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

Our Complete Monashee Traverse

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

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

>>Follow Trip Here<<

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

~Stephen, Isobel, Doug

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

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

~Aaron

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

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

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

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.”

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

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.

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.

BMFF 2018, Hope to see you there!

We’re at the Banff Mountain Film Festival from Friday, Nov. 2nd to Sunday, Nov. 4th.

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 also have a sweet contest running for your chance to win great prizes from G3 (Genuine Guide Gear)  & True Outdoors!

Bernie Schiesser: Master of the Hills

Excerpt from Crowfoot Media
Written by: Lynn Martel | Photo: Bruce Roberts

Bernie Schiesser calls it fate, but the cast of characters in his bio reads like a who’s who of Rockies history. Over the course of his long life, Schiesser’s positive energy and remarkable contributions to many aspects of mountain life have firmly established him on that same roster. Here’s the story behind the man – the pioneer, guide, and backcountry host – who will forever have a legacy in the Canadian Rockies. 

“Bernie Schiesser,” says long-time friend Randy Heppell, “taught me how to pace myself. Working, logging, skiing or just walking in the mountains, life became a meditation. He was always trying to get me to find that focus, that energy that put me in tune with what I was doing and the environment around me.”

Read the complete article at Crowfoot Media

Note: Bernie has been a longtime and active member of the Backcountry Lodges of BC Association. We are pleased that Meghan Ward and her staff at Crowfoot Media have helped to recognize Bernie’s immense contribution to Canada’s mountaineering community with this article.

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.

 

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.”

Arc’teryx 360 Hut Magic

Experience hut magic through a virtual reality trip to Burnie Glacier Lodge with Arc’teryx athletes Christina Lustenberger & Greg Hill. 

Stop by any Arc’teryx store for the full VR experience. 
Find more hut magic at www.arcteryx.com.

*To watch 360° videos you need the latest version of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, or MS Edge. To watch 360° videos on your phone you need the latest version of the YouTube app.

Dreaming a Life

Dreaming a Life, Boulder Hut.

Against much good, solid advice we said, “Why not?” And the choice to follow a dream and not good advice has defined our lives ever since.

Mistaya Lodge in the Rockies

Dave Birnie, owner of Mistaya Lodge in the Canadian Rockies near the British Columbia/Alberta border north of Yoho National Park, discusses his passion for the remote wilderness.

4 Ways to Experience Summer

4 Ways to Experience BC’s Backcountry Lodges in Summer
Explore BC blog
March 8, 2017

It’s been an incredible winter season in BC, and before long, the snow will melt and thoughts will shift from winter to summer. That doesn’t mean BC’s backcountry lodges should be forgotten. There are plenty of other ways to experience these alpine retreats in summer.

1. Mountain Bike From Your Doorstep
A mountain biker enjoys pristine alpine singletrack right out the door of the lodge at Sol Mountain Lodge in the Monashee mountains near Revelstoke, British Columbia.

Nestled in the Monashee Mountains, 2.5 hours south of Revelstoke, there is a growing network of alpine single-track trails right out the door of Sol Mountain Lodge. Primarily operating as a ski touring lodge since 2005, Sol has expanded its summer offerings. There are 20 kilometres (12 miles) of flowy, single-track trails that run through meadows and forests, along alpine ridges, and over rock slabs that wind in and out of Monashee Provincial Park. The lodge opens in August for mountain biking, with options to book an overnight stay or just a day trip. Access to the lodge and terrain is via the 1.9-kilometre (1.1-mile) “Park N Ride” trail from the parking lot.

Another lodge just outside Revelstoke is also offering mountain biking this summer. Marty Schaffer, owner and guide at Blanket Glacier Chalet, explored the terrain surrounding the lodge last summer and found a biking paradise. Plans are in the works to offer 3- and 4-day mountain biking trips with access by helicopter. Keep an eye on the Blanket Glacier Chalet website for upcoming details on new summer operations.

BLBCA-Blog-Alpine Mountain Biking-Mar 12, 2017

2. Standup Paddleboard on Alpine Lakes

BLBCA-Blog-Stand-Up Paddle Boarding-Mar 12, 2017A family-run lodge sits above the treeline in the Valhalla Range of the Selkirk Mountains, just outside Nelson. Ice Creek Lodge is accessed via the eight-km (five-mile) Ice Creek Trail, or by 20-km (12-mi) Drinnon Pass through Valhalla Provincial Park. Standup paddleboard packages are available in summer, where guided, self-guided, and “choose your own adventure” options cater to all abilities and interests. These alpine paddleboard excursions offer full use of the main lodge and sauna, and can include paddleboard rentals so you don’t have to lug your own. Porter and guiding services are available to deliver gear and lead guests around this alpine paradise.

3. Take a Hike and Stretch it Out

BLBCA-Blog-Hiking-Mar 12, 2017Many of BC’s backcountry lodges offer hiking adventures in the summer months. Experiences can range from fully guided and catered multi-day trips, to self-guided and self-catered excursions. These give flexibility to groups of friends, families, or couples to choose how they experience the lodges and backcountry hiking opportunities in BC. Custom packages include themed getaways focusing on wildlife viewing, family experiences, artist retreats, and hut-to-hut adventures.

After all that hiking, stretching is a must. A few backcountry lodges in BC are beginning to offer special yoga retreats. At Sol Mountain Lodge, daily hiking, yoga classes, vegetarian meals, and interactive workshops are all offered over four days this August. The program is hosted by Beth Purser, an ACMG (Association of Certified Mountain Guides) guide, natural health practitioner, and registered yoga instructor. Beth is also hosting a yoga retreat at Purcell Mountain Lodge, which will include a helicopter transfer to the lodge, accommodation, and meals. More details on that experience to follow on the lodge’s website.

4. Sneak In One More Ski Trip

BLBCA-Blog-Icefall Lodge-Mar 12, 2017By the time late March and April roll around, most of us are thinking about summer. But this also happens to be a great time to book a backcountry ski trip. Many of the lodges in BC still have availability come spring, so you can take a few more turns in the sunshine before packing in the gear for the season.

Learn more about BC’s backcountry lodges and find the an alpine retreat that offers your favourite summer and winter activities.

Article written by Destination British Columbia with collaboration from the BLBCA.


More from the BLBCA:

>>Find a Lodge

>>About the BLBCA

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!

A Peek at Purcell

It was another gorgeous summer at Purcell Mountain Lodge, filled with long hikes and stunning backcountry. There’s over 3,000 acres of rolling alpine meadows, endless fields of wildflowers and countless peaks and ridges, set against a backdrop of tumbling glaciers and alpine vistas.

Take a peek at the past summer season

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.

Views From Talus Lodge

The fine folks at Talus Lodge have been busy this spring and summer.

It’s Why We Do This

Gain insight into the story of Canadian Adventure Company in this great look at Mallard Mountain Lodge.

From the Backcountry

It’s been an epic winter in the backcountry and we’ve compiled a look at just how awesome it’s been so far, with this collection of images and info from some of our member lodges.

The History of Assiniboine

Assiniboine 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 and often battles among indigenous peoples.

Hiking All Summer Long

The saying that a day in the mountains isn’t counted on your life’s timeline must be true because where did the time go?

Up at Valkyr Adventures, they have had some great hiking trips so far this summer, and they are not done yet.