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Canadian Rockies Activities

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.

Summer Bucketlist: Top 10 Mountain Musts

By Kaitlyn Forde

Don’t have a bucket list for summer in the Canadian Rockies? Borrow ours!

1: Reach new heights: Ride Banff Gondola, Mount Norquay Chairlift, Lake Louise Gondola and Jasper Skytram for easy access to unbeatable views.

2. Snap a selfie at an iconic lake: Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Bow Lake and Maligne Lake.

Time to update your profile photo with a glacier-blue background. Photo by Travel Alberta

Time to update your profile photo with a glacier-blue background. Photo by Travel Alberta

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The Canadian Rockies From Above: A Helicopter Tour

By Naomi Witherick

Nursing half a cup of coffee in a heliport felt weird. Here I was doing something I did every day, minutes before a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

My stomach was full of butterflies and complimentary coffee as I boarded a helicopter for the first time. Photo by: Naomi Witherick

My stomach was full of butterflies and complimentary coffee as I boarded a helicopter for the first time. Photo by: Naomi Witherick

(more…)

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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Age-Old Adventures: Icy Discoveries

By Naomi Witherick

Before hotels and ski hills, the Canadian Rockies were known, loved and lived in by First Nations. Frozen lakes were their hunting ground, snowy foothills their home. Connect with the mountains like the first inhabitants with unique experiences that resonate Aboriginal heritage.

Indigenous people have traversed Canadian landscapes for centuries. From Inuit nations in the north to the Plains tribes in southern Alberta, each had their own beliefs and traditions that are still alive.

Experience Aboriginal life-ways for yourself. From museum visits and snowshoeing to ice fishing and folklore (below) there are loads of ways to connect with native heritage in the Canadian Rockies.

Canadian Rockies things to do, Canadian Rockies ice walks, what to do in winter in the Canadian Rockies

Image: Parks Canada – Ryan Bray

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Age-Old Adventures: Sleds and Sleighs

By Naomi Witherick

Before hotels and ski hills, the Canadian Rockies were known, loved and lived in by First Nations. Frozen lakes were their hunting ground, snowy foothills their home. Connect with the mountains like the first inhabitants with unique experiences that resonate Aboriginal heritage.

Indigenous people have traversed Canadian landscapes for centuries. From Inuit nations in the north to the Plains tribes in southern Alberta, each had their own beliefs and traditions that are still alive.

Experience Aboriginal life-ways for yourself. From museum visits and snowshoeing to sleigh riding and dogsledding (below) there are loads of ways to connect with native heritage in the Canadian Rockies.

Canadian Rockies activities, what to do in the Canadian Rockies in winter

Image: Jeff Bartlett – Tourism Jasper

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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…)

Age-Old Adventures: Winter Walks

December 2, 2016
By Naomi Witherick

Before hotels and ski hills, the Canadian Rockies were known, loved and lived in by First Nations. Frozen lakes were their hunting ground, snowy foothills their home. Connect with the mountains like the first inhabitants with wintery walks that resonate Aboriginal heritage.

Age Old Adventures, Canadian Rockies First Nations, snowshoweing

Image: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka

(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…)

Best Ski Areas of the Canadian Rockies

Best Ski Areas in the Canadian Rockies

Best Ski Areas in the Canadian Rockies

The best ski areas of the Canadian Rockies are all around the region—we suggest you try them all!—so it is difficult to claim one is better than another. The truth is that some ski areas are best for families and some ski areas are best for hard-core enthusiasts. This handy slideshow guide fills you in on each ski area’s claim to fame, and let’s you pick the best ski areas for you and your travel companions.

Start the slideshow of the best ski areas of the Canadian Rockies »