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Banff, Canmore & Area

Building 93 North

By: Nicky Pacas

Think of the coolest thing you’ve ever made. Maybe it’s the Christmas decoration you crafted in kindergarten that your mom still hangs on the tree. Maybe you’ve brewed some drinkable beer out of containers stored in your basement. Maybe you built a shelf that from afar, doesn’t look too crooked.

Yeah, your cool creations are pretty legit. But your cool creations are nowhere near as cool as what Max Flowerday and Sam McEwen are making.

Sam McEwen (L) and Max Flowerday (R) at their shop in Canmore, AB. Photo: Mikey Stevenson

Building 93 North

Highway 93 North is one of the most scenic highways in the world. It navigates through two national parks and connects Lake Louise with Jasper. It’s as infamous for its breathtaking views as it is for suboptimal driving conditions in the winter. It took 600 men ten years to build the road (most of it was completed by horse and hand because there was only one tractor per crew). And since its completion in 1940, the highway, also known as the Icefields Parkway, has been a hotspot for sightseeing, wildlife encounters, and as the starting point for some of the best mountain adventures the Canadian Rockies offer.

It’s also the inspiration for the name of Flowerday’s and McEwen’s burgeoning business, 93 North Skis.

Operating out of a small shop in Canmore, AB, Flowerday and McEwen are handcrafting skis. Both are mechanical engineering graduates from Queen’s University with backgrounds in ski racing. To say they’re still passionate about skiing would be an understatement.

The seed for 93 North Skis was planted when Flowerday and McEwen would go backcountry skiing together: conversations on the up-track about what makes a good ski became the catalyst to McEwen’s research on actually building skis. Then, as Flowerday puts it, “we met for a beer and we made a list of everything that we would need [to make our own skis].” A partnership was built.

Constructing skis initially began as a hobby. Working together in the evenings and on weekends, the pair would develop plans for building skis; they’d talk about it, and then they’d do some work. But, like with most hobbies, work and life would take over and the project would get dropped for a little while before its seductive charm would woo them back into production.

In July 2015, the first prototype was made and they tested it on glaciers before refining and reworking their ideas into other prototypes. Cut to a year later, and McEwen and Flowerday made the executive decision to leave their engineering jobs to pursue ski production fulltime. Originally, they planned to work in Calgary, but after considering the best fit for their business, a serendipitous opening of a shop space in Canmore pulled them westward. In September 2016, the team behind 93 North Skis had moved to Canmore, and by December, the products they made as hobbyists were transforming into something professional.

With the transformation from hobby to profession now complete, Flowerday and McEwen are building some seriously good skis. The Andromeda and Andromeda 166 are versatile skis designed for the variable conditions of the Rocky Mountains. Primarily off-piste skis with the capability to hold an edge on-piste, the Andromedas handle ice, wind-swept slopes, and powder—they’re durable, but they perform well. In other words, you can have your Andromeda cake and eat it, too.

It’s not by chance that the skis work so well in the Rocky Mountains; Flowerday and McEwen tested different materials in their prototypes and ultimately decided on constructing a ski with a maple core. The maple is durable, but lively. It is a consistent wood with minimal defects and a dense grain structure that ensures strong binding retention. The p-tex used as the sidewall material was specifically chosen because of its performance in cold weather (ABS plastic gets brittle in the cold), and poplar has been added to complement the maple. And though it doesn’t take 600 men 10 years to complete a pair of 93 North skis, it does take Flowerday and McEwen about ten man-hours to handcraft each set.

Sam McEwen and Max Flowerday working on a pair of skis.
Photo: Mikey Stevenson

Max Flowerday at work on a pair of 93 North skis.
Photo: Mikey Stevenson

The thoughtfulness in the construction and design of the Andromedas isn’t something you can easily see (it is something you can feel). But if you had to look for something indicative of precision and expertise, look no further than the artwork on the skis. Local artist Emily Beaudoin (@emily.beaudoin) was chosen by McEwen and Flowerday to create the top sheet designs for the Andromeda and the Andromeda 166. Her precise line drawings and integrated watercolours are a callback to artwork from a contemporary world of minimalist designs. Even if you’re not a skier, you could take a pair of skis home just to hang on the wall.

A pair of 93 North skis with art by Emily Beaudoin. Photo: Mikey Stevenson

Working with Beaudoin is only one of the ways that 93 North Skis is keeping things local. By establishing relationships with local guides and athletes, McEwen and Flowerday have set themselves up to be in Canmore long term. And like most locals, they’re super friendly and want you to pay a visit to their shop; they’ll show you their process and let you know how you can demo a pair of skis. You can even sign up for one of their ski workshops and build your own set of skis (just watch your cool factor increase when you replace your shoddy shelf with some sweet boards).

Visit 93NorthSkis.com to get in touch with Flowerday and McEwen or to read more about their hand crafted skis. You can also visit one (or all) of the retailers selling 93 North skis so that you can take advantage of the winter that has finally graced us with its presence.

93 North Retailers:

Ski West in Calgary
Vertical Addiction in Canmore
Pure Outdoors in Jasper
Soul Ski and Bike in Banff
Ernie’s Sports Experts in Grand Prairie

The photos in this story were taken by Mikey Stevenson. To see more of his photography, visit his website here.

Take a look at the Canadian Rockies

Our first ever magazine cover contest was a smashing success! We received an incredible 239 submissions from 29 photographers. After we chose our cover (and our Last Look on the final page by Bryce Brown –see below), we reached out to everyone who submitted to the contest and asked if they would allow us to showcase some of their work. Read on to see a few of our favourite entries and you’ll understand just how hard our selection for the cover photo really was!

Bryce Brown

@brycebrownimages

www.brycebrownimages.ca

Kahli Hindmarsh

@kahliaprilphoto

www.kahliaprilphoto.com

 

Pam Jenks

https://500px.com/jenksphoto

 

Elnaz Mansouri

@elnaz555

www.elnazmansouri.com

 

Leslie Price

@leslieprice1121

 

 

Brad Orr

@wbradorr

www.bradorr.ca

Tyler Parker

@tylerparkerphotography

Kyla Black

@gatheringdustphotography

www.gatheringdustphotography.com

 

Mike Hopkins

@mikehopkinsphotography

www.mikehopkinsphotography.com

 

 

Of course this list only scratches the surface of the work of these photographers and all of the incredible photography here in the Canadian Rockies. If you are dying to see more mountains, sunsets, skies and wildlife (who isn’t?) we’ve got you covered online (@whererockies)!

Thank you to everyone who submitted and keep an eye out for future contests!

A Toast to Craft Beer and Local Liquor

By Keili Bartlett

Something’s brewing in the Canadian Rockies, and it’s not just the bubbling hot springs. Local businesses have tapped into the fresh (and cold!) glacier-fed waterways to produce a more alcoholic type of liquid.

Park it here. Gleaming stills and tanks are prominently positioned for all to see at Park Distillery.

Park it here. Gleaming stills and tanks are prominently positioned for all to see at Park Distillery.

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Canada 150: Reflections on People, Place and What the Country Means to Me

By Jack Newton

Canada, now celebrating its 150 anniversary, has been ‘my home and native land’ for 61 years. Indeed, I have fond memories of attending Canada’s 100th birthday celebrations at the Expo ’67 world fair in Montreal. Was that really 50 years ago?

Milestones provoke contemplation, and so I pause to reflect on the meaning of Canada. Laudable Canadian virtues include civility, responsibility and the rule of law. But I believe that our country is defined first and foremost by geography. And I have seen the glory.

Canoeing on a glacier lake in the Rockies. Can it get more Canadian? Photo by Travel Alberta.

Canoeing on a glacier lake in the Rockies. Can it get more Canadian? Photo by Travel Alberta.

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Indoor Activities in the Canadian Rockies

By Where Writers

Too cold outside? Need a break from skiing? There’s another frontier to discover in the Canadian Rockies: the great indoors. Wind down or rope up with these favourite indoor activities in Canmore, Banff and Jasper.

indoor activities in the Canadian Rockies, things to do in the Canadian Rockies

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Bow Valley’s Best Après Ski Entertainment

By Naomi Witherick & Keili Bartlett

There’s nothing better than ending a perfect day on the hill with some après ski antics. Start with live music at Bow Valley ski resorts, then catch indie film screenings or hang out with the locals at themed pub nights.

Banff Entertainment

(more…)

5 Places to Discover Bow Valley Art

By Where writers

Add some culture to your Bow Valley vacation with these art galleries, exhibits and displays in Banff and Canmore.

Canmore, Banff, museums, galleries

(more…)

What to do in the Canadian Rockies in Winter

By Where Writers

There are loads of things to do in Banff and Jasper national parks in the winter. Take a break from the ski hills to discover snowshoeing tours, ice walks, dogsledding, tobogganing and the best spots for a cozy fire pit picnic.

Canadian Rockies activities, Canadian Rockies things to do (more…)

Experience the Out of this World

Sep. 13, 2016
By Naomi Witherick

Enormous vehicles roved in the distance, large notched tires gripping the icy ground. White clouds hung low in the air, veiling the giant grey mountains behind them. Their misty edges touched the horizon, blurring the line between the sky and the frozen white ground.

This could have been another planet. But I was right here in the Canadian Rockies on the Glacier Adventure and Skywalk tour at the Athabasca Glacier.

Columbia Icefields, things to do in the Canadian Rockies

Walking on the icy surface of the Athabasca Glacier.

(more…)

5 Insider Camping Tips

Sep. 9, 2016
By Naomi Witherick

Planning a camping trip in the Canadian Rockies but new to the wilderness? Take some advice from local pro Tom Coker.

Canadian Rockies camping tips

Coker appeared on Woods Canada to compete for the title of “Canada’s Greatest Explorer”. Image by Woods Canada.

The Canmore-based outdoor enthusiast and contestant on this summer’s Woods Canada knows what he’s talking about. As well as his recent appearance on the show, Coker has diploma in outdoors activities. (more…)

Top Things to Do in the Bow Valley

Aug. 30, 2016
By Where writers

The Bow Valley has tons of things to do. From hiking trails with quaint tea houses to fishing, watersports and visiting cute husky puppies there’s something of everyone.

Bow Valley Things to Do

Photo credit: Paul Zizka

(more…)

Iconic Images

Aug. 22, 2016
By Naomi Witherick

Striking and unforgettable. The Canadian Pacific Railway’s posters have the same characteristics as the mountains they advertise. Both have been significant in the history of Canada’s tourism industry in their own right. And while you can’t roll up and pocket the peaks, you can at least take the vintage artwork home.

Banff, vintage poster

Attractive images promoted Banff and Lake Louise as stylish tourist destinations. Photo courtesy of About Canada.

But what’s the story behind the posters? When the company then known as CP Rail finished the railway in 1885, it had successfully connected the whole of Canada. From Ontario to British Columbia (with additional lines in places like Quebec and Lake Superior), the network opened the potential for trade, commerce and major economic growth. (more…)