakes: Animals that would normally head south for winter have elected to stay put.
I was fortunate to share in this work and assist Waasekom and Waawaashkeshii in that jiimaan along those frigid shores. We observed Canada geese in the largest congregations we’d ever observed, with their frozen butts in the water, staying north instead of migrating south. As odd and concerning as these observations are, they’re demonstrative of adaptation. “They’re adapting to the reality of climate change a lot better than we are,” says Waasekom.
“Seven generations from now, they’re going to look back and question our negligence, but they’re also going to see that some people took up the mantle to pull us out and get us where we need to be,” he adds. “It’s about our great-grandchildren’s future and their grandchildren’s future. Are we going to be worthy ancestors?”
With lower-than-normal ice cover on the Great Lakes over the last two decades, paddling across open water that was historically covered in ice is one way to get people to pay attention. With all the challenges of navigating through ice floes, and with long stretches of coastline inaccessible due to ice accumulations, the journey demanded sacrifice from the paddlers, as well as from the on-shore support crews who assessed the access points, waited in frigid conditions and provided warm meals and layers for the paddlers.
By completing the journey and documenting our observations, we can show people more about the impacts of our changing climate on the region. The hope is that we can all learn to adapt and make the necessary changes in our day-to-day lives. –Scott Parent
“Are we going to be worthy ancestors?”
This summer I was fortunate to spend almost every Sunday evening paddling the waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay in a voyageur canoe with youth, Elders and community members from the Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. These paddles marked the launch of the Planetary Health Partnership, a collaboration between the Faculty of Education and Dahdaleh Institute of Global Health Research at York University, the Bagida’waad Alliance (an Indigenous environmental organization formed by fishing families from Neyaashiinigmiing on the Saugeen Peninsula) and the Big Canoe Project, a Meaford-based nonprofit with a mission to offer big-canoe experiences while raising awareness about the fragility of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The goal is to promote the well-being of Indigenous youth through land and water-based learning programs that emphasize Indigenous cultural revitalization, team and community-building, connection to the natural world and reciprocity and care for the natural environment.
Global evidence of the physical and mental health impacts of human disconnection and detachment from our natural surroundings is growing as the world’s ecosystems are continually degraded through the pursuit of economic growth and lifestyles that have become ever-more urban and sedentary. This is especially true for the world’s Indigenous Peoples, who in addition to suffering most directly from environmental degradation and climate change, continue to experience processes of colonization and displacement.
One response to this global challenge is the field of planetary health, a movement aimed at understanding and addressing the
links between human and environmental health, and working to promote the well-being of all life on earth. Academic research has shown that among other benefits, viewing and connecting to nature is positive for both physical and mental health in terms of recovering from stress, lowering blood pressure and improving concentration, productivity and mental health. To date, much of the evidence for this has focused on the role of green spaces, such as forests and parks, in promoting human health. New research, however, suggests that connecting to “blue spaces” (including rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans) could be even more powerful. This perspective aligns with the Anishinaabe worldview in which nibi (water) is a living entity associated with life-giving and healing. Humans have the reciprocal responsibility to protect it in return.
Our paddles aim to foster this ethic of mutual care by providing Indigenous youth an opportunity to connect with the waters of their traditional territory, learn from and share with community Elders and Knowledge Holders, and learn about the importance of caring for and protecting our waters. The 29-foot Big Canoe served as the perfect vessel to foster a sense of community and a direct connection to the water. Perhaps most importantly, despite the serious goals and issues at the core of the project, our time in the canoe was not consumed by a focus on the problems and challenges but characterized by periods of quiet reflection, laughter and joy. –James Stinson
James Stinson, Ph.D., is a resident of Thornbury and is the Principle Investigator of the Planetary Health Partnership at York University.
Tucked against an aging fence at the edge of a tiny neighbourhood park, a discarded but well-loved canoe rests in the shade. Sun-bleached and patched with layers of duct tape, the leaky, once-forgotten cottage remnant has found a second life in this nondescript corner, where sprigs of bright perennials now spill over its splintered gunwales.
The plantings filling the canoe are purposeful, chosen not for their beauty but their function: Black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, asters and columbine provide a smorgasbord of nectar for the bees and wasps, butterflies and moths, beetles and birds who visit each day.
Those creatures, flying and crawling from one blossom to the next, are accomplishing a simple task vital to our survival: pollination.
As the natural habitat for pollinators dwindles and pesticides wreak havoc on their health, organizations are stepping up worldwide to protect and provide for them. The David Suzuki Foundation established its Butterflyway Project in 2017 and is, to date, responsible for the creation of more than 6,500 patches of plantings for pollinators across the country and the recognition of 75 official Butterflyways.
Across the country, the Foundation recruits and trains Butterfly Rangers, volunteers who organize gardens and draw awareness to the project. Locally, Elizabeth Brims and Kris Wichman created Pollinate the Town of the Blue Mountains, hoping to build a pollinator-friendly community.
“We started working together just last year,” says Brims. “My personal goal was to establish three pollinator gardens by the end of that first year—the Foundation recommends keeping goals lower and more realistic, as community change doesn’t happen overnight. But by fall we had 12, enough to be named by the Foundation as a Butterflyway.”
Of those first dozen plots, only a few were canoes. Using donated boats is a concept originating with the Foundation— Butterflyway canoes can be found from coast to coast—but they aren’t the focus of the project. The objective is establishing yearround habitats for pollinators in urban and suburban settings, whether on municipal, commercial or private property, with a local eventual goal of creating a greenbelt around Georgian Bay. The canoes simply act as an attention-grabbing device to get the word out.
“The canoes aren’t big, but they have a big impact,” says Brims.
Stumbling upon a bright blue canoe bursting with blooming flowers is certainly enough to pique curiosity, and signage invites passersby to learn more at the Butterflyway website, where the Foundation shares information about pollinators and how to establish a garden.
The website connects users with local Butterfly Rangers, who share information on what to plant—native plants are best, as they’re hardy for the climate and thrive without watering—and where to find seeds.
“If you look at the gardens we’ve helped to establish, they’re all different sizes,” says Brims. “They don’t have to be massive. It can easily be done in your entire garden, or just a small section. What we’re trying to demonstrate is that there are many different ways to do this. It can be easy.”
After only two growing seasons, Wichman and Brims had registered 24 local pollinator patches in the area, including nine canoes. Beyond the plantings, education is a key focus for the Butterfly Rangers. “We’re trying to share information through different channels, including linkage with the library and the community school, starting with a kindergarten program,” says Wichman.
“It can’t just be the government or nonprofits who do this. It has to be everybody. And we’re finding more and more people supporting us along the way,” says Brims. “I think we’re going to be successful because residents, volunteers, kids and government are working together to lay a foundation.”
“We’ve had great support from the Town and its staff, neighbours and friends. It’s really mushrooming and it speaks to the interest in climate change and the environment,” Wichman adds. –Kristin Schnelten
After only two growing seasons, WICHMAN and Brims had registered 24 local pollinator patches in the area, including nine canoes.
Whether it’s on a snowboard, a surfboard, a bike or a trail, you’ll likely find Britney Holmberg outside.
To her, it’s therapy.
“You’re outside, you’re breathing heavily, your blood is circulating through your whole body and your brain is so focused on what you’re doing that you can’t think about anything else. It’s the ultimate therapy session,” says Holmberg. “Therapy by nature.”
Yet, growing up, it wasn’t always this way.
Formerly a competitive figure skater, Holmberg only ever knew the inside of an arena. She was intrigued by surf and snowboard culture from a young age, but living in the northern hockey town of Sudbury, she didn’t think she’d ever get the chance to try. “As a child, you don’t think you’ll ever leave,” she said.
At 13 she finally took a lesson with a friend at Adanac Ski Hill. All it took was an hour, and she was hooked. “We pretty much went rogue from there,” she laughs.
She took her first ski trip to Blue Mountain Resort a few years later, and remembers deciding then and there that she would live in Collingwood one day—she even wrote it in her journal at the time.
Holmberg’s ever-increasing addiction to adrenaline eventually led her to fire college in Texas. Around the same time an unfortunate series of events also resulted in a brain injury, and she was forced
to give up sports for the time being. Then she made the decision to move south, knowing that wherever she landed a job as a firefighter, she would commute from Collingwood. Even though she wasn’t snowboarding at the time, she quickly fell in love with the area.
She needed a new activity that would keep her in shape for firefighting, so she turned to CrossFit. And, like anything Holmberg does, she dove all in. Thus began almost a decade of CrossFit competitions, including participating in the CrossFit Games in 2011 and competing as a regional athlete from 2012-2016.
But after a couple years something shifted. She was standing outside her gym one day looking up at the ski hill and thought, What am I doing?
“I no longer felt like I was challenging myself and I realized I just wasn’t happy being in a gym,” she says.
So she got back into snowboarding—and started travelling to surf— and the Collingwood she dreamed of came alive. The water, the culture, everything about the community and everyone in it fired her up.
“When I learned I could surf on Georgian Bay it was like, ‘This place really is awesome.’ And it just snowballed from there.” From hiking and biking—gravel, mountain and downhill—to Great Lake surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, backcountry skiing and the odd sunrise SUP, Holmberg really does do it all. She participates in
a triathlon each year, has enrolled in a surf competition in El Salvador and completed her first enduro at Sea Otter Canada, placing third in elite and first in her age category.
Next year, Holmberg plans to participate in the World Police & Fire Games—known as the Olympics for emergency medical services—in both mountain bike and SUP disciplines. She has also become an ambassador for Salomon and BRAVA Endurance.
Growing up, Holmberg struggled with dyslexia, but when she is active she feels “on,” and it helps her dial in and focus on whatever task is at hand. Especially at work. “When my heart rate is up it gives me at least a three-hour window where I am keen. It really levels me chemically,” she said. “It’s therapy. But it also medicates me.”
However, her sweat love affair has also had its consequences,
and Holmberg has suffered from her fair share of injuries. But for someone who struggles with chronic head pain, she said there is something about the outdoors that just clicks. “My brain is Trailforks,” she says.
Her friends joke that she is permanently eleventeen. She’s hooked on anything that involves exploring or an adventure. “It just makes me so genuinely happy,” said Holmberg. Having fun is her priority, always—even when she enrolls in a new competition. She calls it the “class-clown approach.”
“The only way to ensure that good vibes are around you is to throw them out there and have fun. As soon as it’s not fun anymore, Holmberg out.” –Maddie Johnson
“I used to get so angry over garbage on the trails and in the water, to the point it was affecting my mental health. Then I heard of plogging. It means running and hiking while picking up trash. So every April when I go on a run or hike I carry a bag. ”RYAN OSMAN
Whether you’re new to freestyle or primed for that massive send, Blue’s terrain parks offer something for you. Continuous progression for all riders/skiers is the goal, and Blue’s Director of Slope Matt Baird is up to the task. We caught up with him in September for a ’22-’23 park preview.
Mountain Life: Could you talk about any park upgrades? Are you adding more features and jumps, or reconfiguring what’s already there?
Matt Baird: Our terrain parks are always evolving. The team pays attention to feedback on what people liked or didn’t and how we can operationally deliver on that. With three parks, a cross course and over 70 metal features there is a great deal of opportunity to continue improving our offerings. This winter, we will continue our partnership with Arena Snowparks with a Badlands build in January as well as event and park-refresh builds later in the season. Along with that, Arena Snowparks has built us a 32-foot “S” rail for the Badlands and a bunch of new beginner features for Yahoo and the Grove.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg; we are recycling some older, less-popular features as well as planning some in-house fabrication of top-secret metal art. Keep an eye on our social channels as we release more info.
ML: The Blue Project went public last January. Could you talk about that?
MB: Last winter we were stoked to host Krush from Snowboy Productions, the team behind Holy Bowly and other legendary riderdriven events. The Blue Project was a secret jib paradise created with Krush and the Blue Snowparks team for five days of filming and then opened to the public. It was a huge success, both in content creation and on-mountain creativity. We are proud to join resorts like Loon Mountain, N.H., and Mountain High, Cal., as one of the hosts of this annual, travelling event.
”We are recycling some older, less-popular features as well as planning some in-house fabrication of top-secret metal art.”
ML: Is Subaru Crosstrek Cross Track returning for 2023? Or other events?
MB: Yes! The cross course is something we really enjoy at Blue, and it will continue on. The events calendar will be updated on the website before the season—this will be a winter to remember.
You want proof there’s a new normal? I saw it. I saw the postpandemic world. It was at Tremblant. I wasn’t expecting it, but there it was. At the top of the Télécabine Express, the gondola doors swung open and everything was different. Instead of -25°C and howling winds that felt like -48°C, it was pleasant. A balmy -3°C. And it wasn’t even windy. This was mid-February! The early morning sun broke through the clouds and everything I’d warned the children about failed to manifest. It wasn’t the coldest place on earth. It was paradise.
Our First Tracks lift passes came with our hotel room at Sommet des Neiges and we got on the gondola at 7:45 a.m. instead of 8:30. Meaning we had 45 minutes of beautiful untracked runs, non-existent lift lines (not that they really happen mid-week) and glorious sunrises that I have never before experienced at Tremblant.
The skiing itself was a hoot. While we could always have more powder, conditions were great: very little ice and lots of snow that you could dig your edges into confidently. For the first 45 minutes of each morning we did laps together, ducking into tree runs (sousbois en français!), bouncing over mogul fields and tucking down freshly groomed corduroy. Then the kids would take off for lap after lap on the Sissy Schuss terrain park, while the dads were off in the woods chasing powder and actually finding it. Then we’d all group together for a bumpy lap under the Duncan Express chair where kids left the ground as often as they turned on it.
By 10:30 a.m. every day, we’d had plenty of skiing. Anything beyond that was a bonus, so we’d stop for an incredible lunch, rip a couple laps in late afternoon, then head to dinner.
It’s never hard to eat well when in Quebec, and Tremblant is no different. I rarely remember meals, but each one here was better than the last: burgers and poutine at Microbrasserie La Diable, lasagna at Pizzateria, steaks at Resto-Bar Le Shack, breakfast
crepes at La Maison de la Crêpe and fried calamari at A Mano Trattoria. Every meal was top-notch and the service was great. If that isn’t more proof we’re living in a post-pandemic world, I don’t know what is.
Day after day for four days, we’d get up early, eat a quick breakfast and put our First Tracks lift passes to good use. And day after day the weather cooperated. A smattering of snow overnight covered the groomers, and each day as we emerged from the gondola we were surrounded by sun. On our final day we were above the clouds as the sun burst through them; it was an incredible scene. We laughed our way down the groomers, the kids mapping out all the side hits and mogul runs, dads ducking into the trees here and there, finding lone pockets of powder.
For us southern Ontario skiers, Tremblant’s 2,100 feet of vertical terrain feels huge. Our quads started to tremble and quake on day four, and the most annoying remnant of the pandemic is that the hot tubs weren’t open yet to soothe our weary legs.
After our final morning of skiing we checked out the paintball mecca that is Fort Ouest. Just 20 minutes from the Tremblant village we teamed up dads versus kids and the owner Dan Fournier walked us through a few games of capture the flag and variations. While one kid failed to see the point, the rest of us got pretty into it as we huffed and puffed our way through the afternoon, trying to strategize and out-maneuver each other. It was a serious (excuse the pun) blast. The welts and bruises that covered our bodies for the next few days were worth it. Dan called them “trophies.”
Tremblant is the kind of place that always delivers good times. I think this was my fourth trip in as many decades. On my first trip, I must have been about seven; I have vague recollections of skiing faster than I’d ever skied in my life and I remember yelling in terrified joy with my best friend at the time. It’s when I recall really falling in love with skiing. The freedom those skis gave me was unlike anything else; it was the beginning of a lifelong obsession.
Then in my 20s I remember shutting down Le P’tit Caribou and shielding my eyes against the house lights as they lit up after last call. My last visit was nine years ago; my son had an Edgie Wedgie on his skis at the time. These days he drops into luge-track tree runs where I hesitate to follow.
The one constant of Tremblant is that it’s always fun. No matter what decade you’re in. I have no doubt I’ll be back within the next ten years. And I know it’ll be a blast. We laughed our way down the groomers, the kids mapping out all the side hits and mogul runs, dads ducking into the trees here and there, finding lone pockets of powder.
For Katie Combaluzier, chasing ski dreams is a way of lifewords :: Allison Kennedy Davies
Somehow, para skier Katie Combaluzier finds time to chat with me between her family medicine residency and her daily workouts. We tried to catch up a few weeks earlier, but Combaluzier was busy climbing the multi-pitch Stawamus Chief … of course. Then she was busy making the move to Quebec for her residency. Katie is always busy, making sure her life contains as much adventure as possible while consistently moving the needle forward on her career and her goals. She’s a force to be reckoned with. The Toronto native grew up skiing and racing at Craigleith Ski Club and chased the mountain lifestyle across the globe.
While backcountry skiing in France in 2018, she was caught in an avalanche that fractured her spine and left her with no feeling below her knees. A short four years later, she headed to Beijing as a member of the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team. It’s an incredible journey that Combaluzier says she began pursuing just days after her accident.
Mountain Life: It sounds like you had an epic winter last year.
Katie Combaluzier: Last year was my debut racing year. It was a whirlwind. After doing a couple of World Cups early in the season, I got some confidence and was able to qualify for the Games after the World Championships in January in Norway. That was the goal, so it was really exciting to have achieved it. Everything on top of that was a bonus.
ML: Tell us about your Paralympic experience.
KC: I was training alongside the whole team all winter. But as it was my first Games, I had to lean on some of the more senior members of the team to help me through. As a skier, we have five events over ten days. We had only two rest days where we didn’t ski, the entire time we were in Beijing. It was very intense. So I was really just hanging on for dear life. Hopefully I have an opportunity to do it again, knowing what to expect. From what I hear, the second time around you can really focus on the skiing.
ML: And prior to that you made an impressive entrance to the World Cup circuit. How did that compare with what you expected?
KC: Studying abroad in Ireland, I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to get training or racing until recently. It was the season before last where I really hunkered down and put in some time training. Then this past season I was invited to go along to some camps with the national team. We went to Italy and then to Panorama. I had my very first sit-ski race in Panorama last November—so less than a year ago. It was a small race with not a lot of competitors.
I was able to win in my category in a couple of the races and that basically allowed Team Canada to start sending me to World Cup events. I was able to podium in a couple of those, which qualified me for World Championships and then that qualified me for the Games. Really it was back-to-back-to-back from November to March. My overall goal was to go to the Games. I hadn’t really thought past that in terms of performance.
ML: Can you give us a bit of insight into your journey from the Craigleith Ski Club to your current spot on the Paralympic team?
KC: I grew up in Toronto and my family have been Craigleith members forever. My grandparents were some of the original members. I started skiing at age two. We’d go up every weekend. I started racing when I was ten and raced until the end of high school and then switched to coaching. I knew that, after my accident, I
wanted to race. It was always something that I loved. That race background coming into sit-skiing was a huge advantage for me because I already knew the basics. Having all the knowledge about edging and turn shape was key. I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t raced before. It would have taken a lot more time to figure out how to race a sit-ski if I hadn’t raced when I was able-bodied.
ML: Obviously your accident was life-changing, but it seems like your transition to competition at a very high level on the sit-ski happened quickly. When did you know you wanted to race again?
KC: It wasn’t a hard decision. Skiing has been a part of my life forever. That’s what I do—I’m a skier. My accident happened while I was skiing. I thought I might not be able to ski again but then I realized that I could do it a different way. It’s such an important part of my identity. It was important to me that I continue to do what I love. Whether that be in sit-ski or on regular skis, it didn’t really matter to me as long as I was on the snow and in the mountains doing what I love. Immediately after my accident, the first thing I said to my mom when she came to France was, “I can go to the Paralympics now.” I immediately thought of that goal and started working towards it. I needed to make something good out of a bad situation.
ML: Anyone who has checked out your Instagram account knows your adventures have been continuing in full force.
“Immediately after my accident, the first thing
I said to my mom when she came to France was, ‘I can go to the Paralympics now.’ I immediately thought of that goal and started working towards it. I needed to make something good out of a bad situation.”Katie as a teen racing at Craigleith Ski Club. SUPPLIED BY KATIE COMBALUZIER
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KC: I’ve always loved the outdoors. I was super-into ski touring; that’s how I had my accident in France. When I moved to Ireland for medical school, there was a mountaineering club and it was a nobrainer to join because I wanted to continue to explore the outdoors. I really started to get into climbing there. I started climbing outside and I was hooked immediately. I moved there in September and I climbed up until my accident in March so it was only a couple of months. I’ve climbed much more as a paraplegic than I ever did as an able-bodied person. It’s something I really love.
ML: Tell us about your recent climbing feats at the Chief.
KC: My boyfriend Adam is from Ireland and we met in the climbing club there. He moved to Canada with me and we lived in our van for the last year while I was training and competing. Skiing has always been my thing and climbing is his. It’s something we love to do together. Climbing the Chief was his idea. I had hiked it previously, when I was able-bodied, and I was definitely on board with the plan.
I thought that would be a super-cool goal. We’ve done multipitches together before, but never anything that big. We were climbing in the spring around Penticton and I was feeling pretty good on the rock. We just did a couple of warm-up days—maybe two weeks of climbing during spring skiing. Then we headed to Squamish and there were a couple days of clear weather forecasted, so we took the only weather window we had and went for it. I didn’t know if we were going to succeed at all, but we pushed through. It ended up taking longer than expected. We spent two nights on the wall and then hiked down the third day—which was actually the worst part for me. I seconded Adam the whole way up and basically climbed the
whole thing unassisted on a top rope. I think I’m the first paraplegic to climb it in that fashion. People have done stuff with pulleys but not using conventional climbing techniques.
ML: Your athletic accomplishments are already impressive but during this busy time you’re also becoming a doctor.
KC: Yes, I’m doing a family medicine residency so it’s a two-year program and after that you’re a full-fledged doctor.
ML: Will you still be able to train and compete?
KC: Yes, I’ll be doing all my dryland training independently. Thankfully, I’m based out of Gatineau so there are plenty of ski hills nearby. The plan is to ski with the team on my vacation days and compete as much as possible. There’s a slow ramp-up to the next Olympic cycle so my residency will be over just in time. The team has been super-supportive in letting me continue training at whatever capacity I can. After my residency, I’m going to make up for lost time. My next time on snow will probably be November at Panorama with the team. I’ll be racing only in North America this year to save time.
ML: Is there anyone you’d like to thank for their help along the way?
KC: Yes, the High Fives Foundation provided the funding for my sit-ski and they’ve been really supportive. They support people with spinal cord injuries to help them get back outdoors and doing the activities they love.Katie on a climbing trip in B.C. COURTESY KATIE COMBALUZIER
On a road like this, a flat tire was inevitable. I slacked on concentration for a second and that’s when the gravel bit back: instant pinch flat on my rear wheel. These 25c tires weren’t designed for this sort of thing. Sharp, apple-sized rocks made up the road and my 1989 12-speed Marinoni was not the right steed.
No matter, I was prepared. So my 11-year-old son Taj and his mom carried on while I got to repairing the tube. I slapped in a new one real quick, using my entire CO2 cartridge to pump it up. Then I hopped in behind some ladies and drafted them at about 25 kilometres an hour. I was anxious to get back to my family; they’d never ridden further than 60 kilometres in one day before.
Flying along gravel on this bike at these speeds was not recommended and before I’d covered another two kilometres I got a flat on my front tire. I wasn’t prepared. I started pulling the tire and hoped someone behind me could help. Then Gerry (the only other guy on 25c wheels) showed up with a spare tube. He gave it to me, I borrowed his pump and I was back on the road. A couple kilometres later we got back onto proper tarmac and I hopped in behind a group, two women and a man who were obviously very serious about riding. As one woman dropped behind me she stared at my bike incredulously.
“How are you doing this? Your cassette is so small! How many cogs are there?”
“Six,” I replied.
“Crazy! I have 12,” she said.
I didn’t bother pointing out that I had two front chainrings, which theoretically gives me 12 speeds, too.
I’m not sure on the etiquette of road cycling but I know if you get behind a few people going fast it’s easy to keep pace. So that’s what I did. I was desperate to catch my family.
“I’m just gonna lurk here, guys,” I said. The ladies were cool with it. The dude was not. He didn’t acknowledge my existence; I had broken some invisible road-riding rule. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t wearing any spandex? He was the only bummer of the weekend.
The brainchild of Mike Garrigan, the Weekender Ride is a chance for him to hang out with his buddies and go for a good ride. The former Canadian cyclocross champion grew up on these roads in Simcoe County. Now he’s the technical cycling coach with the Canadian Olympic team and divides his time between Canada and Europe. Generally the Weekender attracts hardcore gravel riders, but when my wife, a newly converted gravel aficionado, decided she wanted to do it, we supported her. So much so that my son decided he wanted to do it, too. Then I got sucked in. We chose the two-day, late-October Sawlog Bay ride which starts in Barrie, continues over to Midland then loops back to Barrie again.
It wasn’t long before we made it to the second checkpoint, 78 kilometres in. Further than either of my two family members had ever ridden. There were chocolate bars, Cokes, Scratch Labs gummies, oranges, bananas and more. My son had never eaten so much candy. He kept asking for another bag of gummies, another chocolate bar, another Coke. And we kept saying yes, yes, yes.
For the next 30 kilometres it was all about keeping energy levels up. It wasn’t easy. Our butts were sore and our attitudes hit some serious lows. But after many breaks, we made it to the Quality Inn in Midland. 112 kilometres conquered. Sunday was only 77 km. Now we knew we could do it.
There’s a reason the organizer of this event is so successful as a coach: He knows how to punish people.
We watched two hours of Ridiculousness with our brains turned off while eating hamburgers and ribs in bed. It was awesome. Little did we know that after donuts and coffee at Midland’s Boathouse Eatery on day two things would get tough. A gentle ride along the Tay Shore Trail lulled us into complacency before heading up OroMedonte’s Line 8 North. This is a heinous route. There’s a reason the organizer of this event is so successful as a coach: He knows how to punish people. He’s especially good at punishing 11-year-olds (and 46-year-olds). This road went up. And when you thought it couldn’t get any steeper, rockier or sandier it just went up again.
It felt like forever but we eventually rolled in dead last at the 52-kilometre checkpoint. It was a monster of an accomplishment for my boy. It was an absolute sufferfest getting there. The guys from Blacksmith Cycle were on hand with treats, water bottles, refills and motivation. My boy ate more candy than he’s eaten in his entire life.
“You just got through the worst of it, guys!” said Mike Y from Blacksmith. And Mike Y is a trustworthy guy. So we pushed on. As much as Taj wanted to hop in the van and head home, he stuck it out.
Taj was the youngest by at least ten years on this Weekender. When we finally rolled into the museum at Midhurst, we’d been on the bikes for seven hours. I got absolute last place. But I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe what my son just accomplished. We had originally set a goal of riding 100 kilometres over the entire weekend. Instead he crushed it, pedalling every one of the 192 kilometres over two days. I’m not sure where that determination came from, but he definitely learned something about perseverance and hard work.
If Type 2 fun is miserable while it’s happening but fun in retrospect, then we had an absolute blast. If you want to test yourself, Garrigan scheduled two Weekender Rides in 2022, with more in the planning stages for 2023. Check it out at www.weekender-ride.com
Mountain peaks loom above volcanic rock and tundra rolls out to the ocean below. I’m mesmerized by my surroundings as my eyes roam over the dramatic Icelandic landscape. All too soon, the landscape disappears, replaced by the blue-white of glacial ice.
My day begins with a slow rappel into the depths of an ice field, surrounded by ice glistening in the morning sunlight. I’m deep inside one of the many moulins—the circular, nearly vertical well-like shafts that bore deep into the Vatnajokull glacier, Iceland’s (and Europe’s) largest glacier system by volume, with ice covering 7,800 square kilometres to a depth of 380 metres. Awestruck by the sheer size of this ocean of ice, it feels as if I’m lowering into the womb of Mother Earth herself. Clinging to the wall with ice axes and crampons, I slowly climb down into the darkness of the earth’s core.
Veins of life: The arteries of many rivers and waterways that flow off the Vatnajökull Glacier.
caves, breaking through ice while paddleboarding fjords, climbing icebergs, freediving between tectonic plates or surfing cold waves.
Iceland is the perfect canvas for our quest. Still, winter in Iceland is humbling and sometimes hostile. We embrace the cold temps, big storms and strong winds that cover us in blankets of ice. I relish my role as both athlete and photographer as we chase the fine line between frozen and liquid water, capturing its beauty in so many states and forms.
Adventures like this one require an inspiring team. Tim Emmett is a longtime friend, adventure partner and extraordinary human; an explorer, pro climber, surfer, freediver—you name it. Luca Malaguti is an incredibly talented freediver, fresh off breaking the Canadian national freediving record (85 metres). The third man on the team, Brian Hockenstein, is a filmmaker and multi-talented snowboarder always ready to jump into the fray and capture the magic.
I’ve been in Iceland for a week now, brought here by both work and passion. Our crew of four has traveled from one location to another, ice-climbing, freediving and surfing, filming water in its many forms. We came in search of the connection of the human spirit to both art and adventure, whether climbing from the depths of moulins and ice
Before leaving, I was a little nervous. My research led me to expect a hostile place—ferocious winds, big waves and weather that can change in an instant. I initially wondered if we could work together enough to pull this off, but I soon relaxed as our overqualified, hardworking and harmonious team settled into a natural rhythm. There was trust, respect and a communal gratefulness for just being where we were, and an eagerness to help each other out and capture the incredible journey ahead.
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Depressing the shutter of my camera, I capture Tim as he climbs ever so delicately from the silence of the moulin and into the light. The image feels reminiscent of a painting, but on a frozen canvas resonating with history dating back thousands upon thousands of years. Layer upon layer of snow, rain, sleet and history have crystallized the magnificent element of water to create this massive glacier, a piece of earth’s magical natural puzzle.
The days in Iceland flow so naturally, blending together as we leave one spectacular place for another. We leave the moulin behind and head to our next mission: catching waves at sunset under the Icelandic sky.
Waiting to catch my next wave, I look out into the distance. Gothic dark clouds creep in off the horizon; the wind picks up out of nowhere and it starts hailing, then snowing. Big, humbling waves start pounding the shoreline. I raise my palms to the sky, taking it in and embracing it, then offer a silent plea to the ocean in the hope of catching one of the best rides of my life.
You can prepare your whole life for moments like this one—for the privilege of feeling so alive in the eye of the storm. The wave picks up and I dig deep, driving the paddle stroke, carving the bottom turn, and I feel the power of the ocean take hold of me.
Exhausted from the day, the four of us squeeze into our rental SUV, jam-packed so full—ice-climbing gear, freediving gear, drysuits, wetsuits, food and supplies, camera and photo gear, multiple SUPs strapped to the roof—there’s barely room to sit. It’s a lot, but we use it all almost every day. SUPs are our main vessel of transport, breaking through ice and smashing through waves and wind as we
navigate among the icebergs. Climbing onto these frozen blocks is a terrifying endeavour. If these massive unstable chunks were to break or roll over, our drysuits would help stave off the cold; we’d just have the worry of being bludgeoned or crushed. But you’re climbing something so delicate and pristine—ever-changing formations that
will soon be gone, flowing out in the rivers to the ocean. Using picks, ice axes and crampons strapped to our feet we scale these wondrous natural sculptures.
Our 7mm wetsuits make it possible for us to dive deep into the Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, and then to the northern tip of the island and a wonderland blanketed in a coat of fresh snow. Both places offer new and dramatic land- and waterscapes. Diving into 1-degree water on the verge of the frozen shore, it seems like another planet, and I feel a transformation of mind, body and soul. We kick our fins, hold our breath and test our spirits, gliding through tunnels and caves and exploring these new waterways.
Depressing the shutter of my camera, I capture Tim as he climbs ever so delicately from the silence of the moulin and into the light. The image feels reminiscent of a painting, but on a frozen canvas resonating with history dating back thousands upon thousands of years.BELOW Split between two worlds: Tim Emmett enjoys a fine sunset while Luca Malaguti explores the crystal-clear waters of Silfra. NEXT PAGE En route to a remote ice-climbing location.
Almost two weeks together in Iceland feels like a lifetime of experiences. I say goodbye to the crew, so grateful for all the time shared. Iceland—a country full of beauty, wilderness and contrast, where every local is so welcoming and helpful—offered us a baptism of sorts. A longtime friend, Jake Humphrey, flies in the same day the others fly out. We switch vehicles, reload our gear and set off on another two-week adventure.
Jake and I grew up together in Whistler after I moved out to the west coast from Ontario at age 13. With any trip it’s challenging to take the time off work and juggle responsibilities and family obligations. Like myself, Jake has an amazing and supportive wife and family, and he jumped at the opportunity and made it happen.
We take off in our loaded 4x4 Duster, heading north in search of surf. (As soon as Timmy, Luca and Brian left, the weather turned up a couple notches, the wind intensified and the waves got much bigger. If your car wasn’t facing into the wind you could have your doors ripped off, which almost happened more than once.) Along the way, we meet some local surfers who share key info on where and when to go, and what to look out for—usually the crazy wind storms. They recommend the village of Ólafsfjörður, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, where an incredible right-hand point break flows right onto its shores. Jakey and I get lucky and catch the best swell of the season, double overhead and glassy rolling waves, and no one’s around except our two new Icelandic friends, who drop into the headwalls with us.
With my gear packed away and headed home, I’m already dreaming of the next adventure. This was a mission, sure, but putting in effort brings results and reward. Iceland’s infinite possibilities remind me to live my goals no matter how long it takes; to believe, be spontaneous and to say yes. Earth, air and water in all its forms showed us the way, allowing and inspiring us to connect to the true elements of nature.
Barrie, Ontario, native Jimmy Martinello is a photographer, athlete and global adventurer based in B.C.’s Coast Mountains.
What goes on behind the scenes at a snow resort? Becki Relihan knows better than most
Blue’s director of programming and recreation grew up skiing and boarding at the resort working at the Snow School before becoming a patroller. We talked to her recently about what it’s like to start out on the slopes and go on to carve a career making mountain magic.
Mountain Life: Not many people can say they started out teaching boarding at the resort where they grew up, then went on to make a full-time career there. Could you share some highlights?
Becki Relihan: I started as a volunteer assistant pro with the Snow School department. What drew me to this role at the time was the community that surrounded it. My friend and I entered this program together, and I had grown up skiing and snowboarding at Blue Mountain. I felt a connection to the resort already and Snow School was the perfect spot for me to grow and continue to improve my skills. From here I got certified through CASI and CSIA to teach and was then hired on as a paid instructor for the next few years. I carried this job through high school and once I started university discovered that I needed a bit more flexibility in my work schedule, which attracted me to patrol and lifeguard roles at Blue. I had previous lifeguarding experience from my community pool and was thrilled that I could be in a similar position at Blue Mountain and stay employed with the resort year-round. From there, I was exposed to and discovered a newfound passion for first aid and joined Ski Patrol.
This department really opened my eyes to everything that goes on behind the scenes of a ski resort. There is so much to the production of a day on the slopes, and so much of it I had never considered. I was immediately hooked and began to work in a yearround capacity with the team.
My various roles at Blue Mountain prepared me for my current role as director of programming and recreation by exposing me to different aspects of the business. With each department and role, I learned more about the inner workings of Blue Mountain, I gained experience to rise into leadership positions, and understood how I could make an impact and where I felt truly purposeful. I was continuously encouraged to take opportunities to learn both inside the organization through internal training and outside the organization through external schooling. This allowed me to continue to take steps at Blue towards a fulfilling career.
ML: It sounds like you forged many key relationships over the years. What is it about working at a place like Blue that helps build those kinds of connections?
BR: I have met many incredible people throughout my time at Blue, and always look forward to those I will meet in the future. I have met both the love of my life and my best friends at Blue, which is very special to me. People bond quickly with one another at Blue and genuinely support each other’s successes both professionally and personally. People are definitely drawn towards Blue for the outdoors and being in an active job, but there is also a large draw to the overall experience and connections that Blue provides, which keeps people coming back each season and looking to secure year-round employment. There are so many pathways offered in addition to the outdoors at Blue, including culinary, conference, sales and hotel experience; there is truly something for everyone. The passion and team camaraderie develop across the Resort, establishing a feeling of comfort, worth and value.
“When I first started at Blue, there was no Village and no high-speed chair lifts, there was less snowmaking, night lights were not as bright and cameras took lower-resolution photos of the smiles on-hill.”
On another level, the professional relationships that I have been able to forge are very unique. I never imagined having lunch with members of the Rossignol executive team, or spending time with snow school directors from ski resorts in the United States. At a resort like Blue Mountain the opportunities to grow are endless. I’ve been able to make connections and learn from a variety of people in the ski and tourism industry. In all of my roles at Blue, I’ve been invited to the table and to share my ideas which as a woman and a young professional is important to me.
ML: Could you talk about the changes and growth you’ve seen at Blue since starting out as an instructor?
BR: When I first started at Blue, there was no Village and no high-speed chair lifts, there was less snowmaking, night lights were not as bright and cameras took lower-resolution photos of the smiles on-hill. Every year that I have been here the company pushes itself to improve. This growth and success of the company as a whole is driven so heavily by our employees from the front line, all the way to the executive; everyone has a direct impact. It is also driven by challenging the norms of the industry and expanding our way of thinking such that we now offer many unique year-round opportunities for both guests and employees. From product development to technological advancements, building new infrastructure and expanding our roster of year-round employees, the growth has been massive.
Blue Mountain has been challenged many times to adapt operations and explore new ways to grow providing great guest experiences. Most recently we have become a part of Alterra Mountain Company. This was a significant change to the organization and one that I can truly say has made us better. It’s pretty awesome to be able to have a virtual call with other Directors at resorts like Deer Valley, Steamboat and Tremblant just to pick their brains and share ideas. We have the opportunity to learn from one another, share successes, and utilize resources that we otherwise would not have access to.
ML: Is there anything you can share about the future of Blue?
BR: The future of Blue Mountain is bright, there is no doubt about that. A lot of plans were paused during the pandemic. Our focus was really on pivoting where we needed to, but now we are back to executing what’s next for Blue! Every area of the Resort has something exciting on the horizon. For the programming areas, I’m excited to see our innovative ideas for programming come to fruition. The landscape of the ski and destination industry has changed and we are determined to be a part of what’s next.
Blue Mountain has given me the opportunity to learn and grow in every part of my life. This company welcomes me with open arms at all times and has supported me throughout all of my endeavours, and I know that this is a part of our culture that will live on forever. It excites me to think about all of the other employees, both current and future, who will experience the magic of the mountain.
Behind the scenes at a family-run organic cannabis farm
In the fall of 2020, deep in the hills of Meaford, Ontario, the inaugural harvest was simply referred to as a “tsunami of weed.” And that’s exactly what it felt like. After a short three-month growing season, 600 kilograms of cannabis needed to be harvested. Day after day it flowed into the shelter with up to 20 people at a time trimming, cutting, washing and hanging. I attended a few times, and arrived each day to a completely different trimming system, eventually culminating in the “penalty box,” a four-foot-high wall of aluminum with drilled holes. Pickers would lightly trim branches, put the stem end of a plant into the hole, then the person inside the box would pull the stem through, dropping the buds into massive bins placed below.
For those of us used to homegrown plots of 2-12 plants, this aptly named tsunami of weed was daunting. Just when you cleared a table of the enormous plants, the Kubota would pull in with another load. It was never-ending.
The brainchild of Rob Mantrop, Greenman Acres is a family-run affair. His wife, brothers, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, mother and close family friends are all involved. Plus they’ve assembled a very talented team of growers and experts.
Running a cannabis farm is very much a farmer’s life. And they take it to heart. They’re out walking the field every day, touching, smelling and watching the plants—looking for problems and carefully paying attention to what works and what doesn’t.
Greenman’s goal to produce high-quality, small-batch organic cannabis is an ambitious one, especially when growing outdoors. But as the years progress, so does their knowledge and skill at growing a quality end product.
“We focus on the plant and we literally make our decision that way,” says Mantrop. “Is that better or worse for the plant? We’re always looking to save on labour and time, but we never compromise the quality of the flower.”
Using manure from nearby Good Family Farms, plus natural pesticides, they're slowly learning how to do it. And they have help. “Our association with the University of Guelph is a nice tool in our tool box,” he says. “We’re part of the first-ever study on an outdoor cannabis crop in Canada. This is year two of the study. We have three master’s students from the entomology program and they come every single week to take samples and write a report for us. They look for the beneficial insects versus the non-beneficial insects. So we don’t buy any bugs. A lot of producers will buy ladybugs, or nematodes for the soil. Rather than buy the bugs, we have the environment for the beneficials to be there. We intentionally plant sunflowers, calendula, camomile and radish to attract beneficial bugs. To date our beneficial insects outweigh the non-beneficial.”
Covid, along with the wait for licenses, meant 2020 was a stunted year; they weren’t allowed to plant anything until July 3. Then 2021 had its own set of challenges: A wet June, a dry July and a cold, wet September brought hurdle after hurdle. They still harvested 600 kilograms.
“We learned a lot,” says Mantrop. “All of which we’re applying this year.”
At a budtender event held on a Friday afternoon in 2022, the farm looked perfect: Row after row of healthy green plants lined the hilly farm and, for those who love this controversial plant, it looked heavenly. Young retailers walked through the fields, asking questions and learning about all the processes that go into growing outdoor and organic. Looking at the massive acreage with 6,000 plants, it was easy to see they’ve started to figure it out. The farm looked healthy and happy.
The Greenman Acres main strain is their own genetic: Mother of Berries. Grandaddy Purple is also currently available in the market and two more (Durban Poison and Scotch Mountain) will be available post-2022 harvest. There are 25 other cultivars in a test plot, where they explore new genetics and find what works in this microclimate.
While some may scoff at the idea of growing top-quality cannabis outdoors, the proof is in the pudding: Mother of Berries and Grand Daddy Purple both hit the trend-setting numbers of more than 20 per cent THC, but that’s not entirely the metric Greenman is going for.
“Our THC percentage has to be put on the label,” says Mantrop. “People are gravitating toward that. There is a general attitude in the marketplace that 20 per cent THC is a bigger bang for your buck. It shows the immature marketplace; as people get educated they’ll realize that it’s not all about THC. There are other cannabinoids, CBN and CBD, that also have an effect. And when you combine it with the terpenes, you get an entourage effect.”
What are terpenes, you ask?
“Terpenes are flavour profiles and they work in concert with the cannabinoid. It changes your experience. Growing outdoors promotes terpenes.”
So has the romance of being a weed farmer faded for Mantrop?
“Certain days it’s romantic, other days it’s a nightmare,” he says.
“The biggest thing you can’t forecast is that the government’s our customer. They’re great people to deal with, but we’re dealing with some unique problems. Ontario has its own challenges with
The Greenman Acres main strain is their own genetic: Mother of Berries. Grandaddy Purple is also currently available in the market and two more (Durban Poison and Scotch Mountain) will be available post-2022 harvest.
this hybrid model of privatized suppliers and retailers, with the government buying in the middle. We feel that pain for sure. It adds a lot to our bottom line. There are a lot of efficiencies we can’t realize because we have to ship through them. We’re just trying to survive this crazy industry.”
The next challenge? Harvesting 6,000 plants. The crop of 2022 is expected to produce 2,000 kilograms. Now that’s what you call a tsunami of weed.
The first three portages in B.C.’s Bowron Lakes canoe circuit come quickly. Totalling six kilometres, it’s a heavy first day if you play it through. But then, utilizing portable canoe wheels and carting the allowable amount of gear inside the boat means two pack-laden canoeists need only make a single trip across, rendering these lake links pleasant strolls compared to, say, a two-km double-carry in Ontario canoe country. Indeed, one-pass rolling portages are foreign to those of us who came of paddling age wilting under eastern Canada’s bug-ridden, canoe-humping Voyageur version. Ditto these trails, for which the word “buff” is no stretch; the rocks, roots and muck of even the angriest forest floor here are mere polite intrusions compared to the Tough Mudder gamuts of Algonquin and Quetico parks.
Beyond Cadillac portaging, canoeing the Bowron offers something that Ontario—for all its terraqueous splendour—cannot: mountainous horizons, converging contours marching into the distance like a Japanese painting, gaps where glaciers have sagged through passes to carve out valleys, and silver threads of water lacing steep ridges. Thus the scene before me on a +30˚C late-September day, with two portages behind and a notion to leave the third for tomorrow. After all, with Indianpoint Lake mirror-like beneath a cloudless afternoon sky, it’s time to stop and enjoy the heat.
A spacious campsite looms on the left and we nose our two canoes in. Tents are erected, hammocks hung, bathing suits donned. After a bracing dip, it’s at least mercifully warm enough to air dry.
Later there’s a curry dinner and a few pulls of scotch beneath a starspackled firmament. No campfire, of course, because by this point in the season, with wildfires everywhere, there’s always a provincewide ban.
Bowron Lake Provincial Park hugs the western slopes of B.C.’s Cariboo Mountains seven hours north of Vancouver—a “mediumlength” drive by provincial standards. The park’s world-renowned 116-km circuit of glacier-draining waterways is the definitive B.C. canoe experience, taking six to 10 days to complete. The west side is hemmed by the rounded hilltops of the Quesnel Highland, which differ markedly from the imposing Cariboos framing eastern and southern aspects. Aesthetics aside, the Bowron has a reputation for moodiness, with calm lakes under blue skies one minute that can turn to angry grey water and torrential rain the next. Thus, we’re prepared for anything—including being pleasantly surprised.
The next day dawns sunnier, hotter and stiller. The portage into Isaac Lake offers little challenge beyond the heat. Isaac is a behemoth—38 km long and known for kicking up in bad weather. But for us it’s a placid pond and we spend two blissful days working our way down its southern shore, camping atop pebble beaches and luxuriating in the heat—with momentary dips in its frigid waters.
The exit portage from Isaac skirts a rapid, then it’s a short hop across McLeary Lake, where moose graze the shallows, one of the few water-level wildlife encounters to be had at this latitude. There’s some bird action, of course, but with predominantly coniferous forests and icy water there are no frogs on lily pads, no turtles
sunning on logs, no fish fauna beyond salmonids. In fact, it can feel quiet on these lakes. Sometimes, too quiet. Which is when you might see a grizzly stalking the shore, or mountain goats on a distant peak—megafauna popular with wilderness-starved Europeans.
The glacial-silted loops of the Cariboo River carry us onto notoriously windy Lanezi Lake, which greets us with naught but a ripple and a campsite overlook into the park’s highest peaks. It’s here that smoke from within-park wildfires catches us, mixing with the cool night air to create a veiled dreamscape. I know canoeing but I always feel a pilgrim on these western lakes, their size and mountainous mien making them feel exotic and capable of anything.
The smoke trails us for two days, then finally dissipates on Unna Lake, where we make the short hike to Cariboo Falls through a carpet of high-bush blueberries, grazing sapphire orbs like hungry bears. Our final day is a doppelgänger of our first: clear, hot and glassy. Hitting the final beach at the end of Bowron Lake, the only thing we can think is that it wasn’t just a great canoe trip through towering peaks, it was literally perfect.
When Algonquin Provincial Park was created in 1893, few could have envisioned the place it would come to occupy in the country’s catalogue of wilderness iconography. Yet by any measure, Algonquin’s original 7,723 sq. km quickly surpassed all expectations to become part of the national psyche.
Only 250 km north of where I lived in Toronto, Algonquin was integral to my mental bitmap, fundamental and omnipresent in my understanding of Canadian art, landscape, recreation and ecology. I can’t say I grew up in Algonquin, but I did come of age there. Monthlong summer canoe trips during high school cemented physical and mental confidence and a sense of self-reliance. These days, canoe-tripping is part of the curriculum for many Ontario high school seniors, and Algonquin remains a prime destination—duly noted when six of us paddle up Canoe Lake at the start of a week-long selfprescribed birthday canoe trip. For hours we pass ever-larger flotillas of school groups heading back from their own wilderness forays, teen energy palpable in their singing, shit-talking and obvious sense of accomplishment—a new generation experiencing this landscape’s wonders. Despite what seems an almost industrial increase in park
usage for autumn, Algonquin’s charms remain: wind-sculpted white pines worthy of a Tom Thomson painting, inviting points of pinkgranite Canadian Shield, fall colours of mixed deciduous forests, desperate ululations of cavorting loons.
We make it as far as Burnt Island Lake, a solid first day. Though almost October, a heatwave has settled over the region, with cloudless skies, temperatures in the 30s, and serious humidity that lasts far enough into evening to make sleeping bags unnecessary and campfires purely utilitarian.
On lakes as still as ponds, hours pass in which our canoes are the only disturbance; we sweat as profusely on the water as on portages, swimming frequently in summertime-warm waters. Bullfrogs, fooled by July-ish conditions, begin calling. Birds migrating south seem hesitant. But it can’t last. After three searing days the oddball weather breaks, heralded by a strong west wind on labyrinthine Big Trout Lake.
Only 250 km north of where I lived in Toronto, Algonquin was integral to my mental bitmap,
fundamental and omnipresent in my understanding of Canadian art, landscape, recreation and ecology.
On White Trout Lake the rain and wind hits with force. Peregrine falcons dive-bomb us from cliffs. Battling upstream through marshes at lake’s end, the wind continues on our nose. But the canoe is a lowdrag marvel that allows progress in even gale-force gusts. By the time we enter McIntosh Lake, trees bow like doormen and the wind roars through the night. The next day brings an intimidating 2.3-km portage into Tom Thomson Lake. After two crossings and the walk-back, that’s seven km of hoofing it, almost five loaded down. But after a week of eastern canoe tripping you’re a Voyageur again, and it goes by fast.
Back on the water, we track reflections, listen to the loons’ maniacal symphony, cruise moose and wonder—industrial canoeing aside—if this ageless wilderness passage, or its nearest facsimile, shouldn’t be part of the curriculum for every Canadian student, east and west.
Although millions of us Canadians love playing in the snow, winter isn’t always the most wonderful time of year. Cold. Dark. Long. The last few orbits around the sun haven’t been the most wonderful years: Climate change sparked cascading disasters as the pandemic shook our planet. And last January, stoked by social media, disparate pockets of anger boiled over into a wave of protests, a symptom of our polarized populace and a society in which doing good unto others can feel like a fading dream. Twitter provides an accurate reflection of this negative feedback loop. Yet amid this mess, fleets of knights on shining machines mobilized in the middle of the night, undeterred by storms or sleet. “Full groom complete!” a hero with the handle @tracksetfred tweeted. “Skate and classic better than expected. Icy in spots but good overall!”
Throughout Ottawa, where I live, and in many communities blessed with consistent snow, volunteer Nordic ski trail groomers lay down crisp tracks and corduroy while sharing a steady stream of online condition reports—paths and words in the wilderness that lead to a better place.
I’m crazy about Nordic skiing. It has sustained me through a decade of Edmonton winters and another dozen in the nation’s capital, and it has served as a seasonal beacon, drawing me to XC centres all over Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec. But even though I’ve written often about the wonders of hiking and paddling— about the holistic health benefits of immersing oneself in green space and blue space—I’d never looked at Nordic skiing in the same light. Until this past winter of discontent, that is, when the ugliness that consumed my city butted up against an expanding grassroots network of local trails, a communal response to the COVID-inspired need for outdoor rec close to home.
Although Ottawans have easy access to the 200 kilometres of XC in Quebec’s Gatineau Park, the pandemic prevented people from crossing the provincial border for a while. No problem. The mileage of groomed trails on this side of the river was ballooning. More than 100 km of free trails are now available at half a dozen sites on a patchwork of public land, including Ski Heritage East, tucked along the Ottawa River in the east end of the city, where Drew Deyell (a.k.a. @tracksetfred) is one of a handful of groomers. Deyell enjoys heading out on a snowmobile to set tracks and likes seeing the
smiles of people using the trail, with its centre skate lane available to walkers, runners and fat bikers as well. “It’s so good for everybody’s mental health,” he told me, adding that he keeps people in the loop on Twitter not only so they know what’s been groomed but also because they reply with pictures and anecdotes, creating a sense of community. “Anywhere you live, there’s probably a trail close to you, and they’re spreading.”
A five-minute drive from my house, the Rideau Winter Trail is also multi-use, and like others in town, it’s reachable via public transit, with one leg running right past an LRT station. All of which shows that you don’t need a car, Lycra or racing gear—Nordic skiing is an accessible, inexpensive and inclusive way to seek solace in white space and reconnect with the natural world.
The physiological boost we get from Nordic skiing is welldocumented. It’s excellent cardio, burns calories and works all the major muscle groups. It’s also easier on your joints than running and helps improve balance. But beyond the body, XC is also one of the best ways to achieve flow state in winter, to lose yourself to the metronomic kick and glide regardless of the temperature or windchill. Even on a -30˚C day, wearing a pair of insulated boots, layers and a balaclava while skiing allows you to feel at one with the weather,
like a pleasant mid-summer sojourn in shorts. That sense of harmony elicits a deep happiness, a reminder that there’s something more powerful and pervasive than doom and gloom.
You don’t need a car, Lycra or racing gear—Nordic skiing is an accessible, inexpensive and inclusive way to seek solace in white space and reconnect with the natural world.
To me, XC skiing is the al fresco equivalent of hygge—that Scandinavian feeling of wellness and contentment one gets from, say, a candle in a cozy room. A soothing respite in white space mutes the flight-or-flight response to urban stress. Last winter, during the Ottawa occupation, when I joined a group of neighbours who were blocking a small convoy of trucks from driving along a riverside road, I took an oversized measure of comfort from the fact that we were standing a few feet from the terminus of the Rideau Winter Trail. Periodically, people carrying skis walked past, snapped into their bindings and disappeared into the trees. That evening, I did the same.
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Chestnut, the venerable wood-and-canvas canoe manufacturer, had been making boats for nearly 20 years before it designed its Prospector in 1923, in response to the growing demand for a seaworthy workhorse for expeditions. To facilitate orders by telegraph, the company used one-word terms—often with historical origins—to identify each of its dozens of models in their various lengths. The name given to the 18-foot version of the Prospector, “Voyageur,” was especially apt, given that countless Voyageurs were shipped to Hudson Bay Company outposts, where the Geological Survey of Canada favoured them for remote reconnaissance work before the advent of bush planes.
Since the advent of the Prospector, just about every modernday canoe manufacturer has offered its own version in various space-age materials. As for the Chestnut original, “It was one of those magical strokes,” writes Roger MacGregor in his 1999 history of the Chestnut Canoe Company, “a judicious combination of the finest shapes at just the right spot along the hull.” It was seen by many as the perfect all-around boat, as the filmmaker and author Bill Mason said, “If I could have only one canoe,” Mason wrote, “it would be the original Chestnut 16-foot wood-canvas Prospector.”
New Brunswick-based Chestnut went bankrupt in 1979, but its legacy is Canada’s most popular style of canoe. Hugh Stewart of Headwaters Canoes in Wakefield, Quebec, purchased the original Voyageur building form shortly after Chestnut folded, and Jamie Bartle, who apprenticed at Headwaters, took over from Stewart as co-owner with my partner, Kate Prince, in 2017.
Stewart grew up paddling classic wood-and-canvas canoes at summer camp in Algonquin and Temagami; he hung around the Chestnut factory while he was a grad student at the University of New Brunswick in 1971, observing the construction of an 18-foot Prospector he purchased for a trip on the South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories. Stewart’s colourful tales of the time he spent in the factory made me long to help build a canoe of my own—just as his long, unheralded wilderness journeys with traditional canoes and equipment has also inspired my travel style.
Stewart insists that, in the hands of the right user, wood-andcanvas canoes are perfectly suited to the most challenging trips,
replete with whitewater, tough portages and windswept lakes. They’re easily repaired in the field and can be restored to like-new condition multiple times. Stewart’s longest journey spanned nearly 10 weeks across the barrens of Nunavut in 1980. “We never questioned the performance or durability of our canoes,” he says. That outlook— along with several other original Chestnut building forms and replicas for the 16- and 17-foot Prospectors—remains the foundation of Headwaters Canoes.
It’s a joy to spend time with Stewart, now in his seventies, at the Headwaters shop. Working together to build my new Voyageur, he shows me how to clamp the ash inner gunwales, then bow and stern stems, to the building form as the steam box for bending white cedar ribs comes up to temperature. The bend, as it’s called, always takes place after coffee break. Bartle and I work together as the hot, steam-saturated ribs flex like cooked noodles over the form; once positioned, each rib is nailed to the gunwales. We’ve bent all 46 ribs in time for lunch.
Just as in the time of the Chestnut factory, there’s a certain rhythm to days and seasons in the Headwaters shop. Sanding is my next task, working the ribs to achieve smooth, “fair” curves. This, along with the tedium of varnishing, is the most onerous part of the 100-odd hours it takes to build a canoe. Once my canoe is faired it will take Prince the better part of a week to plank the ribs with longitudinal strips of three-inch-wide, wafer-thin cedar sheeting, which is fastened with thousands of hand-driven, self-clenching brass tacks.
After four coats of varnish the hull of my canoe is pressed into a hammock of canvas and tacked in place, then waterproofed and coloured (forest green, in my case) with a chemical filler. Ash outer gunwales and brass stem bands are finally installed. Except for the paint, varnish, canvas skin and metal fasteners, the building process is remarkably similar to that of a birchbark canoe—and, unlike modern canoes, easily repaired and rebuilt.
Headwaters manufactures about 15 new canoes every winter, in addition to reconditioning old ones. Throughout the winter building season, canoes come and go from storage to the shop floor like actors in a play. In late June, by the time Headwaters builders take a pause for the summer months, my Voyageur will be ready for its first adventure. Better yet, in all the places it will take me, I will remember how it was built.
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Welcome to the next phase of mountain homes nestled between Blue Mountain Resort and the award winning Scandinave Spa. A community set proudly apart yet connected by nature. Distinctive architecture inspired by Georgian Bay cabins and mountain chalets. This is everything you want Blue Mountain living to be. This is your Windfall.
On a quiet road along the Lake Huron shore in Southampton is a warm, welcoming cottage, standing in perfect harmony with its beachfront surroundings. Tecasy Beach holds a couple pleasant surprises: Not only is it a cottage with a social conscience, but it’s also a net-zero home equipped with the latest energy-saving features to reduce its impact on the environment.
The Oakville-based owners Stacey and Brydon Cruise were also operating Tecasy Ranch in Buckhorn, Ontario, a 550-acre private retreat, partnered with the Kindred Foundation charity, for individuals and groups wishing to connect with nature. “I was volunteering with the Wellspring cancer support centre in Oakville at the time,” says Stacey. “This planted a seed for me. Why not do the same thing, but on our own, through Wellspring and Childhood Cancer Canada?” So Stacey and Brydon built Tecasy Beach cottage for the sole purpose of offering a week of respite at no cost to those going through challenges in life, including cancer treatment and recovery and other family hardships.
Today, the four-bedroom cottage is booked year-round. Designed by John Pearson of Southampton, the two-storey home has numerous accessibility features, an open-concept floor plan, plenty of windows with lake views, oak flooring, a sanctuary space/yoga studio and original paintings by local artists—all designed to help guests maintain a sense of tranquility, safety and harmony with their surroundings.
Stacey and Brydon chose Port Elgin builders Seaman & Sons, who specialize in net-zero homes. Derek Seaman, the company president, suggested they invest a bit more in the construction to create a home that’s comfortable year-round, low-maintenance and super energyefficient. The couple enthusiastically agreed.
As a net-zero home, the grid-connected Tecasy Beach cottage produces at least as much energy as it consumes in a year, thanks to solar panels, superior insulation, triple-pane windows, energy-saving appliances (including an induction cooktop and oven) and LED lighting as well as high-performance heating/cooling and ventilation equipment in the mechanical room. By offsetting energy use from the grid through electricity generated from solar panels, Tecasy Beach enjoys low-to-zero electricity bills.
More than ever, Canadians are looking for energy efficiency and sustainability features in new homes. Topping the list of must-haves is high-efficiency windows, with energy-efficient appliances and air exchange systems in the top ten. Only a couple years ago, the top choice was walk-in closets.
In the 1980s, Seaman & Sons began building to R-2000 certification, the gold standard at the time and still in use today, and made the transition to net zero in the following years. “Back then, energy efficiency was a hard sell. Nobody cared,” says Seaman. “Today, people actually want net-zero homes.”
A recent Home Buyer Preference Survey from the Canadian Home Builders Association found that today, more than ever, Canadians are looking for energy efficiency and sustainability features in new homes. Topping the list of must-haves is high-efficiency windows, with energy-efficient appliances and air exchange systems in the top ten. Only a couple years ago, the top choice was walk-in closets. That’s a good thing in this time of climate change and extreme weather. In Canada, housing and other buildings account for about 18 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, emissions from the energy used to heat, cool, light and operate buildings make up 28 per cent of total emissions.
At Tecasy Beach, there is not even a hint that the home is different from any other, except that it feels quiet, comfortable and just the right temperature on a steamy summer day. The home’s solar panels power everything, including lighting and cooling, which comes not from an AC unit, but from a cold-climate air-source heat pump that cools the house by transferring warm air from the inside to the outside. During the cold months it does the opposite, extracting heat from the cold outside air and bringing it indoors. A backup high-efficiency natural gas furnace automatically kicks in some days, when the cold winds blow off Lake Huron in the winter or when there’s a power outage.
Because Tecasy Beach is a guest home, it’s important for it to perform seamlessly, with little or no maintenance, 365 days a year. As added insurance against power outages, the owners went a step further by adding a Tesla Powerwall battery system. It stores energy, recharges via the solar panels, detects outages and automatically provides the home’s energy when the grid goes down. The system can keep the home running for days. A mobile app tracks the home’s electricity production, monitors energy use and provides a running total of the CO2 emissions saved.
“From a social, environmental and even an economic perspective, we’re very proud of what we’ve created at Tecasy Beach,” says Stacey Cruise. “We get to help the community and the planet at the same time.”
1. The BURTON CARTEL X RE:FLEX BINDINGS offer all-terrain versatility updated for even lighter, more responsive performance. FullBED cushioning sets a high standard for comfort, while freestyle-minded zero forward lean lets you dial in your stance. At the Burton store in Blue Mountain Village. www.bluemountain.ca // 2. The JACK WOLFSKIN ALPSPITZE 22 SKI TOURING PACK sits close to your body without restricting your freedom of movement, thanks to the Flex Contact system. And almost all of the materials used in this pack are made from recycled plastic. www.sportinglife.ca // 3. The YETI ROADIE 48 WHEELED COOLER is built for navigating tailgate crowds and taking lunches to go, with the same cold-holding power you’d expect from a Tundra Cooler. And from the handle to the durable wheels, this thing is virtually indestructible. www.yeti.ca // 4. The iconic SALOMON QST 106 is a favourite across the world. This year Salomon has revamped the shape, resulting in a ski that does it all with style and finesse, regardless of the snow or terrain. www.salomon.com // 5. The new ESKER APPROACH is a performance orthotic made sustainably in Canada entirely from natural fibres. Thanks to the innovative use of wool, these insoles will not only keep your feet feeling warm, dry and supported, they‘ll help keep your gear shed from smelling like a wet dog. www.eskerinsoles.com
6. The K2 ANTIDOTE is a stiff and hard-charging board, perfect for ripping up icy groomers. But its freestyle personality is also right at home in the park. Unisex sizing. www.evo.com // 7. The DAKINE TRAVEL SET includes the 50L Boot Bag, Goggle Stash (pictured) and Fall Line Roller Bag, all essential to keep your gear safe when you want to push the adventure a little farther. www.corbetts.com // 8. With its revolutionary carbon-fibre shell, the TECNICA MACH1 MV 130 is the benchmark for performance, fit and customization in the high-performance medium-volume, all-mountain boot world. www.blizzard-tecnica.com // 9. The classic RAB KANGRI GTX JACKET is a 3-Layer GORE-TEX mountain hiking shell now made with a 100% recycled face fabric. Designed with the avid all-weather adventurer in mind, it’s ideal for hiking, trekking and scrambles. rab.equipment/ca // 10. The ELAN RIPSTICK TOUR 104 was designed and tested from the ground up by Elan ambassador and freeskiing pioneer Glen Plake, and blends the lightweight construction necessary for efficient ascents with the legendary performance and style of Glen. www.elanskis.com
11. Manufactured in Italy’s Dolomites, the customized PULSE PROFIT LINER fills the gaps between the skier’s foot and the shell providing unparalleled performance, control and comfort. The fitters at Pulse work with every skier to find the perfect balance, backed by the industry’s best guarantee. www.pulsebootlab.com or drop by our Collingwood location at 524 1st St. // 12. The FIS-approved GIRO SIGNES SPHERICAL RACE HELMET will keep the kids safe while not bruising the budget. MIPS-powered technology helps redirect impact forces away from the brain by allowing the outer liner to rotate around the inner liner during a crash. www.skiisandbiikes.com // 13. The durable and warm MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR STRETCHDOWN HOODY weaves pockets of down insulation from a single stretch fabric in an ultra-engineered construction, giving you more freedom to move for your full range of winter activities. www.mountainhardwear.ca // 14. Made for long days on the mountain, the HELLY HANSEN ALPHA INFINITY INSULATED SKI JACKET uses recycled Lifa Infinity face fabric and Helly Tech Professional construction. The water-repellent treatment is PFC-free and the warm-yet-light Primaloft Black Eco Insulation is 80 per cent recycled. www.hellyhansen.com // 15. The SMITH 4D MAG GOGGLE raises the bar in lens design and construction with the introduction of BirdsEye Vision, a proprietary lens shape that extends below the sightline and opens a vast field of view. Pair with the new SMITH NEXUS MIPS HELMET with an impactresistant exoskeleton blended into a lightweight shell plus complete Koroyd coverage for lightweight, energyabsorbing and fully ventilated impact protection. www.smithoptics.com
16. The new ROSSIGNOL ESCAPER 97 NANO offers the perfect blend of lightness to make the ascent easier, and performance on the descent—opening up new opportunities to escape into the mountains, no boundaries allowed. www.rossignol.com // 17. Cap off an epic adventure or make a holiday celly memorable with the refreshingly crisp and clean SPY GOLDEN EYE PREMIUM DRY APPLE CIDER. Made with the best ripe Blue Mountains apples, it's fresh-pressed on-site with no added sugar. Available at select fine shops or on-site at www.spydistillery.com // 18. Worn as a mid-layer or a standalone, the ARC'TERYX CERIUM HOODY has emerged as a go-to for virtually any alpine undertaking. Seeking to take it higher, Arc’teryx refined the design and sourced more sustainable materials while maintaining its exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio and packability. www.arcteryx.com // 19. THE NORTH FACE WOMEN’S SUMMIT BREITHORN 50/50 HOODIE is the ideal mid-layer for high-output activities, utilizing 800-fill ProDown to deliver warmth in challenging conditions. And a lightweight design helps you move farther, faster. www.thenorthface.com // 20. When work is at nine but there are routes to lap at the gym by five, the OSPREY ZEALOT 30 features dual compartments to keep chalk and sweaty climbing shoes separate from other essentials. This climbing pack is here to help you stay focused on your next move and keep your gear from becoming a crux in your day. www.osprey.com // 21. Inspired by backcountry forests, trails and waterways, RALLY BACKCOUNTRY SESSION LAGER is crafted for the great outdoors. It's an ultra-light lager brewed with Vancouver Island sea salts to be crisp, refreshing and perfect for toasting all of life’s great adventures. www.rallybeerco.ca
In the long and painful, yet somehow beautiful, weeks following his tragic death, much has been written and said about Kevin Walsh—primarily his exceptional ability to build community, on both a local and global scale. Friends and family have eulogized his intelligence and wit. His penchant for geeking out about his many passions. His love and dedication as a partner and father.
Kev seemed to live many lives in his 44 years, acquiring innumerable circles of friends around the world. Each of those circles, separated by geography or interest, intersected in their mutual respect for this man who was the epitome of cool, primarily because he never strove to be. Seemingly oblivious to vanity, above coarse gossip and humble beyond measure, he unknowingly inspired, gently encouraged.
Kevin, with his contagious enthusiasm, taught me volumes about the finer bits of life: There’s always room at the table for another friend; this place is paradise, never stop pinching yourself in gratitude; children are the greatest motivators of exploration. I invariably left our shared meals with a determination to be a more confident cook, a more thoughtful reader, a better friend. And when he did pass judgement, I listened: A good-natured ribbing from Kevin about an absurd project pushed me to tender my resignation; I was better than that—he knew it, and so did I.
Oh, and that blackened bottom on your sourdough loaf? It’s the tastiest part. Savour every bite.
It was easy to be intimidated by Kev (that big brain of his was formidable), but the warm hug of inclusion always prevailed. The ever-present twinkle in his eye, the understated, mischievous grin, said he didn’t take himself too seriously, and neither should you. He was in on the joke. He knew.
To Kevin, life was an adventure. Not just one outdoor pursuit after another—a backcountry canoe trip with his young family, a week-long gravel bike race, a 100-km overnight Nordic-ski sufferfest—but the act of simply living. He tackled marriage and parenthood, cooking and chores, as he would a bikepacking trip
in Southeast Asia: jumping in both feet first, with an enviable attitude of educated determination and utter joy. As a teenager he wrote to a friend, “Our childhood is not behind us unless we want it to be. As long as we live as seriously as we have always played, the child in us will never go away,” a sentiment that embodied his voracious curiosity and the effortless way he seemed to move through his days.
After diving into rural Ontario life seven years ago, he consciously wove himself into the fabric of the greater Beaver Valley area, joining the board at Kolapore Uplands, continually contributing to the BT 700 bike route, befriending the local retirees at euchre night, adding his dish to the village potluck. And that local community—the neighbours, friends and fellow adventurers who welcomed and embraced Kevin and his family—has now played an essential role in turning a bewildering tragedy into a time of connection and love.
In the wake of his passing, of a father, husband, son and friend taken too soon, those close to him have found solace in sustaining the always-forward momentum that was Kevin. Sharing his passions with his children. Avoiding apathy and cynicism, chiming in with a yes to adventure and activism. And, as his wife Lisa says, “Always feel him encouraging and inspiring us, and continue doing the things he loved to do, to keep his energy alive.”
Four pedestrians were involved in the Eugenia hit-and-run that took Kevin’s life. You can visit GoFundMe.com to offer your support to each of the affected families: Kevin’s daughters and his wife, Lisa Pottier, who was injured as well; Pauline Craig, who faces a long road of recovery and rehabilitation from life-altering injuries; and Mike Reid, whose everyday activities have been affected.
Kevin’s memory can also be honoured by advocating and voting for safer streets in our towns and cities. Ahead of the upcoming municipal elections, urge each of your local candidates to share their plan of action.–Kristin Schnelten