Category Archives: Alberta

Canadian Junior & Senior National Slalom Team Trials

photo by Kelly Vanderbeek

National slalom team trials for juniors, U23 and seniors were held in early May on the Kananaskis course in Alberta. Hunter is a cadet (under 15) so not eligible to make the junior team but we participated as a development experience.

photo by Ric Matkowski

There was a week of training ahead of the race weekend and we were grateful for the fabulous coaching from Brendan Curson of the Chilliwack Centre of Excellence in B.C.. Hunter was able to feel like he was part of a team and Brendan did a great job keeping it fun while focusing on skill progression.

photos by Ric Matkowski

Competition weekend was 2 full days of racing for Hunter. They set one course each day and you had two runs down it. For him that meant 4 runs per day as he competed in both K1 (single kayak) and C1 (single canoe). The course was a very technical course, with lots of offsets and it was geared towards the senior members.

photo by Ric Matkowski

Tim acted as a safety boater both days – not much action when you are talking about kids at the national level… At least he managed to find a sunbeam both days as it was COLD in the river valley the whole weekend.

The most exciting part of the weekend was Hunter’s progression. He went from missing gates and struggling during the first morning of races to having an almost clean run and finishing ahead of a few juniors for his last K1 run. In his words… “it just clicked”!

photo by Kelly Vanderbeek

The entire week was well worth the stop for us. He came away excited about training for slalom this summer and has seen what could be possible at nationals in August. Hanging out with amazing paddlers like Olympian David Ford can have that kind of inspiring effect!

Whitehorse Daily Star: Yukoners improve at canoe slalom national team trials

FOCUSED – Hunter Vincent eyes the next gate during a kayak run at the national canoe slalom team trials on the Kananaskis River in Alberta last weekend. He was the first cadet in kayak over the weekend and finished second in canoe. Photo by KELLY VANDERBEEK

Yukoners improve at canoe slalom national team trials

At his first Canadian canoe slalom national team trials, Hunter Vincent improved by leaps and bounds.

By Marissa Tiel on May 15, 2017

At his first Canadian canoe slalom national team trials, Hunter Vincent improved by leaps and bounds.

“Hunter’s progression through the weekend was awesome,” said mom, Lee Vincent, from Idaho this morning.

Vincent, who at 13 is too young to qualify for the national junior team, used the weekend as race experience, rubbing shoulders with the likes of five-time Olympian David Ford.

The trials this year were held in Alberta on a lower section of the Kananaskis River slalom course, which was last used for a national competition in 2009 and last hosted team trials in the late 90s.

The course has changed a lot since both of the those competitions, even more so with the Alberta floods in 2013 and further man-made developments to the river in the years after.

“It was easier back then,” said Alberta high performance coach Michael Holroyd.

The weekend’s events were joint trials for the senior, U23 and junior national teams.

“We set fairly hard courses with tight offsets,” said Holroyd.

In slalom, paddlers navigate through poles suspended over rapids. They must complete the course in the correct order, going through both upstream and downstream gates without touching them. The paddler with the fastest time including penalties – two seconds for touching a gate and 50 seconds for missing a gate – is the winner.

The offsets are how much the gates are set apart from each other in the current.

There was a high number of missed gates over the weekend, due in part to the high-stakes competition, but also to wind gusts.

Vincent, racing in two classes – C1 and K1 – progressed over the weekend. He went from missing a number of gates during his kayak runs on day one, to touching only two gates on his final run on day two.

“I was able to get pretty much every single gate almost clean,” he said.

“It all lined up that day… it felt easy.”

Vincent has competed at nationals before and won medals. Over the winter he worked with Physio Plus to strengthen his muscles and attended slalom sessions in the pool.

Now, he and his family are travelling the states for the summer, stopping to paddle, bike and adventure.

Their next destination: a whitewater park in Idaho. Vincent’s next time in a slalom boat will be at the national championships in Ottawa this summer.

“I want to keep improving my skill in both (classes),” he said.

Joining Vincent at team trials was 15-year-old Mael Pronovost, who had also been training in the pool over the winter.

Pronovost, at his second team trials, improved to eighth overall in the junior division.

“I was really happy with some of my runs,” he said from Calgary this morning.

“Mael has been training hard,” said Holroyd. He has attended camps with the Alberta team in Oklahoma and B.C. this winter and was working to develop consistency over his racing.

Holroyd said coaches from across the country were impressed with his progression.

In the best three-of-four runs race format, Pronovost’s 7th, 14th, 6th and 8th put him in 8th place overall.

On his third run of the weekend, he even had a top 10 finish among the senior and U23 divisions.

Pronovost was also the only junior to race C1 and K1 and was only a couple seconds away from qualifying for the junior team in C1.

“He did well in C1 for how little he paddled,” said Holroyd. Pronovost had only paddled C1 in the pool over the winter and during one or two days of training in Alberta.

“C1 teaches a lot of boat control,” said Holroyd. “At his stage, where he’s learning to race, it’s beneficial to have more starts.”

Looking forward to a summer of training, Pronovost is anxious to get the training gates set up on the Yukon River at the Intake this week.

He said he’s been invited to do some trips with the Quebec team and also plans to do some training at the Chilliwack Centre of Excellence in B.C.

His next major race will be the national championships in Ottawa.

“I’m really happy,” said Pronovost. “I did a lot better than I expected.”

2550 km and 29 hours – the LONG road home…

sunsetThe Yukon is a beautiful, majestic place to call home. It is home to  36,000 people and has a bountiful population of wildlife (bears, moose and caribou being the most popular). What it isn’t is close – to ANYTHING… This makes driving home an epic adventure in itself. Many people google the distance and do the usual math of the distance divided by their average speed (usually around 120 km/hr). This makes it look like a somewhat reasonable 2 day drive. To be clear – it’s not. When you travel north you need to account for forest fires, animal traffic, road construction and windy windy roads. Gas planning is also critical as there are long distances without any gas stations and many aren’t open late at night. We traditionally fuel up in Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake (if needed) and Watson Lake.

bass pro trucksOur week in Calgary/Kananaskis was an expensive one. We took advantage of being in a large city that has selection as well as discounted prices due to the depressed economy at the moment. The final tally was 3 Jackson Rockstar kayaks (2 of 2015 vintage and 1 2013), the usual splurge at Mountain Equipment Co-op and a 2015 F350 truck to provide the towing power that we really do need. We were late heading out on departure day as we had issues picking up the truck. This lead to us making a pit stop at the Bass Pro Shop just north of Calgary to take advantage of their large parking lot to switch up the towing situation.

caravanOur little caravan up the highway was comprised of Fordo (Green F250 with Camper), new shiny Ford F350 towing the trailer and our nephew from Saskatchewan in his ancient Toyota.

road to grande prairieThe Alberta leg took us north of Calgary towards Edmonton then north west to Grande Prairie. We had good roads and very little traffic, which made driving easy. We pushed sunlight and drove until an hour after dark to get to Dawson Creek (** note – think Northern sunshine – dark was from 9:30 – 10:30 pm). The timing of this wasn’t great as the road goes from a nice divided four lane highway to undivided two lane just west of Grande Prairie. I definitely recommend trying to do this whole stretch in the light for safety.

After a night boondocking at the Dawson Creek Walmart we grabbed a quick pit stop at the visitors centre to get our photos with the Mile 0 sign – a must do for anyone travelling this highway! The visitors centre is easy to find and right on highway 97 – just look for the large grain elevator.

We got really lucky with our travel timing as the road north from Fort St. John had been closed due to forest fires the day before and just opened up for pilot cars at 8am on our second day. We were up and out from Dawson Creek early to ensure that we could get through while this window was open. The fire activity was definitely easy to see. At one point we were stopped waiting for the pilot car and could watch the helicopters dumping fire retardant on a number of hot spots. When driving through the fire you could see where the fire had jumped across the road the day before.

Day two was great for wildlife sightings. By the end of the day we had seen every major animal (bear, moose, mountain sheep, bison, fox, and caribou).  Many of them were standing on the road or just beside the road which is a great reason to watch your speed as you drive north. Missing a sighting is disappointing. Hitting an animal will put a major dent in your schedule and your pocket book – especially if it happens in an area without cell service (there are many).

northern BC 1The drive through Northern BC takes you through some beautiful and changing geography. The region around Fort. St. John and Fort Nelson is best known for it’s oil and gas resources but it also has very rich farming and ranching land.

northern bc 4

The hills then start to show up and things start to get windier and more rugged. You also find a lot of lakes and great fishing!

northern bc 3North of Muncho Lake you end up in very steep, mountainous and rocky terrain set in between lake basins that are full of fishermen come summer time.

northern bc 2Then you settle into more traditional mountain like terrain with mixed trees and undulating roads.

We always spend night #2 of the drive at Liard Hot Springs. It is a reasonable break point and is such a wonderful treat after a long day of driving. Due to our size, we just overnight in the day use parking lot although there is a very nice campground on site as well. Be sure to still pay the camping fee if you overnight in the day use lot. The hot spring is natural and the source is right at the top of the springs, flowing into a rustic river. The lower down you go the cooler it is, with kids usually playing below the “waterfall” and hanging off the many logs that cross the river. We grab a morning soak as well before embarking on day three of the drive. This makes it a very reasonable 7 hours to Whitehorse – great to end on the shortest drive day.

yukon 1The highway between Liard Hot Springs and Watson Lake hopscotches between BC and the Yukon a few times and the views of the mountains change along with each of these bends, going from clear and present to distant and remote.

WL SignforestWatson Lake is a fun pitstop to stretch your legs and grab gas for the last 4 hours of the drive. Be sure to check out the sign post forest and try to find a post from your home city/state/province/country. If you are creative and plan ahead you can actually bring your own!

yukon snowThe mountains are now a regular part of the scenery and still snow covered in early May.

yukon rainAfter two and a half days of fabulous driving weather we ran into an hour of heavy rain coming out of Teslin. Luckily it eased up as we approached Whitehorse and we were greeted by sunshine and clear skies as we pulled in the lane way.

homeHome…a sight that has brought a lot of mixed emotions across the family. More on that later.

Like coming home again… back in Kananaskis

view up the kanOur last stop before heading north has been a week in Alberta on the Kananaskis River. We spent close to a month on this river over July and August last year culminating in the Alberta Provincials in September. By the end of the summer it felt like our “home river”, where you know it really well and are able to see progression with every run.

fordo kan may

We picked up 3 new play boats in Calgary (Jackson rock star’s all round) and were excited to test out the boats on a river we were comfortable with. We acted as the Canoe Meadows temporary camp hosts and traded labour for river access, which worked out well for everyone.

hunter slalom kan may

Hunter was able to get some time on the river in his slalom boat with coaching, which was great to get the season kick-started.

tim hunter chubby's

We were excited to test out the spin ability of the Rock Stars and were all thrilled! Lots of fun at both Thunder Bunny and Chubby’s.

A quick stop at Santa Claus on our way to Hunter’s favourite play spot…

DSCN3656

Surfer’s Wave was a super fun play spot, with us spending 20-30 minutes there each run.

The other big highlight was Tim nailing his loop pretty consistently at Chubby’s, even getting multiple loops on a wave ride.kananaskis walk
It’s been a pretty great week with amazing summer like weather (thank you mother nature!) and we are sad to be leaving… while also looking forward to our next visit.

12 years later…back in Alberta

mineral springsIt was 12 years ago this August that Hunter launched himself into the world at the Mineral Springs Hospital in Banff. We left Alberta for the Yukon a year and a half later and have not really been back since.

As part of our “Summer of Paddling” we have spent over a month in Alberta spread through out July and August. In between all of our time spent at the Kananaskis River (playing, training, competing) we managed to fit in some visits with family, connecting with old friends and some general fun days…

Our first visit to Calgary came over the Canada Day weekend. We camped out at Calaway Park (medium RV park rating) and then drove into Calgary each day to hang out at family central – aka the Murphy house.

mark and hunter cookingHunter had a fabulous time hanging with Uncle Mark every time we landed in town – they cooked, they golfed, they went for ice cream, they walked the dog and Hunter even bought into the mental math lessons!

murphy poolLots of time spent playing pool in the basement with anyone that Hunter could talk into a game. The other upside was meeting Spencer, a new “cousin”, and they had a great time hanging out doing boy stuff. Big thanks to Uncle Paul for taking them for laser tag, skating and ice-cream…

canoe meadowsWhen not in Calgary we were mostly based out of the Kananaskis region. Lots of time spent at Canoe Meadows as it is so great to be able to just walk to and from the river rather than load up shuttles etc.

mt yamnuska

We also spent time at the Bow River Campground, the Bow Valley Campground and the Willow Creek Campground and give high ratings for all three with respect to hanging out in nature, great sites, amenities and cleanliness plus reasonableness of price.

One of the pleasant surprises of the summer was getting to connect up with old friends. Tim ran into two former colleagues from Banff during the first day of kids kayak camp in early July as it turns out their boys, of similar age as Hunter, are also into kayaking. We even ran into and old friend on the street in Banff when she was taking her garbage out! We ended up with visits on and off the river throughout the summer with many people, with one of those visits being Hunter getting to go for a trail ride with Heidi in Canmore – it definitely made his week!

tim hunter kan biking 1We had a family bike ride on the paved trails around Kananaskis Village as we enjoyed the sunshine and told “when you were little” stories to Hunter, who loves that stuff. Out and back to the ponds made for a great 20km ride.

hunter ice cream kan village

This is a re-enactment of where he had his very first ice cream cone, thanks to Great Grandma. We had come up to visit her at Kananaskis Village where she was attending an IODE conference and we all went for ice cream. Much to our dismay, she decided to share hers with Hunter – months earlier than he was supposed to have ice cream according to all the feeding charts! I guess that’s the privilege that comes with being a Great Grandma…

hunter chester pokerOver the course of the summer we have “run into” Chester and Anne six different times across BC and Alberta and they have been great paddling partners. They went to Kananaskis for KanFest and stayed for a week after so we joined them and had a fun week of paddling and general hanging out. Hunter finally found someone to play poker with him!!

hunter pelly climbingOur last non-paddling adventure was our day trip into Canmore to check out Elevation Place, where they have a workout centre, full climbing wall, pool and library as well as SHOWERS to get clean and INTERNET to stay connected. Hunter and Pelly had fun enjoying all of the amenities. What a great resource for the town.

tim hammockOur month in Alberta was an interesting mix of hecticness, paddling/activity frenzy and downtime. We are grateful for getting to see so many friends and spend the time with family. It was fun to be back and I’m sure it won’t take us another 11 years to do it again.