Mountain Life – Blue Mountains - Fall 2021

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Fall 2021: The Resilience Issue

UPFRONT

DEPARTMENTS

Valley Transformation p.14

NEDITORIAL

ATHLETE PROFILE

Fate of Talisman Resort Property p.17

Fear Less p.12

900-Kilometre Dash p.57

TRAILS

FOOD/DRINK

A Year on the Trail p.24

In Search of Lost Orchards p.59

SURF

WHEEL WELL

Finding Balance p.30

Bike Town p.62

MTN LIFER

BACKYARD

The Lion Speaks Tonight p.41

Back to the Sugar Shack p.69

ENVIRO

MTN HOME

Rethinking Outdoor Spaces

Knute’s Chalet p.75

Field Days at Blue p.19

FEATURE Freedom to Explore: Unlearning Racism in the Outdoors p.32

p.47 GALLERY p.82 BIOPHILIAC

Ecology of Snow p.53

GEAR SHED p.91 BACK PAGE

The Old Ski Bowl p.98

ON THE COVER

KYLE WICKS. THIS PAGE Alasdair Lansdale and Rossi in a farm field somewhere in the Blue Mountains.

KRISTIN SCHNELTEN

9


PUBLISHERS GLEN HARRIS

glen@mountainlifemedia.ca

JON BURAK

jon@mountainlifemedia.ca

TODD LAWSON

todd@mountainlifemedia.ca

EDITOR NED MORGAN

We launched a freakin’ podcast!

ned@mountainlifemedia.ca

CREATIVE DIRECTOR, DESIGNER & PRODUCTION MANAGER AMÉLIE LÉGARÉ amelie@mountainlifemedia.ca FINANCIAL CONTROLLER KRISTA CURRIE krista@mountainlifemedia.ca EDITOR AT LARGE

Live it Up with Mountain Life is a collection of conversations about life in the wilderness with the people who do it best.

COLIN FIELD

colin@mountainlifemedia.ca

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS ALLISON KENNEDY DAVIES allison@mountainlifemedia.ca SCOTT PARENT scott@mountainlifemedia.ca KRISTIN SCHNELTEN kristin@mountainlifemedia.ca WEB DEVELOPER

Brett Tippie

Sarah Bulford

KEVIN CRAWFORD

kevin@mountainlifemedia.ca

DISTRIBUTION BRENDAN THOMPSON brendan@mountainlifemedia.ca CONTRIBUTORS Leslie Anthony, Dave Barnes, Ryan Carter, Melanie Chambers, Sarah Chisholm, Geoff Coombs, Lorne Craig, Alain Denis, Nolan Dubeau, Zak Erb, Michelle Gelok, Mitchell Hubble, Molly Hurford, Keita Inoue, Carmen Kuntz, Marc Landry, Maxime Légaré-Vézina, Stu MacKay-Smith, Benny Marr, Drew McIvor, Conor Mihell, Jason Petznick, Alan Poelman, Laura Raimondi, Richard Roth, Dan Rubinstein, Annie Rusinowski, Jim Stinson, Steven Threndyle, William Tam, Tom Thwaits, Leslie Timms, Kyle Wicks, Jody Wilson.

ADVERTISING ACCOUNT MANAGERS GLEN HARRIS glen@mountainlifemedia.ca BOB KOVEN bobby@mountainlifemedia.ca STEPHANIE MARTINEK steph@mountainlifemedia.ca MIKE STRIMAS mike@mountainlifemedia.ca

Tim Emmett

Jon Turk

mountain life media.ca /podcasts Host Feet Bank s

705 441 6334 416 721 9940 705 441 3684 416 779 7908

Published by Mountain Life Publishing Inc, Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Publications Mail Agreement Number 42005545. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Mountain Life Magazine, Box 100, 112 Clark Street, Clarksburg, ON, N0H 1J0. Tel: 705.441.6334 Fax: 519.922.3099. To send feedback email ned@mountainlifemedia.ca. Mountain Life Blue Mountains is published every January, March, June and October by Mountain Life Media Inc. Views expressed herein are those of the author exclusively. To learn more about Mountain Life, visit mountainlifemedia.ca. To distribute Mountain Life in your store please call 705 441 6334.

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NEDITORIAL

FEAR LESS It was a clear, calm day on Georgian Bay in late October. Two friends and I had paddled a fivekilometre midsection of the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula when a dolostone bluff came into view, suggestive of a colossal fortress wall crumbling away under the weight of peacetime centuries. We knew of a beach campsite not far past this bluff. Then, in the space of about 10 minutes, the

hit. We sat wrapped in fleece and rain gear on our beached kayaks, watching the waves explode onto the shore just a few feet away, foaming savagely as they retreated over the jumble of cobbles and slabs. The wind died down by dusk but the rain continued, so my friends roped up an ingenious three-tarp system that funnelled water down

After a fitful sleep I awoke just before dawn to the roar of the surf. The wind was up again. How would we paddle home? sky darkened and a strong wind came up behind us—luckily, pushing us to our beach. Just after we landed, at around 5 p.m., a gale 12

a side spout as effectively as any eavestrough. After a while the rain abated and we lit a fire in a preexisting rock ring on the beach.

Towards midnight a gibbous moon rose, casting its bluish light through the upper reaches of the cedar and aspen above us. After a fitful sleep I awoke just before dawn to the roar of the surf. My tent was only about 5 metres from the beach and I could feel the force of the waves reverberating through the ground. The wind was up again. How would we paddle home? For various reasons we all needed to head out that morning. My brain began spinning a doom narrative of a desperate and possibly fatal paddle mission, sideswiped by frigid, angry waves. Around 7:30 a.m. we broke camp under a sulky grey sky, gulping down dried fruit and shots of black coffee. A light frost sparkled on the cedar boughs and mossy boulders around our campsite. The bay was churning with rollers built up in the night contending with fresh chop from a stiff northwesterly. We needed to hit the water. I had a hollow feeling in my chest as I rammed dry bags into my kayak hatches. Certain I would eventually capsize, I packed my boat carefully, trying to ensure that nothing would fall out when I rolled over. We all wore dry tops or partial wetsuits but not full safety suits; in cold, deep Georgian Bay in October, a swim could be hypothermia-inducing within minutes. But once I launched, the wind died down a little and the waves, though dizzying when they heaved my boat up what felt like 3 metres above the surface, proved manageable. Whisperscreaming the opening lyrics to Keith Richards’ “Struggle” (Talk is Cheap, 1988) I paddled hard and braced against the waves, my arms feeling stronger with each decisive motion. The three of us stuck tight together and as close to shore as possible, ready to help if anyone went swimming. Nobody did. I’ve changed since this 2009 trip and of course the world has, too. For many, life today is a little or a lot more anxious. The future—as when I lay awake in my tent that blustery early morning—feels heavy with dread. Yet I learned something invaluable on that trip that helps me understand fear, in all its mutating forms. The troubling thoughts that inhibit us, even paralyze us, tend to focus on what might happen if every good intention fails. When I stopped worrying and launched my kayak into the waves with my friends, I suddenly knew exactly what to do. –Ned Morgan, Editor


I t ’s

in o ur

n at u r e.

WE RIDE TOGETHER


UPFRONT

KRISTIN SCHNELTEN

A TRANSFORMATION IN THE VALLEY A beloved elm tree near Kimberley set its final flowers last spring, succumbing to Dutch elm disease before autumn arrived. When arborists arrived to remove the tree, homeowner Michele Chaban, M/RSW, PhD, requested a substantial portion of the trunk—about 11 feet—be left behind. “I decided to keep a remnant of it and turn it into a statue that will bear the elements over time until it, too, dissipates,” says Chaban. 14

Commissioning the work to mark her 70th birthday, Chaban chose local artist David Robinson, who 27 years ago completed the 4.5-tonne white limestone sculpture of Wiarton Willie located in the harbour town’s Bluewater Park. A multimedia artist whose family has deep roots in the area, Robinson captured Chaban’s attention not only for his skill and talent but his passion for the valley and its history.


Robinson is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and pursued graduate studies in Pietrasanta, Italy, and Queen’s University before entering his formal career as an art teacher. A lifelong bicyclist who finds much of his inspiration while touring, he chose to give up driving altogether when he took early retirement. “These last six years have been the best of my life,” he says. “I’m time rich, but financially poor, and I think my life is better than it’s ever been.” As a respected painter and sculptor with murals and installations throughout Ontario, he’s completed countless wood carvings before, but not at this scale, and none of them in-place. The sculpture is located in the Amik (an Algonquin word meaning “beaver”) subdivision in the Beaver Valley, but there are other, deeper, intentions for Chaban’s choice of subject matter. “In a time of forest fires, climate change and increasing encroachment on the wilds, where animals find it difficult to make a home, it may be that we need to restore the beaver habitats, so they can help work with us on climate change,” she says. “In decades to come, water will be an even more important commodity than it is now. If we help the beavers to live, they will help us live, our children’s children to live, everyone’s children to live.” While researching and sketching details, Robinson discovered his concept of an upside-down beaver is a bit of an anomaly. “There isn’t a single sculpture of a diving beaver. It’s difficult to even find a photograph of one in this position,” he says. “Canada is full of quaint beavers in Mountie’s hats, a spatula in one hand in front of a pancake house—cute, corny creatures with an anthropomorphic grin. But what a beaver is really about is minding its own business, building its lodge, its dam. It’s working, it’s doing its thing. In all the years we’ve been doing beaver sculptures, we’ve overlooked just presenting the beaver in a very noble, serious state.” In the completed sculpture, the tail and hindquarters of the beaver are rendered in detail, with deep etchings depicting the fur that caused such frenzy in 17th century England and such strife among Indigenous peoples. “For countless millennia, the people of the Beaver Valley lived in harmony with the beaver,” Robinson reflects. “But the white man’s lust for beaver pelts led to the Beaver Wars [also known as the French and Iroquois Wars] just over the top of the valley.” In a nod to Buddhist art and teachings, Robinson created two intricate rear paws in opposing directions: one raised, representing acknowledgement, and the other extended in a gesture of welcome and acceptance. The beaver’s abdomen twists through the length of the tree trunk, spiraling as it swims toward the base of its lodge, toward the earth, with gnawed stick clenched firmly in its teeth. Its forepaws are undefined, morphing into the exposed roots of the tree and surrounding soil.

KRISTIN SCHNELTEN

“It’s about transformation,” says Robinson. “A small seed landed here in the ground and transformed into a large tree, which later died and now has been transformed into a sculpture, and that sculpture is transforming into the earth.” To Chaban, the project brought about change on a community level. “There was a curiosity, openness, wonder,” she says. “It was because of the art project during COVID, a time of social distancing, that we came to value and appreciate each other as individuals and families known and previously unknown, as we gathered in dialogue about the sculpture.” Passersby had a full summer to witness the former tree evolve. Robinson worked on the project for 100 days, first with chainsaw then with hammer and chisel, finishing the piece with oil after deepening the colour of paws, tail and snout using the ancient Japanese wood-charring technique shou ​​ sugi ban.

“A small seed landed here in the ground and transformed into a large tree, which later died and now has been transformed into a sculpture, and that sculpture is transforming into the earth.” In early September the sculpture was declared complete, and homeowners and artist held a small opening celebration. Robinson says it’s the most exciting project yet for him. “It’s the high point of my life. Everything you do as an artist—today, in this moment—you’re standing on a lifetime of experience. You should be able to do your best work ever,” he says. “I don’t want to say my best work was in 1995. I want to say that every year I grow, and I take in more ideas, and I question myself, I suffer and I struggle. And that’s the way it should be. That’s the life of an artist.” –Kristin Schnelten

15


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UPFRONT

FATE OF TALISMAN PROPERTIES STILL UNKNOWN If you think you know what’s going on with Beaver Valley’s Talisman property, you’re probably wrong. No one seems to know. And that’s the problem. What’s commonly known as the Talisman property (named for the former resort) is actually three. There’s the property that encompasses the buildings and the majority of the ski hill. That one’s owned by 2420124 Ontario Inc. Then there’s the property out front of those buildings—the old golf course. The Municipality of Grey Highlands owns that one. The third property is at the top of the hill, where the parking lot and the Bruce Trail are. That property is also owned by Grey Highlands. In March of 2021, the municipality entered into a partnership with 2420124 Ontario Inc. to “collectively market and promote” the property for future development. There was a lot of concern from locals about what that development might look like. And many worried it would simply go to the highest bidder. So they started organizing. On May 21, the Talisman Property Action Coalition made a special presentation to Grey Highlands Council. (This coalition included the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, the Friends of the Beaver Valley, Sustainable Livelihood, Elephant Thoughts and the Kimberley Safety Group.) They proposed a sustainable, income-producing development and a variety of uses for the land including community gardens, publicly funded outdoor education schools or a wellness hub to support local practitioners. They asked Council to delay any sale of the three parcels of the Talisman property in order to develop an appropriate and realistic plan for the land. One week later, Westway Capital had a special meeting with Council. Their PowerPoint presentation included goals to “re-vitalize, re-envision and re-establish the Talisman Lands as an important destination and an

economic driver within Grey Highlands and Southern Ontario.” They also touted “the integration of a health and wellness facility, coupled with a re-established resort and complementary residential development.” So who is Westway Capital? Their online footprint is nonexistent, but one of the presenters, Paul Mondell, also happens to be the senior VP of development at Skyline Investments, the same company that owns (until October of this year) Deerhurst and Horseshoe Valley Resorts as well as development sites within Blue Mountain Village, where it also manages all retail properties. Then, much to the surprise of the citizens’ groups, on July 29 Grey Highlands announced they entered into a conditional sale agreement with Westway for the properties. And that’s all we know. The municipality hasn’t filled us in on anything more, despite ongoing requests from the action groups. While awaiting any news on the finalization of the sale, the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy put in a bid to purchase the two properties owned by Grey Highlands. The EBC is a land trust protecting more than 17,000 acres of land in Ontario. They would preserve the land as a nature reserve and for community recreational use. But there is no decision made yet that we know of. And it’s that lack of transparency that has really upset locals. “This is a very precious resource,” says Robert Leverty, the president of the Niagara Escarpment Foundation. “People are desperate for public access and public space. That’s why it’s unconscionable that municipal land, owned by the people, is sold to a private developer.” If you want to learn more about the future of the Talisman land, check out protecttalisman.ca. Scroll down for a look at the meetings presented by both Westway and the Talisman Property Action Coalition. –Colin Field

The Talisman resort property in 2014, before removal of the chairlifts.

17


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FIELD DAYS Blue is ready and waiting for school groups My backpack is stuffed full of snacks and kids' water bottles. Two pint-sized hikers have decided to join me for the day, one on my left and one on my right. They make frequent stops to point out a variety of rocks, plants and tiny critters. They ask a multitude of random questions, to most of which I answer, “What do you think?” The replies are endearing and hilarious. Although our uphill progress on the Village Way hiking trail is comparable to that of a garden snail, these kids and their grown-ups are calm, content and happy to be outside. And I can’t help thinking this is exactly what our little learners need right now. BLUE’S FIELD-TRIP PROGRAM: READY & WAITING Prior to the pandemic, the team at Blue set out to develop a school fieldtrip program that would take kids out of the classroom and into the nature and excitement found around Blue Mountain. The field-trip program was brought to life by BMR staff with the intention of making it an easy choice for educators. Consultants were engaged who had direct experience in the field of education, public and private school boards, curriculum development and lesson planning.

“Blue Mountain embarked on a project to align our recreation offerings and our unique outdoor environment with the school curriculum,” explains Jennifer Allan-Cummings, Hospitality Marketing Manager with BMR. “We wanted to establish Blue as an inclusive, year-round location for school trips linked to the Ontario curriculum, global competencies and skills, as well as current education initiatives.” Although field trips may be paused for public schools, Blue Mountain is ready to welcome back the yellow school buses with inclusive, affordable and customized school group programs from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and beyond. Year-round activities are aligned with subject areas including mathematics, science and technology, social studies, literacy and language, art, health and physical education. A web portal has been created for teachers with the aim of providing an effortless option for organizing school group trips. Ready-made teaching notes, lesson plans and links to online resources are available for educators to ensure that the Blue experience supports what is being taught in the classroom. Trained and certified staff guide students through activities, ensuring the resort and activity-specific safety protocols— and those outlined by related teaching associations—are maintained. 19


ACTIVITIES, ATTRACTIONS & ADVENTURES The school field-trip day will be guided by the principles of safety, accessibility and inclusivity and fill in as an outdoor extension of the classroom and curriculum. Multitudes of activities are available year-round, including those best-known—hiking and biking during the green season and skiing or snowboarding in the winter. Attractions like the climbing wall, Cascade Putting Course and Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster are also an option. (Fun fact: the Ridge Runner operates in the colder months, too.) The mid-mountain attractions will have students climbing, hanging, zip-lining and belaying on the Woodlot Low Ropes, Canopy Climb Net Adventure and Timber Challenge High Ropes. Teachers can select activities that complement what is being taught in their classroom, and support the interests and skills of the group. Lesserknown adventures available include the Geocache Challenge, wilderness survival skills and guided snowshoeing. The little ones can enjoy nature games like lynx relay race and wolves vs. deer, followed by community circle and reflection. Or how about a competitive game of “I spy” in Blue Mountain Village? Fun for the kids and their grown-ups. WHY FIELD TRIPS? We live in a time when students are learning online and spending not just hours but whole days in front of a screen. This is one reason why physical and outdoor education and experiential learning is so important. It builds on the fundamentals taught in the classroom while getting kids outside. The outdoor activities at BMR work to improve physical fitness, build confidence and nurture friendships. But they also support the development of the “softer skills” such as critical thinking, problem solving and decision making while fostering an appreciation for the natural and cultural history of the Niagara Escarpment, Georgian Bay and the surrounding area. In these challenging times for so many of us, especially students, let’s provide a sense of safety, security and well-being by bringing them outside with classmates for a day of education and play. We hope our kids can get back to these outdoor adventures with their peers soon. –Laura Raimondi ALLISON KENNEDY DAVIES

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TRAILS

A YEAR ON THE TRAIL words & photos :: Kristin Schnelten A few steps into our first day on the trail, my daughter and I descend into a dark, windless ravine. It’s humid. Close. There’s a faint hum in the distance. Then, in a blink, we’re surrounded. The hellhole of a mosquito blitzkrieg is upon us, and we run. The swarm follows, and I imagine a long, thin cloud of tiny dots trailing behind our heads, squealing a chorus of glee. In a torrent of curses, screams and continuous swats and swipes, we sprint until we emerge into the sun and breeze of the next sideroad, panting and laughing, momentarily free. I take notes after this debacle: Wear long sleeves. Bring bug dope. Start early. The final entry: Maddening mosquitos are dreamy relief from a constant news cycle. Breaks are necessary from time to time. We’re now into our third month of lockdown, and most of us are losing our marbles. We’ve binged all the shows, baked all the sourdough. The political climate south of the border provides a continual feast for the media, enabling endless doom-scrolling, shuttered away in our living rooms. So we hike. We escape. The Beaver Valley section of the Bruce Trail is, end-to-end, roughly 120 km. (With periodic closures, reroutes and additions, the distance isn’t set in stone.) Every step of it is within our health unit, and the farthest point is a half-hour drive from our house. My daughter is up for the adventure, but has a limited attention span. We plan to complete it in small chunks, west to east, hopefully by summer’s end. On the trail, closing in now on Talisman, we add to our list of lessons: Everything is better with friends. With a buddy this time, my daughter hikes farther and faster. Reconnecting after so many months of isolation, we scramble through crevice caves, marvel at vistas and discover fresh bear scratches on the trunk of a beech tree.

Local scuttlebutt of the many woes makes meaty fodder for chatter as we meander through the more popular legs of the trail—Hoggs Falls, Eugenia Falls, Metcalfe Rock—but we manage to steer clear of crowds, passing only a handful of hikers each day. Laughable lack of bug-preparation aside, we’re really no strangers to this trail. I took my first steps along the escarpment in the late ‘80s, walking from Tobermory to Lion’s Head, mailing letters and actual printed photos to friends: You won’t believe these cliffs! This water! This hike! Making our home now at the mouth of the Beaver River, we’re spoiled—privileged, yes—to be surrounded by this winding path, popping onto the nearest trailhead anytime we fancy a walk in the woods. This simple act of taking a trail through the forest is reflected in the Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC) mission statement: Preserving a ribbon of wilderness, for everyone, forever. First envisioned around 1960 and completed in 1967, the public footpath spans a broad swath of the Niagara Escarpment, from Niagara to Tobermory. Through a patchwork grid of publicly owned lands, private properties and BTC holdings, the board of directors and employees work with more than 1,400 volunteers to maintain every switchback, staircase, stile, boardwalk and bridge of the 900-km trail.

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Managing the longest marked trail in Canada is not without its headaches, and here in the Beaver Valley the pandemic year presents its fair share. With tourism numbers to the region increasing and visitors at a loss for entertainment, new hikers discover trailheads in droves—leaving in their wake a host of maladies. Supersaturated parking lots lead to overcrowded sideroads; with vehicles eking out space on opposing narrow shoulders, some roadways are choked down to a single, perilous lane. Large parties walk three-, four- and five-abreast on the trail while others veer off entirely, trampling the delicate ecosystem on either side of an intentionally narrow path. Off-leash dogs wreak havoc on livestock and owners leave behind their festering poop bags. Users ignore signage, riding bikes where they aren’t permitted. Granola bar wrappers, disposable masks, orange peels and unmentionables litter the trails and parking areas. Parking tickets abound. Regular trail users and volunteers are disheartened. Landowners are at their wit’s end. The BTC, tourism organizations and local authorities work to tackle what appears to be the root of the problem: knowledge. What’s common sense to some is a mystery to others, so getting the word out is key. If a parking area is full, choose another trailhead. Hike mid-week, at off-peak times. Pick up your trash (yup, toilet paper and hand wipes need to be packed out, too). Walk single file. Only bring dogs where permitted; keep them leashed and pack out their poop. Bike paths are plentiful in the area; please ride those instead. Local scuttlebutt of the many woes makes meaty fodder for chatter as we meander through the more popular legs of the trail— Hoggs Falls, Eugenia Falls, Metcalfe Rock—but we manage to steer clear of crowds, passing only a handful of hikers each day. Our proximity to the trail makes adherence to the rules simple. My husband shuttles us to and from trailheads, making less-travelled sections easily accessible. We leave our dogs at home, knowing they’ll be happier with an evening play session than straining at the end of a leash for hours. And those iconic white blazes are part of our everyday—keeping them in view, sticking to the trail, is second nature. Overnight camping is only permitted at a handful of designated sites, none of them in the Beaver Valley section, but we manage to squeeze in a quasi-backpacking event in late summer, stopping at a friend’s property. Cooking our freeze-dried dinner in the kitchen while drinking delivered beer isn’t exactly a backcountry event, but the hike-tent-hike energy remains, and the next day on the trail is one of our longest. Hike days develop a rhythm. Find a friend, organize a ride. Pack sandwiches and treats, fill water bottles. Depending on just how beautiful the snack spot is, we’re out in the woods for three or four hours. Six to eight kilometres is perfect. Summertime conversations circle around bubbles and restrictions, fading into ever-present worry about school. Who’s going back? Who’s staying home? Already subscribers to the latter option, we celebrate

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our expanded group of daytime hiking companions and make our way up the eastern edge of the valley in full autumn colour, one day and one family at a time. In November the ever-present election news cycle finally ends, and the world breathes a guarded sigh of relief. Pandemic numbers still frighten, and we eventually find ourselves where we began: in another lockdown. Winter brings bewildering shutdowns, a ski season nearly lost. And we hibernate. Spring arrives, and my daughter’s non-stop chatter—which echoes from the walls of our tiny house, becoming an almost ignorable din—is again sweet and insightful in the woods. Her feet have grown, but not too much, and we lace back into our boots and pick up where we left off. On a long stretch of road, one of the few sections without landowner access, she finds wonder in a wriggling snake, relays tales from books and keeps me abreast of her every thought. “Do you remember your routine as a child? What was it? Will I remember this hike when I’m grown up? It’s such a fun feeling to crunch over pine cones. Remember the sound Captain Holt made when he ate the marshmallow?” The trail is a saviour, as much as the vaccines on the horizon—the scheduled date and brand received the only language adults now speak. Where did you find an appointment? And give us the play-by-play of your reaction. The end of this thing is near. We can feel it. Summer weather and low case counts bring a burst of freedom and an ease of restrictions. My father, once a constant figure here, arrives from an easy border crossing for his first visit in 20 months. For him we’ve saved the final leg of the hike—a quick 6 km jaunt from Loree to Blue. Rusty from a long break and cranky without friends, my daughter struggles with the multiple slippery descents and climbs, each the full elevation of the escarpment. To right her sinking ship, I rely on lessons learned: Slow down. Engage with one another. Have a sweet snack. Wonder at the view. Catastrophe averted, we complete the day’s hike earlier than expected, all grins. With barely time for a finish-line selfie, we pile into our waiting shuttle and head to the next adventure. The bike park is calling, friends are waiting. The Bruce Trail continues in front of us, on to Niagara. But after twelve months of periodic hikes—treks that marked the path from pandemic isolation to reconnection—it’s time for a break. Our end-to-end complete, we step off the trail for now, back to this life that keeps charging, endlessly forward. To learn more about the Bruce Trail Conservancy and their work to protect this ribbon of land for all, to get involved as a member or volunteer, or to download maps and read about upcoming events, visit brucetrail.org. And I do have a favourite section—a rarely visited stretch with particularly cataclysmic formations, deep crevices and gasping views. Ask me about it sometime. You’ll find me at the pub, with new friends, celebrating our next adventure.

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SURF

FINDING BALANCE

Taking deep breaths on a surf vacation in Nosara, Costa Rica

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words & photos :: Glen Harris Take a deep breath, clear your mind and go back to a simpler time. You’re on a beach; it’s that time at the end of the day when the sun’s light is magical and you can hear the sounds of clean surf—tidal white noise. Your loved ones are still out there. They’re living in the moment, navigating the waves and timing their return while gaining momentum in a balancing act. You’re wet and salty, slightly pummelled. You set your board down by the palapa. Time for a cold beer, time to sit back and watch the show.

Is it a hedonistic retreat from the fear, confusion and sadness in the world? Most definitely. Is it you working on you? Yes, it is. There’s a community out there on the waves or walking the miles of white sand shoreline—travellers from all over the world, people who have moved there and the lucky locals who grew up in this paradise. And that’s what it is. Nosara, Costa Rica, is a direct flight from Toronto, one time zone away. From Liberia airport you take a two-hour shuttle and you’re there. Is it a hedonistic retreat from the fear, confusion and sadness in the world? Most definitely. Is it you working on you? Yes, it is. Nosara is a hub for yoga retreats, healthy food, fit people and clean surf, so if you’re up for any of that then book yourself in. Don’t overthink it. We did it all with Safari Surf and they were awesome, but there’s a wide range of accommodations everywhere from shipping containers with a shower to waterfront palaces. The thing is that Nosara is not all that much different from the Blue Mountains. It has been discovered in a big way already and embraced as an economic hub for tourism, natural beauty and quality of life. Real estate is crazy there too—but who cares? Everyone wants to be there because it’s a special place, and it’s happening. There they surf in the winter, while here we ski and snowboard. But the feelings are all the same. In the Blue Mountains your day of fun ends with a beer on a patio looking up at the slopes. In Nosara, your day ends with a beer under the palapa watching the clean surf roll in. safarisurfschool.com

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Freedom to

Explore

Unlearning Racism in the Outdoors words :: Taylor Godber

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PREVIOUS SPREAD Rachelle Wheatley in the crevice caves at Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Nature Reserve.

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icking up trash left behind on trails or scrubbing crusty dishes somebody negligently left in a cabin is infuriating. And yet irritants of this kind are becoming more common, and aren’t helping to dissolve disgruntled vibes from those frequenting Canada’s wilderness for extended periods. They can be felt in crowded backcountry huts, overflowing parking lots, on welltravelled skin tracks and any other trending outdoor destination. It’s not uncommon to hear whispers and sighs that, “city people and out-of-towners are coming up and taking over.” While we can fault people for being bad stewards, we can’t fault them for wanting to catch their breath and unplug from the hustle of contemporary life—to admire the beauty of these wide-open spaces, and to get those feelgood hormones flowing.

KRISTIN SCHNELTEN. THIS PAGE, LEFT Demiesha Dennis on the Bighead River. DAVE COULSON. ABOVE Peter Song in The Swamp, Kolapore Uplands. WILL TAM.

The same goes with the concept of privilege. If someone’s upbringing was confined to an insulated and singular perspective both in their family and their friend groups, it would be easy for them to miss where they sit on the societal hierarchy of opportunity. It is imperative that we get introspective on where we stand on this ladder if we are to help create a more inclusive future for the generations to come. I acknowledge that I have lived a privileged life. There has always been a roof over my head; an abundance of food on the table; access to health care, education, nature; and chances to travel. Financial support to explore extracurricular activities as a kid influenced the direction of my life, including a career as a professional athlete. My biological mother—who gave me up at birth with the selfless hope that the family adopting me would be able to provide more opportunity than her 18-year“Fly fishing is peace for me. It is the one place I can turn old self—would be pleased. Despite being raised in a white, middleto where the noise of everything else quickly dissipates class household and given every chance to thrive in the world, my youth still came with and the loudest, most calming thing becomes the sound its hiccups. My parents separated early in my childhood and were consumed with navigating of nature. Peace like this should not be hoarded.” their own personal obstacles. And I was being – Demeisha Dennis, founder Brown Girl Outdoor World severely bullied at school out of jealousy by a handful of mean girls. Being half-Chinese, Nature welcomes everyone and we should take notes to do the same. racial quips came up often, sometimes about my skin colour, or about why I The idea of racism and prejudice in the outdoors isn’t a common topic wasn’t better at math. My graduating year I skipped the majority of school to of discussion. Yet exclusionary and self-entitled attitudes—as benign as they snowboard (I don’t recommend this, kids) because the mountains provided a may seem to their owners—are in fact forms of discrimination. The stealthy place of refuge—a place where I felt safe to be myself. thing about prejudices is that unless you’ve been the recipient of them (or been educated about them) they are easy to miss. • • • 34


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nowboarding led me to meet people who surfed and climbed and found happiness in the simplicity of running in the woods. Their generosity to share their knowledge and let me tag along allowed me to integrate nature connections into my life. Time spent outside has shaped me, from feeling the joyful celebration that comes with summiting a mountain and gazing upon a vast expanse of peaks, to the sensation of being in the present moment while floating down thousands of feet of snowflakes or gliding across a glistening wave at sunset. It has also shaped my experiences of despair and grief from loss, as stark reminders of the fragility of life. To breathe in the aroma of the pines, feel the crispness of the cold and hear nothing but the whisper of the wind or the beat of a crow’s wings above is to feel magic itself. Nature has taught me boundless lessons in self-confidence, self-worth, managing anxiety and depression, determination, focus, connection and love. When I reflect on how the outdoors has enhanced not only my physical health but also my mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, it is disheartening to think that not everyone has access to the life-altering experiences that the natural world can provide. Or that self-entitled attitudes may dissuade some from starting or continuing their journey into nature. Consistent exposure to any environment yields more comfort, which means creating opportunities for people to explore and get into the mix of nature is essential for a safer and more welcoming outdoor space. But we also

need to dive deeper to understand why these opportunities are lacking to begin with. Social and racial injustices in Canada can be traced back to the country’s inception and have since led to significant class disparities, unequal opportunity and generational trauma. Some forms of historical and systemic racism are easier to identify— colonialism, for example, in which Indigenous peoples were pushed from their land, had their spiritual practices deemed illegal and were allowed to vote only if they gave up their identity as Indigenous. Residential schools were put in place to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse were widespread at these schools. This is just a glance at the sullied history of Canada. The idea that exclusion in the outdoors has existed and continues to exist will likely seem outlandish to some. But there is an implicit vibe of discrimination in our outdoor spaces. Minorities have not been present for many reasons, including financial barriers, or their presence was only “tolerated” in public spaces including national parks. According to Alan MacEachern, Professor of History at Western University, “Parks Canada’s entire line has been that these places are for everyone. But you do see little glimmers where underneath the surface people were being turned back… There were a lot of tourist places, including the national parks, which in the ‘30s and ‘40s quietly advertised ‘Restricted Clientele’, that Jews [and people of colour] were not allowed, especially in eastern Canada.”

L-R Vivian Lee, Monika Widjaja-Tam and Neel Parikh in Durham Forest, Ontario.

WILL TAM

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My graduating year I skipped the majority of school to snowboard (I don’t recommend this, kids) because the mountains provided a place of refuge—a place where I felt safe to be myself.

In the 1960s a guest booked into a hotel in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick and prior to arrival wrote a letter to the accommodations to ensure that his Black friends who would be joining would not be trouble. MacEachern recounts how the recipient of the letter replied, “Your friends better not come up, because they might face racism from white Southerners up here.” Those friends were Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Anti-racism and social justice movements this past year have brought to the surface the fact that discrimination still exists. The power of people speaking up to demand change has undoubtedly catalyzed a movement across all branches in the network of life. Leaders in the outdoor world are chiming in and owning their responsibility to be figureheads in inspiring the masses. Brands are supporting BIPOC exposure in print and marketing, diversifying who they elect as ambassadors and athletes, supporting programs to help welcome minority groups into the outdoor space and creating equal opportunities within their employee framework. And a recent Parks Canada acquisition heralds a new era of accessibility. Rouge National Urban Park is the first of its kind, established in 2015 in the Rouge River Valley near Toronto. Major cities in Canada are often disproportionately diverse in race and culture, but access to national parks has been very limited. The establishment of this new national park gives hope for a more thoughtful, respectful and inclusive moment. Individuals taking action on grassroots levels are making a tremendous impact as well. Demeisha Dennis founded Brown Girl Outdoor World, a forprofit organization based in Toronto that creates an inclusive community for adventure in the outdoors via hiking, surfing, fly-fishing and other sports for BIPOC communities, saying, “I wanted to show that there is belonging and community in these places.” Dennis, a passionate fly-fisher who has tripped in Algonquin Park, the Temagami region and elsewhere, adds: “Fly fishing is peace for me. It is the one place I can turn to where the noise of everything else quickly dissipates and the loudest, most calming thing becomes the sound of nature. Peace like this should not be hoarded.” • • •

BOTTOM Marisa Chung, Fish Lake, Ontario.

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WILL TAM


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A Brown Girl Outdoor World group paddle, Toronto Islands.

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he ability to safely take up space and be able to express oneself as a perfectly imperfect being is central to experiencing joy on this planet. The impacts of trauma and oppression are real. When people have gone through traumatic experiences it impacts how they are able to show up in the world, and this includes the outdoors. Greg McDonnell, a registered clinical counsellor in Whistler, B.C., weighs in: “The nervous system becomes dysregulated [when you don’t feel confident], which can affect many aspects of our human engagement.” Living in a constant state of stress can impact how people behave and can lead to “addiction, numbing behaviors, anxiety and depression.” But simply being outside can have positive impacts, McDonnell adds, “This is connected to mindfulness. The nervous system becomes deeply connected through our senses [when in nature], which helps guide us how to self-protect in a functional way.” When we feel safe, we are better equipped to show up as our unapologetic selves, our true selves—and this expands to others. Dennis reflects on the shifts she sees when providing people with the chance to truly feel like they belong in the outdoors: “Sometimes you can see the shift physically on a face when someone steps into a space and is either greeted by the silent symphony of nature, or the sense of belonging that creeps in when they show up on a beach and see a group of people who look like them, ready to take on something new.” The future’s looking brighter, but the outdoor community and all Canadians collectively have a long journey ahead in keeping the momentum going towards a social landscape that celebrates and invites all faces, shapes, colours, cultures and spiritual beliefs, and opens up space for marginalized groups to feel comfortable as a part of the outdoor community. Let’s rise to the challenge and act on being activists and true allies. Support BIPOC businesses and initiatives in our communities. Start thinking outside 38

DAVE COULSON

of conventional norms and consider going the extra mile to be welcoming to others at the trailheads and lend helpful knowledge if you have it (e.g., always let someone know they have their wetsuit on backward). And let the true essence of adventure live on. And above all else, lean into it all with compassion and empathy; while everyone’s experience is vastly different, it is safe to say that we all know what it feels like to feel unwelcome, to feel ignored, to feel vulnerable, to feel that we don’t belong somewhere. And we all want to feel loved, accepted and free. Everyone deserves the chance to experience the outdoors; everyone has the right to the freedom to explore.

ILANNA BARKUSKY

Taylor Godber is an athlete, a health and wellness fanatic, and a lover of animals and the environment. She has worked with Mountain Life Media as a freelance contributor and as editor of Below Zero°.


Photos by Colin Field

Rolling through the colourful tunnel of trees in Awenda Provincial Park is an absolute dream. That beautiful smooth road, canopied by leaves of every hue, surrounded by hardwood forests; it’s magical. A chance to open her up, lean her over and see what the old motorcycle can do. That’s always the goal. And in Simcoe County there are numerous opportunities to do just that. Not only is Simcoe County blessed with some incredible scenery, there are some stunning strips of tarmac that run through it. With varying terrain from down south in Creemore, to the north in

Severn Bridge and from Collingwood to Orillia there’s a route for just about any motorcycle lover. Ride Simcoe County has put together three different signature routes for exploring the region. The Big Chute Loop is the longest route at 400 kilometres, and it covers the entire county with tons of hidden gems throughout. Then there’s the Chute Loop (250 kilometres) and the Saints & Sinners Loop (250 kilometres).To finish reading this story, head to our website at mountainlifemedia.com


Good times is what Elan is all about, and the best times are those spent with friends and family in the mountains. Whether it’s a family weekend road trip to your favorite local destination or a backcountry adventure with your best buddies, it’s always good times when you surround yourself with the ones you’re closest to.

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MOUNTAIN LIFER

THE LION SPEAKS TONIGHT Adventurer/scientist Jon Turk on big cats, myth and storytelling

Mountain Life's longest-running columnist, Jon Turk celebrates the release of his 35th book.

words :: Feet Banks A lifelong skier and adventurer, Jon Turk spends his winters ski touring in British Columbia and his summers mountain biking in Montana. A regular Mountain Life columnist to the Coast Mountains edition, Turk is also our resident expert on how to avoid being drowned by a crocodile and evade death at the jaws of a charging lion. For protection against lions, you need a rungu—the thick, knotted, hardwood club used by the Samburu people of Kenya. In his latest book, Tracking Lions, Myth, and Wilderness in Samburu, Turk recounts arriving at a remote “lion research camp” (more realistically a safari tourism outpost) on the African savannah, being handed his own rungu and instructed by his guide Ian on how to stop a charging 250 kg lion.

“Maybe you think to hit the lion on the head?” I don’t need to make a fool of myself, so I shrug noncommittedly. “No, you don’t,” he explains. Ian takes the rungu back so he can demonstrate: “Like this.” Then, with a silent, explosive burst, like an NFL running back breaking through the line at the Super Bowl, he leaps into the air, spins sideways and swings his weapon horizontally at waist height. I still haven’t quite comprehended the lesson until he explains, “You jump up and out of the way, so the lion does not eat you.” Ian looks at me intently, head cocked slightly to the side, to make sure I am listening, “And then, as you are falling back to the ground, you hit him on the side of the neck. Hard. Do you understand? You swing the rungu with your falling body and the arm. Together. Break his neck. If

ERIK BOOMER

you hit him on the head, he will not stop. He will eat you.” “Thank you. Got it.” I try jumping, spinning and swinging, and Ian smiles feebly as if to say, “If that’s the best you can do, my friend, then I guess that’s the best you can do. You are a white-haired white man, after all. We’ll have to live with that.” Spoiler alert: The book isn’t just about lions. Turk uses his time in Samburu to dig into the history of human civilization and demonstrates that, for the past couple hundred thousand years (at least) the stories we tell have defined the path ahead—from the Cognitive Revolution 70,000 years ago that led to the development of language and a population explosion, to the mechanized labour of the Industrial Revolution, to the current climate crisis. Turk argues that the narratives we weave (or those woven around us) hold the keys to surviving our current perils of global warming, plague, pestilence, ego, greed and the impending self-destruction of humanity. On the other hand—yin and yang, black and white—the fundamental dilemma of humankind is that the narratives we weave created those same problems in the first place. “We don’t need something new to solve our current problems,” Turk explains. “We need to rediscover something very old.” Now in his mid-seventies, Turk has been a professional storyteller for decades and penned five adventure books, 30-plus textbooks and spoken at numerous events, including a TEDx in Canmore in 2016. As he releases what he says will be his last book (it came out in early September) we caught up with Jon to talk about storytelling, lions and why he jumps off cliffs to stay present. 41


CLOCKWISE, STARTING TOP LEFT A Samburu hut is built of sticks and vines, then covered with whatever materials can be scrounged. A lion killed and ate a cow. Tracking the lion, armed with his rungu, Turk sensed its power and majesty. Village women join in song as part of a wedding day celebration. A warrior with a Stegosaurus headdress. COURTESY OF JON TURK

Mountain Life: You wrote the first college-level environmental science textbook back in 1970, but most people know you for your adventure stories. This book feels the most like a hybrid or a bridge between those two worlds. Jon Turk: This is really the book I’ve always wanted to write. To talk about the problems we have in a scientific way, but at the same time wrap it into a story that makes people want to turn the page. I wanted to write a book that encompassed more than a specific region or tribe; I wanted to wrap the condition of humankind into one story. Hopefully it works.

ML: You cover literally the entire history of humans in this book, but one part I really liked was early on: You’re alone and crawling into a thicket to get away from, maybe, rebels armed with AK-47s and you stop and say, “Feel this moment, you will never be here again.” When did you start tapping into that thought process, what people now call being present or finding a flow state? Has it gotten easier over the years? JT: Oh you know it, the first time you scare the living bejesus out of yourself. You put yourself in a situation and think, Oh my gosh, I could be dead in the next five seconds. And then you feel your whole body focus in on the now and you have to focus completely on what you 42

do in the next five, ten, ninety seconds to stay alive. And there’s this amazing clarity and wow… That was cathartic, that cleaned me out, that made me. A time when all the stories were gone from my head and I was no longer enslaved by thinking and the big brain… That is a wondrous feeling and you start reading later that this is what all the great teachers have been teaching for centuries. Now, putting yourself at risk is a harsh way to do it; if I was any good at meditation, I could do it without jumping off a cliff or whatever… but yeah, this is how people like us do it.

ML: And that ties into the main guts of this book, the idea of those stories that we are always telling ourselves and each other, how our big brains take over. JT: Yes, and of course some of those stories can help us survive. They are predictions. So, when we see something moving in the bushes and we can’t identify it, we tell ourselves a story—the last time I saw that, it was a lion, so it might also be a lion this time. But then, over time, our stories can get wacky, and we start enlarging them or talking about things that don’t matter and eventually drive ourselves crazy. Or worse, cause real damage to ourselves and our planet. Our brains have gotten away from us—they can really get in the way by creating a narrative that doesn’t exist, or by buying into someone else’s false narrative.


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LEFT A ten-year-old Samburu boy, armed only with a stick, tending cattle on the savanna. RIGHT Dressed for the occasion, Jon steps in as one of the best men at a Samburu wedding.

ML: And the next thing you know the planet is on fire, the ice is melting, people are fighting over any difference of opinion and we’re destroying the very things that sustain life—the air, the water, the land—to save a story we made up ourselves called “the economy.” JT: Look, you recently turned me on to a book about fungi and mycelium, and some of those species have been around for a couple billion years. Humans, with our big brains, we haven’t been around that long—it’s an evolutionary experiment that’s only been tried once on this planet; this is our first try. And big brains are really good at predicting things and telling stories and building rocket ships, but I don’t know if the big brain is a real long-term solution to survival. The beauty of nature is hardwired into us, but so is this sense of tribalism. So, if someone on TV says, “Join the Pepsi Generation,” that means join the tribe. All you have to do is buy a Pepsi and you are with us, you are a member. And this competes with the cleanliness of nature, which is non-tribal. So there’s an evolutionary struggle there— the mythologies that gave us power have been hijacked and it keeps exploding. We’re using too much and expecting too much, and that’s a great tragedy. But you can go out in nature—even without the danger. Just sit in a canoe for three weeks and by the end of the first day those stories will diminish. By the end of three weeks, you’ll be living in a different headspace. Nature cleans us: A day is better than an hour, and five days is better than one and so on. But that’s one lesson people can take away from this book—nature will clean us out and give us purity.

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COURTESY OF JON TURK

ML: I think that is a good place to leave it—nature as salvation. Thanks, Jon. Hey, you mentioned that this will be your last book. Was that something you knew going in or did you realize that along the way? JT: Before I wrote my last book, I said it would be the last book. So we’ll see. You can call me a liar, just don’t hit me on the head.

ML: Fear not Jon Turk, we’re saving that manoeuvre for the attacking lions. Tracking Lions, Myth and Wilderness in Samburu is available now at jonturk.net. You can listen to a conversation with Jon that covers his books, adventures and a plethora of other topics on the new “Live It Up With Mountain Life” podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.


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ENVIRO

Navigating between seasons.

MAXIME LÉGARÉ-VÉZINA

MUTUAL CARE Rethinking our relationship with outdoor spaces

words :: Jim Stinson Throughout the pandemic, natural areas across the country have experienced a dramatic surge in interest and visitation as people have sought out the healing properties of nature as an antidote to the isolation of lockdowns. This trend has been fueled by a growing body of research and scientific evidence highlighting the physical, social and psychological benefits of engaging with the natural world. Researchers have shown that visiting, viewing, hearing and even smelling nature can help reduce risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer, boost our immune systems, reduce stress and support our mental health. Over the past 20 years, conservation organizations and parks agencies around the world have utilized this research to reposition and market parks and conservation areas as sites of health promotion. In 2000, Parks Victoria in Australia launched the Healthy Parks Healthy People (HPHP) movement, which aims to encourage the connections between a healthy environment and healthy society. In 2005, the Canadian Parks Council, a collaboration of all federal, provincial and

territorial park agencies across Canada, rolled out their own version of HPHP, Healthy by Nature, which was followed in 2014 by their Connecting Canadians to Nature campaign, aimed at promoting the health and well-being of Canadians through park visitation. Parks Canada now promotes health and wellness-focused activities and programming, including “forest bathing” and a Mood Walks program for mental health in Rouge National Urban Park. Ontario Parks launched their HPHP initiatives in 2015, and now offer free day use of provincial parks on Healthy Parks Healthy People day (July 16) as well as a range of health-related challenges designed to encourage park visitation and outdoor recreation. Ontario’s Conservation Authorities similarly encourage hiking as a form of health promotion through their Step Into Nature campaign. Most recently, BC Parks, and now Ontario, have rolled out a Parks Prescription (PaRx) program, which allows doctors to prescribe doses of nature to their patients. While there is a significant body of evidence showing the human health benefits of nature, it remains unclear how increasing human visitation to natural areas will support the health and well-being of nature. Over the last 10 years, the number of visitors to Canada’s 47


Cross fox in his natural element.

national parks has risen 30 per cent, from roughly 12 million to more than 16 million visitors per year. Provincial and regional conservation agencies have noted similar increases. As Parks Ontario noted in a recent Facebook post, their online reservation system has seen its highest volumes of traffic ever. On March 2, Ontario Parks reported more than 34,000 users logged on to the online booking system between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., representing a 200 per cent increase from the same day and time the previous year. There have been reports and rumours of bots being programmed to book large blocks of campsites for resale on secondary markets including Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace. Regional conservation authorities have been experiencing similar increases in visitation, with some, such as Grey Sauble, reporting at least a 50 per cent increase and warning of problems associated with “over-tourism.”

While this renewed focus on the health benefits of the natural world is a welcome development, we should be wary of nature simply being rebranded as a “service provider” from which we can consume health benefits... In reality, the interest and promotion of the health benefits of nature is putting more pressure on the already stressed environments of parks and conservation areas. A 2016 Parks Canada report (State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places) found that 46 per cent of national park ecosystems in Canada were in fair or poor condition. Throughout the pandemic, parks across Canada have faced issues with littering and waste disposal, with Ontario parks reporting widespread littering as well as overcrowded trails and backcountry campsites. Ontario Parks pointed out the problem on its Facebook page and website, posting pictures of trash piling up on beaches, parks, campgrounds and the on-

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MAXIME LÉGARÉ-VÉZINA

site washrooms. Another issue has been with traffic and parking, with popular parks, conservation areas and trailheads experiencing traffic jams and roadsides congested with vehicles. While this renewed focus on the health benefits of the natural world is a welcome development, we should be wary of nature simply being rebranded as a “service provider” from which we can consume health benefits in the same way we go to the pharmacy to buy medications. While conservation organizations promote the ethics and principles of Leave No Trace as a way to mitigate the environmental impacts of outdoor recreation, solely adhering to Leave No Trace guidelines is inadequate. In order to promote both human and environmental health and well-being when engaging with natural areas, we need to do more than Leave No Trace. We need to recognize and foster the reciprocal relationship between humans and the non-human world and engage with nature through an ethic of mutual care. On March 20, for example, youth from the Saugeen First Nation engaged in a 19-kilometre water walk to seek healing for their community from the effects of a serious opioid crisis. In this case, the youth did not seek to attain the health benefits of nature as consumers of a separate and external nature, but petitioned and prayed for healing through an act of stewardship and caretaking which recognized and respected the life-giving power of water that resides inside us all. A practical application of this ethic can be seen in growing instances of outdoor recreationists taking initiative to pick up litter along shorelines and hiking trails. As we emerge from the pandemic, a renewed emphasis and acknowledgement of the reciprocal relationship between human and non-human well-being could help us foster both healthy people and healthy environments for future generations.

James Stinson, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow, Planetary Health and Education, at the Dahdaleh Institute of Global Health Research and Faculty of Education, York University.



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BIOPHILIAC

THE ECOLOGY OF SNOW Snow has a more extensive resumé than just a medium for human fun

words :: Leslie Anthony By the time you read this, the freezing-level roller coaster of autumn may have already hastened the arrival of a winter wonderland to your neck of the woods. While that first snowfall might be short-lived, however, seeing the land transformed by a curtain of snow and sudden snowbanks brings more to mind for some of us than the surety of awesome skiing. There’s also the little-known ecology of the white stuff to consider—especially in these days of duelling biodiversity and climate crises. Across landscapes and over time, changes in snow-cover regimes and snowpack structure have widespread impact as an ecological factor, as well as on human well-being and economic issues like water availability, agriculture, transportation and winter recreation (did I already mention skiing?). As snow lovers, it should be incumbent on us to understand the massive influence snow exerts on Earth’s climate through its properties of high reflectivity, atmospheric cooling, insulation and water storage— each of which has outsized importance to the planet’s biological, hydrological and nutrient-cycling systems. Back in 2007, when the United Nations Environment Programme released a white paper on snow (the humour of which I’m sure they appreciated), the extent of snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere had already decreased 1.3 per cent per decade over the previous 40 years. At the time, climate models projected significant further decreases in snow cover by century’s end, with reductions of 60–80 per cent water equivalents in most midlatitude regions, reduced ice (but increased precipitation) in the Arctic, and rising snowline for many mountain regions. All of this is not only well underway 50 years earlier than expected, but rapidly accelerating.

Although the importance of snow as an ecological factor was recognized by science early in the 20th century, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the way snow shaped alpine plant communities, for instance, was analyzed. In the new millennium, experiments with snow have explored the effects of snow-cover depth and duration on plant communities and ecosystem processes. More recently, snowcover models have been applied to ecological issues like near-ground temperature regulation. Snow’s high albedo (that is, reflectivity) reduces net radiation, and also removes energy from the atmosphere in the form of heat. Thus, counterintuitively to some, snow both inhibits soil warming by preventing microbiological activity that would raise temperatures above 0˚C, and insulates, reducing temperature extremes in the undersnow zone known as the “subnivean cavity” where small mammals like voles, lemmings and mice remain active and protected from predators. In spring, with higher sunlight levels penetrating thinning snowpacks, plants in the subnivean’s humid snow greenhouse can start growing weeks before plants covered by deeper snow. As a physical medium, snow can both enhance landscape access for certain animals or inhibit access for others by being too deep or too soft. Snow can support animals like birds and small mammals with little trouble, but larger mammals like deer and moose experience critical snow depths above which they can’t move. This is why whitetailed deer in Ontario have been described as “yarding up” in lowsnow areas since the days of early settlement. Deer yards can be as small as a few hectares or as large as many square kilometres. Managed and mismanaged for at least a century, they’re better referred to as “deer winter-concentration areas.” 53


Snow itself is also a habitat for other life forms. The array of organisms found in and on both seasonal snow cover and glaciers include ice worms, bacteria, viruses, fungi, diatoms, rotifers, tardigrades, springtails, flies, spiders and algae that, with up to 5,000 cells per cubic millimetre, can colour snow red, blue or green. When organic matter becomes too abundant in snow it reduces its albedo, resulting in accelerated local melt and nutrient accumulation. You can most readily see this in spring: As snow melts, organic matter concentrates on the surface along with an entire insect food chain that together darken the snow and speed up the melt. With climate change this is happening earlier and faster in many places. Snow also accumulates debris from field and forest (e.g., seeds), plant nutrients (e.g., nitrogen), and atmospheric pollutants during the winter to be released or redistributed by spring melt; nitrogen release, for instance, results in a flush of moss growth, but in higher concentrations can also have negative effects. Tundra’s typically patchy spring snow cover affects both the breeding of ground-nesting migratory birds and the distribution of plant communities. Plant associations characteristic of hollows where snow accumulates have short growing seasons and are waterlogged after thaw, whereas those on wind-exposed ridges are more droughttolerant. Traditional knowledge among the Eurasian subarctic Saami people describes the influence of snow on the vertical distribution of lichen species on the trunks of birch trees, where one species grows exclusively above the winter snow line, another below it. Most importantly, mountain snow cover is a critical source of freshwater, changes to which can have indirect effects such as increased intensity and size of wildfires because of moisture stress on mountain 54

forests, or impacts on fish like salmon and steelhead that require high freshwater stream flow for migration to oceans/lakes after hatching. The more frequent winter thaws of our changing climate can also affect ecosystems, reducing snow insulation and increasing the potential for frost to penetrate into the soil and damage plant roots, or by sparking microbial activity that releases greenhouse gases like methane at a time when a plant’s uptake of carbon to offset this process cannot happen, leading directly to increased atmospheric carbon.

The array of organisms found in and on both seasonal snow cover and glaciers include ice worms, bacteria, viruses, fungi, diatoms, rotifers, tardigrades, springtails, flies, spiders and algae that, with up to 5,000 cells per cubic millimetre, can colour snow red, blue or green. The impacts on snow cover also apply to agricultural crops. Gradual changes, as well as extreme snow events, can have a strong impact at the start or end of the growing season and change the economic cost-benefit of raising certain crops. If it suddenly seems like snow has a more extensive resumé than as a simple medium for human fun, it does. So maybe the next time you’re out enjoying a big snowfall you could spare a thought for how important this phenomenon is to literally everything it touches.


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ATHLETE PROFILE

JODY WILSON

THE 900-KILOMETRE DASH Karen Holland smashes Bruce Trail record

words :: Molly Hurford If you’re a nature lover living in Ontario, you’ve likely hiked a chunk of the Bruce Trail. Maybe you’ve even done a few longer day hikes, or camped for a few nights as you hiked a full section of the 900-kilometre rugged trail that runs along the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory. While Karen Holland loves hiking the trail—it practically runs through her backyard in Kimberley—she prefers running it. In September, she did what only a few people have done: She ran the whole darn thing. And not only did she run it, she did so in recordsetting time, besting the existing women’s record and smashing the men’s record as well. How did the 34 year old make it through 900 km with thousands of metres of climbing in just under nine days? One step at a time. She started in Tobermory on Friday, September 3, and finished in the wee hours of Sunday morning the next week. While each section of the trail has hard moments, the easiest sections for Holland were the ones with the most climbing and some of the most technical terrain—because they’re home. “The day we were running in Beaver Valley and the Blue Mountain sections,” Holland says, “I felt like I had all my run friends from the area out and I know every single step of every single corner in these sections. With that knowledge, I felt like the day just went along as if I was on a training run that just happened to be in the middle of this epic adventure. It made the miles go by really quickly.”

Of course, that’s not to say it was all roses. There were dark moments, too: swollen legs, blistered feet and an ever-increasing fatigue. At times, every step, whether up, down or on flat ground, felt agonizing. But Holland had a mission: “I knew my A-goal was to go under the existing record of nine days and three hours,” she says. “I had mapped out roughly where I needed to end each day to hit that goal, and I came pretty close to those marks every single day. By the last day, I was able to start doing the math for how many kilometres per hour I had to do to finish in under nine days, and that made it easier to keep pushing on through that last night.”

“It’s a shared experience that you can’t replicate anywhere else.” But more important than the Fastest Known Time (FKT) was the experience of being joined by dozens of other runners along the way, including four past record holders. In fact, the former women’s record holder Chantal Demers even crewed for several days of the journey. “I feel like I’ve always found good friendships during times like these: The community and friendships that you build when you’re out there are the strongest that you probably can ever build,” Holland adds. “It’s a shared experience that you can’t replicate anywhere else.” @hollandontherun 57


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FOOD/DRINK

In Search of Lost Orchards Small-crop cidery spins palate-pleasing gold from forgotten trees

words & photos :: Kristin Schnelten Mark Skinner rattles off old-timer advice and patiently answers questions as he disappears into one tree after another, harvesting the crab apples that need to be harvested, like, now. Courtney is elsewhere in the orchard, helping a child or searching for a dog, while Mark briefly breaks the two-hand picking rule to entertain his daughter—who may or may not have lost all interest in this whole working thing about ten minutes before it began. Before the bin is full, they pack up (the dog found himself, it seems) and head home, where there’s a short thirty minutes to set up and open the doors at their cidery: a simple, crisp quonset hut just steps from their house. Mark and Courtney will take turns pouring flights this afternoon, answering tourists’ questions, pointing out the

floral hints and honey undertones that make each bottle unique. Harvest season is busy for any producer. But at Windswept Orchard Cider, autumn months are a non-stop marathon. Other than a few seasonal hired hands and some generous friends, it’s Mark and Courtney who pull apples, haul bins to press and back, formulate recipes and ferment juice into cider—then, over the next 12-18 months, bottle, label, deliver and serve. It’s their micro-scale that makes the hands-on approach possible. While other cideries can process 20,000 litres of juice a month, Windswept’s annual volume is little more than half that amount. And nearly all that cider begins in abandoned orchards. After relocating from the Guelph area to a 100-acre Meaford farm five years ago, Courtney and Mark quickly discovered it wasn’t feasible to access the plot of land slated for their large orchard. “It worked out, 59


though,” says Courtney. “A friend said, ‘Oh, friends have a property with an old orchard and they’d love to see the apples used; you should connect with them,’ and we did. As soon as we had one orchard, word of mouth took over and people would say, ‘Oh! You’re using old apple orchards! We have some apples!’ and it turned into this whole Lost Orchard project.”

Each vintage has subtle and not-so-subtle nuances, even to the untrained palate. Encouraged by the results from that first year’s ferments, they hit the farmers’ markets. Years of work on organic farms left them with contacts throughout the market circuit, and after setting up at multiple markets across the city every week they depleted their entire stock of cider within a few months. Four years and countless market days later, they now harvest between 15 and 20 acres from 6 to 7 locations (numbers fluctuate from year to year as older, wilder trees can become biennial producers or even move to a three-year cycle). The diversity of apples they press is broad: Within just a single variety, the flavour distinction can be marked from one older orchard to a younger one a mile away. With meticulously sorted apples, long fermentation times and continuous 60

experimentation, each vintage (or pommage in the cidery world)—from single-varietals to wild co-ferments—has subtle and not-so-subtle nuances, even to the untrained palate. Courtney and Mark first experienced small cideries in Normandy, France, more than a decade ago, fresh out of culinary school and working their way through Europe on organic farms. The farmhouse ciders, dry and lightly carbonated, were a part of their mid-day breaks, bottles to be shared with friends over an unhurried meal. “It was a turning point for us,” says Courtney. “We really found our inspiration there.” When Mark encountered these same European-style ciders while completing a cider production program at Cornell University, he had his ah-ha moment of, “Ya! Let’s do this!” Courtney realizes, “Eventually, without us knowing it or planning it, that experience in Normandy landed us here.” Settling into their collection of fallow orchards and planning now for a larger tasting facility and organic certification, they’re grateful to have found a home surrounded by other small cideries and wineries— each embracing a community spirit of supporting one another, especially in crazy times. Courtney reflects on the move: “If we’re going to be working 24/7, let’s at least be somewhere that’s not only great for the business, but is great for our family, too.”


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WHEEL WELL

BIKE TOWN From flow trails for beginners to the biggest jumps and steepest lines this side of the Rockies, Sault Ste. Marie is Ontario’s new MTB hub

words & photos :: Colin Field House Rock is a massive glacial erratic deposited atop one of the funnest downhill trails in Ontario. And in 2017 a couple of local crazies built a ramp to launch you on top of it, then off it again, over a gap and onto the landing. Watching Luke Watson (one of the trail builders) hit it over and over is freaking awesome. Even with ten local riders of incredible skill level standing around, he’s the only one hitting it. And I don’t blame anyone for skipping it. It’s a gnarly thing to see. Then we drop into the jump line. During the first 100 metres, it quickly occurs to me: Holy chromoly this is steep. Rolling over a rock I question how steep my bike will go before catapulting me. But I remain faithful and it’s all good. My suspension sucks up the terrain and I plummet downwards. It worked. This trail is awesome. I skid to the side of the next jump, a Survivor-looking bridge contraption. Then I watch the local trail builders hit it again and again. They’re so stoked to be riding. It’s seriously infectious. But this seems to be how it goes in Sault Ste. Marie: The people into riding are really into riding. The landscape is rugged and wild, creating tough riders ready for tough adventures. While Watson rarely

62

rides uphill, other masochists from the Soo tend to ride way farther than is normal. Jan Roubal, owner of the local bike shop Velorution, is an absolute animal. While I was there, he hosted a bike ride across the road from his house. One lap was 30 kilometres of singletrack; many people rode four laps. This summer, Jan also rode his gravel bike to Sudbury and back in one day. Well, kinda; it took him 30 hours to do the ride, so technically it took just over one day. “I get these kinds of ideas in my head and I just can’t let them go,” he says. While some choose to regularly do century rides, others build the biggest jumps and steepest lines this side of the Rockies. And many people fall somewhere between the two. Which means the calibre of rider in the Soo is high. ••• What I’m shown next is the Farmer Lake Area and the Darkside Trail on the north end of Hiawatha: a heinous, rocky, rooty downhill track complete with steeps, drops, jumps and rollers. It’s a terrifying roll through the rugged bush of the Canadian Shield. There are five-foot drops, machine-built berms and an over/under jump that defies reason.


ABOVE Jan Roubal taking the technical line at Hiawatha. BELOW Norm’s Cabin. BOTTOM Maggie Kirkwood.

But you know what the crazy part about this trail is? The city built it. So far the city has received $667,000 in funding from the federal government and the municipality. They hired the Quebec trail-building company Sentiers Boréals and they’ve been building (during the summer months) since 2020. Sentiers Boréals have built trails all over Quebec including at Mont-Saint-Joseph and Le Massif. The Soo’s master plan involves one large loop that will connect all the trails in the area, connecting the mountain bike trail networks and making them accessible from downtown. There are more enduro-style trails in the planning stages and they’ll be building a dirt pump track in 2022. And while the first track of theirs I see is terrifying (the Darkside Trail) they also built a jump/flow trail for kids and beginners that is an absolute hoot. We do laps over and over with a bunch of kids and parents and it’s obvious it will help the next generation of young riders to flourish. I watch artist-photographer Paula Trus, who would not really consider herself a mountain biker, ride through here on an ancient 26-inch bike and laugh out loud the entire way down. It’s a thing of beauty. •••

63


ABOVE Luke Watson jumping House Rock. BELOW Jan Roubal.

The landscape is rugged and wild, creating tough riders ready for tough adventures. When the guys from Red Pine Tours pick me up for an overnight mountain bike trip, I know we’ll get along; they’re wearing flannel shirts and jean shorts. And that’s their riding gear. While they tend to do ridiculously lengthy, self-punishing tours, they’re taking it easy on me. We head to Stokely Creek for the pièce de résistance of their packages: their bike glamping tour. We ride out to Norm’s Cabin where we’ll spend the night. And all our gear is delivered to the cabin so we don’t need to carry any of it. Stokely’s layout is similar to what you find at Hardwood Hills or Georgian Nordic: It began as a cross-country ski destination, but singletrack has slowly taken hold between the double track to create an endless network of trails. There are lots of painful, lung-punishing climbs but also a bunch of seriously fun descents and some amazing viewpoints like the one on top of King Mountain where you can see all the way to Lake Superior. After 12 kilometres of mixed single and double track we get to Norm’s Cabin. Situated on Bone Lake, the two-storey cabin is a perfect place to spend the night. One of the Red Pine guides is a brewmaster at the Soo’s OutSpoken Brewery and the other guide is the brewery owner. So we’ve soon cracked a couple cold Deadfall lagered ales and are cheersing the day’s accomplishments. The guys get to making dinner. It’s totally local: freshly caught “specks” (speckled trout), backyard-grown zucchini, locally raised ribs. The wood fire keeps us warm all night and the silence is absolute; we don’t see another person for about 16 hours. In the morning we do an adventure ride through a bog and back down to our vehicles at the Stokely parking lot. It’s another major lesson in what the region offers: really fun, challenging terrain, endless trail networks and a friendly crew of locals more than willing to share. It’s a perfect destination for a two-wheeled getaway. 64



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Almost 80% of the neighbourhood will be retained as forest and parkland. It’s a breathtaking setting Masterplanned to connect with Nature including stunning viewpoints, large ponds, two walking trails, and two streams, all sloping gently down to the Lake, just a few minutes’ stroll away. It’s perfectly placed between Blue Mountain Village and the beach. With the mountain at your back and the lake so close, there will be breathtaking views four seasons a year. How will Craigleith Ridge keep all this affordable? Through the common-sense solution to the affordability crisis: Land Lease, an established ownership option across Europe and the USA that is becoming more and more popular in Canada.

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BACKYARD

BACK TO THE SHACK A ski-propelled reconnection with family, tradition and le grand pic words :: Feet Banks // photos :: Aga Iwanicka March 2021. Ontario snow resorts are back open and shred season is holding steady, pushing back against spring’s inevitable approach. Most years, or at least most non-COVID years, thousands of Ontarians would have booked their tickets to B.C. for their annual real-mountain injection. And B.C.-based pros like Marie-Pier Préfontaine would generally be planning local missions to big lines that have finally filled in, booking tickets to Alaska or shredding pillow lines amongst the towering coniferous coastal rainforests. Instead, with international travel banned, MP heads east—to the spaced-out maple forests of Sainte-Adèle, Quebec, hauling fivegallon buckets of sugary maple water without spilling a drop. March is maple syrup season, and MP has returned to the homeland to help her 86-year-old grandfather at the sugar shack.

“It wasn’t a hard decision,” MP says. “The sugar shack is the most relaxing place in the world for me. Yes, March has great skiing but it’s just skiing. I love to spend time with my grandpa each year, working with him in the forest and watching the birds. Especially with the pandemic happening and the uncertainty, I felt it was really important to put my family first.” Grandpa Pierre Préfontaine has been working his maple forests since 2002. Throughout the year, he makes almost daily voyages out to the 16 x 16-foot wooden cabin with wood heat, no insulation, the requisite set of moose antlers nailed to the wall and the boiler system needed to transform the sap from hundreds of maple trees into a traditional eastern Canadian delicacy—pure maple syrup. March is the best month to harvest because air temperatures begin to rise in the daytime but still drop below freezing at night to create pressure that pushes the sap out of the trees. 69


“We work every day,” MP explains. “Grandpa Pierre has about 850 notches in his trees, all connected with tubes, so we go out and collect maple water for several hours, then relax in the sun and keep the fire stoked to boil the maple water until it’s ready. We’ll chat with neighbours, maybe have a crêpe with some cheap white wine—it’s a peaceful environment. When you have a hectic life, the shack allows you to breathe deeply and feel good again.” That sense of slowing down didn’t apply to the actual work process, however. This year, MP decided to use her touring skis to skin through the maple sap harvest routes rather than the more traditional snowshoe method. Coming from a skiing family (her mother, aunt and uncle all coach ski racing, and MP is an Olympian and ex-National Ski Team member), strapping on the boards in the forests of her homeland was a natural move.

“Grandpa Pierre says a lot about syrup making is just l'attente d’un grand pic [the wait for the pileated woodpecker]. It is the bird everyone wants to see…” “It was easy and more efficient,” she says. “It was way more fun bringing the buckets of sap back to the shack but also for just getting around, inspecting or repairing the lines, or carrying equipment from place to place. And most important, it made my grandpa smile. He was laughing at me at first, but it worked out. Next year, I might try to get him to bring his skis as well.” 70


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The process of making maple syrup is a huge part of Quebec culture, a tradition that brings families together to reconnect with one another and their history. Throughout the summer and autumn, maple trees store starch in their roots and trunks. As temperatures drop, that starch begins converting to sugar in the sap. Collected maple water needs to be boiled to evaporate the water and leave just the sugary syrup. It’s a process very conducive to quiet contemplation and connection to the forest, family and self. “About 150 litres of maple water yields one gallon of syrup,” MP explains. “That can take about two and half hours to boil off, and it has to be a very precise temperature—104 degrees Celsius.” While keeping the home fires burning exactly right, Grandpa Pierre and MP fill their downtime sitting on the deck of the shack he built by hand when she was a child. They tell stories, speaking softly while watching the birds. “The most exciting bird is the grand pic, the pileated woodpecker,” MP says. “Grandpa Pierre says a lot about syrup making is just l'attente d’un grand pic [the wait for the pileated woodpecker]. It is the bird everyone wants to see, but it only appears sometimes. We saw him just once, on our last day. He showed up and presented to us his stunning red feathers on his head, his silky black body. There was no time for a photo or video, I just whispered, ‘grand pic!’ and we sat silently to watch. It was like he knew we would be gone the next day. We caught a glimpse of the hidden white feathers under his wings as he flew off. It was a magical moment, my grandfather’s favourite… that is worth missing some pow turns for.”

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KNUTE’S CHALET A thick slice of ski heritage on the banks of the Beaver River

words & photos :: Kristin Schnelten In 1976, Knute Dohnberg bought a little ski chalet at the base of Beaver Valley Ski Club. It wasn’t much—an open main floor, bedroom upstairs, running water, some well-worn furniture. He paid just $18,000 for the place, which sat right on the bank of the Beaver River. “I was in my 20s then. I was single, too busy with girlfriends and skiing to care about a fancy house. The place was perfect for me at the time,” laughs Dohnberg. But he wasn’t just any young, single guy carving up the hill a day or two a week. Dohnberg had recently been hired as the club’s ski school director (a position he’d go on to hold for almost 15 years) and would eventually become both the general manager and director of marketing. Big Jim’s Ski and Rental Shop, a fixture at the hill for decades, was a side project for Dohnberg, as well. At a time when each Ontario ski area had its own

big personality, Knute Dohnberg was the man at Beaver Valley. Fifteen years prior to Dohnberg’s arrival at the club, back when it was just Beaver Valley Resort, Malcolm MacLean constructed three chalets on the edge of the river, just across the bridge from the main lodge. The centre chalet was a dining space for skiers as well as living quarters for the innkeeper and cook, Chris Parfree, who later became Beaver Valley’s first general manager. Guests of the matching cabins on either side—one for men

and one for women, bring your own sleeping bag—gathered at the centre chalet and its long, communal table. “It was very simple stuff, a sort of early, budget bed and breakfast,” says Dohnberg. After a particularly poor-weather winter, the owner threw in the towel, severing lots and selling the buildings separately. Howard Hawke purchased the larger centre chalet, then sold it to Bob Henderson before Dohnberg became the new owner, a young man now with his own permanent place to party. 75


TOP LEFT & BOTTOM RIGHT

“I always used pine, never drywall. I wanted to keep it as a true ski chalet.”

SUPPLIED BY KNUTE DOHNBERG

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“Those were really fun times,” he remembers. “Society just doesn’t give kids the opportunity to get into the same kind of trouble as we did back then.” When he did choose to settle down, Dohnberg and his first wife held their wedding ceremony on the river side of the chalet, and a horse and carriage carried guests to the lodge reception. A son followed a couple years later, and two major additions to the chalet made room for the growing family. “I did all kinds of renovations over the years, but kept the integrity of the place. I always used pine, never drywall,” says Dohnberg. “I wanted to keep it as a true ski chalet.” For 43 years Dohnberg cared for his winter home—adding a dormer or two here, three or four dormers there. But

SUPPLIED BY KNUTE DOHNBERG

maintaining the ski-chalet vibe is what eventually led to its sale. “We wanted to move to the area permanently, but with little storage and no garage, we decided to move down the road to Markdale,” says Knute. “People always say to me, I can’t believe you sold that place! But hey, life changes.” The new owners fully embrace its story. The son of charter member David Byers, Ted and Dorothy Byers had been renting near the club for years. “We always said that if the right place came along, we would seriously consider it. This chalet is the right place,” says Dorothy. “We’re thrilled to be the guardians of this historical site.” The Byers welcomed their grandchildren to the chalet this winter, adding a fourth generation to their own family’s history on the hill.


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TOP & BOTTOM RIGHT

“I think it speaks to the atmosphere of the place, really. I sold to people who appreciate what I appreciated as a skier,” says Dohnberg. “They replaced my photos with

SUPPLIED BY KNUTE DOHNBERG

Eventually asked to choose between the many hats he wore at the club, Dohnberg is now a trainer at Beaver Valley’s snow school, content with the eight-minute commute from his new

“Those were really fun times. Society just doesn’t give kids the opportunity to get into the same kind of trouble as we did back then.” their photos, but other than that it’s exactly the same. They love it just the way it is.” “I do miss sitting on the deck, listening to the river, watching the water go by,” he admits. “But the Byers and I have become good friends, and I stop by from time to time for a beer.”

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Markdale home. One artifact that made its way there from the chalet is a large crest from the exterior that reads, “Knute’s Ski Chalet.” “It’s not a home, and it’s not a cottage. It’s a ski chalet,” he says. “I’m at peace with no longer being there, and I’m really pleased that the right people bought it.”


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The locals rip! Halaina Poldmaa-Rask dropping a knee.

Ski & Snowboard The Soo words & photos by Colin Field Dropping in, we flow through the trees in kneedeep snow. The locals ride and ski through the woods like water down a stream: effortlessly. Their movements are beautiful to watch. We’re all whooping with joy; it’s impossible not to. We absolutely nailed the conditions today: blower Lake Superior-affected powder. And lots of it. We reach the bottom and without even speaking I ski through the non-existent lift line and hop right back on the chair. Glorious. Friends be damned, it’s a powder day. With a vertical drop of 700 feet and an average snowfall of 132 inches, Searchmont Resort is the underdog of Ontario’s ski resorts. There’s no Starbucks at the base lodge. You can’t buy

a Canada Goose jacket in the pro shop and

Not only that, the owners that took over in

there are no waterslides or amusement parks.

2018 have invested in a new restaurant called

But that’s part of its charm. It’s a ski hill. You

the Kiln and the new Caribou Cafe, and their

come here to ski (or snowboard obviously).

villas are being completely rebuilt, both inside

And that’s what everyone is here to do.

and out. Hopefully they’re ready for this season. And perhaps most importantly, they’ve

While Searchmont didn’t open in the winter of

upgraded their snowmaking capability.

2020/21, they’re stoked to fire up the chairlifts and get those bull wheels turning again

“In 2019 we had our earliest start ever, on

in 2021/22.

December 7. It was partly because of those new snowmakers. Hopefully the weather co-

“There’s a lot going on,” says media coordi-

operates so we can have a good start to the

nator Darren Sanderson. “We’re replacing our

season this year too.”

old double lift with a new triple and we are building a brand new triple, which will also

Amen to that. Come on Ullr!

feed into two new runs. Our goal is to make it so there’s more of a transition between our

If you’re up in the Soo on a day when Search-

learning centre and the main runs.”

mont isn’t open (they’re open Wednesday


through Sunday) and want to recreate the win-

want. And when your legs finally give out, Enn’s

they had the hills all to themselves. But this

ter of 2020/2021 (by earning your turns) then

sauna will cure all that ails you; it’s hot! It’s the

fall they’ll be out there glading once again and

Bellevue Valley Lodge is a must. Robin Mac-

perfect way to cure your lactic acid buildup and

they’re ready to share turns and good times

Intyre and partner Enn Poldmaa have been

somersaulting into the snow will have you ready

with guests again this winter.

quietly glading runs up here for more than

to click into your skis all over again.

30 years. This is the epicentre of backcoun-

“We’re the only backcountry lodge in Ontario,”

try skiing in Ontario. The 2,000 acres in their

Without a doubt I’ve had some of my best turns in

says Poldmaa. “And after taking a year off,

backyard feature 20 runs all with about 700

Ontario with Enn. And getting to watch him ski is

we’re pumped to get back at it!”

feet of fall line. With an Airbnb on the property,

inspirational; at 69 years old the guy is a freaking

you can ski in and ski out for as long as your

workhorse. Seeing him come down in waist-deep

And I for one am pumped to get back up to

legs will allow.

powder, linking one beautiful telemark turn after

Sault Ste. Marie, to Bellevue and Searchmont.

another, I get goosebumps. If I can ski half as Simply get up, eat breakfast, drink coffee and

well at his age, I’ll consider this a life well-lived.

ski. For fresh tracks, there’s no rush to beat the

While they didn’t open in the winter of 2020/21

locals; you can get out as early or as late as you

that didn’t stop Enn and friends from skiing;

Note: Sault Ste. Marie Tourism sponsored Colin Field’s trip.


GALLERY

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Matt Wilcox, Blue Mountains area.

MITCHELL HUBBLE

83


Cameron Lawrence on Tiny Bubbles (5.11a) Old Baldy/Kimberley Rock.

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KRISTIN SCHNELTEN


Midori Buechli on the boulder problem BFF (V10), Niagara Glen.

WILL TAM

85


Brenna Mitchell, Muskoka.

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MITCHELL HUBBLE


Kyle Easby, Blue powder day.

COLIN FIELD

87


Jeremy Lavigne riding off into the sunset, Slayer horns and all...

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COLIN FIELD



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BACK PAGE

THE OLD SKI BOWL words :: Steven Threndyle illustration :: Lorne Craig This is the story of the Kincardine Ski Bowl, where I learned to ski from 1971 to 1973. Like hundreds of other ski hills, it’s no longer in operation. In the scheme of things, the Ski Bowl was a pretty forgettable place. So forgettable, in fact, that my attempts to find photographs— my own, or from others—turned up nothing. There are practical reasons for that. As the Bowl’s former part-time manager John Kloosterboer says, “Film was expensive in the 1970s.” And it’s true—affluent parents seldom took their precious cameras to the hill, let alone gave them to a bunch of unruly high-schoolers. (Teenagers without camera phones. Like I said, it was a long time ago.) Memories are all that’s left. The hill, in this case, was a 150-foot cut bank of the Penetangore River in Bruce County, about eight kilometres north of my hometown of Kincardine. The Ski Bowl was where I developed my passion for skiing. There were larger and more expensive hills farther afield, but the Ski Bowl was cheap in a way that’s unimaginable today. Many of the workers at the nearby Bruce Nuclear Generating Station could probably put in one hour of work and buy a pass, as it was only $10. For the entire season. A day in the life of skiing there consisted of very little more than yo-yoing up and down the rope-tow slope. The two main runs to the left and the right of the tow were unremarkable, but there was an opening in a copse of evergreens that I’d sneak into. (The homemade sign on the tree read “Wood Trail.”) The crux came halfway down, where you had to make an off-camber turn, duck under a fallen tree and then pop out the other side about 50 vertical feet above the tow. It could be exhilarating, especially later in the season when the gap between tree and snow shrunk. In my mind, it was like going under the train trestle on the Lauberhorn. We took a school trip one day during the week. More than a foot of fresh snow had fallen since Sunday (the Bowl was only open to the public on weekends) and there were maybe a dozen of us on the hill. Mike Milne, whose father “Doc” had donated the funds to buy the engine and rope tow, said, “To ski untracked snow, you have to keep 98

your knees together and kinda pump your legs.” Four floating turns later and I was a powder virgin no more. “You were making some pretty good parallel turns there,” Mike said. I was bursting with pride—stoked, even. Mike was a few years older than the rest of us and his family belonged to Beaver Valley Ski Club. He owned metal-edge skis. A desire to replicate this feeling grew stronger, leading to my discovery of a short descent several hundred metres south of the rope tow. Back in the days of spring-loaded heel cables, it was easy to clomp forward as though you were on a flatland NordicTrack, and in a few minutes I was in a sheltered opening amongst a grove of evergreens where prevailing westerlies deposited wayward snow. Some days it was great—well, as great as a five-turn run can possibly be. I was so stupidly keen that once I got my driver’s license, I’d head out on that muddy country road to ski after the hill closed for the season, traversing and herringboning from bottom to top.

In the scheme of things, the Ski Bowl was a pretty forgettable place. So forgettable, in fact, that my attempts to find photographs—my own, or from others—turned up nothing. There was a rustic warming hut looker’s left of the rope tow. Depending on the firewood pile and who was stoking the stove, after five minutes you almost felt like stripping down and rolling around in the snow to cool off. The kettle was always hissing, and Carnation hot chocolate packets cost a dime. An old issue of Ski Canada magazine featured a cover photo of a fellow wearing a big pack and a jaunty cap skiing down a wide-open glacier. “Heli-skiing in the Bugaboos” was the title. Like outgrowing a pair of boots, I can’t recall the final day I skied at the Kincardine Ski Bowl and moved on. The Milne family began inviting me over to Beaver Valley on weekends. I’d con my mother to drive me to Georgian Peaks and Blue Mountain, where I rode chairlifts with people who had skied in the Alps, or in Banff or Whistler! The Ski Bowl couldn’t survive continuously warm winters, dwindling enthusiasm and—I’m guessing, here—mechanical upgrades and liability insurance. But it served its purpose: On this small hill, I could fantasize about how the future might unfold. First tracks, outstanding vistas, new friends and a lifetime pursuing that weightless, floating sensation we all crave lay ahead.


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