With Banff and Jasper beginning to reopen to tourists, Mountain Galleries in both the Fairmont Banff Springs and the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is gearing up for a great summer. They’re planning on increasing their Artist in Residence program to allow for more artists and longer visits. Director Wendy Wacko says, “We’re using this opportunity to expand our artist in residence program, doubling the number of artists in residence we’ve had in the past.” The artist in residence is available to meet and interact with guests, host demonstrations and provide art classes. A frequent and popular Artist in Residence at Mountain Galleries is landscape painter Kenneth Harrison. We had a chance to chat with Harrison about his work, and his time at Mountain Galleries. The below interview has been edited for clarity and flow. Q. Can you tell me a bit about your work? A. I started out as a Plein Air painter, with all of my work done on location. I began doing field studies, and that sort of evolved into a more stylized look. It turned into what I have today. Just over 5 years ago I went into Mountain Galleries and showed them my work. Wendy Wacko asked if I’d be interested in doing the Artist in Residence program at the Fairmont Banff Springs. At first I didn’t know what that was about, but when she explained it, the only question I had was, “When can I start?” Before that I had a little bit of work in many galleries in Western Canada. Now, I’m exclusively in Mountain Galleries. They’ve been very supportive of me and my work. Q. You mentioned the Mountain Galleries Artist in Residence Program. Can you tell me a bit more about that? A. The Artist in Residence Program is probably one of the most interesting things people have to enjoy while visiting the Banff Springs. It’s a great program. It allows us to interact with the guests of the hotel. I’m always painting while I’m there, but to be honest, I do more visiting than painting usually. Initially we offered classes and workshops. Now we’re in a smaller but more visible space, so instead of teaching directly, a lot of the time is spent talking with the guests. I enjoy talking with younger aspiring artists, who often visit with their parents, and who are interested in what I’m doing. The program is not a new idea. It’s been going on since the beginning of the hotel in the 1800s. When the Banff Springs was originally built, the Artist in Residence painted the Canadian Rockies landscapes to promote the area to visitors. The idea was to invite guests to travel from Europe and spend two or three months. They would come on a Canadian Pacific ship, then travel across the country on a Canadian Pacific train and stay in a Canadian Pacific grand hotel. Wendy Wacko initiated the restart of this program in 2013 in both Banff and Jasper. Q. What’s the best part about living and working in the mountains? A. The absolute beauty of the landscape. That’s why I’m painting what I paint. I love the serenity, the quietness. Most of my life I’ve been painting mountains. There’s really nothing else I enjoy painting more. I do other paintings, but what I enjoy most is the Canadian Rockies. My Artist Statement is: “To create a peaceful, quiet, relaxing moment on canvas.” I love it when people say that about my work before reading the statement. Q. Who inspires you? A. I was initially inspired by impressionist painters. Then I moved into the more stylized way of painting. I started at a young age growing up on the prairies in Saskatchewan. The only artbooks I could access were the Group of Seven. From those pages, Lawren Harris inspired me. His painting is very stylized. It looks more at the shapes and shadows, rather than the details of the landscape. I like to design the landscape, so its recognizable, but I don’t paint every tree in the forest, or every rock on the mountain. People tell me it looks like Lawren Harris – but much more affordable! Q. If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring artist, what would it be? A. Paint what you love.
  To meet Kenneth Harrison, and many other amazing artists, at the Mountain Galleries Artist in Residence program, check the schedule, here.  
After months of staying close to home and cancelling travel plans, it’s time to start returning to the mountains. Tourism Jasper is inviting visitors to Venture Again into the lovely mountain town as it slowly reopens in accordance with provincial and national guidelines. “The community of Jasper is opening cautiously,” says James Jackson, president and CEO of Tourism Jasper, “We’re excited to invite visitors to Jasper again.” Venture Again in Jasper It's time to cautiously return to Jasper. Local businesses and attractions in Jasper are vigilant in adhering to provincial and national health standards. Jackson says that most businesses are actually exceeding those standards, “The community of Jasper really rallied around each other. Delaying the opening to June 1 gave everyone time to prepare. Everyone is exceeding health standards.” This means visitors can feel safe while enjoying the small-town hospitality. Jasper has plenty of places for people to explore while still following social and physical distancing. “Open is an understatement when it comes to Jasper,” says Jackson, “The community is open, and Jasper National Park is full of wide-open spaces. It’s the largest park in the Canadian Rockies, so there’s lots of room to explore.” While many attractions are open, there are still some tertiary roads that remain closed. Parks Canada has the latest information about what’s open, here.
Venture Again in Jasper

There are lots of wide open spaces to explore.

Most businesses are open or planning to reopen. The Jasper SkyTram opened with new health and safety protocols, and they saw an immediate uptick in visitors. The fantastic golf course at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is open, and so are many tours, including rafting, food tours, guided hiking, wildlife tours and more. Camping is not available quite yet, but Parks Canada is targeting June 21 to reopen campgrounds with restrictions. For an up-to-date list of what’s open from Tourism Jasper, click here. So what can you do to make sure your visit to Jasper is everything you want it to be? “We’re asking visitors to come with a little bit of patience and a little bit of preparation,” says Jackson, “Bring your COVID kit with hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and anything else you might need. Check the government sites for regulations and also check with your specific tour providers. It’s really about preparation so you can enjoy the park to its fullest while you’re here.”
Wildlife in Jasper National Park

Wildlife has been enjoying the park to its fullest during the absence of visitors. Be prepared for encounters as you begin to Venture Again in Jasper!

In the face of the pandemic, Crock A Doodle in Canmore got creative. They offered curbside pickup, so everyone could still enjoy painting pottery while stuck at home. With the slow reopening of stores slated this month, Crock A Doodle decided to keep to their curbside pickup for the time being. That means you can get creative or pick up some crafts for the kiddos to do in the comfort of your home. So how does it work?
  1. Order your kit by calling the store or clicking here.
  2. Pick up the kit curbside.
  3. Get creative!
We loved this idea so much, we sent a kit home with a photographer. Here’s what happened:
The take-home kit from Crock A Doodle in Canmore

The kit we ordered from Crock A Doodle had everything we needed to get creative.

Drawing the design on the mug from Crock A Doodle in Canmore

We started with the design.

Six paint colours beside a mini palate from Crock A Doodle in Canmore

We chose the paint colours on our order.

Selection of brushes used to paint the mug from Crock A Doodle

Brushes at the ready.

Mini palate of paints mixed and ready to go

It's time to get messy!

The mug with paints and a cell phone on wax paper as part of the take home kit from Crock A Doodle

It's fun. It's messy. It's a great way to spend the afternoon.

A painted mug from Crock A Doodle in Canmore is ready to be fired

And there it is! Now to return it to be glazed and fired. It will be available for pickup soon!

Needless to say, painting pottery with Crock A Doodle was a fun way to spend the afternoon. Have you found ways to stay active, support local and enjoy the mountains during the pandemic? Let us know!
The Canadian Rockies are so much more than towering peaks and outdoor adventures. We spent some time savouring the delicate side of the mountains with some specialty mountain cocktails from local businesses. We aren't talking your standard, run-of-the-mill cocktails you can get just anywhere. We wanted something different, something unique, something truly indicative of the mountain spirit. So we went on our quest, sampling the best cocktails we could find (purely for research purposes, of course) to bring you this list of the finest cocktails the area has to offer. From smokey decadence to sweet summer flavours, these mountain cocktails are unique to the Canadian Rockies and they're sure to tickle your tastebuds!

Where the Buffalo Roam

Mountain cocktails from Where the Buffalo Roam include the High Violet purple tumbler and Misty Mountain Hop. Photo by Damian Lamartine The Misty Mountain Hop, with prickly pear vodka, Eau Claire Distillery gin, absinthe rinse and hops bitters, was designed to highlight the flavours of Canadian spirits. This vibrant green drink is as refreshing as it is elegant. The High Violet adds the Empress gin to the top of the drink, which gives the taste buds time to familiarize themselves with the flavour before indulging in the rest of the cocktail. It's both bitter and sweet with just the right amount of kick. Both of these original creations are exclusive to Where the Buffalo Roam in downtown Canmore.  

The Vermillion Room 

Green drink called The Dame Nature mountain cocktail from the Vermillion Room. Photo by Damian Lamartine The Dame Nature, available exclusively at the Vermillion Room in the Fairmont Banff Springs, matches local, Wild Life gin with elderflower liqueur and mint. The matcha green tea puts a unique twist on a classic gin cocktail while the fresh mint garnish adds the element of scent to this invigorating beverage. For something truly decadent, try the smoked Flip au Chocolat Épicé. This cocktail was created in-house as the ultimate indulgence. The features two rare French whiskeys, chili spiced chocolate syrup and angostura bitters. The scent of the applewood smoke adds decadence to the overall flavour of the drink. It's also stunning! So stunning, it's the feature image for this piece.  

Wild Life Distillery

Mountain Cocktail The Pinata is a light green drink from Wild Life Distillery. Photo by Damian Lamartine. Wild Life Distillery is known for their award-winning gin and vodka as well as their seasonal gin, made from foraged ingredients. Their spirits can be found far and wide in the Canadian Rockies, but they also create their own mountain cocktails! The Pinata is best described as “similar to a gin margherita”. The lime garnish is rehydrated with baklouit green chili oil from Evoolution. The glass is only half-salted, so you can decide whether you want the extra kick, or you want to appreciate the flavours of the drink itself.   The Stairway to Heaven is a unique summer cocktail made with fresh mint and a slice of cucumber. The green and pink drink is sweet and summery. Photo by Damian Lamartine The Stairway to Heaven was created to be a refreshing summer cocktail. The watermelon juice is squeezed in-house for the ultimate fresh-tasting beverage. The fresh lime and cucumber garnish add a pleasant summer taste to this vibrant drink. Wild Life Distillery is constantly creating cocktails based on their in-stock spirits and seasonal ingredients.
Driving through the Canadian Rockies is an experience that I think everyone should have. It opens your eyes to a world that you were aware existed, having seen photographs of the area, but to actually see it for yourself is another experience entirely. A friend and I drove the Icefields Parkway, Highway 93A, from Jasper to Canmore on my birthday last summer, it was one of the best birthday presents I could ever have hoped for. We left Jasper at around 10am, having had a pancake breakfast at Papa George's Restaurant, located just next to the Whistler’s Inn on Connaught Drive. It was a delicious, relatively inexpensive goodbye to a town that I had fallen in love with over the last four days. I took one last gaze at Whistler Mountain and remembered being up there not two days prior.
Looking down at the town of Jasper from the top of Whistler's Mountain

Jasper From Atop Whistler’s Mountain. Photo by Jack Hawkins

It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to Jasper and set off for a new adventure: Canmore, with my new friend Cynthia, who I’d met two days prior in the Jasper Downtown Hostel, where we were both staying. After hitting the road, our first stop was a small lay by leading down to a short hiking trail -- the name escapes me, but it was a gorgeous view (this is a staple of Highway 93, for future reference). Our next stop on our journey driving through the Canadian Rockies was the first well-signposted one: Athabasca Falls. This large waterfall is located about thirty kilometres south of Jasper and is where the Athabasca River narrows to create a gargantuan waterfall, where the churning water cascading down the falls is so loud that you can barely hear yourself think, let alone speak.
Athabasca Falls while driving through the Canadian Rockies by Jack Hawkins

An Illustration Of Natural Power. Photo by Jack Hawkins

A brief jaunt down one of the many trails that surrounds the Falls lead us to the riverside where once again, crystal clear glacier water greeted us, as well as serene views. On a nice summer day, one could almost take a short dip in the waters of the Athabasca River -- though, given that the river is glacial, that is probably not advisable, as you know, hypothermia is a thing… Still, a man can dream.
Athabasca River by Jack Hawkins

The Athabasca River. Photo by Jack Hawkins

Moving on from Athabasca Falls, we found ourselves stopping every so often as the Athabasca River rushed alongside us. Music blaring, mountains on all sides, the awesome power of nature careening its way towards Lake Athabasca, it was turning out to be the perfect birthday.
Mountain scenery while driving through the Canadian Rockies by Jack Hawkins

River, Forest and Mountain. Photo by Jack Hawkins

Distance seemed to fly by, despite the multitude of stops! I think Cynthia and I were too awestruck by the scenery to pay much attention to the time. Before long, we had reached the first major stop on our way toward Canmore: The Columbia Icefield. Though Cynthia had been here on her way to Jasper, I hadn’t! She’d had a chance to explore the Columbia Icefield properly, including the Skywalk! I am not a jealous person, but on this occasion, I was quite jealous. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take in any of the experiences offered by PURSUIT. Though next time, I plan to do the glacier tour on the Brewster Ice Explorer, and hopefully the Skywalk. Still, the views of the glacier from the road were, well, staggering. It’s hard to imagine the size of the Columbia Icefield, so here are some numbers: 325 square kilometres, 100-365 metres deep  and receives up to 700 centimetres (that’s 23 feet in ‘old money’) of snowfall per year. It is the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains and feeds six major glaciers, including the Athabasca Glacier, which is the one we could see from the highway.
Driving through the Canadian Rockies road view as seen by the passenger seat by Jack Hawkins

In the Passenger Seat. Photo by Jack Hawkins

Mountain view while driving through the Canadian Rockies by Jack Hawkins

You Never Leave the Mountains Behind. Photo by Jack Hawkins

A stop in the Columbia Icefield Centre made it the perfect time to have lunch! Chili was in order, as the temperature had dropped significantly, as the weather -- which hadn’t started overly promising, gave way to cloud and snow (yes, snow in June!). It definitely for more atmospheric photographs, though.
Mountain shrouded with clouds by Jack Hawkins

Shrouded Majesty. Photo by Jack Hawkins

After being filled with chili, Cynthia and I hit the road again, bound for Canmore, but with stops now cemented, we’d hit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in one day! I tell you, my 25th birthday will be one that will live long in the memory. As we had reservations at the newly-opened Downtown Hostel in Canmore, we couldn’t stop as much after lunch, though I did remark that I’d love to see a bear for the first time… Ask, and ye shall receive.
Bear walking by the road by Jack Hawkins

Goosebumps. Photo by Jack Hawkins

We first spotted the line of traffic from a distance -- there were a number of people pulled over by the roadside, nobody was out of their vehicles, nobody appeared to be in any obvious distress, so we slowed down and then Cynthia shouted, “Look! It’s a bear!” I grabbed my camera, already equipped with a 70-200 zoom and climbed up through the sunroof -- though I never left the car -- and shot around 20 images successively, zooming in and out, not wanting to miss a moment as this massive black bear lumbered along beside the car, getting closer and closer with every passing second. And then he (I’m guessing it’s a male, judging by the size), was gone. Past the car and off into the woods. My heart was still beating out of my chest as I climbed down into my seat, “Wow.” I said. And then went about frantically reviewing my images from the back of the LCD screen. Checking focus and whatnot, you know, photographer OCD.
Bear close up by Jack Hawkins

Just far enough away for comfort. Photo by Jack Hawkins

With a buzz in the air, we pressed on, past more mountains and rivers and endless forests. We stopped a handful of times but our minds were now focused on Lakes Louise and Moraine and getting to Canmore, as it was getting later and later in the afternoon. Finally, we arrived at Lake Louise. I had never been and I have to say, though obviously visually stunning, I wasn’t that impressed. Far too many people. Perhaps it was the Chateau Lake Louise in the background that added to the throng, but I honestly preferred Moraine Lake. We grabbed the normal selfies and I grabbed a few tripod shots before heading off to Moraine Lake, about 20 minutes away. Moraine Lake is every bit as spectacular as you might imagine. It’s just like you’ve seen it in those photos on the internet. Yet, for something so stunning, there is a calmness and a peace that I did not personally experience at Lake Louise. It’s a different feeling altogether.
Moraine Lake by Jack Hawkins

Majestic Moraine. Photo by Jack Hawkins

After our visit to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, we were now entering our final push to Canmore. Another hour on the road or so and we’d arrived at the Downtown Hostel. Cynthia and I had just driven through the Canadian Rockies, one of the most beautiful places on earth, in eight hours, seeing just about everything that there is to see on that drive, and had made it to our hostel with time to spare before check-in. We grabbed a pizza for our efforts and finished off one of the greatest days of my life with a drink, in the shadow of the mountains of Canmore, which is a story for another day.
We’re all at home, and it looks like we’ll be here for a while. We miss the hustle and bustle of our little tourist town, and we miss travelling to new places! Even though we’re all stuck inside, there are still ways to enjoy the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. We’ve come up with 7 ways you can experience the mountains, from wherever you call home.

1. Look at Photos

If you’ve been here before, no doubt you have tons of photos to go through! If not, there are so many places to enjoy Canadian Rockies photography. We’re always posting mountain photos on our Instagram, or you can check out some local photographers. We recently caught up with Kahli April, Brandon T. Brown, Tyler Weber and John E. Marriott. We also have some great tips on how to take better photos from your phone (We’ve been practicing on our pets!).
The iconic Rundle Mountain reflecting in Vermillion Lakes during a colourful sunset is an iconic Canadian Rockies photograph

Enjoy some beautiful Canadian Rockies photography.

2. Get a Gift Certificate

Just because you can’t shop in the charming downtowns of the Banff, Canmore or Jasper right now, doesn’t mean you can’t visit when things open up later. Get a gift certificate to ensure your favourite local shop will still be here the next time you visit. A lot of stores are pivoting their focus during this time to offer products you can use now. Check out the new hand sanitizer from award-winning Wild Life Distillery, or the carnivore kits from Valbella Gourmet Foods.

3. Connect Virtually

You don’t have to be in the mountains to connect with the mountain community. Many local studios are offering online classes to keep their clients fit and connected during this time. Strides Canmore has a Virtual Challenge with prizes from local businesses, while places like The Yoga Lounge and Bow Valley Crossfit are offering online classes. We tried a class from Wildheart and loved it!
Two people trail running on a mountain ridge in the Canadian Rockies

We tried a running challenge. Photo by Kathmandu

4. Discover the Stories

Connect with the mountain history and culture with virtual exhibits from the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies or through online programs with artsPlace. If you’re looking for some reading material, check out these historical articles about Johnston Canyon, Maligne Lake and the geology of the mountain parks. Read the tall tales of the mountains or discover these historical heroines.

5. Learn about the Locals

A wide variety of wildlife have called these mountains home long before we discovered their beauty. Take a moment to learn about the wild inhabitants of these mountain ranges from local organizations like WildSmart and Y2Y. Learn how to be safe around wildlife so you’ll have the basics before your next visit. If you want to keep tabs on the locals, follow Boo the Bear on social media or learn about wolves from Northern Lights Wolf Centre and wolfdogs from Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.
A black wolf walks directly towards the camera in the Canadian Rockies

Photo by John E. Marriott @johnemarriott

6. Organize your Gear

You’re at home anyway, so why not organize your camping and outdoor adventure gear before your next trip? Does your bike need a tune up before hitting the trails? Is your tent still waterproof? Do your hiking boots need new soles? This is a great opportunity to make sure everything is in working order, and that you’re prepared for your next mountain vacation. It will also be fun remembering past trips as you get yourself ready to explore when it’s safe to do so.

7. Plan your Next Trip

This spring may feel like it’s 3758 years long, but we will get through this. And when we do, the mountains will be calling! So start to plan ahead. Looking for inspiration? This site is full of adventures from wild to mild. Whether you’d like to plan for your next big trip, or you’re more of a DIY adventurer, we’ve got you covered with ideas from hiking to ATVing to via ferratas, whitewater rafting and heli-tours. Summer, winter, shoulder season – we’ve got it all! And if you have any questions about what to do, where to eat or where to shop in the Canadian Rockies, just give us a shout. We’d love to point you in the right direction.
Two people at a tent campsite overlooking the river and mountains in Jasper National Park

Are you ready for your next adventure? Photo by Travel Alberta/Mike Seehagel

So wherever you are, and wherever you call home, we hear you. We’re all in this together. Stay home. Stay safe. We’ll see you when this is over.
Tucked away in the heart of Jasper National Park is Our Native Land, a hotbed for original native art and authentic, one-of-a-kind pieces that you simply can’t find anywhere else. For decades, this store has collected unique artwork and handcrafted items from artisans throughout North America, including iconic artists such as Lyle Sopel, Leo Arcand, Nuna Parr, Gilles Maurel, Richard Hunt and more. On my recent trip to Jasper, I was lucky enough to catch up with Harry Schuurmans, owner of Our Native Land, who was gracious enough to take me on a tour of the gallery and chat about some of the original pieces in store. “We try to find things that truly are unique,” he said as I gazed in awe at the giant mammoth tusk casually sitting 3 feet away from us; the most complete natural mammoth tusk in the world still in one piece, mottled with beautiful blues and ambers from spending centuries in the ground. “Everything we have is one-of-a-kind. We won’t have an exhibit of a specific artist every time, there’s always a variety of unique pieces available.”
Complete mammoth tusk at Our Native Land

Complete mammoth tusk. Image provided by Our Native Land

There’s work from over 250 artists in store, including 3 Order of Canada recipients and 2 contemporary Canadian wood turners. “We want to help promote First Nations artists who are looking to introduce their culture and art into mainstream society,” said Harry. Needless to say, due to their eclectic collection of original work, they have many international patrons; including the British royal family! Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented former US President Obama with a sculpture by Leo Arcand, an artist whose work is always present at Our Native Land. The collection of artifacts is second to none. “We make sure to carry true originals, and not just try to fill gaps in our selection, so stock and variety is always different.” Some of the rare artifacts include things like birch bark and pine needle baskets, musical instruments, traditionally made Inuit plush toys, unique fur jewellery, traditional breast plates, clay rattles, intricate feather paintings, jade work, organic body care, ammolite, hand carved Iroquois soapstone, corn husk dolls, peace pipes, weapons including arrows, coyote jaw knives and Inuit ulu knives, glass blown pieces, pottery, traditional Inuksuks, pelts from foxes, wolves, otters, racoons and beavers, and more. Luckily for collectors, many of these rare items come with certificates for export. “We carry a large selection of miniatures for people who are travelling as well as full size pieces.”
Basket at Our Native Land

Traditionally woven basket. Image provided by Our Native Land

Harry also let me try my hand at opening one of the mystery pouches in store, a simple yet ingeniously designed Indigenous puzzle bag. It took me about three minutes to open (after he gave me a very useful hint), but the record sits at two minutes. Harry said it took him three days before he got it. Anyone can try this when they visit Our Native Land. “We’re trying to give people something traditional so they can really get a sense of Indigenous beliefs and culture.” It was truly amazing to see such an incomparable collection of rare artifacts, art and crafts from a wide range of Indigenous and contemporary Canadian artists. “For any piece that’s here, you can spend 30 seconds admiring its beauty, 3 minutes learning about its story and 3 hours being amazed by it.”
Our Native Land wood eagle sculpture by Brian Bob

Eagle by Brian Bob. image provided by Our Native Land

John E Marriott is one of Canada’s premier wildlife photographers based in Canmore, Alberta. He is best known for his iconic images of wild animals displaying natural behaviour in the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. From humble beginnings in 1996, Marriott’s photos have since been published internationally by National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Reader's Digest, Backpacker, Photolife, Ranger Rick, OWL and more. You may have also seen his photography on highway billboards and transit buses. A master storyteller, Marriott is also a contributing editor for Outdoor Photography Canada magazine and is the author of three Canadian bestsellers. Q. How would you describe your connection to the local landscape and the impact it’s had on your career? A. The local landscape was the driving force of me moving here in the first place. You’re able to step out of your back door and almost immediately be immersed in wilderness. Living in the Rocky Mountains provides an opportunity to get to know some of the wildlife and tell the kind of stories that I wouldn’t get to tell if I lived anywhere else. There’s a particular draw to knowing wolves or grizzly bears personally and those are the two species I focus on the most because of the lure they have with having those fearsome reputations, yet at the same time there’s so much about them that we love and think is magical. Q. What is your favourite animal to shoot and why? A. I would say wolves are my favourite to shoot, partly because they remind me of dogs, and partly because wolves are so elusive. It’s not like you can just step out and go find a wolf, sometimes you have to put in 2 months to get a sighting and for me it’s the thrill of the chase. Grizzly bears are very similar. They’re not that easy to find, they’re particularly dangerous, and you’ve got to be careful with them. You can’t go following grizzly bears around in the forest. It adds to the allure of them and makes telling their story that much harder and more gratifying. Q. What are some of the ethical issues you consider while photographing wildlife and do you make an effort to minimise your impact on the environment and animals? A. It’s impossible to completely minimise your effect on wildlife and it’s something that I have to always keep in mind. Wildlife always know you’re there to some degree or another; maybe they can smell or hear you, or can just sense it, but they always know when there’s a human around. To pretend that we don’t have an impact as a photographer is being naïve, but at the same time I think telling stories of wildlife is very important, so there’s some ethical considerations I always try to implement into my work. I always put the welfare of the animal ahead of my desire to get the shot. If there’s no way I can get that shot, then I abandon it. No shot is that important to cause harm to an animal or cause it to disrupt its routine or behaviour. Although if I ever see a sasquatch, I’ll do whatever it takes to get a photo! Q. How do you recommend people access wild spaces and photograph wild animals? A. People come to the Canadian Rockies because we’ve got beautiful giant mountains, but all this wilderness and wildlife inhabits this space as well. Usually I tell people if you’re going to view wildlife, especially the bigger animals, use your vehicle. Pull over, turn your engine off, sit there quietly and let the animal approach you if it decides to. Q. How can visitors and tourists help us to preserve and protect the wildlife and wilderness? A. Get informed. Pick up books about local wildlife and conservation issues. A lot of people come to the Rockies for the first time and are just blown away by how spectacular and amazing it is, and they get home and start doing a little bit of research, and all of a sudden, they’re emotionally invested. I think one of the easiest ways to get involved in that is to support some of the local environment groups. It’s a really neat way for people to stay involved and still stay invested in this area so then they can come back 10 or 20 years later and go wow look at that, we still have wolves and grizzly bears. Q. In terms of conservation, what is currently being done and what still needs to be done? A. There’s some amazing conservation work being done locally, from Yellowstone to Yukon to smaller community-based ones like Bow Valley WildSmart. On a larger scale, I think that wildlife and habitat has been pushed to the backburner. Caribou are a threatened species in Alberta and are soon to be listed as an endangered species if things continue as they are, yet it’s still not at the forefront in the news. Wildlife needs a voice behind them helping them out. We think of our national parks as being so huge but when you actually look at it, they are just a tiny drop of protected area among huge swaths of development and tourism. We need more protected areas and I think that resonates with people living in Banff and Canmore too as a lot of us make a living off of these protected areas. We know there is a balance between tourism and wildlife while still protecting the habitat.
We’ve written about Wild Life Distillery before. From their seasonal gin to their amazing cocktails, served in their homey tasting room, Wild Life took the community by storm with their award-winning sipping spirits. Now, like almost everything in the world at the moment, Wild Life has closed their doors to the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of business! In order to meet a shortage in supply, Wild Life started making hand sanitizer in their Canmore distillery. “It wasn’t our plan,” says co-founder Matt Widmer, “But the supply chain of hand sanitizer has been overwhelmed. We’ve shifted our whole production routine to produce that for now.” The process isn’t that different from distilling spirits, with the main exception being the quality of the alcohol produced. “The alcohol we’re producing is not for human consumption,” explains Widmer, “So we’re not as meticulous in what we’re collecting.” The packaging and labelling is obviously unique, but the actual distilling process remains similar to what Wild Life does best. What's changed is the purpose behind the product. Wild Life Distillery is donating their hand sanitizer to all front-line healthcare workers who are risking their lives during this pandemic. In order to keep some cash flow and keep the doors open, Wild Life is selling their hand sanitizer alongside their spirits on their new online store. You can also get a free bottle by purchasing more than $50 of their famous spirits. Furthermore, Wild Life is selling hand sanitizer to corporations who cannot close during this pandemic. “We’re trying to help out where we can,” says Widmer, “We’ll keep up the supply for as long as there’s demand.” To purchase Wild Life sanitizer, or their award winning sipping spirits, click here. Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping in the Bow Valley! Pickup outside the store is also available.   Are you a front-line medical worker during this crisis? Contact Matt Widmer at matt@wildlifedistillery.ca to order your free hand sanitizer. From all of us at Where Canadian Rockies, thank you for all you do.
It’s the third week of being stuck inside and what is there to do besides make the best of it? With all the restrictions in place, we’re looking for moments of kindness and beauty. We didn’t look far before finding WildHeart. WildHeart is a local Canmore studio offering a wide variety of classes and clothing for sale. It’s run by a team of active outdoor enthusiasts who embrace the mountain lifestyle, both inside and out. They teach different types of barre and yoga with a focus on healthy movement. Their space is energetic and welcoming, and they attract drop in traffic alongside their loyal following. Like everything these days, the studio space is closed to the public during the pandemic. So the wonderful staff at WildHeart have brought their classes to you at home. In an effort to keep their community together, and to keep all their staff employed at a time when things are turbulent at best, WildHeart offers their regular range of classes online. Some classes require you to get a bit creative with props, but they all spread the warmth and joy that you would normally find in their studio. I tried a class. I’d heard great things from friends who frequent WildHeart’s studio and I thought it would be a nice way to unwind at the end of the day. The process was very simple: basically, you sign up, create an account and tune in when your class is about to start. It’s all explained here. I signed up for Yin Yoga, which they described as an “exploration of the mind, body and breath through functional movement and restorative postures.” That sounded lovely – and exactly what we all need as we sit still and adjust our lives. The class was taught by Jess Simson, and despite reaching out to everyone through their screens over the internet, she made everyone feel welcome and connected for the whole practice. Jess wasn’t so interested in flexibility or perfect form during the class, but she really focused on targeting the specific areas to relieve tension. She offered different variations on each pose, and explained how each person could work with their own body to find the position that released their tensions for that day. She had a calm manner and a way of explaining things that made the class light and fun while still deeply relaxing. The hour-long class was the perfect cap to the day. It was a great way to relax physically and mentally, and it also helped to connect socially through the virtual class. Whether you’re looking to relax during this crazy time, or you’re wanting to keep up with your cardio and fitness, check out the classes that WildHeart has to offer. They’re accessible, they’re fun, and you can do them at home.