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

The Rewind – Nourishing Nature

Welcome to our series, “The Rewind”, where we share some of our older, most-loved community content–because great stories deserve a second telling! In our latest edition of The Rewind, we’re revisiting how important it is to get out into nature, both for your mental and physical health, a blog originally posted in January, 2021.

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.

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

The Rewind

Welcome to our series, “The Rewind”, where we share some of our older, most-loved community content–because great stories deserve a second telling! In our latest edition of The Rewind, we’re kicking it back to the importance of recreating responsibly, a blog originally posted in April, 2021. We hope this is helpful as you head out into BC’s amazing 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.

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.

The Rewind: Importance of Shopping Local

Welcome to our series, “The Rewind”, where we share some of our older, most-loved community content–because great stories deserve a second telling! In our latest edition of The Rewind, we’re kicking it back to Importance of Shopping Local, a blog originally posted in March 2021. We hope you enjoy!

Masked customer waits to be helped at Callaghan Country front desk

“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. 

Have You Heard Mountain Escapes?

Mountain Escapes | A Backcountry Podcast

Did you know we recently launched a podcast? We’ve got six 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.

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.

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!

The Rewind: Mountain Biking–In The Mountains

Welcome to our series, “The Rewind”, where we share some of our older, most-loved community content–because great stories deserve a second telling! In our latest edition of The Rewind, we’re kicking it back to Mountain Biking–In The Mountains, a blog originally posted in September 2018. We hope you enjoy!

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.

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.

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

Ski Touring Right Now?

The mountains are beckoning, but you might want to reconsider the urge to go backcountry skiing right now. I get it, we have fresh snow coming our way and it is very alluring. I would love to get a few more days of riding in, but there are other things to consider. Yes, technically you can go ski touring and you should be able to maintain social distancing, but that might be tough at crowded trailheads.  Are all the members of your group really going to drive alone in separate vehicles? If you get hurt, even a minor injury, you will add stress to an already overburdened health care system.

You might want to consider waiting until next year, when things have settled down. Make good decisions.

Brad Harrison, BLBCA Executive Director

COVID-19 Crisis & the BLBCA

The Board of Directors of the BLBCA are recommending that all member lodges suspend their winter operations as expediently as possible and remain closed until such time that the BC Centre for Disease Control, CDC , and Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, have determined that the emergency is over. Guests should be assisted in exiting the lodges and encouraged to follow all the recommendations of the CDC and Dr. Henry.

BLBCA members are doing their best to help flatten the curve of this pandemic, despite significant financial and operational challenges. We encourage all businesses, residents and visitors do their part, with a concerted effort, we will get through this crisis.

Other Resources

Alberta Health Services
HealthLink BC
Destination BC – has taken an active position relating to the COVID-19 crisis, providing a robust source of current information and links to a number of resources.

Check out a BLBCA Lodge this Spring

Spring is a wonderful time to check out BC’s amazing backcountry, particularly at BLBCA lodge. Our 32 members offer a wide array of facilities and services. Use our Find a Lodge tool to find your perfect destination. The conditions are often amazing long after many ski resorts have closed for the season.

Take a peek at POWDERMATT’s recent article, “Spring is the time to go to a higher place“, nice summary of spring activities and locations.

Don’t forget to enter our UnpluginBC Contest that is running until February 29th. Don’t wait, it’s easy to enter and you have a chance to win one of three amazing prizes.

More from the BLBCA:

Enter and #UnplugInBC for FREE!

The only way to win is to play. When you share your love of the backcountry, you get entries into a draw for one of 3 BLBCA lodge stays. The more you share, the more entries you’ll get and the better your chances are to win!

We’ve teamed up with Sol Mountain LodgeWells Gray Adventures, and Golden Alpine Holidays, so you can extend your backcountry fun and spend the summer with us.

Enter to win one of three amazing BLBCA experiences.

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

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.

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.

Winners Announced

Our spring contest has closed and we’ve announced the winners of our three amazing BLBCA backcountry experiences, courtesy of Mount Carlyle Backcountry Lodge, Wells Gray Adventures, and Sol Mountain Lodge.

Check to see if you were a lucky winner!