Will 2020 bring a clarity of vision?

We can hope so! But at what point does proactive vision and hope fail?

Just what kind of vision does our world need now?

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but it is nice to have a quiet afternoon to contemplate some questions such as this, some of the struggle of this past year, and look ahead to the future year.

This year marks 40 years as an accommodations destination, promoting backcountry winter adventure and all the lovely skills of sport that facilitate enjoyment. Although ostensibly a business that generates income, the real value of what we do is more of a “follow our beliefs and feed our souls” sort of reward!  By being able to live by example, and educate public and political interests about ways to live within an ecosystem of land without destroying it, is our best private joy.  We have built community around our sport and can trace the links in the chain of everything we do that makes this a good model of environmental stewardship, and we hope, inclusivity for community and those who find us.

Sadly, we have not been as successful with the political will as we have been with the personal. After 40 years of constant cooperation and community involvement with our local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, (MNRF)…it is painfully obvious that stakeholders in Crown forests have no ability to change the mindset of an archaic and industry-led corporation.

As members and original instigators of a citizens committee who supposedly have a legislated active voice in timber management,  we have responsibility in identifying, promoting, and preserving tourism and recreational values. Our business depends on these values and our participation supports several other local partner organizations with the same interests. Other examples of users that have a larger provincial or regional platform includes ongoing events such as Crank The Shield  Race, local independent users in all seasons and the proposed Sault Cycle Club bicycle access trails and plans.

We advocate for better Areas of Concern (AOC) for vulnerable species and activities, and better harvesting logistics, the lack of which is often underscored by public fact-finding information sessions such as workshops which come from the provincial legislation such as the recent Forest Desireabilities and Benefit Values Workshop, undertaken for non-timber forest products.

During that workshop, the “Objectives” board we all worked on resulted in tourism and recreation values as the most agreed upon priority objectives, to be recognized and implemented in the 2030 Timber Management Plan (TMP).

In the TMP process, the area maps are highly accurate, of very high quality, and constitute a legal document once approved in the TMP. The planning process of mapping the areas, and accessing the information of all users is invaluable and is all pertinent within the legal document of the final TMP.

However we had serious issues with the implementation of the 2019 Annual Work Schedule within Block 75 on Bellevue Mountain, Vankoughnet Twsp., an area we have had paid fees for on an annual basis for 30 years as part of an existing and planned further expansion trail map.

In the recognition of values, i.e. existing trails, the MNR was immutable in modifying the present AOC’s, quoting “legal reasons”, and they refused our request to set aside a small part of the allocation that our trail ran through.

Clergue Forest Products recognized the forest trail values, and agreed on a non-disturbance implementation of harvest, but without any AOC, and a promise of best practices.

The follow-through was very disappointing, and we feel betrayed by our local MNRF and the people we have worked to educate for 30 years. They chose to use us as an example of what kind of reaction to expect if you ask for considerations of other forest users. Many mitigations could easily have been arrived at –  the harvest could have been a winter harvest, as in the adjacent management unit, and/or the harvesters could have waited until wet weather conditions cleared, to allow minimal disturbance. What did happen was that our minimal trail on Bellevue Mountain was used as a skidder trail in extremely wet conditions, and an entire hillside has been destroyed, and many far reaching impacts such as siltation of a wetland, and massive erosion.

The only reason the forestry companies even insisted on this cut was to make an example of us, and insist on business as usual just in case anyone else out there saw a better value in a chunk of forest rather than a few loads of pulp and waste wood.

Even if the harvest was warranted, the severe rutting of hundreds of yards in the existing trailheads, and in the landing areas could have been prevented, by adherence to the rules laid out in the bible of Ontario Forestry Standards, the Stand and Site Guidelines,  Section 5.2.c – in particular, 

1.Guideline #4, Criteria for Work Stoppage to Mitigate Impacts

2. within Best Management Practices, Item #6 – Selection of Season

3. within Table 5.2.d, under Erosion, Best Management Practice, Item #7, Rehabilitate areas where soil has been deposited etc.

Considering the amount of work that went into the implementation of the harvest with the assistance of ALL the users and the protocols that were available to be applied to the actual harvest, it is very disturbing that such a situation has resulted in the final outcome of this block. It has been denigrated for all other users, and will need serious remediation and many years to repair.

When looking at examples such as this I feel increasing despair about ANY clarity for the planet. How is it we can’t even work cooperatively on a tiny area of crown land that is supposed to be available to all users – and  30 years of intent and effort, annual fees and many hours and weeks of time that went into the creation of the activity on that land base, and the education of the why and how ….. all gets thrown out the window in a pissing contest about who has the right to use the land.

It is becoming increasingly obvious even to the children that the wild spaces we all thought were self perpetuating are a fallacy and fable. The corporations own it all and we as humans are tossed about on the waves of greed like so many plastic cups in the ocean.

Perhaps the hope of clarity, and information on how to positively impact the future of our dear diseased planet is only available once we see the limitations – and the last pieces are fenced and sucked dry.  I guess my 2020 vision is not being assisted by rose coloured glasses – but by the reality of experience; our own attempts to make it work on a community level, and the reality of trying our best to educate and lead by example and cooperation, and failing.

Robin

New Years Day, 2020

IMG_0987

Waaaahh! …it’s over!

The 20th Annual Snowflea Telefest has been, and gone – yet we are still basking in the great bounty…of friendships, food, music, laughter, and the deep contented tiredness that comes from the physical challenge of donning a largesse of gear to co-exist with the elements of nature.

Kudos to all the happy, stalwart and impervious skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers who joined in for a mix of the above, and did not even complain about the incredibly strange and awkward medium we were all playing in.

Synonyms mentioned in passing reference included meringue, mashed potatoes, drywall paste, oatmeal, creme brulé (with glazed top), The Blob, slushies, and wet concrete. At no time did the material warrant being called “snow”! Yet the challenging conditions did not stop you from traversing this amazing backyard of viewscapes and verticals, using your own high speed quads and the occasional avalanche to move you on.

Many thanks to all participants, and our local retailers who gave us such incredible prizes to award your efforts with.
The Duke of Windsor Sport Shop, Algoma Bicycle Company, Velorution Bike and Ski, Searchmont Resort, and The Outpost at Searchmont. We are very grateful!

Katherine Wheatley entertained us musically with great style and skill and gave us an excuse to sit down for an hour after dinner on Saturday….. thanks also to Permafrost band members Rick Charbonneau, Kevin Lucas, Jason Willet and Jeffrey Hinich who carried the show onwards.

So many people help us in creating this fun event – last but not least I would like to thank Teija Aspegren who cooked up a tasty storm, Michelle LeDuc Fitton who pitched in on Saturday to save my day, Conor and Kim Mihell who led the tour, and Lyle Robinson, whose help this week has been indispensable.

…and thank you, Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick, for these sweet pictures!

2016 – 30 years!?

Oooomph!! That’s a hard thing to believe!

30 years since this little guy showed up in our long winter’s night dreams, and helped us embark on this interesting venture. And …

“what a long strange trip it has been”! Telegraphic!

As Enn and I head into our 30th year as keen ambassadors for back country telemark skiing – (all right, it’s an obsession!) we are a little surprised to find ourselves still here! Well, of course there have been a few close calls, and yes, we’ve lost some dear souls from the slopes along the way, but … really? How incredibly lucky we are, even with this kind of behaviour out there in the wilds! Kudos to us!

Oh, hey, remember it wasn’t all easy like it is now, you young ‘uns have it all handed to you on a board now – we had to make our own gear up as we went along!

Skinny noodle wood skis…

 

…in Enn’s case ones he made himself, while working with Mauri Luomeranta at The Superior Ski Company.

…and these really REALLY long poles were needed to fend off the snow snakes and keep wild porcupines at bay … all sadly now extirpated from the woodlands …and the extensions also helped to test the depth of the snow in those deep drifts.

However there was this one time they weren’t long enough! – my pole was extended as far as it would go beneath me and there was no ground to be found! …if not for a trusty dog friend that came under my armpit and rescued me I would have suffocated. 😦 It’s every man (and woman ) for themselves out there – and laughter is the best medicine they say! Even at the risk of your friends’ precious lives and limbs…

snowy grave….anyways maybe that will help you understand my mantra “Levity gets you up, and gravity gets you down”!

Oh, and what about those wonderful little leather slippers that were all the rage for backcountry? About as useful to a telemark turn as a plastic spoon is to ice-cream … the old leathers

But back then, things were simpler.

Your mom made you a hat, based on your favourite design Robin with Emme hat on …..and if you had lots of hair –

well,  then you didn’t need one!Enn with HAIR

Of course that was back in the day when it would snow for forty days and forty nights, and the power would go off for a week and there were no roads, only skis and horses…..and all the men had hair.

The one thing you do always need; to keep the mantra going around, the trails navigable, and remind you what you looked like back then – is your FRIENDS!

So hey out there, everyone – hope you’ve enjoyed this little celebration of the path we’ve been on together. Perhaps you can come on out to the 20th Annual Snowflea Telefest, February 19-21st 2016!  We will spin some yarns and tell tall tales of all the routes we’ve taken and the ones that we did not , still out there for us to discover.

Ski you on the slopes!

 

 

 

Annual Fall “Lopp-It-Good” – happening November 8th 2014

Hi folks,

A lovely little nip is in the air today – you can smell snowflakes in the stratosphere. Yes, you can! 😉

All the maple and poplar leaves have been set free, swirling in huge drifts over the yard. Raking has been a chore with these huge northeasterly blows happening all week. Only the rubrous oak and citrine tamarack are stubbornly holding on to perk up the hillside views.

Enn is walking the mountain this weekend, making note of large windfalls and areas that need some saw work to keep the turns safe this winter.

mike marie conner loppet

We’ve planned the big trail clearing on November 8th and 9th … if you can join us, we would love to have you!

And ……..Snowflea Telefest is planned for February 20th – 22nd 2015.

This will be our 19th Annual! I hate to admit how many more years we have been tromping these woods, clearing deadfall and limbs to make this incredible trail network for backwoods skiing one of a kind.  Lopp it Good weekend asks for your participation in exchange for room and board … it’s a great way to get a deer’s eye view of our ski area, and become a part of the tribe, whether you love to make Telemark turns or prefer to snowshoe! Give us a call or send us an email for more information, or to reserve a bed – hope to see you soon.

Afterglow among the drifts and dregs….. Telefest 2014 retrospective~

Monday 12 pm.
Hard to deal with the empty space once the last car has been pushed out of the driveway.

All that remains is the warm glow in our hearts and the large drift of detritus; all that is left of this past weekend’s large bubble of friendship, fun and adrenalin!
Although that was quite the joke Mother Nature played – after this long winter of super snow and cold, (giving us not only a mild case of early cabin fever but luckily also the best snow conditions  in years), two days before Telefest we had above freezing temperatures, a bit of rain mist, and then the barometer plummeted to a whirlwind of a winter storm, with wind and snow, keeping several people from arriving here once both the Michigan Mackinaw Bridge and the highway south to Sudbury were closed. Yet not deterred, just delayed, all persevered and held fast to their plans.

Troopers! … all those who braved those odd elements and kept on the path that leads to our door!

Quite a large contingent from Canada this year, perhaps pumped on the good showing of medals and two awesome gold medals in hockey, we numbered over 50 participants by late Saturday evening. (Dear Americans, sorry for all the teasing. We do love Hockeyville here in Canada!)

Hugely missed were members of the clan Stoppel .. our thoughts were with all of you and especially your patriarch Roger as he battles his way through his own perfect storm.

Part of Saturday’s crew in the outback was happily captured on film by Marcus Quintillano – you can see many olympic-worthy aerial snow ballet maneuvers here –
https://vimeo.com/m/87455819
Many thanks, Marcus!

Safely returned from the film-shoot, more energy was expended on saunas, eating a huge home-made lasagna dinner and enjoying a musical interlude with guest performers Roger Marin and Rochelle Risling. Local musicians Rick Charbonneau, Britta Wolfert, Jeff Hinich and friends continued to entertain until the evening’s end….

Woods conditions improved mightily on Sunday, as the storm resolved into a snow-event, laying down almost two feet of fresh fluff for Sunday’s skiers. Enn said it was his best ski this year – and out of 48 epic days, that is high praise indeed!

More marathon eating took place after Sunday’s ski, as we went through the drift of leftovers and made short work of Mike’s amazing apple tart, a BBQ turkey breast, tenderloin slivers, Marie’s incredible assortment of cheeses of the world, Goulais Garden goulash et al – to power up and send folks back out into the storm to their homes in Owen Sound, Collingwood, Sudbury, Toronto, Ann Arbor, Petoskey, Traverse City, Grayling, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Detroit, Moncton NB and further afield.

My personal thanks go out to everyone above who pitched in to help, my friend Sheila Aho who gave up her Sunday last week to help me prep food, cousin Terry who schlepped gear all week, the wonderful Ms. Emily Gardiner who eschewed a dreamboat day of skiing to help me in the hospitality department – Em, you rock AND roll, Saturday would not have happened without your energy and investment of time – I sure DO owe you ONE! (but just one 🙂 )

Thanks also to our local sponsors, who provided over $800 dollars worth of great swag – everyone who participates for the day on Saturday gets to take a gift home with them due to the generosity of our local supporters and merchants ~
Velorution
Your one stop shop for everything Bike and XC Ski in Sault Ste Marie ON.
The Duke of Windsor Sport Shop
Dedicated to the sales and service of all skis, ski gear, and bicycles.
Algoma Bicycle Company
Not just bikes but skis and snowshoes, along with clothing and accessories
Searchmont Resort, Searchmont ON
All season resort with 700′ vertical, four chair lifts and condos for on mountain accoms.
and the Timberland General Store, Goulais River

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making the 18th Annual Snowflea Telefest a fabulous weekend !

Tele- stalkers, please feel free to post and comment here!

FREE HEELS OF THE WORLD, UNITE! …and we will see you on the next run!

…yers in powder,

Robinski

Mike Tefest 2014:photo by Marcus Quintillano …..this is a picture of Mike Everts tree-skiing on Saturday. Photo by Marcus Quintilliano.

18th Annual Snowflea Telefest – Feb. 21-23 /14

…just reposting my emailed letter from a few weeks ago here in the blog- in case we missed anyone! See you soon!

“Hellllooooooo!!! …..a reminder to join us for a fluffy and fun-filled weekend, our 18th Annual Snowflea Telefest, February 21st-23rd!
Hi folks! Well, you just can’t keep a good deity down, and our personal buddha, Heikki Lunta, a.k.a. good ol’ Hank Snow has been flurrying us with his attention for a few months now!

Back-country conditions are amazing at present. It started snowing in early November and it just hasn’t stopped. Super cold temperatures have kept the snow very dry and deep, and every day there’s new powder to enjoy, on top of a base of 1.2 metres (that’s 3.5 feet for you southerners!)
But then of course, most of the middle of the continent is enjoying the same awesome conditions.

A few sad under-shovelled people are groaning about too much of a good thing – but not us Snowflea- ers!
…and hey, what’s with – “Polar Vortex”? ….didn’t we just used to call it winter?

Some of the excessive effort needed to survive this” Vortex”; (not to be confused with The Vortex of Pain on our trail system) – include catching your breath after a supreme 50-turn flight down the newest pitch, Lone Pine, slogging in a fresh access trail after every nights’ snowfall of 24 cm (10 inches) … and of course deciding what type of beer to reward oneself with after a thirsty day!

Lodge attendance has escalated this year as everyone bows down to old Heikki – and once bent over past their knees I see most using their mittened hands to strap on those trusty skis and snowshoes. What can ya do – the only seasonal alternative is Hawaii, mall-walking or anti-depressants … or a radical option, like medical hibernation. (?)

So wouldn’t it be more fun to set your compass for some snorkel-skiing at The 18th Annual Snowflea Telefest 2014? Seventeen years so far – every single one of them a blast!

Check out the snowflea page on our website here:

http://www.bellevuevalleylodge.ca/shome.html

Here’s our fancy new poster courtesy of Ryan Creagh http://www.bellevuevalleylodge.ca/telefest2014.jpg

…. we would like to remind all local friends with time constraints we still offer a special rate that includes the Saturday afternoon tour on snowshoes or skis, full dinner and concert.
This year our featured performer is Roger Marin, a very talented alt-country singer-songwriter ~ www.rogermarin.com – ( you may remember seeing him playing guitar and pedal steel in Fred Eaglesmith’s band a few years back.)

Thanks to those of you who have already registered!

Anyone else? ….just drop us a line and let us know if you will be pitching a tent, staking a chair, or reserving a room ! (Yes, we are contemplating building a snow cave just for you, Mr. “Timex” Hill!)

…yers in a big white-out,
Robin