KMC 42 – The Themeless Issue

Last year, our art director, Chris Rowat, started advocating for us to stop using themes, which have been an integral framework of our magazine for 18 years. The gall of him.

The Power Issue. The Holy Issue. The Colour Issue. The Burl Issue. The Home Issue. The Obsession Issue. The Party Issue. Themes have been an essential editorial and design guide for our publication, particularly our features section. But after some good discussion, we decided to drop the themes. We’re not sure if it's for good, but there's something exciting about the strangeness of what’s unmapped. And, this is still a kick-ass issue, even without a theme. Enjoy #42.

Into Pinned Air: The Growing Sport of Kite Skiing in the Rockies

These kite-skiing athletes have learned that travelling fast across large swaths of the Rockies is a breeze. By Matt Coté.

What’s the fastest way to get across a glacier? If you live in the Alps, where snowmobiles are banned, the answer for centuries has been two feet and your own heartbeat. If you live near Banff National Park, where motorized forms of transportation in the backcountry are likewise verboten, you’re in a similar situation: you better have a big backpack, rope skills, and lots of time. Or you could get a kite.

“You can do 20 kilometres in like 15 minutes,” says Lorenza Sommaruga Malaguti, a kite-skiing fanatic from Calgary, Alberta, who spends most of her free time in the nearby Rocky Mountains. Having a penchant for all things adventure related, Sommaruga Malaguti started kiteboarding in water, like most people do. When she realized the kite could also be a useful tool for winter ski mountaineering, she found an entire community of people out there already doing it and joined in the fray.

Over 300 snow kiters took part in the 2018 Red Bull Ragnarok event on Norway’s Hardangervidda Plateau. While the sport is not as popular on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, a growing community of kite skiers in Western Canada hope a similar competition will soon fly in their home territory. Top photo by Daniel Tengs.

Five years later, she’s one of the Rockies’ most prominent kite skiers and is a vanguard of the sport in Canada. “Like most of what goes on in North American mountains, Europeans started this first,” she explains. “It’s still bigger over there—in places like Norway’s Haugastøl and France’s Col du Lautaret—but it’s catching on here.” That’s because two of the things the Canadian Rockies and European Alps have in common are massive terrain and loads of wind. For this sport to work, you want a lot of open space with few trees, relatively clear weather, and a lot of airflow. While neighbouring British Columbia is famous for big snow dumps and pillow skiing, that’s not ideal for kiting. Plus, none of the glaciers in the British Columbia Interior are as expansive or accessible as those in the Rockies, like the Saskatchewan Glacier or Wapta Icefield, which can take days to traverse on skis.

While traditional forms of kite skiing are tailored specifically to zipping across frozen meadows or lakes, for which you use heavy, oversized, razor-sharp skis and powerful kites, the ski-mountaineering application is different. The kites are extremely lightweight and packable and hook directly into a climbing harness, which you already need for glacier travel. Sommaruga Malaguti says her lightest kite packs down to the same size as a full Nalgene water bottle, and weighs about as much, so there’s plenty of room in her pack for other mountaineering gear.

They decided Canada needed a kite-skiing event, seeing as every other snowy country has one.

“Who needs water? You can bring less when you’re moving that fast,” she quips. Her kite allows her to crush big approaches like the 2.8-kilometre-long (1.7-mile-long) Peyto Lake, on Banff’s Icefields Parkway, in 10 minutes. But modern-day kite skiers can actually climb mountains with them too. Once on top, they can pack the kite away and descend with ski gear. Sommaruga Malaguti has summited Cirque Peak, Bow Peak, and Wilcox Valley this way, and she has traversed the massively crevassed Athabasca Glacier en route to bag Mount Columbia, the second highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, which is usually a multi-day affair. She did it in one.

This is what makes it a notably different activity than speed flying—the hybrid version of paragliding that lets downhill skiers soar high above the ground as they descend. “Speed flying, you’re going down; kite skiing, you’re going up,” Sommaruga Malaguti stresses. The kites she uses are single walled, so it’s not often she catches any air time, but, she warns, they can still overwhelm and pull an unsuspecting amateur into trees or power lines. “It can be very, very dangerous. Everything happens so fast,” she adds. “People have died from going out without instruction.”


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Thankfully, there’s plenty of instruction available throughout southern Alberta, along with a strong and growing community. The Facebook group Alberta Kite Crew has almost 1,600 members, and, underscoring the sport’s rising popularity, Red Bull supported the inaugural Rocky Mountain Snowkite Riot race in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, last March. For these types of races, participants compete to be the quickest across the lake, vying for gusts using more powerful kites and heavier skis than what they’d typically take into the mountains. Sommaruga Malaguti organized the race with the help of friends like Julia Barnes, whom she originally met river surfing. Barnes had been kite skiing for some time already, but Sommaruga Malaguti pushed her to use the kite as a tool to climb mountains and their stoke for the sport blossomed together. They decided Canada needed an event since every other snowy country has one.

“This sport means a lifestyle to me,” Barnes explains. “It’s an individual sport, but it’s so fun to actually do it in a group. Everybody came [to the Snowkite Riot] with just so much excitement, and they were just really revving to race. The atmosphere felt like a big, global race.” Unfortunately, the winds didn’t work out for the inaugural competition, but next year’s event will incorporate a bigger weather window to ensure the scores of hungry racers get their chance to stake Canada’s claim in this esoteric, elevating sport.

Our Farewell to Legend Dano Slater

Dano Slater: Skier, freeride coach, legend. 1974-2022. We'll miss you. Words by Mitchell Scott.

I’m envious of you. In the most honest and beautiful of ways. You inspired joy and camaraderie and freedom in the exquisite among us. You lived it with them, saw it through their eyes. A billion moments of brilliance. You inspired so many, from red-cheeked 10-year-olds to bold young adults, some of whom are among the world’s best.

I’m grateful for you. In the purest and most thankful of ways. For creating this family of girls and boys and mothers and fathers and friends and fans. A village rooted in community and love, support and encouragement. You believed. You always believed.

I’m proud of you. In the most heartfelt and genuine of ways. I remember when, not so long ago, you were a young dirtbag skier pursuing your passion with an undying verve. Ahead of your time, chasing an elusive dream. Then you found this new purpose, helping kids find that freedom you knew so intimately. You armed it with action and the noblest of intentions, inspiring them to face their fears, test themselves. Not alone, but together, as one. As a team. Just look at what it has become. Know this tribe, this movement, will last as long as pure snows fall from a crisp Kootenay sky.

I will think of you deeply, in the most sincere and loving of ways. You shared your secret stash with me. On the chairlift, you spoke of your vision before it was a reality. And I watched you turn that dream into the dreams of our children. You made them better. You made us all better with adventure, growth, learning, and accomplishment. You gave us stories that will dance in our hearts forever.

We will shred in your great honour. In the most passionate and joyful of ways. We will do it together. And you will always be there. Backflips on the shoulders of kids who have become giants. Now we say goodbye. Shred in the spirit world, my good friend. From this life into the infinite lives that follow, we ride with you.

The Famed Silver Sliders of Whitewater Get Screen Time

The pioneers of a famed ski zone in the West Kootenay lock their heels and spin their wheels in a new film by local media company CK9 Studios. By Malia Joy

Forever Young is a seven-minute film, directed by Clay Mitchell and Simon Shave, that offers a glimpse into the ski culture of Nelson, British Columbia, where daily snow reports are consumed before coffee and age has no bearing on off-piste adventures.

Shot at Whitewater Ski Resort for car company Mini Global, Forever Young showcases Joan Harvey, Bud Stoll, Michael Brewster, and Ken McClennan, four skiers in their seventies and eighties who are members of an informal group known locally as the Silver Sliders. It was created in the 1990s by a dozen enthusiastic skiers who were “the epitome of Whitewater pioneers,” says Shave, 38, who grew up in the community. He goes on to say they were the “first to steer [the resort] to the powder and slackcountry Mecca on the backside,” taking turns driving a vehicle down the road to pick each other up after a run. The area is now serviced by the Glory Chair, installed in 2010. The name Silver Sliders refers to the silver Volant skis the members favoured back in the day, but “at some point, our hair colour defined our name,” says Brewster in the film. He’s been skiing for over 75 years.

This isn’t the first time the Sliders have appeared on film. In 2007, director Bill Heath cast them in his movie Nine Winters Old, which won multiple awards on the film-festival circuit that year. Shave is hoping for the same thing when Forever Young is entered into festivals. The movie serves up slo-mo turns in coldsmoke snow and scenes of easy camaraderie between the friends. In one clip, Harvey jokes, “Life’s no fun if you don’t have any,” and in another she tries to catch snowflakes in her hands while beaming like a small child. Indeed, Forever Young is perfectly named.

Castlegar's Growing Community of Jamaican Truck Drivers

Meet Basil Fuller, the driving force behind a growing Kootenay community of Jamaican truckers. By Vince Hempsall. Photo by Kari Medig.

My plate is overflowing with barbecue chicken, plantain chips, rice, a hot sauce appropriately named Atomic, and fried dough morsels that I’m told are called “festivals.” Mix in a stage with live reggae music and the summer heat, and it’s easy to imagine I’m on a Caribbean island. Instead, I’m one of over a hundred people attending a Jamaican celebration called the Can Jam Link Up, held at Kinnaird Park in Castlegar, British Columbia, a city best known for its Doukhobor borscht, not its fried plantains.

I was invited by 47-year-old Basil Fuller, a Jamaican who moved to Castlegar in 2013 to drive big-rig trucks. He’s the festival’s organizer and, I’ve come to realize, he’s also the unofficial Jamaican cultural ambassador of the area, which has a growing Jamaican expat community primarily made up of truckers. “There are well over a hundred of us driving trucks here now,” Fuller says in his energetic singsong voice. A slight man with a huge grin, Fuller is outgoing, with an easy laugh that makes him a natural storyteller. In fact, the Jamaicans I meet and speak with at the Can Jam Link Up all rebuff my offer to be interviewed for this story and point me toward Fuller because, as one man jokes, “Oh, that Basil, he loves to talk.”

It’s true, and his tales are fascinating, like the story of his inaugural experience driving a rig through snowy conditions on a mountain pass. “I remember the first time going down the Paulson [Summit] and seeing my trailer just minding its own business,” he says, describing how it started swaying back and forth across the lanes. “The truck driver behind me radioed that I needed to let go of the brakes and go faster. Oh, my dear Lord. He coached me all the way through that. Eventually, I got to Christina Lake. I got out of the truck. I lay down on the road, and I said, ‘Thank you, God!’”

Like many of his fellow truckers, Fuller was sponsored to come to Canada by Salmo-based transportation company Sutco and trained by Castlegar’s Mountain Transport Institute, renowned for its training ground, which includes some of the highest mountain passes in the country. His first two winters of driving were stressful, but “I came to enjoy it,” he says. “I’m a big kid now. Winter is my fun time. But I still chain up so often I know for a fact there are 52 links on every single one.” Then he laughs.

“I remember the first time going down the Paulson [Summit] and seeing my trailer just minding its own business,” Fuller says, describing how it started swaying back and forth across the lanes.

Fuller was a truck driver in Jamaica before he moved to Canada. Aside from the weather, he claims there is one main difference between the two countries. “Truck drivers are like rock stars in Jamaica, partly because the law in that country states that heavier vehicles have the right of way,” he says, and then he gets uncharacteristically serious. “But here it’s seen as low-skilled work, which I don’t understand.” He now drives for Mercer Celgar, hauling wood products, and when his rig is fully loaded with two trailers, it weighs 63,500 kilograms. “That’s a lot of weight and responsibility we’re carrying around,” he says. “Some of us drivers need to be more appreciated in my opinion.” But then he laughs again and switches topics. “Let me tell you about my first flight into Castlegar over the mountains. You can still see my fingerprints in the seat!”

Meet the Newest and Most Exciting Building in Castlegar

Designed by Cover Architecture, the new Confluence building will house the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre while adhering to state-of-the-art Passive House certification.

The Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre has long been one of the first buildings that greets visitors entering the City of Castlegar. It has come time for the structure to be replaced with The Confluence, a hub for tourism and economic development Castlegar and the surrounding area.

The new landmark Chamber of Commerce building for the City of Castlegar is an exciting development with tremendous architectural innovation as it is targeted to be Passive House Certified and of mass timber design.

Located at 1995 6th Ave, in the heart of the city, The Confluence will contain the previous programs of the existing Chamber building along with new additions. The Confluence building has a proposed footprint of 725 square meters, which includes office space for the Chamber employees, in addition to a greatly expanded reception/display area for the Visitor Centre, a large bookable conference room, and a “business incubator” (rental office space) with both enclosed and open work areas.

The Confluence is designed with an architecturally expressive exterior. It presents both structural and non-uniform shapes with a consistent material palette to complement its creative framework.

  • The roof line is divided by multiple levels which are oriented in different direction, with varying slopes and heights. This roof form is representative of the surrounding peaks. As the roof is a structural feature, no rooftop mechanical equipment will be present.
  • Overhangs are created on all sides of the building with arching extensions of the roof line. This unique design characteristic provides a feeling of being under an overhanging cliff face and helps shade building openings.
  • The architectural grade standing seam cladding wraps around the building, presenting an articulated and beautiful façade and emphasizing the building form.
  • Accent features around window openings will be made from warmer materials with a more natural appearance.
  • Any outdoor mechanical units will be incorporated into the overall landscape design. By incorporating them into the landscape, they will be hidden from view.
  • Landscaping is an essential part of the architectural design and has been carefully considered throughout the design process. The use of multiple types of paving creates usable public space, appropriate for this junction within the city, and beautifies the seating/garden areas, encouraging public/private use of the property. Plants have been chosen to create a rich and diverse visual environment, with unique features on each building face.
  • The interior design of the project is centred on the use of cross laminated timber wall panels, with other wood ceiling and wall features, combined with a minimal aesthetic. This will give a contemporary and timeless feeling to the design.

The Confluence is centrally located within the current development of the City of Castlegar and presents a unique opportunity to improve on the existing character of the surrounding area. Architecturally, the design is one of a kind; the form of the building is not only functional and beautiful on the interior but a sculptural icon for the City of Castlegar with high visibility to the public.

To showcase leadership in sustainability, the Confluence is being designed to achieve Passive House Certification, one of the first for this type of building in the country. To support local manufacturing industries, the structure will be largely built from mass timber, provided by Kalesnikoff Lumber Company. The Confluence is set to be a stand-out building within the city of Castlegar, while also fitting itself comfortably within its existing context and surrounding landscape; it will invite multiuse by the community and incorporate sustainable and thoughtful building systems.


Passive House is one of the most aggressive energy efficiency standards in the world, producing buildings that can be net zero, comfortable, affordable and sustainable, all at the same time.

The Cover team has led the region in developing strategies to reduce building energy consumption, including all levels of Step Code, LEED and Passive House certifications (an international energy standard that can offer up to net-zero levels of efficiency). Site orientation, material selection, interior layout, and detailing have huge potential to positively affect the longevity of the building, as well as the health and well-being of the users/occupants.

The appropriate material and system choices can lead to a building which is easier to maintain, lasts longer, and ultimately decrease its operational budget and maintenance costs.

Cover Architecture believes that Passive House certification is the best strategy for addressing the Climate Crisis within the construction industry, but every project is an opportunity to build better, whether through Step Code, Passive House, or another strategy.


Based in Nelson, British Columbia, Cover Architectural Collaborative Inc. was founded in 2013 by three design professionals: Graeme Leadbeater, Robert Stacey and Lukas Armstrong. Three additional registered Architects, Narelle Sookorukoff, Joanie Madore and Anne-Frederique Paradis, joined the leadership in 2020.

Collectively the firm’s principals and associates have over 50 years of architectural experience. The team of 24 architects, intern architects, architectural technologists, admin support and students bring their education and experience from countries around the world, including the Ukraine, Scotland and Australia.

Since the company’s inception, Cover has completed hundreds of projects across British Columbia and Alberta in a range of sectors including public and community housing, health care, Indigenous-lead projects, multi-purpose, spiritual, community, recreational, commercial and industrial.

Central to Cover’s vision of design is that collaborative decision making can create significantly more robust and integrated results than working as individuals. The team is passionate about collective thinking, integrated design, professional accountability, the responsible use of resources, and a healthy and caring work environment.


The Confluence wouldn’t happen without the direct involvement of the following: 


Honest Review: Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell Hoody

Mountain Hardwear has launched one of its lightest jackets yet, the Kor AirShell Hoody. Is it still fly after heavy use? Editor Vince Hempsall reviews.

Ever since its launch in 1993, Mountain Hardwear has been upping the ante on the outdoor jacket market. The company has been responsible for big innovations in the Gore-tex realm starting with its Exposure Parka, and has also advanced designs with PolarTech and down. Although technically superior, their first offerings tended to be robust and heavy. But not anymore. With the launch of its new Kor AirShell Hoody, which only weighs 146 grams, less than a hockey puck, Mountain Hardwear has proven its a heavy-hitter in the lightweight space.

Snapshot: Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell Hoody

    1. Pros: Who knew something so light could be so bomber!?
    2. Cons: No adjustability on the hood, cuffs, or hem.
    3. Price: $160 Cdn
    4. Who Should Buy: Casual adventurers.
    5. Who Shouldn't Buy: People who love running in sleet.
    6. Helpful Hack: The inner pocket doubles as a stuff sack.
    7. Author's overall rating: 9/10

The Test

I'll say up front the Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell Hoody never went on a run with me. Ever. Not because it isn't the perfect garment for that sort of thing, I just really, really dislike running. What I did use it for was a lot of rock climbing at the local crags and in the alpine. I also wore it hiking, camping, mountain biking, walking the steep hills of Nelson, British Columbia, the mountain town where I live, and standing around sipping coffee while watching my young kids narrowly avoid carnage at the bike park.

The Verdict

I'm typically adverse to reviewing lightweight garments made for alpine runners. It's not a sport I'm good at, or much interested in, and I have issues with many of the products and their lack of longevity. I made an exception for the Kor Airshell Hoody though because a friend who used to rep Mountain Hardwear said its incredibly versatile for the weight. He wasn't wrong. The first thing I noticed about the jacket is the fabric: it's as thin as tissue paper, or at least it feels like it when you slip it on. But having stood in the alpine wind in the Bugaboos wearing it, I can confirm its robustness. I was shivering at a belay station on a multi-pitch route and my merino long sleeve, soft shell, and light down jacket weren't doing the trick so I threw the Kor AirShell over all of it and voila, toasty. It helped keep the wind at bay but more importantly the elasticized cuffs on the wrists, hem, and hood kept the warmth in. The slight stretchiness of the Pertex fabric allowed it to rest over the three other layers no problem and I still had mobility. So much so, I seconded a few pitches wearing it like this, as an outer shell, and saw no discernible damage despite scuffing it against the hard granite.

After that experience I took the Kor AirShell everywhere. It packs into its own inner pocket to the size of a baseball and weighs less than one so why not lob it into your mountain bike waist bag, backpack, or diaper bag? I mostly wore it as an external layer although I once got caught out in the rain and was happy to have had an outer shell to throw over it as it's not designed to repel a lot of water.

It packs into its own inner pocket to the size of a baseball and weighs less than one so why not lob it into your mountain bike waist bag, backpack, or diaper bag?

Another thing I like about the Mountain Hardwear Kor Airshell Hoody is its simple, clean lines. I've seen other lightweight jackets that don't even have pockets but this one has two zippered hand pockets that are hidden on the side seams making for a perfectly smooth silhouette. And more than once I was happy to have the zippered pockets as I stumbled and envisioned my phone dropping out and careening into an abyss. The simplicity of the jacket's design does mean there are a few sacrifices though. For example, there aren't any ventilation features, but I found the Pertex fabric to be so breathable I didn't miss it. Nor are there any adjustment tabs on the cuffs, hem, or hood. Yes, they are elasticized and I personally didn't find any issues with the openings as they comfortably sealed around my under layers, but for people with small faces, thin wrists or small waists, you'll definitely want to try this jacket on before buying.

All told, I love the versatility of the Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell Hoody and because it's so light and barely takes up any room when stuffed, I've made it a part of my regular kit no matter what sport I'm involved in.

Mountain Hardwear Kor AirShell Hoody – The Deets

    • MSRP: $160 Cdn
    • Weight: 146 grams (5.1 oz)
    • Sizes: S-XXL
    • Colours: Desert Red, Surplus Green, Dark Caspian, Black
    • Made of ripstop Pertex Quantum Air fabric
    • Elastic binding on hood for secure fit
    • Raglan sleeve construction and underarm gussets
    • Two zippered hand pockets
    • Internal drop pocket
    • Elastic binding on cuffs and hem
    • Reflective heat transfer MHW logo on the chest
    • For more info:

Author's Note: Mountain Culture Group is not paid for these reviews. They are honest expressions of our opinions. In some instances we are given the product to keep but that does not sway our assessment. If we dislike a product and feel it would score a rating of less than 5/10, we simply won't review it. 

Honest Review: Mountain Hardwear JMT Backpack

Mountain Hardwear launched the JMT series of backpacks this year and editor Vince Hempsall has shouldered the responsibility of testing one of them. This is his honest review.

Mountain Hardwear has been based in Richmond, California near San Francisco since its founding in 1993 so it makes sense that one of the staff's main testing grounds is the John Muir Trail, located a half-day's drive from their headquarters. The JMT is a 345-kilometre trail that follows the High Sierra mountains through three national parks from Yosemite at its northern end to the summit of Mount Whitney in the south. The total elevation gain of the route is about 14,000 metres so it's the perfect terrain to test and perfect a backpack design: there are long swaths of sub-alpine hiking, optional fourth- and fifth-class climbing routes, and all kinds of high mountain weather. Mountain Hardwear's latest series of backpacks is named for the trail and the company claims they stand up to the rigours of JMT and about anything else you can throw at it. We'll see.

Snapshot: Mountain Hardwear JMT Backpack

    1. Pros: It's many features make it one of the best cragging packs we've ever used.
    2. Cons: The copious mesh on the side and front pockets is prone to any kind of abrasion.
    3. Price: $210.00 Cdn
    4. Who Should Buy: Rock climbers headed to the crag and alpine day hikers.
    5. Who Shouldn't Buy: Hardcore mountaineers.
    6. Helpful Hack: The front mesh panel can be unclipped and stored in a hidden pouch near the base of the pack.
    7. Author's overall rating: 8.5/10

The Test

I received the 35-litre version of the JMT backpack but there's also a 25-litre model and female-specific ones as well. It arrived at the beginning of the summer and so I had the entire season to take it into the alpine of the Valhalla Mountains and the Bugaboos as well as to the crags near my mountain home of Nelson, British Columbia. I also brought it along on a road trip that had me sport climbing in Ten Sleep, Wyoming for two weeks and multi-pitch trad climbing at the iconic Devil's Tower, also in Wyoming. Besides hiking and climbing with it, I took it on regular daily outings with my toddler and four year old and stuffed it full of diapers, snacks, toys, and snot rags.

The Verdict

I've been lucky enough to rock climb on cliffs across North and South America, Europe, and Australasia for the past 32 years and during that time I've owned dozens of crag packs from duffles to one-pocket bucket-style set-ups. In most instances I found the bags lacking: uncomfortable shoulder straps; not enough pockets to shove extraneous stuff in that I'd want to grab easily; too many accessories that added to the weight of the pack; or not enough space to accommodate everything. I justified it all, though, because I was "only cragging" and the approaches were an hour long at most. Then I received the Mountain Hardwear JMT backpack and my entire attitude changed. I now realize there are crag packs out there that can do it all.

My favourite part about the 35-litre version of the JMT backpack is its top-down, clam-shell opening that's like a Moray's maw: giant-sized and ready to consume everything including an entire trad rack, rope, food, water, helmet, chalk bag, harness, and shoes. On our day-long multi-pitch forays to Devil's Tower, I also had it stuffed with extra clothes, crack gloves, first-aid kit, extra water, and food. I then put my helmet in the stretchable mesh pocket on the front of the bag and draped our rope over the top of the pack and cinched it at the sides with the compression straps. Not only was I impressed by how much the pack could hold and how comfortable it was to carry, I was also amazed by how easy it was to get at everything. Two mesh side pockets carried my water water, the first aid kit, sunscreen and other essentials went in the top zippered pocket and anything inside the pack was easy to reach because of the huge top opening.

My favourite part about the 35-litre version of the JMT backpack is its top-down, clam-shell opening that's like a Moray's maw: giant-sized and ready to consume everything including an entire trad rack, rope, food, water, helmet, chalk bag, harness, and shoes.

Part of what makes the Mountain Hardwear JMT backpack so comfortable is the mesh and padding on the back panel and shoulder straps: they're cushioned and yet allow for lots of airflow so at no point did I feel like I was excessively sweating into the fabric. You can also tell a lot of engineering has gone into the details of the pack. The Cordura base is robust but there's also some padding in there so you don't have to worry about damaging cams if they're shuffled to the bottom of your pack. The front mesh pocket can easily be unhooked and stuffed into a recessed pocket near the base. The front and rear grab handles are extremely sturdy and the top zippered pocket has a key holder clip inside. There's also a water bladder envelope inside the main pocket with a top clip (see image below) but interestingly there isn't a hole for tube and nozzle. Not that I ever used it, preferring an old-school Nalgene shoved into one of the side pockets. Speaking of these, while I loved having them for hikes and approaches, I will say they did not hold up very well on multi-pitch climbs. At belay stations I'd take off the pack and hook it to the anchor, not heeding the fact it was banging and scraping against granite (in the case of the Bugaboos) and along the igneous columns of Devil's Tower. At the end of September I noticed small tears in the mesh fabric, which isn't surprising given it's not made to withstand abrasion. That's the reason why I strongly recommend this pack for cragging but not necessarily for long multi-pitch climbs.

In short, though, the Mountain Hardwear JMT backpack is the best cragging pack I've ever owned and I'm looking forward to doing many more short approaches with it.

Mountain Hardwear JMT Backpack - The Deets

  • MSRP: $210.00 Cdn
  • Weight: 1,176 grams (2lb 9.5oz)
  • Sizes: S/M, M/L (It's also available in a 25L version and female-specific versions)
  • Recycled 210D ripstop shell and 500D Cordura base
  • Inner spring steel frame
  • Mesh back panel provides ample ventilation
  • Clamshell-style zippered top opening with zippered pocket
  • Fully padded shoulder straps and hipbelt
  • Front and rear grab handles
  • Side compression straps
  • Trekking pole/ice axe attachment loop
  • Colour: Black Spruce
  • More info:

Author's Note: Mountain Culture Group is not paid for these reviews. They are honest expressions of our opinions. In some instances we are given the product to keep but that does not sway our assessment. If we dislike a product and feel it would score a rating of less than 5/10, we simply won't review it. 

The Headwaters Podcast to Launch Two Bonus Episodes

Launched in May 2022, the Headwaters podcast is announcing plans to drop two additional episodes for Season One.

A collaboration between Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine (KMC) and Columbia Basin Trust, the Headwaters podcast has announced it will launch two bonus episodes for Season One this month.

To date, the Headwaters has launched a total of eight episodes, garnering positive attention and a tremendous response throughout the Kootenays and beyond. “In just four months, since our launch, we’ve had well over 6,000 downloads, which puts us in the top 20 per cent of podcasts globally,” explains the podcast’s host and KMC Co-Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Mitchell Scott. “But, perhaps more importantly, we have received a ton of really encouraging feedback from individuals and businesses throughout the Basin. People seem to truly enjoy the stories we’re telling and the way we’re telling them.”

In those episodes, which cover subject matter from local Doukhobor history to technology, how to cut your carbon footprint to invasive species, the podcast has featured many local entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, and scientists. Along the way, the Headwaters has employed nearly 40 local contributors, such as graphic designers, musicians, reporters, and podcast producers.

“We are excited to see the podcast resonate with so many people,” says Delphi Hoodicoff, Director of Communications for Columbia Basin Trust. “Kudos to the team at Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine for creating enlightening and educational episodes about the remarkable people and places in the Columbia Basin.”

Episode 9, titled “Newcomers,” looks at people who are new to the Basin, how they arrived in the Kootenays, and how they are being creative at building a life here. Episode 10, “The River,” dives into the entity that gives the podcast its name: the Columbia River. It explores the river’s unique history, how it generates power, and includes a surprising story of someone who swam its entire 2,000 kilometres.

“We’re excited to launch two additional episodes to complement our first season,” continues Scott. “The Basin is such a rich and vibrant region when it comes to stories, and it’s an honour for us to be able to tell them in this very cool audio format. We can’t wait to do more.”

You can find the Headwaters and all its episodes anywhere you get your podcasts. To find out more about the podcast itself, visit To learn more about the Trust and all the amazing work they do in our community, visit

Honest Review: Giro Montaro Mips 2 Mountain Bike Helmet

Originally introduced in 2016, the Giro Montaro all-mountain helmet has continued to evolve over the years. Photo Editor Peter Moynes gets his head around the latest iteration called the Montaro Mips II helmet.

Based in California, Giro has been making outdoor gear for the past 33 years and their latest offering in the helmet realm is the Montaro Mips II. Designed for the all-mountain rider, this helmet is an update on the classic that was first introduced in 2016 and for this honest review, we head outside, hit the singletrack (not literally), and put our noggins to the test.

Snapshot: Giro Montaro Mips II Mountain Bike Helmet

    1. Pros: Great fit, doesn’t move around from the vibration of rattling downhill. Very comfortable.
    2. Cons: I cannot come up with a con for this helmet. It fits great, is lightweight, and very breathable. I had read somewhere that in cold conditions perhaps there is too much venting, but I have not found myself yet in this position.
    3. Price: $180 Cdn
    4. Who Should Buy: Anyone who’s riding an all-mountain bike and cares about their brain!
    5. Who' Shouldn't Buy: If you ride a couple of times a year, and prefer the rails to trails, you likely don’t need the Mips technology, or the amount of thought and design that has gone into this helmet.
    6. Helpful Hack: The helmet offers full camera-mount integration with breakaway feature, which is important if you're riding with a GoPro on your helmet.
    7. Author's overall rating: 9.5/10

The Test

I have been testing the Montaro Mips II for the months of August and September alongside a pair of Giro Deeds shoes. For the last three years, I have been using the earlier version of this helmet, the Montaro I, and I've gotta say, I really like this new incarnation. Thankfully I did not have a head crash during my testing of the Montaro II, but I spent at least 40 days on trail with it.

The Verdict

A helmet can be a challenging thing to effectively review, because, for the most part, it sits on the top of your head, but hopefully isn’t on your mind as you navigate technical singletrack. But I'll start with one of my favourite things about this helmet, which is that I had absolutely no issues with it at all. I ride an average of five to six days a week and I'm hard on my gear. The helmet is strapped onto my backpack when not on my head, and gets thrown in and out of trucks without caution. The shell of the helmet is bomber, and I still don't have any scuffs or dents in it. I will ride access trails and logging roads sans helmet, but for singletrack climbs, the helmet goes on.

Lke it’s predecessor, the Montaro Mips II, has strategic slots in the front for sunglasses with you start to fog out on the uptrack. I definitely put this to the test in August. Man, did I sweat a lot. I cannot really speak to the technicality of the anti-microbial padding, but my helmet doesn’t stink, and I haven’t felt the need to remove and clean the padding yet.

The other feature I liked is the strap gutter for goggles that keeps them in place on a rocky descent.

Sure you might be able to purchase a less expensive helmet from another manufacturer, but I am sure I will have this helmet for at least three seasons, which in my opinion makes this a great overall piece of equipment for comfort, safety, style, and the price.

Giro Montaro Mips II Helmet  – The Deets

  • Weight: 370 grams
  • Material: Full-wrap in-mold polycarbonate shell with EPS liner roll cage reinforcement
  • Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
  • Colours: Matte Black, Matte Chalk, Portaro Grey
  • Price: $180 Cdn
  • For more info:

Author's Note: Reviews on Mountain Culture Group are honest expressions of our opinions. If we dislike a product and feel it would score a rating of less than 5/10, we simply won't review it. 

"We Saved Cottonwood Lake" Celebration

The Cottonwood Lake Preservation Society is holding an event October 8, 2022 to celebrate saving the regional park from logging.

Four years in the making and the Cottonwood Lake Preservation Society (CLPS) has finally done it. They've saved Cottonwood Lake. With support from the surrounding West Kootenay communities, the society successfully raised just under $650,000, which supported the purchase of 49 hectares of mature forest slated to be logged. Over 1,000 different individual donors, from families to businesses, locals and non-locals, helped reach the goal of protecting Cottonwood Lake so it can remain wild.

Of that amount, $400,000 went to the land purchase with the remainder going to endowment fees, surveys, and operational costs that contribute to Cottonwood’s future.

Above photo by Vince Hempsall. For more about the Save Cottonwood campaign click the image above.

Over the past year, the work of the CLPS has been focused on the transition of lands to be protected in perpetuity. The money the CLPS raised was passed to the RDCK, who became the on-title owner of the property. From there, the CLPS continued to work with the RDCK to transfer the land to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). Supported by the funds raised by CPLS for an endowment, NCC will manage and protect the property’s important ecological features. "It’s taken some time, but we’re happy to report that the mature, forest ecosystem above our beloved Cottonwood Lake will be protected from any type of development for generations to come," reads a recent press release.

To celebrate the closing of the Save Cottonwood campaign, and to recognize the many of you who donated their time, creativity, energy, and money to Save Cottonwood, the society is throwing a shaker.

Join them on Saturday October 8th, 2022, at Cottonwood Lake between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. as they unveil their new donor kiosk, and officially celebrate the closure of this amazing story of a small community rising to a very big challenge. Check for a bus schedule or to sign up for the rideshare.

Honest Review: Giro Deed Mountain Bike Shoe

Giro creates gear for snowy endeavours and cycling adventures. Photo Editor Peter Moynes takes the company's new Deed mountain bike shoe for a ride and absolutely stomps this review.

If you have ever ridden a bicycle or hit the snow slopes on a board or skis, chances are you’ve had a Giro helmet on your head at one time or another. The company was founded in California in 1985 and has since grown to be one of the leading global brands in the bike and ski industry. For this honest review, we turn our focus from our heads to our feet and stomp out an opinion on the new Giro Deed mountain bike shoe.

Snapshot: Giro Deed Mountain Bike Shoe

    1. Pros: Comfort, comfort, comfort. Like a couch for your foot, but a good couch.
    2. Cons: Though it didn’t really affect me, as I use a custom insole, but I thought the
      Stock insole looked like it lacked some support.
    3. Price: $199 Cdn
    4. Who Should Buy: Anyone who likes to ride flats including BMXers, mountain bikers and gravel grinders. These are super grippy and supportive on a pedal.
    5. Who Shouldn't Buy: People who think $120 is too much for a pair of riding shoes that will likely last three seasons or more.
    6. Helpful Hack: Put an upgraded or custom orthotic in it for max comfort.
    7. Author's overall rating: 9.5/10

The Test

I like to bike. I believe it’s good to take at least a day off a week from the bike, mostly for stretching, and giving the body a break, but I don’t always do it. An avid cyclist you might call me. I’m also a bit of a hipster duffus. You know, the guy who wears vans to a wedding, to work, or to a funeral. For the last 20 years, I have also ridden in my vans. I told myself the shitty soles actually allowed my foot to kinda wrap around the pedal and grab it, almost like an eagles talon grabs a salmon's back. But a month ago I agreed to take a pair of Giro Deed shoes for a test drive and report back on their performance. Having already confessed to being a duffus, I can now officially add moron to the vernacular of description for myself. Kinda like they, them or us. I cannot believe I didn’t make a shoe switch sooner. My ankles would have thanked me for it.

The deeds are incredible stability on the pedal. From the pumping and popping on machine groomed flow trails, to the steep, rocky chunder of the Nelson, British Columbia classics, the shoes were bomber.

Here in the Kootenays, a riding shoe isn’t just a riding shoe, it also doubles as a hiking shoe/boot. Hike-a-bikes to ridge tops and walk arounds some of the gnarly shit that people build and ride around here are common place. I live in the heart of Nelson and I like to ride right from home. A lot of the trails in my repertoire are the old-school classics that made this town a destination Mecca for riding. "Eli Sim," "Paper Bag," "13 Steps Of Doom." They are all kinda steep, kinda rocky, and the perfect testing ground for a new pair of riding shoes.

The Verdict


Over the last month I have tested the Deeds on trails that take me anywhere from an hour to ride, to having a few epic days involving 2-3 trails and six hours in the saddle. These shoes fit incredibly well and never need “adjusting” somehow. Up until writing this, I thought there was some kind of “jumar latch mechanism” on the grommet of the shoe that was incorporated to hold the lace in place once tightened. Upon further inspection I see there is no mechanical system in place, but the lace holes are oblong instead of round. Whatever the reason, once they are tied up snug, they are snug for the day.
I replaced the stock insole with my custom orthotic, which brought the comfort of the shoe to the next level. I actually went online to see if there was a “technology” used to make the shoe feel so solid. Apparently it’s the use of “mute foam” that bring the stability to the shoe.


So we know “mute foam” helps brings the stability to the shoe, but how does that translate to the ride? For me it came in confidence at high speeds. I can think of four or five rides in the area where the trail ends on a rocky forest service road or deactivated double track. Here of course the action is to pin downhill at mach speed to your given destination. At these speeds one usually begins to think of the consequences of getting bucked by a rock or depression, or how much chatter one's arms and legs can take, but I never got that sensation. I always felt like my feet were planted firmly and securely on the pedal, as though I was riding clipped in.


The shoe is described as being constructed of "Fast Drying Textile and Microfiber," which of course doesn’t mean much to me. Though we didn’t see a ton of rain over the last month, I did my fair share of creek crossing, some on pedal, some on foot. The shoe almost seemed moisture resistant, or had some type of wicking ability. I never got a soaker, or maintained a wet shoe over the period of the day. After at least 25 days on trail, the Deeds don’t have any visible signs of wear and they feel like they will be good for years to come.

Giro Deed Mountain Bike Shoe – The Deets

  • Weight: 390 grams (size 43)
  • Material: Fast-drying textile and microfiber
  • Sizes: 43-50
  • Colours: Black, Black Spark, Oxblood
  • Price: $199 Cdn
  • For more info:

Author's Note: Mountain Culture Group is not paid for these reviews. They are honest expressions of our opinions. In some instances we are given the product to keep but that does not sway our assessment. If we dislike a product and feel it would score a rating of less than 5/10, we simply won't review it. 

The Best Packrafting Routes in the Rockies

Small inflatable boats are changing how backcountry explorers navigate the mountain range between British Columbia and Alberta. By Ray Schmidt

Packrafts are purpose-built, brightly coloured inner tubes wrapped in what can only be described as black bondage restraints. They’re the size of a one-person tent, weigh under four kilograms, and can easily be stowed in a backpack or on a bike rack. When you get to the water, all it takes is a few minutes of inflation into a one-way valve and the raft is ready for action. Some models even have spots inside the raft tubes where you can stow gear.

Above: Cline River. Top: Red Deer River. Photos by Adam Greenberg.

They have been around since the early 80s, when Alaskan adventure racers began crushing course records by skipping overland sections and floating rivers to the finish line on cheap inflatables, but they’ve improved over the years. In 2002, Sherri Tingley of Alpacka Raft in Alaska dramatically enhanced their design and durability by using nylon and urethane, ushering in the modern era of packrafting.

Adventurers are still exploring the limits of what a packraft can accomplish, and some have tackled wilderness rivers in the Kootenay Rockies to create link ups. Here is a list of five hike-accessible packrafting trips in the region that might convince you to join the pack.

Diving into Canada's Deepest Cave

A look inside 10 years of discovery and determination in Bisaro Anima, the 683-metre-deep cave near Fernie, British Columbia. By Katie Graham

Deep in the don’t-screw-up zone, I screwed up. Half a kilometre below the surface, in the pitch-black belly of the Bisaro Anima cave, my anxious mind got the better of me. The members of this 2019 expedition and I were behind schedule, so I picked up a heavier haul bag than I’d normally carry and rushed to get us back on track. The glare of my headlamp showed two guys in my path, so I went around them onto an unstable slope. Basketball-sized rocks started moving. I tried to regain my footing, grasping for anything solid, but I was already over the edge — falling two metres with 24 extra kilograms on my back. I crumpled in pain when I tried to stand; something was wrong with my ankle. Scuba diving the lake 650 metres deep in the cave — which had preoccupied my thoughts for so long — wasn’t going to happen. Humbled, I focused on being as little of a liability to the others as possible. The pain eventually became tolerable, so I crawled along and climbed a rope with one foot to escape the cave. Three days later I saw the sun.

ABOVE PHOTO: Jared Habiak pushes an 18-kilogram haul bag through a narrow section of the cave. He’s wearing a shock and water-resistant, 500-lumen headlamp and carries two others as backup. Katie Graham pic. TOP PHOTO: The author explores the underground lake named Dieppe, where she uses side-mounted dive equipment with 20-pound tanks — open-water divers typically use 40-pound tanks — because it’s easier to maneuver in tight spaces. This particular dive lasts 25 minutes. Underwater drone photo by Francois-Xavier De Ruydts.

In 2012, I teamed up with nine other cavers to splurge on a helicopter ride to the Mt. Bisaro Plateau located about 10 kilometres (six miles) north of Fernie, British Columbia. The area is a playground of caves; they’re everywhere, but as we soon discovered, most are short and choked with rock, snow, or ice. Only one hole showed potential. Standing at the precipice of the deep drop-off, we peered over and threw a rock down the shaft. A four-second silence was followed by a massive boom reverberating from below. We looked at each other with huge eyes, “Holy shit, that’s deep!” This chasm, Bisaro Amina, soon became an obsession fuelled by awe and curiosity.

The next few years were exciting, with annual trips to Bisaro Anima. Long days were spent rigging and mapping the vertical cave. It took nine hours to commute from the mouth of the cave to our exploration areas, and our quads and shoulders were fatigued after days of going up and down ropes. In 2015, we set up the first of three underground cave camps: four hammocks in a rocky alcove dubbed “The Barracks,” where we stashed gear that allowed for a flurry of exploration.

Claire Gougeon and Colin Massey admire the ceiling of the massive underground room named Vimy Ridge. The cave itself, Bisaro Anima, is named for nearby Mount Bisaro, which honours the memory of Private Torindo John Bisaro, an Italian-born infantry soldier from Fernie, BC, who died at age 21 during the invasion of Normandy, France. Anima is Italian for “soul” or “spirit,” meaning the cave is the soul of the mountain. Photo: Jeremy Bruns

We started doing winter trips because the water level is lower when the mountaintop is frozen, while the cave is the same temperature year-round. We did hydrological studies to understand the water flow in the cave, 3D mapped the mountain’s surface with a drone, and climbed many avens (vertical shafts) looking for shortcuts to the surface. We followed canyons and waterfalls deep in the cave and were amazed to find a lake more than half a kilometre down in the middle of the mountain. The only way to continue seemed to be underwater. In 2018, I dived the lake and proved Bisaro Anima is the deepest known cave in Canada, but damaged gear prevented me from going very far. In 2019, I broke my ankle while hauling gear in, and 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19. In 2021, I finally got a second chance.

After adjusting my gear and nodding to my teammates, who all have their headlamps turned on me, I enter the water of the underground lake. Liquid laps over my head and its cold embrace envelops me. Calm settles in. All I can hear is the sound of my own breathing in the scuba regulator. So much planning, hauling, and apprehension have gone into this 2021 mission. For years, I have been imagining what is on the other side of this tunnel, beneath the water. I wrap a dive line around a hold and glide forward, following the contours of the floor. The main passage abruptly ends in an alcove. I backtrack to an upward shaft. It narrows around my shoulders with sharp, crumbly rock. I contemplate the ramp that drops five metres down to the north, but I’m already close to the air limits of my tanks. I complete the rough survey and retreat.

Katie Graham, Andrea Corlett, and Gill Minty dig out the cave entrance on the first winter trip in November 2015. The team decided to explore during the colder months because the water outside the cave is frozen and there is less run-off in the tunnels, but the atmosphere within the cave remains consistent year-round at 100 per cent humidity and 3°C. Photo: Tom de Haas

Ten years after the discovery of Bisaro Anima, it’s been confirmed to be the deepest cave in Canada at a depth of 683 metres and a length of 6.4 kilometres. Over 40 cavers have participated in its exploration, and although the cave continues underwater, the team is going to focus its efforts on finding a dry bypass. More caves have opened in recent years, possibly due to hot summers and low snowpack.

I’m grateful my 2021 dive was a success and that I was able to reveal a few more of the cave’s secrets, but I am plagued by the dread of what it will take to complete another trip. Still, the excitement of discovery leads me ever deeper.

Teton Gravity Research Drops Trailer For Magic Hour

Teton Gravity Research has dropped the trailer for its 2022 offering "Magic Hour" and it's ... magic.

For 27 years, Teton Gravity Research has been hunting for the right place, with the right crew, at the right time, to find fleeting moments. Somewhere between the joy of the hunt and the magical experience of floating down a mountain, the company found that the magic hour is different for everyone and not necessarily dependent on the time of day, but the sum of an experience becoming greater than its parts.

At least, that's what the release said when the announcement landed that the latest TGR trailer was live. Shot on location in British Columbia, Alaska, Montana and Jackson Hole, Wyoming the film stars Revelstoke's Christina Lustenberger as well as Amy Jane David, Griffin Post, Ian McIntosh, Jake Hopfinger, Jeremy Jones, Jim Ryan, KC Deane, Kai Jones, McRae Williams, Michelle Parker, Nick McNutt, Parkin Costain, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Sam Smoothy, Simon Hillis, Tim Durtschi, and Veronica Paulsen.

The release goes on to say that, "Ultimately the culmination of these moments manifest into something bigger every fall when celebrated and shared in our annual snow film’s magic hour."

The World Premiere of Magic Hour will take place in Teton Village, WY, on September 17th, with all proceeds benefiting local Jackson Hole area charities, followed by a global tour that will bring the movie to more than 150 locations around the world.

The DH Mountain Bike World Cup As Seen Through The Lens Of A Kootenay Photographer

Canadians dominated the junior ranks at the DH Mountain Bike World Cup in Andorra this July. Kootenay photographer Conrad Swetland was there to see it in play out in person. Here's his slideshow.

It was the middle of a heat wave in the heart of the Andorran Pyrenees in the small town of La Massana when I stepped onto a gondola at the Vallnord Bike Park. I was en route to the dusty, steep, and loose course that made up the 2022 Vallnord DH Mountain Bike World Cup.

Whistler local Finn Illes, who's having his best season ever, was favoured to podium in the Men's Elite class while in the Men’s Junior class other Canadians were set to dominate. And that they did. In fact, four of the top five men's juniors were from the Great White North including Squamish local Jackson Goldstone, who came in first, Tegan Cruz (third), Bodhi Kuhn (fourth) and Tristan Lemire (fifth).

Meanwhile, Gracey Hemstreet from BC's Sunshine Coast, came in second in the Junior Women's category. With so many talented young mountain bikers in the ranks, Canada and British Columbia have a bright and exciting future in downhill racing.

As for Finn Iles (seen in the above photo on the right), he came in third with an insanely fast time of 2:46, two seconds behind the winner Loris Vergier from France.

During the race week, over 400 athletes competed in three different events including cross-country olympic, cross-country short track, and downhill. These are my photographs from the DH races.




Dark Horse Invitational: A Pictorial

The inaugural Dark Horse Invitational Slopestyle Mountain-Bike Event in Revelstoke crowned a 12-year-old as its reigning champ. And that's not all that makes it special. Words and photos by Lindsay Donovan.

I’m crouched in the dirt next to an immaculately sculpted 10-metre-high jump built specifically for this all-female mountain-bike event at British Columbia’s Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Suddenly, 14-year-old Natasha Miller launches off it and takes her hands off the bars, throwing a crowd-pleasing suicide no-hander with the style and confidence of a seasoned pro. Welcome to Dark Horse. It’s August 2021 and I’m at the inaugural Dark Horse Invitational, the brainchild of Canadian professional mountain biker Casey Brown. It’s the first of its kind: a four-day women’s slopestyle event where contestants compete for best tricks and biggest improvement. Brown says her main objective for launching Dark Horse is to cultivate a safe environment for progression, mentorship, and camaraderie, something she wishes she had when she began competing a dozen years ago. It features a new jump course specifically built for the 12 participants, and an on-site airbag and mulch jump to practice on. Ages range from 12 to 33, and the youngest rider, Tayte Proulx-Royds of Kelowna, British Columbia, takes home the overall Dark Horse trophy, overcoming her trepidation and launching a 10-metre gap jump. Afterward, she says the event was an amazing opportunity to meet other athletes, push her limits, and achieve new heights, literally.

Dark Horse Invitational: A Photo Essay

Above photo: A number of crashes occur during the 2021 Dark Horse event, but Squamish, BC, rider Bailey Goldstone is the first to hit the dirt hard enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. The spill happens off the five-metre-high platform during the final day, and she is diagnosed with a broken wrist, broken and dislocated collarbone, and a concussion.

Top photo: Thankfully, there are more successful airs than smashes, as evidenced by Coquitlam, BC, native Natasha Miller, who surprised onlookers with a suicide no-hander on day one.

Twelve-year-old Tayte Proulx-Royds of Kelowna, BC, is all smiles after her first successful attempt at the big sender. Event organizer Casey Brown (right) shares in her joy while videographers Dylan Siggers and Jason Mannings (background) document the day-one milestone.

On the final day, Vancouver native Micayla Gatto spreads the stoke, autographing a local boy’s helmet during a break in the action.

The third day includes a session on the airbag, where Casey Brown practices her inversions.

These Kootenay Ukuleles Are Made From Old Skateboards

The Board Ukulele Company in Blewett, British Columbia, is making electric instruments from old skateboard decks. Now that's a sick trick. By Vince Hempsall

“Punk songs sound great on the ukulele. NOFX especially,” says Ryan Zsadany, 44, speaking from his home in Blewett near Nelson, British Columbia, about the songs he likes to play on his hand-built ukuleles. Before you question what punk has to do with the typically mellow-sounding four-stringed instrument, consider that Zsadany specializes in electric ukuleles and he builds them from old skateboard decks.

Zsadany has been skateboarding and playing the ukulele since he was a kid and has now combined the two passions into a business called Board Ukulele Company. He takes old or broken skateboard decks he’s collected from shops and other skaters, removes the wheels and trucks, fills in the holes, and then fashions the neck and body of the ukulele from the wood. “The nose and the tail of a skateboard have that perfect curve for the headstock,” he says. “Normally people who make ukuleles have to go through an elaborate process in order to get that curve, but a skateboard works perfect.”

He keeps the colouring of the deck intact through the creation process and adds the hardware and pickguard after lamination. To date, he’s built 11 ukuleles during his off-hours from running a local catering company, and he says a base model runs about $400.

Embrace Your Inner Neanderthal at the Between The Rivers Gathering

An annual gathering near Spokane, Washington, helps attendees get primitive again. Story by Derrick Knowles. Photos by David Beckstead.

When Patrick Farneman first attended the Rabbitstick Primitive Skills Conference in southern Idaho in 1996, “it was like a homecoming,” he says. “I had no idea there were other people out there as weird as me.” That experience of learning skills, such as lighting friction fires and foraging for edible wild plants, was so impactful that he eventually started a similar event called Between the Rivers Gathering, which takes place on a 40-acre property at the confluence of the Colville River and Bulldog Creek, 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of Spokane, Washington.

Above: Coco Becker uses a blow tube to heat coals as she makes a bowl by burning the inside of a wood chunk and then scraping away the charcoal. Top: Bridget Curry practices with an atlatl and dart, an ancient weapons system that predates the bow and arrow.

Now in its tenth year, the week-long spring event features workshops ranging from stone-age skills such as flintknapping — the practice of shaping hard rocks into tools — to bow making and archery. There are classes on wilderness survival and modern homesteading crafts, like hide tanning, blacksmithing, and basket weaving. In past years, ancestral skills celebrities, including Alone cast member Callie Russell and National Geographic Primal Survival host Hazen Audel, have taught classes.

Mike Goot cooks a rabbit on a spit.

Attendance for the sell-out event is typically capped at 350, and all ages are welcome, from babies to the elderly. While some attendees live a primitive lifestyle year-round, most have modern lives with regular day jobs. “I work as a mental-health counsellor, drive a truck, and live in a normal house,” Farneman says, “but I can make a stone tool and butcher a deer with it too.” There are few digital devices and no internet at the gathering, and that, combined with the popularity of survival shows in recent years and climate uncertainty, is part of what draws people to the event and helps give them peace of mind, Farneman explains.

Hari Heath wears the skin of a cougar that he tanned by hand.

Leah Daily-Palmer from Loon Lake, Washington, who hasn’t missed a year since the event started in 2012, says, “It was eye opening to meet all these people who were into learning traditional ways of living and connecting with each other in real time without modern technology interfering with it. I’ve made life-long friends and feel like they are more like real family than my relatives at our family reunion.”

Myron Cretney demonstrates the hand-drill method of friction fire, one of the oldest known methods of starting a fire. The friction generated from spinning a shaft in a wood socket creates and ignites charcoal dust to form a small coal, which is transferred to a nest of tinder and blown into flame.

How To Save The World's Only Inland Temperate Rainforest in the Kootenays?

The Kootenays are home to the world's only inland temperate rainforest, and its uniqueness attracts everyone from tree huggers to tree cutters. Story by Jayme Moye. Photo by Steve Ogle.

A Kootenay old-growth forest has an unmistakable vibe. It feels moist, even in the summer, with soft, spongy moss creeping over the rocks and curtains of lichen dangling from nearly every bough. Massive cedar and hemlock trees — hundreds if not thousands of years old — stand sentry over the lush understorey, where devil’s club grows nine feet tall and grizzly bear, mountain caribou, cougar, wolf, and lynx still roam.

Scientists know this landscape as an inland temperate rainforest — and the Kootenays have the only one in the world. As the Valhalla Wilderness Society, an organization that’s been working to protect this rare ecosystem for decades, explains it, a rainforest is loosely defined as a forest that stays wet all year. In the Earth’s temperate zone — the area between the tropics and the polar regions — that typically only happens on the coast, like in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. But in the Kootenays, we have a temperate rainforest growing 400 to 600 kilometres (250 to 375 miles) from the ocean, which is why it is labelled “inland.” “Snowforest might be a better name for it,” says Eddie Petryshen, a conservation specialist at Wildsight in Kimberley, British Columbia. “Most of the moisture comes from snow, not rain.”

The North American Inland Temperate Rainforest, as it’s known, used to cover 40 million acres, forming a broad arc that blanketed the entire Kootenay region before dipping south into parts of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Today, due to logging and development, British Columbia’s portion exists in much smaller fragments — some of which are mere remnants, especially in the southern Selkirk and Purcell Mountains, like the 2.6-kilometre (1.6-mile) out-and-back Old Growth Recreation Trail at Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, near Nelson, British Columbia. A 2021 study titled Red-Listed Ecosystem Status of Interior Wetbelt and Inland Temperate Rainforest of British Columbia, Canada, published in Land journal, classified this rainforest as “critically endangered” and stated that ecosystem collapse is imminent in nine to 18 years if logging rates continue at current levels.

In places like Revelstoke, British Columbia, where there are still large tracts of undisturbed inland temperate rainforest, like the Argonaut and Bigmouth Valleys, residents are rallying for the clear-cutting to stop before it’s too late. “We have something really, really special here,” says Sarah Newton, a Revelstoke resident and spokesperson for Old Growth Revylution, an environmental conservation organization. “We’re the only inland temperate rainforest left in the world that’s still somewhat intact.” By late summer 2021, old-growth logging protestors in Revelstoke had swelled to 200 strong and established a full-time blockade on a logging road 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of town to protect the rainforest and beyond. Last October, forest defenders were buoyed when the provincial government announced its intention to defer logging in 2.6 million hectares of at-risk old-growth pending discussions with local Indigenous Peoples. Thirteen of the 14 cutblocks that Old Growth Revylution hoped to protect were included in that deferral. As for that last cutblock, which sits at the confluence of Argonaut and Bigmouth Creeks, Newton and her colleagues are still out there blockading. “We’re not going to budge,” she says. “It’s gotten that dire — every cutblock counts.”