Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going

Looking over Cory Pass at Mt. Louis. Photo: Adam Zier-Vogel Photography.

Last week I went on a 14-kilometre hike with some friends around Mt. Edith via Cory Pass – in my opinion, one of the best day hikes in Banff National Park. Halfway, we hit Cory Pass and got an incredible view of Mt. Louis. I climbed the Kain route on Mt. Louis in 2011, in what feels like “my past life”. The trad climb took our party 24-hours of solid moving from base to summit to car. To that date, I had never pushed myself so hard. Only my ascent of Mt. Assiniboine comes close to the pride I felt in having reached the iron cross that stands at the top of Louis.

The next summer I was back at the pass with my sister and two months pregnant with Maya. My sister chose our lunch break at the pass to tell me she was expecting, too, and our babies arrived three weeks apart in Spring 2013.

Looking up at Mt. Louis on Friday I wondered if I would ever do a climb like that again. Or is my life drifting in another direction? There are some places on this planet that give us a chance to pause and reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. Returning to the same location provides us with a baseline that we can use to gauge the changes we’ve been through and how we’ve evolved as people.

Which places on the planet act as your baseline?


Where Are the Women? Pretty Faces Teaser

Feature photo Top of the world, somewhere in Alaska. Photo by Scott Dickerson.

I have attended the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival each year since 2007, save for one year when I was trekking through Nepal. Being the biggest film fest of its kind in the world, the Banff Festival offers a good barometer on a variety of industries, mainly outdoor gear, adventure film, sponsored athletics and publishing. I know for a fact that despite the considerable presence of women in sports, including skiing, they are poorly represented in most of these industries. Ski and snowboard films may show a ‘token female’, but otherwise women are usually left out of the picture.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. It isn’t an accurate representation, for one. It also leaves young girls without positive female role models in the area of outdoor sports, which promotes healthy body image, good self-esteem, and a ‘can do’ attitude. Instead these girls are left flipping through magazines and observing the lives of celebrities as if their representation in the media is actually true. As the mother of a young daughter, I hope she grows up to be inspired by women in a variety of arenas. She doesn’t need to admire them – that can often lead to comparison and a feeling of inferiority – but I do hope she sees all the possibilities for her future.

Lynsey Dyer has created a ski film about women called Pretty Faces, produced by Unicorn Picnic, with the goal of inspiring “girls of all ages to pursue their dreams, walk the path less traveled, and reach their fullest potential, whatever path they choose” (a quote from their Kickstarter campaign). Their Kickstarter campaign also offers some interesting statistics. Despite women’s presence in about 40% of the skiing population and about 30% of adventure sports film viewership, only 14% of athletes in major ski films were female this past season. Of most interest to me, they also say that many girls drop out of sports around the age of 11-15 years. These young teen years are so vulnerable for girls, and if we can give them positive female role models to look up to, I hope they’ll be inspired to stay active and healthy through sports (whatever those sports may be).

I’ll admit I’m not a fan of the title of the film, Pretty Faces. I get it: it’s a play on words, describing the mountain faces these women are skiing. But take a good look at the teaser of the film and you’ll see a bunch of, well, pretty faces. Does it take good looks to also be successful in your industry or sport? Or to make it into a ski film? Do we need beauty to sell even the concept of women being capable and feeling empowered? Beauty is a powerful, wonderful thing. But I fear we’re walking down the same worn path if it is being used once again to sell an idea and give it legitimacy.

I’m of course pleased to see an all-women ski film on the film circuit, and I’m all for the goal of inspiring young girls. I hope it has the positive impact the producers are looking for. I hope it comes to the Banff Festival so that the crowd here can benefit from seeing more women represented. Finally, I hope the trend continues and that this is just the beginning.

For more information, head on over to Unicorn Picnic.

Check out the trailer here:

Find Your Zen in the Canadian Rockies this September

Back into the grind after a summer of road trips, cottage time and holiday-ing? Here’s my latest piece for Avenue Magazine about finding Zen in the mountains. (You’ll have to head to the Canadian Rockies to take advantage of these ideas!)


Autumn brings with it a change of colours and, more often than not, a mountain of stress. As summer vacations give way to the familiar juggling act, consider leaving the busyness behind to tap into what matters most.

If Zen is what you’re after, look no further than the Canadian Rockies, where these six activities will let you reflect, refocus and recharge.

Continue reading → “Fall Into Focus: September’s Best Ways to Find Zen in the Mountains.” 

Check out the September issue of Avenue Calgary.

Check out the September issue of Avenue Calgary.

Melting Glaciers and Changing Landscapes

sotm coverThe Athabasca Glacier has receded more than 1.5 kilometres and lost half its volume in the past 125 years. But what’s the story for the rest of the alpine environment in Western Canada? Check out my report published by the Alpine Club of Canada, which combines the voices of both scientists and mountaineers. It was published back in 2011, but the content is no less relevant.

The results in the report are downright unnerving. Comparative photographs reveal a quickly changing landscape. Anecdotes speak to increased rock fall and objective hazards for mountaineers. Scientists speak to a lack of funding, and other factors inhibiting their research on climate change. And while not all is lost, the report calls those who love the mountains into action and encourages us to think seriously about how our behaviour today influences the landscape of the future.

→ Read The State of the Mountains Report


Best Spots for Ice Skating in Banff National Park

One day when I was a little girl I was exploring the woods around my parents house in Kanata, Ontario. It was a cold winter’s day. Walking down a snow-covered path, I heard some kids cheering and squealing with delight amidst the trees that stood between the trail and some houses. I have always had an insatiable sense of curiosity, so I walked over to check it out. I couldn’t believe my eyes: somehow the water in that wetland had frozen completely and perfectly. Kids were skating and weaving their way around trees poking out of the ice. It was like a dream or one of those watercolour winter scenes you find on a mug or on a puzzle. I ran home to get my skates and my mom and together we created one of our most special memories.

This memory came back vividly this past weekend when I took a spontaneous skate on one of our mountain lakes here in Banff. A friend of mine had posted on Facebook that the conditions were perfect and without a moment’s hesitation, my fiance and I took off to enjoy the smooth ice of Vermillion Lakes. The conditions were indeed perfect. So perfect that we went back again that evening and skated until the sun went down and we had to skate by headlamp. We didn’t want to leave.

What’s so magical about these outdoor skating rinks is that all the right ingredients need to be in place: no snow cover, ice thick enough to skate on and air cold enough that the surface doesn’t melt or scratch too deeply. We’re lucky to have these rinks spontaneously appear in The Rockies each year and, in addition to that, some outdoor rinks prepared right in the Town of Banff and surrounding areas.

Click here for the Best Spots for Ice Skating in Banff National Park.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2010. Updated February 3, 2014.

New Article on Travel Alberta Website

Photo by Paul Zizka.

Photo by Paul Zizka.

The latest article is up and running on the Travel Alberta Website! The article will also be featured in Fresh Tracks, a publication of Travel Alberta, in their August 2009 edition. Find out more about the history of mountain guiding in the Canadian Rockies, the Conrad Kain Centennial and where you can hire a guide today by reading the article here.

Excerpt: Climbing equipment is more sophisticated and modern guidebooks describe routes in enough detail to assist with route-finding on an ascent. As a result, more peaks are accessible to experienced amateur climbers. However, books and equipment don’t always help with decision-making – and they can’t kick steps up a snow slope for an aspiring climber. Almost any climbing party will benefit from the knowledge and skill of a certified mountain guide.


Transcribing this from my journal entry on June 14…

Trying yet another one of Costa Rica’s coffee shops, this time the Rainforest Café. Costa Ricans sure love their café, and I love them for that. Or perhaps they know that we North Americans love coffee, and so they make it readily available. Apparently, Americans drink more coffee than Costa Ricans, though I would have to say that, based on observation, Ticos enjoy their coffee more – not simply downing it droopy-eyed in the morning and hourly thereafter to kick start the old engine.

best coffee in the world

Made traditionally, it takes much longer to produce just a single cup of coffee (Tico-style); a whole pot would be unthinkable and time-consuming, though Ticos seem to have all the time in the world.

I take a sip of what may be the best latté I have ever had. I have said that before while I’ve been here, but this time is unmistakable. And writing and coffee go so well together, except that it take me a long time to write and only a few short minutes to see the bottom of my coffee cup.

Rumour has it, one of the sentences Ticos used to make their children read while learning to read was something along the lines of  “I drink coffee every day. Coffee is good for me.” (I am fairly sure I have also heard my mother say this by her own volition and not simply reading a school textbook). Scientists have long debated whether or not coffee is “good” for you. No doubt, though, it is good for the soul and boosts your spirits.

A magical bean, I say.

Check out http://www.cafemonteverde.com/, one of the local coffee co-ops in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2009.