The Jasper Freeride Team marks a milestone this ski season - Celebrating 20 years of jumps and bumps, tearing up the slopes of Marmot Basin and generally causing people on the chairlift to turn their heads. If you can track former head coach Chris Peel down these days—say, for example, in the basement of Freewheel scraping wax—he can tell you what competitive freestyle skiing was like two decades ago.
“The vibe was pretty cool, we were definitely doing something different. Marmot Basin was pretty race focused and here we were, hitting jumps, practicing spins off the booter on T-Bar Ridge and skiing with snowboarders.” The North Rockies Freestyle Ski Team, as it was then known, was started by Jon Standing, along with Bryce Carvell, Hamish McPherson, and Peel. They were the top-ranked mogul skiers in Alberta but Standing wanted to build a separate program from the provincial team. He felt that Marmot Basin offered the perfect place to build and grow a group that would challenge the provincial team, and he recruited a 19-year-old Chris Peel to help him in that aim.
“Jon convinced me to move from Red Deer,” Peel said. “I began working as a liftie, which turned into a full-time coaching job as the team grew.”
This wasn’t Marmot Basin’s first flirtation with freestyle. Beginning in 1973, Whitecourt native Robert Kalboum, along with former Jasperite and restauranteur “Tokyo” Tom Akama (and several others), started an informal freestyle team focusing on the three disciplines: moguls, aerials and ballet (ballet, a fusion of figure skating and skiing, eventually went extinct as a freestylee discipline after it failed to gain Olympic status in 1994). Kalboum said they would glean what they could from magazines, even travelling around to the occasional contest
In that sense, how Kalboum was learning wasn’t too much different from how Peel and his freestyle buddies were progressing 20-odd years later. The North Rockies Freestyle Ski Team members would take what they saw in the popular magazines and VHS tapes and bring it to Marmot Basin. Back then, there was a big focus on free-skiing; Peel said the coaches wanted their members to ride the whole mountain well, rather than spend the entire day on the mogul course.
“We were hitting cliffs, hiking the peak…you’ve got to think that jumping off cliffs into the chunder would make you pretty good, and it did,” Peel remembers.
One of the early adopter families were the Timmins. Both Randy and his younger sister Sabra were part of this fast-forming group. The free-ski approach was important in recruiting families who saw the sport as less-structured and intensive than race programs , however, the freestylers were still getting results. Sabra and Randy both competed at the national level and both returned to Jasper to coach. Randy still coaches with the team today.
“The relationship with the hill has really grown,” Randy says. “And with Marmot Basin’s ability for snow-making in the early season, the athletes can begin training much earlier.”
Peel remembers a time when freestyle skiers weren’t always regarded as serious athletes. They were a rogue bunch who couldn’t get the equipment their sport demanded in a race-centric town. As freeskiing was changing through the late 90’s, 195cm straight skis were fine for the mogul line but what they really wanted were the shorter, fatter, twin-tipped skis—the precursors of what today’s rippers ride on. Edge Control was the first shop in town to answer the call.
“It wouldn’t have happened without Blair Timmins” (no relation to Randy) Peel said. “He was the first to support us, early on with team uniforms and then bringing in the early twin-tip skis that K2, Dynastar and Volant were making.”
The team wouldn’t have been in the position to continue on, however, if another family hadn’t gotten involved. It was the dedication of the MacDonald family, from Edmonton, which ultimately made the club sustainable.
“The turning point was the MacDonalds,” Peel said. “Ken and Janet became involved when the club was owing money. They dug it out, they put it back in the black.”
Linked to the healthier financial situation, the club’s numbers grew, too. Soon there were 25 skiers from Jasper and the Edmonton area wearing the freestyle ski jersey. Today, Ken and Janet still get up to Marmot Basin regularly, although not as much as their son Kerry. Kerry, who along with his sister Tracey, was one of the young skiers who benefited from his early days with the team. Today he is the head of public safety at Marmot Basin.
“We were straight-up freestyle back then,” laughed Kerry, who was the first Jasper skier Peel can recall who launched a jump backwards in a mogul competition (unfortunately there was no precedent and the progressive trick netted him zero points).
It was at about this time the name of the club was changed to the Jasper Freeride Team to reflect the diversity of training. A few years later, during the 2003-2004 season, the International Ski Federation (FIS) finally sanctioned inverted maneuvers in moguls. Suddenly a twister-twister-spread was no longer good enough to get on the podium. To win competitions, skiers now needed to go upside down. To learn these tricks, summer training on water ramps became an important part of the Freeride program.
“There is a huge focus now on trampoline work, water ramps, and dry land training,” Randy says. He added that he expects a push from parents and coaches for Marmot Basin to get a slopestyle course and halfpipe in the future.
“Marmot does a ton for us,” he said. “Unfortunately right now we don’t have the facilities to train slopestyle or half-pipe.”
If anyone knows what it takes to build freestyle facilities, it’s Cam Jenkins. The father of four freestyle skiers and seven-year past president of the Jasper Freeride club once spent 26 straight days in ski boots building a mogul course for the 2011 Junior Nationals at Marmot Basin.
“But it was all worthwhile,” he remembers. “A mogul course can take hundreds of man hours and 40 hours of cat time, but if I ever won the Lotto Max I would do this full time.”
Jenkins said besides seeing his children excel and use their skiing experience to grow as young adults (his daughter Imogen coached with the Edmonton ski club while going to university), what he loves about the club is the people.
“Some of the best friends I have I’ve met at the ski hill,” he said. “You develop a life-long love of skiing with a really broad cross section of people.”
The success of the Jasper club (this past season alone, four of the club’s athletes qualified for the Alberta Provincial Team) has prompted the Canadian Freestylee Ski Association to nominate Jasper Freeride as part of the National “Club Excellence” Program. They are one of only three freestyle clubs across Canada to receive the honour. Today, the club has 45 members—a far cry from the original four— and a core group of dedicated coaches including Randy, Jordie Ellen, Rob Wood, Angus Sagan, Eddie Wong, and head coach Nick Bazin.
Freestyle skiing in Jasper has come a long way from the front flips, stretch pants, aviator sunglasses, double daffys and spread eagles of the 1970s. Kalboum, whose two sons were early members of the North Rockies team, now can’t believe how quickly his six-year-old grandson is progressing in Freeride’s Jumps and Bumps program.
“What we thought was extremely difficult back then is beginners’ stuff today,” he said. As for Peel, he may not spin 720s anymore, but he’ll still beat you to all the best booters at Marmot Basin.
“Chris is a big kid,” Jenkins said. “His love of skiing is infectious.”
FREE RIDERS TAKE OFF
“Jasper Freeride sparked the love and passion I have for skiing. The great coaches, athletes, and parents made my years on the team ones I will never forget.”Chelsea Henitiuk – 10 yrs on Canadian
National Freestyle Team
“I have fond memories of skiing in Marmot and being a part of the Jasper Freeride Team. Our coach Chris Peel really pushed us to ski the whole mountain, and those skills still help my skiing today.”Mike Henitiuk – Professional Freeskier
“Jasper Freestyle is where it all began... Without the Jasper Freestyle ski team, I would not have gone on to accomplish some of the things I never even had dreamed of.”Dania Assaly – World Cup, Dew Tour, X-Games competitor, Half-pipe and Slopestyle
“My ski career is built on a foundation created from my time on the Jasper Freeride team. I had so much fun skiing on that team. Jasper is definitely where I fell in love with freestyle skiing.”Keltie Hansen – 2014 Olympian, Sochi - Halfpipe
He shuffles the papers on his desk and wipes yesterday’s lesson off the smart board.
The kids are slowly trickling into his class, jostling with one another as they do so. “Asseyez-vous, s’il vous plaît.”
They’re not paying attention. The bell hasn’t rung. He’ll give them this moment because it’s what kids do. He knows this. He was a kid once too. The bell finally rings. He raises his hand to bring order but he drops it to his waist quickly. A pager on his belt has gone off. He waves through the open door for a fellow staff member to come in and whispers something in her ear.
“Asseyez-vous, s’il vous plaît.,” she says, as they all watch him head down the hall.
Oil, check. Hydraulic fluid, check. Coolant, check. Track tension, tires, check.
With all systems go on Dennis Minkensky’s Prinoth BR350 snow grooming machine, the life-long Jasperite rumbles out of the vehicle maintenance yard at Marmot Basin and settles into his shift.
As the last of the ski patrollers and lifties make their way down the slopes, Minkensky and his colleagues are heading up. The final slivers of daylight recede from the sky, and the high powered beams of the grooming machines come on. Although from his cockpit the panorama of the Athabasca Valley at twilight is nothing short of magnificent, Minkensky isn’t interested in the view. Instead, he’s concentrating on the blade of his cat as it scoops up and rolls the snow, flattening it out in spots and filling natural depressions in others. Behind him, the machine’s tiller is smoothing the disturbed material into perfect corduroy.
Every October and November, just before the ice begins to form on the shoals off of Hudson Bay, an annual migration of a unique species takes place.
These large mammals have adapted to the frigid conditions. They are covered in thick coats. There is a clear hierarchy among the group, observable by periodic sparring wherein the youngest of the tribe will test their merit against grizzled old-timers. While upon first glance these beasts look threatening and ferocious, it soon becomes evident they are in fact curious, even personable creatures.
And that’s just the Tundra Buggy drivers.
Trevor Lescard was the second Jasperite to be recruited to drive Tundra Buggies in Churchill. There has been a steady recruitment of Jasper rafters ever since. // Kara Masaschi
Sixty four years ago, on June 25, 1950, The Republic of Korea’s Communist Army invaded Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
The city was under siege. Families were forced to flee for their lives. In the melee, many children were separated from their parents.
One of those lost children was a 12-year-old Dong Han. Together with thousands of other refugees, Han was running for the country’s southern port cities. He remembers being very scared, and very hungry. When a fellow survivor shared a blackened corn cob with him, he burst into tears.
“It was covered in ashes and dirt,” he said. “I saw it and I exploded with crying, with the joy of food.”
Han was eventually reunited with his mother and his four siblings, but nine years later he was drafted into the army.
“We were trained in all kinds of killing techniques,” he said.
While the Korean war officially ended in 1953, border skirmishes continued at the 38th parallel. Posted on the front line, Han’s platoon was tasked with watching the demilitarized zone. One night during sentry duty, just past midnight, he heard an explosion near another observation post. Rousing his fellow soldiers and investigating, the young Han discovered a bloody scene. A dozen of his comrades were dead. The vision still haunts him.
“My head stopped thinking. But in here,” he said, pointing to his heart, “the question was Why? Why is this killing necessary?”
Han is 76-years-old. He has been a Canadian citizen since 1981. But the question he asked himself 55 years ago still troubles him.
“In war, nobody wins,” he said. “Both sides lose. It is not necessary to fight to resolve our differences.”
Last week, Han brought that message to Jasper school children during Remembrance Day ceremonies. He told them that thanks to United Nations Forces, including Canadian soldiers, his family got another chance at life.
“We would have lost. I would have been executed,” he said.
Instead, he graduated from engineering school in Seoul and eventually emigrated to Canada. He came to Jasper where today, he is affectionately known as “Grandpa.” He gives his time and energy generously to the community and in 2010, organized an initiative to have the 1950 Canoe River Train Wreck—the worst railroad disaster in Canadian history, and one which Jasper’s railroad community bore the brunt of—recognized in Korea.
On November 11, Han placed a wreath at the Cenotaph erected in the Jasper Activity Centre for Remembrance Day. He placed it for veterans of the Korean War, and afterward, shared his gratitude for the country that has become his home.
“Veterans fought to protect peace and democracy in Korea,” he said. “If they didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be in this country.”
Sixteen-year-old Jasper Bearcats forward Brandon Lawson is alone in the bleachers in the Jasper Arena.
With 45 minutes before game time, on an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in Jasper, Lawson is taping his hockey stick. As he makes the final wraps on the right handed blade, the only other sound in the rink is of arena manager Pete Bridge putting the finishing touches on the ice surface. Lawson’s concentration isn’t broken until his 13-year-old buddy and fellow Bearcats forward, Tegan Barker, shows up.
“I SnapChatted you for a ride and you didn’t answer,” Lawson chides his friend.
“I know, I woke up at 11:30 and was like ‘oh man I gotta be at hockey,’” Barker replies.
I don’t knit. I’m not a parent that sews. When the fire detector goes off in my house, my two children will inevitably sing in unison “Mommy’s cooking again.”
And, they both can assure you that I don’t tie their hockey skates tight enough. But, as their mother, they mean everything to me and I’d do anything for them.
If I felt I had to, I’d even cut off my breasts for them. In fact, recently, that is exactly what I did.
Event 1: Fire Lighting
Critical warden skills simulated:
Warming a cabin, boiling coffee, staying alive
Teams are required to saw a log using a Swede saw. This old fashioned implement takes a tried and true technique. “Pull, don’t push,” instructed former warden Bob Barker to his teammates. Once a the wood has been sawed, teams must cut the wood into kindling and get a fire started using no more than three matches. Paper, tinder and extra matches can be purchased with time penalties. The first team to create a fire which boils a coffee can of water wins.
Event 2: Wildlife Conflict Relay
Critical warden skills simulated:
Hazing elk, trapping vermin, relocating bears
Team members must haze five elk (balloons) with a bb-gun, catch two packrats (bocci balls) in metal traps, score five clean shots with the paintball gun on a bear target (no headshots) and lift-and-carry a sedated bear to the bear trap. A qualified driver must then navigate a truck and trailer/bear trap through an obstacle course, including a tricky reverse park job. If you don’t stick the landing, you get dinged with time penalties.
Event 3: Visitor Safety Relay
Critical warden skills simulated:
Retaining important information, safe victim transportation, hefting ability
Team members learn of a visitor accident through a reporting person, who describes the scene in panicked, fuzzy detail. The attending wardens must relay as much information as possible to their team while caring for the victim. “Packaging” standards must be adhered to as teams transport the victim from a canoe, to a backboard, to a wheeled stretcher to a pickup truck. After the team pushes the pickup truck for 50 m, the driver has to relay all accident details to operation command. Missed details count against the time.
Event 4: Mystery Tent
Critical warden skills simulated:
Knowing your toolkit, species identification, respect for history
Knowledge of historic objects, warden service-specific tools and Rocky Mountain wildlife is tested as teams try to identify animals and items encountered while on patrol. Google searches are not allowed—not that they would help—and participants can get stumped by anything from clove-hitch knots, brook trout spots and fuel moisture gauges.
Event 5: Fire Fighting Relay
Critical warden skills simulated:
Dousing a wildfire, saving the cabin, calm under fire
A fire breaks out and teams have to suppress it with water from the creek. A collapsable bucket is passed hand-over-hand to an assembly line of team members. When the bucket reaches the last warden, a blindfold hampers his or her ability to douse the flames. Remaining team members must use voice commands to direct their saving splash.
Two and a half years ago, atop The Peak at Jasper’s Marmot Basin, Liam Harrap and Jake Alleyne made a commitment to each other.
The born-and-raised Jasperites, both 23 at the time, pledged that after graduating university, and before they embarked on careers in the “real world,” they would take a trip together.
And while a lot of young Canadians who, sensing that the world is their oyster, make plans to travel afar—Southeast Asia and South America are popular backpacker destinations—Liam and Jake wanted to do something different. They wanted to start out a bit closer to home. They wanted to get a more intimate knowledge of the Rocky Mountains. They wanted to try to find the “end of their own backyard.”
And so they decided they’d walk to Mexico.
David Clow has staked out a new battleground.
On August 1, The Jasper Local introduced readers to the 35-year-old the eco-justice crusader who is pushing himself across western Canada in a wheelchair to bring awareness to the environmental dangers of the Northern Gateway pipeline.
“I want to use my disadvantage to our mutual advantage,” he said at the time. “I want Canadians to maximize their potential.”
In the days preceding his debut into Jasper, however, two things happened. First, the stabilizing wheel his chair is equipped with, was stolen while he ate dinner at Pocohontas Restaurant. Second, the Mount Polley mine tailings pond near Likely, B.C., breached its banks and dumped millions of gallons of toxic slurry into nearby Hazeltine Creek and adjoining Polley and Quesnel Lakes.
The two incidents didn’t seem related. That is, until Clow hitched a ride to B.C.’s Cariboo Region to witness the disaster for himself.
“I figured I would put myself in the line of fire,” he said.
He did. In more ways than one. He and his travel partner—a Swiss tourist who he befriended while waiting for his new wheel at the Miette Hotsprings—showed up to the spill site. There, they clamored over the barrier that Imperial Metals, the company responsible for the breach, trenched into the ground to keep people out. A moat of mud and logs made it difficult for an able-bodied person to bypass the ditch. For Clow, it was a desperate struggle.
“I had to get out of my chair and literally crawl through the ditch while my friend dragged the wheelchair through the mud,” he said via telephone from Vancouver, where he attended a rally several days later.
Being exposed to the toxic sludge left he and his friend physically ill, he said.
“On Saturday I couldn’t get out of bed, I was so sick,” Clow said. “My vision was blurred. You could see metallic flakes in Polley Lake...the smell was a mix between hair dye, pesticide and lead paint.”
Imperial Metals had declared to Environment Canada that substances it disposed on-site in the tailings pond included phosphorous, manganese, arsenic, lead and mercury. The breach contained upwards of 4.5 million gallons of toxic waste.
The government of B.C. has said it is conducting water tests to determine the full extent of the environmental impact.
Clow, who took his own water samples from Hazletine Creek and Polley Lake for lab testing, said time is running out to bring the company to justice—the mine waste is being diluted for the fact that Lake Quesnel flows into the Fraser River, he said.
“You’re not going to get incriminating samples [unless you test right away],” he said.
Clow, who has observed first hand other environmental disasters in Billings, Montana (ExxonMobile) and the Mississippi Gulf (BP), has been sharing his impressions of the Polley Lake disaster through his independent channels‚ namely social media sites. He has also been calling out Imperial Metals president Brian Kynoch and controlling shareholder N. Murray Edwards.
“Why are they allowed to dump toxic slurry into pristine lakes or rivers?” he asked, dismissing the idea that fining the company $1 million would send other miners an effective message.
“If the punitive effects don’t exceed their profits, then what incentive do they have to stop these actions?” he said.
David Clow will restart his campaign from Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C. at Pocohontas Bungalows out side of Jasper on August 15. Follow his journey at davidclow.ca
When the Edmonton Oilers Prospect Camp rolled into Jasper July 3-8 there was a lot of excitement amongst local hockey fans.
Not only was it a chance to see the future of the Oilers organization but it was an opportunity to show off our beautiful surroundings to a group of youngsters, many of whom had never before visited the Rocky Mountains. The group went on bike rides with local trail ambassadors, saw Jasper’s main tourist attractions and spent a night in the great outdoors. On Monday July 7, they skated in a blue-versus-white challenge, a friendly scrimmage which allowed the prospects to show their stuff to club management and coaches.
But while the 18 and 19-year-old stars will be key to moving the NHL club forward, another figure has played an important role in developing those stars’ potential.
Billy Moores is a highly successful former hockey player, coach and junior high teacher. He had a knack for getting the best out of his players, attested to not only by his 220-83-23 university level coaching record, but by the fact that the Oilers prospects game is now named in his honour.
The Jasper Local sat down with 66-year-old Billy Moores to gain an understanding of what it’s been like to be around such high-level hockey and ultimately, what he loves about the game.
The Jasper Local: You’re a guy who after a long career still has a high level of energy for his work, what do you attribute that to?
Billy Moores: When you work with kinds you’re pretty fortunate to feed off of their enthusiasm. That was the case when I taught junior high and worked with young professional hockey players. When you ask them to be enthusiastic you better model it.
The Edmonton Oilers Prospects were in Jasper July 3-8. // Valerie Domaine
It’s true, raft guides aren’t that hard to spot.
Even if they weren’t prone to wearing goofy headgear, oversized sunglasses and obnoxious t-shirts, their disproportionate deltoids, Chaco tans and creeping wetsuit rashes would make them a dead giveaway.
And while in the summer it’s not exactly unique to see small pods of paddlers patronizing local pubs and patios, to witness a large gathering in their natural setting—on the river—is rare indeed. As such, after the rebuilding of the Old Fort Point bridge cancelled last summer’s annual solstice pilgrimage to the Athabasca, it was with great anticipation on June 25 that local paddle watchers converged to observe the 21st edition of the Jasper Raft Olympics. The Jasper Local was there to document the evening’s events.
A PhD candidate in Jasper for the summer is looking at the influence of corporate interests on public policy decisions.
Megan Youdelis, from York University in Toronto, is asking if Parks Canada’s decision making is being increasingly affected by private stakeholders. Her case studies include Brewster Canada’s recently opened Glacier Skywalk and a proposed hotel at Maligne Lake.
“I want to take a look at how power is distributed in these decision-making processes,” Youdelis said.
Youdelis, who studies Critical Human Geography, did her Masters thesis on the global movement to incorporate market-based principles into conservation policy. The 27-year-old demonstrated the internal contradictions involved in encouraging growth-based business models as conservation strategy.
“It’s touted as a win-win,” she said. “That you can save the environment and make money.”
In Jasper, she was drawn to the controversies surrounding the development of the Glacier Skywalk after noticing the strong public sentiment against the project.
“What are citizens roles in decision making?” she asked.
To help answer her questions, she has obtained a permit to conduct her studies. Her research will take her deep into past park management plans, onto the Brewster leasehold and into the offices of several high-ranking officials in the Jasper National Park field unit, including that of Superintendent Greg Fenton.
“It could turn out that these are choices made in Ottawa based on the Minister’s idea for what he wants,” she said.
She’s not drawing any conclusions yet, however. Youdelis wants to interview Jasper residents of all demographics.
“I want to talk to younger people,” she said. “I want to talk to people who grew up here.”
While Youdelis admits her findings may be hard to validate (how do you determine what amount of stakeholder influence is undue?), at this point she keeps coming back to a simple question: if there are so many letters in opposition to a project versus letters in favour, how does Parks Canada justify moving forward?
“That’s quite easy to see,” she said.
Nine months ago, Jasper’s Margo Bereksa knew she had to go to Hawaii.
She didn’t know why, or for how long. She just knew she had to go.
“I have to follow my heart,” she said at the time. “I don’t get the details. I just get the hits.”
For Margo, “the hits” are messages, visions or energetic clairvoyances. As Jasper’s only
practicing oracle, she has learned to trust her strong intuition—and to share it with others.
“I see what I see,” she explained at the Snow Dome Café, where posters promoting her Angel Reading sessions decorate the wall. Having come home from Hawaii in January, the 34-year-old has a waiting list of clients who want to learn about what Margo sees—no matter what the skeptics might say.
“I don’t tune into judgment. That’s not going to serve them or me,” Margo says. “If you saw a red car go by you’re not going to say ‘I didn’t just see that.’”
This is vintage Margo. When she gets on a roll—and it doesn’t take her much to get on one—she balances profound pronouncements with a cordial wit. Using evocative metaphors and sassy superlatives, she will mix pseudo-scientific slang with poignant poetry. And she’ll do it all a-mile-a-minute.
“Energy is really important. My intent as a healer is to connect you back into that pulsing, vibrating energy because that’s when your inner compass guides you,” she says. “My purpose is to break down the paradigms that people have created that potentially could inhabit their own evolutions.”
When words fail her—and they rarely do—she uses her hands and eyes and drawings and inexplicably accurate sounds to describe what she sees and feels. Her style is direct and unapologetic, yet compassionate and familiar. It’s also impossible to resist.
“Yes, this is me. Yes, I talk to angels,” she says, eyes unblinking, smile widening.
Today, while Margo uses her second sight to help her clients understand their own capacity for manifesting their future, it wasn’t long ago that she was overwhelmed by her gift—even resentful of it. Her story of how she came to reconcile with what was happening to her started when she was just a young woman.
Margo was always different. She grew up in Jasper, but the education system, she said, was limiting for her. It wasn’t working and so, after junior high, Margo moved to Calgary to attend art school while she lived with her aunt and uncle.
“I wasn’t a regular learner,” she said. “I thought I was more visual.”
How right she would be. But in the meantime, she was going through a difficult ordeal; she got pregnant, but lost the baby.
“A voice told me ‘you have too much to do,’” she said. “I was obviously not meant to be a mom at 19.”
After that painful experience, what stayed with her was not just the voice, but a vision. Even today, she has trouble defining what she saw.
“It was a feeling I can’t explain. It was a colour. There was a beautiful pink mist, with no pain. It was very peaceful.”
With the experience behind her, but wondering what the vision meant for her future, at 20, Margo moved to Mexico. She had a plethora of jobs, from the redundant to the ridiculous, but whenever times were tough something or someone would appear just at the right moment to rescue her.
“I was down to my last $20, someone came up to me in a parking lot and asked me if I wanted a job,” she recalled with a laugh.
The “job” itself was the real laugh. Her mission was to cruise the clubs of Cancun with a battery-powered electric conductor, approach customers and offer them an electric shock, for a price. What was shocking was how good she was at it.
“I would go up to these big tables full of macho guys,” she squealed. “I would leave with $300 a night.”
Soon enough the excitement diminished, but other thrills were on the horizon—Margo was engaged to be married, and being promoted to the manager position of a spa where she’d used her charm to get a job. But although a career of sorts was blooming and a relationship was budding, as she learned more about herself she realized her heart wasn’t in either.
“I was manifesting the type of life that you’d think everyone would want,” she said. “But there was an inner knowing that something very intense was supposed to happen.”
Her tipping point came when she was introduced to Tarot cards. Since the 18th century, Tarot cards have been used by mystics in efforts at divination or as a map of spiritual pathways. For Margo, it was as though a light went on.
“I was so drawn to them, it was so magnetic,” she said.
Realizing her engagement was a deviation from her true path, she broke it off. It wasn’t easy, but it would pale in comparison to what would come next.
“It took all my nerve to pack up and leave a man who was telling me he loves me,” she said. “I needed to do what I’d call a spirit quest.”
Now she was 30, and starting from scratch. Again. But she was becoming much more cognizant of what was around her. She knew she wanted to get away from life’s everyday distractions, but it wasn’t until a friend asked her if she’d like to rent a bungalow on the beach that she realized how badly she needed it. She was trying to use the down-time to write a book, but a new chapter in her own life was just beginning.
“I had a psychic awakening,” she said. “I was becoming more aware of my senses. I went through a frightening experience where all of a sudden I knew things.”
Almost overnight, Margo said, she became highly intuitive. She could “see” colours. She could sense people’s energy and even their past lives. She could predict future events. But it was all too much. She felt like she was going crazy.
“It was a lot of information,” she said. “I got paranoid. I now know I was tuning into a collective fear.”
While she can reflect on the experience today, at the time she didn’t appreciate her new gift. It was too strange, she said. It was too unbelievable.
“It was so beyond what we’re programmed to believe,” she said. “By the end of three months I was freaking out. I was asking ‘please God, turn this off.”
But her senses weren’t dimming down. In fact, they were amping up. Desperate, she went to an open church, where she said she had another vision.
“I saw Christ’s spirit...He put His hand on my heart and said ‘you know things that other people don’t,’” she said. “He said ‘you have a lot of work to do.’”
While Margo didn’t yet understand what that service would be, she knew the work would have to start at her mother’s house. Her mom—a career municipal councillor known for her pragmatism and logical thinking—couldn’t begin to understand where Margo’s journey was taking her. Her daughter’s talk of spiritual energies and divine guidance left her skeptical, at best.
“My mom thought I was on drugs,” Margo shrugged.
It wasn’t until some of Margo’s more startling visions started revealing themselves that both mother and daughter started to believe there was more to what she was seeing and sensing. For years, while in Mexico, Margo had had visions of a native chief who was somehow imploring her to come back to Jasper to conduct important work. When she finally came back, she fell into an opportunity to work with Aboriginal people in central Alberta.
“The visions started connecting,” she said. “It was a beautiful process.”
Not only was it hugely validating for Margo to start connecting the cosmic milieu with a more rational realm: working with Aboriginal people reminded her that other cultures place a high value on matters of the spirit.
“[First Nations people] are the most tuned-in, but also the most forgotten,” Margo said.
Today, Margo still nurtures those relationships, and uses the lessons she learned there to guide her work with other groups. Her angel readings often start with a cleansing ceremony, as she pays respect to the divine while giving her client the chance to, as she says, “hear the calling of their soul.”
While non-believers might scorn, for Margo, it’s a surprise when people can’t admit that there could be more to the universe than what they can see with their eyes and touch with their hands.
Moreover, she’s puzzled when people deny their own intuition, even if they can happily acknowledge the serendipitous or karmic forces in their lives.
“We’re all born 100 per cent psychic,” she said. “We always have a voice that says ‘turn left,’ but we tend to override it.”
Now, having listened to her own inner voice, Margo has found a newfound passion for the community she grew up in. Jasper, she believes, is a highly spiritual place awaiting its true awakening. To help in that regard, she suggests that we have to learn how to counter the ego, manage our energy, and find the clarity that will enable us to live to our fullest potential.
We have to be open, in other words, to getting "the hits."
“It’s truth telling time,” she says, spreading her arms like wings. “We’re going to see some systems crumble!”
“I’m scared...but it’s a good thing!”
Calgary’s Jessie Cayabo is walking towards the newly constructed Glacier Skywalk. Cayabo has been invited, along with a dozen other media types, to tour Brewster Canada’s newest attraction before it opens to the public on May 1.
Cayabo’s healthy fear of heights is on display; with every three steps that bring her closer to the cantilevered platform which extends out over a precipitous 918 foot drop to the valley floor below, she lets out an involuntary peep. She’s making her way toward the end of the “chicken walk,” to where the clear glass floor begins, but just barely.
“Oh my God!” she squeals.
Chucky Gerrard is skiing up through the trees near the Hilda Creek hostel, his long lunges distracting from the fact that he only stands about five-seven.
As he climbs, he makes a smooth kick-turn where the slope begins to roll away, using the new perspective to peek at the rest of his group, who skin up from below. As we pass our snowboard tracks—swoopy and playful compared to a skier’s tight, precise turns—I realize I didn’t notice Chucky’s transition, the equipment changeover that defines splitboarding, for better and for worse. While having a snowboard to surf the pow is ideal once at the top, rookie splitboarders are notoriously slow at switching their riding mode from that of a descending snowboarder to that of an ascending skier and vise versa—just ask any of their skier friends. It takes many days in the backcountry to not only know when to transition, but how to do it efficiently. And so, on our next lap, I secretly peek at my watch as the group begins to disassemble their boards and turn them into skis. After much fumbling and grumbling from some of our party members, 20 minutes later, we’re all in uphill mode. Considering he didn’t know he was being tested, Chucky’s transition time was impressive—an efficient three minutes, 50 seconds.
“Four minutes? I must be getting old!” he laughs.
Fire chief staying the course
Hunkered down in his alma mater, sipping an IPA and wishing the Alumni House at Lakeland College in Vermillion, AB had a bathtub, Greg Van Tighem was otherwise in good spirits March 27.
The fat biking, fundraising phenom who has collected more than $250,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society had just completed day six of stage two of his End to End to End MS—a 3,100 km traverse of Western Canada’s Yellowhead Highway. Having experienced his first bona fide tail wind since he started stage one of the journey in Masset, on the Queen Charolette Islands, the 53-year-old fire chief said a 113 km day on a fat bike never seemed so easy.
“I thought to myself ‘something’s different here,’” he laughed.
“Let’s go to work!”
Marmot Basin Avalanche Control member Marshall Dempster unclips his dog from his harness and with a short command, sends him up a wide, snow-covered slope. Bandit, the four-year-old border collie, is eager to get moving. For an avalanche rescue dog, there’s no more exciting task than searching a debris field.
“Let’s go get that guy!” Dempster urges. “Let’s go search!”
It’s March 24 and Dempster and Bandit—a Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association-certified search team—are combing a large area, looking for buried “victims.” The scenario is part of their annual CARDA validation process, with Parks Canada dog master Darian Sillence conducting the test. Sillence is observing how Dempster and Bandit work together: a smooth, collaborative effort demonstrating smart and simple search techniques will help the duo pass. A bungled rescue with missed cues or other complications will cause them to fail.
Despite being hampered by a large, well-travelled area and a north wind, Bandit rushes from his tether and almost immediately locates two of four buried articles. Showering his dog in praise and giving him that ultimate doggy reward, a tug-of-war, Dempster lets Bandit know he is performing well.
“Textbook,” Sillence confirms from his observation point below. “He’s got this dialed.”
While Sillence sees little to improve upon in their search methods, the next two buried articles prove more difficult for the team to locate. They scour the slope from top to bottom, but Bandit doesn’t want to commit. Finally, after 20 more minutes of methodical zigzagging, Bandit doubles back to a small pine tree.
“He’s indicating hard,” Dempster tells his certifier. “I’m going to flag it for interest.”
As his handler probes the snow, Bandit confirms the article’s location. Soon he has a fleece jacket in his muzzle. With renewed focus, he discovers the final article in a spot he’d shown interest in before.
“Such a good dog!” Dempster says to the animal. Then, to Sillence: “Is this your lost friend? Is he alive?”
Sillence, who will soon be training his own rescue dog—the third of his career—gives the team a thumbs-up for a job well done.
“That’s him,” he says. “He’s alive.”
Ben Gadd is still banging the drum for change.
The 67-year-old author was in Jasper visiting friends after holing up at the Black Cat Ranch, near Brule, where he spent a month penning his memoir. In that forthcoming work, amongst stories of climbing peaks and crawling through caves, Gadd revisits a topic he’s been passionate about for more than a decade: saving parks from politicians.
“National Parks are too important to entrust to whoever is running the government,” he said over coffee at the SnowDome Café. “We all know politicians can be bought.”
Gadd, who lived in Jasper for 29 years until 2008, argues that Parks Canada should answer to an independent National Parks Commission. If it did, he says, Canadians wouldn’t have inappropriate projects in their parks such as the Chateau Lake Louise, Brewster’s Glacier Skywalk and the currently-proposed 66-room hotel at Maligne Lake.
“These things wouldn’t happen without someone getting to Ottawa and having enough influence to basically break the National Parks Act,” he said.
Gadd’s vision would see an independent national parks commission—members of which would be selected based on merit, rather than by political appointment—replace all levels of bureaucracy between parliament and park superintendents. The commission would create park policy, draft new legislation, prepare Parks Canada’s budget and hold public hearings on park issues.
“Real hearings, with the press present and decision-making commissioners on the panel, not the meaningless open houses Parks Canada has been using to pass off its fait-accompli plans,” he expounded in a recent Jasper Environmental Association blog post.
For all his idealizing, Gadd admits the likelihood of such fundamental change to Parks Canada’s management is slim. But, he said, the ricochet effect of hitting rock bottom when it comes to the integrity of our national parks could be a catalyst for transformation. When—not if—that finally proves to be the case, he said despite the sombre message, he’ll be happy to have got the conversation started.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could quit worrying about what the next administration in Ottawa might do to your park?”
Caribou Creek is on the home stretch.
The affordable housing co-operative has just 16 more units to finish. In May, contractors will pack up their tools and for 64 families, Jasper will be a much more affordable place to live.
“This is what’s going to allow me to stay here,” said Scott Anderson, a former raft guide, bartender and taxi driver who now works for CN. “Most of my peer group wants to start a family, buy a house. This town hasn’t lent itself to that.”
Now, thanks to a dream and a lot of hard work, that seems possible. But it didn’t always appear that way. Since 2006, when discussions began to create the third co-operative housing association in Jasper, there have been several stumbling blocks which partners have had to overcome. One “hiccup,” as current association president Hjalmar Tiesenhausen called it, almost derailed the entire process: In 2009, when the group decided to abandon a course they’d discussed with a general contractor out of Edmonton, the contractor threatened to sue.
“It was worrisome,” Tiesenhausen recalled. “All of the executive, the town and Parks Canada were being [named].”
In the end, the suit was baseless and since then, their project manager, Loon Call, has righted the ship, keeping Caribou Creek on budget and successfully juggling a hectic contractor schedule.
In 2013, with a building permit in hand, the group finally broke ground.
Soon after, eight units in the FY parcel on Patricia Street were occupied; 11 units in the FX parcel on Willow Avenue followed. Since December, 29 of 45 units have been occupied in the FW parcel on Cabin Creek Drive.
Anderson, the association’s director of placement, is still waiting for his new home to be completed. When the 44-year-old took a tour of the construction site last month, the realization that he was starting a new chapter in his life, combined with the incredible view down the Athabasca Valley, struck an emotional chord in him.
“I teared up a bit,” he said. “It was emotional. I felt a lot of appreciation for all the work that people have done.”
Perhaps none more so than Tiesenhausen. When pressed, the mechanic at Jasper Park Lodge estimated he’s worked approximately two hours every day on Caribou Creek business since he started with the group. That was six years ago.
“I believe the quality is there,” he said. “The people we have are excellent families. They’re exactly the people we targeted.
“But there are still people out there who need some assistance.”
Jasper businesses are learning how to enhance the experiences they offer their customers.
A three-day workshop coordinated by Tourism Jasper and attended by half a dozen local business owners and managers February 10-12 focused on the core of good marketing: customer satisfaction.
“The most successful companies are those that know their customers best,” said Cameron Spence, an Industry Development Manager with Travel Alberta.
Spence, who led the workshops, said today’s competitive tourism industry means that Alberta tourism players need to be aligned with the industry’s best practices to provide unique and compelling experiences.
“You have to be able to provide experiences that touch people on many different levels,” he said.
To do that, businesses need to get to know their best customers. Travel Alberta’s Explorer Quotient program takes complicated psychographic data and fits travelers into one of four EQ segments: Enthusiastic Indulger, Learner, Familiarity Seeker or Escapist.
“Learners tend to define themselves by constant travel,” Spence explained. “Their reward is personal growth and exploration.”
Learners—and more specifically, Learners who can be classified as Cultural Explorers—are the type of customers who typically sign up for a guided hike with Canadian Skyline Adventures. Owner Sarah Peterson, who operates the Jasper-based company with her partner Christian Roy, said she’s looking forward to putting what she learned into action.
“The product is almost what it needs to be,” Peterson said about her guided hikes. “Our marketing materials could use a tune-up.”
Trevor Lescard, owner of Maligne Adventures, found it useful to put a name— which happened to be Free Spirit—to the face of his customer, so to speak.
“It was good to figure out the social values of the people who want to go rafting,” he said. “Luckily, our customers are the same people that Tourism Jasper and Travel Alberta are trying to attract internationally.”
Spence agreed that Jasper is a good place for Free Spirits to indulge. “They’re list travellers. They’re very interested in being part of new experiences.”
The group talked about creating—and enhancing—those new experiences. If businesses and operators in Jasper can hit targets that touch on education, entertainment, escapism and surprises, they’ll be poised to compete with any tourist destination in the world. Especially, Spence says, if they can do it collectively.
“Tourism is a fragmented industry. Conversations are going to help you get rid of the seams.”
Four years ago, when Marta Rode was first diagnosed with a rare Auto Immune disease, the Jasperite felt like she was all alone.
“You feel really isolated when you’re one in 40,000 people,” she said, referring to the number of people who are diagnosed with Wegener’s granulomatosis, a disease which affects the body’s organs and blood vessels.
As the 45-year-old began to research her condition, she discovered that although Wegener’s affected a relatively few number of people, the spectrum of auto immune disorders reached far and wide. Realizing she was no longer alone, Rode reached out to people in Jasper who suffered from other AI illnesses.
“Are you insane?”
Jasper’s Greg Van Tighem fields that question a lot these days. That’s because the 53-year-old fire chief hasn’t backed down from the fundraising challenge he set for himself back when the weather was warm and the roads were clear: biking the entire length of the Yellowhead Highway in the name of the fight against Multiple Sclerosis.
That’s 3,100 kilometres.
During the winter.
On a fat bike.
A lot, it turns out. While ski resorts make it their mission to give guests the best on-snow experience possible, on a big powder day, the logistics involved in doing just that ramp up considerably. From plowing parking lots to making sure lifts are spinning, from grooming beginner terrain to performing avalanche control work, the coordination required to open a ski hill is multi-layered, not to mention pressure-packed. At Marmot Basin, when giddy guests arrive to hop on the first chair at 9 a.m., dozens of staff members have been hard at work for hours, preparing the ski area so hundreds, if not thousands of powder hounds can get their fill.
by loni klettl
Now Mary was under no illusions that she was fairest of all the Maligne mammals. But this was an assault on her ancestry. This was a low blow. This was unseasonal!
True to her nature, Mary became instantly enraged. In her fury, she dropped her head and charged. She was a quick-deploy cruise missile, heading straight for Rudolf. At the same time, Santa, who had been busy re-organizing presents in the sleigh, heard the thundering of hooves on pavement. At the sight of the infuriated Mary, Santa leapt into the sleigh (with surprising agility for a man of his age), gathered the reins and bellowed “Dancer, Prancer, heave ho, ho, frappe la route!” The reindeer pulled with all their combined might and the sled jumped into the air. As they flew away from mad Mary, Santa scolded his team captain.
“Darn that saucy lip of yours Rudolf...”
On terra firma, Mary wasn’t finished with her fit. After all, when Moose get mad, they get REALLY mad. Their inherent survival mechanism is to freak out like nobody’s business. It’s how they are able to fight off wolf packs that are trying to eat them. Mary raced up the nearby Evelyn Creek trail, bucking, thrashing, storming and stomping everything in her path. Snow churned into a whirlwind as 1,000 pounds of moose meat pounded the ground, her grub hoes working overtime. “How dare he, that little booze nosed pip squeak!” she yelled. “Arrg!”
Finally, the tantrum was spent. Mary staggered on shaking legs with her head dropped, her brown fur lathered with sweat. Her sides were heaving. When her breathing returned to normal, she realized with horror what just happened.
“Oh no,” she moaned. “What have I done?” I have just attacked Santa Claus’ sleigh. Now not only will I get a huge hunk of Obed mine in my stocking, I am probably going to the fires of Moose Hell, where there’s no water, lots of black flies and only dried brown grass to eat.” Big, salty moose tears streamed down her long nose and dripped on the snow. She started to sob loudly. A moose sobbing is a heart wrenching sound and as her huge body racked with horrible noises, a raven who had been witness to everything lit out off his perch. He glided effortlessly through the evening air and landed—hop, hop—beside her.
The Raven’s name was Curly and he was a crafty old soul. Curly loved being able to swoop, soar, play and dance on the thermals. Every day he cruised high above all the rivers, lakes and mountain peaks that he loved so much. He marvelled and laughed at the antics of humanity and at their sometimes absurd behaviour. Christmas was always full of strange observations, but this, Curly had to admit, was a new one.
“There, there, Mary,” he consoled as he wiped the moose’s eyes with the tip of his blue-black wing.” Santa is a very forgiving fellow and he understands more than we think. Christmas does funny things to humans and animals alike.”
Mary began to calm down. “I wish I was a reindeer,” she pouted.
“Now listen up Mary,” Curly said. “It’s like John Prine said: You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t!” Curly was a big fan of John Prine and quoted him whenever he had the chance. “You are one special creature that has survived the ice age because of your ability to adapt. You can tolerate cold and snow. You can eat underwater. People come from all over the world just to get a glimpse of you!”
Curly had a way with words. Mary’s sobs softened.
“Beauty is only skin deep,” the raven continued. “Would you rather lick lichen like a reindeer, or would you prefer to munch on fresh, green willows and delicious slimy bits that grow in a swamp?” Mary’s mood was improving at a rapid rate. Moose have that great ability to move on (forgiveness is another story).
A great idea then popped into Curly’s feathered head. “I’ll be right back,” he croaked through a crooked beak. He lifted off the snow, flapped his strong, glistening wings and soon was high above the treetops. It’s not far, as the raven flies, from Maligne Lake to Little Shovel Pass and soon he was soaring above the Snowbowl, up and over the Notch and down the other side to the Athabasca River. He followed the ancient waterway to the town of Jasper, then flitted into a back alley he knew well. Squawking hello to a posse of town birds, he hopped to the back door of The Jasper Dollar Store. All the shoppers were going a little crazy in the holiday rush so it was pretty easy for a crafty old raven to nick a few items. Chuckling under his beak, he was back in the alley in no time. “She is going to love this,” he chortled. Flying with a large load was one of Curly’s specialities; he somehow managed to get the items back to Maligne Lake without any mishaps.
By then, Mary had calmed down. The twins had come back from yoga class and their balanced and centred auras helped Mary let go of the fact she was probably on Santa’s naughty list. Curly bumped to a landing and opened the goodie bag.
“I thought you might like to put these on for tonight,” he said. With a flourish and a “Ta Daaa,” Curly pulled a red ball and a set of fake antlers out of his bag. When Mary saw the costume, her dewlap (that weird flap of skin under her jaw) dropped. She wondered how she would look as Santa’s main moose.
“Really?” she squeaked. “It would be kind of fun to look the part and not have to do the late night work.” She raised her eyebrows at the twins, who were nodding their approval, and smiled at Curly, who was clacking his beak in excitement. Mary spent the rest of the evening parading her ensemble around the Valley with pomp and elegance.
“Move over Rudolph!” the twins shouted.
After having some fun and handing out some pinecones as presents to a pair of Whiskeyjacks, Mary put the costume aside. By now the cold was creeping in; birds and animals were finding a warm, protected place to hunker down for the night. The big white moon gleamed down, its pale illumination creeping into the dark couloirs and creating long shadows off Mt. Charlton and Unwin. Long fingers of reflection shimmered off the lake and into the hills. The stars shone bright and glorious and a circle of constellations clasped their brilliant hands and settled over the ranges. An ethereal duvet of shimmering beauty tucked in around the valley’s corners, settling lightly around Curly, who had found a secluded niche on a big spruce. He huffed in contentment, puffed up his feathers and hunched his shoulders. Mary, who along with the twins had curled up in a copse of pine trees, felt sleep approaching like a peaceful melody. As she shifted her hooves under her head, she whispered to the twins to sleep tight.
“You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t,” she said.
The sound of a glass salsa jar breaking is oddly satisfying, sort of like popping bubble wrap or crunching an ice puddle. I used to cringe every time I dropped my glass recyclables into the bins at the Jasper Recycling Depo, thinking that an intact glass container is easier to recycle, or at least easier to transport, than a bunch of broken shards. But no longer! Ever since I learned that all of the glass collected in Jasper ends up in a huge pile of smithereens at the Jasper Transfer Station, I chuck unrepentantly. Smash! There goes another!
What’s that you say? Jasper’s collected glass isn’t given a new lease on life? It’s not melted down and made into new pickle containers, mustard receptacles or windowpanes? Nope! The dirt (or sand) on glass is much different than I assumed. In fact, a trip to the Jasper Transfer Station gave me an entirely new perspective on the dynamic flow of our community’s waste stream.
Jasper National Park’s search and rescue unit recovered the body of a missing Calgary man November 14, helping bring closure to a distressed family.
“The fact that they found him, we can actually have closure,” family member Dominique Gregoire told the Calgary Herald November 15. Finance executive Michael Gardner had been missing since October 29. Searchers recovered his body near Bow Lake, in Banff National Park. Jasper dog master Darian Sillence and his seven-year-old German Shepherd made the discovery.
“It was definitely a good find in the sense that some weather was coming in,” said Jasper visitor safety specialist Steve Blake. Deep snow would hamper search efforts, Blake said.
The successful search helped rule out any foul play, but it also highlighted the importance of cross-agency collaboration between Parks Canada and RCMP.
Moreover, the incident bookended the type of cases that Parks Canada and RCMP officials are sometimes required to investigate.
By STEPHEN A. NELSON
“My God, look at all the cars!”
So exclaimed local artist Di Ward, when she saw the heavy traffic for the Beyond The Stars star party at Lake Annette October 25.
It was the opening night of Jasper's Dark Sky Festival.
Scores of cars lined the road and filled the parking lots as locals and visitors made their way out to the lake shore for a night of star gazing.
Billed as a “galactic experience,” it was an almost perfect night for the 15 or so visiting astronomers to set up their telescopes and set the controls for the heart of distant suns. Star-struck visitors were lined up 10 deep to peer through the lenses to infinity and beyond.
The clear skies and open space transformed the beach area into a natural observatory. The Milky Way appeared directly overhead like a glacier of stars.
“It looks like a planetarium,” said one awe-struck Japanese visitor.
Tourism Jasper's CEO Mary Darling said about 500 people attended the inaugural event. And she estimates that - despite the clouds and cold rain - there were another 300-400 people at Pyramid Island on Saturday night for the Starlight Adventure.
Even though hard numbers are hard to come by, even an informal head count shows how much the Dark Sky Festival has grown in scope. At the first star party two years ago, there were an assortment of astronomers, a murder of media people and a small assembly of accidental tourists.
This year, the festivities not only pulled visitors into Jasper's orbit, they made an impression in cyberspace, too.
Tourism Jaspers' media specialist, Kimberley Hill.
said that the media campaign "gained 31 million impressions on Facebook, 12,700 interactions and almost 30,000 visits to the Jasper Travel website.”
In addition, Hill said, the festival is getting the attention of international freelance journalists who are “helping to spread the word about Jasper as a place to come to.”
One person who has seen real growth of the festival's star appeal is Marianne Garrah at Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts. Since the first year of the festival, the Habitat has run and hosted the Dark Sky Photography workshops with famed photographer Yuichi Takasaka.
In 2011, 15 photographers signed up for the two workshops on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
In 2012, that number doubled to 30. This year, 44 people attended the two sessions with Takasaka – and there were even more who wanted to take part.
“We did have to turn people away on Saturday,” said Garrah.
Garrah said the participants were increasingly from further flung regions.
“Interestingly, in year one, we saw people from town and region mostly. In the past two years, we are seeing people from out of province, mostly.”
Rene Vena – owner of Café Mondo – says she wasn't sure for the first two years of the festival.
“This being the third year, I was very surprised at the number of people it attracted,” she said. “We were extremely busy on the weekend – and they were all people from out of town here for the Dark Sky Festival.”
Vena said she is already looking forward to next year's festival.
“It is nice ... both the travellers and the locals have the chance to visit when the town is quiet.”
Tracy Maple, owner of Buffalo Betty's Gifts store, was a bit more muted in her response.
She said the three Dark Sky Festival weekends (so far) haven't produced any real change in sales at the store.
But, she says, her staff noticed this year the town was busier than your average weekend in October. "Given a few more years, it has the potential to have success similar to Jasper in January.”
There is a difficulty in producing hard numbers to prove just how many people came for Dark Skies. Parks Canada's figures for visitors to the Park over the weekend won't be available for months. And there was no toll gate set up at either Lake Annette or Pyramid Island.
"It's a very hard number to track,” said Darling, noting that visitors can come to Jasper at this time without necessarily signing up for a Dark Sky package. At the events, nobody is distinguishing the visitors from the locals taking part.
But for Darling, there is no doubt that the stakeholders, partners and sponsors are getting a real return on investment.
“Dark Sky” packages feature at hotels and restaurants served astronomy-themed menus.
Darling said partners are seeing value in the festival – and that they want in.
“They're not only telling us[they see real value], but they're building more product. And actions speak just as loud as words sometimes.”
STEPHEN A. NELSON IS A JASPER-BASED FREELANCE JOURNALIST
Two climbers’ distress call from the top of Mount Andromeda launched a full-scale rescue operation and has subsequently put the proper use of personal locator beacons (PLBs) under the microscope.
On October 25, 27-year-old Tyler Townsend and his climbing partner Geoff Brown, 24, were topping out on the route named Middle Earth, a class three ice climbing route in the Columbia Icefields area. After navigating overhung cornices and avoiding the route’s known rockfall hazards, at 4 p.m. Townsend activated his Spot Satellite Messenger, a Satellite Emergency Notification Device (SEND), notifying his dad that he had made the 3,540 m summit and that the duo was in good shape.
“Close to 5 p.m. we were at the top of the gully, getting ready to [rappel] off,” Townsend said from his home in Calgary.
However, after building an anchor to which the men would affix their rope for the first pitch of the long descent, Townsend and Brown ran into a problem: their rope became stuck in the hard, wind-crusted cornice. They tried for an hour and a half, unsuccessfully, to free the rope.
“We lost control of the rope and we were sitting on the face,” Townsend said.
Soon, the pair were getting desperate. They were high on the mountain, unable to ascend back over the cornice, and not only was daylight fading but the weather was turning ugly. At 7 p.m., with a storm brewing, Townsend said they made the difficult decision to call for help. They activated the Spot’s 9-1-1 signal and then, to conserve battery power, promptly turned the unit off.
“The weather was changing dramatically,” Townsend said. “We thought there’s an hour of light left, maybe we can get a chopper in or get someone who can help get the rope unstuck.”
As Townsend and Brown maintained an icy foothold at 11,000 feet, hoping their distress call might somehow materialize into an air-lift to safety, a rescue operation was indeed beginning to roll out. However, although the SOS had been broadcast, the data that local rescue personnel had to work with was critically incomplete. Because Townsend had shut off the Spot device, its GPS locator was inert. The only coordinates that rescue personnel had to work with were those sent when the climber pushed the All’s-Well button on the summit—and even those appeared compromised.
“We had low confidence in the coordinates,” said Max Darrah, Parks Canada’s public safety specialist and the on-call rescue leader that night.
Darrah had been alerted to the distress signal by Jasper Dispatch, which had taken the call from the Texas-based International Emergency Response Coordination Center. But cryptically, the signal put Townsend and Brown more than a kilometre away from their actual location.
“We had one point of data and it didn’t jive with what his dad was telling us,” Darrah said.
After investigating the call—talking to the climbers’ family members and establishing that the men were fit, well-equipped and familiar with the area—and after notifying partner agencies that their assistance might be required, Darrah had a tough call to make. Should Parks Canada send a rescue team out on a glacier to search blindly in the stormy night? Although it was difficult to say so to Townsend’s father, the answer, based on the limited information they had, was no.
“Part of the response is that the safety of our crews is top priority,” Darrah said.
Instead, Darrah prepared his team for an early start, assembling an arsenal of rescue implements—including crevasse rescue gear, avalanche equipment and a mobile rescue base—and placing two different rescue helicopters on standby.
Meanwhile, the climbers were freezing on their perch and coming to the realization that help would not be on its way that night.
“We realized they weren’t coming until the next day...maybe not even,” Townsend said.
Bolstered by the severity of their situation, Townsend decided to make another attempt at freeing the rope.
Bracing himself on the ice screws themselves, Townsend “aided out” until he could get in a position to hack away at the snow cornice and unhitch the line. Lowering back down to his partner, Townsend knew the climbers were out of their predicament, but far from safe and sound.
“The spindrift was unbelievable,” he said. “Avalanches were going off every 20 minutes.”
Groping their way through the darkness, descending the mountain in a whiteout and battling fatigue, hunger and dehydration, Townsend said at that point he didn’t think to hit the Spot’s OK signal. For one, he said they “weren’t out of the woods yet,” and for another, they felt their situation justified asking for help.
“We made a couple of bad management decisions, but we’re not up here in tennis shoes and windbreakers,” he said “This is fairly legitimate.”
Reflecting further, Townsend said they should have kept the PLB on so that the device could record their forward progress. He also admitted that, at the time, the full picture of what resources are mobilized with the press of a Spot rescue button didn’t occur to them.
“We didn’t think of the people who were on their toes all night,” he said.
Before dawn on Saturday morning, after negotiating the crevasses and millwells that can swallow a climber whole, Townsend and Brown finally made it off the mountain. Flooded with relief, they initialized the Spot device and alerted family members and rescue agencies to their safety. One hundred kilometres north, in Jasper, a three-member initial strike team was getting ready to set up a mobile rescue base at the base of Andromeda and a second wave of technicians was on stand-by. EMS, STARS air ambulance, the RCMP and rescue helicopters in Banff and Valemount were waiting for the word. At 6:45 a.m., Darrah called a stand-down.
“It was the best possible outcome we could have hoped for,” he said. “But for future people using SEND technology, this is a situation we can all learn from.”
Darrah said it’s critical for climbers to give rescue teams as much information as possible, to know the functionality of their devices and to ensure they’re using it appropriately. In this case, keeping the unit active would have corrected the skewed GPS location and shown rescuers that the climbers were moving on the mountain.
“It would have given us the ability to adjust the response accordingly,” Darrah said.
Further, Parks rescue technicians hope to avoid situations where people alert local response teams “just in case” they run into trouble.
“If you find yourself in an emergency, sometimes pressing the Spot is the best thing to do,” Darrah said. “But when you press that button, realize that’s the only information we have. You’re initiating a rescue.”
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
He's more than the kind old Korean gentleman that's always there for community events. What strikes me about him his depth, his experience in business. Like a wise elder, he gives thought to everything he says. He's running because he wants all of Jasper's people to benefit from his experience and knowledge.“I would like to contribute my heart,” he says.
He may be an incumbent. And I'll admit that “incumbents” aren't my type. But when I asked him why I should vote for him, he said all the right things. “Because I'm experienced. Because I care deeply about Jasper. I'm deeply committed to the community.”
Another incumbent. Again, he's “not my type.” But Rico's got game. “I'm passionate for my community,” he says. “I want to make our town easier to live in and stay in.”
And although Rico's an incumbent, he's not a member of the old boys club. He doesn't go along with the crowd. And he's not happy with status quo. “I think council needs to be different,” he says, “we need to keep ourselves from getting complacent.”
Paul is an accountant. Probably not your type. But he got your attention. He grabbed you. He wears a tie that tells you, “I may be an accountant, but I didn't sell out.” He knows he's the dark horse. But he relishes the role of troublemaker. He decries what he sees as a “dictatorship” at town hall. “If we want accountability,” he says, “the town council has to be accountable not only for their decisions but also for the people they hire.
He's only 25 years old. And baby boomers have a saying: “We don't trust anybody under 50.” But you have to admire “the kid” who challenged Mayor Richard Ireland in the last election. And you've got to like anybody who's motivated to run because he cares about families. And because “I don't want Jasper to turn into Banff.”
“I've been in Jasper for as long as Jasper's been a town,” David says. “It's my town.” There are lots of people who will tell you wants wrong with Jasper. There are few like David who take ownership. Dave says he's running – in part – because he wants to have a say in the decisions that affect him and the things he cares about. But he also says that if you want to be on council, “you have to listen to people and seek their counsel.”
Kathleen Tyrell is the kind of young voter who you'd think would be the natural constituency of the under-50 candidates. But surprisingly, the first person Kathleen mentioned was baby boomer John Glaves. “He has common sense just to hash things out,” Kathleen said. “I thought he was really good... he makes sense.”
Kathleen also liked those who she saw as the other “common sense” candidates: Brian Nesbitt, Fred Kreiner and Paul Butler.
Arlene Reid wasn't shy about her favourite contestant. “I like Jack (Templeton),” she said instantly. “I'd be so happy if Jack won... he's very knowledgeable and he's so intelligent.”
Arlene says Jack's neighbours in the Pine Grove Manor have gotten to know him very well and “there's no use voting for people you don't know anything about.”
Arlene thought it was great that there are so many contestants this time. “It's really nice to see people who are wanting to run. If people don't get out to run, there's no sense in us even going out to vote.”
Leslie Currie came to the forum with a good idea of who she wanted to vote for. But she got a surprise: “I really liked Gilbert (Wall),” she said.
Leslie admitted that – before the forum – she had mostly written off Gilbert as a contestant. “But he was really interesting; and I thought he engaged everybody – more than anyone else who was speaking.”
All the other candidates, said Leslie, seemed nervous. They wanted to stay composed and say the right thing, without saying the wrong thing. And because of that “ no one else really stood out, to be honest.”
Glen Leitch went to the forum looking for qualities he thinks are rare quality in pageants like these: candour and frankness.
“Honesty scares the hell out of people,” Glen said, “and Gilbert Wall was honest.”
Glen said he also liked Paul Height and Helen Kelleher-Empey because they“told it like it is.”
“I respect guys with honesty,” Glen said, “and that's what I felt from the three of them.”
David Hatto, on the other hand, was not especially impressed by any of the contestants on this night. Their responses were predictable. And there were no real surprises.
“I got less out of out of tonight than I did out of the previous [“speed-dating”] night, where we were able to talk directly with the candidates, David said.
David believes in democracy and said it's important to have events where you can engage the candidates and test them. But a three-hour choreographed performance such as this might not be the best way to do it.
“When you're at something like this,” David said, “everybody wants to say what they think you want to hear, as opposed to answering very direct questions.”
I am face to face with the chiseled, unflinching and indomitable mug of one of hockey’s most decorated superstars.
Claude Lemieux has four Stanley Cup rings, has been awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for the NHL playoffs’ best performer and has scored more game-winning NHL playoff goals than any hockey player except for Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull.
However, as I line up across the face-off circle from him, what’s playing though my mind is the TSN highlight reel of hockey’s Top Ten Most Hated Players of all time. Lemieux was number two.
As I regard his steel eyes, I gain the tiniest modicum of understanding of Lemieux’s legendary intensity. Only four years ago, at age 44, he was suiting up for the San Jose Sharks. The man is a fitness freak, and even though this is a charitable event, I am a little bit terrified.
It is September 21, and to the delight of Jasper sports fans, a select group of former NHL stars have laced up against a dog’s breakfast of Jasper hockey players. The game is part of a Multiple Sclerosis Society charitable weekend and a final push for Fire Chief Greg Van Tighem’s audacious 2013 fundraising goal of $93,000.
Organized at the 11th hour by local philanthropist Peter Hayashi and Brew Pub entrepreneur/nice guy Alex Derksen, our roster is peppered with players who Derksen knew could rustle up some donation dollars as quick as they could dig their hockey bags out of storage. I got the call because I chipped in by publishing the hockey program, a task that was as rewarding as it was stressful, considering the time crunch. My penance was having to decode Hayashi’s mad scramble for sponsors, but the payoff is getting the chance to skate on the same rink as Lemieux, Bryan Trottier, Marty McSorley, Tiger Williams, Bob Bourne and Theoren Fleury. Fleury was a hockey hero whose moves I tried to recreate on the streets of Carstairs, Alberta and now I’m watching him effortlessly cruise through a lineup of some of the best skaters in Jasper. What a trip.
Luckily for me, I am playing on a line with Jasper’s Colleen Olson. Like Lemiuex, she plays her best in pressure situations. On our first shift, while I am standing still, having been struck dumb by the silky puck handling of Bryan Trottier, Olson is dashing towards the net on a breakaway. She will eventually put up a hat trick, plus a shootout beauty, slid by Jasper’s Ryan Verge via a hotdoggin’ skate-to-stick deke. Later, as if celebrating her goal at the NHL Alumni’s bench on her stomach wasn’t in-your-face enough, Olson will put on a musical clinic at Champs’ Sports Lounge, singing her heart out and giving Kraig Nienhaus a run for his money as best hockey player/rockstar combination.
At the moment, however, the NHL Alumni players are doing what they’ve done their whole careers: entertaining a rapt crowd. At a charitable event such as this, not only do their crisp passes and smooth skating impress, but so to does their willingness to play to the audience. After a nice goal, Fleury yanks on goalie Shawn Routledge’s mask. Tiger Williams clutches and grabs players who skate too close to his bench. And McSorley shows the crowd of 340 people how easily he could put a bag of bones like myself in the hospital when he lets me skate by him next to the boards instead of dropping his shoulder.
Nienhaus, the ex-Boston Bruin which only true hockey nerds would recognize, might be Team NHL’s most effective weapon. Wearing a hockey sock on his head, the utility man skates up and down the ice all game, reminding the crowd how good one has to be simply to make the NHL, let alone make a career out of it.
As McSorley circles behind the net, one can see his own career wasn’t built on offensive prowess. But the “bodyguard” of the best player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, shows his heart is as big as his hockey skates; at each intermission he makes the trip down to our dressing room and regales our team with stories of late night antics and prank playing.
“Gretzky was a terrible driver,” he laughed. “When he had a Ferrari, he couldn’t even figure out how to get out of it.”
During the impromptu shootout, Tiger Williams is at his best, mucking it up with our bench and riding his stick in the same way he made famous all those games ago. I can see my teammates’ eyes light up when he gives them a friendly punch on the shoulder.
For those of us who’ve grown up playing hockey and watching these men live out our sports dreams, it’s moments like these that we’ll cherish. When Bryan Trottier gives me a nod at the end of his shift and taps my shinpads with his stick, I get goosebumps. As for Lemieux, while he may be one of the NHL’s most reviled players, tonight, he is among the most revered.
The use of exchange lands
Say what? Exchange lands are those parcels which will come under control by the municipality as part of a deal with other leaseholders. For example, the parcel on which the current high school sits. Once that school is demolished, the municipality will assume control of the land. Right now, there is a general commitment to use the land as green space, but the community has the opportunity to get creative beyond that. Community greenhouse, anyone?
Implementing Structural Review recommendations
The town asked a third party to review how, and where, each department fits within the municipality’s operational structure. Those recommendations have been provided, but it will be up to council as to what degree they are implemented. Will Community and Family Services merge with Culture and Recreation? How much control will the new Director of Operations have over facility management? Sound boring? Now you see how closely politics sounds to policy.
To busk or not?
Here’s something with a little more pizazz for all you armchair politicians. Council was recently approached by a community member asking why Jasper doesn’t allow buskers to gussy up our streets with a little live music? The decision to alter the bylaw was deferred while council completes its public engagement process. In the meantime, you’re not allowed to sing about your election platform on Patricia Street with your banjo and malnourished dog.
Speaking of leaching (or is that leeching?), what to do with the transfer station—currently operated by Parks Canada—will surely come up for decision in the next council’s term. Discussions have been taking place for a long time but recently, Jasper was made a member of the regional waste management authority (pending ratification Sept 10). Without getting into the stinky details, council has to come to an agreement with the feds about who’s going to be responsible for dealing with the community’s waste. Us? Them? A third party? Costs and liability will be the major concerns. Talk about getting dumped on.
Show us the money
With the unveiling of the library in December (fingers crossed), Jasper will have completed its 10-year capital plan. Nothing significant will be be built above ground in the foreseeable future. Below the surface, however, it’s a different story. Aging sewer and water lines will eventually have to be replaced. We know this. What we don’t know is where council is going to find the money to do these upgrades. The province has been mopping up floods all summer and grant money that helped build the library, the aquatic centre and the sewage treatment plant isn’t likely to be as forthcoming as in the past. Alternative revenue sources will become increasingly important because the current property tax regime simply is not a long-term solution; Jasper can’t expand its boundaries and therefore can’t increase its assessment base. Incoming councillors are undoubtedly going to have to shout this message from the rooftops to the provincial government and start gleaning out-of-the-box ideas for alternative sources of income. Hefty busking fees, perhaps?
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Two teams of mountain climbers are attempting to summit the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies on the 100th anniversary of its first ascent. However, a Jasper alpinist will not be among them.
One hundred years ago, Conrad Kain brought the mountaineering community’s attention to the northern Rockies after the Alpine Club of Canada established a summer camp in the Berg Lake area. Until then, the ACC’s focus had been in the ranges surrounding Banff and Lake Louise, due to the Canadian Pacific Railway’s advancement.
It wasn’t until the Grand Trunk Pacific railway began its laborious push through Yellowhead Pass that the Alpine Club saw the potential for classic climbs in this part of the world.
“The Alpine Club was aware what trains meant for mountains,” said Zac Robinson, a scholar of Western Canadian history at the University of Alberta.
Conrad Kain, who was at the time the Alpine Club’s best mountain guide, was among a select group who made the trip to the special Robson camp. While several area peaks were scaled, the most famous was Kain’s ascent of Mount Robson via the mountain’s east face, which now bears the Austrian’s name.
Jasper’s Dana Ruddy and Peter Amann had to cancel their plans to attempt the 3,954 m giant due to work conflicts. Ruddy, who has been on the summit three times previous, recalls looking down from a hole in the snow gargoyles at the top of the Emperor Ridge.
“It’s one of the wildest views you’ll ever get the Rockies,” he said. “There’s 6,000 feet of air between you and Berg Lake.”
The view would have been perhaps the same as that which famed—and subsequently dishonoured—explorer and Reverend George Kinney contended to have took in, during his 1909 bid for the top. He and Jasper pioneer outfitter Donald “Curly” Philips laid the first claim on Robson’s summit.
Unfortunately, it couldn’t be proved and a mixture of hearsay, politics and pride subsequently ensured within the senior circles of the Alpine Club, combining in 1913 to discredit the Kinney and Philips’s stunning achievement.
“The crown was transferred to Kain and newspapers called Kinney a magnificent failure,” Robinson said.
Today, scholars and climbers alike celebrate the fact that both mountaineers accomplished extraordinary feats high on the mountain at a time when simply getting to the base of Mount Robson took extreme effort. As modern parties attempt to climb the peak in commemoration of what these men did a century or more ago, the focus is as much on the 100th anniversary of the park as the scaling of its tallest peak.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
To read about the July 31, 2013 attempt on the Kain Face, click here.
“There is only one line at night,” said Joel Graumann, my teammate at the 24 Hrs of Adrenalin, “and it’s whatever line your light hits first.”
My light was barely keeping up as I rocketed down another dangerously fast section of Canmore Nordic Centre singletrack. I was dodging trees that suddenly seemed much closer together than they had during the day. Suddenly, the trees disappeared altogether as my light flickered and went out.
Gone was the swirling dust caused by a combination of high winds and hordes of cyclists racing non-stop through the night. Gone, too, was what little feeling of security the narrow beam of light had afforded me. I could no longer spot a clean line. My adrenaline raged, but fear turned to dismay as I heard the air leave my rear tire. My only spare tube and CO2 canister helped get my bike rolling but 200 metres later, the tire was flat again.
Desperate to not concede the lap, I grabbed my bike and sprinted down the trail.
“I need a tube and air,” I shouted when Keith Libech, a fellow Jasperite racing for the White Mountain De’d Dog team, rode past. He stopped just long enough to drop his repair kit onto the trail. Moments later, I was riding again.
The 24 hrs of Adrenalin first appeared at the Canmore Nordic Centre in 1996 with “a few adventurous souls;” less than 100 people participated. The 17th edition, which took place July 20-21, had 1,650 participants and 5,000 spectators. The 2014 event is expected to sell out soon. Geared toward weekend warriors, organizers claim the event focuses more on teamwork, camaraderie, family and friends than on pure racing.
And it is a spectacle. Combined with the variety of promotional tents, the entire Nordic Centre felt more like a festival than ground zero for a grueling bike race. The maintenance tent donated all proceeds to Canmore’s flood relief and a swag shop held blow out sales alongside sponsor showcases and food trucks. That said, there were still some who were intent on suffering their way to the podium, including Jasperites Andrew “Big Ring” Bovard and Ryan “Corporal Punishment” Gardiner, who were racing solo. Also in the hunt was the Jasper Source for Sports team, several members of which had previous 24 Hours titles under their belts.
While the team event is grueling, the soloists are in another realm of self-punishment. At one point, I passed Gardiner on one of the course’s steepest climbs. I was fresh off a three-hour rest and feeling strong. Gardiner, who had been on his bike for the past 12 hours, was looking understandably slaughtered. He walked the final few switchbacks. However, 10 minutes later, the local RCMP officer pedaled into the pit area and demanded fuel. After downing a powerful mix of Vega, fruit and soup, he’d recovered enough to leave stoked for his next lap. Total refueling time: four minutes.
“Riding the 24 hrs was a gut wrenching test of my physical and mental endurance,” Gardiner said later. “Deep into the race, your mind has to be able overcome the suffering that your body is doing in order to finish.”
In the end, Gardiner just missed the podium, posting 15 laps in 23:52:21, while three-time 24-Hour soloist Bovard took second place. The Jasper biking veteran completed 16 laps in 24:26:50. The key to his placing, besides a brutal training regimen that included 100 km road rides immediately followed by mountain bike rides, was his food plan.
"I had fruit, pureed beans, cauliflower, squash and soup," he said. "Basically things that I didn't have to chew, things I could just chug and go."
Also chugging along in the solo category was Jasper Fire Chief Greg Van Tighem, who signed up at the last minute to help push his EndMS93 fundraising campaign closer to its $93,000 goal. Despite getting his bell rung on a crash and having to sweet talk the paramedics into letting him continue, GVT’s somewhat frightening determination saw him complete nine laps. More importantly for his cause, thanks to the generosity of local businesses, his total fundraising efforts surpassed the $50,000 mark.
“It was way harder, but over a much shorter timeframe,” he said, when asked to compare the 24 Hours of Adrenaline to his recent Arizona-to-Jasper bike mission.
Former 24 Hours Champs in the mens’ division, Jasper Source for Sports was racing in the co-ed team category this year. Teammates Manu Loir-Mongazon, Sean Smith, Victor Vassallo, Marc Vien, and Abby Morgan raced to a second place finish with 22 laps in 24:09:19.
As for me, after nearly 22 hours of action, I learned two 24 Hours of Adrenalin rules that all teams must follow: a team’s final lap must start before 11 a.m. and each team must complete a lap after 11 a.m.
We were running out of time to get a rider onto the course before my team, No Fear for Beer, would be disqualified. Because my bike was relegated to the mechanics’ tent, I scrambled to find a replacement. Cam Vos offered his Kona and I rushed onto the course just in time to beat the deadline.
I’d been awake for nearly 30 hours. I was exhausted. My legs hurt. Everybody was struggling on that final lap. Even though my team wasn’t competitive, I didn’t want the day to end with a ‘Did Not Finish’.
I passed a rider from Edmonton, but he refused to drop far behind. On the next section of fire road, he rode up beside me and threw down a challenge:
“Let’s ride this together,” he said. “No stopping and no putting our feet down. We’ll ride hard to the finish line.”
I was perched like a pika atop a large boulder, surrounded by haphazardly-piled chunks of quartzite which created an illusion of precarious balance; a false sense of stability on a terminal moraine. I was visiting the Mt. Edith Cavell area, surveying the view from above. Eyes alert, nose twitching, I was ready to sound the alarm—eek!—if danger approached.
The Ghost Glacier unceremoniously left its ancient host, Mt. Edith Cavell, in the early morning of August 10, 2012. While Jasperites were shocked to learn of the sudden erosion of one of the park’s most gazed-upon formations of ice, the event was less super and more natural—a change synonymous with mountains and glaciers.
I wanted to know what that change would look like. Would there be glaring evidence for all to see? Would there remain visible signs of the phenomenon that forever altered the familiar figure of the Grand Madame, Cavell?
Curiosity could not kill the pika; I had to see for myself! I pulled into the parking lot, expecting to see devastation of biblical proportions—or perhaps what Canmore must have looked like after their huge flood. I scrutinized the area with a suspicious eye, but alas there was just some extra gravel, humps and lumps. The picnic site was buried under rocks, sediment and silt, but I was left wondering if the “tsunami” was as bad as it was made out to be.
Turning, I took tentative steps up to Edith Cavell’s monument. A photo of her weathered, stoic, heroic face stared back at me with calm resolve and strength. Here was a woman who would have made a difference in any decade. Her crime: helping more than 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during World War One. This pioneer of modern nursing faced a firing squad for her treason. Her celebrated words: “Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone,” have stood all tests of time, including the Ghost Glacier’s epic fall.
As I ascended the asphalt walkway, I considered this rudimentary path. Built by my father—Warden Toni Klettl—who, against his boss’ wishes, convinced the trail crew of the day of the importance of building decent trails in alpine regions, the path of the glacier has since been polished by tens of thousands of tourists’ footsteps. An Austrian immigrant, my dad fully understood the alpine addiction. With a vision that spanned further than that of his bureaucratic overlords, Warden Klettl said “make it so.”
I experienced the usual dizziness when I looked up at Mt. Edith Cavell—horizontal bands of quartzite playing havoc with my equilibrium while the north face, always snowy white, thrust straight up in a magnificent display of Rocky Mountain power. Angel Glacier lay in a posture of open-arm, sublime forgiveness and Mt. Sorrow, Cavell’s wing man and constant companion, shed rivulets of eternal tears down a craggy face. Here again was the bodyguard of the valley. This is how I remembered it.
I was about to leave my Pika perch when something caught my eye...something gleaming, mysterious and frosty. Could this be a ghostly nugget from the fallen glacier? I felt an uncontrollable urge, a peculiar sensation, tingling down my spine. Before I knew what I was doing, I was kneeling down beside this talisman in the talus. I pressed my face closer until...I licked it!
A kaleidoscope of colour exploded around me. In my brain, Marmot Basin’s avalanche crew was yelling “Bombs away” and my body felt like a piece of chewing gum...chomped, snapped and blown into a giant bubble. I was pulled and stretched through a space-and-time extravaganza, travelling through millennia. When my senses came back to me in spits, fits and jerks, I heard something unfamiliar to my mountain-bred ears...
Combines. The roar of farm equipment was unmistakeable. I was on my back underneath a wide, cloudless blue sky with the smell of freshly threshed wheat in my nostrils. Realization emulsified with horror. That tiny, innocent lick of that irresistible ice was a time-tube; a epochal gateway to a geological juncture. I had been transported 18km south of what is now known as the City of Calgary—to the top of the Okotoks Erratic.
The Okotoks Erratic, or Big Rock, is one of several thousand randomly-placed rocks that have been discovered far from any mountainous massif which would indicate its place of origin. Scientists eventually figured out that these mysterious chunks of displaced quartzite, now found scattered in Alberta and Montana, were dropped by glacial ice, between 12,000 to 18,000 years ago. The heavy weight champion which I laid upon weighed in at 15,000 tons. The cosmic connection was that Big Rock originated from a rockslide in the Mt. Edith Cavell area.
About 15 millennia or so ago, Big Rock and his classmates surfed the Valley Glacier to the plains. There they collided with a bully: the Laurentide Ice Sheet. After 5,000 years of beatings, the Valley Glacier finally succumbed to the punishment and the erratics piggybacked the brute southwest, adjacent to the mountains, where they were deposited on their new, flat home. The sheer immensity of Big Rock was cause for wonder; the Blackfoot people considered it a medicine rock. It is now a Provincial Historic Site to protect its geographical and cultural importance.
Calmly contemplating my predicament, I rose to survey my surroundings. I was standing on The Rock that Ran to Southern Alberta and—magically—there was a case of Big Rock Traditional Ale at my feet. The time was right. I raised an icy bottle to my lips and waited as a now-familiar sensation greeted me. I was spiralling through the wormhole again.
My senses told me I was arriving back at Mt. Edith Cavell. The cool air at the thermocline, the distinct smell of the subalpine—that sweet, distinct waft of alpine fur mixed with the earthy, pungent aroma of the heather belt. The ancient wind—wind that has been intimate with glaciers facing extinction, rocks being ground, scarred and tortured. Wind with a hint of decay. With relief, I breathed deep gasps.
Back on the boulders on a terminal moraine in the Edith Cavell area, the real pikas were “eeking” in frantic alarm. Their shrill whistles echoed and reverberated round and round the rock basin. I was cooked. Not a gentle, slow roasting in a crockpot but barbecued over a bonfire with charred, burnt bits offering sacrificial libation to some ancient pagan god. I guess time travel will do that to you.
Realization washed over me like the wave that came out of the lake when the Ghost fell. I understood that nothing is forever, including ice and glaciers. I was lucky that little lick of the Ghost Glacier transported me through the time-space continuum. However, there are other ways to transport yourself.
Tomorrow, rest your hand on ancient rock. Try to understand how it was created and the journey it’s been on. Alternatively, plunge your hand into an icy, glacier fed stream. Feel the searing, burning energy of millennia. Look at the mountains. Appreciate the folds, curves and how the moon rises up over them, how the setting sun accentuates their softer sides. Understand that the world we know is constantly changing, constantly eroding, flowing, pressurizing and falling. Because it all comes down to time, and we only have so much of it to appreciate what surrounds us.
LONI KLETTL // INFO@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
“Spirit Island is one of the most photographed places in the world,” says Jean-Francois Bussieres, Maligne Lake’s boat tours manager, as we drifted away from the dock near the heritage boathouse.
Bussieres tells us that the demand for a photography-specific tour has been increasing. “Every year we have people who come to the ticket office wanting more time at the island,” he says.
But it’s not just at Spirit Island where photographers now have more time. “We will stop anywhere you want, for as long as you want,” he says. “We can even stop the engines so that there are no vibrations.”
We like the exclusive treatment. The captain will position the craft so that we on board can have the view we desire, the crew will open the windows so we can get photos without glare and we take turns on the back deck, another prime spot. “It’s pretty great to be out here and have the boat stop and turn isn’t it?” said one photographer.
On this occasion, Ross Pugh of Rocky Mountain Photography was our guide. “The great thing about these cruises is that they are custom-made, we can talk about whatever we want,” he says, before going into depth about different camera equipment, how to shoot in different light, various artists who have been to Spirit Island and his own experience growing up in Jasper. I watch as he offers hands on support to individuals with their equipment, answers questions about geography and helps tourists capture a memory.
Along with Pugh, Mike Gere, Alisen Charlten and Chris Garnham are scheduled as Through the Lens photo guides this summer.
Once we docked next to Spirit Island, Bussieres brought out an elk skull, with long antlers still attached, to be used as a prop. The skull, on loan from Parks Canada, is also used for the geo-cache hunt on the family cruise, another new outing offered by Maligne Lake. Bussieres packed along some dazzling fossils if people wanted to do some macro photography.
While docked at Spirit Island we were served tea, coffee and an assortment of baked goods. As the small group gathered together to hug our hot mugs, the comfortable atmosphere allowed us to talk together about our own photography, ask questions and generally “talk shop.” There were local folks, new Jasperites, travellers from abroad and a travel writer from Germany. The rain came down as we were having coffee and as we headed back, a full rainbow emerged. Of course we all raced onto the back deck to capture it. “You can even see the purple, you don’t often get to see that,” Pugh pointed out.
For most people, just getting to see Maligne Lake and Spirit Island is a treat. For the photographers aboard the Through the Lens Cruise, it was a night filled with artistic learning and making contacts in the local profession. As I drove home thinking about what I learned on the cruise, I wished for two things: one, that it would stop raining so heavily and two, that I had a new camera.
BETH CAUSELY // BETHCAUSLEY.COM
“Are we still going?”
I could forgive the hint of dread in my girlfriend Nicole’s voice. The rain was coming down in buckets and the forecast was calling for more of the same. I tried to cheer her up.
“It’s rafting. You’re going to get wet anyway.”
Ever since we had to bail on the same trip last summer, Nicole and I had been looking forward to joining Jasper’s Wildcurrent Outfitters on their unique backcountry paddling adventure down the Snake Indian River, in the north east portion of the park. Now, the night before our scheduled pickup time, we were getting cold feet about having cold, wet feet.
“The Weather Network is never right,” I tried, peeking out the rain-splattered window.
At 8 a.m. sharp (too sharp, in my opinion) my friend Chad knocked on our door, ready to haul our bags to the SunDog van parked outside. Despite the forecast, Chad was pumped to get on the trail and our spirits were lifted as we met the rest of our group. There would be 11 of us in total: two boat guides, two packers and seven clients. At least we wouldn’t be getting wet alone.
As we drove out of the park, towards the Rock Lake parking lot, the van was full of excited chatter. Not only was the group anticipating an exciting trip as Wildcurrent’s Brett Haug described the rapids and beautiful rock formations along the Snake Indian, but our mouths were watering as Haug’s business partner, Sean Buckle, gave us an overview of the menu.
“When you’ve got horses, you can take a lot of food,” winked log builder and packer, Travis Anderson, a veteran backcountry traveller who’s been around horses most of his career.
When we arrived at the Rock Lake parking lot, accessed via Highway 40, 60 kms northwest of Hinton, we got our first look at our four legged companions. The rain was driving hard by now and the horses looked skeptical as hundreds of pounds of rafting gear, food and camp supplies was organized for carrying.
The 13 kilometer hike to Willow Creek, where they next day we’d put the rafts in to start our south-bound paddle, was pleasant, if soggy. While the rookies were trying to dodge puddles in an effort to keep our boots and socks dry, I noticed Travis and Sean tramping straight ahead, making no attempts to sidestep the sop. At about kilometer five, I found out why: Rock Creek slices the path; in mid-June, it’s about knee-high. All of the circumventing in between was pointless.
What wasn’t pointless was the large wading stick that Travis picked up before he forded the swift creek. The current was strong—stong enough to nearly knock former Jasperite and raft guide Tom Clarke off axis. Luckily for Tom, Travis was there to brace his fall. It wouldn’t be the last time that we needed Travis to keep us upright.
The trail was scenic, but as flat as the light; however, the conversation with our new comrades made up for the wet weather. The group consisted of mostly ex-paddle guides—all male, save for Nicole—who had some time ago hung up their wetsuits for a less seasonal occupation. The only people who hadn’t paddled commercially were myself and Chad. Suffice to say the group was excited to get back on the river.
When the trail broke out of the forest we were greeted by a flapping Canadian flag at the Willow Creek Warden Station. Our camp was only two kilometres away.
While the rain had been steady on the hike, as we set up our camp, the showers stopped and the sun peeked out. It would become a welcome trend during the adventure: whenever it would have been uncomfortable to be wet—be it when we were eating, breaking camp or blowing up the rafts—the sun came out to light the way.
Just as we were commenting on this happy fact a distant jingle told us the packers were nearing in. As the horse string showed up, led by Sean Elliot, Gunner Ireland and Heather Cormode, we got to appreciate the responsibilities that come with sharing a camp with these beautiful beasts—namely, setting them up so they can graze but being careful not to let them wander off in the middle of the night. The packers hobbled their front legs so they couldn’t run, and as the horses jingled their way across Willow Creek to a grazing area, we remarked on their graceful, haunting beauty.
After a gargantuan meal of homemade sirloin burgers and fresh greens, we retired to our tents where we crashed hard. There is no sounder sleep than the one that comes after a solid day on the trail and the nearby creek lulled us into a peaceful slumber.
After a hearty breakfast, the group was ready to move to the river. Our four-legged companions and their dude handlers would head back to Rock Lake while we traded hiking sticks for paddles and rain coats for wetsuits. Moving our gear from camp to the put-in, we got a sense for how much cargo the horses hauled in. Apart from a couple short carries between camp and the portage around Snake Indian Falls, however, there was rarely more than 10 kilos on one’s back. On the river, we loaded one oar frame-supported raft with gear and three paddlers while the other held six paddlers plus Brett, our capable paddle guide.
As it turned out, his capacity would be tested right out of the gate. We had taken a pre-rafting hike to the hidden, trout-bearing Kidney Lake and after lunch, on the first corner of the emerald river, our relaxed dispositions almost landed us in trouble. As Brett was instructing us on our paddling technique, suddenly his voice raised up a notch.
“Paddle hard! Third gear!” he commanded, but it was too late. The fast water had pulled us into a dead-end channel. Thirty metres ahead lay a giant tangle of rubber-piercing logs that threatened to end our trip before it hardly began. With precise steering and retaining his calm, Brett guided us to a small patch of slack water, but we could see that there was no way to get out of the current and around the massive strainer. Just then, Travis dropped his paddle and lunged his upper body toward the bank, where his huge hands gripped a stationary log, temporarily anchoring us. Brett saw his cue and jumped onto shore, securing our boat’s rope to a tree. We all breathed a sigh of relief as our downstream progress was halted; we would have to unload, move the raft along the bank, but we were safe.
After our brush with danger, our senses sharpened. The Snake Indian is a windy, technical river with tight corners and fast chutes. Big rocks poke out of the teal waters and last summer’s flood events have left strainers and sweepers—dangerous logs or trees that lie under, and over the water, respectively—in compromising places all along the run. For rafters, it’s these elements that get the adrenaline pumping and while neither Brett nor Dave Gilmet—the oarsman on the gear boat—were putting the group at risk, they didn’t shy away from some of the more surfable waves. Nicole, who had worried about the cold, was now shouting with glee as our boats sailed through the icy whitewater.
Our take-out point was well marked‚ and with good reason: Snake Indian Falls is a widow-maker of epic proportions, water pouring into the gorge at an unfathomable rate. As we eddied-out and secured the rafts, we felt a surge of glee for making it down the upper portion in one piece. Our camp, at the aptly named Seldom In campground, was a haven which represents the first “wild” stop on Jasper National Park’s north boundary trail, being that it’s not beside a fire road. After lugging the rafts up the bank we deflated them and, guided by our leaders, packaged them for portaging. Humping the loads two-kilometers around the falls was the most challenging part of the journey; a steep pitch back down to the river necessitated steady footing and a sturdy back. When the task was done, however, the spoils were ours: in this case a gourmet meal of pork tenderloin, asparagus and pasta. The dropping sun gave us time to reflect on our remote setting while a raging campfire allowed our socks to dry.
The third day began with Nicole and I almost missing breakfast. I assume Brett would have given me the same courtesy had Nicole not been there, but I appreciated all three of his wake up calls and the fact that the guys had saved us some eggs. Getting on the river we were again blessed with blue skies and as we ferried into the current we could see right away that the day was turning out to be a magical one. Weather Network, indeed.
The lower portion of the Snake Indian is marked by incredible geological rock formations and black shale banks, where we spotted bemused mountain goats and spooky sheep. Gorgeous as the landscape was, we had to keep our focus on the river, particularly as we shot into a narrow hallway of rock, perhaps the most dramatic feature on the entire trip.
Splashing and crashing over the sparkling waves our group’s shouts of joy echoed off the vertical canyon walls. The skill of our guides was apparent as we traversed across the water to avoid the larger holes and pick the smoothest lines. As we rounded a bend, a bridge, as if reminding us that the world still existed, came into view. Here was our final take-out. Unloading the boats and dragging them to the Celestine Lake Road above, we stripped off our wetsuits.
Finally, as if to reward us for deciding to take the plunge and saying to heck with the forecast, the sun burned away the clouds and warmed our damp skin. Wildcurrent Outfitters had demonstrated that good old fashioned adventure is still alive and well in Jasper National Park.
I’ll admit it. I’m an Edith Cavell junkie.
I couldn’t wait for the area to open. I love the drive up, with those 14 kms of twisty, turny pavement, signs of bear everywhere and not a soul in sight.
I hungered to be the first person to visit after the re-opening two weeks ago. As a journalist, I also wanted to be able to interview the person who arrived just after me. I wondered if it would be an multiple admirer, who, like me, couldn’t wait to get up to see the changes, or if it would be just an early-rising tourist who had an agenda to keep.
I was up very early and made myself wait until just after 6 a.m. to head out. I was at the parking lot at 7 and as I rounded the corner, I was disheartened to find two other vehicles there. I hurried to the trail to try to catch whoever was here before me.
I always stop at the big rock at the top of the trail as it descends down towards the lake. I’ve sketched up there and taken hundreds of photos. I feel like I know Lady Cavell's surroundings like the back of my hand. But deep down I knew that this time it would be different.
On August 10, 2012, a section of the Ghost Glacier fell into the pond below, causing what was effectively a small tsunami. The water rushed through the valley causing massive damage to the upper parking lot, outhouses and road. It also destroyed the trail down to the pond and the lower trail that followed the river. The water surged through the valley with tremendous force, the colour no longer a beautiful turquoise but an angry ocher.
The damage that was caused and the potential threat of another similar event reoccurring forced Parks Canada to close the road and all access points to the area.
As I drove into the parking lot I immediately noticed a difference. Tire tracks from the heavy cleanup equipment mark the sandy restructured areas just before the parking lot. In the forest below, a section of trees is gone. I wondered if the force of the water stripped those away or if was it machinery during the cleanup?
As I reached the area where I knew I could see the big rock I stopped, amazed. The landscape looked so different. The earthy stains of the rushing river had remained and now dominated the landscape. There was a big channel carved into the valley that hadn’t’ been there before, a large rip in the earth’s skin. Gone were trees, replaced with rock and a lot of silt. I was shocked to see the trail leading down to the pond below and the lower trail that followed the river were gone.
Parks Canada has built a viewing platform and erected a warning sign. "Ice and rock fall may cause extremely high speed flash flooding of the pond," it reads. "Do not expose yourself to risk by hiking around the lake and along the stream bed."
Parks Canada's Brian Catto says the agency will send roving interpreters at the popular Edith Cavell area every day in June and July. He also pointed out that there is a time lapse camera at Cavell which takes one picture every hour to capture how the glaciers move.
While I wait patiently for the Cavell Meadows trail to open I have to wonder: with last year’s heavy rains, the fall of the glacier and this year’s floods in Alberta, is this a call from Mother Earth? Is this a warning to us all to join hands and together fight for the health of our planet before it’s too late?
BETH CAUSLEY // BETH@BETHCAUSLEY.COM
The previous day, officials had discovered identifying documents of Michael Montgomery, including a debit card and other belongings, in the Pyramid Lake area.
Montgomery’s family had reported him missing on May 29 to regional police in Peel, Ontario, where his last communications, according to RCMP, indicated he was going to live in the forest.
“He told his family ‘you won’t hear from me again,’” said Cst. Amie Mills.
Following that report, together with Jasper wardens, the RCMP fanned out a BOLF (Be On the Lookout For) alert, hoping that someone had seen the 29-year-old man since he boarded a bus destined for Jasper on May 25.
It would seem that Michael Montgomery does not want to be discovered. He told those close to him that he wants to retreat into the wilderness, where he believes he can be happy. And the police investigation has found that Montgomery was researching how to survive in the wilderness and how to hide in the forest.
Parks Canada has found remnants of illegal campfires in the Pyramid Mountain area, and because they used specialized thermal cameras to search a vast area when the snow line was low on May 31, they are confident Montgomery hasn’t moved further into the backcountry. However, wardens loading up their ATVs after turning up nothing on June 1 likened the search to finding a needle in a haystack.
“We believe this is a man who doesn’t want to be found,” said Parks Canada’s Visitor Safety Manager, Rupert Wedgwood.
Michael Montgomery is by no means the first person in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain Parks to go “into the wild.” In 2010, the remains of a man were found near Pinto Lake, near the Rampart Creek Hostel on the Banff side of the Icefields Parkway. Foul play was not suspected. Searchers discovered the body in a self-made shelter only 1.5 km from a hiking trail, close enough to the highway that it was likely he would have been able to hear passing traffic.
“It would lead you to believe that’s where he wanted to be,” said Wedgwood.
Other incidents of individuals attempting to escape into the woods occur every summer. Usually they are men, between 20 and 50-years-old. They are sometimes fugitives on the lam, while other times they are classified as “despondent” persons, often suffering from mental health issues. Suicides, while not reported in the press, make up some of these statistics.
For those of the Christopher McCandless ilk, however, who dream of rejecting the trappings of society and reconnecting to their basic human instincts in a wilderness setting, there can be a real concern for safety and well-being. As demonstrated through McCandless’ story, which was documented in Jon Krakauer’s novel, Into The Wild, wilderness survival skills are not as instinctual as we might think. From gathering enough calories to staying warm to maintaining a clean camp, keeping alive in the backcountry with no provisions takes an enormous amount of energy and planning.
Even in the spring, when plants are abundant and water is flowing, you have to know what is safe to eat and how to identify it, says Jasper local, Dave Williams. Williams, who teaches a “Fire By Friction” course among other wilderness survival skills, says that if you’re going to feed yourself in the Rocky Mountains, “you’re going to have to have a really good knowledge of plants.”
Cat tail and hedysarum—or bear root, as it’s commonly known—are going to be staples of the survivor’s diet. Hunting, while probably the first thought for prospective bushmen, is an ineffective way to get your food.
“Even if it was legal in a national park, hunting is a poor way to gain calories,” Williams said.
Trapping, on the other hand, can be effective, but a snare is a delicate device requiring many hours of practice before one perfects the system. Not only that, but to have a chance at harvesting enough squirrels, rabbits and other small mammals to keep one’s self alive, one must start setting as many snares as possible.
“They’re complex,” Williams said. “For one person to survive off of meat you’ll need 100 traps set up.”
Shelter, of course, is another concern. The simplest means of keeping dry is to throw a fly over a lean-to; without a fly one has to start cutting spruce boughs, of which 18 inches of thatching is standard. Together with keeping a fire burning, gathering clean water, harvesting food and maintaining a predator-free camp, surviving in the wilderness takes a lot of knowledge, and a lot of energy.
“It takes a lot of skill to gather enough calories to survive for a day,” Williams said.
It’s possible that Michael Montgomery is not in the Jasper backcountry anymore. It’s also possible that he’s close enough to town that he can gather supplies at night; Jasper’s restaurants throw out plenty of still-edible food after every dinner service. But as long as his whereabouts are unknown, local agencies will keep on the lookout. While Parks Canada encourages users to get out in the wilderness, even on multi-day trips, they don’t condone illegal camping, using the backcountry without a permit or harvesting anything from the park. Wedgwood said that not telling someone where you’re going can be a fatal mistake and that bringing proper navigational equipment and survival gear is a must. Emergency transmitters are readily available and resources showing how to avoid wildlife conflicts, find trails in good condition and set up a safe, clean camp are available on Parks’ website.
With more than 1,000 kilometres of routes and trails in Jasper National Park to choose from, Wedgwood said one shouldn’t feel they have to go off the grid to get into the wild.
She’s from ol’ Blighty
Mrs. Heckley was born in Kent, England and even though she has been in Jasper since May of 1959, she still speaks with a refined accent. She trained as a pediatric nurse in Vincent Square in London and spoke about this being one of the last places in London that still had gas street lamps.
“Men would come around and light the lamps in the evening and come and put them put them out in the morning,” she recalled.
She is a trained nurse
Avice left England to travel and work in Australia and spent time there working in what were known as bush hospitals. When I asked her if there was a special patient that she remembered she answered “yes” right away and proceeded to tell me about Trevor. He was a three week old baby that had been brought into the hospital and was having trouble breathing. While the hospital staff were able to assist in him, Trevor needed surgery and doctors felt it best to wait until he was older. So Trevor remained in hospital for 14 months. While he stayed there he was in Mrs. Heckley’s care, therefore receiving the name “Cleave’s baby.” Trevor had a tracheotomy and the nurses would cover his trach hole and encourage him to talk. “We taught him to walk and talk. He was a lovely boy,” she said.
She’s a sailor
Avice has taken some long voyages on ships. She sailed for four weeks to Australia and six weeks to return home. When she travelled to Canada, she was on a ship for eight days. At one point during that trip the seas got stormy and the ship rose up out of the water and crashed back down again. “It was so exciting,” Avice said. “Everything was tied down, the library was closed, many people were sea sick or didn’t want to come out of their sleeping areas.
“At one point there were only seven people in the dining room,” she said. Being the adventurous sort, Avice was one of those seven.
She lived through firebombing
In 1944 during World War Two Avice’s home town of Kent was being bombed almost every night. Every home had a bag of sand on the porch and it was every citizen’s duty to cover a dropped bomb with sand, so to put out the fire before it exploded. With her husband overseas it was up to Avice’s mother to put out the fire. One night she remembers a bomb dropping in the street in front of their house. Avice’s aunt was over and yelled as her mother ran out into the street with the sandbag her aunt yelled “Think of your children!” To which Avice’s mother replied: “I am,” before promptly putting out the bomb. The bombing continued and the children were sent away to be billeted in safer parts of the country. Avice was sent to Leicester while her mother stayed at home, but the children had had enough. They wrote a letter to their mother saying “If you don’t come and get us we are running away!” Her mother came and got them.
The first conference of its kind in Jasper brought more than 100 yoga practioners to get Grounded in the Rockies.
The event, which took place at various Mountain Park Lodges properties as well as various outdoor locations in the community, was for beginners and advanced yogis alike.
"I was so thrilled with the number of people who were doing yoga for the first time," said Stephanie Sophocleous-Lewis, who, along with Terry Olsen, represented Jasper's Riverstone Yoga Studio as instructors during the conference.
"It was amazing to see so many yoga mats being carried around Jasper."
Participant Beth Dauk came from Grande Cache to get into her flow. She was surprised by the caliber of instructors the conference attracted.
"I had an awesome weekend. I learned so much," she said.
Organizer Andrea Quick of Jasper's Ever After Events said the weekend couldn't have happened without key sponsors, the support of MPL staff and the Jasper instructors.
Innovative events such as this help connect visitors to Jasper, said Monica Andreeff, Executive Director of the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment (AMPPE).
"It's not only great to diversify the product offering but it's a boost to the local economy, which is especially critical in the shoulder seasons," Andreeff said.
Quick said the event is already being planned for next year.
"We got so many amazing comments and stories. Mark your calendars for 2014," she said.
Winter winds of change are blowing in Jasper National Park as Parks Canada considers the precarious positions of caribou and backcountry users in the wilderness.
Scientists are recommending full closures of some of Jasper's most popular backcountry destinations from November 1 to March 1, starting next winter.
"People haven't comprehended the severity of this (proposal)," said Jasper resident Loni Klettl, an active backcountry skier and founding member of the Jasper Trail Alliance. "This park will be shut down."
Caribou scientists are recommending winter closures on trails in the Tonquin and Whistler valleys, sections of the south boundary and the entire north boundary of the park. The proposed shutdowns will reduce significantly both cross country skiing and alpine touring opportunities in the park and it will cut off access to four backcountry lodges or alpine huts.
The strategy is designed to help protect Jasper's dwindling caribou, which number around 175 individuals in four distinct herds.
In a public information session on February 28, members of the public will get the chance to comment on the proposal, but they'll also be encouraged to contribute to the discussion. Parks Canada is promoting the opportunity to put forward new winter recreation areas in the Jasper wilderness, suggesting to some
that the closures are a done deal.
"This seems like window dressing," one user posted on the Jasper Trail Alliance Facebook site.
Moreover, by sealing off virtually all of Jasper National Park's accessible winter terrain—in other words, those areas that are within reasonable proximity to roads, retain good quality snow and bear relatively few avalanche hazards—Klettl says there are no areas left for winter backcountry users to consider, even if they wanted to put new suggestions forward.
"There's a reason why our ski fathers picked those areas," Klettl said.
The Maligne Valley, for example, which was first explored on skis in 1922, offers a multitude of backcountry destinations, and because most trails start at above 1500m, access to alpine and sub-alpine terrain is achievable for skiers or snowshoers of varying degrees of fitness. The Bald Hills, which overlooks Maligne Lake and is Jasper's most used backcountry destination in the winter, is a practical place to introduce school groups to the basics of travelling in avalanche terrain because the ascent is a six kilometre cruise up a fire road.
"Anyone can get to the top of the Bald Hills," Klettl said.
Or anything. Scientists have shown that ski-packed trails enable wolves to prey on caribou. And even though the Maligne herd's population is known to be only six individuals, the Species at Risk Act mandates wildlife specialists to make every attempt at recovery.
"We're not giving up on them, nor should we," said John Wilmshurst, Acting Resource Conservation Manager for Jasper National Park.
While other recovery endeavours include managing predator-prey dynamics and even working with the Calgary Zoo to breed new individuals, the proposed winter closures focus on what the Caribou Recovery Strategy calls Facilitated Access. Parks Canada believes that its recommended closures will stop giving wolves an unnatural advantage and will allow an already marginalized species to bounce back.