If you've been watching our Current Conditions page, you may have noticed that the snow has been building up in the Callaghan Valley all winter long. Spring heralds the end of winter but brings us to the pinnacle of snowtravel landscapes. With an established snow base, longer days, and warmer temperatures, the valley unveils new amusements particularly satisfying to the curious and determined.
Ever wondered about those brown dotted lines on the Ski Callaghan Trail Map? They represent un-groomed, yet reasonably manageable routes through Ski Callaghan's wilderness. When properly equipped with light touring skis or snowshoes, the experience parallels with hiking and wilderness backpacking. Spring brings the notable allure of a full season of snow accumulation for expedient travel above the shrub and understory layers of the forest. This alleviates tedious bushwhacking and provides a unique perspective of the terrain. There's something about wilderness touring that's particularly errant; it's simply about exploring what's beyond the beaten path (aka groomed trail network). Just like wilderness backpacking, this form of recreation requires a sound awareness of the risks of the mountain environment, independent navigation skills, and may involve route finding through potential avalanche terrain. It's wholly self-reliant.
If you prefer sticking to the beaten path, the story is equally enticing. Contrary to popular belief, the warmer temperatures of spring can actually contribute to optimal groomed Nordic surfaces for both Classic and Skate disciplines of XC skiing. Have you ever heard the term 'hero snow'? It's a phrase coined by skiers to describe optimum conditions; the stuff that makes everybody look like a great skier. You see, by springtime, the trails are well packed...add the warmer temperatures to increase overall moisture levels and you have the ingredients for 'ideal' glide. As suggested in a Ontario Parks' blog feature on how to 'read' the snow, "Generally speaking, if the snow falls like talcum powder when you pick it up, it’s 'cold' snow. If you can make a snowball easily, it’s 'warm'. And if the snow is hard to clump, it’s 'ideal'.” INSIDERS TIP: Look for overcast skies. This will offer better surface consistency, avoiding the icy to slushy dichotomy of a sunny day.
And don't forget about the search for POWDER. Yes, it remains. A treasure for the truly talented backcountry tourer. There's still a snow base of well over 3 metres in the Solitude Valley! In addition to discovering fresh snow and glaciated terrain at the higher elevations, talented backcountry tourers will use this time to do some additional exploring. Spring is optimal for familiarizing oneself with new climbs and spotting next season's lines.
The notion that children these days just aren’t getting enough outdoor exploration time is pretty well known. I mean, why would you go build a treehouse or bask in the beautiful, natural sunlight offered by a meadow after exploring a forest filled with intriguing plants, animals and sounds? The bright, artificial lights of electronic device screens and droning internet videos are just too enticing, right? Hmmm…. If you’re looking to break this trend and engage your kids in the outdoors this Spring Break, then read on!
The advantages of getting your kid into the great outdoors and connecting with nature have some obvious (and less obvious) benefits. As ahaparenting.com explain, fresh air and exercise will nurture ‘not only their bodies but their connection to all of life – and to each other’ with benefits including calmer, happier & healthier children who are better students, more creative and (here’s the less obvious benefit) have better vision!
So, you know you should get your child outdoors but, once there, how do you engage them in it? This article by the Washington Post has some great suggestions:
1 – Inspire curiosity by being curious yourself
2 – Simply be in nature with no other distractions
3 – Limit electronic devices while commuting (encourage looking out the window at the clouds or trees)
4 – Seek out natural, untouched spaces and return often to them (to see how they change with the seasons)
5 – Make time for unstructured outdoor play
6 – Stop thinking about nature time as leisure time (think of it as an essential investment in your child’s health)
7 – Read about nature with your child
8 - Plant a small garden (to teach about food and the wonders of growth)
Or, as the ahaparenting.com blog suggests, take them on a nature walk or a scavenger hunt! Sounds fun, right? How about making that experience even more epic by throwing in some snow and a winter wonderland?
Here at Callaghan Country, we have developed a neat little snowshoe scavenger hunt on our Treasure Trail to help engage kids in nature this Spring Break (& we’ll be running it for the rest of the winter season too!). Just pop into the Alexander Falls Touring Base front desk and pick up a free Scavenger Hunt question sheet, grab some snowshoes from our rental shop and head out onto the Treasure Trail with your youths! As you meander through our snowy forest wonderland, gazing at the curious looking lichen or investigating mysterious animal tracks in the snow, you will find a series of fun facts about our local flora, fauna and other intriguing tidbits such as the evolution of snowshoeing (have you heard of the historical Battle on Snowshoes? Find out about it on our Scavenger Hunt…!). Successfully complete the Scavenger Hunt using these fun facts and you’ll receive a tasty little prize! Now, if that's not incentive to get out and into nature, then i'm not sure what is!
Image by Gabi Moeller
For those who aren't already aware, Callaghan Country was originally incorporated in 1982 as Mad River Nordic Ski Enterprises Inc. with the purpose of developing and operating a comprehensive Nordic Centre focusing on commercial backcountry recreation. This marked the 1st phase of the Sills 'family adventure'; an exciting dream that would develop into a lifelong investment of time, blood, sweat, and tears (side-note: although likely, tears have never been officially witnessed outside of the family circle...the family's pretty good at 'playing it cool').
Little did Brad's wife 'Pixie' know, she was about to adopt her first child, the adorable yet high-maintenance baby called 'Callaghan Country'. Sons 'Nicholas' and 'Patrick' followed shortly thereafter. They too would fall in love with Callaghan Country and share their childhoods with a seed that required intense cultivation. Like most parents, Brad and Pixie worked tirelessly to provide for their family. The boys received sustenance, love and attention, while Callaghan Country received trail development, the build of a deluxe wilderness lodge, and a variety of quirky snow machines. None of it could have been pulled off without the genuine support of kindness and action from family friends. Future's unseen, the Sills family raised their young ones with servitude and devotion.
At about the same time that Nick and Patty were tuning into Spice Girls, Callaghan Country was catching glances from the bid team for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. That's right, an Olympic hopeful! Brad saw the potential in his bambino and pursued numerous presentations to boast of Callaghan Country's weather and terrain to technical delegates, planners, and IOC representatives. Ultimately, the effort proved fruitful, helping capture the domestic candidature requirement for Vancouver to bid internationally in 2003.
Prior to Callaghan Country's world debut in 2010, the Sills family endured some pretty cliche years with an adolescent. It was a roller coaster ride of constant challenges and changes. Needless to say, Nick and Patty thought Callaghan Country was pretty cool, even when they were recruited for ad hoc snow shoveling, housekeeping, and wood chopping. Many of their best ski days were with Callaghan Country...everything is forgivable with that kind of bonding. Brad and Pixie remained concerned. As the boys matured and grew ready to leave the nest, Callaghan Country required labour and attention 7 days a week...day-in, day-out.
A strong family stays on course. They ride out the disappointments, questionable relationships, and major life decisions together. When it comes to a family business, tedious and outright dangerous tasks are a labour of love. For members of the Sills family that translates as: cleaning outhouses, shoveling tonnes of snow (quite literally), digging out snowmobiles, chopping wood, dish-washing, housekeeping, battling pine martens (we're talking gansta style turf wars), snowplowing parking lots, propane runs, food transport, balancing on a steep roof while clearing snow, cutting sturdy steps out of meticulously packed snow, saving the day, gassing up snowmobiles, troubleshooting fickle snowcats, organizing art work, laundering linens, mending sheets, welcoming guests, managing a rental shop...these duties are just the tip of the ice berg. At times, the labour can make the love murky.
Without avail, one of Callaghan Country's friends (these come in the form of a happy guest, skier, or snowshoer) will make a remark that clears the fog... "Best. Day. Ever." Maybe a purpose is being realized? Feedback is the grounding factor that helps bring Callaghan Country back home. It was the initial intent 'To share our passion for the mountain adventure experience and inspire in our guests and staff a desire to live their lives more fully each day', that started this adventure in the first place.
As the years progress it seems Callaghan Country is coming ever closer to maturity and autonomous resilience. Looking forward, the family hopes that Callaghan Country will finally manifest it's vision 'to be known as a world-class mountain adventure wilderness destination for cross country skiing, backcountry skiing, telemark skiing, and self-propelled four season recreation of every kind.' Time will tell.
Cross-country skiing isn’t just for humans. Dogs love it too. With strong back legs for skis, their own built-in ski poles (…a.k.a front legs) and oodles of energy, dogs are the perfect skiing machines. Let your furry friend lead the way through Ski Callaghan’s 20+km of dog-friendly trails, with on-leash and off-leash options to suit all variety of puppy personalities. Your pooch will be thankful for the exercise, endless stimulation, and interaction with other adventure pups.
Before you hit the trails, here are a few things you should know:
The fashion-conscious canine need not worry, they too can strut their stuff in an oh-so-stylish ski outfit, just like Crusoe the Weiner Dog. Just be sure to get permission from your hound-pup before adorning them in ugly-christmas-sweater style outfits and giant goggles; a recent survey conducted amongst the Ski Callaghan puppy population shows a skew toward a preference to let their fur flow au-naturel.
For the lazier hounds out there, never fear – they can still get their fill of frill and fresh air. This intriguing ski technique is apparently tried and tested (just be sure of your skiing ability before trying this and ending up in a snowbank… aside from the potential bruising factor, your pup may be too ashamed to be seen with you after that):
Just like their human comrades, winter is a harsh time for the four-legged variety. Keep their paws and pads in tip-top condition by protecting them with doggy booties or applying a balm or vaseline to the pads to stop them from drying out on the freezing snow. As cesarsway.com says on winter-proofing your dogs paws:
“Winter can be tough on our dog’s feet but good grooming and protecting the paws by using a balm or booties will go a long way to keeping your dog’s feet healthy.”
Ski Callaghan’s dog-friendly trails can be identified in pink on our trail map here. If accessing the Whistler Olympic Park dog trails from Callaghan Country, be sure to use the designated Wetland Wanderer dog trail.
We are so pleased to introduce Chef Joseph Whyte!
Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, Joseph comes to us with a classic case of an 'Easterner's love for the West Coast'. Now a crew member at Callaghan Country, he's living the dream as head chef at Journeyman Lodge, playing in the mountains by day and delighting guest palates by night. Joseph learned by osmosis the pleasures of hosting and cooking for large groups of family and friends from his Mom and Gramma. He would later move to Vancouver, British Colombia to become trained in French Classic Cuisine at the super hands-on, experienced based programs of VCC in Vancouver.
Joseph lives a simple life, Eat. Sleep. Work...and play outdoors (as in splitboarding, backcountry hiking, tennis, squash, camping), Repeat.
While at home, away from the rigors of fine dining kitchen life, Joseph enjoys to cooking hearty and healthy meals for friends and family. On a personal level he's a specialist in creating his own gluten-free meals. Joseph appreciates a full variety of foods but reserves the exotic flavours of Thai and Indian food as his favourites...there's that sense of adventure!
Callaghan Country is super grateful to have his easy going and adventurous outdoor spirit grounding all our food related services this season at Journeyman Lodge. Welcome aboard!
Introducing our Journeyman Lodge Hosts for the 2016/17 season...
Beside our Chef, Joseph, to the left, our Lodge hosts Fabien & Valérie (to the right) are a couple full of adventure & passion for the outdoors. With interests ranging from horseback riding and fishing to trekking and astronomy. We are sure that their enthusiasm for outdoor adventures will be infectious amongst our guests this winter! Having worked for many years in the winter tourism industry, including in France & Finnish Lapland, this duo are excited to make our guests' experience at Journeyman Lodge a memory that will last a lifetime. Fluent in both French & English with basic Spanish, Fabien & Valérie are looking forward to welcoming guests from all corners of the globe this winter!
As any winter season deepens - and months come and go, the attributes and characteristics of one's colleagues tend to become more and more apparent.
There are a few things about both Fabien and Valérie that on that note are worth noting - a managerial side note, if you will. Valérie has become the true matron of the lodge - our distant winter wilderness home. She is inexorably dedicated to the home's every function executed in the most clockwork of fashions. No detail is missed. Guests are greeted by her upon entry and cared for by her in every respect during the fullest extent of their stay. Largely because of Valérie, the lodge has never in it's history been so spotlessly clean. And Fabien, a true gentleman, and Valérie's complimentary easy going counterpart, never becomes fazed by circumstance. Poised and patient, in every way, Fabien seems happiest fixing things and situations - truly blessed with an eye for detail.
It’s winter, it’s cold, it’s dark, the ground is covered in over a metre of snow. The temptation to snuggle up under the duvet and attempt hibernation is always lurking. Sometimes, perhaps more than you care to admit, that temptation wins.
Well, my friends, it’s time to cast that duvet aside and head up to Ski Callaghan. Why? Cross-country skiing is quite possibly the best winter exercise you can get; it works wonders for the mind, body and soul and, let’s be frank, outdoor exercise beats the artificial lights of an indoor gym any day! If you’re a regular to our 90+km of cross-country trails, I’m sure you’re nodding your head in agreement right now. Never cross-country skied before? Then read on to discover the host of benefits associated with busting out the skinny skis and heading into the woods…
Cross-country skiing, whether of the classic or skate variety, utilises your whole body. You’re not only working those legs, but your upper body plays a huge part in the movement too – you’re not carrying those poles for nothing! And if you keep your stride for the rolling up-hills peppered about our trails, your heart will receive a much appreciated work out too, a bit like a mini sprint. Short bursts of intensive activity such as this have been shown to make workouts much more efficient and effective.
Overall, studies have shown that cross-country skiers have approximately twice the cardiovascular and muscular fitness of non-skiers and suggest that the full body workout of cross-country skiing is particularly effective.
It is now well known that nature is good for the mind and the soul. Performing repetitive tasks, such as cross-country skiing, in nature has been shown to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The natural levels of oxygen in outdoor environments also help to regulate your levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that affects mood, social behavior, and appetite; it’s also easier for your body to obtain adequate levels of oxygen in nature, as opposed to polluted or indoor environments. This is why breathing fresh air helps to promote a sense of well-being, low blood pressure and low heart rate.
As if that wasn’t enough reason to take your winter exercise outdoors, the natural light you soak up whilst on the ski trails helps to normalise your sleep pattern by regulating your body’s melatonin production; the hormone that controls your internal clock. Keep sleepiness at bay until night-time and have a great night’s sleep with happily aching muscles and a happy mind.
Photo: Teague Chrustie
Cross-country skiing is a great social activity. Ski with friends, admire the beauty of our old growth forests together, and inspire and encourage each other to go just that little bit further, to race up that hill, or to explore a new trail. And at the end of your ski? There’s nothing better than warming up around Callaghan Country’s fire pit (don’t forget to bring your marshmallows and smokies!) or sharing tales from the day and making new friends in our cosy warming hut.
For the ultimate social + ski combo, why not participate in Callaghan Country’s Social Ski events – gather some friends or make new ones at the Alexander Falls base before tackling the 14km ski into our beautiful backcountry Journeyman Lodge, where you warm up over a bowl of delicious chilli before embarking on the thrilling ski back down to base.
Dogs are good for the soul. Cross-country skiing, we’ve established, is also good for the soul. Why not take this to the next level and bring your dog on your next ski? You get a workout, your dog gets a workout, everyone goes home happy. Ski Callaghan includes over 20km of dog-friendly ski trails. Don’t have a dog? You can still get your share of dog therapy; there’s always plenty of pooches with peps in their steps at Ski Callaghan happy for an extra ear scratch or two.
If you haven’t been convinced by now that cross-country skiing is worth trying this winter, then perhaps a life under the duvet is your calling after all. For those ready to give it a try, visit our rental shop Access Callaghan where we can kit you up and give you a few pointers as you step out the door and onto the trails. It’s an easy sport to pick up and after your first few strides through the trees, you’ll know you’ve made the right choice.
Guess who's coming to town...
Enjoy festive holiday activities at the Alexander Falls Touring Centre (1st Entrance to Ski Callaghan): It's a natural winterwonderland up here, so come, roast marshmellows by the trailside bonfire, wander the forest by snowshoe & play a game of Callaghan Country's nature bingo, participate in some natural crafting and Christmas decor, and of course get your photo with Santa!
Photos will be professionally photographed by Farawayland Studios on a first-come, first-served basis. Photo Proceeds will go to the Howe Sound Secondary Outdoor Leadership Program. Come one, Come All! Invite your friends on our facebook event here>>
To celebrate the holiday season with a special flavour of mountain love, Callaghan Country has prepared twelve one-day-only specials at Journeyman Lodge for the twelve days of Christmas leading up to December 24th. We are so pleased to unveil our one-of-a-kind countdown to Christmas...
It's hit local social media chatter...WINTER IS COMING and it's time to shift gears. There's a bit of an art to #WinterStoke...fuelling that winterlust fire without impulsive decisions that are only going to burn you down the road. Hopefully you've collected your gear, tuned it, waxed it...that's the snow-ready element. Well executed preparation is a mind-body-soul operation (excuse the airy sound of that statement; if you can run with it, a very logical format awaits).
Check in with yourself and pause for a clear head. Take this cozy season to reflect on where you were at last winter...where do you want to push yourself? New terrain, finessed technique, new tricks, more time committed, bigger stories...here's where you create your goals or 'bucket list' if you so prefer. Set your sights so another season doesn't pass within the blurs of tedium and mediocracy. Without hesitation, add the trek to Journeyman Lodge to that list ;)
Build the knowledge base. Scour the internet for relevant insights and tips. There's a plethora of good information out there that can really help you boost your game...for instance, if you were struggling with the initial goal-setting suggestion mentioned earlier you might find this Winter Goals article helpful. If you're planning any backcountry adventures it's always a good idea to eat up as much avalanche safety, risk assessment, and pre-planning content as possible...ground yourself in reality. The Wayne Flann Avalanche blog sits as a top read for Sea to Sky adventurers. Be sure to supplement the reading with tactical education and sign yourself up for some early season refresher ski lessons and targeted clinics such as Wilderness First Aid or Avalanche Skills Training.
Develop a dryland training regime and settle into it with some sense of humility. Local blog Doglotion comically illustrates that falling out of step is pretty much par for the course with recent post The Logical Fallacies of Preseason Training...rest assured, you're not alone.
Locally there are some specific pre-season programs to get you out of the house to focus on readying those ski legs before it really starts snowing...check out: Meadow Park, Helly Hansen's Circuit Training, and The Core's Mountain fit classes. Of course, you can always pick and choose from some of the top recommended regimes online like: the Whistler Procrastinator’s Guide to Ski Season Fitness or WildSnow's Pre-season fitness training for mountaineering
Finally, if the training has done you well and you're feel top of your game with plenty pep-in-your-step, PLEASE use restraint. No pushing too hard, too soon...we all know, or have already been, 'that skier' who just couldn't wait and ended up stumbling on some surprise roots, rocks, or stumps that you just can't see under a tantalizing layer of fresh snow. This is not kind to your gear or body...early season terrain surprises tend to have a tight relationship with season-debilitating injuries.
This is the fun part...it's about building the passion and participating in community. Why are you stoked? Who's stoked with you? Where are you planning to be this winter? Whether it's Nordic Skiing, Snowshoeing, or Backcountry Touring... if you reside in the Sea to Sky region, there's resonance. Here at Callaghan Country, we'll be getting our #Winterstoke on with our Season Kick-off event the Praise Ullr Party. It's a bonfire, people who love snow, the mountains, and good vibes...all are welcome!
The passionate staff at Callaghan Country that not only want you to enjoy the snow, but want you to love the history and the stories that make Callaghan Country so special. ENJOY OUR BLOG!