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Lace your hiking boots for success and pleasure

  
  
  

“Always break-in your boots before going hiking in them.” That’s the wisdom, but in practice we often go hiking in new boots. Sure, wearing them around town, walking the dog, or even doing chores around the house is a good idea, but in practice we often don't find time to break in our boots.

hiking in canada

However, with the recent crop of lightweight, soft, forgiving boot designs, breaking in hiking boots isn’t as brutal as it once was.  The synthetic materials that are part of the vast majority of today’s hiking shoes don’t “break-in” like all-leather boots anyway. If you have a poor fitting boot, it will probably never fit quite right, but if you get a pair that fits your feet, you can often hike comfortably from day one. The fleet of high-end hiking boots (shown above) at CMH Summer Adventures, with a few brands for different shaped feet, fits virtually everyone, from the first step into the helicopter until the last step out of the tundra.

I’ll admit, I’m terrible at the break-in process, and often end up with a new pair of boots right before a trip to the mountains. Thanks to too many trips with new boots, I’ve learned some tricks for making new boots - or any shoes for that matter - feel better while hiking.

The key to comfort is how you lace the boots.

First, I like to lace the boots as tightly as I possibly can for a short time before going hiking, and then I lean hard on them in every way I can imagine flexing them in the mountains.  This seems to provide an accelerated break-in period, giving the shoes a chance to conform slightly to my feet.

From then on, I take the time to adjust my laces depending on terrain:

  • For flat terrain, try for an even lace tension from toe to bow.
  • For uphill hiking, tighten the upper part of the boot while leaving the toebox loose. This helps prevent heel rubbing since the ankle is held snug and the toes can relax and flex comfortably with the hill.
  • For downhill hiking, lace your boots tight around the forefoot to keep your toes from banging into the end of the boots as well as to minimize slipping and friction on the soles and sides of your feet. Leave the ankles loose so you can articulate easily on the steeper sections.
  • For rugged, uneven terrain, start with snug lacing throughout the foot, and adjust as needed - as soon as needed - based on comfort.

Common trail wisdom is that you should use some kind of blister kit before getting blisters, but even better, you can often avoid the blister kit in the first place if you adjust your laces at the first sign of rubbing.  Tying a simple extra twist in the lace at the point you want the tension to change will keep the shoes laced how you’d like them to be, and many modern hiking boots have a lace cleat that is designed to hold tension differently on the upper and lower part of the boot.

Lacing for different terrain is a big help, but the ultimate pleasure for your feet is stopping for a soak in a cold mountain stream.  I have no proof, but observations reveal that hikers who stop to soak their feet are happier, make more money, have better marriages, take better vacations, and generally enjoy life more thoroughly...

Photo of heli-hiking at CMH Bugaboos by Topher Donahue.

CMH Summer Adventures' guest satisfaction rating nears 100

  
  
  

At the end of each summer, we look back and take careful note of how our guests tell us we’re doing.  In fact, that’s how we design our programs in the first place.

This year, if there is one emotion to describe how CMH Summer Adventures guests tell us they feel, it would have to be this: satisfaction

From the informal feedback we get while sitting around the dinner table with our guests after a gourmet meal, to our feedback cards where guest can rate their experience with us, to online forums like TripAdvisor where gusts review and rate their travel experiences of all kinds - the conclusion is obvious - our guests are satisfied. 

The Net Promoter Score (NPS), an industry-wide customer satisfaction benchmark, asks the simple question: How likely is it that you would recommend (the company) to a friend or colleague?

The average NPS score in the tourism industry is 74 out of a possible 100.  Last summer in the Bugaboos, our NPS was 97.  Of course numbers don’t tell the whole story, but we’re particularly proud of that one. 

satisfied couple

The direct feedback from some of our guests is perhaps the most telling:

“My favorite thing was that the entire experience exceeded all my expectations.  That may not sound like much but I had done loads of research, talked to lots of people, devoured the web-site, etc and I had very very high expectations for trip (in some ways, almost guaranteeing that I would be disappointed because I was so "psyched" about how cool this trip was going to be).  To my delight and astonishment, the trip exceeded all my expectations despite how huge my expectations were going in!  I remember walking into the lodge after our last hike on the last day, almost with tears in my eyes, and telling Nina that "I'd rather do this than spend a week in Paris" (my favorite place in the world).  The other favorite thing was that everybody was first class and professional, be it the incredible guides, the pilots, or the lodge staff.  I described it as ‘the Nordstrom’s of hiking’.”

“When I first decided to take a trip to Bugaboo Lodge I was warned that it leaves a permanent imprint, and I now understand what that means. It took a while for the experience to fully sink in, but I do know how glad I am that I went, and I want to let others know about this "hidden" treasure.   The memory I'll alway savour is sitting in the rooftop hot tub with friends after an exhilarating day of hiking, holding a cool drink, overlooking one of the most spectacular scenery I've ever experienced and watching a gorgeous sunset.  Life doesn't get much better.”

best hot tub view
“All the meals were outstanding.   I was blown away by the family atmosphere at the dinner table, and our guide made us feel so welcome.   Every morsel was spectacular, but if I had to choose a favourite meal, I'd point to the scallops -- they were sublime.”
“The unexpected thing was the value of the guides - not only for the obvious reason of knowing the trails and where to go but for completely putting everyone at ease.  For the first time in my life, I was able to hike without any cares - I didn't have to worry about weather, food, safety, time of day, animals, etc.  That was an incredible gift and made it so much easier to relax quickly and enjoy each day.  I think this was even more true for my wife who is more of a worrier, she had an incredible time and never had to worry about logistics or safety.”

And one of many rave reviews from the TripAdvisor website:

“We just returned from the best vacation experience ever! We do a lot of traveling but this was the best experience ever! From the booking process ( flawless ), accommodation (this was my idea of roughing it-soft bed,hot shower and private rooms!), food (5 star Boston restaurants are not as good as the food here!) , the people(outstanding) and the outrageously fun hiking via the via ferrata and the Conrad Glacier!”

To summarize the experience of CMH Summer Adventures is difficult, for the very reason that it is different for everyone.  We like to make everyone’s trip exactly what they want it to be.  If our report card from this summer is any indication, we’re doing just that, and our guests are going home having had their own, personal, perfect vacation.

We’re sad to see the summer slip into fall, as beautiful as every season is here in the mountains, but we’re thrilled to have been able to be a satisfying part of so many people’s favourite summer adventure.

Bodacious babes on the world’s most beautiful adventure

  
  
  

Last week, the Bodacious Babes hit the Bugaboos and experienced a flavor of beauty that has to be seen to be believed.  No words can do it justice, so instead here’s a photo essay on one of their hikes in the Canadian Rockies that is surely in the running for one of the most beautiful places on earth.

heli hiking landing

It started with pilot Perry dropping us off near treeline aboug halfway up a mile-deep valley on the remote western side of the legendary Bugaboos. 

brought to tears by beauty

Before the sound of the helicopter had receded into the distance, we were so awestruck by the beauty that some clapped, some laughed, some cried and some hugged.

happy women in the mountains

All of us spun in circles wondering if we’d ever been anywhere more spectacular.

women in paradise

Once we were able to compose ourselves enough to walk, we began wandering through a landscape somewhere between the the Shire of Tolkien’s Hobbit, and the mountains of the Himalaya. 

women hiking group

Clouds of mist swirled around the peaks behind us as we hiked through lush fields of wildflowers and past clear running streams.

waling in paradise

Above us, the lofty Howser Towers formed an almighty backdrop. 

reflecting on beauty

After following the crest of a moraine left by a long-departed glacier, and just about when it seemed it could get no more beautiful, Lyle, our guide, took us past a tarn the colour of the sky in a setting that inspires painters and poets alike.

napping in paradise

After a long morning that seemed like both an eternity and an instant, we reached a glacier guarding the high pass to reach the more popular side of the Bugaboos.  After a lunch and moment caught between meditation and a nap, pilot Perry returned and whisked us over the pass to another slice of paradise - but that’s for another story.

For questions about Girlfriend Getaways with CMH Summer Adventures, a women's trip that rivals the most fun a person can have, contact Canadian Mountain Holidays at 1 (800) 661-0252.

Photos by Topher Donahue.

Great Family Hikes in Banff National Park

  
  
  

Summer is finally upon us here in the Canadian Rockies and families and other adventurers are anxious to get out and make the most of our short summer.  My family has discovered that our kids, ages 4 and 6 appear to be ready to hit the hiking trails.  Here is a list of great age-appropriate hikes for the younger set in Banff National Park:

Family Hikes in Banff National Park (2)1)  Bow Lake: This trail meanders along the shores of Bow Lake just off the Icefield Parkway and across a number of streams as the water flows down from Bow Glacier.  A set of steep stairs at the end takes hikers to a natural bridge formed when a massive boulder lodged itself in the top of the canyon, then up to the base of the falls.  The route was about 8km round trip and took us about 3 hours as it's nice and flat.

2) Chephren Lake: The initial ascent from the water's edge seemed daunting but the trail soon levelled out and it was easy-going from there to the lake.  The trail is wet and muddy and criss-crossed with roots, but the proximity to the face of Howse Peak makes for great echos which kept us laughing all the way to the lake. The route from Waterfowl Lakes campground on the Icefield Parkway was about 7 km round trip and took us just under 3 hours.

3) Lake Agnes: This one is next on our list. Although the elevation gain is dramatic, we're convinced they're ready for it.  The stunning views along the way of Victoria Glacier and Lake Louise will make short but scenic stops along the route easy.  And the lure of fresh baked pie at the tea house is a tough one to match!  The trail is 7km with some steep sectons and switchbacks.  We anticpate this one could take us about 5 hrs, depending on how good the pie is.

4) Tunnel Mountain: A local family fave, the kids are able to get to the top of a mountain in just over an hour's time.  That sense of accomplishment makes for great motivation and it's fun to hear them tell Grandma & Grandpa "I summitted a mountain today!"  Trail is about 3km round trip, with lots of UP (and subsequent DOWN) and takes about 2 hrs for the little ones.

While I admit there were times we had to rely on some tried-and-true kid-friendly jokes to keep them going and the promise of chocolate once we were finished, but all-in-all, we were impressed with how far and how fast those little legs can go.  Yes, I believe we're ready to tackle a CMH Family Adventure!

Do you have some favourite family-friendly hikes in the Canadian Rockies?  If so, share them in the comments here? 

Photo: On the trail to Bow Glacier.

New glacier hike ready to rock

  
  
  

Summer has officially begun at CMH.  Both Bobbie Burns and the Bugaboo Lodges are geared up and ready to rock this summer. Speaking of rock – Dave Cochrane and guides in the Bugaboos are excited to offer a brand new glacier hike based out of the Bugaboo lodge. This stunning trek allows hikers to get up close and personal with the world famous granite spires that dominate the view from the lodge.  Guests will fly by helicopter to the boundary of Bugaboo Provincial Park where they will unload and prepare for an epic hiking adventure right into the heart of the park. Traveling across a blanketed glacier and winding beneath towering granite rock spires, the day is accompanied by unmatched panoramic views. The spires and surrounding glaciers that carved them out are a geological marvel, making this hike a mind-blowing experience.

Finishing up the last of "lodge training" this week, CMH staff were able to experience this hike first hand.  Exhilarated from the day, one of our returning lodge staff said, “This is one of the most amazing hikes I have ever experienced. Spending a day exploring the glacier and wandering beneath these peaks, it was as if I was a privileged guest in Mother Nature’s most magnificent Cathedral. Those towering spires left me completely breathless and awestruck. You really have to experience it to understand how overwhelmingly powerful it is. I will never forget today.” Check out this picture and more photos, taken by CMH guide Lyle Grisdale. 

CMH staff in Pernicular Pass 

CMH Bugaboos: CMH staff taking a break on a Bugaboos glacier walk in Pernicular Pass. The two towers are located in Pernicular Pass. July 8, 2012. Photo credit: Lyle Grisdale

This guided hike requires no previous experience, just a descent level of fitness for a day of solid hiking. With the Bobbie Burns already welcoming guests and the Bugaboos first trip beginning on July 12, there is still time to add this adventure into your summer schedule. Don’t miss your chance to explore these amazing mountains.  Our guides are really excited to share the amazing new areas they have scoped out. When they are jazzed up, you know it will be an amazing summer.

For more information or questions about an exciting summer adventure trip, visit our website or contact CMH Reservations at 1-(800) 661-0252 to book your space.

Family Hiking: How to know if your kids are ready to hit the trails

  
  
  

Family Hiking with CMH Summer AdventuresIt's a question we hear quite often "How old do my kids need to be to go hiking?"  And our response: Any age will do!

Whether you are packing your infant or toddler in a carrier and carrying the load yourself, or encouraging your pre-schooler to walk 'up here, just around the next corner to the next rock' before your next break, kids are always ready and love to get out there.  And what better example can we set for our children than by showing them that it is fun and it feels good to get outside and explore.

Kids of all ages have loads of energy to burn and are normally quite happy to spend a few hours chasing squirrels, jumping over rocks and roots and checking out the bugs.  Like our neighbor's dog, our kids tend to put on more miles than we do on a walk or a hike as they run ahead, run back to tell us some crazy story and run ahead again.

Keep your own expectations in check and look to your kids to signal when it's time to stop for a break or turn for home.  Another helpful hint: Don't underestimate the power of chocolate!

For some additional tips on hiking with kids and some great suggested hikes in the Banff area, click here to watch this video of CMH Summer Adventures' Ellen Slaughter on Calgary's Breakfast TV.

Do you hike as a family?  Share any tips you have for successful outings with us in the comments section below!

Photo: A dad and his kids enjoying an above-the-world heli-hike on a Bugaboo Family Adventure with CMH by Topher Donahue.

iKids and Nature - can we find a balance?

  
  
  

“No screens,”  he said bluntly.
“What?” I replied.
“No screens.”

With young children of my own, I had asked a friend of mine, Michael, who works as a “life coach” helping adolescents and their parents, what he felt was the biggest issue for families these days. 

teenagers outdoor adventure

Michael didn’t even pause before explaining himself: “Keep them away from screens as long as you can.  For some reason, kids don’t do well processing their world through computer screens - of all sorts.  The feedback is too fragmented and they don’t learn to work through issues.”

His words have stayed with me, but I don’t know what to do about them.  The advantages of a digitally connected family are obvious.  I want to know where my kids are, if they change plans, if there’s a problem, and if they want to get ahold of me.  I also see that the modern world orbits around a touch screen to the point of overcrowding the available bandwidth; and families, already a threatened institution in the western world, don’t need another reason to avoid spending time together. 

I want my kids to use technology, but I don’t want it to stunt their interpersonal skills.  I hope they’ll learn to filter the buckets of worthless information online from the golden kernels of learning, opportunity, and self-improvement.  I don’t want to hide them from the world, but I don’t want to have a text-based relationship with them either.

I know I’m not alone.  I’d guess many parents are in a similar quandary. 

My only strategy is this: immersion in nature at every opportunity.  For me, the natural world - be it going fishing, or hiking up a spectacular mountain ridge - makes the screen-based parts of life seem incredibly shallow.  When you’re surrounded by 365 degrees of natural stimulation tickling every sense known to man, suddenly a palm-sized touch screen seems like a pretty insignificant window on the world.

A progressive school in the United States, featured in Richard Louv’s bestselling book Last Child in the Woods, intentionally avoids computer-based school work until high school.  The school gives them a break from, as Louv explians, “the electronic impulses coming at them all the time, so their sensory abilities are more open to what is happening naturally around them.” 

The specifics don’t seem so important.  Be it an unforgettable guided mountain adenture, or just playing catch in the nearest park, the natural world offers something that the computer world doesn’t even come close to providing. 

Computers are great.  My wife and I use them every day.  Our kids like them too.  I don’t plan to lock up my screens, but I do plan to give them every opportunity to see that the sweetest experiences the world has to offer don’t come from a computer screen.

What do you think? Are screens getting in the way of your relationship with your children?

Photo of teens finding their own bandwidth on a CMH Summer Adventure.

CMH Summer Adventures Announces Educational Speakers for summer hiking trips

  
  
  

With the success and popularity of last year’s Educational Speakers Series on several summer adventures, CMH has once again pulled together an outstanding line-up of keynote speakers to enrich and entertain our summer hiking guests.  Some of the most spectacular scenery known to man, challenging hikes, easy walks, mountaineering, gourmet mountain cuisine, comfy accommodations and now this speaker series come together to ensure a spectacular journey for both the body, mind and soul. 

 CMH Summer Adventures Speaker Series Wade DavisJuly 24-27, 2012: Heli-Hike in the breathtaking Bugaboo mountain range of Western Canada with National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Wade Davis.  Davis, an anthropologist, botanist, photographer, author and poet and a “passionate defender of all life’s diversity” is a wonderful storyteller and will pique guests’ curiosity as they ramble amid the majestic Bugaboo Spires, where Davis spent time in his youth.  Back at the Bugaboo Lodge, he will give his acclaimed Massey Lectures presentation, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
  • August 5 – 8, 2012: National Geographic Author and editor Marybeth Bond, a leading expert and advocate of women’s travel and author of 11 books, including the best-sellers 50 Best Girlfriends Getaways in North America, A Women’s World and Gutsy Women, leads this Heli-Hiking escape at CMH’s Bobbie’s Burns lodge.  Marybeth and her daughter share the story of the 3,114-mile bike ride they took in 2010 from San Francisco to New York for the National Osteoporosis Foundation.  This is an ideal setting for women to reconnect and have fun with those who have had a significant impact on their lives – be it a mother, godmother, aunt, sister, or friend. 
  • SOLD OUT: August 8 – 11, 2012: Adventurer and world traveler Brian Keating has led some 80 expeditions to some of the planet’s most wildlife-rich corners.  The host of the Discovery Channel’s Going Wild with Brian Keating joins his wife Dee to lead an entertaining (and sometimes hilarious) Family Adventure out of the Bobbie Burns Lodge for kids of all ages.  Brian and Dee are superb storytellers and their tall but true tales and evening video presentations are CMH Heli-Hiking highlights. 
  • CMH Summer Adventures Speakers Series, Eric LarsenAugust 26 – 29, 2012: Renowned polar explorer Eric Larsenreturns to CMH again this year for a story-rich escape in the Bugaboos.  Larsen, the first person to reach both the North and South poles and the summit of Everest in the span of a year, shares his harrowing and amusing tales with CMH guests.  Back at the lodge, Larsen will present Into the Heart of Cold – a bracing account of this epic expedition.
  • September 7 – 10, 2012: Join grizzly bear expert Michael Proctor in the Bugaboos for daily hikes and walks filled with ursine lore, as well as insights into his research with the Trans-border Grizzly Bear Project.  A lively presentation back at the lodge will show how the team uses DNA as a tool to understand grizzly bear ecology.  Presented in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), 10% of the trip cost will go directly to the NCC for the protection of ecologically sensitive lands. 

The beauty of these CMH Summer Adventures is the added value - these trips don't cost a penny more to enjoy. Just book your space on one of these trip dates and you can hike, walk, climb, or amble along side these amazing and facinating keynote personalities.\

To learn more, contact CMH Reservations at 1.800.661.0252.

4 lessons kids learn outdoors that school can’t provide

  
  
  

Spending time in the natural world gives kids a powerful tool they can take with them for the rest of their lives - a sort of personal barometer that uses life’s pressure’s to sense the storms before they arrive. 

After paying my dues as an outdoor educator, a climbing guide, and a father, here’s a quartet of the rewards I’ve seen kids reap from spending intimate time with nature

kids outdoor learning
1. Overcoming seemingly impossible challenges. Sure, every student encounters personality conflicts or challenging assignments, but the very structure of school is to present students with bite-sized steps that will result in an education.  Even extra-curricular activities and sports present challenges that are designed precisely for the age, size, and strengths of a given child. 

During outdoor activities, on the other hand, the goal can be overwhelming.  Hiking up a long mountain ridge is a perfect example.  You start out, and within a short time you are out of breath, your legs are tired, and you look up to see the summit appears even farther away than it did from the start!  All your internal calculators then come to the same conclusion: we’ll never make it.  Yet somehow, hours later, you do make it.  Mountain sports provide an incomparable cycle of facing the impossible and ultimately finding success.

2. Interpersonal conflict never pays.  In school, conflict often ends in a no-win scenario of who’s right, who’s wrong or who’s in charge. 

In the mountains, it is painfully clear that everyone is on the same team, and conflict will obviously not help anyone, so even very young children realize that conflict almost never results in a solution.  Who are you going to get mad at, the mountain?

3. Results and challenges are not always measurable.  In school, we take tests and get grades, play games and either win or lose, attend class and progress to the next grade. 

When outdoors, one part of an adventure gives you an indefinable, indescribable, incalculable ability to take on the next part.  For example, on a hike you approach a hill that looks nearly vertical from a distance, but once you are on the hill you realize the hill is not vertical after all, the footing is secure, and hiking up it is perfectly reasonable.  Then when approaching the next hill, an even bigger and steeper one, you have the experience from the previous hill to draw from and you know that, even though you’ve never seen this particular challenge before, that it will likely be a more reasonable challenge than it appears from a distance. 

4. Complaining doesn’t solve problems.  Some students (and parents for that matter) learn to use general complaints as a way to work the system without actually facing the root cause of a problem.  

Let’s say you are on a world-class hike in the Canadian Rockies with a mountain guide and your heels are beginning to hurt from a new pair of boots you just bought before the trip.  The problem solving method would be to tell the guide, “my heels are hurting.”  The guide stops, pads your heels, the problem is solved, and you continue hiking through some of the world’s most spectacular mountains.  If you complain without solving the problem, your feet hurt more and you have less fun. 

As one experienced parent said, "Complaining doesn't make the weather better, the trail shorter or the food magically appear."

At the heart of many legendary outdoor programs, including NOLS, Outward Bound, and our own CMH Family Adventures, is a quest to give kids and young people the opportunity to learn from the outdoors in a fun, safe, professionally managed environment.  While our CMH Family Adventures are primarily a memorable and fun holiday for the the entire family rather than a traditional outdoor education program, the mountains are still great teachers and most kids leave the CMH Lodges with a whole new respect for their world and their own family.

Photo of sibling interaction, during a week in at CMH Bugaboos when every parent and child in the lodge had the best trip of their lives, by Topher Donahue.

The misunderstood world of Bugaboos glacier hiking

  
  
  

We can thank the world-famous and notoriously dangerous Khumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest for giving us the impression that hiking on a glacier is an extreme sport where you take your life in your hands and at any moment a crevasse might open up beneath your feet. 

In reality, many glaciers have vast areas where it is safe to explore without ropes or technical training.  The Bugaboos in British Columbia, a sub range of the greater Canadian Rockies, is one of the best and most accessible places in North America to experience user-friendly glacier hiking.  

While we think of ice as being slippery, quite often glacier ice is a mix of rock, sand and ice that provides excellent friction and makes for easy walking.  Below, hikers cross the otherworldly beauty of the Malloy Glacier.

glacier hike rock

The small lakes that form below glaciers are called tarns, and the water in tarns is often coloured grey or blue by the glacial silt that forms from the grinding of stone deep within the ice.  Here, a hiker walks between two tarns below the Crescent Glacier.

bugaboos crescent tarn

Being on a glacier feels a little like a voyage at sea; the patterns that form in the snow under the hot alpine summer sun take on the patterns of open water.  Here, a hiker enjoys lunch on a rock floating on the Crescent Glacier.

glacier hike lunch
Besides having a professional watching out for your safety, the best thing about traveling with a mountain guide is that everything is more fun.  Here, on a small, safe snowfield near the Vowell Glacier, two families take the advice of their guide to enjoy a bit of bum sliding on their rain jackets while surrounded by the splendors of the Bugaboo Spires.  

sliding glaicer fun
Hiking on glaciers is one of the lesser known, but most unique aspects of CMH Summer Adventures.  In fact, CMH Lodges may be the only place in the world where North Americans can go, in just a long weekend of adventure travel, and experience hiking on remote glaciers by day - and by night relax in a comfortable, remote lodge eating gourmet food and luxuriating in a spa.

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