» Emily's work

A collection of some of Emily's adventures.

Mount Cain Sucks, don't go!

Last year Ben started telling me about this place where he can actually snowboard near his little logging camp, called Mount Cain. As he described it, it's like if you were to pick up Falcon Ridge (my little family run ski hill here in Manitoba) and plunk it up in the mountains. Well this winter I made it down to experience the splendor, and turns out, it's true! Well mostly. It's more like Falcon Ridge is Cain's more awkward little sister, blessed with much less of the natural graces of her sibling, but makes up for it with a good attitude, an appetite for good times, a quirky sense of humor and a little creativity.

With Mount Cain, you indeed get that incredible throw-back après ski vibey community run feel. The lift tickets are cheap, the lodge and basecamp village (there's even a little trailer park at the bottom of the lifts) is cozy and authentic, and the perfect amount janky. Everyone chips in and takes responsibility for this place they love, and it's full of a bunch of beautiful weirdos. Everyone knows each other and are a part of the community that is mount cain. It's wacky and full of characters and a community place. That is what makes it beautifully reminiscent of Falcon Ridge. Oh and it's all just comprised of two t-bars (loooooooong t-bars).

Where it certainly is not similar to an inherently ironic ski hill in Manitoba is the fucking amazing mountain elevation, terrain, and snow. I absolutely loved what those t-bars gave you access to. A beautiful mountain of so much snow and ungroomed tree runs. And great backcountry access.

So, yeah. I really fell in love. And was incredibly fortunate for the opportunity to get to know some of the sweet folks who make up the Mount Cain community, and to spend a couple of nights at Nahum's beautiful schoolbus-turned-palace in the trailer park. I even competed in the annual "Blueberry Jam" boarder cross, and came second in the Women's category (results were somewhat compromised by a mid-competition t-bar breakdown that eliminated half the competition).

Here are some photos I took when I was there. I didn't really bother taking my camera up the mountain because I was so preoccupied with shredding all that sweet mountain terrain, but I took a bunch of pics of the trailer park, Nahum's place and good times in the main lodge. And then a few months later I came back again, and took more photos (scroll even further down if you still have an appetite for it, and I'll write a bit about that adventure too).


So to recap thus far, Emily hears about the legend that is Mount Cain, Emily flies to Van Island in March to experience the legend, Emily wins second place in the Blueberry Jam and then Emily flies home to Manitoba to finish of the flatland ski season. Ok, I'll talk in first person again.

Upon my return, everyone back home had to suffer through me comparing everything at our hill to Mount Cain, "Mount Cain this, Mount Cain that, blah blah blah in Mount Cain they do this, in Mount Cain they ride the t-bar like this". We finished off a sweet Falcon Ridge ski season, took down the t's , took down the rope tow ropes, sprayed the rental shop boots and had just enough time to rip out west to catch the last of the mountain season. With a crew of 17 Falcon Ridge staff we toured through Fernie and Whitewater (where we hit their closing day which featured 40 cms of fresh overnight snow), lived it up at the Hotel Ymir and then I was able to convince a small group of liftees and rental shop babes to follow me all the way back up the Island to hit closing day at Cain (Alfie the camper van is still recovering from this mighty trek). And Ben even took the weekend off from logging to come shred it with us <3.

I couldn't have asked for a better closer to a real magical ski season. And I'm thankful for the beautiful people I had to experience it with. The snow was soft and sloopy and came down all day big wet flakes. We had the mountain to ourselves. So much fun. We rounded up the day with beers in the trailer park, a fun session on Nahum's new Bull Mountain Pow Thrashers,  followed by a damn good dance party in the lodge with DJ SKIAN (Oouf that was good).

Snowdance 2018 » The magical music festival at the Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes

This post lies near and dear to my heart. These are pictures that I captured at the Snowdance Festival of Music + Winter.

When I'm not behind the lens of my camera, I help my family run a charming little ski resort in Manitoba's Whiteshell Provincial Park. We rent out cabins (Falcon Trails Resort), and even have a little ski hill on site (Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes). One of my favourite parts of the whole Falcon Ridge/ Falcon Trails story is the incredible community of artists and musicians that are a part of the resort identity and experience. I am so thankful for our connections to such a large community of incredible talent, and to all that this talent contributes to the business in the form of live music, art around the resort, brand imagery, and the incredibly interesting characters that help us make the public experience something so special and stand out.

While this theme of artistic flair is largely present at all times at the resort, I see Snowdance as the real celebration and showcase of our in-house talent. The birth of the festival came about 7 years ago during a very bad snow season at the ski slopes, Our pal Lyndon wrote a GREAT story about the genesis of the festival, which I encourage you read (click here), but in short, we had a staff full of musicians with no work because there was no snow to ski on, so we decided we could at least play music and get people out to the hill for that. It was a huge success, and so much fun and so we've continued doing it every year since.

The festival has grown from a one day party at the ski slopes to a full weekend with music happening at the local community club and the local dive bar at the Falcon Lake Resort Hotel, and features an eclectic array of music from roots and folk to pop and psychedelic surf music, and sorts of silly outdoor fun including hockey, curling, skijoring (horse and dog), skiing (alpine and nordic, if you can tell the difference), ski racing, a turkey shoot (curling with a frozen turkey) and the annual polar bear dip and sauna to wrap the weekend up.

The secret is really getting out, and we've been very honoured to have such great support from festival goers. Our biggest struggle with the festival these days has been finding enough space for everyone who wants to come. Not an easy feat in a tiny little summer resort town with a population of 400 which all but shuts down in the winter. This year we made tickets available online and they sold out, astonishingly, in under 3 minutes (that was with a cap of 4 tickets per person!). But one way that we have been able to expand is by adding the extra nights and extra venues to the festival. On Friday night, we are hosted by the Falcon Lake curling club. Last year we ran a mini-curling bonspiel, and this year it was a hockey tournament while live music happened upstairs at the community club. We've been very lucky that the local Falcon Lake Resort Hotel has opened its doors to us, and put up with all our wacky shenanigans, which solves a large part of the accomodation problem and provides venu for our fabulous Saturday night party. Plus festival goers seem to appreciate the surreal Coen-brothers setting-esque charm of the hotel, not to mention that pool! We really appreciate how this has allowed us to expand out into the greater Falcon Lake community, both providing the opportunity to include more locals to participate, and as a way to introduce our sweet little town to festival goers who come in from away.

Anyways, that's just a bit of background to help you understand how special this weekend is, and what the heck is going on in these pictures.

So much love to all who have supported Snowdance. I can't wait for next year.

Festival Prep:

Everyone pitched in to get things set up for the festival, including decoration of the community club by Jak, Robyn, Lauren and Tosh, the building of the Igloo ice bar by Ian from Shield Outfitters, Ryan the groomer, the tube shack boys, and Clara. There was gorgeous mural work in the brand new renovated bathrooms by Remi LeBouthillier (Young Jim) and Seth Heinrichs, and a countless amount of admin and box office set up by Caleigh.

Friday Night

We kicked off Friday night at the community club with our first ever Snowdance Hockey Tourney, while music played in the upstairs venue of the club. Featuring Richard Inman, Blond(e) Goth, and our hometown heros, The Heinrichs Maneuver. The afterparty happened at the Falcon Lake hotel where Lyndon hosted "Lyndon's Karaoke Palace". Unfortunately I didn't have my camera out for that, but it was as ridiculous and fun as it sounds.

Saturday daytime

The party moved over to the ski slopes on Saturday day, with music playing in the chalet straight through the day: Nana, Joe Madden, Evrytt Willow, Matt Foster, Juvel, Micah Erenberg, Kakagi. Outside people enjoyed Ryan the Groomer's "Around the Ridge" ski race, skijoring with the Falcon Beach Ranch, the Igloo bar, free tea and bannock at the Whiteshell Trapper's tent, and a base 12 workshop with Lyndon Froese (learn more about that here). Once it got dark we turned on the lights and fired up the tubing lift for some night tubing.

Saturday Night at the Last Resort

The party started back up over at the Falcon Lake hotel (affectionately known as "the last resort"), The night was hosted by our friend, the incomparable Chloe Chafe of Synonym Art Consultation and the audience was treated to a lineup of all powerhouse women led acts: Selci, Atlaas, Sheena band, and DJ Chloesupreme. It was absolutely incredible and knocked everyone off their feet, into the dance floor. Unfortunately I forgot my camera and had to run and grab it, so missed getting shots of Selci (although Jordan got some great ones, you can see his photos on facebook at this link here.). 

Sunday at the Ski Slopes

And so Snowdance floated through Sunday in a hazy and dreamlike state after a weekend of beautiful souls, friends, superb music, all the winter outdoor fun you can imagine, and all the small town charm Falcon Lake could muster up. Music was kicked off with our annual Sunday Morning Spiritual music workshop, hosted by Sheena (where even Benjamin Hadaller, all the way from the west coast graced the stage for a couple songs!), followed by beautiful beautiful sets of music by Red Moon Road, Slow Spirit and Slow leaves. Outside we had skijoring (behind dogs this time) with the Snow-motion skijoring club, our annual turkey shoot (curling with a turkey, closest to the button takes the bird home for dinner),  and the annual sauna and polar bear dip into frozen Falcon Lake to wrap it all up. Special mention goes to Grant of Slow Leaves for convincing his whole family to take part in the dip, including his 12 year old son. Badass family alert!

And thus concluded what is for me, the most magical weekends of the year. I encourage you to head over to the Snowdance website for more information about the festival. Be sure to sign up to the Falcon Ridge mailing list (they are really good about not spamming your inbox) so you get first notice about when tickets go on sale for next year.



50th anniversary of the Falcon Lake Encounter

Have you ever heard of the Falcon Lake Incident? The famous UFO encounter that happened out here in 1967? It is said to be the most credible documented UFO encounter in North American History. It's a great story. I encourage you to read Lyndon's story about it here >.

Basically the story goes that back in 1967, a hobby geologist named Stephen Michalak was out exploring the woods of Falcon Lake when a couple of flying saucers showed up. One landed, he approached it, he tried to communicate with it, tried to touch it, burnt his hand and then was burnt by the exhaust when it took off. A full in investigation took place after that involving the RCMP, and apparently the Canadian and American military. Who knows what it was, or what really happened, but it sure is a great story and was a real big deal in Falcon Lake back in the day.

This past May long weekend marks the 50th anniversary of "the encounter". To celebrate, our friends at The Falcon Beach Ranch organized guided horseback tours to the the encounter site, where Devin told the story of the incident, and later everyone gathered for a BBQ meal and a talk with UFOlogist Chris Rutkowski. Rutkowski also launched a book that he had just written along with son of Stephen, Stan Michalak all about the incident. You can pick up a copy from McNally Robinson Books.

Obviously I wasn't going to miss out on a banger of an event like this! A bunch of us booked onto the 2 pm ride on Sunday. The weather was quite perfect. The morning had been drizzly but the rain held out for us and made for a beautiful moody atmosphere. The ride was so fun, and there were some pretty hard core UFO geeks on it, which made it really entertaining. Devin did a bang up job on the story telling, and we learned a lot.

The Ranch offers guided horseback tours to the UFO site. I recommend it 100%, it's a wonderful little ranch with great horses, the trail is super beautiful, the Imries are fantastic folks and great guides, and it really is an incredible story. That all that mystery and attention happened here in Falcon Lake back in the day, but now is a mostly forgotten about story.

Trip North PII: Blachford Lake Lodge

After the beautiful journey up to Yellowknife aboard Alfie, Josh's '85 dodge camper van, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to fly up and take photos of the resort where he will be working for the spring and summer, Blachford Lake Lodge.

BLL is a wilderness retreat lodge a half hour bush plane ride from Yellowknife, NWT. Perched on a rock knoll overlooking Blachford Lake, the resort lies in the heart of the rugged northern Canadian Shield, superb Aurora-watching country. They host travellers from around the world and cater to groups from corporate meetings to yoga retreats. During the off seasons the resort is transformed into a northern woodland classroom with the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, a northern-led initiative delivering land-based, university accredited educational experience, and FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth), a retreat for young northern women which works to promote mental and sexual health and healthy relationships. The mixture of high end tourism and not-for-profit social work programs present at the lodge was something that I had great respect for, and kept the nature of the lodge and the guests it caters to grounded in reality, something that is often missing in other high end destination tourism outlets.

I was very excited to check it all out.

We flew in via the iconic "Workhorse of the north", the Twin Otter. Conceived and built in Canada, the Twin Otter was first used in 1965. As well as being able to land on water, snow, ice and rough ground, the plane is flexible inside too: it can carry up to 19 passengers or 1940 kg of freight or a mixture of the two. Our flight consisted of five passengers, a bunch of potatoes and a new washing machine for the resort. The aerial perspective of all that endless wilderness and space was an incredible precursor to the arrival at the lodge.

When the plane landed on the ice in front of the resort we were greeted by the whole gang of staff and volunteers. Gathered to schlep gear off the plane and up to the cabins, and to fill the plane up with items to be sent back to Yellowknife on the return journey. It was a great introduction to the BLL community and I felt very welcomed.

We were put up in the charming Beaver cabin. A sweet little cabin built with local logs. It was amazing how easy it was to heat. One little fire in the cast iron stove and in no time we were sweating. I've always loved the simple elegance of log construction. No nails, just scribed linked logs cut by chainsaw. And the way the building settles over years, like it's a living entity. The cabins embodied the true nature of a bush cabin, rustic and simple and so cozy. No pre-fab disneyland reproductions here.

I was particularly excited to get to know the lodge and its people with it being a family run rural eco tourism destination, drawing many parallels to Falcon Trails (my own family run resort here in Manitoba). I was given the full tour of all the ins and outs including the solar power, water and the clivus composting toilets. Really interesting to get the behind the scenes on how all that works and compare with how things operate at our High Lake eco cabins.

Blachford has an incredible team of volunteers from all over the world, helping out all over the resort, from helping the cook prepare the exceptional meals to the endless job of preparing firewood to trail maintenance to really neat projects like making soap out of spruce gum harvested around the resort. Having the resort full of all these vibrant and interesting persons made for a great company and community way out in the remote bush.

Over the next couple days, while Josh learned the ropes of his new job, I just got to wander around, exploring the exceptional network of hiking trails and lookouts around the resort and zipping around the lake via skis and fat tire bikes. Here I was thinking that I'd had my last ski for the season back in March, what a treat! Plus there's a sauna and a hot tub. Yeah, exactly my favourite kind of place.

Blachford lies in the the northern region of the Canadian Shield. The wilderness tapestry of boreal forest taiga. Rocky outcrops and hundreds of glacier formed lakes and rivers. The exposed portion of the continental crust, the four billion year old crust of Acasta Gneiss, the oldest rock in the world. So metal. I couldn't get enough of this landscape.

And the Aurora Borealis. There's really no way for me to properly articulate how magnificent an experience it was, standing on the middle of the frozen lake with the sky above me lit up, dancing and exploding with light and colour. It was so alive.

Blachford is situated right underneath the auroral oval and being way the heck out there, it is completely free of any sort of city light pollution. There are two main seasons for aurora viewing; Summer/Autumn (mid August - mid October), and Winter/Spring (Christmastime - mid April). I was there just as winter/ spring season was ending and was still treated to an amazing display.

After a day full of exploring, with a belly full of the lodge's hearty food, all cozied up in a log cabin with a roaring fire, it was pretty much impossible to stay awake. So I set an alarm for midnight. Come the alarm time, I dragged myself of bed, suited up, got my camera and tripod and headed out into the night. The sky was black, no lights. So I went back to bed for an hour. It was particularly difficult getting out of bed the second time. Really tough. But I did it and I am so glad because the reward was great. I grabbed one of the bikes and pedaled around the lake under the dancing sky. I have seen the northern lights many times before, but nothing like this. I will always remember the emotions, humbling and awestruck, this magnificent and ethereal performance elicited.

I was so impressed with this beautiful place. It was hard to leave.

I encourage you to check it out if you ever have the opportunity. There's a ton of great info on their website: blachfordlakelodge.com

Many thanks to the fine folks at Blachford Lake Lodge for the opportunity and making my stay such a special experience.