Category Archives: Canada

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.”

North of the Arctic Circle

 

I realized that we don’t talk much about our northern adventures and for those that haven’t been here – you should come. Everyone should visit the north at least once. The views are breathtaking and the people are resilient, creative and fun.


Last week I headed up north of the Arctic Circle to spend 3 days in Inuvik, NWT for work. Flying in the north is an adventure in itself. My flight from Whitehorse stopped in Dawson City and Old Crow before hitting Inuvik – the milk run approach makes flying affordable, which is really important when you live so far away from most things.

One of the neat things about this flight path is how low you fly and how you really get to see the terrain change. The Whitehorse to Dawson City leg is fairly mountainous, with a few rivers and lakes splattered about.

Flying into Dawson is tricky at certain times of year due to high levels of fog that gather in the river valley and the need to flight between two mountains to get to the airport. On the left you can see the frozen Yukon River and the rows of white on the right are all the frozen tailing piles from placer mining.

Flying further north you continue to see mountains until all of a sudden they just stop and you see a landscape full of lakes and rivers with a little land in between.

Old Crow is a fly in community of approximately 245 people – that means there is no road access and the only way in or out is by airplane. Every few years there is an ice road built in the winter time to allow them to bring in heavy machinery and goods for construction projects.

This is their access in and out of the community… and the airport is a place of community gatherings – sending people off with celebration and welcoming people home with just as much joy.

How many airports do you know where you can pick up a passenger with your snowmobile and throw their bags in your toboggan?

Between Old Crow and Inuvik you continue to see the delta come to life – water every where and little land bridges connecting it. In the winter time the rivers become major roads for people to actually drive on to get out to fishing and hunting camps.

Inuvik is a town of approximately 3,500 people. It has been through many boom/bust cycles with oil and gas development and is currently in one of it’s lows. It has a great spirit and the sense of community is impressive – many people come for a job and then stay for the lifestyle.

Because of all of the permafrost, Inuvik has above ground utility corridors which are especially odd to see in the summer time. They look like a whole matrix of round and square pipes running through the town.

Similar to housing on the east coast, Inuvik has incorporate colour to help keep things cheery during the very dark winter – they go months without full daylight!

There are many interesting buildings in Inuvik but the most popular is definitely the local Catholic Church – also known as the Igloo Church.

Most Northern towns in the NWT and Nunavut have a Northmart – it is really the central hub for the town and provides groceries, take out food (pizza hut & KFC), clothing, electronics, toys, and of course bikes and snowmobiles! I can’t imagine all of this under one roof in any southern town or city.

Similar to Old Crow, the Inuvik airport is a social place – the flights are all turn arounds (i.e. the people flying out are waiting for the plane to arrive so they can depart) and the arrivals all mingle with the departures. Oh – I guess I didn’t mention that there is no security clearance on this flight, no luggage X-ray, just show up 30 minutes before to get your boarding pass and then hang out and talk to people until it’s time to go. You can even chat with people that have just arrived until the boarding agent walks around the airport checking with each person to see if they are heading out. They will even go outside the terminal to round up everyone that’s out for a smoke to tell them they need to board!

I’ve been to Inuvik a number of times. I definitely prefer summer over winter as when the wind gets blowing it is COLD… If you go, be sure to check out the craft store at the Inuvialuit building – amazing pieces straight from the artists with much lower mark ups!

Dirt Biking 101

IMG_4866Hunter has been wanting to buy a dirt bike for a while. We decided that it might be a good idea to try one out before continuing to work so hard to save up. After lots of research done by Hunter he discovered Trail Tours, that were located just an hour away from Grandma’s house in Ontario. His 13th birthday present was now covered… a Mom and Hunter beginner dirt biking day!

 

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Trail Tours is located near Pontypool in Ontario and are right next to the Ganaraska Forest, which is over 11,000 acres in size and has over 100 km of multi-use trails that allow motorized vehicles (there is an additional section in the centre of the forest set aside for passive use) Note to selves: they have a 60km IMBA Epic Mtn Bike trail that we should come back and check out. They have a huge inventory of Honda bikes, with something to fit everyone, and also provided all of the gear for the day.

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After getting ourselves suited up we headed off to the riders meeting to learn about general safety and program expectations. It rained ALOT the day before we went, which turned out to be fabulous for the sandy trails, and it also lead to a number of cancellations so Hunter and I were in a class of our own. We spent the first hour on a small loop right at the Trail Tours site learning the basics of dirt biking. I was amazed at how quickly we progressed through the skills and it was not nearly as difficult as I thought. Lots of mountain biking logic was transferrable and the whole gear shifting thing with your foot went super smoothly.

IMG_4856We still had an hour to spare before lunch so we headed off into the forest to learn more skills (going over logs, tight turns and emergency braking) and had our first taste of actual trail riding… which left us really excited for the afternoon!

IMG_4868You can bring your lunch or buy it onsite for $9.00. Lunch break is between 45 minutes to an hour depending on how busy things are for the staff as the half day transition also happens then and they have to manage gear returns and gearing up. Hunter was bouncing around and couldn’t wait to get going again… Our first stop in the forest was a fun pump track where we got to practice rollers and burms, going progressively faster as we got more comfortable.

IMG_4870The rest of the afternoon flew by. We rode wide track, narrow track, single track, up hills, down hills, sandy terrain and rocky terrain. Our highest point was this really neat look out where you could see the edge of Lake Ontario (beyond the windmills) and supposedly on clear days you can see New York state.

IMG_4875We finished up our ride by stopping at a spring that is in a protected area of the forest. The water was crystal clear and so refreshing, covered by huge canopy of trees and lots of mossy areas. A perfect way to end the day.

We had an amazing day. The staff at Trails Tour were great – very supportive, very informative and super friendly. Big thanks to Chad and Danielle for a wonderful first experience. I don’t think it will be our last. We definitely recommend Trail Tours – whether it be for beginners looking to learn to ride or for experienced riders to get some guiding on a great set of trails.

We’re hooked after a week on the Ottawa River!

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The universe was on our side back in June when I got asked to come out to do some work just outside of Ottawa and it was the exact same week as the L’il Shredders trial program at Wilderness Tours that Hunter had been invited to. Obviously it was meant to be!

WT bunkhouse

We spent a week living together in a rustic bunkhouse on site at Wilderness Tours. It wasn’t fancy but it had power to charge devices and was clean. Outhouse just down the way and showers at the main lodge a few minutes walk down the road.

Our first day didn’t get off to an auspicious start… we awoke to light rains which quickly turned into monsoon like showers that lasted off and on all morning.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 6.10.29 PMWe spent the weekend together on an Eric Jackson class which was a lot of fun. He is really knowledgeable, and finds ways to play and teach at the same time. Here are he and Hunter paddling boats full of water in the whirlpools on Butcher’s knife.

hunter nose in at ottawa river beachHunter also learned a new technique for getting out of his boat!

take out drinksThe prize at the end of the day of paddling is a nice sheltered bar at the take out that has beer and juice on tap – a great way to end the day!

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 6.13.55 PMSunday brought EJ’s “Big Water” indoctrination – meant to teach you that things that look scary because they are big are not necessarily so. What it really meant is that everyone had to throw themselves into Phil’s hole, the first rapid on the river. You can see a very small part of my boat with most of me under the water – it wasn’t a great washing machine ride and ended in a swim when my skirt was blown.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 6.15.46 PMHunter had an equally unsuccessful Phil’s experience. If you look hard you can just see a corner of his boat in the centre of the photo (yellow and black) and you can see a small dark item just downstream a few inches. That dark item is his helmet, which should be attached to his head but got pulled off. It was lost to the river gods that day…

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Luckily EJ was able to grab a helmet for him at Keeners and we carried down the river with Hunter a little shaken from his first big beatdown.

hunter lee ottawa river takeout

We both survived the weekend only a little worse for wear and having learned a lot of new things! I then headed off to work for two days while Hunter joined Seth and Maddie in the L’il Rippers program.

new helmet

A new helmet was purchased after an unplanned detour to Ottawa on my way to work on Monday and Hunter managed to talk EJ into a sticker and Simon into cutting the sticker for him to get it looking cool.

The week went well for Hunter with lots of surfing and skill building delivered by Seth in sneaky ways. He managed to shake off his beatdown and was back to his usual self by Tuesday. When Big Water Thursday rolled around we both made it back into Phil’s fairly unscathed and EJ was right – it builds your confidence!

I went back into an EJ weeklong session on Weds and continued to have a lot of fun. I came down with a major sinus cold which definitely played havoc with my ability to clearly think, and that did correlate with a much lower confidence level most days. I now consider whitewater kayaking in the same category as “operating heavy machinery” in terms of the things you shouldn’t do while on cold medication…

lil shreddersOverall our week was fabulous. We met lots of new fun people, paddled in warm water and warm weather, learned new skills and Hunter came home with a new boat – a RockstarXS that was just released by Jackson in May. It was a great fit for him and really allowed him to have more boat control. Thanks to Jackson and the great folks at Wilderness Tours / Ottawa Kayak School for helping to make that happen.

hunter squirt boatingHe’s already been busy taking it out on flat water and doing mystery moves…

We definitely recommend Wilderness Tours for families and non-families equally. Lots of things to do on and off the water with a really friendly environment. For those that don’t kayak there are a wide assortment of rafting or inflatable kayaking options and a great school to take lessons from.

 

This adventure brought to you by Desperate for Whitewater in the Yukon…

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Our return to the Yukon has been a fairly abrupt transition. Hunter was out the door within an hour of arriving home to see friends leaving Tim and I a few days to unpack everything and spend a lot of time staring at each other and the “stuff” we were surrounded by. It wasn’t helped by the fact that we were coming off of five weeks of fabulous kayaking and the water wasn’t really running in the Yukon yet!

We spent the month of May practicing in the eddy’s and on the eddy lines of the very cold Yukon river. By early June we were all desperate enough that we organized a one day family trip to get out on some whitewater.

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The O’Donnell River is located just outside of Atlin, B.C., which is a 2.5 hour drive south from Whitehorse. It has a class 3 upper section and a class 2 lower section and is located near the end of a set of unmaintained placer mine roads and fairly remote which makes shuttling more interesting. Overall this adventure took 13 hours (door to door) and broke down as 5 hours of road driving, 3 hours on the water (2 laps of the upper section) and 5 hours of ATV shuttling.

 

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While the road is unmaintained and doable with a 4×4 truck we opted to use 2 ATV’s for the shuttle as this limits the risk of getting the truck stuck and having a very long walk to Atlin to get help…

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Tim jury rigged a very creative rack for one of the ATV’s (because he’s so great at that) and then Hunter and I drove the second ATV.

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As much as Hunter enjoyed the creeking style of the river, I think he enjoyed getting to be the ATV shuttle driver even more…

The put in is right beside an old Placer Mine, which makes for some pretty neat scenery.

DSCN3994 The first few kilometres of the upper section are class II with small riffles you can try to surf. It’s fairly windy and the water is glacier/mountain snow fed so is definitely northern cold.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.48.30 PMAs always, we had fun playing bumper boats on any little surf waves we could find…

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 12.00.55 AMOnce you hit the canyon section there are a lot of blind corners so we practiced eddy hopping to work our way around and through the features. Tim did a great job as trip leader explaining the nuances of the upcoming sections.

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Overall it’s a beautiful wilderness area and it was a great day out on the water, even with it as long as it was. We managed to catch treats at one of the places in Atlin even though it had closed (the town shuts down at 7pm even on weekends so plan accordingly) and that fuelled us through the drive home.

IMG_4380It’s been a long time since we had a kid falling asleep in the back of the truck after a day out so it must of been quite a day!