Workplace Mental Health

The Changing Landscape in Backcountry Lodges

Since the emergence and ultimate retreat of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a great deal of focus on workplace mental health and well-being for employees across all industries within the province. COVID-19 has had a permanent effect on how the hospitality and tourism industry trains and cares for its people.  During the pandemic, travel restrictions and border closures, changing public health orders, quarantine measures, risk and exposure to illness, frequent documentation for new hygiene protocols, and access to quality Personal Protective Equipment all impacted organizational culture, social supports and changing expectations for staff in the industry.

But what unique factors within remote backcountry settings may make prioritizing employee mental health and well-being challenging? How might we promote stress resilience and well-being amongst our teams as we emerge from the pandemic?

Foremost, the nature of our work defies the conventional 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday routine. Irregular hours and extended shifts are par for the course, with seasonal fluctuations adding another layer of complexity to our schedules.  

Moreover, the remote and sometimes difficult conditions of lodge life can contribute to heightened levels of stress and anxiety. The isolation lack of social interaction, and especially when separated from family and friends, can amplify social and emotional issues among our teams. Being separated from broader community support systems for extended periods can take a toll on mental health, particularly for those predisposed to it.

Transitioning to and from the remote lodge environment can also pose adjustment difficulties, requiring workers to adapt to vastly different living and working conditions as they return home to their communities.

In some cases, workers may turn to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism. In many cases, the culture of having a drink as a way to relax and decompress from work has long been a part of the culture of the hospitality and tourism space. The lines between social substance use and dependence can quickly become blurred. Living and working in close quarters with the same group of co-workers can also lead to interpersonal conflicts, exacerbating psychosocial stress.

For workers in high-risk industries like backcountry guiding or avalanche forecasting, traumatic incidents or accidents in remote areas can lead to high levels of operational stress injuries. Moreover, accessing mental health resources can be challenging in remote lodges and rural, tourism-dependent communities, where options may be more limited.

Research shows that when teams have a supportive social ethos, clear leadership and structure, and mental health and wellbeing support woven into the organization’s fabric, staff performance improves immediately.

One model for thinking about how to better manage teams that work in a stressful environment is the 13 factors of psychological health and safety in the workplace, created by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) as best practices for supporting the mental health and psychological safety of workers in various professional sectors.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic (an incredibly volatile and unpredictable time for tourism), it is imperative that we not only recognize our pivotal role in driving the success of our industry but also prioritize the well-being of our workforce. Utilizing frameworks like the 13 factors addressing unique psychosocial challenges, and providing access to necessary support systems, we can ensure a healthier and more resilient workforce, ultimately enhancing organizational performance and upholding the standards of excellence synonymous with backcountry hospitality and tourism. 

This may look like offering staff access to mental health literacy training, improved communication strategies, critical incident stress management and promoting stress resilience within our teams. By offering our staff the necessary space for focused debriefs, reconnection and respectful communication, we are taking small, but important steps towards improving the overall experience of our staff and guests as they live, work, and recreate together in the backcountry. 

About the Author:
Lexie (she/her) is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC)  based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Montira Mental Health was born out of Lexie’s own experience as a hospitality manager at different backcountry lodges across British Columbia. Today, Lexie works to fill the gaps she observed by providing specialized mental health support for those employed within the hospitality and adventure tourism space. 
Find out more here: Montira Mental Health.

Experience Mother Earth

Reconnecting with Nature

Listening to a CBC What on Earth episode with Laura Lynch on Feb 4th, 2024 (42:45 mins), I was reminded of discussions in the classroom when I taught an Environmental issues class at Thompson Rivers University. The student conversations about climate change and feelings of hopelessness or helplessness were similar to the student experiences described in the CBC interview with Jason Brown, an instructor and researcher in the Department of Humanities, the School of Resource and Environmental Studies at SFU. Students question their own destiny, whether to have children or not and the relevance of finishing a degree when their future may be slipping away. As a professor and a baby boomer, I found these conversations of helplessness and eco-anxiety about the future heartbreaking. After all, I was privileged to be born in the ’60s when the idea of climate change was not a daily topic of conversation, nor was it an immediate threat to my future.

My generation of baby boomers reaped the benefits of nature and propped up the neoliberal ideology and capitalist systems that regard consumption and growth as the formula for well-being. In this context, nature is regarded as something outside of ourselves, something we are not part of. The result is a complete unravelling of ecological and cultural connections to nature.  

As Robert Pyle (1993) points out, “one of the greatest causes of ecological crisis is the state of personal alienation from nature in which many people live” (pg. 145). This ever-increasing alienation from the natural world results in an “extinction of experience”. The consequence of this embodied alienation not only impacts individual health but also frames our connections with and behaviour towards nature. (Baldwin, 2018). Part of the student’s frustration is knowing that we must consume and behave differently. Yet, they see other generations, community members and political leaders still oblivious to or unwilling to recognize the need for change. The dominant narrative stays the same.

Addressing current climate change problems seems daunting on a global scale today, but there is a growing movement to rebuild our understanding of and relationship with nature at the local level. When we connect with nature in the places where we live, work, and play, the importance of our interconnectedness with nature becomes more evident. Creating a sense of connection to place also facilitates and empowers community members across generations to engage in conversations of care that often result in action-oriented initiatives.

On the Canadian Government’s Citizen Science portal, numerous science projects are happening in local communities that welcome citizen participation in documenting wildlife observations, weather patterns, and pollinator species, to name a few. The projects combine the benefits of being in nature and advancing the collective knowledge of the many ways species and ecosystems respond to various impacts.

On the PaRx website, hosted by the B.C. Parks Foundation research indicates that kids and adults who spend more time in nature are happier and healthier. The PaRx prescriptions for nature is Canada’s first national initiative to promote prescribing time in nature for lifelong health benefits. Time spent in nature can also enhance efforts to restore care between people and the natural services we take for granted. Nature also needs our care and attention; action-oriented initiatives at the local level can be empowering. 

Over the years, B.C Parks has used revenue from the B.C. Parks Licence Plate Program to fund community-led conservation and recreation projects. As visitation to our parks increases, the need for more conservation efforts also increases. According to the BC Parks Blog, over 90 community-led projects supported BC parks in 2023, and demand for funding in communities is increasing. Projects include marine debris cleanup, species monitoring, trail maintenance, education programs and eco camps, to name a few.

Numerous non-profit organizations, clubs, community groups and neighbourhood associations seek to engage students and the broader community in collective actions to deal with the impacts of climate change. The value of engagement at the local level is knowing we are in this together.  As we navigate an uncertain future, it is often easier to have hope if we are part of local community initiatives that strengthen our connections to place. It is hard to care about something if you don’t feel like you are a part of it, and that includes nature.

“Remember how beautiful things can be when you pay attention”Student quote, 2018

Robin Reid
Retired Associate Professor, Tourism Management Department
Faculty of Adventure, Culinary, Arts and Tourism
Thompson Rivers University

Leave No Trace-Canada

Belongs in the backcountry

Fresh snow is a gift in many ways. As a skier, the one I like the best is how it wipes the slate clean. With a snap of Jack Frost’s fingers, the slopes can go from tracked up to pristine.

The one downside: I think these resets change our perception of our impact on the environment. When there’s no snow our footprint is often, literally, obvious. We leave tracks and break branches. When we drop something, it sits there waiting to be picked up. But in the winter, our tracks will disappear with the next snowfall and, later, melt away. Vegetation is safely cushioned below the snow. And drop a wrapper or an orange peel in the snow and it can quickly disappear.

I think that’s why many people don’t think of Leave No Trace (LNT) during the winter. LNT’s seven principles outline guidelines for minimizing impact while recreating, camping and travelling responsibly. The concepts were developed by federal land managers in the United States in response to increased use of backcountry areas during the 1960s and ‘70s and formalized by the Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics in 1999. The U.S.-based non-profit now works to educate the public, conduct research and promote the message. There are LNT chapters in countries around the world, including the volunteer-run Leave No Trace/Sans Trace Canada (LNTC).

LNTC is increasingly promoting the principles beyond the backcountry to everywhere and all seasons. They have always guided operations at backcountry lodges. LNT principles are integral to creating an atmosphere of immersion in the mountain environment. They’re why remote lodges minimize their garbage and switch to renewable power or invest in wildlife stewardship. And LNT is a core ethic to any wilderness guiding, including in winter.

A few years ago, the grassroots non-profit Winter Wildlands Alliance worked with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to tweak the seven principles into a winter-specific code of ethics. The result goes beyond minimizing impact to a general guideline for approaching any day in the winter backcountry.

1. Plan and prepare
It’s number one because proper planning prevents poor performance. The first principle helps with all the following ones. It starts with who you’re going with, where you’re going and what to expect, including reading guidebooks and trip reports, bringing a map and navigation aids, checking forecasts, knowing rules and access restrictions, and packing for the weather, conditions and emergencies. Winter adds avalanche knowledge, including bringing and knowing how to use safety gear. With a busier backcountry, it’s also about dispersing: travelling in small groups and at less crowded destinations.

2. Travel on durable surfaces
More important in the summer is usually about avoiding walking and camping on sensitive vegetation. When there are more than 15 centimetres of snow, which is enough to protect the most sensitive vegetation, the principle shifts to picking safe routes away from dangers like avalanche paths, cornices and open creeks. It’s still worth considering vegetation, particularly in shallow snowpacks.

3. Dispose of waste properly
The only thing you should leave in your wake is ski tracks. Pack out any trash, including wax shaving and fruit peels and cores. It takes years for them to break down, especially in mountain environments. When it comes to human waste, bury it at least 20 big steps from regular travel routes and at least 70 steps from creek beds and lake shores. Avoid peeing on lakes and in gullies.

4. Leave what you find
This one speaks to the whole idea of LNT: to allow the next person to have the same experience as you. Don’t collect plants, rocks, or historical or cultural artifacts so the next person can enjoy them as well.

5. Minimize campfire impacts
In the summer this is about campfire scars and forest fires. In the winter, think of it as a nudge to use stoves, lanterns and headlamps. If you are going to have a winter campfire, only use dead and downed wood that’s smaller than your wrist. Burn it to ash and spread the ash around. This is also a good point to add to cabin etiquette. Always leave huts and cabins better than you found them and don’t leave food or trash behind.

6. Respect wildlife
Winter is one of the hardest times for wildlife. Disturbing them forces them to burn more calories and can move them away from their prime habitat. Observe from a distance and never feed them. Dogs are man’s best friend, but the same can’t always be said for wildlife. It’s best to leave dogs at home.

7. Be considerate of others
As the backcountry gets busier, the final principle is becoming increasingly important. It starts with how you park and step aside when taking a break. It extends to holding back on the yodelling and wearing earbuds. Some people like the music on the track, but crazy as it may seem, not everybody wants to hear the Barbie soundtrack. This respect extends to landowners, both public and private. Ask permission and obtain the right permits before entering.

With these principles in mind, I find myself better prepared and having more fun on my ski days. Especially those special fresh snow days.

Written by Ryan Stuart – @Ryan_Adventures

What Is An Old-Growth Forest

What is an old-growth forest?

BC is home to some of the world’s last remaining old-growth temperate rainforests which contain some of the largest and oldest living organisms on Earth. Trees here can grow up to 300 feet tall and 20 feet wide and live to be upwards of 2,000 years old! The world’s largest western red cedar, the Cheewhat Giant; the world’s largest Douglas-fir, the Red Creek Fir; and the country’s largest Sitka spruce, San Jo’s Smiley, are all found on Vancouver Island, BC. These forests are critically important ecologically, economically, and culturally and are not replicated by the second-growth tree plantations that are fast replacing them.

Why are old-growth forests important?

  • They’re home to unique wildlife and biodiversity, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
  • Provide clean water for communities, wild salmon & other wildlife.
  • Store vast amounts of atmospheric carbon to help fight climate change.
  • Support First Nations’ cultural values.
  • They are pillars of BC’s tourism industry.
  • They are important for human health and well-being.

What is the state of old growth in BC?

Old-growth forests were once abundant in British Columbia, but after more than a century of aggressive logging, less than 8% of the original, productive old-growth forests (sites that produce big trees) remain in BC today. Shockingly, these magnificent forests continue to be cut down to the tune of tens of thousands of hectares each year. The endangered old-growth forests that remain are a global treasure in urgent need of protection.

What conservation progress has been made?

Under relentless pressure from the Ancient Forest Alliance, the BC government has recently taken some great steps toward protecting old-growth forests after decades of mismanagement. These include appointing an independent science panel that identified 2.6 million hectares of the most at-risk old-growth forests that should be deferred from logging while long-term conservation plans can be developed; launching a 300-million-dollar conservation financing mechanism to support the creation of new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (this is key, as the support of local First Nations governments is a legal necessity for old-growth protection); committing to double the protected areas in BC from 15% to 30% by 2030; and most recently, signing a landmark BC Nature Agreement with the federal government and First Nations Leadership Council which will see over a billion dollars aimed toward the conservation, stewardship, and restoration of lands in British Columbia — a historic leap in the right direction! These are profound, game-changing achievements that deserve to be celebrated.

What still needs to be done?

Some critical policy and funding gaps remain that the province must address. These include making sure that conservation financing funds are now linked to protecting the most at-risk old-growth forests through “ecosystem-based targets.” Conservation financing should also be directed toward supporting sustainable economic development in First Nations communities in place of old-growth logging jobs and revenues. Short-term “solutions space” funding is also needed to help offset potential lost revenues for First Nations to help enable the deferral of the most at-risk old-growth forests in their unceded territories. Finally, any new protected area designations created by the province must also maintain proper standards and permanency (i.e. no commercial logging, mining, etc.).

Where can I visit old-growth forests?

On Vancouver Island, the town of Port Renfrew has become known as the “Tall Trees Capital of Canada.” It’s home to the famed Avatar Grove, Big Lonely Doug, Eden Grove, the Red Creek Fir, and other fabulous forests to visit. For the more adventurous traveller, the nearby Walbran and Carmanah Valleys offer incredible rainforest getaways. Cathedral Grove, en route to Port Alberni, is Canada’s most famous and visited old-growth forest, with its towering Douglas-fir trees and beautiful redcedars. Around Vancouver, be sure to check out some of the old-growth trails in Stanley Park and Lighthouse Park. For those in the interior of BC, Ancient Forest Provincial Park outside of Prince George is a wonder to behold!

How do I get involved?

The Ancient Forest Alliance is always looking for the support of individuals, groups, and businesses across the province as we lead the push to protect endangered old-growth forests. We encourage people to visit our website to learn more and join our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest pictures, videos, and stories! You can also search and follow us on our social media channels, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

After more than a decade of hard work, our efforts are starting to pay off in major ways, so join us as we work to finally preserve these ancient and irreplaceable ecosystems for generations to come!

Written by TJ Watt – Ancient Forest Alliance

Politics of Place

How do we reframe the conversation of sustainability?

In 1996, my Master’s Thesis at the University of Calgary explored the concept of sustainability. It included terms in the glossary such as biodiversity crisis, ecological sustainability, ecosystem management, landscape and resource approaches and Western value systems. I look back on this work and ask myself, have we made any progress in understanding what we are trying to sustain? 

In the early 1990s, when writing the thesis, global warming and climate change were not part of the mainstream narrative. Nor were the scientific warnings that humanity would be approaching the limits of a finite planet by the 21st century. Perhaps this was because we were focused on a conventional, unsustainable expansionist worldview in which nature was valued as a resource for human use. Today, the dualist set of values that separate humans from the natural world, normalized in modern society, is devastatingly affecting the planet’s ability to support humanity.

While the concept of sustainability has been around for a very long time, it was in 1987 when the Bruntland report coined the term “sustainable development,” giving impetus to economic conditions and opportunities to protect the environment and meet the needs of current and future generations. Within this context, balancing the social, economic, and ecological dimensions of sustainable development was deemed necessary to address the problematic development trajectory that humanity was pursuing.  

However, for the past three decades, economic valuation systems focused on short-term growth and profit maximization have needed to catch up in accounting for the value of a healthy planet and the well-being of humanity over the long term. The result is that we are currently pushing up against the limits of a finite planet with only a tiny window of time to correct our trajectory and embrace a world in which we wish to live now and in the future.

Where do we go from here? While the political dimension of sustainability is not highlighted in the literature, it is an essential consideration if we are serious about pursuing sustainability as a framework for the future. The political decisions made today about safeguarding biodiversity, ecosystem health and species at risk need to be actionable locally to avoid the devastating outcome of the sixth extinction at the global level.

As many have suggested, there is still time to turn things around, but it will require transformative change – a paradigm shift. This is not without complications, as many societies and institutions globally and locally have different understandings of sustainability as a concept and how it should be achieved. Let’s face it: sustainable development is a muddy term open to interpretation. Fundamentally, questions of what we value and what we want to sustain play an important role in understanding and improving our planetary conditions.            

In December 2022, countries gathered in Montreal at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) to finalize a global agreement to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. In Canada, only two provinces, Quebec and British Columbia, have committed to protecting 30% of their provincial land base by 2030.  

The nearly million square kilometres of B.C is not mapped correctly or understood. How can we make good decisions about habitat protection and biodiversity if we don’t know what is happening in the landscape holistically? To address this concern, the province of British Columbia allocated $38 million in April 2023 to support a LiDAR data-based mapping program of landscapes for all of B.C. While a more modern mapping tool is helpful, it is only as good as the following political decisions. For too long, B.C. has prioritized timber supply over other values on the land base, such as ecosystem protection or species at risk.

If we are serious about meeting the goals of biodiversity, ecosystem resiliency, species at risk and mitigating climate change, we must rethink land use decisions. Adopting a landscape approach that prioritizes biodiversity and ecosystem health requires better communications across governments, ministries, communities, and industries. In other words, we need to include the right people at the table.

The recently signed historic, tripartite agreement between the BC government, Federal government, and First Nations leaders, valid until 2030 and supported by $1 billion in joint funding, will hopefully transform how land use decisions are made in B.C. The agreement includes commitments to conserve enough old-growth forests “to support the recovery of 250 spotted owls and restore 140,000 hectares of degraded habitat within the next two years” (The Narwhal). This agreement is significant and timely in supporting commitments to protect 30 percent of the land base in B.C. by 2030. It also highlights the importance of money, partnerships, and political will in transforming the direction of biodiversity and ecosystem health decisions.  

In 2023, I am hopeful that we are finally on the path to overhauling how land is managed in B.C., and a new collaborative framework will result in a paradigm shift that values nature conservation.    

Robin Reid
Retired Associate Professor, Tourism Management Department
Faculty of Adventure, Culinary, Arts and Tourism
Thompson Rivers University

Living Lakes Canada

A changing landscape: High elevation fieldwork at Talus Lodge

The summer of 2023 is unfolding as predicted with dire drought conditions worsening across most of British Columbia. The early, rapid snowmelt combined with a hot, dry May set the stage for what’s already declared the worst wildfire year on record in B.C. and across Canada.

According to the provincial government’s zero to five drought level rating system, 82% of B.C. watersheds are sitting at drought level 4 or 5, meaning negative impacts on communities and ecosystems “likely” or “almost certain”. Evidence of drought is seen in increasing water restrictions, low flows in rivers and streams, stranded fish, extreme fire danger, and severe wildfires.

How are alpine headwaters impacted and what does this mean for human communities and ecosystems? Living Lakes Canada’s High Elevation (HE) Monitoring Program aims to help answer these questions. After a successful pilot year in 2022, the program is expanding throughout the East and West Kootenays in 2023, with six stream and nine lake monitoring sites.

Select lodges with the Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association (BLBCA) are working with the program to collect valuable alpine data by hosting climate stations, sharing snowpack data, and supporting lake monitoring efforts. On a recent fieldwork trip to Talus Lodge, a participating BLBCA lodge, the HE team witnessed the impacts of climate change. 

Situated on the Continental Great Divide, Talus Lodge stands at an altitude of 2,300 metres amongst a scattering of small alpine lakes. This year, the ice melted off the lakes three weeks earlier than usual, making it the earliest ice-off recording of the last six years. Anecdotally, the lodge’s staff spoke about enjoying early summer ski turns last July, whereas this July the slopes are bare. An archival photo from 1916 shared with the HE team shows a glaciated basin behind Talus Lodge. Today, there are little remnants of this glacier. 

Left: Photo provided by Mountain Legacy Project.  Right: Although this photo was taken at a lower vantage point, you can see that the glacier has all but disappeared at the back of the basin. LLC Photo. 

During this field trip, the HE team installed monitoring equipment at both the north and south Talus Lakes. This included level and barometric loggers near the shore to measure changes in water level. To measure changes in light and water temperature, pendants were suspended between an anchor at the deepest part of the lake and a buoy floating at the surface. The data collected will inform watershed management and support climate adaptation strategies. All the data is housed on the Columbia Basin Water Hub database. 

The HE Monitoring Program has also launched a citizen science project with the Alpine Club of Canada. Anyone can help by joining the High Elevation Monitoring Program – Living Lakes Canada project on iNaturalist and uploading pictures of flora and fauna they spot within the program’s monitoring locations. These include Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, Fletcher Lakes, Fishermaiden Lake, Macbeth Icefields, Ben Hur Lake and Shannon Lake in the West Kootenays and Talus Lakes in the East Kootenays. This project is creating a valuable inventory of plant and animal species to better understand climate impacts on alpine biodiversity.

Learn more by visiting the HE Monitoring Program page. For questions, contact the High Elevation Program Manager at heather.shaw@livinglakescanada.ca.

Living Lakes Canada is a national non-profit organization based in the B.C. Columbia Basin working towards the long-term protection of Canada’s freshwater.

Contact – Nicole Trigg, Communications Director – 250.409.4433 nicole@livinglakescanada.ca

Summer Arrives Early

BLBCA member lodges are transitioning early

With warm weather upon us, many lodges are already open. Don’t miss your chance to grab a spot and get your headstart on a thrilling BC summer.

As the days get warmer and the snow melts away, members of the Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association (BLBCA) are preparing for the upcoming summer season. This involves long hours of hard work, planning, and preparation to ensure that visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience.

The first priority of the BLBCA is to ensure that the lodges are safe and comfortable for guests. Members of the BLBCA inspect the buildings for any damage caused by the winter weather. They check electrical systems, plumbing, and other mechanical components to ensure that everything is functioning properly. Additionally, they ensure that furniture, bedding, and other amenities are in good condition, clean and well-maintained.

An essential job of the lodge staff is to ensure that hiking trails are secure and free of obstacles. They carefully remove any downed trees or obstructions in the path, repair damage caused by erosion, and update trail signs for hikers. Lodge staff keep an eye on animal behaviour and may close off some areas or trails if necessary. This helps to ensure the safety of visitors and wildlife while allowing people to enjoy their adventure.

In addition to standard trail maintenance, members of the BLBCA also need to ensure that their lodge is properly stocked for visitors. This includes having a supply of sumptuous food, fuel, and other necessities, such as recreational gear (climbing, hiking, SUPing, mountain biking) needed for whatever activity you are participating in, first-aid kits, and bear spray.

Of course, being prepared for the summer season also means being aware of the potential risks and challenges that may arise, such as wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters. It is essential for lodge members to be familiar with the possibility of human-wildlife encounters and to be well-prepared to address such issues in a humane, safe and responsible way.

Members of the BLBCA emphasize the importance of respecting the natural environment and viewing wildlife in their natural environs. Lodge members encourage visitors to enjoy the beauty of the backcountry without disturbing wildlife. #RecreateResponsibly is an initiative that encourages visitors to take responsibility for their actions and reduce their impact on the environment by practicing “leave no trace” habits.

By taking the necessary steps to prepare for the summer season, members of the BLBCA are ensuring that visitors will have a safe and enjoyable experience in the backcountry. With their commitment to #RecreateResponsibly, lodge members are helping to ensure that visitors can appreciate the beauty of the backcountry while protecting it for future generations.

Book at a BLBCA Member Lodge now, and don’t miss your chance to #unpluginBC.

Newest/Coolest Gear

As the technical editor for Ski Canada Magazine, it’s my job to know about the new gear for next winter before it arrives in stores. I test the latest jackets and boots, skis, and goggles. Basically, I call skiing work. Yeah, it’s a tough job. While my purview includes a lot of lapping groomers, backcountry skiing is my preference and the source of most of the growth in ski participation. So, it’s here where I get most excited and where most of the innovation is taking place. From more environmentally friendly ski construction to the ongoing quest for the perfect do-it-all boot to more breathable layering and new ideas in avalanche safety, there’s a lot of cool stuff in the pipe.

Some of it is available now. Some of it will arrive in stores in August and September. Either way, check in with your local retail shop to find out more about these cool products. Take it from a gear guy, talking about and thinking about new gear is a good salve when your next powder turn seems way too far away. Here’s some covetable gear to get you through the summer.

  1. A lighter slack country boot
    The first four-buckle boot from Dynafit is pursuing the Holy Grail: a powerful downhill performance that’s also light, comfortable and walkable. The Tigard is available in a 130 and 110 flex. The overlapping, three-piece shell design is the beefiest yet from the veteran touring brand, but it weighs in at a respectable for touring 1,500 grams for a 26.5 size. The Hoji Lock System integrates the ski-walk mode into the shell and cuff, reducing play on the down and easing foot entry and hiking. It allows a 70-degree range of motion for comfort on the up. ($1,000)
  1. A more environmentally friendly ski
    Atomic plans to overhaul the construction of its entire ski line to reduce the environmental impact of every model. It started with the 2023-2024 Backland family, including the 1,370 gram 95, a powder surfing, lightweight touring-focused ski. They switched to locally sourced poplar wood with hardwood inserts underfoot and a manufacturing process that reduces production waste. In total, they estimate the new process cut emissions by 30 percent. Atomic says they will continue to try to improve the process as they roll it out across their line.
  1. A ski for the 50 Project
    The QST Echo 106 is the ski Cody Townsend used last winter to continue ticking off objectives on his 50 projects, an effort to ski all the lines in the book “The 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America”. Salomon took their versatile QST 106 shape and lightened it up, both in weight and environmental impact. Construction includes a karuba and poplar wood core, basalt fibres, and cork. Thirty percent of materials are recycled, including the 100 percent recycled ABS sidewalls. At 1,760 grams, it’s not particularly light but if it’s good enough for Townsend…
  1. A jacket for the uptrack
    The right layering can help you ski farther and faster in more comfort. That’s the goal of the Patagonia Upstroke Jacket and its partner pant. The new Fall 2023 kit is a slightly burlier version of Patagonia’s Upstride kit. The Upstroke used a recycled polyester stretch-knit fabric backed by polyester. All that’s to say is it’s soft, highly breathable, and insanely stretchy. Two zipper pockets double as vents and another two fit skins. It’s our new favourite jacket for touring when it’s cool.
  1. A better way to reglue skins
    Most skiers only attempt to reapply skin glue once. It’s such a challenging and messy process few attempt it twice. Montana’s Big Sky Mountain Products heard our pain and is now offering skin re-gluing, likely the only service of its kind in North America. For about half the cost of a new pair of skins, skiers can send theirs directly to the company to have the old glue mechanically removed and the new glue applied. Check with a Big Sky retailer or online to find out more. Climbing Skin Reglue Service
  1. A recyclable ski
    G3 is threatening the future of ski benches and fences. The Vancouver-based brand has figured out how to make its skis recyclable. Until now the resins and glues used to hold the various parts of a ski together made it impossible to recycle and break them into their individual components (wood, metal, fiberglass, etc.) at the end of their life. G3 won’t divulge specifics, but it has figured out a way of unlocking the resin to make it possible to separate an old ski into its constituent pieces for reuse or recycling. It’s rolling out the construction across its line of skis, the G3 Recyclable Ski.
  1. A lifesaving vest
    Whether it’s an avalanche burial, tree well, or simple snow suffocation, people die every winter from running out of air when stuck in the snow. To help save lives Safeback is working on what it calls “the world’s first active air supply.” Either in a vest or pack, the device sucks air from the surrounding snow and pumps it around the face of the victim via two hoses. Safeback says it extends the average burial survival time from 15 minutes to more than 90. Safeback Avalanche Survival Gear
  1. An easier binding
    The Marker Cruise 12 is a classic-looking tech binding system but is easier to step into than most. A bumper helps align the toe into the right spot and the heel requires 30 percent less step in force than Marker’s Alpinist binding. The heel piece is also made from bio-based plastic mixed with carbon fibres and has both vertical and horizontal play for more predictable release values.
  1. A binding for the kids
    Lots of parents want to get their kids touring but are held back by heavy gear or the absence of junior-sized touring products. Marker’s new F5 JR Tour crosses off both problems. The frame style binding fits alpine or touring norm boots in sizes 23.5 to 30, offers low DIN settings of 1.5 to 5, and is one of the lightest frame bindings available.

Written by Ryan Stuartryan.stuart@shaw.ca / IG-@ryan_adventures
Award-winning, dependable, professional freelance writer for magazines, websites, and more.

Conrad Kain – Revisited

Pat Morrow – the amazing story of climbing legend Conrad Kain

Photographer/mountaineer, Pat Morrow, author of Beyond Everest, Quest for the Seven Summits, has been “preaching the word of Kain” since he became the president of the Conrad Kain Society 15 years ago. The society was created to keep the legacy of Austrian mountain guide Conrad Kain’s contribution to Canadian mountain climbing alive. Kain was the first alpine guide hired by the Alpine Club of Canada and emigrated from the Austrian Alps in 1909.

In 2009, the third edition of Kain’s handsomely illustrated bio-book, “Where the Clouds Can Go” was printed with a new foreword by Morrow who had read the book as a teen. He say he feels that the book helped him shape his worldview in terms of his approach to the mountains and mountain climbing. “There’s also an intriguing historical component to the stories about pioneer life in the Purcells and Rockies over a century ago” he said. The book sold out several years ago, and Morrow has been working with its publisher Rocky Mountain Books, the ACC and the office of the Austrian Consulate to Canada. Where the Clouds Can Go will be published as a reprint, available this spring.

The Kain Society has organized many events over the years, and taken upwards of 120 teens from the Rocky Mountain Trench on a 3-day introductory climbing program to get their hands on the Bugaboo rock that Kain and his guests explored beginning in 1916.

Check out www.conradkain.com for an in-depth overview of legendary mountaineer, Conrad Kain, and the society’s events.

Pat & Baiba Morrow
www.patmorrow.com

4 Bad Ass Women

Conquering Mountains and Barriers

On March 8, Christina Lustenberger and her frequent expedition partner Andrew McNab, climbed and skied a technical 45-degree couloir on the southwest face of Mount Niflheim in the Monashee Mountains.

Lustenberger is an ex-World Cup alpine racer from Invermere-turned-ski guide and bad ass big mountain skier. For the past several years Lusti, as she is known, has been ticking off a list of striking first ski descents, from the mountains of Western Canada to the remote granite spires of Baffin Island.

She is one of the women carrying on a tradition of female badassery in the mountains of Canada that is worth noting. And she’s doing it with, what you might call, typical Canadian understatement. Of her recent foray with McNab, she posted simply on social media, “Niflheim. Where the bad people go.”

Bad, as in “good” bad.

Georgia Engelhard belonged to a vanguard of affluent Americans who found their mountain bliss in Canada. She was also a pioneering alpinist who helped blaze a path for women on the sharp end of the rope.

The Manhattan-born adventurer visited the European Alps as a teen with her family and climbed Mount Rainier with her dad in 1926. On a trip to the Canadian Rockies that same year, she ascended Pinnacle Mountain above Larch Valley with guide Edward Feuz Jr. The Rockies was her summer home away from home for 15 of the following 25 summers. In 1929 she climbed nine classic peaks, including a traverse of Hado Peak and Mount Aberdeen. In 1931 she summitted 38 peaks, a tour de force summer that included nine trips up Mount Victoria for a 1932 Parks Canada-sponsored film called She Climbs to Conquer.

In addition to mountains, Engelhard conquered gender-defined rules. She thumbed her nose at the Victorian-era conventions of the day demanding women wear ankle-length skirts in the mountains and became one of the first female alpinists to wear wool pants like her male rope mates. A century later, it seems like a ridiculous notion, but at the time it would have taken some courage on behalf of Engelhard to withstand the withering looks of her stuffy critics.

She is but one of many women to break barriers in the mountains. Diny Harrison is among them. She broke a barrier without giving it too much thought when in 1992 she became the first internationally certified female mountain guide in Canada.

At the time Harrison was too immersed in the rigour of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides examination regime to ponder the significance of a woman dancing onto the stage of a then very male dominated show. To her it was simply the pursuit of a passion for mountains that was kindled in her teens. When she was 14, Harrison traveled west from her native Toronto for a 10-day adventure at High Horizons, a mountaineering skills camp started by legendary guide Bernie Schiesser. This experience prompted a move west.

Prior to diving into the mountain guiding life, she worked on the ski patrol at Lake Louise and was an avid backcountry skier. The idea of choosing her lines and “always skiing first” appealed to her. Friends encouraged her to knuckle down and focus on becoming a ski guide. She was used to hanging with the boys, comfortable in an outdoor locker room environment overflowing with testosterone. An energetic, engaging and assertive-as-needed personality  served her well.

After earning her guide stripes in ’92 she embarked on a 17-year career with Canadian Mountain Holidays, eventually becoming assistant manager at CMH Revelstoke. She also guided summers with CMH, Yamnuska Mountain School, Banff National Army Cadet School as well as internationally with a number of guiding outfits, while also honing her linguistic chops becoming fluent in French, German and Italian.   

Alison Criscitiello, who heads up the University of Alberta’s Ice Core Lab, is another pioneer. Not only is she a world leading scientist in the traditionally male-dominated field of glaciology, she‘s also a bad ass mountaineer whose career blends her profession with a passion for adventure.

There are so many women who have smashed gender stereotypes in the mountains and inspired others to do the same, that it seems unfair to single out just a few for mention. Climbing mountains can strip life down to its simple essentials. Assess the conditions, weigh the risk against the reward, make decisions, and move – or not. Why shouldn’t mountains also strip life of its artificial barriers?

Written by Andrew Findlay – @afindlayjournalist

The Incomappleux

New Conservancy Protects Rare Ecosystem

Walking among the giant cedar, hemlock, and head-high Devil’s club of the Incomappleux River valley south of Glacier National Park, it’s easy to forget that the Pacific Ocean is 500km westward.

The Incomappleux belongs to a unique forest spanning a moist wet belt that’s nourished year round by deep winter snowpacks in the Columbia and Rocky Mountains. Measuring 15,000 sq km in size, it’s known as the Inland Temperate Rainforest, and the newly established Incomappleux Conservancy protects 580 sq kms of it.

This is an important and hard-won conservation victory. Craig Pettitt, a founding director of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, is one of the conservationists who for more than a decade has been championing the protection of the Incomappleux and other remnant patches of inland rainforest like one at the north end of Duncan Lake. If it wasn’t for a blown-out logging road too expensive to repair and a remote location, the timber rights holder Interfor would have already harvested the forests of the upper Incomappleux.

How coastal rainforests have flourished for thousands of years so far from the BC coast results from an interplay of topography, latitude and climate interior that is found in few other places in the world. That’s why for mountain folks like us, the Incomappleux and other forests like it are particularly fascinating. Precipitation in the Incomappleux falls below the threshold of annual precipitation that defines a rainforest, roughly 1400mm per year. However, winter is the difference maker.  Weather systems, laden with Pacific moisture, collide with the interior mountain ranges and delivers a deep snowpack that compensates for the moisture deficit. This creates localized conditions that mimic a rainforest, especially at the foot of mountain slopes where moisture seeps year-round. Such forests have historically been spared from massive fire events, fostering rich biodiversity centuries in the making and allowing trees to live to a thousand years or more. In terms of species mix, biodiversity, climate, and feel, these forests are more Walbran Valley on Vancouver Island’s West Coast than the interior mountain ranges where pockets of this ecosystem thrive. So big deal, why protect them?  Well, such forests can generate tourism – people will travel to visit big trees. Tall tree tourism has become a thing in Port Renfrew thanks to the Avatar Grove.

But more importantly is that biodiversity is key for planetary health, and the Inland Temperate Rainforest is a richly biodiverse frontier of scientific discovery. In the early 2000s University of Alberta botanist Toby Spribille studied lichens in the upper Incomappleux River valley and catalogued more than 280 species, nine of them new to science. A survey of mushrooms in the Incomappleux identified 50 species, half of which are normally found only in coastal forests.

Dwayne Coxson, a University of Northern BC lichenologist, and botanists Trevor Goward and Curtis Bjork, both affiliated with UBC’s Beatty Biodiversity Museum, have been studying the interior rainforests of the Robson Valley, roughly between the communities of Dome Creek and Upper Fraser on the Yellowhead Highway. In an area that includes both Ancient Forest/ Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park and the 50,000-hectare Sugar Bowl-Grizzly Den Protected Area, the team has catalogued more than 2,400 plant species, including dozens of new discoveries. What’s even more surprising is that not all of them are “mosses and lichens,” says Coxson. “Some of them are vascular plants [a broad group of plants with tissues for conducting water and minerals – like fir trees or wildflowers.] It shows just how little we know about this ecosystem,” says Coxson. “Globally it’s a very unique ecosystem.”

Similar temperate rainforests are found this far inland in only in two other places, southern Siberia and Russia’s far east. According to Coxson, though scientific understanding of these rainforests has advanced, precautionary land use decisions in BC have not kept pace.

This forest once covered more than 160,000 square kilometres and stretched 1100km from central Idaho through BC’s mountainous interior as far north Prince George. According to some estimates, more than a quarter of this rainforest has been clear-cut logged and less than 10% has been protected.

That’s why the Incomappleux Conservancy, which came about after Interfor gave up 750 sq km of its forest tenure in the area, is worth celebrating. The Nature Conservancy of Canada brokered the deal, which includes support and funding from Teck Resources, several foundations, the federal government and individual donors. It also required the participation of First Nations in whose territory the valley lies. In reality, few of us will ever see the Incomappleux Valley. But that’s okay; knowing that this treasure exists is reward enough. 


BLBCA Affiliate Member Perks:

Why Join the BLBCA?

Benefits of Joining the BLBCA

We have revamped our membership program, thanks for your interest. For you, and generations of adventurers to follow, we need you with us. Supporting the BLBCA is the perfect way for you to help us move the needle on a number of long-standing challenges.

Your Support Helps Us:

  • Influence decision-makers to support a level playing field regarding land planning. Ensure recreation values are considered as well as resource extraction values
  • Support protection of wildlife, particularly the BC Gov’t’s Species and Ecosystems at Risk
  • Support #RecreatingResponsibly in BC’s backcountry and alpine environments. #Regenerate and #Reconnect in the backcountry to support your physical and mental well-being
  • Support the BLBCA’s role in expanding and enhancing a culture of stewardship. BLBCA member lodges often have “boots on the ground” and can help decision-makers collect data, enhance ecosystems and deter inappropriate land or water use
  • Support BC’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport’s Strategic Framework – People, Prosperity, Planet
  • Alignment with Destination BC’s Winning Aspiration
  • Help BLBCA members as they strive to improve their awareness and actions regarding accessibility, E.D.I. and BC’s Reconciliation process

Additional Affiliate Member Perks:

Don’t miss our latest Mountain Escapes podcast, with Roger Laurilla, owner/operator/guide of Battle Abbey Backcountry Lodge.

Mission Critical

BC Species at Risk

Next month representatives from nearly 200 countries will gather in Montreal for COP15, the United Nations biodiversity conference. The hope is to reach  an agreement that will reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and achieve full recovery by 2050. Nevertheless, maintaining biodiversity and the ecosystem services our planet needs is more important today than ever before. In fact, it’s mission critical.

That’s why British Columbia needs to step up its game, in a big way. For too long our province has lacked a coherent plan and legislation to protect species and biodiversity. The result is an ongoing series of trade-offs with the resource extraction sector and an incremental loss of habitat.

Wilderness and wildlife are our calling cards as a world class adventure and tourism destination. From the grasslands of the South Okanagan and the Interior Rainforests of the Incomappleux River Valley to the Columbia River wetlands and the Great Bear Rainforest fjords, BC is blessed with a biodiversity and topography that is arguably unrivaled. It’s also home to more species at risk than any other province or territory, with more than 1,900 species, sub-species and ecosystems officially at risk of extinction, including southern mountain caribou and spotted owls.

During the 2017 election campaign, the BC NDP made special mention in its platform of the fact that BC has no  “stand-alone species at risk legislation.” They promised to do something about it.

“We will bring in an endangered species law and harmonize other laws to ensure they are all working towards the goal of protecting our beautiful province,” the NDP boldly stated in its campaign. Half a decade later, not enough has changed, and that’s a travesty.

In 1996, the territories and all the provinces (except Quebec) signed the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, agreeing to enact legislation and create programs to protect species. BC was one of four provinces that let the ink dry on the accord then didn’t follow through.

A Saw-Whet Owl, not much bigger than your hand.

As reported recently in The Narwhal, the BC government says it protects at-risk species with a basket of legislative tools, including the B.C. Wildlife Act, the Land Act and the B.C. Forest and Range Practices Act.

However, a new report from the Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club BC highlights big gaps in this approach that is putting at risk species and habitat in even more peril. The report is based on an independent audit by biologist Jared Hobbs, who was commissioned by the groups to analyze existing federal and provincial species protections in BC. 

The result, says Hobbs in his report, is “continued unabated habitat loss and consequent decline for many species.” He notes that mapping of at-risk species habitat is outdated and incomplete, and BC’s patchwork approach fails to address all the threats facing critical habitat.

It’s a sad indictment of land use in BC. That’s why the Sierra Club and Wilderness Committee are urging incoming Premier David Eby to quickly create at risk species legislation in collaboration with Indigenous communities and make it law by the end of 2023.

As Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said in a recent Sierra Club press release, government already has the reports and directives in its hands.

“One of the key recommendations of the 2020 provincial Old Growth Strategic Review Panel was for B.C. to enact a new law to establish ecosystem health and biodiversity as an ‘overarching priority’ across all sectors,” said Chief Phillip. “There is no more time to waste.”

In other words, we need a reset on species and habitat protection. Yes, it will take a paradigm shift on a landscape level, like how we develop our urban areas or carry out logging. But it’s possible, and necessary. For example, I recently visited two small scale woodlots in the Comox Valley whose operators have been practicing a very different type of forestry for the past 30 years. They manage their woodlots like living and functioning ecosystems, with timber and fibre being just one of many benefits they provide. It seems simple on paper, but this sort of thinking needs to be applied across the province, and it starts with robust at-risk species legislation. It’s time to get with it, BC.

Written by Andrew Findlay – @afindlayjournalist

Importance of BUILDING Local

KORE – Kootenay’s Entrepreneurs

Imagine if we could make more gear here; outdoor gear that is. That’s the premise of KORE (Kootenay Outdoor Recreation Enterprise Initiative) Launched in early 2021, this Kimberley-based non-profit is aimed at supporting the growth of the Kootenays – and BC – as a hub of outdoor gear design and boutique manufacturing.

“We knew there were people out there doing interesting things, but we were blown away by how many,” says Kevin Pennock, the KORE’s project manager.

After shaking the trees, Pennock discovered more than 30 ski shapers, design engineers, apparel specialist and other entrepreneurs in the outdoor gear sector, many of whom were unaware of each other’s existence. People like Nelson’s Cam Shute, an engineer and former head of design at G3, Nelson clothing designer Carolyn Campos, Northern Teardrop Trailers, a company of two that manufactures roughly 30 ultralight camping trailers each year out of a shop in Salmo, and PJ Hunton, senior design engineer for Norco Bicycles who works remotely from Kimberley, to name just a few..

KORE is the fruit of several years of back-of-the-napkin brainstorming between Pennock and the American-born Matt Mosteller, Senior VP of marketing, sales and resort experience for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.

Testing the Attitude Skis at Red Mtn. Photo – Peter Moynes

“We wanted to change the narrative of small Kootenay communities as raw resource dependent towns and show that they are places where innovation and entrepreneurship in the outdoor sector is happening,” Pennock says.

KORE is inspired by similar efforts elsewhere, like the Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina (OGB) based in Asheville, NC. The community was once anchored in the textile and forest industries, and later in bedrock firms like DuPont that built and then sold a massive plant in nearby Henderson County that employed more than 1500 at the time of its closure in 2002. OGB was established in 2013 with nine core members, and has since grown to include more than 80 companies and organizations. In that time established brands like Fox Suspension, Rockgeist and Kitsbow have relocated or opened branch operations in the area, while new brands like Black Mountain Adventure Apparel and Blyss Running have been born.  According to Noah Wilson, OGB’s director of sector development, member businesses collectively employ nearly 1100 people, spend (USD) $8.3 million annually in locally sourced materials, and are major contributors to North Carolina’s (USD) $28 billion outdoor recreation industry.

Exegi Snowboards

“A major motivator was bringing the outdoor media to our community, which was emerging as the east coast’s biggest hub of outdoor gear manufacturing, as well as creating a supportive community of companies that would work together to help one another grow and prosper,”, Wilson says, adding that support from the regional economic development organization was also key.

Pennock believes the Kootenays has similar ingredients for this secret sauce.

One of KORE’s biggest cheerleaders is Kimberley Mayor Dan McCormick, who was also part of early discussions with Pennock and Mosteller, and now sits on KORE’s board of directors. The East Kootenay community is historically rooted in forestry and mining. In 2001, Teck Resources Limited closed the Sullivan Mine, an underground lead, zinc and silver operation that operated on and off for nearly a century. Since then, Kimberley has shifted toward tourism as an economic mainstay, but COVID-19 has revealed the vulnerability of this sector.

We need to look beyond tourism to create some economic diversity and resiliency,” McCormick says. “I see outdoor manufacturing as a natural for creating lasting jobs and prosperity.”

KORE decided to examine the procurement and supply chain realities around Dyneema, the ultralight, ultra-strong, fabric used to make packs and tents to see what opportunities may exist for reshoring manufacturing. A report commissioned by KORE showed how this fabric travels back and forth across the ocean, racking up thousands of kilometres and a considerable carbon footprint before it ends up in the hands of North American consumers in the form of outdoor gear.  That’s why KORE is floating the idea of a Kootenay-based Dyneema product manufacturing facility that would tick a lot of boxes, a lower carbon footprint and better-quality control to name a few.

Ex-Canadian World Cup Mountain Bike downhiller Dustin Adams proved it when he launched, We Are One Composites, with the goal of designing and building carbon fiber wheels and bike frames from scratch in Kamloops. Most people told him he was nuts to try. They were wrong. His business is thriving, his staff is growing and Adams has several new bike frames in the works after the successful launch of his flagship model, Arrival, two years ago.

It’s the kind of success story that KORE wants to see repeated in small town BC. KORE is hosting the Outdoor Rec-Tech Summit, Oct 19-21, 2022, that will bring together BC-bred outdoor entrepreneurs to share stories around innovation, product design marketing, supply chain challenges and the case for making more gear here.

Interested in reasons why it is important to shop local, visit a previous blog post, Importance of Shopping Local.

Mt Assiniboine – 100 Years

Mount Assiniboine Park reaches 100

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is a place of soaring glacier clad peaks, alpine meadows, powder snow, turquoise lakes and remote wilderness. For generations the area was the center of trade routes. Earlier this month the Assiniboine Lodge crew, along with Chic Scott & BC Parks celebrated its 100th year anniversary.

Interest in mountain places came to Western Canada when the Rockies became accessible by train in 1885. The CPR began building elegant mountain hotels such as the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise. Mt. Assiniboine became prominent when James Outram and his two Swiss guides reached its summit at 11,870 ft. in 1901. A near perfect pyramid, Mt. Assiniboine is often called “the Matterhorn of the Rockies.” As James Outram said, “It towers 1500 ft. above its neighbours, commanding attention and admiration.” By 1922, the Mt. Assiniboine area was added to the newly established Canadian Provincial Park System.

Assiniboine Lodge is owned by B.C. Parks. After the Strom tenure ended, Sepp and Barb Renner and their family operated the Lodge for 29 years (1983-2010). The Lodge is now operated by Renner’s son, Andre, Claude Duchesne and his wife, Annick Blouin. They also manage the Naiset Huts, all of the camping facilities in the area and the helicopter access.

What an amazing setting!

One of the perks of being the executive director of the BLBCA is getting opportunities to spend time in so many amazing backcountry and alpine environments. I am fortunate to have just spent a week in the Assiniboine area under nearly perfect weather. After hiking in a lengthy but well-maintained and pleasant trail, my climbing partner, Masten and I headed up the Gmoser Ledges to the RC Hind Hut. The next morning brought perfect conditions, we cruised up the many coloured bands of rock that delineate the climbing route on Assiniboine, the red band is definitely my favourite. It was warm, calm and the spectacular views from the summit were unencumbered in all directions. After a leisurely lunch we moseyed down, thanks to BC Parks for all the bolted rappel stations, very convenient. It was an amazing day, a mountain I have always wanted to climb. Thanks to the staff at Assiniboine Lodge, Masten and Mother Nature for their important parts in making this trip so nearly perfect.

If you prefer exploring without a bunch of climbing gear, there are many wonderful scrambling opportunities in the immediate vicinity.

Masten, climbing the “red band”

All these years later the Assiniboine Team and Family stay true to the deeply held values of the early Assiniboine Lodge pioneers. The minute you arrive at Assiniboine, you are welcomed with open arms into the Assiniboine Family. Guests ski the same meadows and the same ski runs as Erling Strom did with guests 90 years ago. They hike the same trails. And after a day out in the mountains they gather to share hearty food and stories. It is a time to absorb all the beauty that Mother Nature can offer in this very special place. A time to regenerate, reconnect and recreate responsibly.

Mountain Masters

Mountain Goats – Alpine Experts

Mountain goats are masters of the vertical world. These shaggy, white-coated animals are skilled climbers who can balance on a spot no bigger than a Loonie. An adult mountain goat can weigh between 80 and 100 kilograms, as much as a black bear. Their gymnastic ability to scale a mountainside can be breathtaking.

Western Canada is made for mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus.) Bill Jex, BC Gov’t sheep & goat biologist estimates that between 40,000 and 70,000 of them range throughout BC’s backcountry alone, making up half the global population of this species. COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) lists them as not at risk, but there have been localized extirpations and declining populations in areas of southern BC.  Parks Canada considers goats an indicator species of ecosystem health and climate change impacts because of their unique ability to occupy the harsh, snowy alpine environment.

In very rare occasions these alpine ungulates can be as dangerous as they are beautiful. In 2010, a mountain goat in Washington State’s Olympic National Park killed a 63-year-old hiker (mountain goats successfully colonized the Olympic Range after humans introduced them to the area in the 1920s as prey for hunters.) Last September backpackers reported finding a dead grizzly near a trail crossing Yoho National Parks’ Burgess Pass. The cause, according to Parks Canada; death by a mountain goat horn.

mountain goats
Mountain goats are masters of the alpine environment.

More and more people are getting outside and in the mountains. That’s a good thing, generally, but it’s not without problems. In two popular BC provincial parks, Valhalla Park, north of Nelson and Cathedral Park near Keremeos, mountain goats are getting unusually up close with humans. Why they’re doing it is no secret to wildlife biologists. In spring and early summer mountain goats, especially nannies with kids, need minerals like potassium, phosphorous, and sodium to compensate for natural deficiencies that result from a winter of stingy forage. So intense is the drive for nutrients, they’ll travel 40 or more kilometres over rugged mountain terrain just to reach a natural salt lick. However opportunistic herds, like the ones hanging around certain campsites in Valhalla and Cathedral Lakes have found a much easier source – salty human pee, grey water, and sweaty hiking clothes. In fact, they have become uncomfortably addicted to it and it’s creating a tenuous human-wildlife management challenge for BC Parks. The problem is what to do about it. Weaning mountain goats off this salty supply isn’t easy. Diversionary salt licks, placing blocks of salt at locations away from people and campsites can work for awhile. However, it seems goats tend to revert back to old ways, especially after several generations have learned to be tolerant of people.

Most biologists agree it’s more of a human issue than a wildlife issue. In problem areas, using the outhouse instead of peeing next to the tent can go a long way. So can properly disposing grey water. Infrastructure is important. Installing more outhouses, greywater pits, and signage explaining goat behavior and habitat is a good start. But humans can be as stubborn as goats can be when it comes to altering their actions.

There’s a small percentage of people who probably don’t care. No amount of education will change their attitudes. But most who travel in goat country and have a chance to see one are thrilled and don’t wish them harm. But we have to remember that a goat’s normal behavior is to avoid humans. If you see one lounging outside your tent waiting for you to do your, ahem, morning business, don’t be fooled into thinking the goat is tame. It’s not. It’s wild and if the tables turn and they perceive a threat, it can go from cuddly looking to deadly in a heartbeat. And when a wild animal starts to get aggressive because of human disturbance, things rarely end well for the animal.

Are you a wildlife advocate, enthusiast or just like to learn more? Check out our blog post on the wolverine, highlighting another amazing backcountry resident, “The Ultimate Winter Specialist”

BLBCA – A Brief History

Association of Problem Solvers

The people who own and run BC’s backcountry lodges are, by necessity, tinkerers. Far from town, operating at the whims of Mother Nature, and with infinite variables at play, they get good at coming up with creative solutions.

But even after nearly 20 years of helping with the problem solving at Golden Alpine Holidays (GAH), a trio of backcountry lodges north of Golden, B.C., Brad Harrison wasn’t ready for the doozy that landed on the industry’s plate in 2003. Following a challenging avalanche season, the insurance industry decided either not to renew, or to charge exorbitant rates, for affected insurance policies. A commercial general liability policy is a BC Government requirement needed to operate on crown(public) land. As a result, GAH and every other commercial backcountry lodge were all left wondering how they move forward.

But as is often the case, a crisis created a chance to improve.

At the time the 25 odd commercial lodges in B.C. often looked at each other as competitors. In the insurance issue Tannis Dakin, then owner/operator of Sorcerer Lodge saw an opportunity. She believed in old adages like “a rising tide lifts all boats” and “don’t waste a good crisis”.

Dakin teamed up with two Calgary insurance agents, Bill Dunlop and Angela Dunlop McKenzie, to sort out a way to recapture the much-needed liability insurance policies. Standard operating protocols were researched, created and readied to be implemented or recommended. Protocols included waiver administration, human resource procedures, risk mitigation, information sharing processes and other business practices. Insurance underwriters agreed to make liability insurance available if an association was created and members of the association agreed to follow the aforementioned and other standard operating procedures. Hence the Backcountry Lodges of B.C. Association was created in 2004. Margie Jamieson, owner/operator of Ptarmigan Tours was the association’s first president.

Six years later, Harrison and his partners sold Golden Alpine Holidays and he became the Executive Director of the BLBCA, a position he still holds. His past experience helped, given the trials and tribulations of operating GAH. And by not owning a lodge anymore, he was in an impartial position, both in actuality and perceptively.

“I was well situated to help operators use the backcountry in an appropriate and responsible way,” he says. It’s a mission he continues to pursue.

The BLBCA gradually matured, members saw more value in working together. At annual meetings they would share their experiences and learn from each other. Learnings like effective solar panels, the best composting toilet, preferred water treatment systems were routinely shared. We realized if we help each other, everybody gains, says Harrison. 

Soon, the BLBCA started working with the BC Provincial Government in earnest and introduced an association-wide marketing program, with the integral help of Destination BC. Although themes of the marketing program have varied over the years, the overarching tenets to Regenerate, Reconnect and Recreate Responsibly have remained.

Harrison and the BLBCA are very focused on informing listeners on the value of wild places. The Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C. estimates the economic impact of B.C.’s adventure tourism industry at $2-billion, Value of Adventure Tourism. Although difficult to quantify, the socio-economic value to Rural BC is significant. Health benefits of time spent in nature are well-documented, Canadian doctors can even prescribe it, Announcing a New Collaboration between PaRx and Parks Canada.

Now with outdoor recreation booming and government budgets stretched thin, Harrison thinks the BLBCA can play a role in enhancing and expanding a culture of stewardship. The lodges are perfectly positioned to support the BC Gov’t with citizen science data on species-at-risk, like Whitebark Pine, Wolverine, amongst others. And they hope to help new outdoor users learn the art of treading lightly, Backcountry Trail use is Booming.

The BLBCA hopes to help inform backcountry users with blog posts like these, Whitebark Pine – Save the Ents, The Ultimate Winter Specialist and Responsible Recreation in the Backcountry.

“A lot of new backcountry users aren’t yet sure how to treat Mother Nature with respect,” he says. “Lodge owners interact with a lot of backcountry users. It’s a perfect interface and opportunity for them to inform and influence backcountry users.”

And solve one more problem.

Written by Ryan Stuart

A Prescription for Nature

News flash: Getting outside is good for our health and ultimately good for the planet.

British Columbia doctors can now prescribe a national park pass to patients facing physical or mental health issues. The program is being spearhead by PaRx, a nature prescription program led by Vancouver family physician Dr. Melissa Lem. Through a partnership with Parks Canada, health-care professionals registered with PaRx can provide a free annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass to patients.

“We have a standard recommendation, based on the latest research, that patients spend at least two hours a week in nature and at least 20 minutes each time,” said Dr Lem in a recent Global News story. “So, this is all about breaking down those barriers to access to nature.”

You’d think in a country like Canada outdoor activity would be a fact of life for everybody. But it’s not. For some people, there’s a financial barrier. Others might have been raised in a family that considered a trip to the shopping mall a form of recreation. It could also be a function of too much time in front of a gaming console or other electronic device. Many patients would rather walk out of the doctor’s office with a prescription for drugs rather than make any substantive lifestyle changes. And more than a few physicians have been happy to oblige this dependence on pharmaceuticals like, for example, Ritalin, widely prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.)

That’s why this program is a positive step forward in terms of how we view health care and value time in the outdoors. Despite the fact that it applies to only national parks, seven of which are in BC, it sends an important message. 

There’s a growing body of research showing how time in nature can reduce the onset of ailments like diabetes and heart disease, as well as benefits for people suffering form depression and ADHD. For example, a 2008 ADHD study conducted by the University of Illinois found that a 20-minute walk in a park can improve concentration scores in kids suffering from this condition. A regular stroll in the woods can also reduce levels of anxiety. 

This is old news in Japan where doctors have been prescribing time outdoors for decades. In 1982 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term shinrin-yoku, which means literally “forest bathing.” It has since spawned a global forest bathing movement. There are even shinrin-yoku guides. Forest bathing, despite how it sounds, is far from a flakey, new age fad. There’s real science behind it. Trees – especially evergreens like pine, cedar and spruce – release phytoncides, natural oils with anti-fungal and anti-bacteria properties. Phytoncides linger in the air. When we breath them in, we can receive a host of health benefits. A study of forest bathing published in a 2016 edition of the journal, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, showed that a walk in the woods can result in reduced pulse rates, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, among other benefits. 

Research into the other health benefits of getting outside, such as greater creativity and sharper cognition, is still not well understood. But if you’re like me, you’ve experienced ah ha moments of clarity while doing something outside. That’s no accident. 

 It’s not exactly a revelation that exercising in the outdoors is good for you. Who doesn’t experience an overall sense of well being after a hike, ski tour, or rambling ascent up an alpine ridge?

There are considerable social benefits as well. Children and adults who spend time outdoors are more likely to become champions for conservation and environmental stewardship, according to a recent study from the University of Plymouth. The planet needs people like that more than ever. 

So, bravo to the National Park prescription program – it’s a small but significant step.

Our Complete Monashee Traverse

A group of three skiers are attempting to traverse the entire distance of the Monashee Mountains on skis. Over 500km; up to 42 days.

Douglas Noblet, Stephen Senecal and Isobel Phoebus set out from Grand Forks, BC and aim to end their journey over a month later near Valemount, BC. The epic adventure includes planned stops at BLBCA member lodges—Sol Mountain Lodge and Blanket Glacier Chalet.

>>Follow Trip Here<<

Trip Update: Our Complete Monashee Traverse started in Grand Forks on April 1st. We travelled through the Midway Range over 5 days with unsettled spring weather and a healthy dose of forest cutblocks and roads. Caching up on food at Highway 6, two friends Mark and Emily are joining us until Highway 1.
Our highlight thus far, after waiting out rain, was through the Pinnacles and beyond to Sol Mountain Lodge. Cool conditions are lining up for great travel through the Gold Range. Thank you Aaron and Sol Lodge crew for the food cache, showers, sauna, beds, and delicious fresh food! We also appreciate the expedition support and funding from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. 

~Stephen, Isobel, Doug

Sol Mountain Lodge: The crew arrived in good time and good spirits on the sunny afternoon of April 11th. Showered, apresed, G&T’s, saunaed, ate more, drank, slept.

They left the the lodge the morning of April 12 with full bellies and full packs under clear skies at -12 with perfect travel conditions for traversing north through the Gold Range. Our son Seth, staff Jette, and friend Max joined them for the part of the day to Ledge Creek. They seem to be a good team all getting along well. 

~Aaron

Blanket Glacier Chalet – Stay tuned for updates as they make their way!

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Continue to check this post for more updates from this exciting adventure!

Have You Heard Mountain Escapes?

Mountain Escapes | A Backcountry Podcast

Did you know we recently launched a podcast? We’ve got 12 binge-worthy episodes so far and will be launching one every month for your listening pleasure!

What It’s All About

Mountain Escapes is a podcast that aims to connect backcountry enthusiasts with the owners and operators of BLBCA member lodges throughout BC, Canada. In each episode we highlight a unique lodge through conversation with an owner. We will also feature guest appearances by other influential backcountry enthusiasts and industry experts.

Already a fan of the podcast, want to help us continue to grow? Our quick how-to video takes you through the easy steps of engaging with our pod.

Find us on your favourite podcast provider, subscribe to get new episodes when they drop and then let us know what you think by rating and reviewing!

Rate, Review & Subscribe!

Our Latest Episode

The Mountain Escapes Podcast is back! In this episode, Brad talks to the owners/operators/guides of Mt. Assiniboine Lodge, Andre Renner and Claude Duchesne.

To say that Mt. Assiniboine is both iconic and historic would be a major understatement. In many ways Mt. Assiniboine is the cradle of mountaineering, skiing and backcountry travel in the Canadian Rockies. Andre and Claude will provide us with a glimpse into Mt. Assiniboine Lodge both now and back then, way back then. We will hear stories about legendary characters such as Lizzie Rommel, Erling Strom and Andre’s father, Sepp Renner. Thanks for tuning in!

Episode List

Where to Listen

The podcast is on all major platforms, search and find us on whatever platform you listen to podcasts. See a full list of Where to Listen.

Listen to Mountain Escapes on YouTube

Prefer to listen via YouTube while at home or on the go? We’ve got you covered! Each episode of the podcast is also added to our BLBCA YouTube channel.

The Ultimate Winter Specialist

Inside the Secret, Solitary Lives of Wolverines

If I could choose a spirit animal, it would be the wolverine. This solitary animal moves through deep snow and the mountains with breathtaking ease. Though it avoids conflict, the wolverine can be fierce when backed into a corner.

I once sat with a handful of other climbers in a remote camp near Moby Dick Mountain south of Rogers Pass and watched through binoculars as a wolverine skillfully navigated a technical glacier, mired in crevasses and seracs. For more than 10 minutes, we observed the wolverine’s lonely ascent before it disappeared over a high pass and descended into the valley beyond. The wolverine – always restless, always moving, always searching.

Wolverines are mustelids, otherwise known as the weasel family. Next to sea otters, they are the largest of this group in North America, which also includes fishers and pine martens. With compact, powerful bodies, large heads and strong jaws, an adult male can measure one metre from nose to tail and weigh between 12 and 16 kilograms. Broad feet and strong limbs allow them to travel quickly in deep snow and track down a range of prey from moose, mountain caribou and mountain goat to beavers, porcupines and squirrels. Beyond a few weeks in the year when adults pair to mate, they are solitary creatures with vast ranges. People often mistake wolverines for bear cubs. That’s why in indigenous North American lore they are referred to as the fourth grizzly club.

By some estimates wolverine habitat has contracted by as much as 37 per cent in North America. The animal, listed both federally and provincially as a species of special concern, has been extirpated from much of its previous range, including Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. BC still relies on decades old radio telemetry data and remote camera evidence that pegs the provincial population at roughly 3,500 animals. It science’s attempt to extrapolate certainty from uncertainty. In other words, there’s still much to learn, including how climate change, diminishing snowpacks, and habitat fragmentation will impact wolverine populations.

The wolverine, glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch
The wolverine, glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch

Wolverine Watch is an informal group of scientists collaborating to better understand wolverine habitat and the impacts of human disturbance. For example, Nelson researchers Andrea Kortello and Doris Hausleitner – Team Wolverine – have been using a mix of drone surveys, citizen science, and habitat modeling to identify denning sites in the West Kootenay region. The hope is that by knowing where the slowly reproducing female wolverines have their kits, we can make better land use and access decisions.

They are slippery subjects of scientific inquiry, often evading the biologist’s most tenacious efforts to locate, track and understand them. Ask any wildlife biologist, and they’ll tell you that’s part of their appeal. It’s also likely why wolverines are enveloped in myth and cursed with an undeserved reputation for cruelty that’s as large as the wilderness in which they thrive. This popular demonization might start with the wolverine’s unsavory Latin scientific name, Gulo gulo, which translates as “glutton, glutton.”

“Nobody moves through the mountains like a wolverine,” says Montana-based writer and biologist Douglas Chadwick.

And few North American animals are as misunderstood, he adds.

While researching his 2010 book The Wolverine Way, Chadwick says he failed to uncover a single credible report of a wolverine attacking and injuring humans. Nonetheless, people demonized them. And that’s easy to do in “the absence of data,” Chadwick says.

Absence of data; those three words say much about the wolverine. And whenever the first snow flies in BC, I start thinking again about this ultimate winter specialist.

Probably Not – A Reflection

Thoughts From a Concerned Backcountry Enthusiast

Are we exhausted, have we had enough?
Without exception the last two years have been tough.
Is it over?
Probably not.

There is no new normal, not like we thought.
Climate change scientists are telling us loud and clear,
Just as they have for years.
Are we listening?
Probably not.

In the Western world – we like our stuff
Giving anything up would just be too tough.
Inequities are there, but our words are like thin air.
Do we get it?
Probably not.

Will we change our ways, will we hear nature’s call?
Or continue to dismiss the warnings, thinking all will be well?
Technology will save us, look what we’ve done,
For the next generation, their future has just begun.
Will electric cars and space travel save us?
Probably not.

Do we think about what’s ahead?
We live on a finite planet, that’s been said.
There are too many of us, we want too much,
We are not willing to give anything up without a fuss.
The natural commons are paying a price,
While we purchase things, we think are nice.
Do we know the difference between wants and needs?
Probably not.

Governments and corporations keep the system going,
And the public maintains a comfortable position of uncaring and unknowing.
As decisions are made that compromise our existence,
There is little resistance.
Will we see what’s happening in time to make a change?
Probably not.

Is there time to make a difference?
To save the forests, the oceans, the rivers and glaciers, the air we breathe?
Natures gifts for life and all that we need.

It takes courage to make a change,
To care about the planet outside of our personal gain.
To care about others who are paying the price,
For the consequences of not thinking twice.

Will I stop hoping for change or voicing my concerns?
Probably not.
I love our beautiful planet too much.

By R. E. Reid

Contest Winner Announced

Who’s the Winner of The Ultimate Backcountry Experience

Our winner has an opportunity to escape and revel at a BLBCA lodge of their choice! They have won the ultimate week-long backcountry experience for themselves and a friend at their choice of a BLBCA member lodge, valued up to $5,000.

Mind Over Mountain

New Patagonia Film Explores the Classic Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Ski Traverse with a Team of Three Women


For ski mountaineers, the Bugaboos to Rogers Pass is a North American classic, a bucket list traverse for aspiring guides and recreational skiers alike. The route has a poetic beauty to it cutting north-south in the Columbia Mountains and bookended by two mountain playgrounds, Bugaboo Provincial Park and Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park. This epic was pioneered in 1958 by Americans Bill Briggs, Bob French, Sterling Neale and Barry Corbett. They made a tough, stoic quartet. For the era, it was a monumental nine-day tour de force that involved more than 11,000 metres of ascending and 135 km of weaving through the Purcell and Selkirk mountains. They did it before Canadian Mountain Holidays had built Bugaboo Lodge and could provide helicopter food drop support. And considering the heavy gear of the day and intricate route-finding required, it remains an impressive achievement still hard to match for the average backcountry skier.


Last winter, two Patagonia athletes, skier Leah Evans and snowboarder Marie-France Roy, teamed up with Nelson-born ski guide Madeleine Martin-Preney to tackle this iconic ski traverse. Evans and Roy are front and slack country shredders to the core. The latter of the two had never rappelled on a climbing rope or slept in a tent in winter while on a ski traverse. Conversely, Martin-Preney is a veteran of many long traverses and slogs and is a skilled ski mountaineer. Their adventure is captured in the recently released Patagonia film Mind Over Mountain. This candid and often humorous documentary explores the mental and physical struggles of the ski traverse, from the euphoric highs of skiing down the endless Conrad Glacier to the downright drudgery and toil of ascending toward Malachite Spire, one of many long climbs along the route. The film is also a window into group dynamics and how the mountains can bind or divide. In this case, the challenge strengthened the bonds among this trio of women.


Though they started as three friends embarking on an adventure, it soon became clear that Martin-Preney’s skill and experience would change this dynamic and place her by default in a leadership, sort of unpaid guide roll. In other words, the lion’s share of decision-making would fall on her shoulders. Rather than getting defensive, Roy and Evans unpack this realization with a candor and levity that would likely be absent from a group of men. I know because I am one.
At one point, an exhausted Roy collapses on her backpack at the end of another long day and watches incredulously as Martin-Preney, the energizer, digs out a tent platform and kitchen area. I’m sure there was tension at times; after all they’re only human. But the joy and sense of fulfillment the women feel when they finally reach Glacier Circle Hut, their last night before skiing up, over and down the Illecillewaet Neve to Rogers Pass, literally shines from their faces.


Inside the hut, Roy, Evans and Martin-Preney find the spot on the wall where one of the pioneering Americans scrawled a matter of fact record of their passage more than 50 years ago: “10 June 1958—Ski Traverse from Bugaboo Creek to Glacier. Started June 2. -Alpine Ski Club of America.”

Heat Waves, Flash Floods, Forest Fires, and Even a Tornado – A Year For the Record Books

Credit: B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

It’s been a year of weather to remember – or forget – in BC. As I was writing this, another atmospheric river was tracking toward the south coast. At the same time thousands of homeowners, businesspeople, and farmers in Abbotsford, Princeton, Merritt, and other affected communities had barely had a chance to ponder recovering from the damage caused by the November 12 weekend rain event and catastrophic flooding that have so far claimed at least six people. In some places, a month’s worth of rain fell in 24 hours.

In late June and early July, the heat dome broke all time temperature records in Canada and is being blamed for more than 600 deaths. It led to volatile forest conditions and fires like the one that incinerated Lytton so fast residents barely had time to jump in their vehicles and escape. Sadly, two people died in Lytton. This dangerous fire was one of many that cast a cloud of choking smoke over much of BC throughout July and August, destroying houses and property in places like Monte Lake, Fintry, and elsewhere.

Then there was the tornado that touched down on Point Grey in Vancouver on November 5 – the first one in the Lower Mainland in 50 years.

The human toll and tragic loss of life is sobering. “Heat dome” and “atmospheric river” have suddenly become meteorological catchphrases. And one thing we have all learned in 2021, is that we are woefully unprepared for extreme weather. It’s no longer adequate for government to fall back on the excuse that these are unprecedent times. Climate experts have been sounding the alarm for years that we can expect more, not fewer, of these types of events, whether it’s an extreme flood or fast-moving forest fire. You need look no further for an example of how unprepared we are as the outdated flood plain maps that the province relies on. Most were created between 20 and 40 years ago, and since then cities have grown and the climate has changed.

That’s why resiliency needs to be top of mind, if we have any hope of avoiding the kind of damage and destruction left in the wake of this year’s fires and floods. And there’s much work to be done. For example, it means no longer building in flood prone areas, and in some cases, perhaps buying out property owners so they can relocate to safer areas. Fire-proofing communities and managing our forests for biodiversity not as monoculture tree farms susceptible to disease and fire is also critical. Government needs to overhaul coordination, communication, and planning in anticipation of well forecasted rain and flood events, as was the case when meteorologists predicted the massive rains that turned Abbotsford into a lake and Merritt into a river two weeks ago.  

Yup, climate change is real. Here in BC we’re feeling it in a big way. It’s going to take next level leadership to help make our communities, transportation infrastructure, and supply chains safe into the future.

Enter our Epic BMFF Contest!

We’re celebrating the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival with Our Biggest Contest Yet!

The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival is underway and we’re thrilled to be a part of it again this year. These nine days are filled with awe-inspiring and evocative films and stories of adventure and exploration from around the world.

We’re honoured to once again sponsor the Best Short Mountain Film Award this year, which our very own Lynea Neilsen will be virtually presenting at the Awards Presentation on November 4.  Be sure to check out the Banff Centre’s website for the full list of winning films following the Awards Presentation, including the award we were excited to present.

Along with sponsoring and presenting the Best Short Mountain Film Award, we’re also a part of the Festival Marketplace, which features the latest and greatest from the BLBCA and other Festival Partners. If you haven’t already, come check out our virtual booth here.

And now onto the big news… We might even call it “mountain-sized” news…

We’re hosting an EPIC photo and video contest throughout the Banff Mountain Film Festival giving you and a friend the chance to win a one-week stay at your choice of any of our 32 BLBCA member lodges!

Imagine seven days of backcountry adventure, beautiful landscapes, unspoiled alpine views, home comforts, legendary cuisine, and likeminded souls. With 32 BLBCA member lodges to choose from, there is no shortage of idyllic hideaways for this getaway. Our member lodges are nestled deep within the four major mountain ranges across British Columbia: The Rockies, Columbia Mountains, Cariboo Chilcotins, and Coast Range, meaning you can experience some of the most pristine, untouched mountains in North America.

This contest is open to BLBCA Affiliate Members only. If you’re not already a member, you can purchase an Affiliate Membership directly on the contest page, then submit a photo or video from one of the three contest categories for your chance to win this epic backcountry trip to a BLBCA Member Lodge next summer.

What are you waiting for?! Head over to the contest and enter today; we can’t wait to see your submissions!

Get To Know: Jasmin Caton

Introducing You to The Owner and Operator of BLBCA Member Lodge, Valhalla Mountain Touring

BLBCA member lodge owners come from many walks of life and we wanted to share their unique stories to connect backcountry enthusiasts with these stewards and caretakers of lodges throughout British Columbia. With that, allow us to introduce you to Jasmin Caton of Valhalla Mountain Touring, located near New Denver, BC.

Jasmin spent many of her formative years at the lodge, which came into the Caton family when Jasmin was around 13 years old, though the family had spent time there backcountry skiing before that point. During a break from studying at university, Jasmin completed her first professional level avalanche course and spent a winter at the lodge, working as a custodian. The lifestyle that came with living in a “tiny little stuffed shack” and taking care of the chores at the lodge, along with the opportunity to socialize and spend time with the guests, appealed to Jasmin. It was at that time she began mentoring with the guides working for her parents at Valhalla Mountain Touring, which planted the seed for becoming a guide. Nearly ten years and a Master’s degree later, Jasmin began guiding, as the opportunity–and responsibility–to take over the family business surfaced.

Jasmin Caton, Owner, Operator and Lead Guide at Valhalla Mountain Touring

“Taking over the lodge was something I had to rise up to and meet the challenge of. In hindsight, it was so great that I had all the support around me to make that choice–an obvious one,” says Jasmin.

Jasmin took over the business in 2006 and has been operating Valhalla Mountain Touring ever since.

BLBCA Executive Director, Brad Harrison, recently had the chance to chat with Jasmin on the Mountain Escapes podcast to learn more about her experience, specifically as a female lodge owner/operator and ACMG Rock and Ski guide. Jasmin says it’s something she reflects on a lot and hopes that the up-and-coming female guides will also have positive experiences, as she did.

“I didn’t experience much in the way of overt challenges. However, I do think there are patterns and biases. All of these things run really deep in our society and in the guiding community,” says Jasmin.

Jasmin notes the positive changes happening within the guiding culture are encouraging more women to take this career path and says it’s nice to feel she is a part of that shift: “I think having more female instructors does breed a culture of welcoming and openness to female students.”

When it comes to guests at the lodge, Jasmin notes that Valhalla Mountain Touring’s clientele has been largely gender balanced, though she has focused on offering women’s only trips. “There are a lot of women who very likely wouldn’t sign up for a mixed group trip, for a whole bunch of different reasons that just wouldn’t appeal to them or feel comfortable for them. By offering women’s only trips, there’s a place for those women who don’t have a whole group of their friends to plan a trip with, who can join in and feel comfortable and supported.”

As a female lodge owner, Jasmin’s personal experiences have shaped the way she aims to run Valhalla Mountain Touring, to make it a more inclusive space for all who visit and stay.

“Everyone who shows up, we do our best to give them the best experience we can. That’s something that I wanted to have be a real fundamental principle of the operation,” says Jasmin.

Learn more about Jasmin’s story in the first episode of the Mountain Escapes podcast here. To learn more about Valhalla Mountain Touring, click here.

BC Rivers Day; Just Around The Bend

Celebrating The Province’s Naturally Flowing Waterways on September 26th

For more than four decades, British Columbians have celebrated BC Rivers Day on the fourth Sunday in September, making it the largest river appreciation event throughout Canada. The day serves to both celebrate and build awareness of our natural waterways through independently hosted events from local government, conservation organizations, recreation clubs, community groups, schools, and more. Events have included film screenings, group paddling trips, river clean-ups, and community gatherings and ceremonies.

The theme for this year’s celebration on Sunday, September 26th echoes the theme of last year: Waterways in our Community, with subthemes such as the need to maintain and restore stream connectivity as well as highlighting the link between rivers and oceans.

Our waterways are incredibly important and yet rivers and freshwater ecosystems are among the most at risk ecosystems on the planet, threatened by pollution, urbanization, industrial development, invasive species, damming, and climate change. BC Rivers Day aims to increase community awareness about our local waterways through celebration and making a difference for clean and healthy water, rivers, and communities across the province.

To learn more about BC Rivers Day, join an official event, or host your own, visit the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC.

Want more BLBCA in your life? You’ve got it!

The BLBCA is excited to announce Mountain Escapes | A Backcountry Podcast! Our host and Executive Director, Brad Harrison, connects backcountry enthusiasts with the stewards and caretakers of lodges throughout British Columbia. Mountain Escapes | A Backcountry Podcast also includes a segment aptly titled My Backcountry Story where we hear from members of the community who share their backcountry experiences.

Listen to our inaugural episode featuring a conversation with lodge owner, Jasmin Caton of Valhalla Mountain Touring located near New Denver, BC. To listen, click here to tune in on your favourite podcast platform and hit subscribe so that you never miss an episode!

Be Bear Aware

Recreating Safely in Natural Bear Habitats

British Columbia’s backcountry offers several incredible attributes, from stunning landscapes and unspoiled alpine views to solitude and integration with nature. Another awe-inspiring offering provided by the backcountry is the extensive wildlife that you may encounter along the way; perhaps viewing wildlife – safely and responsibly – is even the reason you choose to visit the backcountry.

BC is home to both black (in coastal areas the Kermode bear, a rare, white-coated black bear) and grizzly bears with the province’s varied landscape providing the ideal habitat for both species. While black bears tend to prefer extensively wooded areas, lowlands and wetlands, grizzlies tend to occupy a greater range of habitats including tundra plains, prairie and grasslands, and of course, the thick temperate rainforests of coastal BC. The two species can however – and do – overlap habitats.

As humans recreating in natural bear habitats, it’s our responsibility to be mindful of bear habits and activity, taking every precaution in order to prevent and reduce human-bear conflict. Most bear encounters occur in the warmer months of the year (March through November) when the number of outdoor recreationalists is higher, leading to an increased chance of an encounter.

The late summer and autumn is a key time for bear activity in the backcountry: bears enter a state of hyperphagia – an extreme appetite which increases their feeding activity – driven by their biological need to fatten up prior to hibernation. Though the onset and duration of this hyperphagia state differs based on the regional norms of food availability which can vary. During hyperphagia, bears can feed upwards of 20 hours each day to prepare for a winter of hibernation. As a result of this, they can become temperamental and defensive if they perceive a threat to a potential meal source.

Before embarking on any adventure into the wilderness – and into bear habitat – prepare yourself by learning about bears, their behaviours, and how to avoid conflicts and stay safe while recreating in BC. (Consider taking WildSafeBC’s Bear Safety When Recreating course to learn more.)

While you’re out in the backcountry, be alert and watch for bears or bear activity including their tracks and scat, strange smells or disturbed vegetation nearby. Alert potential bears to your presence by making noise: singing, talking calmly and loudly, or clapping, especially near streams and areas of low visibility. Hike and bike in groups and don’t let children wander; larger groups of 4 or more are less likely to have a negative encounter with a bear. Always keep pets on-leash, as dogs can provoke defensive bear behaviour. And of course, always be prepared with bear spray and know how to use it effectively.

When camping outdoors, store bear attractants – such as food (both human and pet), garbage, recyclables, toiletries, and other smelly items – in a bear-safe manner, see what WildSafeBC advises about this. Utilize bear-proof food storage lockers when provided or bring your own bear-proof containers and hang food from a rope system or tree branch in an area inaccessible to bears (at least four metres off the ground and three metres from the nearest tree.)

It’s crucial for us to respect the fact that the backcountry is home to bears and as visitors in their areas, we must do our part to conserve bears and their natural environment. To learn more on

bear safety and what to do if you encounter a bear or if a bear approaches or charges you, please visit the following resources:

BC Parks

WildSafeBC

AdventureSmart

Commercial Bear Viewing Association

Bear Smart – BC Government

Wildfire Safety

Recreating Responsibly in the Backcountry During Fire Season

On July 20th, 2021, the B.C. Government declared a provincial state of emergency in response to the ongoing wildfire situation. The declaration, made by Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, came into effect on July 21st, 2021, upon the recommendation from the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC.

The state of emergency is in effect for 14 days, though it may be extended or rescinded as necessary; applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial, and local resources can be delivered in a coordinated response to protect the public.

With that, the public is being asked to be mindful of the needs of B.C.’s wildfire response through careful and considerate trip planning when hiking and recreating in the backcountry. Aside from diligently working to suppress wildfires across the province, BC Wildfire Service has also been involved in a number of coordinated rescues of hikers. Such rescue calls require the diversion of helicopters from the fire line and may detract from the efforts of supressing wildfires.

So how can you play your part? Responsible use of the backcountry is critical.

  1. Brush up on your knowledge and skills to make informed decisions when enjoying the outdoors.
  2. Utilize online tools such as FireSmoke Canada, BC Wildfire Dashboard and PurpleAir – Air Quality Monitoring in order to help you make informed and up-to-date decisions on your travel plans.
  3. Plan your trip well in advance, ensuring you’re up-to-date with the latest wildfire information and wildfire evacuation orders, along with park closures and road closures or detours along your route.
  4. Prepare an emergency plan and put together an emergency kit in the event you encounter a disaster.
  5. Be sure that your travel plans or recreation activities are not interfering in any manner with wildfire mitigation efforts. There have been reports of drones been flown near aircraft, forcing water bombers to be grounded. People have also been recreating on water bodies, hampering aircraft’s ability to pick-up water. Don’t be one of these people, be aware of your proximity to wildfires.
  6. If you see a wildfire while you’re recreating, report it by dialing *5555 on a cellphone or calling 1-800-663-5555. A small fire can quickly become a serious wildfire; your call matters.

Nature has been there for us throughout the pandemic. Now we need to be there for nature.

Blue Mind

The Benefits of Being Near, In, or On Water

There’s something about a body of water that pulls us in. We are drawn to lakes, rivers, and oceans – especially in these warm, sunny months, eager for a paddle or SUP atop glassy waters or to plunge in and cool off after a rewarding hike. Our natural waterways provide us with recreation and adventure, but they also give us so much more that: inspiration and creativity, along with a sense of peace and calm.

Marine biologist and author Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, dubbed the term “blue mind”, describing it as, “the mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.”

“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water,” writes Dr. Nichols in his book, aptly titled Blue Mind. “Being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.”

Simply being by water – whether an open ocean, a sprawling lake, a trickling stream, or even a bath at home – has therapeutic properties. According to neuroscientists and psychologists, the ocean and other natural waterways provide vast cognitive, emotional, physical, psychological, social, and spiritual values. Water is a source of happiness, relaxation, play, nostalgia, and wonder. It has also been said to help manage anxiety, trauma, stress, sleep and attention disorders (to name a few.)

We understand that chronic stress and anxiety can cause or intensify a range of physical and mental afflictions; being near, in, or on water can be an effective means of reducing stress and anxiety levels – meaning, time in nature by water might be just what the doctor ordered. 

Aside from the cognitive and physical benefits, being near water has been proven to saturate the senses. “Here, the auditory, visual, and somatic processing is simplified,” writes Dr. Nichols.

Focus on the sensory experience the next time you’re near a water source. Take in the sights, observing the shifting swells and noting the difference of hues from moody indigos to vibrant ceruleans. Inhale the scent of the sea breeze, rich with brine and seaweed. Listen to the sound of a stream that trickles quietly and gently or the rush of a fast-flowing river. Feel the shockingly cold chill of a glacier-fed lake as you dip your toes. Taste the saltwater on your lips after a deep dive into the ocean. Tuning into the senses of the experience can presence you to the moment.

Blue mind is something that can benefit everyone, so much so that it has become synonymous with well-being. And so, as Dr. Nichols says, “I wish you water.”

Literary Escapism for Adventurous Bibliophiles

A Recommended Reading List from the BLBCA Team

Whether you are an adventurous bibliophile or a bibliophilic adventurist, we know there is something wonderful about sticking your nose in a great piece of outdoor literature. This has never been truer than these days while we are all staying close to home but yearning for the sweet escape that books can provide.

Our BLBCA team has rounded up our favourite titles so you can add to your to-be-read list, so you can get lost in the wild of a tantalizing tale.

In The Path of an Avalanche by Vivian Bowers

Adventurers from all over the world come to Canada’s Selkirks, a mecca for ski touring that offers unlimited mountain terrain and lots of snow. On a clear, cold morning in January 1998, six experienced back-country skiers set out across one of its heavily loaded slopes and were caught in a Class 3 avalanche, burying all of them in its path. Vivien Bowers takes us through the tragic series of events, focusing on one of the young women who perished in the slide, and the avalanche’s aftermath. Bowers illuminates a natural phenomenon that has threatened human endeavours throughout the world. Interwoven with the narrative is the science behind the event, including avalanche triggers and the complex process of avalanche prediction. Her book also raises unsettling questions about acceptable risk, about human fallibility, about living fully and dying young-and about what might entice a group of knowledgeable, experienced skiers to place themselves in the path of an avalanche.

Switchbacks: True Stories from the Canadian Rockies by Sid Marty

In Switchbacks, Sid Marty draws on his own memories and those of friends and former colleagues in relating a series of true mountain tales. Along the way, Marty tries to answer the kind of questions that all of us must face some day. Do we really have to “grow up” and abandon adventure as well as youthful ideals? Can the mountains draw old friends back together, when politics and lifestyles have set them apart? Sid Marty writes gracefully of the land he loves and lampoons a few bureaucrats whose policies sometimes threaten its integrity. His portraits of the people – and creatures – that make their lives in the mountains are affectionate and respectful. But, above all, this is a collection of engaging, surprising, funny, and superbly told true stories by a gifted writer.

#myBCbackcountry Through Your Lens Photo and Story Contest Winners

Congratulations to the Prize Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in our 2021 photo and story contest, #myBCbackcountry Through Your Lens. Our BLBCA team and guest judge, Jamie Out, loved viewing all of your amazing photographs and reading through your stories about how you recreate responsibly in the backcountry. 

We’re thrilled to share the winning entries in both the photo and story categories below. Congratulations to the prize winners!

First Place Photo Winner: Payam M.

Payam M.

Second Place Photo Winner: Mark E.

Mark E.

First Place Story Winner: Ben M.

When recreating in the backcountry I understand that I am not on my land, I am on the land of the indigenous locals and the land of the wildlife who lives here. With this in mind I always aim to pack out more than I pack in. It’s so easy to attach a bag to your belt or backpack whilst recreating in a wilderness area. I am truly appreciative of nature, the air, the feelings, the sounds and emotions. These things make me eternally thankful to call BC my home. I am also a nature photographer and one my main purposes of my images is to attract people towards nature so that when they fall in love with it, they will then want to help conserve it. – Ben M.

Earth Day 2021

How the BLBCA Celebrates Earth Day, Every Day

Earth Day is nearly here, along with conversations focused on climate change and global warming, aiming to raise awareness and inspire action toward the protection of the environment and need for conservation. 

As leaders in sustainability initiatives, we take responsible tourism seriously, so you can enjoy unspoiled wilderness in the years to come. 

Here are three ways in which the BLBCA aims to protect the environment and focus on the need for conservation. 

Human-Powered Adventures

In our opinion, the most rewarding backcountry adventures are the human-powered ones. In both the summer and winter months, some BLBCA member lodges are accessible by hiking, ski touring, or snowshoeing. Once guests arrive onsite, all activities are non-mechanized, falling in line with a commitment to leave as small a footprint as possible and allowing guests to immerse themselves in the wonders of BC’s backcountry wilderness. However you recreate at a BLBCA lodge – whether mountain biking, paddling, or hiking on remote backcountry trails in the summer or skiing and snowboarding in untracked powder in the winter – you’ll be doing so in a way which reduces the impact on local wildlife and the wilderness habitat they occupy.

Keep the Backcountry Wild

Backcountry lovers are drawn to the unspoiled natural environment, devoid of the telltale signs of human impact. Being in the wilderness and immersed in nature can feel like being transported to another place – until we see remnants of use: discarded garbage, evidence of off-trail travel, or leftover fire pits. Keeping the backcountry wild requires proactivity and responsibility: planning ahead and preparing, respecting the environment, minimizing your impact, and wildlife awareness. For more on how we recreate responsibly in the backcountry with essential tips for the backcountry community, check out our recent blog post here.

Promoting Conservation Through Education

Knowledge is power and a key initiative of the BLBCA is to inform and educate the public around the sensitivities of the backcountry. Our member lodges play an integral role in the conservation of the local environment and education of guests. When you visit a backcountry lodge, you will get a glimpse of the value of wild places in our changing world. You may also gain some insight into how remarkably fragile they are. Backcountry lodge owners embrace a shared responsibility to ensure healthy ecosystems and help protect at-risk species, while also participating in scientific studies and providing information and documentation of changes.

Are you interested in supporting the BLBCA and its initiatives in the backcountry?

Managed backcountry access, intact wilderness habitat, support of wildlife, particularly species at risk and responsible use of our backcountry; are these important to you? You can help us. Affiliate Membership is the perfect way to support our shared goals. Find out more and sign up here.

Responsible Recreation in the Backcountry

5 Tips for Your Safety and Well-Being – Along with the Environment’s

Those of us who have had the good fortune to enjoy adventures in the backcountry know what it’s like to take in the unspoiled environment and scenery. It’s important to recognize and understand the impact that our recreation can have on the backcountry environment and be mindful of how to recreate responsibly, so we can minimize the effects of our use. 

It’s on all of us to ensure that the backcountry remains as unspoiled as possible, and so we’ve rounded up five tips to help you recreate responsibly in the backcountry.

Prepare and Trip Plan

Aside from having and sharing your trip plan with a responsible family member or friend, it’s also integral to have the necessary equipment required for the type of trip you’re embarking upon: adequate clothing, food and water, and a first aid kit, along with rescue equipment, such as a shovel, beacon, and probe if you’re recreating in the winter. Safety trainings, such as First Aid and Avalanche Training, are invaluable and chances are the more time you spend in the backcountry, the more likely you will be required to implement what you’ve learned in these trainings in a real-life scenario. For more tips on preparing for your next outdoor activity, head over to AdventureSmart.

Pack It In, Pack It Out

Help keep the backcountry clean and litter-free, by bringing anything that you brought into the backcountry, back out with you as you go and dispose of all waste properly. And yes, that does include human waste – especially in the winter-time. We like to go one-step beyond that to collect garbage along the way, so we can leave the land better than we found it.

Minimize The Impact

Where you trek, camp, and light campfires is certainly something to be mindful of when recreating in the backcountry. Trek and set up camp on durable surfaces, like gravel, deep snow, trails, dry grass, bare soil. Build and maintain low impact campfires by managing the size of the fire and impact on the surrounding area. Be sure to check for fire bans in the area before setting out – you can check BC Wildfire Service for more information – and have an understanding of fire safety measures.

Respect Wildlife

If you’re heading into the backcountry, it’s likely you’ll encounter wildlife; perhaps wildlife viewing is even the reason you’re out there. Always give proper distance to animals in the area and don’t approach or follow. Ensure your food and garbage is stored properly and do not feed them. Finally, if you’re hiking with a dog, ensure that you have the dog under your control at all times, to avoid it chasing or harassing the wildlife.   

Leave Behind Whatever You Find

Nature is full of beauty and intrigue and it can be tempting to want to take a piece of it home with you, but it’s important to leave shells, rocks, flowers, plants, and other natural objects where you find them. When it comes to flora and fauna, avoid introducing or transporting non-native species, which can have a negative impact on the local environment.

How do you recreate responsibly in the backcountry?

Tell us in 100 words and/or share your photos with us be entered to win one of three backcountry getaways to a BLBCA lodge. Enter the #myBCbackcountry Through Your Lens Photo Contest now through April 19th.

BLBCA Photo Contest, Our Judge

Introducing Our Guest Photo Judge, Jamie Out

We’ve all had to sacrifice this past year: less travel, fewer visits with friends, perhaps more time spent indoors than we would have liked. One thing that has remained constant throughout this pandemic is the beautiful nature that surrounds us.  

For those of us that crave the outdoors, this year has been more of a respite than any before it. We know the healing properties of nature and the ways it can make our stress and worries disappear without challenge. Whether it’s a simple walk on a forested path, or a multi-day traverse through the mountains, we’ve adapted and pursued those things that are important to our health and well-being. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to get outside to photograph some incredible landscapes this year and have explored deeper in the areas closer to my home that may have gone unnoticed had I been travelling as I typically do.  

For those that don’t know me, my name is Jamie Out and I have been given the great honour of being a guest photography judge for the Backcountry Lodges of BC Association’s upcoming #myBCbackcountry Through Your Lens photo contest this year. I am a travel and adventure enthusiast and freelance photographer based in Salmon Arm, British Columbia. My primary focus is telling stories and capturing the spirit of adventure in beautiful landscapes. I am a Canon Canada Ambassador and have worked with many of the top International and Canadian brands in the outdoor industry. 

My hope is that through this past year you were able to overcome the challenges faced and got out into nature to capture some incredible images.  

We are looking for a broad range of outdoor images and have some incredible prizes to be won so stay tuned for the official contest launch on March 30th to learn more on how to participate, along with the great prizing available from the BLBCA’s member lodges.

A beautiful mountain sunrise, your friend skiing that deep fresh powder, or a quaint cabin under the stars, whatever shows #myBCbackcountry through your lens is what we are looking to see and share on our channels.  

Show us what excited you and helped get you through this past year of unknowns for your chance to win one of three mountain lodge getaways. 

Importance of Shopping Local

“Shop Local” Is No Longer Just a Slogan; It Represents Solidarity

As we approach the one-year mark of the global pandemic, it’s not a secret that the impact has been felt greatly across Canada – especially within the retail industry. Nowhere is that more apparent than the higher levels of economic damage encountered by small businesses affected by the crisis. According to Statistics Canada, nearly 60% of small businesses have experienced a decline in revenue of 20% or greater.

There are a number of ways to support your local businesses. Many have pivoted to offer e-commerce options so that you can shop from the comfort of your own home, having your purchases shipped directly to you – or some cases, even delivered right to your door from shop owners and staff. Curbside pick-up has also become a popular offering, with stores encouraging customers to place orders by phone or online, then pick up their goods with speed and ease – without needing to even step foot inside the store. 

Another note of consideration when shopping local, especially in terms of accommodation and take-out food, is to purchase directly from the business, rather than buying through a third-party website or application – which always take a cut of the sale. When you purchase direct from the source, all of the funds are staying within your own community, which is integral for the sustainability of your local economy.

You’ll notice in our recent BLBCA-BMFF Raffle, we supported as many local manufacturers as we could – including Arc’teryx and G3 Genuine Gear Guide – while also supporting a local retailer – True Outdoors – by purchasing these prizes directly from the owner. 

We know the big giants are likely to be around long after things have settled, but the chances of your local cafe, sporting goods, or hardware store being open are, unfortunately, much smaller. If you want to see your favourite local businesses continue to not only survive, but thrive, be intentional with your shopping.  The phrase “shop local” is no longer just a catchy marketing slogan in the consumer marketplace; it now represents solidarity with those in our community who we wish to support with action – and our dollars. 

Share Your Love for BC Contest

Destination BC Encourages Residents to Share Their Love

From the heart of our cities to the farthest reaches of our wilderness, there are so many places across BC that inspire connection, rejuvenation and transformation. Until it’s safe to travel again, our memories and photos can give us a renewed sense of appreciation for everything that surrounds us.

Destination BC is hosting a contest encouraging BC residents to share what they love most about BC. Share your love for BC and you could win $500 in gift cards and vouchers from Destination BC to spend at local businesses in your community, to help stay local and support local.

Ten lucky people across the province will win $500 in gift cards or vouchers to spend at local businesses in their community, to help share the love. And who knows? You might just find a few new places along the way to put on your wish list for later.

For the full contest details and to enter, visit ShareYourLoveForBC.com.

Why Stay at a BLBCA Backcountry Lodge?

5 Reasons to Try a Local Backcountry Lodge This Season

Winter trips to a lodge in the backcountry are rite of passage for those who want to experience the outdoors in a more intimate and connected manner. It’s the destination, but it’s also the journey. You’ll be hauling your gear and earning your turns, making the rewards – fresh powder, stunning alpine views, cozy and quaint lodgings – that much sweeter.

With 32 BLBCA member lodges to choose from, there is no shortage of idyllic hideaways for your next getaway. Our member lodges are nestled deep within the four major mountain ranges across British Columbia: The Rockies, Columbia Mountains, Cariboo Chilcotins, and Coast Range, meaning you can experience some of the most pristine, untouched mountains in North America.

Here are five reasons why we think you should you stay at a backcountry lodge near you.

Remote and Secluded

You won’t be driving up to these lodges and battling for a parking spot with the masses. Each of our member lodges are tucked away in the mountains and as a result of their remoteness, lodge access is mechanized in the winter season (mostly by helicopter) or self-propelled. Get acquainted with the peace and quiet of nature in its purest form and #UnplugInBC.

Escape the Crowds

Backcountry lodges provide a smaller, more personal getaway experience than the average resort accommodation with the average number of guests that can be accommodated being just 12 guests per lodge. Talk about cozy! Plus, with lodges running at a reduced capacity during the pandemic, the experience just got even more intimate.

Untouched Powder

Take advantage of ski touring, splitboarding, and snowshoeing in phenomenal, untouched powder directly outside your door; without having to race out each morning to get your fresh tracks; the slopes aren’t crowded up here. It’s just you and your bubble in vast terrain, a blank canvas likely awaits your mark.

Hearty, Homecooked Cuisine

If you have chosen a catered package, you will return to enjoy a hearty, sumptuous meal, regardless of your culinary preferences. With fresh breakfasts, packed lunches, warm snacks and après-ski apps, and tasty 3-course dinners, you’ll be well fueled for all of your adventures.

Beautiful Landscapes

Deep in the peaceful backcountry, you’ll be surrounded by pure, white snow blanketing everything from lush forests to the soaring mountain peaks. Take in the unspoiled alpine views at sunset and soak in the beauty of the light that touches the landscape from the open sky, jutting peaks, and spacious meadows.

To experience the remote wilderness of BC’s backcountry and find a lodge in your local community this winter to wind down after a full day exploring – and support local businesses in the process – click here.

Nourishing Nature

Tuning Into the Natural World to Get Present

It’s the beginning of a new year, though perhaps with little reprieve, as much of the uncertainty of last year has carried over like a long lingering haze.

For many, the current global events have taken a toll on mental health, as we continue to follow provincial health authorities’ directives to reduce both travel and social interactions. As it turns out, an antidote to the stress and mental unrest is to spend at least two hours per week in nature. Research has shown that time spent connecting to nature can have a powerful impact on improving our mental health.

While restrictions are causing us to stay close to home, you don’t need to go far to get into nature. For the adventurers that yearn to explore this season, there are still ways to get outside and explore safely within your own community. Perhaps you’ll even develop a deeper appreciation for the environment that exists right outside your door.

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a walk in your local community. To double the impact and truly tune into the natural world, try this simple exercise using your five senses to come to presence and connect with the magnificence of nature. All it takes is an open mind and a willingness to slow down and come to presence.

Begin with identifying five things you can see in your surroundings. Maybe you notice the deep blue shade of sky on a bluebird day and the soft pillows of fresh white snow atop drooping cedar branches. Or if you’re closer to the coast, perhaps you instead take in the plump raindrops that cling to the needles of a Douglas-fir.

Next, pinpoint four things you can hear. You might focus on the natural soundscapes that surround you, like the biophonic sound of birdsong overhead. Or the familiar groans and creaks of ancient trees as the wind passes through their outstretched branches.

Move on to locating three things you can touch. Take the time to trace your fingertips over the soft and fuzzy moss that blankets the trunk of an old tree, a stark contrast to the sensation of the wonderfully rough and rugged bark beneath your palm.

Then, discern two things you can smell, such as the earthy scent produced by rain falling on dry soil or the wintery scent of pine oils as you rub the bristly needles between your fingertips.

Finally, identify one thing you can taste. Maybe it’s the acidic aftertaste of your morning coffee or if you’re lucky, the tangy taste of a rose hip plucked straight from the bush.

This 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise is a powerful tool to calm an anxious mind. Plus, the practice of tuning in and acknowledging the natural setting around you may lead you to rediscovering the beauty in your own backyard.

Snow covered mountains with text overlay that reads: 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique describing exercise to use your senses to ground and centre yourself.