Outdoors

Photographer
Jeff Bartlett

Outdoors

Western Canada is blessed with the kind of places that outdoors lovers will never tire of. The Rockies will leave you feeling at once small amid the epic landscape, but also stronger when you challenge yourself to hike that mountain, ski that new run or paddle those glacier-fed lakes. In B.C's Okanagan, you'll be tempted to stand-up paddle board on lakes, fish in mountain streams or pedal your way along an old rail track called the Kettle Valley Trail.  The province's north is a place in equal measure peaceful and wild with its backcountry parks where you paddle glassy lakes amid towering snow-capped peaks, bald eagles soaring overhead. And when you hit the serenity and edge of the world feeling along the west coast you'll know you've arrived in a special place. The mystical First Nations lands draw you in to its ancient stories and a landscape where in one day you could easily spy a black bear and her cubs searchig for salmon along a shore, or an orca's spray creating a rainbow of mist under a sunny sky. Best view yet is from a kayak, of course. It all adds up to experiences that will make you look at Canada in a whole new light. 

Somewhere between being shot out of the waterslide like a cannon ball and jumping off the top deck into shimmering Shuswap Lake, we declare houseboating our new favourite way to vacation.

“This whole area is one fantastic, giant archeological site,” Candace Campo told me as we convened near the picnic area of Porpoise Bay Provincial Park on the Sunshine Coast.

Candace, who was wearing a beautifully woven cedar headband, explained the entire park area is a traditional Sechelt First Nation village site, filled with resources, history, and even her own childhood memories.

Roxanne Jerema’s journey from working as a taxidermist in land-locked Saskatchewan to running a fishing charter on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast are worlds apart.

Getting the chance to experience the northern lights is a bucket list item for many people. There is something ethereal and a little bit haunting about the beautiful display of colours and the ephemeral nature of the aurora borealis that causes people to flock to them.

The West Coast of Vancouver Island – from Ucluelet to Tofino – is home to more than a dozen world-class surf breaks along its 40-odd kilometre stretch of epicness. You can ride these waves of joy any time of year, even in winter, maybe carving out a “surf and ski” day at nearby Mount Washington. 

Nestled in the southern Canadian Rockies, the Crowsnest Pass – or fondly referred to as “The Pass,” boasts spectacular scenery, a rich coal mining history, friendly communities, and great hiking. Whether you’re just passing through and want a short hike to break up the drive, or have a weekend to bag some peaks, there is a wide range of trails in The Pass that will take your breath away. With so many hikes to choose from, I called upon local residents, Pam Drover and Heather Davis, to help select the top 5 hikes in the Crowsnest Pass.

“This is one of the tougher routes I run,” says Chris Humphries as we finish warming up. “The hills are killer, and they sneak up on you,” he says of the route that makes up Medicine Hat’s popular Conquer the Ridge half marathon.

The Cypress Hills rise 600 metres above the surrounding prairies making them the highest point between the Canadian Rockies and the East Coast. The unique mix of climate, geography, and ecosystems create a home for an extensive diversity of plants and animals. The entire area is also steeped in rich history with archeological evidence confirming human habitation as far back as 8,500 years.

I’d been skiing at Whistler Blackcomb for 20 years without knowing how it got its name or why its peaks are so distinctive.

Visiting Sooke felt like being a tourist in my own town. It’s only 45 minutes away from where I grew up, and there’s no place I feel more at home than the west coast of southern Vancouver Island.