Choose hope. It doesn’t make you a pussy, it makes you more productive.

I reserve the right to remain hopeful.

6 days in to a new government, and 3 weeks past the election, I’m declaring it, as though it’s a constitutional right, a mantra and a magic spell all rolled up into one.

I felt hope crest like a rogue wave the morning after the election, and it surged again, when I heard tales of a friend who works in Ottawa on the Hill, who was greeted with a small plastic cup of champagne at work that Brand New Day. She thanked her manager, but was told, “don’t thank me,” as her boss acknowledged their Muslim colleague, a quiet woman, not imbibing, who had stopped at the liquor store that morning, to share her own sparkling sense of hope with her workmates about their shared future under a new regime.

Canada's new Prime minister, Justin Trudeau, when asked why his cabinet is gender balanced.


The communications strategist in me gives a nod to a game well-played at the new government’s opening gambits (Inuit throat singers at the swearing-in ceremony!, Cabinet media scrums! a Google Hang-out between the Prime Minister and some grade 5 students!), but it’s my feisty little inner hope-fiend that has really rallied as the new PM states that gender parity is important “because it’s 2015”, and swears in a Cabinet featuring a Minister of Climate Change, a Minister of Refugees, a Minister of Science (who is an actual scientist!), a Minister of Health (a doctor), a Minister of Agriculture (a farmer), a Minister of Transport (an astronaut, for the win!), a Minister of Defence (an Afghanistan combat veteran), a Minister of Families who is a poverty economist and a Minister of Democratic Institutions who is a Muslim refugee. Bonus points for the fact the PM was once a snowboard instructor at Whistler Blackcomb, and although this is not my party, well, the Hope-o-Meter is steadfastly sitting in the green zone.


I am embarrassed to admit it – have I just been seduced by good hair and great soundbytes? – but, to admit that politics is, for the first time in a decade, inspiring positivity, interest, engagement, instead of cynicism, disdain, disappointment, vigilant scrutiny, makes me feel vulnerable. Gullible, even. I’m scared to confess to this hopefulness, to allow it, because it hurts to be disappointed, to have your heart broken, your expectations dashed, to find out that one politician or party is just the same as all the others, that hype comes from a machine, and the system is so flawed that no one can make a difference.

But for now, I reserve the right to remain hopeful. Not because hope is a warm and fuzzy feeling, and right now, the nights are long and the days are drizzly. No, I’m indulging in hope because it is, outside of outrage, (which is just as hard to sustain), an absolute necessity to getting things done.

That’s what I discovered reading a blog post on time management by Wendy Kelly, a scribe for Pemberton-based web design and digital marketing agency, Custom Fit Communications.

Forget list-making, bed-making and getting up at the crack of seriously-it’s-pitch-black-out-there, the best and most under-reported productivity hack is simply having a robust sense of hope.

“At the end of the day, without hope,” wrote Kelly, “you really can’t keep up your pace. Workers of all types need hope to get up each day and do their work, and I would argue that creative types need hope all the more.”


Margaret Atwood, the dire futurist of our times, seems to agree. She recently told Canadaland’s Jesse Brown, “Unless you’re an optimist, you don’t bother writing books. It’s a very optimistic thing to do.”

Optimism isn’t the same thing as hopefulness, though. Optimism is the belief that all-will-be-well. Hope is the ability to fly in the face of evidence to the contrary, to strive for excellence in the face of obstacles. Hope has been correlated with better pain tolerance, workplace attendance, engagement and creativity.

Brene Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher and author of Daring Greatly, explains that we have poetic but misguided notions of the word hope. “Most of us think of hope as a feeling of positivity. But hope is not an emotion at all. It’s how we think and it is 100% teachable. Hope is a function of struggle. The 2 prerequisites for high levels of hopefulness are perseverance and tenacity.”

It’s not pathetic to be hopeful. It’s pragmatic.

If we care about climate change, democracy, missing and murdered women, beating cancer, raising great kids, living in kind communities, we need to all struggle for that together.

So I’m holding on to this surging sense of hope for as long as I can.

And for all you lovelies out there squaring off in the face of cancer treatment, heartbreak or other adversity, may your days be doused with hope, too.


Give good face, like it’s the only one you’ve got.

I went hiking with a bunch of ladies over night at a cabin up the Duffey. Most of us had kids, so the hardest work of the weekend was just getting out of the house.


By the time we were on top of the mountain, we were giddy with freedom. Or altitude. That’s where we stumbled on the subject of 60 and 70-year-old women we knew who were getting work done — botox, plastic surgery — trying to look pretty by forfeiting the expressiveness of their faces.

IMG_0071We were not judging. We were confronting the ravages of time ourselves. But aunties, come on. You’re invisible, anyway. Let’s be honest: once women reach a certain age, we all become unseen. Instead of that being liberating — look, now you can be the way you want to be, dress how you want, say what you think, care only about the people you care about — are you so addicted to being perceived as a pretty thing that you’re injecting your faces with paralyzing agents?

Okay, maybe I am judging.

But I’m disappointed. And afraid.

I’m afraid, because I am confronted by the state of my own face.

I spent months thinking about face and my own resting bitchface, and I blame it less on aging and more on Ryan Proctor.


Proctor, a long-time, top-quality Whistler guy, had agreed to let me write about his recovery from a mountain bike crash, which saw him implode his face on impact. His face was rebuilt, quite remarkably, but he looked different. He shot a self portrait every day, like he was trying to reconstruct his relationship with himself, and every few weeks into his post-recovery, we’d chat about his accident and his surgeries, about selfies and social media, luck, mirrors and coming to terms with having a new face.

I snapped a selfie one day, inspired by him, inspired to capture a great mood and freeze-frame the memory. I was studying it, scrutinizing my face. I was in the gondola, by myself, so I could be unselfconscious about my curiosity: wow, that’s what I look like. My eyes are completely different sizes, my nose is really large, my wrinkles have gone gangbusters… but still, it’s my face. It’s my self, even, or maybe because of, the things I love to hate, because that’s part of the package.

Proctor’s humour and storytelling had distracted me — as I looked at my naked face, it struck hard, how difficult that must be, to have your face change.


Reconstructed Proctor looked the most like himself when he was smiling, or wearing a toque. “It’s more my resting bitchface,” he told me, that’s confronting. “I have more resting bitchface than I had before.”

Your what?

“You’ve heard that before? That thing, I think girls talk about it — when you’re looking normal and your face is just relaxed, and you look like a bitch.”

That’s so hilariously close to home that it hurts.

I also look like someone who has experienced a childhood full of sunny SPF-free days, seasons on the mountain squinting into alpine weather, and two sleepless years as a new mama. I’m also kind of surprised and relieved to see that the laugh lines are more etched than the frown lines — a sign the tally of experiences were kinder than not.


But here’s the truth that we circled around that day as we stood on top of a mountain breathing in our good fortune: approaching middle age is really freaking disorienting. And we are all looking for a few good role models on this adventure.

If a 30-year-old guy can address his changing face with grace and humour, can’t we all?

Aunties, show us 30 and 40-somethings how to do this honestly and gracefully. Show us aging is not something to be afraid of. Something possibly to even revel in. Pass on the Botox, and go the rowdy route instead – laugh too loudly, march in the street, rage against the changing climate. Stop worrying about the way men see you, and start thinking about what your granddaughters see.

It’s so brutally ironic that just when I got comfortable in my own skin, it would start to sag.  Right? I get it. I really do. But come on, my loves. Show me your naked faces and all your honest expressions. I’ll show you mine. Wrinkles and all.

I toilet text ALL THE TIME and am not even ashamed

I wrote this column on the toilet.

I’d finished my business minutes earlier but was on a writing roll and didn’t want to stop typing to pull up my pants.

I have gotten into the habit of taking my device to the washroom with me because it might be the only chance I will get until everyone in my house is asleep to check emails or instagram or twitter. I try not to be tethered to a device at work, in meetings, at the dinner table or around my kid, hence: bathroom. And in my reality, regardless of what experts say about it being a myth, multitasking is a thing. Not just “a thing”, it’s my thing. <ends toilet-typing>

Screen shot 2015-10-12 at 4.40.57 PMI tweet on the toilet. I brush my teeth in the shower. I eat my lunch at the computer. I’m not even really ashamed of this. I think it’s pathetic. The antithesis of mindfulness. Problematic. But, hardly freakish outlier behaviour. (Quick Google to verify self with stats and I get a 2011 study that says 19% of people have dropped their phone in the toilet and 39% take their smartphones with them to the loo. By 2012, that’s up to 75%. Evidently, circa 2015, it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even warrant a study.)

Sherry Turkle is an MIT professor who has been researching the psychology of online connectivity for the past 30 years. In a recent New York Times piece, Turkle references a study that discovered a surprising number of people would rather give themselves electric shocks than sit alone with their thoughts.

Turkle is interested in how our extreme attachment to constant digital connectivity is diminishing our capacity for self-reflection.

Cue fleeting moment of self-reflection: I don’t think I’m escaping my thoughts so much as optimizing my time when I text and tinkle. But I catch myself wondering, when I respond to a toilet break by reaching reflexively for device, what becomes of my relationship with my physical self?

Bluntly: if you’re always checking your emails when you poo, when are you ever checking in with your body? I mean, doctors can diagnose the state of your health with just a glimpse at your excreta. The body is always telling tales.

Trauma experts have discovered this. I picked up a copy of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, at the library the other day.


It’s compulsively readable, despite the heavy numbers that explain why author, Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk, has had no shortage of traumatized people to work with during his career in traumatic stress counseling and research. One in five Americans has been molested, one in four grew up with an alcoholic, and one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. There’s a lot of pain out there, and it lodges in people’s bodies, changes their brains and their behaviour, and gets passed along from generation to generation. Radically, for many, the cure is not in medication or talk therapy but in reconnecting with their bodies – yoga, play, music, neurofeedback, mindfulness, or even a quirky treatment called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), in which the “magic words” from the therapist appear to be, simply, “notice that,” while wiggling their finger back and forth in front of the patient.

I was kvetching about something to my partner recently, and instead of trying to scratch the itch, or solve my problem, he said something that bathed the room in warm celestial light. “Well, pay attention to that.”


Just this: Here’s your body. Here are your hurts and aches. Here are your complaints. Here are the distractions. And here’s one loving voice saying, “Notice that. Pay attention to that.”

I think we risk becoming more and more dissociated when we think that shitting and pissing, eating lunch or waiting for a friend to arrive, are things not worth doing with our full attention, are just opportunities to check into the Network for our “connectivity fix.”

As Turkle writes of our technology addiction, we have a choice.“It’s not about giving up our phones but about using them with greater attention.”

Right? That there? Notice that.


Screen shot 2015-09-01 at 10.53.33 AM

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


The 100 Days of Making project can still be undertaken.

Screen shot 2015-07-19 at 1.29.18 PM

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.


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.


Where might one day lead you?



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.


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.


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.

Lucky Bastards welcome to pemberton

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.


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.


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?”

Screen shot 2015-04-29 at 3.31.19 PM

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.


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.


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.)


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.”


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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.”


“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.


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.