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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

BLBCA & COVID-19

BLBCA Lodges Follow Safe Operating Plans for Winter

Things will be different in the backcountry this winter, but we can all relax a wee bit knowing that BLBCA member lodges are stepping up to the challenge and working hard to keep staff and guests safe this winter.

In May, our organization developed an association-level BLBCA Best Practices template for individual member lodges to reference while developing their own, specific COVID-19 operating plan as required by Provincial Health Office and WorkSafeBC

Guests booked or considering booking a trip to a BLBCA lodge this winter are encouraged to inquire with individual lodges for their unique COVID-19 operating plans and safety procedures. Please consider visiting a BLBCA member lodge in your region, travel and shop locally.

Please see our Know Before You Go page for more information on how the BLBCA is working with member lodges and how you can better prepare for your backcountry experience.

BLBCA at the BMFF

The BLBCA is proud to sponsor the best “Mountain Short Film” award at this year’s virtual Banff Mountain Film Festival. We hope you get a chance to watch some of the films.

Don’t forget to enter, 3 groups of prizes that are perfect to set you up for the winter. Tickets are limited, you have an excellent chance to win and includes a free BLBCA Affiliate Membership.

The BLBCA is a member-directed group of independantly-owned lodge operations, located throughout the major mountain ranges of British Columbia, Canada. Due to their remoteness, lodge access is mechanized in the winter (mostly by helicopter). In the summer several lodges are accessible by hiking. Once at the lodge, all activities are non-mechanized, falling in line with our commitment to leave as small a footprint as possible. All lodges are located in mountainous regions of British Columbia, usually situated at or above treeline in what is generally referred to as the “alpine”.

Your British Columbia backcountry adventure begins with us. Visit a BLBCA lodge, #unpluginBC, revel in your adventure tourism experience. Enjoy your chance to explore some of the world’s most remote, pristine locations feeling safe and comfortable.

NASCAR Champion Becomes Lodge Owner

BLBCA member lodge owners come from many walks of life. I have been in the adventure tourism business most of my life and know all of our 32 owners pretty well. Along with his wife Carrie, Cole Pearn is the newish owner of Golden Alpine Holidays, a system of 4 backcountry lodges located in the Esplanade Range of the Selkirk Mtns, NW of Golden, BC.

Cole took a bit of a unique path on his way to being a backcountry lodge owner. He was a decorated NASCAR champion when he abruptly retired at the end of the last full season and decided to buy the GAH business. I am confident in saying that I don’t know any other lodge owners that have followed the exact journey that Cole has. Welcome to our family Carrie and Cole.

Our friends at Pique Newsmagazine recently published an article highlighting Cole’s racing career. Give it a read if you have a moment, NASCAR champion Pearn up to speed with Daly at Indy 500.

Explore BLBCA Lodges….later

We, the BLBCA members, can’t wait to get off our computers, phones and get back into the mountains, where we are most at home.  We would love to have you join us again and we are anxiously waiting and hoping the Covid-19 pandemic will subside as soon as possible

But, as Destination BC – has suggested, #exploreBC…later. We are readying to re-open as soon as it is safe to do so. And, we are  keen to once again have you escape the crowds, #unpluginBC , and enjoy your backcountry adventure at a BLBCA-member lodge.

The world will undoubtedly be different once we emerge from this crisis. BLBCA members will be at the forefront and doing our best to adapt to the new “normal”. We will do everything we can to make you feel confident and comfortable about visiting our facilities once it is appropriate to do so.

Take good care,

Brad Harrison, BLBCA Executive Director

BLBCA Welcomes Tyax Adventures

The BLBCA is pleased to welcome Tyax Adventures as the newest full member to our association. Tyax Adventures is located in the heart of British Columbia wilderness, specifically in the unique landscape of the South Chilcotin Mountain Range.

The operation recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and is operated by Dale and Jane Douglas. Their vision has created a world class destination using historical trail network from the gold-rush era and the First Nations peoples. They operate 5 backcountry camps, supported by a supply chain of tried and true horseback packing and seasoned wranglers, who keep our camps stocked with necessities and luxuries for our backcountry guests.

Within the tenure and operating areas, their guests enjoy multi-day backcountry adventures, under their own steam; while being guided and fed by Tyax’s handpicked team. Tyax operates mainly in the summer months, catering to mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners. Access to routes near remote lakes is either by non-mechanized means, or by a float plane drop in a De Havilland Beaver. Guests are whisked into the backcountry and enjoy comfortable accommodation while traveling back to civilization. As the principal commercial operator in the region, Tyax Adventures is committed to working with local stakeholders; maintaining trails and supporting the pristine backcountry.

In the winter months they rent their Eldorado Cabin, which supports small group, self-catered/guided ski touring for week-long pristine backcountry skiing in the Southern Chilcotin Mountains. If you are interested, they have one prime vacancy, from February 21st-28th, 2020. Contact Tyax Adventure for info.

We are two decades into Tyax Adventures (time flies!), and it is still such great reward to be able to share this magnificent environment with our guests, both the returning ones, ( & now their kids), as well as the new ones who discover us for the first time!” says owner/operator Dale Douglas

BLBCA Lodge Catches the Eye of 57 Hours

Backcountry Skiing at Burnie Glacier, Northern British Columbia | 57hours

Review by Lee Lau – Vancouver-based backcountry skier, mountain biker and writer. Revelstoke, Whistler, Rogers Pass, the Selkirks, the Rockies. Mention Canadian ski destinations and the eyes of powder hounds glaze over and their minds travel to these hallowed lands, these meccas.

Assiniboine Lodge – Jewel – Video

Built in 1928, Assiniboine Lodge is North America’s first backcountry ski lodge. It is located in Mt. Assiniboine Park. In 2010 BC Parks, working with the current lodge operators Andre Renner and Claude Duchesne, initiated an extensive restoration and stabilization project on Assiniboine Lodge. Achieving the project goal of maintaining the lodge’s historical significance and character, it remains a jewel in this magnificent part of the Canadian Rockies.

ATC Highlights Importance of Adventure Tourism

Pique Magazine
Coalition highlights importance of adventure tourism to rural B.C. as it heads into 2019
ATC highlights land tenure issues as obstacles to industry growth
By Joel Barde

Though still in its infancy, the Adventure Tourism Coalition (ATC) is already recognized as a major stakeholder in B.C.’s robust tourism industry.

Avalanche Awareness 101 – BLBCA at MEC

Get Informed. Be Inspired. Avalanche Awareness 101

Join presenter Brad Harrison, Canadian Avalanche Association Professional Member and Executive Director, Backcountry Lodges of BC Association. Brad regularly delivers AST, MAT & CRS courses for Avalanche Canada. Join us on Nov 17th at the MEC Vancouver Store.

By the end of the session, you will be familiar with: 

  • An introduction on avalanche awareness and safety basics
  • Recognize avalanche terrain and avoid hazards
  • Prepare for a backcountry trip
  • Know how to use essential Companion Rescue equipment

Because you are a backcountry traveler, these are things you need to know.


2018 Snowfest Sponsor.

This clinic has been made possible with the support of our sponsor, the Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association.

Mountain Biking: In the Mountains

Mountain biking should take place in well, the mountains, and there’s something special about sharing that experience with friends and family. Unique vistas, with layers of unadulterated peaks definitely will help you put down that phone and capture real moments in time.

True Mountain biking has long been a coveted experience for the sports elitist. What I mean by this is that, as a rider you used to flip over a magazine cover and dream of being that pro, somewhere high in the mountains, exploring alpine terrain and returning to a remote lodge with scrumptious food, tasty beverages and clean, crisp sheets. These trails were often hard to find, local secrets, that took a massive amount of fitness to explore. Over the last 5 years, this scene has changed, from heli-biking to the growth of easily accessible alpine single-track, and here in Beautiful British Columbia, we’re leading the charge.

The Backcountry Lodges of BC Association has a number of lodges that provide quick and easy access to the alpine, true mountainside access, all situated around riding hand-built single-track. In this article we’ll be highlighting Sol Mountain Lodge throughout our imagery and point-of-view video footage.

ABOUT
Sol Mountain Lodge is a family friendly lodge that you can drive to! Albeit the road is suitable only for 4×4 vehicles with favourable ground clearance. Be forewarned, it definitely feels like cheating when you open your car door and set your eyes on the immaculate lodge. Since this article is mainly about the trails, I’ll skip all the general info (you can view it on their website) and cut to the goods!

THE TRAILS
Sol Mountain Lodge is a family run business, this means all hands on-deck, all-the-time! The trails here are built with the utmost care for the environment and even more impressive is that lodge owner Aaron Cooperman, has his teenage son, Seth, working full-time, hand clearing, and hand laying rocks for your riding pleasure. Seth is also an absolute shredder, so if you’re up at the lodge and he’s done working for the day, be sure to ask him to go for a pedal.

I first heard about the trails at Sol Mountain Lodge from Seth, he’s a young junior racer in my event series (the Canadian National Enduro Series), when he told me about the steep rock rolls, expansive views and technical climbs, I was hooked! One thing to be weary of here at Sol, is that it takes almost double the riding time to get anywhere, the reason, the views. It took us almost three hours to ride fifteen kilometers as we couldn’t help but stop at every opportunity to bask in the humbling glory and serenity of the alpine.

The best time for a ride, is right now, go early in the morning or late in the evening for the best light, and it’s best to book a few nights at the lodge so you can ensure that you get those Instagram shots, you’ll want to ride and re-ride the trails to claim your favourites.

Alpine trails are unique, and although the map shows many blue square trails, there are a few black diamond moves and a wee-bit of an exposure to keep you honest.

FAMILY FUN?!
Why not bring the whole family for some alpine fun in the sun!? This area boasts lots to do from hiking, biking to simply hanging out at this premier lodge, there’s something for everyone. A massive thanks to Seth Cooperman (the son) and Aaron Cooperman for showing us around the trails. I don’t want to give all their stories away, but be sure to leave a donation at the trailhead, you’ll find a pleasant surprise for you at the lake!

Ted Morton  – Canadian Enduro

 

Virtually Experience Backcountry Lodge

Zoya Lynch and her family got hooked on Golden’s backcountry lifestyle in the early 1990s.

Her parents took a leap of faith and invested in the Amiskwi lodge in the back of the Blaeberry Valley.

As long time residents of Calgary, and with four young children, becoming a part of the backcountry lodge was quite the change for the family.

Now, Lynch and her sister Izzy are producing a short documentary to show how the little lodge in the backcountry changed their lives. They also received a $40,000 grant from STORYHIVE to create a virtual reality 360 degree immersive look at a typical backcountry winter trip.

The sisters have been working with Lululemon film creative Andrea Wing to create the virtual reality experience part of the two pieces they are creating.

In 1994, the Lynch family had an opportunity to invest and build the Amiskwi Lodge, and they quickly jumped on it.

“We ended up having this really cool side life in the mountains. It really shaped our lives now in a big way,” Lynch said, adding that her sister is now a professional skier and she is a professional adventure photographer. “Our path now has definitely been shaped by that split decision of my parents to take on the Amiskwi Lodge.”

The family’s story will be told in a video documentary that is less than 10 minutes long.

 

Assiniboine Lodge…Pure and Simple 90 Years Later!

“2018 marks the 90th Anniversary of Assiniboine Lodge!
It is a very special time for the iconic mountain pioneers and the many guests who remain such an integral part of Assiniboine’s history.”

How to Disconnect for Deeper Connection

“As we hiked the 7½ miles to Purcell Mountain Lodge, we skipped straight over the small talk. With our phones tucked discreetly in our packs, we got to know each other on the kind of deep level that’s unique to the backcountry, where time slows and an hour feels like a day.”

Snowfest a Success

The BLBCA participated at this year’s MEC Snowfest in Vancouver on Nov. 18th. Executive Director, Brad Harrison attended the event and presented a well-attended Avalanche Awareness 101 clinic.

The clinic provided an intro on avalanche awareness and safety basics. Attendees learned how to recognize avalanche terrain and avoid hazards, test essential survival equipment used in companion rescue, and received tips on prepping for a backcountry trip.

Harrison, a Canadian Avalanche Association Professional Member, regularly delivers AST, MAT & CRS courses for Avalanche Canada.

Past Event Details:

What is MEC Snowfest:

  • It’s a way to welcome winter and help people get excited about snow. There are MEC Snowfest events across Canada and each one features activities that are popular in that region—everything from winter running to ice climbing. Snowfest brings together experts and beginners, families and individuals, and all those curious about where and how to fun in winter

MEC Snowfest Facts & Features:

  • In Vancouver, festival attendance averages 3,500-4,500 members
  • Snow Swap has been a fixture in Vancouver for 30+ years
  • Dozens of brands & community groups are represented in-store at Snowfest each year 

The BLBCA and our 30 member-lodges are active in our local communities, attending industry events, devoting time to notable advocacy work in the community, and participating in local government planning and strategy sessions.

More from the BLBCA:

Back to the BMFF

It’s almost that time of year, the Banff Mountain Film Festival is right around the corner, and the BLBCA will be there!

Look for our booth in the Mountain Marketplace from Friday, Nov. 3rd to Sunday, Nov. 5th. Learn about our backcountry lodge network, ask about avalanche awareness, or come for a free sticker!

We’ll also have a gnarly contest running, swing by our booth for your chance to win great backcountry prizing from True Outdoors!

A Labor of Love

Canadian Adventure Company’s story is captured in this video by Backpacker Magazine of a trip to Mallard Mountain Lodge with editors, photographers, and skiers for an annual gear testing trip.

Step Outside – Lessons

LESSONS – G3’S STEP OUTSIDE SHORT FILM SERIES – EP. 3.

Lifetime backcountry guides Evan Stevens (IFMGA) and Jasmin Caton (ACMG) have learned a lot about what makes or breaks a good backcountry ski experience at Valhalla Mountain Touring. They each enjoy the daily lessons they get from a day in the mountains and enjoy sharing it with skiers who join them along the way.

Join Us: Backcountry 101

Join BLBCA and True Outdoors for a FREE Backcountry 101 clinic!

Whether you’ve already spent long days carving turns in backcountry powder, or you’re just considering venturing out for the first time, Backcountry 101 will have something for everyone.

See You at the BMFF

We’re at the Banff Mountain Film Festival from Friday, Nov. 4th to Sunday, Nov. 6th.

Stop by our booth in the Mountain Marketplace to learn more about our backcountry network, ask a question about avalanche awareness or just to say hi!

We’ll also have a sweet contest running for your chance to win great backcountry prizing from True Outdoors!

Naiset Hut Restoration

Mountain history is alive and well at Assiniboine Lodge. Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park is a place of pristine wilderness with its shimmering lakes, glacier clad mountains and flower-filled alpine meadows.

It’s Worth The Wait

Riding BC’s alpine singletrack is the coveted jewel of all mountain riding – but its not great all of the time.

Discover Summer Hiking

Discover summer hiking around Mistaya Lodge in the Rocky Mountains by Golden, BC.

My first real test with my Glidecam out backcountry hiking at Mistaya Lodge in the Rocky Mountains by Golden, BC. Shot on a Canon EOS 650D (Rebel T4i), with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 USM L-series lens, mounted on a Glidecam XR-1000.

How Walking in Nature Prevents Depression

How Walking in Nature Prevents Depression

A study finds that wild environments boost well-being by reducing obsessive, negative thoughts.