Friday, April 20, 2018

Over and Out

Returning to Old Crow for the 5th consecutive year spearheading the Father Mouchet Memorial Loppet I was reminded of the true spirit of skiing. The message Father Mouchet preached to his athletes is that a healthy lifestyle engrains a hard work ethic. Pride in one's accomplishments comes from that work ethic, as does the responsibility to contribute to our communities wellbeing. It is about the journey, and what you learn along the way. At this point in my scenic but bumpy journey, I have come to an intersection where it's time to head in a new direction. I'm moving on from competitive sport, and I hope that by reading this I may gain your understanding of my decision.

Eight years ago I had the privilege to watch the Vancouver Olympics. I watched wide-eyed from the top of a giant Sitka Spruce that I'd climbed to get a better view. I saw the red Canada suits flash by. I didn't even know who was who and I certainly didn't realize that seven years later I would share the same podium with these guys having just won Canada's first-ever relay medal. And I certainly couldn't have known that a year after that I'd be sporting one of those red Olympic suits of my own. I've represented Canada on the World Cup, at World Championships, and the Olympics. Although I don't doubt I could keep improving as an athlete, I feel I am at a good stage to withdraw from competitive sport having accomplished these major goals at the age of only 25. I have no regrets and am incredibly thankful to have been blessed with the life skiing has given me so far.

I've never given up on anything, so it seemed impossible for me to fathom the idea of giving up on skiing. There was no timeline; I never had a plan for when I may stop skiing. What I realize now is that I didn't give up; I haven't stopped. I've accomplished a lot and am now simply moving forward, on to new challenges. I've still been skiing several times a week. I love skiing, and I'll keep skiing for the rest of my life until my body gives way or our winters no longer bring snow- whichever comes first.

Anything I ever wanted in life I had to fight for it. I live by the motto that hard work will pay off. I wasn't particularly gifted as an athlete and didn't have all that much going for me in other areas either. I don't come from a background in sport; I don't come from a privileged family; I worked my ass off to get to where I am.

XC skiing is the most physically demanding sport in the world but I've always liked a challenge, and perhaps skiing was the right fit for me because of how damn hard it is. There has never been a "DNF" next to my name. I've never backed down, never not finished a race without laying it all out on the line. I raced with fierce determination, fighting for every second- muscles burning, lungs heaving, ever so desperate for oxygen. As I pushed beyond my threshold, it felt as if I were drowning out on the racecourse in a panic to reach the only relief, the finish line. Exploring my limits has always been something I loved doing. Results are inconsistent and out of your control, giving 100% effort, however, is attainable every time you're on course.

The world of sport is cruel in that I was always left wanting more. When you believe anything is possible, then everything less than perfect is not good enough. I always found myself striving for the next step that I could only hope would bring satisfaction. Instead, it brought only desire for greater success, which only got exponentially harder to achieve as I climbed the ladder. The final step was hard for me, and near the end of my career I began to struggle with anxiety and depression. It took so much energy that I didn't have anything left over for ski races anymore, and I wasn't happy.

Now that I'm retired, I'm finally satisfied. I'm able to step back and see for the first time this giant mural that I've painted, rather than focusing on the many imperfect brush strokes. I feel a cool breeze of fresh air bringing relief with each breath. I'm calm and content.

For those of you who know me, you may also know that I have many passions and desires outside of skiing, of which many have been put on hold. I feel fulfilled in the world of sport and it is now my wish to switch my focus to other endeavors such as returning to my home in the Yukon, working, acquiring some land, building a house, managing my family's trapline and exploring the far reaches and remote mountains and rivers that this wonderful place has to offer.

The great times I've experienced as an athlete would never have been made possible without the generous support of all the wonderful people in my life. My good friends, many of which I've made through skiing will keep a special place in my heart. Together we made the most of this arduous journey, celebrating when times were good and lending a hand when times were tough. My family and my mom, in particular, taught me to be strong and proud, but also caring and humble. I had sponsors without whom I'd literally not have been able to even pursue my ambitions. I've been on the receiving side for long enough and will now do my best to see that someone else enjoys these same opportunities I've been given. As I move on, another will take my place and have the privilege to represent our great country we live in.

I hope to stay involved in skiing, perhaps as a volunteer coach at the grassroots level. The local races will suddenly become much more competitive, and if the National Championships returns to Whitehorse, you can be sure that I'll be strapping on the ol' race boards.

Thank you all for the many years of support and for your understanding as I shift my life into a new direction.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

First Sheep with a Bow!

They say a picture tells a thousand words but this story takes more than a thousand words and certainly more than this one poor quality image.

I’d been planning on putting in a good hard effort near the start of the season to take a ram with my bow. This is my second hunting season packing a bow along so I’m still very inexperienced to say the least. Last year I made the number one mistake: bringing a rifle for backup. It's way to easy when the going gets tough to pick up your gun and pop off the animal. This year I got a permit for a bow hunting only area, so the rifle was staying at home. This hunting trip was a learning experience.

Sheep Hunting Trip #1

Day one:

I had everything packed the day before; tent, sleeping bag and pad, stove, food, bow and arrows, and my spotting scope. I woke up at 5am and ate my oatmeal while driving. I drove my truck down a 4x4 road to the end of lake where I’d scouted the area a few weeks previously. It took a couple hours to get up in the mountains. Once I was up there I started seeing sheep right away. The first ram I saw might also have been the biggest. Unfortunately we saw each other at the same time. Day one, lesson one: round every corner and come over every rise with the utmost caution. Him and his buddy he was with were up over the next mountain before I could even get my spotting scope out for a look. Those rams seemed extra spooked so I didn’t bother chasing them. I knew there were lots more up there. About an hour later I came around a corner, nice and slow this time, and saw what I thought was a ram maybe 200 yards away. I quickly ducked out of sight and unstrapped my bow from my pack. I immediately went on the stalk. When I came into view of the sheep again I saw a little lamb running around where I last saw the ram. Then more lambs and ewes appeared. I started second guessing myself that it was a ram I saw. I went back and picked up my pack and started to carry on my way. I took ten steps then quickly ducked out of sight again. There were rams there! Day one, lesson two: rams aren’t always separate from the nursery. Why the rams were hanging around the nursery, I don’t know. I went on the stalk again. They were on a grassy slope with not much cover so I had to inch my way closer, sliding on my back. It took forever to make up any ground on them and I was getting really dehydrated. Day one, lesson 3: always bring water on the stalk. I got within 90 yards of the group but the biggest ram of the bunch was still further. I waited for about an hour hoping they would feed towards me but when they finally started grazing it was in the wrong direction. With all the lambs and younger rams wandering about I decided to sneak back to my pack and put on my white suit: one piece, wool long underwear, butt flap and everything. I had a mask of sorts that I sewed out of a white pillowcase to complete the sheep costume. I started crawling on all fours towards the rams, stopping to “feed” every now and then. It fooled the younger rams and I was able to crawl within 50 yards of them. The old boys weren’t having any of it though. They knew something was up with this ugly looking sheep and walked off in the other direction. Perhaps they’d been white suited before. They seemed more wary than spooked so I followed them around the hillside to see where they were off to. That’s when I spotted my next target. There were three nice looking rams bedded in the cliffs about a mile off. I had to hike all the way to the top of the peak in order to stay out of sight and come down on them. The cliffs were steep and at some points I was getting “cliffed out” and had to go back up and choose another route. I was just getting within range of the sheep when they left their bed and started feeding down the mountain. After I’d spent a couple hours rock climbing down loose rock without making a sound it was pretty frustrating to watch them wander off. Little did I know, my frustration was just starting. I was crouched on a ledge watching the sheep wander off below me when all of a sudden a heard a scramble of rock behind me. A huge ram popped out of a gully! After ranging him at 20 yards I realized I didn’t have my trigger release on. Day one lesson 4: always wear your release when stalking. I fumbled with the buckle as the ram started walking away. I finally got it on and the ram was still walking. He paused to look back and I panicked and put my 45-yard pin on him and fired two inches over his back. Day one lesson 5: take the time to range your target. He must have been only 35 yards, not 45. He hurried off but to my surprise, he stopped and bedded down where he had before, only 100 yards from where I’d shot at him. He must not even of known what just happened. To get closer while staying out of sight I now had to climb all the way back up one gully to the peak in order to cross over to the other spine that the ram was now on. Stalking back down I made the perfect stalk and got right above the big ram. With the angle of incline he was only 30 yards. “That’s a dead sheep”, I thought. I practice shooting my bow out to 75 yards and am quite comfortable out to 50. I drew back an arrow and was like “wow, I can’t hold it steady at all!” There was probably a 60km/hr crosswind that was catching the big cams on my bow and blowing me all over the place. I missed again, this time about two inches to the left. He was out of his bed in an instant and running away. I ran over to the next cliff where he was headed and shot my last arrow from 40 yards. I missed clean again by inches! Day one, lesson five: practice shooting in wind. I couldn’t believe it. I have a five-inch group from 50 yards at the target. How can I miss three times on a sheep from a closer distance? Out of arrows and energy I took out my Iphone and snapped a couple pictures while my sheep walked out of sight. I got part way back to where I’d dropped my pack and realized my Iphone was no longer in my pocket. The last couple hours of daylight were spent looking for a black Iphone in black rock. It was my only means of photos (hence my lack of photos) and time on this hunt. I knew it must have been late though because it started getting dark and here I was hunting sheep in the land of the midnight sun. I set up camp back on the first flat spot I found and cooked rice in the vestibule. I ate half of it before I clonked out.

Day two:

I woke up haggard as can be. My plan was to leave the camp set up here and see what was over the next mountain, maybe try a pass on the same ram I missed yesterday. I didn’t see a single thing on the next big mountain to the south. I did manage to spot yesterday’s ram way down in the buck brush. Not seeing anything else to go after, I decide to hike down to him. There was good cover in the brush, but the problem was staying silent. At one point I sat down right in a huge ant town and I had red ants biting me all over and I had to stay completely still and not make a sound. I must have been within 70 yards of the ram and I still don’t know if he heard me, smelt me, or sensed me, but the next thing I heard was sliding shale and I watched him disappear. Day two, lesson one: once you’ve spooked a ram, he’s easily spooked again. I climbed all the way back to the ridge from the buck brush and made my way North, back the way I came. I hadn’t seen anything on the mountains to the south and I knew there was at least the big ram I’d bumped into face to face to first day, to the north. I picked up my camp along the way and walked for a few hours without seeing anything. Finally I spotted two rams up on a ledge looking down into the basin I was about to cross. At first I thought it might be the two with the big one that I’d seen the first day, but through the scope they looked like younger rams, maybe barely legal. I still didn’t want them to be aware of my presence so I hiked to the top of a peak, down the other side, and all the way below and around the basin. It took way longer than I thought and was the gnarliest loose boulders you could imagine. I ended up wasting a good part of the day to avoid being seen by these barely legal rams. Day two, lesson two: don’t waste your time on sheep that you wouldn’t even shoot. I made it to the northern end of the range without being seen and was exhausted again. This time I crawled into my sleeping bag and ate smoked fish for dinner.

Day three:

I awoke to see a ram bedded about a km away from my camp on the next ravine over on the same mountain I was camped on. I had to hike back up to the summit to stay out of sight and then headed down towards him. As I started to get within a few hundred meters of where he was bedded, I saw him walking down to a grassy basin. I watched him for a while to try and predict his next move. More rams started to appear in the grassy basin and I watched them go right down to tree line and play around in the fir trees. I made my way down to the grassy basin and hid behind a stubby alpine tree hoping that they’d move back up the same way after they were done playing in the trees. While I was waiting there, I saw another lone ram, a really nice one, standing on a steep grassy slope on the opposite side of the basin. It wasn’t the best terrain for stalking but I was super easy to get over to him and stay out of sight so I made a try for him. I don’t have the patience to hide and hope the rams come to me. As I was on my way to the opposite side of the basin, I watched the rams come out of the fir trees and walk right past where I was hidden. Day three, lesson one: PATIENCE! I crept down the slope really slowly knowing the ram would come into view at any time. I’d glace down at the ground to make sure I was placing my foot in a good spot to be perfectly silent and when I glanced back up the ram and I were staring right at each other. I just had time to range him at 80 yards before he bolted down the slope, up the other side and out of sight. The rams that had walked by where I hid were now bedded back where I’d seen the first one this morning. They were at the bottom of a big boulder field. I’ve found boulders to actually be quite good stalking terrain because they don’t “crunch” like dry grass does. That said if you do cause one to shift, its game over. Stalking down the boulder field was like Mine Sweeper. I’d ever so carefully test every boulder. Sometimes I’d have to take huge steps while crab walking my way down. Often a ram would get up to stretch and look right at me and I’d have to freeze in the most uncomfortable position in the middle of a step. I finally got to 70 yards, the limit that I would shoot my bow at. Only two rams were in sight. I wasn’t sure how many others there even was. I waited for the shot. Finally the biggest one stood up and was broadside. I drew back and the rams quickly turned facing me. Then several more rams appeared over the rise and were looking right at me. I didn't have a shot. When we'd stared each other down for a good minute they'd had enough, spun around and took off into the setting sun. It was getting late but I had to be home tonight. I choose the shortest route back, which was definitely not the safest. It was the kind of rock between scree and boulders, essentially boulders that slide like scree. Every couple steps the slope would slide out from under me and I’d have to catch myself with my hands. I was so beaten and battered at this point I just wanted to be back at my truck. I ended up holding on to two good-sized rocks in my hands so when I slipped my hands would be holding onto a rock already, instead of falling on an unexpected sharp rock. I got down to my truck by 10pm, alive.

Sheep hunting trip #2

Day hunt:

It was foggy with low cloud cover. The mountains were socked right in and the visibility was next to nothing. I did have one thing going for me is that I’d spotted a sheep from the road, the night before. I hiked up the brutally steep mountain in a new spot I’d never been, towards where I’d seen a sheep the night before. He was still there! I managed to spot him through the fog before he spotted me and the stalk was on. I had to drop back down the slope a ways and do a big loop around him to get the uphill advantage. It was raining and foggy. I was soaking wet but quite warm from just climbing the mountain. When I started stalking however, I was crawling. To make up some ground I took advantage of the thick fog and walked right through and open area towards the ram. All of a sudden the fog lifted and I was going to be busted right out in the open. I laid flat on my back in the pouring rain for about half an hour. I was shivering uncontrollably but trying to be motionless at the same time. Finally the fog rolled in again and I could move. The fog was unpredictable, at times it was so thick I couldn’t see the ram which I knew must be less than 80 yards by now. The next time the ram came into sight he was staring right in my direction. I sat motionless. He hadn’t seen me but maybe he got a whiff of something he didn’t like. To my surprise and delight he actually started coming towards me, stopping and tilting his head every now and then before taking another step. My rangefinder said 15 yards but I knew it couldn’t be right. I tried ranging something far away and again it said 15 yards. Everything was 15 yards! Day hunt, lesson one: rangefinders are useless in the fog. I estimated the huge sheep to be about 50 yards away but I was reminded of my first day hunting when I didn’t take the time to range the sheep and overestimated the distance. I sat contemplating on whether or not to try a shot. The sheep however, had finally satisfied his curiosity and took off running. So close, again! I carried on up the mountain a ways and then thought to myself  “even if I happen to see another sheep in this fog, my rangefinder will still be useless”. With that I called it a day and hiked back down to the road.

Sheep hunting trip #3

Day One:

After a few days rest I was going in fast and light, no tent or stove, just the essentials. My plan was only to stay the night if I needed to. Hiking onto the ridge I came upon a nursery right on my route. I generally don't like to disturb the sheep if I don’t have but after watching them for some time I just couldn’t wait anymore and it would take too long to climb all the way around them. As I climbed passed them I watched them run off below… that’s when I spotted the ram! I spooked the nursery, which in turn alerted the ram. The ram and the nursery were around the other side of the mountain in no time. I spent a little time peering down from above trying to spot them again. I found the nursery but the ram must have had a good hiding spot. I spotted some far off sheep on the next mountain over and it took a while of sitting on top of the mountain I was on and thinking before I decided to go for them. I’d put in so much effort already, what was another valley to cross and mountain to climb? The thing is, if I were to go over there I knew I’d be spending the night. A few hours passed and I was finally getting close to the bedded sheep. It was getting late in the day but I still had plenty of light. The crazy thing was this was the same group of rams I’d hit one out of the week before. Even more crazy was they were bedding in the exact same spot! By this point I’m getting to know the rams. I know the big one who roams the mountain to the north by himself, the band of five with the one broomed-off ram who hang out on the glassy slope to west and the two that play with each other in the willows, one of them big and flared out. Stalking the rams was familiar territory but the going was still slow through the loose boulder field. I was almost within range when they got up and started over to the grass to feed. I was a little late. I continued down to their bedding spot and waited behind a rock hoping they’d come back once they finished their evening meal. Out of the eight rams, four bedded back down right in the grass where they’d fed, and the other four went all the way over to an even further mountain. It was weird to see them just split up like that. It was too late to make another move tonight so I found a flat spot to sleep and watched rams through my spotting scope while in my sleeping bag. I watched four bruisers butting heads. I’d see them butt heads and then two seconds later I’d hear the faint “clonk”. It took a while for the sound to travel to me.

Day Two:

I woke up at 4:30 am, or was waken up rather, by the sprinkle of rain on my face. Not a bad night bivouacking in the mountains. I sat against a rock face that helped block the howling wind. I had a rain jacket but decided rain pants were too much of a luxury item to bring on this trip so I draped a garbage bag over my legs as I waited for enough light to spot sheep. I started spotting sheep way down in the trees. They didn’t like this weather any more than I did. It was quite a hike over to the knoll below tree line where I was seeing the sheep. But after a couple hours of sitting in the rain watching them, it was clear they weren’t going anywhere. “This could be good, the rams aren’t moving around much so I might be able to make a good stalk without them moving about”, I thought. I spotted a giant ram way down on the edge of the knoll bedded in the perfect spot and two more decent rams a few hundred meters above and to the right of him. On my way to the knoll I bumped into two more rams, one of which was legal. They were in a good spot if I wanted to try for the one but otherwise they were right in my way to get to the big guy on the knoll. I waited for an hour hoping they would move out of my way. I decided I didn’t want this barely legal ram and I knew my time was running out so it was time to spook them and carry on my way. It was quite a bush whack down to the knoll. The willows were thick. It looked more like moose country than sheep country. In fact, there was moose sign everywhere. I got down to the knoll just in time to see the two rams grazing around the backside of it. This was good, they were out of sight and now I could go straight for the big guy without spooking them. I hurried up to the top of the knoll worried that the two rams would come into view again. At the top I dropped my pack and unstrapped my bow. I was about to head down to the big ram when all of a sudden I saw white appearing over the crest of the knoll. I immediately ducked behind the buck brush to see the bigger of the two rams I’d just seen go out of sight five minutes earlier, walk into plain view. I couldn’t range him without going above the buck brush so I ranged a rock to the right of him, 50 Yards! It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I drew back my 70lb bow… barely. I was exhausted from just running up the knoll and my arm almost cramped up drawing it back. I just got it to break and waited about 5 seconds for the ram to turn broadside. When he did, I let one fly. The ram disappeared in a hurry and I had no idea if I even hit him. I ran over to the ledge of the cliffy knoll and saw him hobbling away bleeding pretty bad. He went out of sight and I couldn’t find him for about ten minutes. I was on the very edge of a cliff. I leaned just a little further over the ledge and was just able to see him 20 yards straight below me. He must have heard me right then and quickly started hobbling off again. I already had another arrow knocked, ranged him at 30 yards and sent an arrow straight through his back. Blood spewed over the white rock face and the sheep tumbled out of sight. I peered over the next cliff to see him resting in the alpine fir trees, dead as dead, arrow and broadhead protruding from his chest. It took six days of hard, hard hunting and I finally had a ram down! I was about as far away from my car as would be physically possible to make it back to in one day. I thought about hiking out to a different road but I’d have to cross a river. I caped out the sheep and boned out everything but the ribs, which I took out bone in. I went to lift my pack; it must have been 170lbs! I was worried it would come to this, but I knew the cape had to be left behind. Even without it my pack was probably 140lbs and I had a 10km bushwhack ahead of me. I swatted bugs, tramped through moss, over deadfall and creek beds, through fir, spruce, poplar, and pine forest, waded swamps and made it back to the road, beaten but not broken; my first sheep with a bow. Most important lesson: never give up!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Skiing, fishing, hunting, and mushrooms

 Yukon is great as always and I've been putting in some big training in this great land. I do a lot of training on my own which I feel is very beneficial. I just get in “the zone” and go. I’m not blabbing to teammates about what I’m doing later tonight or thinking about how much I don’t like classic roller skiing, at least I try not to. I think Colin and myself are making some huge gains technique wise. Eric Flora helped us out a ton on the Eagle glacier and we picked up a few things from following around the APU guys and watching how they ski. Coach Pav (Pavlina Sudrich) has also been doing video work with us, which has been awesome. Along with Graham Nishikawa making our training plan and giving us all sorts of advice, I’d say our coaching quality has been top notch. Having so much input from different perspectives is great. I’ve worked with a lot of coaches over the years and everyone has a different way of getting stuff across. I’m lucky enough to pick and choose from many different sources rather than picking the same berry patch year after year.

The Yukon Elite Squad has also been doing some coaching of their own. The Yukon Ski Team has some very promising up and comers and a couple weeks ago we led a training camp in beautiful Haines, Alaska to pass on some of what we’ve learned to the new generation of skiers. Needless to say, The Yukon is going to clean up at nationals again next year.

In Haines we stayed with legendary outfitter Paul Dueling. His grandson Marcus is on the Yukon Ski team.
Colin marvelling at the trophy room

World's record Mountain Caribou

Annah Hanthorn of the Yukon Ski Team puts the Eilte Squad to shame in the gym. All other junior girls should be scared.

Not totally training related but still a brutal effort none-the-less was mushroom picking with my good buddy David Gonda. In an effort to strike it rich in the Yukon’s morel mushroom rush this year I spent a weekend searching for the prized mushrooms that sell for 12$ a pound.  These Mushrooms grow after a forest fire so I’d scoped out a last years burn on google earth and figured we could haul some shrooms out of there. We spent the first day scrambling up and down clay cliffs and bushwhacking through a mosquito-bush-swamp-thicket from hell… And back with mushrooms. We saw a few other footprints in there which made me think there must be a trail because nobody would or could go through what we did the first day to haul out mushrooms. Poking around the next day we found the trail in about 5 minutes of looking. We had paralleled the trail all the way to the burn! We gave ourselves a clonk on our noggin and carried on to the mushroom patch in half the time. We had pack rafts with us and planned to make this day even easier by rafting back to our car. We had a lot of rain the week before and the river was raging. We pounded through some big rapids with our precious mushrooms and made it back to the car without too much problem. I just had to run another few kilometers from the takeout to the car. I must have picked close to 120lbs of mushrooms, worth nearly 1500$. The real heartbreaker of this story is that they all went moldy in one day. >Zero dollars of mush.

morels like to grow under deadfall 
Dave at the Burn
It's worse than it looks

A couple days ago we biked into Cantlie Lake with our pack rafts to try and catch some Arctic Char. We were told it’s a two and a half hour ride in so we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the lake in only an hour. We must be in shape or something! It didn’t take long to find the fish and before long we had our limit of 5 char. They were on the barbeque about 3 hours after coming out of the lake.
First time fishing for arctic char!

On another note, Colin and I have decided to not waist our time salmon fishing when you can pull trout like this out of the lakes. Colin caught this lunker while fishing for grayling with a spinner on 6lb test.

I've always got a couple side projects on the go to keep me busy.
 My latest is to restore this beautiful old freighter canoe.  It will be beautiful when I'm done with it. I need to strip off all of the old canvas and fiberglass, take out and replace any rotten wood, scrape all the old paint and varnish off, sand it, put wood presevative and revarnish it, recanvass it, paint it, and carve a new yoke.
the old man making sure i don't ruin his boat
the longest part was the "scraping off the old varnish" step which I've finally completed.
It will all be worth it when I Im cruising down a lake with a boat full of moose meat this fall.
looks good with the first coat of varnish

We went for a nice day hike up up Watson ridge the other day. Another peak to check off the list.
going for a dip in Watson River falls after our hike

Hunting season is now upon us so I held a smorgasbord last week to finish off the last of my meat. I spent the whole day in the kitchen making meat dishes and pies. the whole crew got together and drank home brew and ate wild meat. It was awesome.

I'll be heading into the mountains next week for an epic solo bow hunt looking for this guy

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top Secret Training Plan and Birch Sap

Well I didn’t make the national team, so life goes on as usual in the land of the midnight sun. And actually it’s going along really well. I kept the training pretty steady through April, following a top-secret training plan put together by Graham Nishikawa (thanks Nish). Also new to the Yukon Elite Squad coaching staff is Coach Pav, returning from Ontario. Usually there’s a maximum of two at our intensity workouts, now I’ll at least have someone cheering me on.

It seems like the race season is my time to relax, now that its over I’m busier than ever. Here’s a little taste of what I’ve been up to…

 As part of our sponsorship with Air North, Colin and I flew up to Old Crow in April to ski with the local kids.

Old Crow has a rich history in Cross Country skiing that goes back to the T.E.S.T. days where Father Mouchet coahed the Gwitchin First Nation’s people into national champions. However skiing has died out in the community in the last couple decades. It was great to see the kids getting outside and enjoying the snow that lasts until may!

Trapping is a big part of Old Crow and is still many peoples livelihood. We set a few snares along the ski trails and cooked up a rabbit stew for dinner!

Collecting birch sap: I have a bad habit of under taking projects I really don’t have time for and this was one of them. As you probably know I’m really into the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. My favorite foods are meat, berries, and sugar. Meat and berries are generally easy to come by in the Yukon but sugars like honey or syrup are not. With the exception of a short stint in Quebec, I’ve never made syrup. Unfortunately there’s no maples in the Yukon, but you can find the odd birch. They’re the only hardwood found in the Yukon and apparently you can make syrup from it.

I cut a bunch of pipe, drilled some holes in trees, stuck the pipe in there, hung a 4L milk jug, and before you know it I had an operation taking in over a hundred litres of birch sap a day.

Colin helped me collect the sap, and my dog helped drink it

Its a 100:1 ratio of sap to syrup, lots of boiling

finished product after a week of collecting 800L of sap. 8 litres of syrup and a really high electricity bill

As you could imagine it was hard to boil off a hundred litres of water a day. I started on my kitchen stove and had to expand to my nieghbour’s stove, Colin’s bbq and an outside fire pit. Even then it was hard to keep up and you have to keep up because the sap will spoil in a couple days if not used. This got me started on my next project.

I’d left a barrel a little too long. “Smells a little fermented I thought” then I thought a little more. Then I had 3 barrels of birch beer fermenting in my laundry room.

Colin pouring the yeast over a piece of rye bread floating in honey birch sap

Some of the finished product

My first bottle bomb. 160fl oz of beer down the drain. By down the drain I mean all over my bedroom floor. Maybe I'll measure my priming sugar next time.

The beer should be ready for drinking in a few weeks. I'll probably share some.

My friend Malkolm landed me this sweet opportunity to get flown up to the Kluane Icefields at the base of Mt Logan. The deal was I get a free flight and all I had to do was help with digging out the cache. Wouldn’t you know it, Mt Logan gets 3 meters of snow a year. And wouldn’t you also know it, digging out the “cache” involved hauling out full size propane ovens frozen in ice, 3 meters deep.

Our hole/cave. still a few things buried in there

jumping over our hole with ice axes

Hard work aside, we enjoyed the worlds largest non-polar ice field to ourselves. 
Not bad

I’ve also been able to fit in a little fishing. We skied into a remote lake and were slaying some little lake trout through the ice

white tube jig with some belly meat on it

smallest lake trout ever caught?

going for a hike with a stringer of trout 

sailing canoes on Tutshi Lake with our tent fly

May long weekend

Colin owning everyone at disc golf

Work is pretty steady on the side of things. This guy’s getting a new kitchen in his rental unit.

Nice work there Jonathan Kerr.

And thats about it. I'll save the rest for the next blog post. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Racing is like Bison Hunting

This race season was a good one! I’m very proud of Colin and Myself for pulling off another year as Yukon Elite Squad.
Yukon Elite Squad sporting Air North hats 

I was able to stay atop the mound of hard work I piled up this past summer and slid off only a few times with a cold, or bad skis. I won’t babble about every race I did this year, rather look at what went well.

I was 21st at the U23 World Championships. I hadn’t set a goal for myself. A race is a race and I try as hard as I can no matter if it’s a NorAm or a race at U23s. I’m often unsatisfied with a result, but at least I’m always satisfied that I did the best I could. I’m Excited to see where doing my best will put me next year at U23s.
U23s, Val Di Fiemme

It’s hard to make a breakthrough internationally. There are three races at U23s. Can’t sprint? Course doesn’t favor you? Slow skis? Sickness? It’s easy for your three chances to disappear, that’s why I’ll always snap at an opportunity to race overseas. I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to do some more races in Europe on the Scando Tour. I raced well in Latvian Nationals right before the Scandinavian cup races. Unfortunately I succumbed to the sickness that had already plagued half our team and the rest of the trip was a bit of a write-off. I didn’t get to race the World Cup in Lahti.
3rd place in Latvia

I was bummed out but now I had Nationals to look forward to. Not racing Lahti gave me an extra week to regroup before jumping back into race mode. For Colin, myself, and the whole Yukon, It was a record book Nationals. I came home with two bronze and one silver medal. I’ll try and work on my sprint finish a bit more this year to turn a couple of those into gold. It was awesome to see the younger Yukon skiers win medals at their first ever nationals.
Yukon Elite Squad 3rd and 4th in the 10km Classic

Thanks to Alain for giving us the fastest skis all week!

I’m asking myself a lot of questions now that the season is over. What could I have done better? Am I going to make the National Team? If so, will I be allowed to stay in Yukon? If not, what will I do?

I went Bison hunting to clear my mind with my good friend Jonathan Kerr, my old (and sometimes present) ski coach. We put on a lot of miles in two days in search of the elusive bison but came home only with a sun burn and tired legs. Jonathan had to go to work the next day but I wasn’t going to let the bison win.

It was the last day of the bison-hunting season. I backed into a snow bank and drove the sled into my pickup, drove two hours up the Klondike Highway, and took off up a creek bed. I might as well have been on a crevasse filled glacier as the creek had frozen overflow everywhere and water running underneath ice caverns that would collapse as you drove over them. I wasn’t too keen on having to abandon my borrowed skidoo in knee-deep ice water so I took off on foot. After only a couple of hours, I’d spotted five bison on a far off hill about 5 km away. It was early in the day but I knew that I’d be pressed for time if I ended up getting one. I didn’t have any overnight gear. It took about another two hours to travel that 5 km through deep snow and bush. I studied the bison for a few minutes to decide how to go after them. They were way up on an open hill. There was no cover from below so I decided to sneak around the back of the hill and get above them. It turns out while I was sneaking around back, they were moving up the hill too. I poked my head over the hill and found myself 30m from a 1300lb animal. I slammed a bullet in the chamber and had my crosshairs on him. There were a few spindly little poplar trees between us, which made me hesitate whether or not it was an ethical shot. The bison however did not hesitate to run away. I chased the heard of bison for a half marathon through the forest before I finally had to accept the outcome. The walk back to my skidoo felt like a decade. I hung my head, frustrated, dehydrated, hungry, soaking wet, and very sore. It’s lucky for the bison, and probably my well being that the hunting season is now over. I was unsatisfied with the result, but satisfied that I did the best I could. 

Sorry for the lack of hunting pictures. Here is a hand loaded 225gr Nosler Accubond Bullet, very capable of shooting through some poplar twigs.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Filling in the Gaps

A lot happened this summer. Obviously there was a lot of ski training being done but I tried to jam as many other things in between as I could. Working carpentry to pay the bills, going to music festivals, building sheds, hiking mountains, canoeing rivers, cutting wood, picking berries, and hunting, lots and lots of hunting.
 building stuff

training on the Eagle Glacier

I caught up on training during the Anchorage camp (which was a sweet camp btw), now it was time to catch up on hunting season. We already missed the first two weeks! I helped Colin get this beauty 39” ram on the 3rd day of our hunt after hellish hush-whacks/ridge-walks/multiple-steep-ass-mountain climbs. In the final stalk, Colin dressed up as a sheep (turning his white Yukon Elites Squad race suit inside-out) and crawled for 4 hours on his hands and knees up a mountain to get into position.
Colin's sheep

A couple weeks later I was back at it. My girlfriend and I went to an area we had scouted earlier in the summer. We were looking for sheep but a caribou popped out in front of us and spoiled our sheep hunt. Soon after, the sky started puking on us. We packed up and drove home. Successful… at least in regards to bringing back some meat.
before it started raining/snowing

Then I went out to get my own sheep. I left with 2 friends. After winching our quad and dirt bike out of a few waist deep mud holes we finally started hiking. I got my 38” ram on the 2nd day of our hunt.
My Sheep

My last hunt was for moose and goat. After a really long drive to the opposite edge of the Yukon border, we lined our canoe upriver 20km. It was cloudy and snowy the whole time but I managed to spot some goats up on the mountain. We hiked up a big old gnarly mountain face, stalked up on the goats, only to find it was a nanny and a kid, no billies. We did bag a moose though.
Our tastey little moose

Now with part of 2 sheep, a caribou and half a moose, I’m pretty set for meat. I eat an astounding amount of wild game, which I believe to be extremely good for an athletes diet. I’ll be bringing much of it down to any races/competitions as long as I can confirm there’s a freezer where we’ll be staying.

I love October in the Yukon, but I’ll admit sometimes the training can be marginal: too much snow for roller skiing, not enough for the real thing. And so, my next big adventure began in Arizona to avoid the awkward transition period of the changing seasons, and to get some quality altitude training in.

roller skiing in Arizona

I got an early start on snow, skiing on Frozen Thunder in Canmore, Alberta. The 2km loop made out of last years stockpiled snow under mountains of sawdust did pretty well. The skiing was awesome but really I was just waiting until the snow finally came back home. When it finally did, I was home in a jiffy.
time trial at frozen thunder- photo cred. Julien Locke

The skiing in Whitehorse is top notch now and I’m itching to start the racing season off in Silverstar.