New Publication: Roughing It…Sorta

Parks Canada oTENTikLast summer I had the opportunity to check out Parks Canada’s new oTENTiks at Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park with my husband and 5-month old. As part of an assignment for Avenue Calgary, we spent the night in one of these A-frame cabins and enjoyed an absolute downpour and thunderstorm (and rainbow to follow!) from the comfort of a shelter. My article includes information about both the oTENTiks and Alpine Club of Canada hut system.

Read Roughing It…Sorta in the June issue of Avenue Magazine

Looking Ahead to 2011: Significant Anniversaries in The Canadian Rockies

This week’s guest post is brought to you by Paul Zizka, a Banff-based photographer who takes us back through a detailed history of The Canadian Rockies to highlight significant anniversaries for 2011. His overview, which spans anniversaries from the past 200 years, is enhanced with his own photography, more of which can be found at


200 years ago, in 1811:

An Iroquois guide Thomas takes explorer David Thompson to Athabasca Pass and then down the Columbia all the way to its mouth, where the Americans have already arrived; the latter get Oregon and the British, British Columbia. The trip around Mt Edith Cavell (back then known as “la montagne de la grande traverse”) is done in January with hand-made sleds and snowshoes. For the next 50 years, Athabasca Pass would be an important passage through the Rockies for fur traders, missionaries, military men, artists, explorers and scientists.

Looking towards the "montagne de la grande traverse" (top right) from the summit of Mount Fryatt, Jasper National Park.

Henry House is built close to present-day Jasper. It was the earliest permanent structure built by non-natives in the Canadian mountain national parks, and like other Rockies fur-trade posts, was used for brigade sheltering and pastures rather than trading.

150 years ago, in 1861:

The Palliser Expedition, led by James Hector, receives the Royal Geographical Society’s gold medal for geographical discoveries.

Mount Hector, named after the famous scientist/explorer.

125 years ago, in 1886:

George Stewart is the Banff Hot Springs reserve’s first superintendent. He is instructed to plot the locations of two townsites: one by Lake Minnewanka (which was expected to bloom into an important tourist destination but eventually became submerged) and one on the Bow River (Banff, where the streets name we have today were given by Stewart; he is also the one who oriented Banff Ave. in a way to get the best view possible of Cascade Mountain). The Town of Banff (from Lord Stephen’s Scottish county) is laid out. Around the town, wildlife numbers quickly dwindle due to dynamite/net hunting and to habitat loss through anthropogenic wildfires.

Banff townsite as seen from the top of Tunnel Mountain, Banff National Park.

Yoho National Park is established, with the purpose to attract big spenders. Railway grades are too steep for dining cars so Van Horne (head of the Canadian Pacific Railway) decides stops must be made, the first of which is Mt Stephen House in Field (first CPR hotel to open in the Rockies), and the second, Glacier House at Rogers Pass; both hotels were built more for dining purposes than tourism per se, but when Van Horne sees how popular the dining stops are, he adds overnight accommodation to pay back some of the huge CPR’s debt. The CPR is now in the hotel business!

Railway surveyor Otto Klotz discovers the Mt Stephen Fossil Beds.

High on Trolltinder Mountain, Yoho National Park.

Coal mining begins in Canmore and Anthracite.

Bathers pay ten cents for a swim in the newly-protected Banff Hot Springs.

Dr. Brett, medical supervisor for the CPR, starts working on his sanitarium on the site occupied today by the Parks Canada administration building. The sanitarium focuses on healing and it is a combination of hotel and hospital.

Surveyor JJ MacArthur renames Mt Green Mt Victoria.

The glacier-clad peak formerly know as Mount Green.

100 years ago, in 1911:

The settlement of Fitzhugh (later renamed Jasper) is established as a stop on the recently-built Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. It consists mostly of tents.

Mary Schaffer publishes an account of her journeys entitled Old Indian Trails.

Coal production peaks and more than 1000 people live in Bankhead. The town even becomes a popular tourist destination and has its own school. It rivals Banff in both size and activity.

Remains of the Bankhead church, Banff National Park.

Last trip to the Canadian Rockies for famous mountaineer Norman Collie.

The size of Banff National Park is too big to maintain and is reduced significantly.

During a scientific expedition to the Mt Robson area, guide Conrad Kain takes photograher Byron Harmon to the top of Mt Resplendent (first ascent) and solos his epic nighttime first ascent of Mount Whitehorn on his 28th birthday. The ascents make expedition leader A. O. Wheeler furious.

Canada has 5 national parks at that time and the national park system is put in place. Harkin is its first commissioner and is regarded today as the Father of the Canadian Parks.

50 years ago, in 1961:

The Kain Face of Mount Robson is successfully ascended for the first time in 48 years!

30 years ago, in 1981:

Ed Feuz Jr. dies in Golden at the age of 96. He is the last of the Swiss guides. He climbed Mt Victoria at 85.

Lake Agnes teahouse is reconstructed.

Lots to celebrate in the coming year!!



Banff and Lake Louise History Explorer

Moon Handbooks

Summit Tales, Graeme Pole

Handbook of the Canadian Rockies


This guest post was written by Paul Zizka, a Banff-based professional photographer:

Rockies local artist Paul Zizka can most often be found in the wilderness with a camera bag slung over his shoulder, a tripod in one hand, and an ice axe in the other. He is fully dedicated to his photography and it is not unlikely to see him poised precariously on a ledge or lying in the grass to get the shot he is envisioning.

In the Rockies, Paul has climbed dozens of peaks and explored hundreds of kilometers of trails to capture his unique images. His adventures have also taken him around the world in search of wild places. Paul is currently based in Banff, Alberta. Check out his work at

Celebrating Banff’s 125th with Canada AM

It’s 2:30 am and the alarm goes off. Eastern Canada is already waking up and we’ve got to get ready for the morning news. Being two hours behind Ontario, we had to boogie up to the Lake Louise Ski Area by 4 am to get ready to cheer in the 125th birthday of Banff National Park on a live broadcast with Canada AM. Now who would pass up that opportunity?

The crowd gathers outside in freezing temperatures to celebrate Banff National Park’s 125th birthday.

The torches descend the Lake Louise Ski Hill.

Jeff Hutcheson from Canada AM stands with the crowd at the base of the ski hill.

When Jeff Hutcheson arrived we knew we were in the right place. Soon, a crowd of about 50 people gathered outside in -22 degree weather to watch torches descend the ski hill. After the red lights snaked their way down in the pitch black, Jeff interviewed Parks Canada representatives, who spoke to Banff’s history as the first national park in Canada, a park that was established when the country of Canada was still just a baby.

The Lake Louise Ski Area hosted the live broadcast for Canada AM.

Later we moved inside and Jeff interviewed Eddie Hunter, a legendary Banffite who has been skiing locally for over 75 years, and Canadian Olympic downhill skier, Kelly VanderBeek. Turns out the Lake Louise Ski Area has hosted 150 different World Cup Ski events over the years. In fact, this weekend and next they host the Bombardier Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup for both Downhill and Super G events (you can read my report from last year’s events here).

Jeff Hutcheson interviews Eddie Hunter and Kelly VanderBeek.

Executive Chef Felix Pfister from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise came on next to describe the menu he prepares for the World Cup athletes, including 11,000 eggs they go through during the two weeks of the ski racing events. Then he cut a beautifully decorated birthday cake for Banff’s 125th birthday. It was a great way to celebrate such an historic and important milestone in Canada’s Parks System.

Chef Felix Pfister displays the food the World Cup athletes will be eating over the next two weeks.

Birthday cake for Banff’s 125th.

Jeff Hutcheson looks on as Beau the Bear, the mascot for the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, grabs hold of the knife to cut the cake.

Detailing on the cake in celebration of Banff’s 125th birthday.

And that’s a wrap!

© Meghan J. Ward, 2010.