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Come together or fall apart

Two year old: “why daddy say ‘holy shit’?”

“Oh, that’s just because the stock market is collapsing. Goldfish cracker?”

A friend shared one of her go-to blogs with me, with the warning, “it’s kind of depressing.” It feels like we could be reaching the limits of a finite world. Not to mention, tropical fish are swimming around off the coast of BC, and the economy has shifted into a recession again. What the hell do we do about it? Apparently there’s a global run on ammunition – manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand. That’s vaguely terrifying. (Imagine if all the efforts preppers are putting into outfitting themselves for the post-apocalypse, was going into building community here in the the pre-apocalypse?!) These are the thoughts that were swirling in the background as I wrote this week’s Wellness Almanac column.

All summer long, I’ve had water on my mind. The shocking baldness of the mountains as glaciers vanished, the dry creek behind my house and my parched garden ratcheted up my water stress.

Then suddenly, at the end of August, I woke up under a canvass tent in Tyax Adventures’ Bear Paw camp, prepared to hike my bike up the Chilcotins’ Deer Pass, and it was raining, hard.

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The squall passed quickly, as Pemberton’s Sylvie Allen, mountain bike guide extraordinaire, anticipated. (Nothing an extra cup of coffee in camp couldn’t cure. Thanks, Andrea.) Two hours later, our five-woman strong posse of riders had crested the pass, and from the stark alpine of 2,300 metres, a whoop-inducing hour-long singletrack descent awaited us.

Trudging through clay and rock up that last push up the Pass, I had glanced continuously across to Mt. Sheba, benchmarking our progress and watching with fascination as the last of the winter snowmelt trickle-flowed down the mountain’s side in little rivulets and runnels.

I’ve read the claim before that “mountains are the water towers of the world,” but I’d never envisioned just how organic and un-industrial that is.

I stared at the little trickles and braids of melt that wended down the hillsides, joining up, as quickly as possible, with other rivulets, gathering force to become creek, to etch valleys, to morph and amass as stream, river and eventually lake. It struck me as embryonic and deeply poetic. I was bearing witness to the very conception of a river, peeking at an enduring primal affair between granite and sky.

It was probably the altitude. No one else seemed distracted from the task of hike-a-biking and taking photos. But I couldn’t help but feel the force of this revelation: if even water molecules are drawn to other water molecules, then we humans, 72 per cent water, must be drawn to each other too.

We are meant to come together.

IMG_3813There are survivalist websites that talk about what you need if/when the shizzle hits the fan and the economic and oil system collapses. Swiss army knife and stockpile of ammunition are recommended.

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But more practically, experts recommend that you invest now in developing good relationships with your neighbours. (There’s an incentive for a block party if ever I heard one.)

IMG_1058 A decade ago, I visited the ancient Roman ruins at Baelo Claudio. Situated on the southern tip of Spain, it was a major sea trade port and a fish-salting factory in its heyday of 41 A.D. It had temples, a forum, baths, a sewer system and three aqueducts that supplied the town with water — sophisticated, gravity-fed public engineering works that the Romans were famous for and that have rarely been reproduced in modern times.

We may have a measureless amount of information at our fingertips today, but data doesn’t make us smarter.

In his book Hope Is An Imperative, David Orr writes,

“There is an appropriate velocity for water set by geology, soils, vegetation and ecological relationships in a given landscape. There is an appropriate velocity for money that corresponds to long-term needs of whole communities rooted in particular places and the necessity of preserving ecological capital. There is an appropriate velocity for information set by the assimilative capacity of the mind and by the collective learning rate of communities and entire societies. Having exceeded the speed limits, we are vulnerable to ecological degradations, economic arrangements that are unjust and unsustainable, and, in the face of great and complex problems, to befuddlement that comes with information overload.”

Just because the amount of information available to us has exploded since Roman times, our ability to absorb that into bodily knowledge has remained constant over millennia. So, the crucial difference that determines whether a community has enough clean water for everyone, or is in total disarray boils down, quite simply, to the way we organize ourselves.

Stockpiling ammo or practicing playing well with other kids? I know where I’d rather put my energy.

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This piece was first published in the Whistler Question, on 1 September 2015.

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100 Days of Anything Starts With One

There’s an inspiring creative project I stumbled upon, conceived by an equally inspiring artist, called the 100 Days of Making, that has planted a little seed in my “oh my, I do not have enough time to do the BIG things I really want to do…” mind.

Big things (write novel, become President of the Galactic Federation, save the world, host dinner party for 20 of my closest friends) are intimidating like that.

But, when I’d ask my agency colleague and Wellness Almanac contributor Gary Martin how he mentally prepared to race his first IRONMAN last summer, he said that he simply broke it down into manageable chunks. “Okay, now I’m going to run a 10km,” he’d think. “And now I’m going to run the second 10km.” And so on and so on until he was a certified superhuman.

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The 100 Days of Making project can still be undertaken.

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You just start. And you keep going for the next 100 days. The duration makes starting small (so often my sticking point, “aaargh, I don’t have time to do this big thing, so why even start?”) not pointless. Starting small is the opposite of pointless. It’s actually smart.

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Anyone who has ever been given a sobriety pin knows the power of a single day, built on top of another day, and another, and another.

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Where might one day lead you?

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Which way to the beach, you lucky bastards?

There was a moment, fifteen years ago, when I knew I had chosen Pemberton and I wouldn’t unchoose it.

I was walking along a quiet stretch of road, between town and the old high school, when a horseback rider came clip-clopping towards me. Before I could nod a greeting, the cowboy called out, “Is this the way to the beach?”

Who knows what prompted it, or what the hell he meant, but the delightful absurdity sold me for good.

Head-turningly absurd, too, were the swarms of millennial beach-seekers in my little mountain town this weekend, flip-flopping along the highway, escaping the Pemberton Festival grounds in search of shade and water.

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They swarmed the tots’ water park, turning it into an outdoor shower complex, they lined up outside McDonald’s in their bikinis, descended upon the Lil’wat Gas Station, and discovered beaches beside glacial rivers that struck me as dubious swimming holes. But hey. Water is water, and in the desert of a mid-July Pemberton morning, any oasis will do.

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Thursday noon, pedaling my bike into town from One Mile Lake, two Festival waifs flagged me down. They hadn’t spotted the lake. They were contemplating the opaque meltwater churning down Pemberton Creek, desperate for a swim, but (intelligently) second-guessed themselves. “Is there a beach anywhere around here?” they asked as I rode up.

The Festivalians fell immediately in love with me when they discovered that their sought-for oasis was literally 100 steps away. “Thank you so much! Have a beautiful day,” they effused. “No, have a beautiful LIFE.” And I thought, the old Pemberton magic has done it again. All it seems to take is the suggestion of a beach.

Maybe that was the campaign that the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce could have run to help lure 25,000 of the youngs out of their sun-scorched tent-city into town: big signs directing “This way to the beach.”

Admittedly, while helpful and G-rated, it’s a lot more forgettable than “Welcome to Pemberton, You Lucky Bastards” which was the risqué rock-festival-esque campaign the Chamber put together in one frantic month.

I grew up in Australia, so it takes more than a bit of salty language to make my eyes water. The Facebook finger-shaking about the Chamber’s Lucky Bastards welcome kind of surprised me, though. “What’s the town coming to?” said one shocked grocery store client on Thursday when the shirts were first unveiled on the entire 64 person staff.

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Funny times when the organisation traditionally toeing the most staid, status quo line in a community is being tut-tutted by the masses for not being conservative enough.

Cooked up and rolled out in about 30 days by an all-volunteer board, executed entirely by volunteers (including Chamber Pres Garth Phare’s wife and 14 year old son who hand-dug the postholes for the Welcome signs), the campaign was funded by contributions from local businesses to the tune of $5800. That got signs, tshirts and 5000 tattoos – the entire agenda being for the Chamber to have a booth at the Festival that would make Festival goers feel welcome in Pemberton, and encourage them to head into town via the $2/head shuttle that the Chamber also put together.

Did it resonate? Was it too confusing? Too crude? Was it edgy enough to lure millennials in short shorts and full sleeve tattoos to town to spend a bit of money, gain a positive impression, and maybe consider coming back one day, once they’ve graduated, gotten hitched and find themselves hankering to have babies and grow vegetables?

Who knows.

Did you like it?

To a marketer, that actually matters a lot less than: are you talking about it?

If your final opinion is, “if that’s all they could afford, it would have been better if they’d just done nothing”, then be careful. You might actually get what you ask for.

As Jason Fried, of Basecamp, once wrote, “There are two things in this world that take no skill: 1. Spending other people’s money and 2. Dismissing an idea.”

Haters gonna hate. Creators have to iterate. And nothing ever happens unless someone takes a risk.

I, for one, am kind of stoked to live in a town where the Chamber thinks that 20 year olds are worth talking to. They are, after all, the future.

IMG_9569Hit or miss, this Chamber made the effort. Hell, I might even become a member. Why not join the bastards. Luck, after all, is what you do with what you’ve got. Beaches and all.

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Meditate on This

When the third person recommended I take up meditation, I started to get worried. Was I so obviously manifesting a strung-out vibe? I know meditation is trending in tech circles, but I was getting the nudge from grounded health practitioners and wellness advisors who threw it out at the end of a visit about something else entirely. As in: Oh and by the way, you might seriously consider taking up meditation.

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It occurs to me that perhaps I should give this some consideration, despite past failures at achieving zen-mindspace. (I once cut a weekend-long meditation workshop a day-and-a-half short, after falling asleep in one of the first exercises, and would have ditched out of a Wanderlust meditation session as soon as the facilitator asked us, in irritatingly breathy tones, to find someone we’d never met and stare lovingly into their eyes for 10 excruciating minutes, if I could have done it without making my stranger-partner, who already seemed on the brink of a breakdown, feel utterly rejected.)

But three times? These RMTs and physiotherapists and dental hygienists are not treating my headspace. My mental health is not their jurisdiction. But a bodyworker friend told me recently that she sees the life experiences that are stored in our bodies when the mask and armour is removed. Ater an hour, watching same client reapply mask and armor and head back out into the world, I’m sure quite a few healing-types wish they could say, “yo, a little bit of meditation between now and our next appointment, sweet-pea? As well as the flossing?”

Mental Health Awareness Week is coming up. May 4-10. I’ve never really paid it any attention. I don’t have a chemical imbalance. No one I live with does. So I never figured Mental Health Awareness to be particularly relevant to me.

I do, however, have a mind. And a mental state. And enough apparent twitches to indicate a need for meditation to anyone with half-a-brain. Also, the occasional pseudo-meltdown that typically manifests as a baking session at an inappropriate hour and prompts life-partner to ask, “Given that I am bathing the baby and putting him to bed so you can have some quiet time, why aren’t you working on that article that has been stressing you out so much?” by using the following phrase delivered with equal parts bewilderment, frustration and tentativeness: “What are you doing?”

“Making chocolate brownies.”

“It’s 9pm.”

“They’ll be ready in about 4 minutes.”

“Didn’t you have work to do? Do you bake when you’re stressed or something?”

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Long silence, as I contemplate the most appropriate response of:

  1. I guess you don’t want to eat any of them.
  2. Do you want a punch in the throat?
  3. Me? Stressed? What freaking-well makes you think I’m stressed?
  4. Interesting observation, dear life-partner. If I explore that observation, it seems that I bake when I need some TLC. I think it is a self-soothing strategy. Perhaps, not the wisest. But on the spectrum currently available to me, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back, eat a brownie and head upstairs to work on this story. Thank you for bringing my awareness to this pattern. Perhaps, once this deadline is passed, I can give it some attention.

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Brownie consumed, I’m now focused on my next mission: The David Suzuki Foundation’s 30 x 30 Challenge this May. Thirty days during which I take 30 minutes outside, in Nature. Being still. Because this is what I learn from nature, from sitting down by the river or at the base of a crag or at the top of a bike climb: That everything changing is just the way of all things. That it’s okay to sit with silence, you don’t always need to fill the spaces. If you stop for long enough to switch the signaler to receive, insights arrive. And a little bit of meditation every day can go a long way.

This post originally appeared in a column I write in the Whistler Question. The photo was taken by my friend Gary Martin for the Winds of Change’s Wellness Almanac, a community-driven blog that celebrates wellness and place,that we both contribute to. 

How to do a Good Job as a Community Manager

I’ve worked as a community manager for a range of brands and businesses, including the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, the Whistler Writers Festival, The North Face Canada and Origin Design + Communications. This is a recent post I wrote for Origin’s e-news and blog on what it takes. 

Call it whatever buzzword fits your #culturecode: social media manager, community manager, practitioner of the dark twittering arts, ephemeral content strategist, chief instagrammer, social executive or social moderator, but the short answer is: Yes, your brand needs one. If you’re on social, (and you categorically should be) someone needs to be in charge.

A community manager is a builder of relationships. This person engages and nurtures customers and key members of your community. They make the brand personal and they advocate for the customer.”

– Hootsuite –

Then, who? Intern or executive? In-house or agency? In-country or in India? How many languages do they need to speak? How much do you need to pay them?

Actually, those aren’t the first questions you need to ask.

First, you need to ask, what does it take to be a good community manager? Walk this way.

1. CREATIVE FREEDOM WITHIN CLEAR PARAMETERS

A person can’t represent your brand online, in real-time “conversations”, tweets, posts, and interactions, if they need to run every single piece of engagement up the chain of command. If you cannot relinquish the reins, you have to do it yourself, (dear overworked control freak. Yes, we see you.)

It’s better, of course, if you can provide clear parameters for someone to operate within.

The brand’s attributes, values, above the line marketing campaigns, target audience, competitors, allies/partners, athlete team, a list of events you sponsor, PR initiatives and clearinghouse, recommended resources, creative assets and goals should be part of the social media manager’s kick-off package.

If they’re smart, this is what they’re going to be asking in their first week.

You better know the answers. (Or, helpful solution! You could hire an agency to develop this, as we’ve done for clients, to get a new hire ready to hit the ground running.)

2. A PERSONAL ALIGNMENT/AFFILIATION WITH THE BRAND

Does the person need to walk into the interview wearing your logo, with a personal instagram feed already seeded with product placement? Can you recruit them from your flow team or designate your most socially savvy brand ambassador with the task?

Malin Dunfors, a community manager at Origin Design + Communications, suggests interest over immersion.

“I don’t think you need to live and breathe the brand. But you need to be interested in what the brand is doing, whether it is the outdoors, food or cars. Interest is crucial. It’s going to make your job easier—and more enjoyable. I also think your audience can pick up on it if you’re not into the stories you’re sharing with them. I come from a journalism background so I see objectivity as a good thing. Not being a brand ambassador or influencer makes you more open to seeing the brand from different angles, and better able to connect with new and old customers.”

3. FAITHFUL OR MONOGAMOUS?

Is it better to hire someone who manages multiple social media accounts/communities for several clients, or do you need this relationship to be exclusive?

That is a question, as in the real world, that can only be answered by the parties involved. Whichever way you swing, success depends on being completely clear and upfront about your expectations.

Says Dunfors, “Expectations really tie in with time commitment. People often think that doing social media is quick and easy because of the nature of the medium. But doing great community management takes time. Plus, social media never takes a break. So it’s worthwhile for brands, before hiring a community manager, to figure out the importance of their social media channels and what their social media goals are.”

4. GIVE THEM A DIRECT LINE TO THE PEOPLE ON THE GROUND

An internal social account manager can obviously work the floor at the office, but anyone operating remotely, or from the chairlift, or even after-hours, needs a pipeline to the people who have the authority to make decisions like:

  • freeing up swag for a giveaway
  • responding to product warranty questions or complaints
  • what product we want everyone talking about this week
  • who will address media in event of a crisis or urgent request

That might be one specific contact person, or several. But the channels need to be open every single day. Responsiveness, in social, is key.

5. TIMELY INPUT

Most brands will provide a balance of curated and created content in their social channels. Make sure your community manager has a steady flow of fresh content to help them feed the beast.

Says Dufors, “Instead of thinking of social media as a last minute thing to spread content, the community manager, should be an extension of the editorial/communications/marketing team, so it should be natural to loop them in on upcoming events and news. The more the community manager is kept in the loop, the easier it will be for him or her to do a great job.”

6. SOME WAYS FOR MEASURING SUCCESS

Develop a dashboard of metrics from the outset and track them. You’re armed to provide at-a-glance information to the CMO or hard-nosed brand manager, having translated the fury of 140 character bursts and soft metrics, into something that spells ROI.

Set a schedule for status reports, so you can track effectiveness over time.

7. A WILLING EAR IN YOU

A great community manager can provide incredible insight to your community based on analytics about what resonates and what falls flat. If you just contract the gig out, and move on to the next item in your neverending to-do list, you’ll miss the opportunity to gain excellent soft data about how your brand is performing psychometrically.

Your community manager has a lot of insight to offer about your audience, content that resonates with them, what your competitors are up to, breaking news in your field. They can be worth their weight in gold-plated intell, and help manage your social assets, your creative assets, and your influencer PR, if you give them the chance to. It’s a relationship, after all. Know what you need. Be clear about what you’re looking for. Be willing to adapt. Be genuine. Don’t try to control everything. And let the love flow.

Your inner arm skin, if I may…

A few people reached out to me after this article ran in the Question – with encouraging notes, with expressions of condolence, with knowing “been there, I see you, I’ve felt that pain” nods, with some of their own writing. And I realised that, even though my own sense of friendship is all shaken up these days, I’m still part of a community. Humanity, in fact (not to get too overblown about it). To all those people who took the time to drop a note, to say, “I read that, I really read it, and I heard what you were saying, and I recognise that place you’re coming from, that place you’re speaking of…” (you know who you are), thanks. Thank you. Thank you for reminding me that it’s not about good friends and bad friends, blame or score-keeping or any of that elementary-school-flashback-shit. We are, all of us, lurching and bumping around in the same dark room, and if we are ever brave enough to put our arms out, despite our deep fear about what we might end up touching, we sometimes discover other lovely warm brave hands reaching right back. *Squeeze.*

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Two years ago one of my oldest and dearest friends jumped off a concrete shopping centre parkade to her death.

I have not written about this because I can’t ever get past this first sentence.

How can I call her a dear friend if I didn’t realize, couldn’t stop her, missed all the signs, wasn’t there? How can I explain the straight-up narrative of events when there are so many holes and I can’t just keep asking the people who were around her at the time, “so, what happened again?” How do I say, “took her life” without coming up hard against the violence of her choice? How can I put anything about her in print when her daughter, barely three-months old at the time, might one day read it? Why write about her, having nothing intelligent or insightful to add when the wisest thing I’ve ever heard, was a Quaker-ish call to refrain from speaking at all, unless you are moved to say something brave and true and kind, and everything I have falls far, far short.

I imagined her speaking to me, in the days immediately afterwards. I was 7,000 miles away from the memorial gathering, unsure what to do with my throat-lump of sadness, how to disentangle it from a nasty hairball of anger and guilt and all the unsaid things, and so I shoveled soil and pulled weeds and tried to prepare a garden bed, and as my mind quietened, it seemed as if she was standing behind me for a brief moment. She whispered, “Are you disappointed in me?” using an old pet name from our University days.

Oh, honey.

She was a notorious arm-tickler. She’d find this spot, on the inside of the upper arm that was tender, never calloused, and she’d stroke you there. She did it to everyone. Emotion flowed through her like salt water, osmotically; she wasn’t afraid to touch people or to dance in front of a crowd or to break loudly into a harmony to the radio. That square inch of flesh on my inner arm still feels as though it belongs to her.

How can I call her a dear friend if I didn’t realize, couldn’t stop her, missed all the signs, wasn’t there?

In 2006, Jamie Twokworski founded To Write Love on Her Arms, after a story he wrote about a friend struggling with depression, injury and self-harm, went viral. His blog and effort to sell t-shirts to help fund her treatment has grown into a global movement, a film, and a funding agency with a mission to present hope, and challenge stigma, to tell people: “no one else can claim your part.”

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“We live in a difficult world,” states the TWLOHA mission. “A broken world. We believe everyone can relate to pain, all of us live with questions and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck. We all wake to the human condition. We wake to mystery and beauty, but also to tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with the problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions — moments, and seasons, and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay. We know pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real and help is real. The vision is better endings. The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead. The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know. You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.”

So, if you don’t mind, roll up your sleeve a little, and let me find that soft spot on the inside of your bicep. I’ll trace a tangle of letters there, and who knows, they just might spell out the words you most need to hear.

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The Magician’s Hour – Paul Morrison is still the King of Light

When Paul Morrison and I met to chat for this Tip of the Toque profile in the latest SBC Skier magazine, we got way-sidetracked discussing the tar sands, Harper, Burnaby Mountain, CEO salaries, whether it’s possible to have an adventurous and fulfilling life with kids, and how hard it has become to find a parking space in Whistler during Christmas week (even if you have lived here for 40 years.) Maybe it was the beers (Whistler Brewing Chestnut Ale. So good.) but it was rambling and great and pretty much why I think portrait-writing is the funnest gig out there. Shooting the breeze with inspiring folk is always a privilege. Especially those who had the guts to put it all on red. All hail the King.

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Paul Morrison / The Magician’s Hour

18 years old, school in the rearview mirror (“Most penitentiaries today look more inviting than my old school”) and the big mountains of the West filling the windscreen of a custom-fitted ’63 Ford van, Paul Morrison headed to Whistler. It was 1973, and the resort wasn’t much more than a muddy parking lot and a promise. But the promise came good, for both Morrison and Whistler Blackcomb.

Forty years, 250 magazine covers, thousands of beers and too many shutter-clicks to count later, Paul Morrison is, quite possibly, the reason you are reading this magazine, its longest-standing and most prolific contributor. He’s held a decades-long spot on the masthead of SKIER and Powder as Senior Photographer, along with a 30-year symbiotic relationship as one of Whistler Blackcomb’s official photographers.

His images have been synonymous with the careers like Eric Pehota, Trevor Petersen, and Dan Treadway, and he’s still shooting a fresh crop of talent that these days includes Stan Rey, Izzy Lynch, James Heim and Ian Morrison, his 23 year old son who landed on his first cover aged 15.

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Along the way, Morrison lived in a van, broke his back, married a girl he met on the gondola, spawned a little ripper, got caught in avalanches, shot a few weddings (“It’s way too stressful to be responsible for somebody’s memories”), had adventures, (“Skiing’s taken me to Bulgaria, Argentina, Chile…”) – but more than that, he made a career as a ski photographer with no plan B.

With every success, he widened the slipstream behind him for the next generation of Canadian ski photographer. Blake Jorgenson and Jordan Manley cite him as an influence for shooting natural light; Morrison’s leitmotif became mood-rich ski action shots, harnessing the finicky light of “the magic hour” of an alpine sunset.

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As head judge of Whistler Blackcomb’s career-making Deep Winter and Deep Summer Photo Showdowns, Morrison knows all too well the depth and ferocity of talent biting at his heels. “Blake Jorgenson, Jordan Manley, Rueben Krabbe – they’re the best and behind them is a whole wave of guys aspiring to do what we do.”

But, 61, he’s still shooting, editing his own images and holding his own. “I get emails from India all the time with offers to work as my photo editor. That country has a lot of excess brain power.

“It used to be just me, maybe two or three other guys, and two big mountains. Now, in Whistler, there’s 50 people trying to do the same thing, and the mountain’s just getting busier, not bigger.”

But if there is such a thing as an apprenticeship in light magic, Morrison did his, when a roll of film cost $20, a published photo paid $50, and a camera without autofocus set you back $3000. So, the master remains at the helm, whispering to the light, and getting the kids to carry the packs.

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“I’ve been a ski photographer for my entire career and that was my only goal. I didn’t start off wanting to do anything else, so if I can make it to 65, I’ll be happy.”

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Photos by Paul Morrison. Follow him on Instagram for more candy.

Moving past lip service on women’s issues

I came, chubby-cheeked and reluctant, to the realisation that if I was ever going to find the seat of my own power, I had to embrace the smell of my own sweat.

There are a lot of stats that link girls’ mental health, resilience and confidence with physical activity. But taking that from the abstract into real life is problematic in a culture that pushes back against girls even perspiring. (It’s “glow.” And it doesn’t have odour, right?)

Some pretty powerful initiatives caught my attention over the last year for trying to make that shift. The Always Run Like A Girl campaign asked: when did doing something “like a girl” come to be an insult?

After watching a host of older kids and adults imitate running and fighting “like a girl”, (“oh no! my hair!”), it was disquietingly impactful to hear a six year old answer the question, “What does it mean to you when I say ‘run like a girl’?”

“It means, ‘run as fast as you can.’”

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It sure does, darling. (Don’t you forget it.)

Jackson Hole-based freeskier, Lynsey Dyer worked to reclaim “ski like a girl” first for herself and then every future skier girl, culminating in her crowd-backed all-female-athlete film Pretty Faces. (See Dyer at The GLC on Friday (March 6) as a guest of Mountain Story’s live interview series.)

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Sport England recently put out a campaign, This Girl Can, to encourage women to be more physically active and overcome their fear of being judged, of not being fit enough or good enough, to get at it.

But when feminine hygiene product brands, female filmmakers and public health officials are putting out a message, it doesn’t have the same impact as when a global sporting property does the same thing.

Crankworx, the home-grown mountain bike festival that is now a truly global property with a world tour including New Zealand and France, just announced their commitment that through 2015, at all 22 of their events, female and male athletes on the podium would be receiving the same prize money.

As Crankworx World Tour manager, Darren Kinnaird, said, “It’s just time. Hopefully, this will encourage more women to get involved in competitive mountain biking.”

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The crucible of mountain biking — where brands, technology and athletes are made — just exerted their influence to make women feel welcome in the sport.

The message that sends to all girls is pretty profound.

Counter this with the message sent to aboriginal girls across Canada, when the Prime Minister refuses calls to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

Other men are coming forward, where Stephen Harper is standing back. Men like Paul Lacerte, the founder of the Moose Hide Campaign.

Four years ago, Lacerte was at a national gathering of indigenous women leaders and health officials strategizing how to address the issue of missing and murdered women. “There were 180 people at the event and only four men. It was shocking to me to see that women were not only bearing the burden of violence and abuse, but also the burden of advocacy.”

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Lacerte and his daughters have since cut 25,000 tiny squares of tanned moosehide that are now being worn by men across the country, who are stepping into the space, to say that violence against women and girls is not okay.

It’s a grassroots initiative that deserves all our support, because First Nations’ girls should grow up riding bikes and getting a sweat on and most definitely not thinking that running like a girl means running for your life.

This post ran in the Whistler Question, as part of an ongoing initiative for the Winds of Change’s community-powered blog, TheWellnessAlmanac.com.

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6 Things You’re Probably Doing Wrong While Skiing

This article first ran on the Liftopia blog, and was just reprinted on Business Insider. It got more comments than anything else I’d written, mostly because Evan was honest/cheeky enough to say the T-word. Tips. It keeps service industry staff alive.

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When I taught skiing, the most common question I’d hear from clients, no matter what their level of proficiency, was: “So, what am I doing wrong?”

Well, that would be the first thing you’re doing wrong.

1. Worrying about what you’re doing wrong.

The brutally honest answer to that question is: You don’t want to know. It will suck up all the fun, make your head explode, and torpedo your morale.

The brain doesn’t operate constructively by focusing on the negative. If I say to you, “What you’re doing wrong is thinking about pink elephants. When you ski this next run, just don’t think about pink elephants. Think about hugging a bear,” I’ve basically offered you a recipe to have a mind-messed-up run thinking about elephants doing horrible things with pink bears while hating yourself and deciding you can’t do anything right. Fun-O-Meter? Zero.)

It’s better to start with a clear positive foundation… as in: Here’s something you’re doing right. Now here’s something to focus on doing to improve your experience.

But don’t believe me when there are actual experts around.

I reached out again to my on-call brain-trust, the pros who work in Whistler Blackcomb’s Snow School on the MAX4 program, and asked them to share the most common mistakes skiers make.

2. You’re buckling your boots the wrong way.

Last post, Ralph Forsyth dished on how to avoid the crowds. This time, the level 4 CSIA pro behind @SkiTipDuJour, redresses the most common mistake skiers make before they even get on the chairlift.

Friends, you’re buckling your boots the wrong way.

Ralph says that you’ve got to fasten that wide, Velcro power strap that wraps around the top of your boot, first, before you even snap a buckle closed.

“Make sure your long johns or base layer and socks are smooth and wrinkle-free and that the tongue of the boot is snug around your shin and calf. Then, with the buckles still undone, fasten the power strap nice and tight. Next, fasten the buckle that is second from the top. Stand up, flex the boot a few times and fasten the top buckle to ‘lock in’ your heel. Now fasten the third and fourth buckles from the top. Fastening your boots this way will make them feel ‘squishier’, and you’ll ski with more control and confidence.”

SkiTipDuJour shares a video on how to properly put on your ski boots.

skiingFlickr/efilperaDon’t look for the obstacles you’re tying to avoid.

3. You’re so afraid to suck that you’re stuck in a rut.

Caroline Perrin is too professional to come out loud and say that you’re boring. Instead, the 16-year veteran pro explains it thus:

“Skiing is an open-skilled sport.”

That means, it’s not like swimming or gymnastics or shooting hoops, where the environment is predictable, and you can do the exact same movement the same way and expect the exact same outcome. Those activities are essentially quests for perfection.

In skiing, there is no perfect move or position.

“There is so much variation from one day to another and one run to another that it is impossible for a recreational skier to do the right thing all the time. Seek ways to make it easier, safer and more fun. Expand your toolbox. Someone invented sliding down a snowy slope on planks of wood for a reason, so give up on perfection and instead find ways to make life on the slopes a constant adventure. That’s the fun of it.”

4. You’re clenching your jaw.

Glen Irvine is a professional musician, teacher, and long time WB ski instructor who spends his off-season cycling around Europe and guiding hunting trips in the Yukon. His advice, passed down to him from his favorite yoga instructor, applies equally to playing jazz, taking down a moose, or skiing: “Tension is easy. Relaxation is hard.”

Glen says that human beings, as a species, tend to have difficulty relaxing. “With skiers, this emotional tension translates into unnecessary muscular tension which makes it very difficult to execute, technically or tactically. It certainly makes it difficult to create fluidity while skiing.

“Certain muscles must fire during the turn, but just as many muscles should be allowed to relax. Next time you’re skiing on an easy run, try scanning the body to determine which muscles are retaining unnecessary tension—You might be surprised. Focus on the muscles that relax in a turn, rather than those that fire.

“Here’s a fun little technique that a past student of mine once suggested. She was an Olympic level equestrian coach who, when confronted with an excessively tense rider, encouraged him to breathe deeply and fluidly and ride with a relaxed face and jaw. Try this when you’re skiing. You’ll be amazed at how much unneeded tension flows out of the body. Your skiing will become more relaxed, more fluid, calmer and you’ll have a greater sense of well being.”

skiing down a mountainFlickr/TrysilDon’t let fear keep you from growing.

5. You’re looking at the obstacles you’d rather avoid.

Dave Hobson oversees the MAX4 alpine crew and has been teaching skiing since he was in high school. More recently, he trains a crew of top-level instructors, has introduced them to myofascial stretching, and spearheaded a series of ski skill-boosting sessions for ski patrollers.

He says, “Skiers have a tendency to look at the hazard. They focus on the trees, rather than the opening. That is just a recipe for skiing into a tree.

“You’ve got to focus on the spaces between the trees. Look ahead. Look at the line you wish to follow.”

6. You’re not tipping your instructor enough. (If at all.)

The delicate art of tipping is not often spoken of – for some, it’s a little too gauche. But Evan Taylor, nail-banger, Race Director of IRONMAN Canada, and aspiring Level 4 pro, is willing to brave it.

“As an Australian, the whole tipping scene is a foreign concept but having spent the majority of the last 14 years in North America, I’m slowly warming up to it.

“There’s not one ski instructor in the Whistler Alpine Pod who doesn’t give all they have during a lesson, no matter what the climate or snow conditions. For the Alpine crew, giving all we have means not only being a ski instructor but a personal psychologist, restaurant critic, accommodation specialist, tour guide, marriage counselor, child care specialist, boot-fitter and maitre’d at the Roundhouse. (My advice to apprehensive clients when standing on the top of double black diamond runs is simply ‘If you think this is hard, wait until we try and find a table for lunch at Roundhouse’.)

I love the line in The Matrix Reloaded when Seraph tells Neo “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.” The same goes for skiing. You don’t truly know someone until you have them ski a run that’s well out of their comfort zone.

“No matter what their confidence, personality, profession, education or social status, when you take complete strangers to the top of a run that they would not have otherwise gone to, their eyes, movements, speech or lack thereof, give away their true identity.

“Our clients come for ski lessons but if I’ve done all I can, they go away with more than ski tips. They go away learning more about themselves than they would have ever imagined.”

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Why I Don’t Need Another Photo of my Sleeping Baby

There is a microsecond long window when a baby falls asleep that everything is right in the world.

My personal victory today? Resisting taking a photo of that moment.

The kid is 23 months old, so I already have approximately 700 photos of him sleeping, none of which have successfully managed to evoke the heart-swell I get when his little body finally goes slack and his face relaxes into a kind of angelic softness.

I’ve hypothesized that the real reason a sleeping baby is so lovely to behold, is because, for that tiny fraction of time, you can stop worrying about what you’re doing, whether you’re stimulating their brains sufficiently, feeding them the right foods, you can stop resenting the things you’re not getting done while you’re sitting on the floor stacking a tower of blocks for them to knock over again.

For that tiny little moment in time, there’s nothing you ought to be doing for them.

When that stillness descends, everything in me relaxes, and I want to hold fast to that snag in the fabric of foreverness, before the tidal wave of all the things I need to do with this sleep time comes crashing in. So I snap a fuzzy picture. #Nap-selfie.

Reaching for the camera in my pocket has become a twitch. It’s my default weapon against time’s slipperiness. I need to stop.

Every Sunday on the Wellness Almanac, one of four local photographers shares an image from the ‘hood. For Gary Martin, Dave Steers, Polek Rybczynski and Ruben Guibert, photography is an act of mindfulness or creative expression, community building, a way to pay deeper attention, or a kind of witness, and I look forward to their submissions every week and to tracking the seasons through their lenses.

I’m grateful for that kind of photography. For people who share their perspective on the world, for the documentarians and the instagrammers. I’m grateful for technology, the ease with which we can make a photographic record, and share it with whomever, whenever, instantaneously.

I love that even we non-professionals can use these images as a shorthand, to communicate with each other, or as a daily log, as Bettina Falloon did for her 50 Day Wellness Challenge.

Falloon wrote about her challenge, to ensure every day got a dose of “mindful brain goodness,” on the blog this week. “My challenge was also to include a photograph of what that goodness may be or mean to me in that moment,” Falloon explained. Since the Wellness Challenge ended, she’s missed the daily practice of noticing, of calling something out.

But last week, I stood in the snow in my sock feet, snapping photos of a dawn sky that was leaking pink across the mountains.

It was beautiful the way the rose sky bounced its colour off the snow. I ran outside, undressed, to capture it, knowing how fleeting an alpine sunrise is. I didn’t just want to notice it. I wanted it to be mine, forever.

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But instead of feeling the loss of the Incessantly Vanishing, and leaning into it, breathing through it, standing and soaking it up with all my senses, I pulled my weapon as my kid looked on quizzically, and I took a mediocre picture. It cut the moment short, even as I was trying to do the opposite.

So today, when the kid fell asleep, I resisted the urge to freeze-frame the moment, and just sat for a minute, trying to breathe it in, not with a device, but with my eyes and nose and ears. I tried to hold the exquisite ache of that slip-away moment in my hands, and then I walked out of the room and let it go.