Mountain Life – Blue Mountains - Winter/Spring 2024

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SAYING NO SINCE 1960. We say no a lot. To trends and shortcuts. To business experts and marketing know-it-alls. ”Use cheaper materials, be more fashionable, give it a high-tech vibe.” No, no and no. They told us our outdoor company wouldn’t make it if we didn’t adapt more, but here we are. Still making functional, durable, timeless outdoor equipment that you’ll want to use for decades. So no, we’re not going to stop saying no. Forever Nature

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We Are the Unclaimed Line Strong, protective, and built for realising winter’s endless possibilities. Whether you’re making a bid for the summit or leading the charge in fresh powder, our ski clothing offers the warmth, breathability, and freedom of movement you need to claim the next untouched line.


Experience the Ultimate Winter Adventure in British Columbia

Have you ever dreamt of soaring over breathtaking mountains and carving your own path through untouched powder? If a heli or cat ski trip has been on your bucket list, now is the time to make it a reality. From thrilling day trips to indulgent multi-day stays at cozy lodges, British Columbia’s heli and cat ski operations are fully equipped to cater to your every need, and are waiting to make your wildest ski dreams come true. Your winter adventure starts here.

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Team Athlete: Christina Lusti

Location: Pakistan

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We Live to Discover

TABLE of CONTENTS UPFRONT P. 14 Editorial P. 16 Habit Avoidance P. 18 Castle Glen Under Threat P. 20 Behind the Photo

FEATURES P. 44 Touring Quebec, Unconventionally P. 68 500 Days in the Wild


DEPARTMENTS P. 28 Epic Trip: Great Bear Heli Skiing P. 37 Biophiliac: Winter Birds P. 41

Trails: XC Skiing with Brown Girl Outdoor World

P. 50 Athlete Profile: Biathlete Malcolm McCulloch P. 52 Snow Culture: Willing the Snow to Fall P. 54 Artist Profile: nicholas x bent P. 58 Backyard: Youth Dogsledding P. 60 The Beta P. 63 Mountain Home: Her Side of the Mountain P. 80 Gallery P. 89 Gear Shed P. 98 Back Page: Where Do You Ski?

ON THIS PAGE Snow angels Mason and Ashten on Grass Lake. ETHAN MELEG ON THE COVER Freediving Master Instructor Andrew Ryzebol near Little Cove, Saugeen Bruce Peninsula. GEOFF COOMBS


PUBLISHERS Glen Harris Jon Burak Todd Lawson

EDITOR Kristin Schnelten



CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Allison Kennedy Davies Colin Field Scott Parent



DISTRIBUTION Brendan Thompson

CONTRIBUTORS Leslie Anthony, Esme Batten, Andrew Bradley, Deirdre Buryk, Claire Cameron, Melanie Chambers, Sarah Chisholm, Geoff Coombs, Matt Cote, Dave Coulson, Alain Denis, Demiesha Dennis, John Dryden, Jeff Fletcher, Caitlin Foisy, François Guay, Kennan Harvey, Molly Hurford, Lani Imre, Maddie Johnson, Dustin Johnston-Jewel, Jenna Kitchings, Paulo LaBerge, Seth Macey, Benny Marr, Drew McIvor, Ethan Meleg, Conor Mihell, Carl Michener, Ryan Osman, Michael Overbeck, Mike Penney, Shawn Robertson, Richard Roth, Dan Rubinstein, Peter L. Storck, William Tam, Juliet Tanas, Heather Thompson, Tom Thwaits, Leslie Timms, Kyle Wicks, Jody Wilson

SALES & MARKETING Glen Harris Bob Koven Stephanie Martinek Mike Strimas

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On Bravery and Fear Breaking for tea at a weekend yodelling workshop in southwestern Germany (as one does), a classmate listened patiently to my preschool-level German conversation, eyes widening. When my halting half-sentences eventually paused, she replied, “Du bist so mutig.” (You are so brave.) It wasn’t belting out three-part yodels, face-to-face with strangers, nor backpacking alone as a middle-aged woman, that impressed her. It was that my grasp of this new language was clearly tenuous, but I rambled with abandon. Verbs improperly conjugated, adjective endings a jumble, I repeatedly paused to request translations— but I possessed neither shyness nor shame for my mistakes. My fellow yodeller was torn between astonishment and fascination. I scratched my head a bit over her choice of the word “mutig.” Is it really brave

to knowingly make a fool of oneself? Maybe it’s just a matter of not caring. Giving this whole language-learning thing a solid try, I simply didn’t give a damn how I was perceived in my flailing efforts. Having zero cares, particularly vis-a-vis public blunders, is a kind of freedom. But I’m not sure it constitutes bravery. “You’re so brave” often equates to “That sounds uncomfortable, and I don’t want to be uncomfortable.” Early this morning at the Thornbury harbour, rising sun hidden behind thick clouds, the residual wind from an overnight storm sliced the tops from pounding whitecaps, encrusting the riprap in a thick layer of ice. Five women spilled from their warm vehicles, marching confidently into the December-chilled bay. “It’s just three minutes,” they kept reminding me. “Only three minutes.”

Standing in the -13 C windchill, Barb Reynolds ruminated on the benefits of making choices that scare you, saying, “We all need to do something every day that’s out of our comfort zones.” Endorphins charging through her, she carried on as though it were a sunny August afternoon. Peering through my viewfinder, sprawled on the frosty boat launch wrapped in three layers of wool and down, puffy pants tucked into my -100 C boots, I thought, There’s not a chance in hell. Then a wave crashed over me, soaking through layers and leaving me spluttering. I sat up and shook off, thinking, Oh, just go in already. How bad can it be? I considered the notions of bravery, fear and comfort—and sprinted back to the fullblast heat in my truck. – Kristin Schnelten

Jaime Arthur, Susan Stewart, Barb Reynolds, Andrea O'Reilly and Jane Campbell.





Decades ago I lived in Canmore, Alta., chasing the freedom of the hills—climbing, paddling and exploring throughout the Canadian Rockies. I learned valuable insights during those years, some of which I continue to glean guidance from to this day, living in rural Ontario and exploring on Lake Huron. One such golden nugget is habit avoidance. That is, the struggle against the complacency of long-held habits. While navigating high-stakes environments where survival depends on gear and the critical execution of navigation and safety systems—such as scaling mountain faces or traversing dicey ice floes on the Great Lakes—relying on habit can plunge us into dangers we’d rather avoid. Before every ascent, a climber must tie in to secure the rope (and their climbing partner) to their harness. It’s a function that becomes so routine it can slide into the blurred vision of habit. While ascending the north face of Mount Athabasca nearly 20 years ago, my partner discovered about a third of the way up that he wasn’t properly tied in. He’d forgotten to follow through on his figure eight knot, a task he’d performed countless times. But that morning the complacency of habit had caused him to blunder. Had either one of us happened to fall while we simul-climbed the steep ice face, we both could have plummeted into the gaping bergschrund beneath us. Having performed an action so often, it can become routine and over-rehearsed. Yes, practice makes perfect, but the perfection of a skill can also lead to a drowsy execution once the skill enters the realm of autopilot. Skillsets slide into the dangerous realm of habit. The expressions “I’ve done it so many times, I can do it in my sleep” and “I can do this blindfolded” are often a boast about one’s ability, gained through repetition. But there’s a fine line between being blindfolded and acting blindly when we execute a task that is compulsory for our survival. Repeated actions develop into ingrained behaviour. But undertaking those tasks with mindfulness allows us to scrutinize our actions and perform rehearsed skills fully awake to the task, and to analyze our actions with a beginner’s mind. If we rethink how we undertake tasks familiar to us, we can see our daily routines with fresh eyes, enabling us to be safer and better equipped in unfamiliar situations. –Scott Parent

Zane Davies, in search of open water. Mid-crossing of the Fathom Strait between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island (before making a sensible retreat).





Ecological corridors matter: The Castle Glen property awaits its fate.



Castle Glen: A Crucial Corridor Under Threat Mounting a defense against superfluous development

words :: Ned Morgan

birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Its 2022 report noted an average 69 per cent decrease in global wildlife populations between 1970 Not far south of Blue Mountain Resort lies an unbroken stretch of land and 2018. Every reasonable human should recognize the need in an area otherwise crosshatched by concession roads and highways. for remedial action. That is: Stop needlessly erasing habitat with Comprising more than 1,500 acres of forests, former pastures, developments that ignore principles of viable community planning, Niagara Escarpment outcroppings and wetlands (including one lake land use and watershed management. and the headwaters of two rivers), the property is known as Castle If the land were instead a provincial, county or municipal multiGlen—for its proximity to the ruins of Osler Castle, which was built use park with trail networks and other low-impact infrastructure, in the 1890s by Britton Bath Osler (a lawyer and brother of famed that small investment in a strong economy driven by outdoor tourism physician Sir William Osler). would pay its own dividends. Take for A Toronto-area developer aims to example the Parc des Sommets in If the land were instead a provincial, transform this vast piece of wild land Bromont, Quebec. Today this 370-acre into a megaproject with up to 1,600 expanse of forest contains five networks county or municipal multi-use park with residential units, hundreds of hotel of public trails for mountain biking, trail networks and other low-impact units, three golf courses and thousands hiking, running, skiing and horseback of square feet of commercial space. An riding. Six years ago, the land was on infrastructures, that small investment undertaking on this monolithic scale the verge of development before a joint in a strong economy driven by outdoor would tear the heart out of the region’s effort by the municipality of Bromont, remaining unprotected escarpment the Nature Conservancy of Canada, tourism would pay its own dividends. lands, devouring resources and spewing the Quebec government and a local carbon emissions in the process, while fundraising campaign raised more than local taxpayers foot the bill for the upgrades needed to service a new $8 million to buy the property from Bromont Resort. Today the Parc community so far from present infrastructure. Canada’s housing crisis Des Sommets is one of the top trail destinations in eastern Canada. can be solved faster with affordable homes built inside current urban What would it take for something similar to happen at Castle boundaries; the Castle Glen development is precisely the opposite of Glen? Fifteen hundred acres could support a profusion of public what’s needed. recreational opportunities including the Bruce Trail, whose optimum The local registered charity Escarpment Corridor Alliance (ECA) route follows the escarpment through the middle of the property. believes the property—which was first given limited approval for (Currently the Bruce Trail is relegated to Grey Road 19 just south of development in 1971—should instead be protected, stitching together Castle Glen.) Why would anyone instead choose to destroy southern an ecological corridor including Pretty River Valley Provincial Park, the Ontario’s rapidly vanishing green space for luxury real estate and golf Kolapore Uplands and the Beaver Valley. courses no one needs? “No single piece of land in our region has the strategic The answer is depressingly straightforward: Profit. Unfortunately importance of Castle Glen,” says ECA President Bruce Harbinson. “It is it’s an answer that ignores the potential of a protected Castle Glen the largest undeveloped, single-owner property on the escarpment in not only for the region’s economy but for the health and well-being southern Georgian Bay and is home to many rare and at-risk species of of the entire population. But I need to believe that in the face of the flora and fauna. Our knowledge of ecological systems has progressed biodiversity crisis, logic will prevail: No amount of profit is worth so immensely in the 50-plus years since Castle Glen was first approved, bulldozing the natural systems that keep us alive and well. Aren’t we yet today this incredible property—a key part of the Ontario Greenbelt intelligent enough to find a way to beneficially coexist in the habitat and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve—could soon be forever changed. we share with every other species? Surely it is by now a truism to Beyond its natural heritage value, Castle Glen occupies a highly point out that a fully functioning ecosystem delivers the air, water strategic position and the massive nature of the proposed development and food we can’t live without. If nature stops thriving, we will soon would completely sever two existing natural corridors: south to north follow suit. along the escarpment and east to west into the Beaver Valley.” Ecological corridors matter, and a single statistic goes a long The Escarpment Corridor Alliance has a plan to save the Castle Glen way toward explaining why. The Living Planet Index—managed by property from development, but they need your help. Learn more at the Zoological Society of London in cooperation with the World Wide or email Executive Director Jarvis Strong: Fund for Nature—tracks global data on populations of mammals, 19


Photographer :: Geoff Coombs Ice Diver :: Jonah Kest Location :: Tobermory, Saugeen Bruce Peninsula In frigid, blizzard-like conditions, photographer Geoff Coombs, Master Diving Instructor Andrew Ryzebol and diver Jonah Kest trudged 20 metres offshore. Sawing an entry hole in the six-inch-thick ice, they slid into the icy waters of Georgian Bay. Ice pellets pelting his face and fingers growing numb, Coombs grabbed this shot of Kest emerging from his first freedive beneath the ice. Coombs initially picked up the sport as an avenue to capture breathtaking photos, but his interest developed into a passion. “It’s something that has challenged my mind, body and creativity,” he says. “Exploration is at the heart of why we ice dive,” Coombs continues. “Freediving in the winter is as much about walking on and navigating ice floes, managing the cold and cutting through the ice, as it is about actually diving.”




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EASY DOES IT Leveling up with Snow How at Blue

words :: Allison Kennedy Davies With Blue Mountain Resort right in our backyard, sometimes we overlook the truly Canadian experiences almost instantly available to us. We can jump in our car, strap on our skis and hit the slopes in a matter of minutes. We can ride the Ridge Runner in a snowstorm, ice skate under the stars or race down the hill on a snow tube on any given day. But for many international travellers coming to Blue Mountain, each of those experiences is a first. For some, it may be the very first time they’ve seen snow or their first time putting on skis or skates. And given Blue Mountain’s proximity to the Toronto International Airport, international visitors are coming to Blue more often. A growing market for Blue Mountain in recent years has been Mexico—a country with a climate and landscape in stark contrast to ours in Southern Georgian Bay. “Travellers coming from Mexico are looking for an outdoor, healthy experience,” says Blue Mountain’s Chris Huycke. “They have a bucket list of Canadian must-sees including Niagara Falls. Flying into Toronto makes Blue Mountain an affordable option. You drive an hour and a half from the airport right to South Base Lodge and you are in a totally different world.” When international visitors choose Blue, they’re also drawn to the mountain’s self-guided learn-to-ski-and-snowboard program, Snow How. New skiers and riders can purchase a package that includes rentals, beginner-lift access and the Snow How system: instructional signage on custom-built Smart Terrain paired with a roaming instructor who offers guidance BLUE MOUNTAIN RESORT

“Snow How lets you explore a bit on your own. It’s approachable and not intimidating. There’s no peer pressure of standing in a lesson or worrying that you’re holding up the group.”





as needed. Snow How is a learn-at-your-own-pace system that’s striking a chord with international visitors, and Blue Mountain’s Becki Relihan says new add-ons coming soon will make it an even better fit. “This year we will be introducing a multilingual video that’s accessible from the signage,” says Relihan. “We developed Snow How to give the guest the ability to choose how they want to learn,” she adds. “We know everyone learns in a different way. When you come to Blue, you have three options: Snow How, the group beginner lesson route or a private one-on-one lesson with an instructor. Snow How lets you explore a bit on your own. It’s approachable and not intimidating. There’s no peer pressure of standing in a lesson or worrying that you’re holding up the group.” For many international visitors, a visit to Blue Mountain is also about the off-piste activities at the resort. The new Snow How + Play packages give visitors access to tubing, snowshoeing, skating, the Ridge Runner and more. Want to hit the slopes in the morning, then grab lunch, choose another activity and put your skis back on later? That’s an easy option with Snow How + Play. And Blue has introduced Snow How + Play for Kids this year, as well. Children aged 7 to 12 can take part in a beginner lesson before gaining access to Snow How’s Smart Terrain. For families travelling together, it’s an ideal way to get everyone started in the sport.

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Out of the Ordinary Deep pow and real connection at Great Bear Heli Skiing

words & photos :: Andrew Bradley I am a skier. The ordinary kind. I have been since I was three and learned to ski on a 60-metre single rope tow in the middle of Montreal. As I got a bit older, I’d catch the old yellow school bus in the wee hours of the morning to journey outside the city to a different ski hill each Saturday. It was the furthest thing from extravagant—bag lunches, a group lesson in the morning, unsupervised afternoons. I loved it. At college, the song remained the same: Do whatever it takes to keep skiing. This meant skipped classes, hitched rides and even sleeping in a lodge or two when needed (and let’s not forget the duct tape). Naturally, I moved west as soon as I could. That was nearly 30 years ago, and though most things in life are different now, my passion for skiing—as much as possible, anywhere, everywhere—has never changed. I don’t even count days anymore; they’ve all just blurred into one big powder run. Ultimately, it’s the people I’m with that make skiing memorable. When Mountain Life called up with a last-minute assignment (as in, leave tomorrow) to experience Great Bear Heli Skiing and all the luxuries this fabled off-grid lodge has to offer, accepting was a no-brainer. Hopping on a small charter flight north to Bella Coola the next morning, then flying deeper north into the Kitimat Ranges and Dean River watershed, it all felt privileged and unrelatable. As a skier, I learned early on to keep it simple and enjoy life regardless of the gear, conditions or industry hype; how would it feel at the opposite end, the highest end, of the ski-dream spectrum? The lodge itself makes a hell of a first impression. Great Bear owners Billy and Mandi Blewett have poured their lives into building a warm homestead-like atmosphere; Mandi was, in fact, raised on a homestead nearby. And the original lodge, lost to a flood in 2010, was built by Billy’s father back in the 1950s to access the famed steelhead fishing on the Dean River.



But never mind the epic skiing. I keep finding myself drawn back to the people: the characters who feel like family and make this lodge come to life. Billy rebuilt the lodge after the flood and continues to maintain everything that makes this hidden paradise run. He milled the beams and hardwood flooring, and designed and built both the central heating system and an entire electric grid run off a generator (which somehow is neither seen nor heard). Having spent most of his life either at the lodge or in Bella Coola, Billy is hands-on all day but still has time to sit down and share tales over breakfast and dinner with the guests. The food that comes out of Mandi’s kitchen is homemade and crafted from local and organic ingredients sourced exclusively in British Columbia. It’s easy to get very comfortable under the Blewetts’ care; this is the good life. But what about the skiing? With just a few seasons of heli-skiing under their belts, the Blewetts enlisted lead guide Ken Bibby to help explore and map out their tenure, a 6,250-kilometre-square swath of land 190 times larger than Whistler Blackcomb. “It’s so big that it’s not unusual to get a first descent on any given trip,” Bibby says as we prepare to load the choppers. “You may even have a say in naming said run.” Accommodating just eight guests at a time, this is the definition of private heliskiing. And zipping around in an A-Star helicopter with just three other skiers and a guide, it does feel like window-shopping from a Ferrari. Later, I ask Bibby what sort of skiers they usually see up here. “People come from all over,” he explains. “Many are families from overseas on their one big ski trip of the year. Others are bucket-listers who have saved up and may only do one heli-ski trip in their lives. Sometimes it’s people bringing a parent or friend who introduced them to skiing/snowboarding in the first place. You see all kinds of people, but everyone is so amazed, so appreciative.”


The Blewetts enlisted lead guide Ken Bibby to help explore and map out their tenure, a 6,250-kilometresquare swath of land 190 times larger than Whistler Blackcomb.

For good reason. People come because they love skiing and want to get the perfect run, every run. They want the perfect pitch with perfect snow. And under blue March skies with untouched snow as far the eye can see—and beyond—Great Bear delivers. But never mind the epic skiing. I keep finding myself drawn back to the people: the characters who feel like family and make this lodge come to life. Early morning risers can hang with the chefs in the kitchen and swap stories, and the same vibe goes for the evening. At après (or anytime) it’s cool to request whatever quenches your thirst or just step behind the bar and make yourself at home. The other guests, a tight-knit group of friends who’ve been adventuring together since the 1980s, are genuinely thrilled to be there and share my first-timer’s excitement. Skiing has always been an incredible way to make friends, and in the warm atmosphere the Blewetts and crew cultivate, that’s exactly what I do. So what did it all mean for me, the ordinary skier? Of course I loved making flawless powder turns in one of B.C.’s vast and wild ranges, a place I’d probably never get to otherwise. But more importantly, I left the lodge even more certain that life really is all about the shared experience. With a few characters in an old A-frame tucked deep in the mountains, or linking turns top to bottom (all 60 metres) with my parents back in Montreal, it’s people that make the memories timeless. And if those shared experiences happen to be perfect days, skiing endless powder runs out of a hand-built lodge full of amazing people with an A-Star parked out front— well, those count, too.


Tatum Monod | Craig Murray Secwepemc, Ktunaxa and Syilx Nation Rogers Pass, BC, Canada

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Hullabaloo in the Hills Tracking and tallying our fluctuating winter bird population

words :: Leslie Anthony The warblers are AWOL. So, too, the vireos and thrushes. And that can only mean one thing: It’s winter in Ontario. This won’t surprise too many. Most of us know how a goodly portion of North America’s summertime bird fauna migrates south each autumn. Equally clear—particularly to those given to outdoor pursuits or maintaining bird feeders—is the noticeable and clearly braver portion that stay behind. Those species, which don’t migrate but tend to spend the entire season within a single region, are known as resident birds, and help make the otherwise duotone landscapes of winter a great time for birding, whether on your deck or farther afield. If you have a birdfeeder you’re doubtless familiar with some: black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, doves, finches (both house and purple), northern cardinals (bright-red males are high-value visitors), jays of all kinds, American goldfinches, woodpeckers, common redpolls, brown creepers, cedar waxwings (my fave), juncos and other more populous species (cue the homebody house sparrow; it was introduced from Britain anyway so where would it go?). Unfortunately, this litany of suet-and-seed gobblers isn’t 100

per cent reliable because even resident species—or some populations within them—will occasionally migrate south. Maybe a short distance, maybe a lot; maybe only across the U.S. border, depending on location and food conditions. When typical boreal species forsake their roosts for a brief southern sojourn, bird nerds in those areas go on high alert. To that end, there are those who actually make such predictions. Birders in the line of retreat will be familiar with the annual Winter Finch Forecast, for which scientists and other observers collect data on seasonal seed, berry and cone crops across Ontario to determine if they’ll sustain the finches and other songbirds that fill the province’s more northerly coniferous forests. In certain years, when widespread crop failures are expected—due to poor climatic conditions like wildfire, inopportune freezes, heat waves or insect outbreaks—a phenomenon known as irruption occurs, and a handful of boreal species will be projected to head south. Such forecasts are educated guesses, but it doesn’t stop birders from latching onto every word. A good irruption year can send Ontario’s evening grosbeaks to Massachusetts, common redpolls to South Dakota and white-winged crossbills to Ohio.

“The Christmas Bird Count is a fun tradition with an important goal: bird study and conservation. It’s great to see expert and novice birders working together to spot as many species as possible, regardless of the weather.”

Cedar waxwing eating crabapples on a cold winter day.



“It whets our appetites for what to look for each winter,” says Geoff LeBaron, who has been director of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count since 1987. That’s a long shift but entirely apropos of the role: Begun in 1900, the Christmas Bird Count is North America’s longest-running wildlife census. A festive tradition in many quarters (and a way to get people outside burning off some holiday calories), the annual count is a hemisphere-wide effort by community scientists and birders of all skill levels to record as many individuals and species as possible over a single day within a 24-kilometre-wide circle. Joining a local bird count isn’t just good exercise, it’s a great way to explore nature, view wildlife and contribute important data to North American bird research. Scientists use these data to monitor the health of both resident and migratory bird populations over time, and to develop conservation strategies for species in decline and their habitats. Christmas Bird Counts also teach participants about the many bird species that live in and migrate through their communities. In 2021, some 15,000 participated in more than 475 counts across Canada. In Ontario, many were hosted by Ontario Nature member groups, who organized almost 50 counts in the province. “The Christmas Bird Count is a fun tradition with an important goal: bird study and conservation. It’s great to see expert and novice birders working together to spot as many species as possible, regardless of the weather. And who knows. Maybe you’ll see a rare bird,” says Anne Bell, Ontario Nature’s Director of Conservation and Education. Contributing to the protection of birds is doubly important because the work captures habitats shared with other at-risk wildlife. On October 16, 2023, Ontario introduced the Greenbelt Statute Law Amendment Act to return 7,400 acres of farmland and natural areas removed from Ontario’s heralded Greenbelt late last year. As widespread blowback to the Ford government’s ill-advised land-grab showed, Ontarians care passionately about these 2 million acres

A couple of white-winged crossbills.



of protected farmland, forests, wetlands and waterways. However, even the new bill can’t guarantee protection when other government actions threaten other parts of the Greenbelt—including several policy-change and mega-highway proposals. Speaking of mega-highways, birds have their own. Each year, billions of birds fly south to escape Ontario winters, many vectoring along migration superhighways—swaths of forest that connect natural areas to one another. Fortunately for birdwatchers, many Ontario Provincial Parks (most notably Rondeau, Long Point and other Great Lakes shoreline set-asides) comprise rest stops for migrators and are a great place to see hundreds of different species in spring and fall. Small birds like vireos, warblers and thrushes can start moving south in mid-August and continue to do so through October. Shorebirds are best seen in September. Several provincial parks are also classified as IBAs (Important Bird Areas), key locations not only for protecting Ontario’s biodiversity, but for watching both migrant and resident birds all year long. With year-round populations of Canada geese and mallard ducks around many of the Great Lakes, you might also see goldeneyes, mergansers, eider ducks and scoters. There are plenty of raptors on the winter landscape—hawks, falcons, kites and owls. Fields and forests host pheasants, grouse and partridge, some in winter plumage. If someone you know is a birdwatcher, you know they enjoy a challenge. And birding in Canada during winter qualifies not just from the challenge to find birds, but the challenge of the environment. So dress warm, grab some binoculars and head out. As Bell says, whether you’re on a count or just a hike or cross-country ski, there are some great feathered grails to quest.

Visit to find a count near you. For a comprehensive list of counts across Canada, see cbc. This year’s Christmas Bird Count runs December 14 to January 5.

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Slip Slidin’ Away Building connections and surmounting barriers with Brown Girl Outdoor World

words :: Demiesha Dennis photos :: Dave Coulson We’re standing at the side of Concession 10, arms flailing. Acting as human flares, trying to stay visible, we’re begging cars to slow down. Questioning stares hide smirks as drivers whiz by in the opposite lane. But we’re stuck. Our tires are spinning on thin layers of ice, digging into ruts that grow deeper with every rotation. I'm trying to calm the anxiety building in my chest as the line of cars behind us now forms a honking conga line. Who knew the hardest part of cross-country skiing would be making it home? As the founder of Brown Girl Outdoor World (BGOW) and a self-professed expert of all things thrill-seeking, cross-country skiing was just another item on the growing list of activities that called out to me when planning our winter season. What could be so hard about strapping on boots, stepping onto skis and sliding across snow? After all, every image or video I’d seen of Nordic skiing showed smiling faces of athletic people on a sunny, forested trail. A quick YouTube search confirmed all you really need to do is glide across the groomed tracks and voilà, you're a skier! Never one to turn down an opportunity to try something new, this was the year I would introduce my community to the sport. With BGOW, what started as a passion project has turned into one of the most fulfilling endeavours I’ve taken on in life. A personal dream of exploring the outdoors as a way to create connection to Canada as a new home, BGOW grew over time to be a place where Black, Indigenous and racialized women of colour now come to build

community, enjoy new adventures and create a sense of belonging that was missing from the way we navigated the outdoors. I could get into the history of colonization, racism and the deep exclusionary practices that have kept people of colour from fully engaging in outdoor spaces. Instead, think of the quintessential Canadian sports or pastimes you know—snowshoeing, alpine skiing or snowboarding. I bet when you think of those sports, you’re picturing a homogenous image of a person doing that activity. Changing that narrative meant creating a space where Black, Indigenous and women of colour felt safe to explore those activities in areas they were not typically noticed. Thus, BGOW was born. It’s not every day we get to experience the newness of the outdoors as a community. A group of 16 women coordinating their lives to meet and experience cross-country skiing at Highlands Nordic, some for the first time, was monumental. For some this event was a stone’s throw away, while others drove more than two hours to get here. This effort reaffirmed the importance of community and of creating spaces where challenges seem less intimidating. (Falling, and performing acrobatic manoeuvres to get back up, are part of the fun when folks are cheering you on.) Before the drive to Highlands Nordic I was bombarded with questions, the most common being about clothing and gear. Trying a new activity is nerve-wracking. But the staff at Highlands Nordic put our minds at ease by setting us up with an instructor and rentals. Through a partnership with Salomon and Highlands, we were able to keep the fees lower, which is another barrier to participation for many in the BGOW community. 41

It turned out to be a day of problem-solving, both on and off our feet, through teamwork and communitybuilding that would help us navigate these slippery, challenging, yet hilarious situations.

The day was full of laughs and life lessons. A few of the participants quickly learned they had overdressed—I think we were all surprised to realize cross-country skiing is a workout! After yet another fall, lying on my back, face to sky, I knew for sure that YouTube had lied to me! After patient and helpful instruction, some of us were ready to complete laps on green loops while others became experts and wanted to push themselves further. What really made the experience fun was the ability to keep gliding while bursts of -20 C winds threw snow in our faces. You know, perfect content for the 'gram. A big part of Brown Girl Outdoor World’s story is the joy we experience each time we get folks outdoors, engaging in an activity they wouldn’t have otherwise considered. At the end of our day, the laughter continued to ring throughout the base lodge as folks enjoyed warmth and conversations. We were now connected through this new experience and made plans to return to Highlands Nordic. We were eventually able to get that car up the hill, out of danger—and opted for a less-challenging route home. In the end, it turned out to be a day of problem-solving, both on and off our feet, through teamwork and community-building that would help us navigate these slippery, challenging, yet hilarious situations. The outing reminded us of exactly why BGOW feels like a welcome hug for the perfect group of strangers who will walk away as friends. This is why we continue to show up. This is why we take up space.

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MAD-DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW An adrenaline-fueled, unconventional tour of Quebec

words :: Leslie Anthony


In 1964, Québecois singer-songwriter Gilles Vigneault penned “Mon Pays,” in which his lyrical phrases on cold, snow and ice capture both the solitude of winter landscapes and the camaraderie of those who brave them. While most Canadians can relate to its theme of Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver (my country isn’t a country, it’s winter), the song is a de facto anthem for Quebec’s passionate snow aficionados, reflecting both an ardour for outdoor recreation and the joie de vivre that drives it. Indeed, with its interwoven odes to sport, art, culture and gastronomy, the hibernal season in Quebec projects a magically different “more life, less hibernation” character. Although most of my winter trips to Quebec revolve around alpine skiing, this time our group sought a broader palette of winter experience—a choc-a-bloc, no-minute-wasted litany of activities, accommodations, foods and beverages in which the understood rule was “no ski turns allowed.”

balsam fir. At a yurt deep in the forest Jean’s wife dished out sapin-flavoured sausages wrapped in bannock and dressed in a sapin mustard and foraged berry sauce, all washed down with tea made from chaga, a fungus found on birch. A more traditional lunch ensued at the classic Auberge du Lac-à-l’Eau Claire in the neighbouring Mauricie region. The food was good, but all our attention was on the lake—some 25 km long and so extraordinarily clear you could see 10 metres to the bottom through ice-fishing holes augured into the ice. Scrunching bait onto a hook (sorry, worms) we manned a wooden tipper rig while balancing glasses of chardonnay. Lest we think the “white-with-fish” credo applied even while obtaining dinner, it all made sense when the speckled trout we hauled up were sizzling in a pan behind us. Late afternoon saw us driving hours through a snowstorm, an endless forest pelage punctuated only by the mute church steeples marking every

Faithful pilgrims that we were, we’d kicked things off at the Val Notre-Dame monastery in the Lanaudière region northeast of Montreal. Inhabited by the monks known for Oka cheese, this architectural masterpiece of wood and slate was a perfect stop for provisioning the rest of our trip with handmade cheese, meats, preserves and other local products (pickled quail eggs!). Many of these delicacies derived from the forest, as we learned on a stormy snowshoe tour with master bushman Jean, who soon zeroed in on the king of forest culinary savvy—Sapin baumier, or

village in Quebec, until the log palace (not a phrase used lightly) of Hôtel Sacacomie materialized from the pine. Conducted on an outdoor aerie with commanding views of Lake Sacacomie and its cradle of ancient mountains, check-in was an unheralded ode to winter fun that included ritual downing of ice-glass maple-whisky shots and the liberation by hammer of room keys from ice-block tree decorations. As the storm retreated behind a stellar sunset, we scattered to the hot and cold comforts of a labyrinthine spa.








70-something Gaspar was truly a man of the previous century, bedecked in an antique coat of sea otter with a beaver hat, flanked by his son in a onesie snowmobile suit.

With the morning dawning bluebird winter glory, Sacacomie’s extensive trail network resonated the winter hardwood forests of my Ontario youth but with a unique addition: a chance to pair up and take turns driving an eager dog-sled team. Unlike more passive dog-sledding experiences (you sit, they drive), here we piloted the sleds, ran uphill with the canines and ripped around the forest, tipping sleds onto one runner around corners while figuring out when to let ’em run and when to brake. For the afternoon we’d scheduled a lesson in winter bush survival, and the pair who materialized to lead it could only be found in Quebec: 70-something Gaspar was truly a man of the previous century, bedecked in an antique coat of sea otter with a beaver hat, flanked by his son in a onesie snowmobile suit. While our younger guide instructed us on fire craft and Labrador tea brewing, Gaspar explained the eclectic contents of a trapper’s cabin and how beaver skins were tanned with bear brains—an odd prelude to eating hot maple syrup rendered into taffy sticks on snow. Still, this was la vraie affaire (the real deal), and we were only scratching the surface. Mostly because Gaspar was just getting started on oldschool speeches ranging from emotional tributes to the region and treatises on First Nations, to logging, trapping and existential gratitude. “Life,” he concluded, sweeping his arms wide as another molten sunset painted the snow fuchsia, “is beautiful.” If this wasn’t joie de vivre, what was? To this point, maple-syrup-infused food and drink had been ubiquitous, but we really tapped (ha ha) into this vibe in Québec City with brunch at sugar shack-themed La Bûche (The Log), and a mapleaddled meal of beans, crêpes, sausage and the most delicious bacon I’ve ever eaten (trust me—I keep track). Even the poutine was heavenly— Belgian-style fries, squeaky (ergo fresh) cheese curds and gravy with a hint of maple. To work off this caloric gumbo, some opted for a postprandial walk through the 450-year-old fortifications of the old town, the rest, an afternoon of—bien sur—icecanoe racing.


Practiced nowhere else on Earth, the pure, beautiful insanity of crewing a specially designed canoe across the frigid St. Lawrence River through moving ice isn’t for the risk—or cold—averse. Evolved from a utilitarian need to connect the river’s north and south shores during winter prior to bridges, competitors in this highly aerobic sport don runner’s wear as they cannot, under any circumstances, stop moving. On top of a huge set of gonads, key equipment includes a flotation vest, shin pads and crampons pulled over neoprene booties. Dodging ice floes may not be on everyone’s bucket list, but you can still

Although most of my winter trips to Quebec revolve around alpine skiing, this time our group sought a broader palette of winter experience—a choc-a-bloc, no-minute-wasted litany of activities, accommodations, foods and beverages in which the understood rule was “no ski turns allowed."

join the thousands who watch the races from shore with a cup of boozy hot chocolate during Carnaval de Québec—a pre-Lenten celebration third in size globally behind only the fêtes of Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. Because it was Carnaval, we also found tobogganing, cross-country skiing and myriad other fun on the historic Plains of Abraham, a pleasant juxtaposition to its original use as a battleground for the colonial powers of France and England. There, we also found Bonhomme (Happy Man), Carnaval’s Michelin-Man-meets-Mr.-Stay-Puft ambassador, with whom protocol dictates you go in for a hug and a selfie. To wind down from the past two days of adrenalized highs, we enjoyed an evening of Indigenous Huron-Wendat storytelling in the authentic longhouse at Wendake, followed by dinner rendered by a Michelin-Starred chef, again amazed by the myriad goings-on in Quebec’s winter hinterlands—whitefish caviar on bannock fingers, anyone?


Beyond the city, we made a day of it ski touring, snowshoeing and fat biking the trails of Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier—a glacial valley surrounded by rocky plateaus. On the way back to the city we couldn’t resist visiting the worldfamous Hôtel de Glace. Since opening in 2001, Québec’s landmark ice hotel has morphed from gimmicky sleepover amidst stacked ice blocks to a technological marvel and work of art. It takes an army of workers more than a month to build its cavernous gathering areas, crystalline sculptures, indoor bar and dozens of rooms themed with incredible snow carvings and dazzling—albeit often bizarre—décor. Fittingly, we finished another long day in nature with dinner at Quebec City’s Restaurant Légende, featuring a fully boreal cuisine (including wine—thanks, climate change!) where each plate is a sensory journey through Quebec’s field, forest, river and ocean. To finish this madcap journey, we drove 3.5 hours east to the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. After a snowshoe climb to a summit above Vallée des Fantômes (Valley of the Ghosts—snow ghosts, to be exact) in Parc National des Monts-Valin, we could see all the way to cliff-lined Saguenay Fjord, a summertime stop for whale watchers and, in this season, home to the largest ice-fishing villages on earth, veritable towns on ice with de facto streets and supply shops to tackle the more than 20 species of fish. We overnighted at Imago Village—a unique cluster of personally appointed glamping domes that served up filet-mignon-adorned poutine with a spicy gravy. The grand finale was a day at Mont Édouard, a respectable 450-vertical-metre ski hill that, unique in the East, also featured hut-to-hut touring and gladed descents; Édouard’s “Haute Route Sector” includes eight summits and four cabins spread over 200 backcountry acres and, in keeping with our “no ski turns allowed” rule, we would tour to one of them and return on the same trail. As we climbed the final ridgeline of stunted trees to the cabin, however, heavy clouds lifted just enough to reveal cabins atop nearby mountains and powder stashes draping the mountain’s flanks. Below us were similar open alleys that led back to the base. I’d be lying if I said we managed to stick to the rule.








Alpine Trooper Malcolm McCulloch aims for biathlon gold words :: Carl Michener photo :: François Guay

says Malcolm. “You have to be alone with your rifle and the targets.” Watching accomplished biathletes racing is a wondrous thing, which may explain biathlon’s popularity as a spectator sport in If you’ve ever tuned into the Winter Olympics, you likely caught some northern Europe. It’s a graceful choreography of discrete actions— biathlon. Nordic skiers whip along at breakneck speeds, then glide up smooth, controlled gliding across a groomed apron of snow, brightlyto a shooting range where they plunk away at minuscule targets. A coloured lycra flashing past—that lead up to a clean bout of shooting. minute later, they’re off again, space-age rifles on their backs. Then follows the sudden jump up from the mat, rifle harnesses flashing As a sport, biathlon is decidedly odd. (Skiing and shooting? over shoulders, and these elite athletes power off at full speed. What?) Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once compared it to swimming Creating such flow—and the illusion of simplicity and ease— and strangling someone—and you can almost see the parallel. Like is the result of thousands of hours of training. Malcolm and his the javelin throw, archery and even the marathon, biathlon traces teammates spend 40 or more hours every month roller skiing, pole its roots to military campaigns. The most famous example in that running, circuit training, mountain biking and playing games of touch context is the Soviet/Finnish Winter War, where a crack group of rugby. When the snow flies, a team of dedicated coaches helps the Finnish ski troops held a much larger Soviet army at bay through the athletes work on their ski technique, dexterity, speed and endurance. winter of 1939-1940. The one constant is lots and lots of shooting, which includes Biathlon is still a very niche practice at home. When Malcolm sport, but it’s gaining popularity in the wakes up in the morning, he spends 10 “I gravitated from Nordic racing to Blue Mountains area and 17-year-old minutes aiming and dry firing his rifle. biathlon because it’s more challenging, Malcolm McCulloch is one aficionado Before bed, he puts in another 10. “You who’s going for gold. “My parents get good because you do it every day,” the way it all flows together. Technique put me on skis when I was two,” he says. “It’s all about small touches on plays such a role; it’s like no other sport.” says Malcolm, a grade 12 student the rifle.” at Collingwood Collegiate Institute. With biathlon rifles starting at “I gravitated from Nordic racing to $4,500, a year’s ammunition running biathlon because it’s more challenging, the way it all flows together. $1,500 or more and travel expenses topping $5,000—not to mention Technique plays such a role; it’s like no other sport.” race fees and a big quiver of pricey ski equipment—biathlon at In training and racing with the Highlands Trailblazers ski club this level is not a budget-friendly endeavour. To help pay for it out of Highlands Nordic in Duntroon, Malcolm spends a lot of time on all, Malcolm works on a local farm and helps with maintenance the move. He’ll log more than 500 hours of training in a year’s time, at Highlands Nordic. And, because he’s one of Canada’s up-andbeginning every May. That’s on top of races close to home and on the comers in the sport, thanks to the Ontario government he receives road—and the two jobs he works on the side. some financial support from Biathlon Canada’s Quest 4 Gold support He started with biathlon at age eight, and at 16 he represented program to help offset costs of competing at a national level. If he Ontario at the XXVIII Canada Games in PEI. This season he’s aiming makes it onto the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup circuit to qualify for the Winter Youth Olympic games in Gangwon, Korea. or Team Canada, Malcolm can hope to receive gear from sponsors At time of writing, Malcolm was heading out to the Canmore Nordic and a federal stipend, but not much more than that. Centre in Alberta—ground zero for biathlon in Canada—for his “You’ve got to work your butt off just to be a decent athlete in qualifying rounds. the sport,” says Malcolm. “But you do it because you love it.” While Nordic ski racing is challenging enough, but to do well at biathletes in Canada can’t make a living from the sport alone, at 17 biathlon you need to employ Jedi mind tricks, as well. “It’s not just the need to make a living is still far enough away that athletes like going out and skiing 10 km as fast as you can,” says Malcolm. “You’ve Malcolm can dream big—and give it all they’ve got as they go for gold. got to plan how you’re going to manage that next bout of shooting. While the cost and time commitment at Malcolm’s level may be Where’s my heart rate, how do I keep my composure?” daunting, biathlon is approachable and super-thrilling. If you’d like Gliding into the shooting range, athletes need to quickly go from to harness your inner alpine trooper and give this up-and-coming 90 per cent of max heart rate to 60 to 70 per cent. Most biathlon winter sport a try, you don’t have to go far. In the Blue Mountains courses are designed to include a gentle descent into the range area, we have three main cross-country ski centres with groomed area, so athletes use that time to breathe very deeply, replenishing trails: Highlands Nordic, Scenic Caves Nature Adventures and Wasaga depleted oxygen in the blood. These breaths bring down the heart Nordic and Trail Centre. Both Scenic Caves and Highlands Nordic offer rate, which makes for better aim. cross-country rentals and lessons, but if you’d like to try your hand at Then, sighting down the barrel at a series of five black circles, skiing and shooting, you’ll need to sign up with Highlands Trailblazers an athlete has to tune out everything around them. “You can’t think at Highlands Nordic, the only outdoor centre in the area offering about your performance or how the racers beside you are doing,” biathlon programming. 51


What to Do When the Snow Sucks Leveraging dubious logic to ensure a stellar season

words :: Colin Field

farther afield, places like Toronto, Guelph and Kitchener are hot spots for climbing gyms.

If you carry an umbrella, it’s certain not to rain. So maybe the best way to prevent crappy winter weather is if we all make plans now for crappy-weather fun. On the off chance this winter will be filled with more rain and thaw than snowstorms, we assembled a list of badsnow, cold-weather activities—and I figure all this forethought should cover us, right? That’s our plan, anyway. RIDE YOUR BIKE (INDOORS!) It’s always bike season at Joyride 150 Indoor Bike Park in Markham. Whether you’re an absolute noob or a Red Bull Rampage-winning pro (Brett Reeder has been spotted), there’s something for you to ride here. It may be the most fun you can have on two wheels in the winter (unless you’re a masochistic fat biker). Or if you feel like going a little farther, why not cross the border and hit up Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Cleveland, Ohio? Just as good as Joyride, but with almost twice the space for indoor riding terrain. Both places are fun for the whole family. ON THE WALL Need to burn off energy and scare yourself a bit? Why not hit up a climbing gym? Climbers Corner in Collingwood just got some new holds to freshen things up, and if all goes according to plan there will be a new gym in Owen Sound soon (check out The Climbers Crush on Facebook). Plus there’s always Alt. Rock in Barrie. If you’re willing to head

Sacrificing P-tex and brain cells at Ullr Fest.


PRAY TO ULLR No matter your beliefs, there’s one thing we should all be able to agree upon: Ullr is the god of snow. How do you appease Ullr? Burning stuff is the classic sacrifice. Invite some friends, light a bonfire and chuck whatever you want on there: skis, boots, goggles, long underwear. Of course the environmental impact of burning P-tex isn't the best, so maybe try paper snowflakes? Other classic sacrificial items are brain cells; drinking enough to kill a small horse is often thought to awaken the snow gods. The logic is questionable. MOVIE NIGHT! Got an old copy of Hot Dog… The Movie? The Blizzard of Aahhh’s? The Stomping Grounds? Why not get the crew together and fire up some good, old-fashioned stoke. The libraries rent overhead projectors; how about a garage movie night? Get stoked, get rowdy, then refer to the above suggestion: Pray to Ullr. FIND THE SNOW Nothing beats a road trip to soothe the dreary winter blues. Whether you fly or drive, there’s somewhere in the world with better snow. Whistler, Fernie, Jay Peak, Sutton, Searchmont, the Chic-Chocs, Hokkaido—there’s always one place that will have deeper, fresher pow than you, so why not get there? The best bet for nailing snow


conditions on ski trips is to plan them at the last minute. Choose your destination based on forecasts and snow conditions the night before you leave. It’s the most expensive way to do it, but this is skiing, right? No one ever said skiing was cheap. GET YOUR GAME ON Okay, it’s raining in January. Driving sucks, skiing sucks and being outside sucks. It’s time to fire up your kid’s gaming system. With Riders Republic you can skateboard, ski, snowboard and ride bikes. Any good coach will tell you visualization is the key to success. Doing a backside rodeo misty flip 1600 with a Japan grab to rail slide isn’t going to happen in real life unless you can first visualize it. Mastering this game is basically like training; once the snow returns you’ll be ready to huck your meat to flat all over the place. CARRY AN UMBRELLA Heck, it’s worth a try, right? Throw an umbrella in your car this winter. That way there’s a good chance it won’t rain, and that’s one step toward a better snow year. Along this line of logic, tuning your skis or getting your boots fit is an absolute no-no. Got core shots on your bases from skiing the glades way before they were ready? Wait till it dumps to fix them. Your boots have a couple hot spots that absolutely destroy any pleasure skiing offers? Wait until the snow returns to punch them out. Ullr notices. We appreciate your sacrifice.

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The ghostly, painterly photography of nicholas x bent

Intentionally moving


words :: Colin Field There’s no denying nicholas x bent’s photography has a haunting quality to it. His images of trees, landscapes and winterscapes are creepy, ethereal and striking; you can’t help but get lost in thought while looking at them. His work is the antithesis of the crystal-clear, fullcolour imagery we're bombarded with daily—and therein lies its beauty. Photography isn’t new to x bent; he’s been shooting for 40 years. In a former life he was a caterer for the film industry, where he had permission to take photographs on set. He has incredible behind-the-scenes images of Gord Downie, The Tragically Hip, Sloan, The Tea Party and others. He abandoned the rat race back in 2005 and relocated to Walters Falls where

he continued to shoot landscapes, finally succumbing to the pull of Instagram about five years ago. What he found there impressed and inspired him. “I started discovering all these artists,” he says. “Sophie Patry, a French photographer, was one of them. I really loved her punk aesthetic. Her work is very coarse, very grainy and it just spoke to me. I thought, What is she doing?” Patry is one of a growing number of artists experimenting with what is known as ICM, or intentional camera movement. Using slow shutter speeds while moving the camera, photographers create out-of-focus impressions. “It’s a technique that’s been used for a very long time,” says x bent. “Early pioneers would move the camera and discover it created this eerie aspect to an image. It’s really taken off as a technique in the last

“I hope to express that life in expression can be perilous, exalting and transitory. To capture one moment in time is to find meaning, a fullness within one’s self.”

ten years and people are seeing the joys of creating, if you will, impressionistic images.” For x bent it was an attempt to recreate something that’s been in his mind’s eye since childhood. “I was raised in northern Ontario. We would travel everywhere by car and my brother and I would be stuck in the backseat. My mom would be smoking like crazy and we’d be pasted up against the window like, Oh my god get me out of this car! But I’d be staring out of the window at the landscape that would drift by. I’d make my eyes water and then blur them and then I’d start to see

different things. I’d look at these trees and these passing landscapes and they were streaked and I thought, Well, that is really

cool. And I kept doing that. My family had a place in Killarney and we’d be out on the land and I’d stare at a tree. And the tree, as it’s moving with the wind, would blur. This is what the [ICM] technique afforded me: the ability to create the image that I was seeing in my head, both as a child and as an adult.” Using shutter speeds anywhere from one to 30 seconds and a variabledensity filter to reduce the amount of light penetrating the camera’s lens, x bent has continued to push the experimental aspects of ICM. “Much of the population is using it as one solo technique, which is the movement of the camera. But what I’m doing, and what others are doing with radically different effects, is moving my body with the camera as well. Which gives a different sweeping effect. I want to be able to look at the image I’ve created and have something distinct within it. So I do

essentially landscape photography, and for the most part I’m shooting trees, but what I want to do is capture something that isn't necessarily seen—and that is an emotion, an impression presented by this other life force I’m looking at.” So what is x bent trying to say with his imagery? “When you’re shooting you get in your own zone,” he says. “All of a sudden you’re capturing this moment; it’s this other thing. I’m trying to elongate this moment where it pronounces a narrative, an idea. I hope to express that life in expression can be perilous, exalting and transitory. To capture one moment in time is to find meaning, a fullness within one’s self.” Working with both digital and film cameras, he had a solo show at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound in 2022 and sold almost every piece. Printing largeformat images (34 inches by 48 inches or larger) on Hahnemühle Etching paper, he continues to sell prints throughout Europe and North America.


What’s next for x bent? More experimentation, of course. “I used to paint as well. It was a long time ago. I sold work and I love painting; the brush was really my first love. I just sort of drifted away from it as I grew older; we have to work, pay bills. I’m interested in exploring painting again but with photography. There’s a company that will print on silk or cotton organza, really, really fine and you can see through it. I want to print a photographic image on that and behind it I’ll have a photographic image that I will paint over as well. Then I’ll blend the two together.” As with all things x bent becomes passionate about, you can guarantee the results will be intriguing with no amount of effort spared.

You can check out more of x bent's work on Instagram @nicholasxbent or at




Who’s a Good Dog? Creating a path to well-being with human-animal partnership




words :: Jim Stinson

they all are very different characters. My job is to make sure the very best is brought out of each dog.” As I pulled up to the visitor centre at Cape Croker Park on the And it’s clear the dogs benefit from their outing. Owners Saugeen Bruce Peninsula, the sound of barking was deafening. It was consistently report improvements in behaviour and fitness, describing a cold January day, and I was as enthusiastic as the yelping dogs to calmer, better-behaved pets. Hutter notes the excitement in dogs begin an eight-week dogsledding program for Indigenous youth from when they anticipate a run, emphasizing the strong bonds formed the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. between the dogs and their human counterparts. The program is part of the Planetary Green Feet’s involvement in Health Partnership, a collaboration between dogsledding aligns with their broader York University and the Bagida’waad ”I really believe in these dogs. They mission of promoting recreation in nature Alliance, an Indigenous environmental as an essential ecosystem service. Mandy all have incredible skills, and they organization based at Neyaashiinigmiing. underscores the carbon-free, traditional The program aims to promote human and nature of dogsledding, calling it a “quiet, all are very different characters.” environmental well-being through outdoor gentle way to travel” that fosters an recreation and stewardship initiatives enduring appreciation for nature. She with Indigenous youth. In partnership with believes building this appreciation is a Mandy Hutter of Green Feet Ecosystem Services, the dogsledding potent starting point for addressing issues like climate change and program provides Indigenous youth with a unique and culturally rich sustainability. recreational experience during the winter months, and nurtures the She also reflects on the profound impact on the youth. She’s well-being of both human and non-human participants. heard from teachers and parents about the students’ enthusiasm, Unlike traditional kennels, Green Feet doesn’t own the dogs used and how they talk about the experience for the entire journey back in their programs. Instead, they train and work with pets, offering them to school, continuing until bedtime and even into the next day. The a day filled with adventure. Hutter highlights the collaborative aspect program facilitates bonding and relationships between the youth and of this approach: “I have 20–40 extra eyes from those who care for the dogs, creating a space for healing and self-expression. the dogs one-on-one, and the owners have a healthy way to let their Mandy believes dogsledding, when undertaken with care and stellar canine athletes do what they love to do best: run and pull!” connection, imparts transferable skills crucial for youth, irrespective The program emphasizes training the dogs as friends, focusing of their background. She cites teamwork, leadership, respect, on the skills and character of each dog—a concept Mandy inherited problem-solving and a love for high-energy outdoor activities as from her father. The transformative power of dogsledding is key for integral aspects. “Dogsledding teaches these skills in a very hands-on her: “I really believe in these dogs. They all have incredible skills, and manner, which I find is always appealing to youth.” 59


Local Deets, Cool Feats KOLAPORE WILDERNESS TRAILS ASSOCIATION The venerable Kolapore Wilderness Trails Association is a true Southern Georgian Bay gem, maintaining 50 kilometres of trails available to the public for year-round use (hikers and bikers in summer, cross-country skiers in winter). This year marks Kolapore’s 50-year anniversary, and the celebration has been a year-long affair. Following a tree-planting day last spring and heritage hikes throughout the summer and fall, the grand finale is their anniversary gala at the Marsh Street Centre on Saturday, February 24, 2024. All are welcome to the festive evening, which will include awards, storytelling, cocktails, dinner from Justin’s Oven and music by Bored of Education. Early-bird tickets are available through January 15. For more details, visit

Anna, Camille and Dustin.




SHIPWRECK DISCOVERY While working on a documentary film detailing the ecological effects of invasive mussels on the Great Lakes, local filmmakers Yvonne Drebert and Zach Melnick were surprised to discover a lost shipwreck on the bed of Lake Huron, just off the coast of the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula. After scientists conducting a fish survey in the area reported an anomaly in their readings of the lakebed, the pair set out with their underwater remoteoperated vehicle (ROV) to investigate. “We packed up our robot, grabbed some friends and their dog, and headed out on what we thought would be a fun Saturday boat ride,” says Drebert. “We honestly expected to find a pile of rocks.” To their surprise, their cameras captured a 148-foot-long, 26-foot-wide, 12.5-foot-high vessel, encased in quagga mussels. With assistance from local maritime historian Patrick Folkes and marine archaeologist Scarlett Janusas, they eventually identified the ship as the Africa, a steam barge lost, along with its 11 sailors, in an October 1895 storm as it hauled coal from Ohio to Owen Sound. “Before discovering the Africa, our work focused on the ecological impacts of the mussels—which have devastated fisheries around the lakes,” says Melnick. “We hadn’t considered the effect they could have on our cultural heritage,but the mussels have truly changed everything in the deep waters of the Great Lakes.” Check out more photos of the shipwreck and preview the upcoming film All Too Clear at 60

Containing 20 per cent of the world’s fresh surface water and covering just shy of 250,000 square kilometres, the Great Lakes are a natural, recreational and industrial resource without parallel. But their ecological integrity is under threat. Lake Huron Forever, a 2019 spinoff of the Great Lakes One Water Partnership, aims to preserve the health of among the most pristine of these freshwater inland seas. Their approach centers on nature-based solutions to stormwater management—including building bioswales (landscape features that capture and filter runoff) and planting native grasses to hold dunes in place. “Our goal is to create a network of supportive communities around Lake Huron,” says Stuart Reid, executive director of Community Foundation Grey Bruce, one of the cross-border organizations behind Lake Huron Forever. “We are supporting hands-on projects as well as highlighting the importance of naturalresource protection for shoreline communities.” Practically, the organization is promoting the Lake Huron Forever Pledge, a municipal-level commitment to sustain the health of both Lake Huron and its surrounding natural resources. A handful of communities have done so already, and your community can, too. Find out more at –Carl Michener


Matt Simpson and students.


FREE SPIRIT FOREST AND NATURE SCHOOL FUNDRAISER Encouraging children to play outside is always a good thing, and the not-for-profit Free Spirit Forest and Nature School is committed to making their programming accessible to every family. Says co-founder Matt Simpson, “Our tuition-reduction fund helps gently tackle prevalent diversity gaps to make natureconnection programming more accessible and ensure all families feel safe and included in the outdoors.” This year alone, the fund has awarded more than $15,000 in bursaries. Raising resources for the program is a year-long endeavour, and their upcoming online event is a perennial favourite. The Young and Wild auction ( runs February 29–March 6, and aims to secure those bursaries while highlighting local businesses, products and services. Learn more at



It’s back! After a Covid-era break and a soft restart last year, 24h Blue Mountain is hitting the ground running this February 24–25, with the lofty goal of raising $250,000 for Special Olympics and the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital. Register now at for this popular local event, then gather buddies, coworkers or pickleball-league mates to join this 24-hour relay for two worthy causes. Your team can choose to ski or snowboard the mountain or walk/run a cleared, well-lit path around the village. Teams of 12 are ideal—you can take advantage of your lift tickets or passes while your teammates make their laps—but any number up to a dozen is fair game. Need a team? The organizers will connect you. Want to crush it solo? Go for it! You’ll be part of an elite group to conquer that goal. The fun starts at noon on Saturday, with opening ceremonies featuring Beaver Valley Pipes and Drums and an OPP honour guard. Find out more at

Clarksburg is about to get its first-ever brewery. “I wanted to do something fun,” says Son’s Brewery owner Sean Dinsmore. “I’ve been in the corporate world, in a faster-paced lifestyle. I found something we can offer that would reconnect me to the best aspects of life up here, that I could share with our friends and others who come up and enjoy the area. Kind of a taste of home.” Current offerings include the Off Piste Pilsner, Townline Lager, Sidecar Stout and Saddle Bag Amber. For now the beer is brewed at the London Brewing Co-operative in London, Ont., while Son’s waits on organic certification for their Beaver Valley facility. “Our goal is to get our facility organic certified and we’ve already started that process; it just takes time,” he says. For Dinsmore, organic is an essential part of the business, and he’s working with a sustainable model that aligns with his philosophies, including bringing recyclable kegs into rotation. Another key objective is making

Jax Davenport with her father at the 2023 opening ceremonies.


the beer as local as possible, using barley from Good Family Farms as an essential ingredient. “We’re trying to get people to enjoy what this area has to offer and to be organic and healthy while doing it,” he says. With big plans that include a family-focused location in downtown Clarksburg, the real question for a new craft brewery is obvious: What about an IPA? “I wanted a craft beer that tasted like a Miller High Life, because I think there’s this weird interpretation that if you drink craft beer you’re a hipster,” he says. “We really wanted to start with something that was light and easy-drinking with a smooth finish, something people can enjoy after or during any activity, something you could take with you anywhere. So we really focused on that easy-drinking four-per-center for our flagship beer. But there’s more to come.” Son’s is currently available at Hearts, Gibson’s, The Corner and the Top O’ the Rock LCBO. Their brand-new Instagram account is @sonsbrewing. –Colin Field 61


Her Side of the Mountain The simplicity and warmth of a handmade retreat

photos :: Kristin Schnelten On a crisp December afternoon, snow gently falls on mature pines as Sue stacks firewood on her deck for the winter ahead. Just over her shoulder, Joey and Stella quietly nuzzle into their fresh bale of hay. The tiny dog Frankie, Sue’s constant companion, is inside today, curled up by the wood stove while dinner for ten simmers in the oven. Sue is content here, in the slice of heaven she calls “My Side of the Mountain,” a nod to a favourite book from her decades as an elementary school teacher. She’ll soon celebrate 30 years in this hand-built house, on land discovered by a twist of fate.

“I was driving to meet my real estate agent, but I made a wrong turn and found this property instead,” she remembers. She had been searching for a country lot in proximity to Collingwood, and immediately fell in love with her stumbled-upon find. The price tag was out of her budget, but the market was gentler in the ‘90s; the sellers eventually agreed to accept her offer of just a smidgen over half the asking price. Planning for a simple home within a modest budget, she focused the design process on welcoming the broad view, which stretches over the escarpment and across Georgian Bay to Meaford and Owen Sound. But before she put pencil to paper, she spent months selecting just


Planning for a simple home within a modest budget, she focused the design process on welcoming the broad view, which stretches over the escarpment and across Georgian Bay to Meaford and Owen Sound.

the right building site, eventually settling on a treeless hill in a field situated far from the road. During that first season, Sue lived in a small self-constructed bunkie, a one-room cabin sans running water. She embraced the simpler way of life, frequenting Wong’s Chinese restaurant—a former staple in Thornbury for 40 years—for meals and getting creative with the improvised washroom. “I had a big black bag filled with water, and that’s how I had a shower,” she laughs. The following summer, construction began. Family and friends chipped in with their knowledge and expertise, and pros installed utilities, but Sue completed the majority of the work, including fitting and finishing the


post-and-beam construction in the main living area. But her favourite memories of that busy summer were the sunny days filled with friends, working together in teams to frame and raise the walls. With just one bedroom and a sizeable loft, the open interior is warm and inviting, with ample room for celebrations in the great room and space for ongoing projects in the basement workshop. Neat stacks of snowshoes and crosscountry skis stand in a corner of that basement— equipment for friends to borrow in winter months when the kilometres of trails Sue built and maintains are filled with snow and she hangs up her hiking boots until spring.

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FiNd YoUrSeLF iN NAtUre! Just a few minutes from collingwood, in one of canada’s 18 UNeSco biosphere reserves, are 370 unspoiled acres of mature hardwood forest. We are here, atop the Niagara escarpment, where snowshoers and cross-country skiers alike will enjoy our breathtaking world of adventure in nature!

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The trails meander through the rolling hills and around the 1,000 pines she transplanted by hand over the years, transforming the oncebarren field into a forested retreat. Unsurprisingly, her favourite place is outside, especially with the numerous and


frequent visitors to her bird feeders. “I sit on my deck and watch the sun go down every day. The view is the same, but always changes with the seasons. I never grow tired of it,” she says. “I absolutely love it out here.”

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We All Need Each Other Life and travel lessons from six years on the Trans Canada Trail words :: Kristin Schnelten






t’s late fall, deep in the dense bush of northern Ontario. Well into her third year trekking the Trans Canada Trail, filmmaker and adventurer Dianne Whelan awakens with a sigh in her frost-covered tent. Stiff and bruised, she prepares herself mentally for what’s ahead—another day of cold-water paddling, another set of arduous, frigid portages. Outside the zippered door, however, that prognosis becomes far worse: What was yesterday a choppy inland lake is now a solid sheet of ice; in the forest, 60 centimetres of cement-like wet snow encases everything. Overwhelmed by her predicament, a stunned Whelan thinks, Holy crap. What are we going to do? A paper map and satellite phone offer a sliver of hope: Her cousin could plow his way through a closed road that intersects with her route only eight kilometres away, but from her frozen-over campsite, reaching that potential rescue seems impossible. For this leg of her trip—a 1,200-kilometre paddle with 168 kilometres of portages, stretching from Thunder Bay all the way into Manitoba—Whelan has enlisted the help of a friend. That one-


in-a-million kind of friend who can easily step away from life for a few weeks and will enthusiastically carry 20-kilogram dry bags across multiple laps of a four-kilometre portage. A friend who, serendipitously, also packed an axe. It may have been a tiny, token axe meant for little more than splitting kindling, but it proves a godsend. Zip-tying it to the end of a ski pole, Whelan’s friend sits in the bow of their canoe, alternately chopping the ice and pulling the canoe forward while Whelan, having switched from her usual double kayak paddle to the wooden one she carries in reserve, chops and paddles from the stern. Every second there is the danger of capsizing into icy water. As if that weren’t enough, the storm has rendered the portages virtually impassable. The sheer weight of snow on tree limbs has bent and collapsed many of them, freezing them into place like an icy web of tangled rebar. It takes seven days of chopping and schlepping to travel those eight kilometres. One swing of an axe, one heave of gear, one brutal slogging metre at a time.


hen she finally pulled her canoe ashore at mile zero in Victoria, British Columbia, three years later, Dianne Whelan became the first person to complete the Trans Canada Trail—the world’s longest official land-water route. The historic 2021 landing marked the end of a six-year cross-country odyssey, during which she pedaled, paddled, snowshoed, backpacked and skied from the Atlantic to both the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. Amazingly, Whelan’s grassroots journey and the film she was hoping to make of it had no corporate backing and zero sponsors. Her bike was decades old, her canoes and kayaks all borrowed. When she lost a tent (and she lost many), she reached out to friends and family or received help from random strangers on her path (such as the ATV driver who happened upon her on the trail, head in her hands over a lost tent, and gifted his tent to her on the spot).

“It isn’t your typical adventure story,” she says. “It was a journey of the spirit. Not in a religious sort of way, but in a ‘follow your heart’ kind of way. There’s an old saying, ‘When you commercialize the sacred, it loses its meaning.’” Thus, given the particularly personal nature of the trip and her age—50 at the time—Whelan had thought, Let’s just try it this way. The result? Both the journey and its documentation were paid for by human kindness. The generosity of Whelan’s own mother had planted the seed for the project. “My mom always wanted to walk the Trans Canada Trail; in 1995 she donated to it on behalf of each member of my family,” she recalls. “Then in 2014 I found myself at a place where I had the opportunity to do it. I had just finished a decade-long film project, gone through a divorce, and my dog died. So all the things






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that would have tied me to one place were gone. And I’ve always gone to nature to sort myself out when I feel like I’m losing the sense of purpose in my life, or I’ve missed the mark or made a wrong turn.” She spent that winter in her family’s farmhouse on the east coast, training and planning in isolation. Orchestrating a July 2015 start in St. John’s, Newfoundland, she estimated she’d reach Victoria in two years. The reality was a six-year commitment few of us can fathom. Whelan kicked off the journey by riding, and ultimately pushing, her loaded mountain bike over an abandoned railroad bed, taking 10 days to cover what she’d hoped to do in two: “I realized, Wow, the mind doesn’t age. It still thinks you’re 20 or 25, and it remembers that last big trip you took. But your body is a reality check.” Catching herself obsessing over her elapsed time and the number of kilometres she’d covered, she realized she had to rethink the entire thing. “I was like, What the fuck are you doing? This schedule is a self-created reality. You planned your little trip, and now instead of just surrendering to the moment you’re focused on being behind. So I thought, You just gotta let it go, man—and burn that schedule.” Realizing it was time to connect and not to race, she “took off the rabbit suit and put on the turtle shell,” finding that connection in countless interactions with strangers, extended visits in Indigenous communities and long hours spent simply sitting with nature. “Probably the biggest change that happened to me over the six years out there was that my resonance changed,” Whelan reflects.



“The animals got closer and closer and closer, and my quiet time of being in observation with them got longer and longer and longer.” What started off as butterflies and squirrels became moose and grizzlies, even stumbling upon an indifferent mother and her cubs, quietly devouring berries adjacent to the trail. Whelan credits her slight hearing impairment for some of those close encounters, especially at night. The animals didn’t sense fear coming from her tent, because she simply wasn’t hearing them. “Fast and impatient is the energy of predators, and animals pick up on our vibration,” she muses. “I think our ancient ancestors had that sense; it was part of living with nature. It’s what happens to you when you spend a long time away from cities with your feet on the ground. Everything finally quiets down, and you strip your life down to the most basic elements of water, sleep, food and just always searching for home.”

“This schedule is a selfcreated reality. You planned your little trip, and now instead of just surrendering to the moment you’re focused on being behind… You just gotta let it go, man— and burn that schedule.”

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ome, however, was an abstraction. With her house in B.C. rented out, Whelan spent most of those years either on the trail or pausing close to it. At some point she realized self-care was the most important task on her mission. “If I got tired, I had no problem staying in my tent for a couple of days, and just doing some extra cooking, journaling, and then carrying on. Or if the weather was really rough, I’d wait for nature to calm down. It’s not like I was going to go out there to fight a battle I was going to lose.” She spent a week on a couch in Manitoba, waiting out a storm. A handful of times she left the trail entirely: a two-week visit to her ailing mother, a six-week residency in B.C. For the first two winters, she was out there plodding through the snow, but a chance encounter would see her shift in later years to sheltering in place for most of December and January. “I met a Cree woman who said, ‘You say you’re out here trying to do it the old way, but we didn’t travel in that kind of weather. In the winter months, you take your lesson from the bear. What does the bear do? It hibernates. It’s a time of rejuvenation, a time of yin, time to rebuild, sew your buttons. It’s a time to fix your pack; it’s a time to get your maps; it’s a time to prepare.’”

Whelan credits similar friendly advice for saving her life multiple times: The friends who insisted she scrounge a satellite phone and helped her find second-hand dry suits for winter paddles; the stranger who taught her about cowboy cooking (prepping and eating dinner early, up-river from your campsite); her reluctant acceptance of a gun before entering grizzly country. One morning, on a tiny island north of the Arctic Circle, she awoke to her partner Louisa’s terrified screams. An aggressive bear had entered their site—and it didn’t appreciate shooing and banging. Still scrambling in the tent, Whelan encouraged Louisa, who was nearly paralyzed with fear, to fire a birdshot warning. The grizzly advanced. When a second warning caused the bear to momentarily sit, Whelan frantically struck camp. (As isolated as they were, diving for the canoe and leaving their gear and food behind would’ve been deadly.) Louisa kept the gun trained on the slowly advancing bear, even as they eventually backed into the canoe and paddled away. They later discovered an earlier paddler had a similar encounter on the same island, but was forced to choose the canoe-dive option. That decision had apparently taught the bear a memorable lesson: Scare them off, and you will feast.



She admits to making mistakes of her own: “Oh, I’m your classic fool for sure. And I don’t mind being that person… If I can do this journey, anybody can. I’m not a super athlete, or super anything. I’m losing my tents. My shoes are coming apart. I don’t have it together or figured out at all. It’s just with human kindness and perseverance that I somehow made it to the end.” And yet, Whelan can lay claim to six years in the wild without injury, without illness, without a single search-and-rescue call. No matter how dire the situation. It was something she was determined not to have to do, especially as a woman. “As a woman, when you’re out there doing things, sometimes you’ve got to do it even better than you might have to [otherwise], just because you don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have done that.’ I’m trying to break those ceilings, not bring them down on us.”

Whelan can lay claim to six years in the wild without injury, without illness, without a single search-and-rescue call. As a woman in the film world, Whelan knows firsthand about glass ceilings. Consequently, she filled key creative positions on this project with women, from executive producer and senior editor to sound mixer and director. “A lot of extremely talented men have

worked on this film. I love them, and I’m grateful for the work they’ve done. But as a woman director, and as the owner of this film, I found myself with the rare opportunity to be able to make those kinds of decisions. And this film is really about my love for Mother Earth. And you know, history is a line, right? But herstory is a circle. I wanted this one to be herstory.” And that story is, in the end, one of community, from one end of the trail to the other. “I intentionally chose subjects in my film that represent all political walks of life, because kindness doesn’t have a political party,” says Whelan. “And everybody’s kindness is what got me through this.” Especially in Indigenous communities, where she made a concerted effort to stop, listen and learn. “When an Indigenous community is having a powwow, they’re telling everybody, ‘Come on down!’ And that reconciliation isn’t a political deal. It’s friendship. It’s getting to know each other, holding each other’s babies,” she says. “That’s how we unpack this stuff. Through kinship. Not through policy.” Next spring, when she releases 500 Days In The Wild (a wildly underestimated title chosen early on the trail), Whelan will wrap up a decade of her life dedicated to a single project. She thinks of both the journey and film as pilgrimage, one with three themes: adventure, reconciliation and healing. “It’s a film where a person who is overwhelmed by the world today finds hope and meaning again, mostly through connection and the realization that radical individuality is actually an illness in our society,” she says. “It’s something I romanticized most of my life, but now I realize what a crock of shit that is. We all need each other.”



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80 80

Heather Plewes breaks through the morning sun at the Halton Agreement Forest (HAFTA) trails.



Brandon Peel shredding Lake Baptiste, Hailey Slaght behind the wheel.



Ruby West, grinding up Side Road 6 outside of Wasaga Beach.



84 84

Josh Madryga and Curtis Eichenberger paddling out.




New Start Words by Colin Field Photos by Sault Ste. Marie Tourism Nicknamed Ontario’s Powder Highway, the 556 just north of Sault Ste. Marie—the outdoor adventure capital of Ontario—is a true gem of the province. Pummeled by lake-effect snow (with a yearly average of ten feet or 300 centimeters), this is where you’ll find Searchmont Resort and Bellevue Valley Lodge. More importantly you’ll also find a nearly guaranteed base of bottomless powder.

Searchmont has been around since 1957, but things began to change in 2018 when a new owner took over. COVID shut the resort down sporadically, but that never stopped investment. The new owners, Wisconsin Resorts Inc., own and manage five other resorts in Michigan and Wisconsin. They saw the potential of the mountain experience at Searchmont; the vertical drop of 214 metres (702 feet) is taller than anything in their American portfolio and bigger than most resorts in Ontario. Since taking ownership, the company has invested heavily to improve Searchmont. They replaced one lift with a new, faster

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A passionate core of skiers and snowboarders make up the one. They created a new beginner area with 600 feet of vertical friendly scene of locals. With no lineups to mention—even on a and nothing but green runs off an entirely new chair. The Kiln, busy holiday weekend—the locals are willing to share the stoke. the new base lodge restaurant, is open with tons of delicious “Lineups are non-existent,” Spiessman says. “We have four lifts offerings and night skiing goes to 9 p.m. across the hundred acres and 26 trails. Generally our lifts are “I’m guessing they’ve invested $15 million on the hill alone,” full, but you pretty much ride in and get on the chair.” says General Manager Steve Spiessman. “We’ve also got 230 His enthusiasm for the resort and the excitement from new fan guns across the hundred acres; that’s 3,000 gallons a locals about the change is palpable. minute of snowmaking, so we can Everyone in Sault Ste. Marie is talking make a foot of snow per acre every about Searchmont again. And everyhour. That’s what guarantees our The vertical drop of 214 metres one is skiing there. early openings.” (703 feet) is taller than “Our goal is to become a The confidence of an early anything in their American premier destination resort and we’re opening is justified. In 2022 opening portfolio and bigger than gonna spend every bit of energy day was November 21; in 2023, an getting there,” Spiessman says. amazing November 24. And the seamost resorts in Ontario. The whole region is becoming a sons last longer, too: The 2022–23 premier, year-round destination. And season went right up until April 12. if you’re looking to ski somewhere other than Searchmont while “Every Ontario resort puts out their opening date—you you’re there (and you’re ready to earn your turns), nearby Bellevknow, December 8, December 9,” says Spiessman. “We put out ue Valley Lodge is a unique ski Ontario location. There’s nothing November 24. The difference between us and everybody else is else like it in the province. For the last 30 years, Enn Poldmaa, that we mean it.There’s almost nothing that would stop us from along with his wife Robin MacIntyre and a group of skiers and opening. We have all the advantages in the world here.” snowboarders, have been glading the 2,000 acres behind their As in real estate, those advantages are location, location, lodge. Dedicating 300 hours of clearing per season, they now location. With the massive Lake Superior nearby, the region benhave 20 runs, each with about 700 feet of fall line; powder turns efits from lake-effect snow like nowhere else in the province. And here are almost a given. because of its northern latitude, it gets cold earlier in the Soo. With a great après scene in downtown Sault Ste. Marie— “We’re guaranteed a snowmaking base mid-November and with along with a thriving culinary scene, multiple micro breweries about three good nights of snowmaking we can start to open and great hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts—heading to things up here,” says Spiessman. Searchmont for a ski or snowboard trip is a no-brainer. Solid Spiessman started working at Searchmont in 2022, after a spots for après include the Northern Superior Brewing Company couple decades of managing resorts in southern Ontario. and Broers Jansen Wine Bar. The Breakfast Pig and Peace “I spent a lot of time in mountain operations and oh boy, Restaurant are town favorites for breakfast and dinner respecthese conditions here. I can’t describe how wintery it is,” he tively, but there’s plenty more to explore and discover. says. “It’s always fresh. We just don’t have the thaw-freeze cycle. “The north is beautiful. It’s absolutely fantastic up here,” We don’t have those challenges with our snowpack. There isn’t says Spiessman. “I’m enjoying every minute of it. Everybody who boilerplate underneath. It’s great snowpack, top to bottom. It’s comes here sees something special.” pretty easy to say that Searchmont has the best snow conditions There’s no doubt that you will, too. in Ontario any day of the week in the winter.”

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In-home Consultation Call: 705-532-1640 Email: SERVING ALL OF THE SOUTHERN GEORGIAN BAY AREA





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1. The RAB KHROMA VOLITION GORE-TEX JACKET is a waterproof, lightly insulated ski mountaineering jacket, built to keep you warm when the temperature plummets. It’s constructed with a two-layer GORE-TEX outer and lined with PrimaLoft Silver insulation, with a fully adjustable helmet-compatible hood and removable powder skirt. // 2. Seriously comfy and wicked stylish, the BRUME COLWOOD MITT’s light insulation combined with a cushion-like boa lining keep your hands dry. Outside, the ultra-soft vintage leather, generous boa-trimmed cuff, modern stitching and elasticized wrist provide the perfect fit. Designed in Montreal. Available at // 3. Built to handle a range of cold environments, the ARC’TERYX THORIUM insulated hoody delivers serious warmth. Packed with 750 fill-power RDS down, strategically mapped synthetic areas and a durable nylon shell, it offers outstanding thermal performance for its weight. // 4. The K2 MINDBENDER 130 BOA maintains its burly freeride boot identity with dialed-in performance and microadjustable precision fit. Check out the high-performance touring capability, BOA Fit System, MultiFit Last, heatmoldable Powerlite Shell, FastFit Instep, integrated tech fittings, Powerlock Spyne and a PowerFit Pro Tour BOA liner at Corbett’s. // 5. The OSPREY SOELDEN 32 SNOW PACK offers lightweight features to ease grueling ascents and a stable fit for dynamic descents. Pop your avalanche safety kit in the accessible front panel pocket and your layers, skins and calories in the roomy back panel. Featuring both ski and snowboard carry options and available in men’s and women’s fit. // 6. The COLUMBIA HIGHLAND SUMMIT BIBS keep you warm and dry from first lift to last run. With ski-friendly features, breathable waterproof fabric, midweight insulation and thermal-reflective lining, this bib performs. Available in men’s and women’s. Columbia at Blue, 152 Jozo Weider Blvd., or // 7. Enjoy the refined taste of the SPY CIDER HOUSE & DISTILLERY GOLDEN EYE, a champagne-inspired cider. Elevate your experience at the Spy Cider House, 808108 Side Road 24, The Blue Mountains, or find this sophisticated cider at LCBO stores.




MLS®40513128 | $1,495,000 | 19 Golfview Drive, Collingwood

MLS®40521122 | $2,838,000 104 Hoggard Court, The Blue Mountains

MLS®40521103 | $2,075,000 2 Evergreen Road, Collingwood

MLS®40504434 | $1,079,000 123 Conservation Way, Collingwood

MLS®40521123 | $1,049,000 627 Johnston Park Ave, Collingwood

MLS®40521104 | $999,000 16 Thomas Drive, Collingwood

MLS®40521105 | $699,000 209864 Highway 26, The Blue Mountains

Wherever | C: 705.444.3452



Barb Picot*


Ron Picot*

Elizabeth Jilon*

Chestnut Park® Real Estate Limited, Brokerage 393 First Street, Suite 100, Collingwood, ON, L9Y 1B3

8. Pale gold, intensely aromatic and fortifying, the COLLINGWOOD BREWERY SKADI IPA is fit for the gods. It's brewed with a staggering amount of Amarillo, Cascade, Mosaic and Simcoe hops. At 7.2 per cent ABV with aromas of grapefruit and orange, this beer is a gift to those who seek adventure. // 9. The FJÄLLRÄVEN NUUK LITE PARKA is a lightweight version of the Nuuk Parka, designed for milder conditions. Waterproof, windproof and breathable, it protects against the elements and the synthetic padding keeps you warm in damp conditions. Add its bum-covering length, and the Nuuk Lite is the perfect choice for not-so-frigid winter days. // 10. Haul it all with the SKIIS & BIIKES MULTI-USE TERRAIN BACKPACK 2.0 with integrated boot holsters. Featuring a reinforced goggle lid, straps for your jacket and plenty of room for all your gear and warm layers, it's the only backpack you need for an epic day on the hill. // 11. Built by BLUNDSTONE to weather the elements, the fully waterproof WINTER THERMAL CLASSIC #584 BOOTS are packed with features like genuine shearling footbeds and 200 g Thinsulate insulation to keep your feet toasty and dry. // 12. The YETI HOPPER M12 BACKPACK SOFT COOLER is the perfect leak-resistant refreshment hauler, with ultra-strong magnets to keep the top closed and a kangaroo pocket to easily stash your keys, wallet or phone. Designed to fit wine bottles and hold up to 20 cans of your favourite beverage. // 13. FILSON’S original, heirloom-quality MACKINAW WOOL CRUISER excels in all weather conditions. It’s made with durable wool in an uncommonly tight weave that turns away wind while remaining highly breathable. Its wet-weather performance is the reason wool has been the fabric of choice for outdoor protection for centuries. // 14. Made for adventurous pursuits in extreme cold temperatures, the BAFFIN SNOW MONSTER has been proven in some of the world’s harshest climates. Technically superior while remaining lightweight and flexible, this boot offers everything you need in performance winter footwear.





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15. ELAN PRIMETIME SKIS amplify the joy of carving on groomed slopes. Featuring cutting-edge technology, advanced construction techniques and a fresh design ethos, they offer enhanced control over both inside and outside edges, providing an intuitive feel during every turn. An unmatched combination of power, stability, grip and dynamic rebound make your time on the slopes unforgettable. // 16. Kickstart your kid's pro mountain bike career with the KINDERFEETS TINY TOT PLUS, a 2-in-1 bike that easily converts from a tricycle to a two-wheel balance bike. Handmade with wood from fast-growing, replenishable birch trees. Designed for ages 18 months to 4 years. // 17. Super-warm and wind-resistant, the MEC BROMONT RECYCLED DOWN JACKET has warm-when-wet synthetic insulation in exposed areas and highloft down throughout the torso. The roomy hood accommodates a helmet and the powder skirt keeps you dry. Bonus feature: The clean design looks sleek as you slide into the lift line. // 18. THE NORTH FACE SUMMIT SERIES STIMSON FUTURELIGHT JACKET is a high-performance layer perfectly suited to backcountry touring. Waterproof, breathable and lightweight, this shell is built with alpine-style pockets and no shoulder seams for maximum comfort while wearing a pack. A stretch powder skirt helps keep the snow out, while underarm venting lets you dump excess heat. // 19. The MOUNTAIN HARDWARE GNARWHAL 25L is the perfect pack for sidecountry and frontcountry ski days with a little resort time sprinkled in. It's more compressible for chairlift comfort and less supply-oriented, planning for a midday refuel at the lodge. //20. The BLACK BELLOWS LITTLE BUCK SESSION IPA is a fresh, juicy and bright little IPA that gets you all the hop flavour in an easy-drinking package. This sessionable brew clocks in at 4.5 per cent ABV. // 21. The new JACK WOLFSKIN ALPSPITZE TOUR 3L JACKET is ideal for long, active days outdoors. Perfect for cross-country and backcountry skiing, it combines a clean design with recycled materials, delivering performance, complete weather protection and great mobility. Available for men and women.








for kids allfor ages The laTesT Toys books andof crafTs kids of all ages Outdoor toys • Craft Kits & Supplies • Games & Puzzles •Building toys Science kits • Puppets & dress-up • Infant toys • Thomas the Tank Engine And books for infants to teens

27 Hurontario St., Collingwood (705) 445-6222 Shop on line at Mon.-Fri. 9:30-6:00, Sat. 9:30-5:00 Sun. 11:00-4:00

10073 MTNLF Minds Alive_Winter 2010_FNL.indd 1

New Patients Welcome

10-10-01 9:32 AM

The Latest Toys, Books and Crafts for kids of all ages Outdoor Toys • Craft Kits • Games & Puzzles • Building Toys Science Kits • Puppets & Dress-up • Infant Toys • Books for infants to teens 57 Hurontario St., Collingwood (705) 445-6222 Shop online at

Monday to Wednesday 10:00-5:30 Thursday and Friday 10:00-6:00 Saturday 10:00-5:30, Sunday 11:00-4:00

186 Erie St Suite 202, Collingwood Phone: (705) 445-2470

Try one of our many varieties of Activated Turmeric Elixirs & Syrups to sip, warm, cold, or get creative and kick up your favourite beverage.



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22. The COLUMBIA HIGHLAND SUMMIT JACKET is a feature-rich jacket built for all-day performance and protection on and off the mountain. With breathable waterproof fabric, midweight insulation and thermal-reflective lining, the Highland Summit is a full-featured ski and snow essential. Columbia at Blue, 152 Jozo Weider Blvd., or // 23. The GLERUPS DENIM BOOTS are made of 100 per cent pure, no-itch wool with soles of natural rubber and uppers free of heavy metals and toxic dyes. The ultimate antidote to the chilly ways of Canada’s winter. // 24. The PATAGONIA JACKSON GLACIER PARKA (available for women and men) is warm and windblocking with a sophisticated, stylish design. Its two-layer shell is made of 100 per cent recycled polyester with a water-repellent finish and is insulated with 700-fill-power 100 per cent recycled down. Made in a Fair Trade Certified factory. // 25. The OBERMEYER COSIMA DOWN JACKET’s contoured, shaped design keeps you looking great on or off the mountain. Comfort improvements like Thermal Zone Distribution provide everyday wearability, and two-way stretch REPREVE recycled fabric and fullmotion articulation allow a full range of movement. // 26. The OBERMEYER GIRLS ROSELET JACKET features one-of-a-kind style wherever the family goes. Comfort features like handwarmer pockets, an interior windguard and fleece lining panels keep your little one cozy. The working compass provides a chance for youngsters to learn to navigate around the mountain. // 27. The WAHOO KICKR MOVE is the latest in virtual training, allowing your bike to travel freely during your workout for a more realistic ride. Check it out at Kamikaze Bikes, 470 First St., Collingwood..


Puffy warm face protection made of ethically sourced

white duck down. Designed in the Blue Mountains. DID YOU KNOW?

40 to 45 per cent of body heat is lost through the head and neck?

Treat yourself to a puff

and stay outside longer.

Choose from 4 sizes in 6 colours A portion of the proceeds is donated to

This magazine will be reforested. PrintReleaf’s certified open-source program measures the paper consumption of Mountain Life Media and printer Solisco—ensuring trees are automatically replanted across a network of Canadian and global reforestation projects.

Printing since 1991

Proudly Serving Collingwood, Blue Mountain & Thornbury

Gerry Wayland

Owner/Broker of Record 705-446-6690

List your home with a RE/MAX at Blue Realty sales representative Call 705-445-0440 or visit our website or visit our office in Blue Mountain Village, next to Starbucks.

Location Recognition Expertise Satisfaction 4 Location 1 Name 2 Unrivalled 3 Customer Location RE/MAX is the No. 1 name in real estate* thanks in part to decades of extensive advertising. At just about every turn, potential clients find RE/MAX ads – across TV, radio, print, outdoor signage, the Web and social media. Chances are, you would have a hard time finding someone who has never heard of “RE/MAX.”

Kelly Cain

Sales Representative 519-872-1356

Our experienced and knowledgeable agents are the reason RE/MAX is consistently ranked number one in several markets across Canada. We provide our agents with exclusive tools to ensure they have the skills they need to effectively guide you through the real estate process. Our office motto is Honesty, Knowledge and Goodness. Each RE/MAX at Blue Realty employee, sales representative or broker must live up to those three words.

Larry McKenzie Broker 519-673-7822

The proof of quality service is in repeat customers and in customers who refer RE/MAX at Blue Realty team members to friends. RE/MAX at Blue Realty sales representatives and brokers typically generate a large percentage of their business from past customers and referrals. Our team is trusted and experienced.

Debbie Pearce

Sales Representative 905-334-9484

at Blue Realty 5 RE/MAX website

The RE/MAX at Blue Realty office is located in the heart of The Village at Blue Mountain right beside Starbucks. More than two million visitors walk past the office window each year. They don’t drive by at 60 kilometres per hour. They WALK past our window and review the listings prominently displayed. Why not put your home in our window?

Just type “Real Estate in Blue Mountain” or “Blue Mountain Real Estate” in any search engine and the RE/MAX at Blue website consistently appears in the top 2 organic (unpaid) searches. That’s marketing power to help sell your home faster.

Jamie Hibbard

Andrea Newton

Sales Representative 705-994-3272

Sales Representative 705-351-0905


Kyle Easby skis in knee-deep pow.

Where Do You Ski? words & photos :: Colin Field I recently made some new friends while travelling in St. Louis, Missouri. Both in their 70s, they grew up in that city and are politically involved to some extent. Both are social workers; they’ve seen a lot in their lifetime. They mentioned that, when two St. Louisans meet each other for the first time, they’ll inevitably ask, “Where did you go to high school?” It’s a ridiculous thing to ask someone who’s been out of school for decades, but it’s asked anyway—because the answer is so telling. It provides so much information: what socio-economic background the person has, what ethnicity they are, what church they were raised in and what their parents did for a living. Both women hate this question. It immediately leads to judgemental opinions, prejudiced ideas of who that person is. It’s the kind of thing we’re all trying to get away from, isn’t it? I could immediately relate to this social-hierarchy probe, because there’s a question around here with similar connotations. When lobbed, it subsequently requires the askee to reverse the question. It’s like asking someone how their weekend was, when all you actually want to do is talk about how good yours was. 98

I cringe every time I hear it, whether it’s asked of me or just overheard in a coffee shop. The question is: Where do you ski? Well, ideally I ski on good snow. I ski steep tree lines. I ski powder wherever I can find it. I ski in bluebird sunshine. I ski around the world when I get the opportunity. Sometimes, when I feel like I’m ripping, I’ll ski directly below the chairlift for maximum exposure. Once in a while I’ll cruise along through the terrain park, wishing my body was young enough to hit a rail or two. (Sure looks fun, doesn’t it?) I ski moguls in the spring. Sometimes I climb random hills to get fresh turns. When I have to, I’ll ski the bone-rattling ice Ontario is famous for. But generally you’ll find me on the edge of runs, searching for fresh turns and good snow. And skiing fast. I also ski wherever my friends and family are skiing, because skiing with loved ones is always more fun. And if there are little kids, then I guess I’ll ski the bunny hill off the magic carpet, too. In my mind it’s a fact that skiing (and snowboarding!) are among the top sports ever created; they’re multi-generational and best enjoyed with people you love. I was confused the first few times I was asked this question. What does, “Where do you ski?” even mean? I ski on snow, man.

Experience the Canadian Rockies, Fernie Style.

Photo: Destination BC / Reuben Krabbe

Over 9 m / 30 ft of Snow Annually | Vertical 1,082 m / 3,550 ft 2,500 Acres of Lift Access Terrain | Five Alpine Bowls | 146 Named Runs

Located in the Rockies of southeast British Columbia, Fernie is known for its deep powder snow and cool local vibe. Just a 3-hour drive south from Calgary International Airport (YYC).

Skiing & Snowboarding • World-class Catskiing • Cross-country Skiing • Fat Biking • Snowshoeing Contact your preferred travel agent and book your winter trip to Fernie! I #ferniestoke

Mention this ad and get a $10 infrared hot wax upgrade on a tune-up. Exp. Mar 1, 2024

Located in the Skiis & Biikes Collingwood basement.

Your skis will hold an edge like never before, they won’t catch or hook and will stay sharper longer. The Montana Crystal Magic ski tuning robot from Switzerland is the first of its kind in Canada, is the most advance tuning machine in the world and is only available at Skiis & Biikes. Celebrating 25 Years in Collingwood 445 First St. Collingwood (beside the Beer Store) 705-445-9777 Toronto | Collingwood | Mississauga 100% independent. 100% Canadian.

and Proud sponsor of Alpine Ontario Alpin

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