Dawn Green – Writer

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The backcountry beckons

Photo creditTucker Sherman

Photo credit: Tucker Sherman, Flickr

I am at a loss for words. This is how I feel, faced with the daunting task of attempting to describe what lies before me, as I peer out from the top of Whistler Mountain into the vast backcountry of Fitzsimmons Valley and beyond. The backcountry has this effect on people. It’s almost mystic in its strength, enticing you to explore, yet keeping its secrets close to its heart.

And so I turn to an expert for help with unravelling its spell. Keith Reid, a professional mountain guide with Extremely Canadian Backcountry Adventures and a twenty-year veteran of the mountains, describes how its aloneness is so appealing.

“The terrain here is big, breathtaking and world-class,” he explains. “On a given day of backcountry skiing, we might traverse half a dozen glaciers and numerous high alpine peaks without crossing the path of another skier.”

Guided tours are recommended in this out-of-bounds play area— and for good reason— whether your passion is ski touring, ice climbing, heli-skiing or splitboarding. Local guiding companies, such as Whistler Alpine Guides and Extremely Canadian, can show you secret stashes of powder and most importantly, safety. The backcountry is also avalanche country and it’s reassuring to have safety experts by your side while you explore.

And what’s the best thing of all? That it’s possible to spend epic days in the backcountry then snuggle up warm and cozy in a chalet in Whistler each night.

“What differentiates the Whistler backcountry is the ability to get on a lift from the Village in the morning, backcountry ski all day, then ski back into the resort at the end of the day,” says Reid. “There is nowhere else in North America where you can access this level of terrain on a daily basis without a helicopter.”

The backcountry changes people, he adds, and maybe this is its secret, revealed.

“We introduce them to an environment which, for many, is a ski of a lifetime. Seldom does a day go by that we don’t see that twinkle in our guests’ eyes that says they have been to a magic place and accomplished something very special.”

Find out more at www.whistler.com/activities/backcountry/

By Dawn Green

~This article was published in The Vancouver Sun and The Province on 3 May 2016:


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Why ecological literacy is important for kids

I am delighted to feature another fabulous guest post from Ella Andrews – this one tells us how essential it is for our children to understand build a relationship with nature.

Why ecological literacy is important for kids3

Mother Nature is very important for our future. A major part of our future are our kids. We must teach them ecological literacy so as to make them learn how important it is to take care of the environment. Being introduced to nature from when they are little children will help develop in them a deep love and solicitude for their surrounding environment.

While young, kids explore and discover a lot of new things. We can help them expand their knowledge by showing them outdoor activities. The best way is if we have a garden on our property or take them to any of the nearest parks. Once we find a suitable place to play with our kids, we must do some preparations first. Playing outside may be dangerous so we have to do some efficient garden clearance first. Kids will be happy to see how plants smell and how the bees are alighting on them so take them on a trip in a garden that has lots of different flowers.

Once our kids see the beauty of nature, it is almost certain that they will turn into an adult who appreciates the small things and will take care of the natural world. Ecological literacy is important for our kids because if we lose nature, we will be lost too. Each living creature on the planet can’t survive without water and food and this is something that our kids must learn from childhood. Teaching them to take care and respect nature is maybe one of the most important lessons we have to teach them.

Planting some flowers will be very interesting to them, with this you can show them how to take care of something. After some time they will see the growth of their flowers and you will be surprised how satisfied they will be.

Another interesting thing for your kids will be for them to meet a gardener. A gardening professional will help you with not only the lawn care but also may help you with ecological education for your children.

Meeting with nature face-to-face, kids can see the different elements of our surrounding environment working together. Even doing some patio cleaning will show them how to take care of the world around them.

A good ecological literacy is something that is a must for every person in the world. As youngsters, we start understanding the importance of taking care of nature, and we can call ourselves decent people who know what is important for our health in the future. Many schools have classes that show the kids how to take care of nature. All the books and videos won’t educate kids on ecological literacy as much as looking at their parents doing some gardening outdoors and spending time playing in nature.


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Risky parenting – the debate

My friend and I debated this the other day, as we meandered in a wetlands, collecting rubbish at the insistence of her four-year-old. While her two daughters and mine galloped around, touched pricky bushes, tripped over and dusted themselves off again, we pondered what exactly risky parenting meant to each of us.

While it’s easy to talk about allowing kids to jump off rocks, take risks and be responsible, it’s  also so true that when you are actually a parent, and you’re actually talking about your own daughter or son, it’s a whole different ballgame compared to sitting on the sidelines and judging other parents for the decisions they make.

So while I do feel strongly that kids need to have more freedom to roam (think Free-Range kids) and not be faced with ‘helicopter parents’ always hovering close by, the thought of one day letting Jarrah hurl down a mountain bike track on her own or walk home from the library without me turns my blood to ice. That crazy strong protective instinct kicks in and I just want to shelter her from the world.

Photo: justinjensen/Flickr

Photo: justinjensen/Flickr

Yet, as Katie Arnold writes so eloquently in a recent article in Outside Magazine, at the end of the day it’s all about making responsible decisions for our children’s safety while allowing them to expand and grow.

“But we can’t slow our children down. Not really. Their whole purpose in life is to grow and change and need us less until they hardly need us at all. We can urge caution in the moment and good judgment over time, but we can’t arrest their development. At times we cheer their progress, at others we’re heartbroken by how quickly they are changing. Either way, it’s our job to help them grow so we can let them go. The hardest thing about being a parent is knowing where to draw the line between reasonable, healthy risk and careless negligence, between hands-on guidance and helicopter parenting.” (Katie Arnold, 2015)

And my friend and I agreed. We don’t sweat when our kids trip and fall, and getting dirty is cherished and promoted, so we feel we are on the right track. Will I still fret when Jarrah goes off on her first crazy wilderness experience on her own? You betcha, but the important thing is that I will be there to hug her when she gets back and share in her excitement, after all, that’s what parenthood is all about.

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Embracing winter snow sports


When winter blankets North America in her white, wispy shawl of snow, many of us turn instinctively to hibernation-like habits to survive. But, as it turns out, we were meant to get out there and move. Just look at our ancient ancestors – enduring the howling winds and waist-deep snow of winter, thousands of years ago they turned to nature for inspiration and survival tactics. Observing the snowshoe hare with its over-sized feet, bounding effortlessly on top of the snow, the idea for a shoe specifically designed for snow travel was born. Made of white birch or ash wood and weaved with the hides of deer, the invention of the snowshoe dramatically altered the lives of these people forever.

During the course of centuries, the snowshoe was strictly necessary for all peoples confronting deep snows in winter, to enable them to hunt, trap and travel long distances. When French fur traders settled in what is now Quebec in the early 1600s, they were introduced to snowshoeing by the First Nations people. This allowed them to carry on with their trading throughout the long winter months, and from there the concept of snowshoeing spread out over the Northern Hemisphere.

Today snowshoeing is generally viewed as a winter recreational activity and a way to get back to nature, with the resurgence in its popularity acknowledged as a nod to the past. So strap on your snowshoes and explore the snowy terrain, where the only thing stopping you is your growing appetite after a good work-out in the snow.

And if travelling by ski is more your style, take on the thrills and spills, Nordic-style.

As for me, I would never consider myself a fearless Nordic skier, but I was feeling rather self-assured on this particular day in Callaghan Valley, B.C. Having glided my skate skis across virgin tracks, past snow-laden trees under dreamy blue skies, one measly slope stood between me and a steaming thermos of tea. I hesitated as two ski patrollers on their ski-doo waved for me to come down, but then brazenly pushed off. I nearly made it … then my left ski stopped co-operating and my previously graceful movements descended into an awkward struggle for balance. Sure enough, gravity won out and I face planted in front of my audience. I’ll give them points for not laughing, but I know underneath their scarves they were grinning. And I was too.

Blissful Nordic skiing and seriously exceptional snowshoeing take the cake in terms of the ultimate way to experience winter head-on. So the next time you peer out the window to the doom and gloom of winter, resist the urge to jump back in bed and pull the covers over your head and instead embark on a Nordic skiing or snowshoeing adventure. Guaranteed it’s a better way to get through winter, with the perk of staying fit too.

(Published December 19, 2012 in Greenster, environmental online magazine. http://www.greenster.com/magazine/snowshoe-skiing/)

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The Sound of Silence

“True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” ~William Penn

“The beauty we love is very silent. It smiles softly to itself, but never speaks.”

This winter past, I took up skate skiing, at the gentle prodding of my husband and after a few frustrating sessions getting the hang of it, I soon found myself loving the sport. I loved the act of sliding over the snow and facing the ups and downs of the rolling hills on our favourite trail.

What struck me one morning as we were alone, on the freshly groomed trail, was the intensity of the sound of silence. We had paused to have a breather and as soon as my body stopped, my ears perked up and enveloped the peacefulness surrounding us. Silence in nature is certainly not complete… after a mere moment, I could discern the quiet chirping of a lone bird, invisible to the eye and the soft plonk of snow falling off the tree. But it amazed me how much more connected to nature and to myself I felt after even a short period of silence. It’s a moment in time where everything stops, akin to the art of meditation, where the mind ceases its endless chatter and you are alive in the moment.

In our chaotic busy lives, we often miss opportunities for silence and appreciation, yet, after my experience in the snow, I was left for a powerful longing for more. And after some more thinking on it, I realized that we can all create silence in our lives and thus benefit from its healing powers. A quiet moment in a room, looking out a window, a visit to a park, stopping to crouch down and look at the natural world around you… it is possible, even if you live in a city setting.

I encourage you to take a moment each day for this practice… it is not only soothing, it opens up creativity, brings up feelings of peace and happiness and helps you to feel more grounded and present in the moment.

That’s not bad for a few minutes of silence.

“When you become aware of silence, immediately there is that state of inner still alertness. You are present. You have stepped out of thousands of years of collective human conditioning.” ~ Eckhart Tolle


26 March 2012