Workplace Mental Health

The Changing Landscape in Backcountry Lodges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experience Mother Earth

Reconnecting with Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave No Trace-Canada

Belongs in the backcountry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ryan Stuart – @Ryan_Adventures

What Is An Old-Growth Forest

What is an old-growth forest?

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

Why are old-growth forests important?

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

What is the state of old growth in BC?

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

What conservation progress has been made?

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

What still needs to be done?

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

Where can I visit old-growth forests?

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

How do I get involved?

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

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

Written by TJ Watt – Ancient Forest Alliance

Politics of Place

How do we reframe the conversation of sustainability?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living Lakes Canada

A changing landscape: High elevation fieldwork at Talus Lodge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Arrives Early

BLBCA member lodges are transitioning early

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newest/Coolest Gear

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

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

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

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

Conrad Kain – Revisited

Pat Morrow – the amazing story of climbing legend Conrad Kain

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

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

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

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

Pat & Baiba Morrow
www.patmorrow.com

4 Bad Ass Women

Conquering Mountains and Barriers

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

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

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

Bad, as in “good” bad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Findlay – @afindlayjournalist

The Incomappleux

New Conservancy Protects Rare Ecosystem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BLBCA Affiliate Member Perks:

Mission Critical

BC Species at Risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Findlay – @afindlayjournalist

Importance of BUILDING Local

KORE – Kootenay’s Entrepreneurs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exegi Snowboards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mt Assiniboine – 100 Years

Mount Assiniboine Park reaches 100

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

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

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

What an amazing setting!

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

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

Masten, climbing the “red band”

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

Mountain Masters

Mountain Goats – Alpine Experts

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

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

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

mountain goats
Mountain goats are masters of the alpine environment.

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

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

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

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

BLBCA – A Brief History

Association of Problem Solvers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And solve one more problem.

Written by Ryan Stuart

Have You Heard Mountain Escapes?

Mountain Escapes | A Backcountry Podcast

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

What It’s All About

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

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

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

Rate, Review & Subscribe!

Our Latest Episode

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

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

Episode List

Where to Listen

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

Listen to Mountain Escapes on YouTube

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

The Ultimate Winter Specialist

Inside the Secret, Solitary Lives of Wolverines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probably Not – A Reflection

Thoughts From a Concerned Backcountry Enthusiast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By R. E. Reid

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.”

Enter our Epic BMFF Contest!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get To Know: Jasmin Caton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the BMFF

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

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

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

BLBCA Holds AGM

The BLBCA held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this past week on June 7th – 8th, in Kamloops, BC. Members of the Association gathered for two days packed with industry-related information, updates from both the staff and BOD.

BLBCA at Plaid Goat

The BLBCA is excited to be participating in the Plaid Goat Mountain Bike Fest this June 23 -25 in Canmore, AB!

Plaid Goat Mountain Bike Fest is a three-day festival with a buffet of for-fun activities.

Bike to Work & School

2017 Bike to Work & School Week is May 29 to June 4!

Bike to Work Week started 23 years ago in Victoria! From humble beginnings it has grown to include more than 52 communities and 37,000 participants BC-wide in 2016 and it continues to grow. In 2016, more than 52 regions/communities across BC participated with the following stats:

Celebrate Tourism Week

The Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association is joining communities, cities and regions around British Columbia to recognize National Tourism Week—May 28 to June 3, 2017. 

A Unique Opportunity

Ever wondered why every single backcountry lodge has a special feel to it? I’ve visited many of them and am trying to get to more because they are always carefully placed by people who understand a human desire for wilderness. They are remote, beautiful and welcoming and they encourage a relationship with the people we play with and the land we are privileged to visit.

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!