Weekends in the Whiteshell

The temperatures are finally rising and spring is in the air…..  And so is the last chance to get in some awesome winter activities. The river trail in Winnipeg may be closed and the ice fishing shacks are off the Red River, but there are still tons of fun winter activities going on in the Whiteshell in the next few weeks!

This Saturday, March 15, is the 11th annual Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off. This year the all-species fishing derby has $40,000 in great prizes and cash! Some of the prizes include guided fishing trips, fishing gear & equipment, a Canada One travel trip for two, and a grand prize of $10,000. Back by popular demand is the hidden weight prize of $50,000. Be sure to head down to the ice tomorrow between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm to check out the derby if you haven’t already signed yourself up!

The pike that won the 2011 Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off.

The pike that won the 2011 Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off.

On the following weekend, Sunday, March 23, Falcon Ridge Ski Hill is having their final hurrah of the season with the Slush Cup 2014. Head on down to the ski hill to have a beverage, enjoy a chalet meal, and, most importantly, strap on your board or skis and hit the slush. Contact Falcon Ridge Ski Hill for more information. 393241_269924959727180_1795004112_n

Head on out to the Whiteshell for your  last chance of ice fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and other fun winter activities!

SNOWDANCE: Festival of Music and Winter

Falcon Ridge ski hill is gearing up to host the third annual SNOWDANCE Festival of Music and Winter again this year, and the date has been set for January 18 and 19 2014!
snowdance_1Music has long been a part of the Falcon Ridge Ski Hill experience, with a staff comprised of about three quarters touring musicians, and a year long concert series hosted at the resort, it only makes sense that the two worlds be combined in a ski hill winter music festival, and if we’re lucky all this music and dancing will appease the snow gods and we will be rewarded with a season of that white stuff we love so much!

Photo by Sabine Trégouët.

Photo by Sabine Trégouët.

January 18 & 19 will bring two days of concerts, festival style workshops featuring winnipeg favourites Nathan, Red Moon Road, the Sweet Alibi, Darwin Baker (of the Crooked Brothers), Beth Hamilton, as well as some local talent to include Brooke & Ben, the Heinrichs Maneuver, and a fiddle concert featuring students from the local school.

Photo by Cheyenne Rae Music Photography & Video.

Photo by Cheyenne Rae Music Photography & Video.

In addition to the music, folks visiting the festival will be able to enjoy downhill skiing and snowboarding, tubing, x-country skiing, ice skating, outdoor campfire and a bannock bake, snow sculptures, night tubing, great food from the on site kitchen, and an organized sauna and polar bear swim.

Photo by Sabine Trégouët.

Photo by Sabine Trégouët.

 Tickets for the weekend are $35 which include full access to the two days of music, a lift ticket, a night tubing pass, and all the outdoor fun you can dream up!  Individual day passes are also available.
For more info, go to the website at www.falconridgeski.com/snowdance.php, including a full lineup for the weekend, prices, and videos from last year’s SNOWDANCE!

Whiteshell Business: Falcon Trails Resort

Written by Emily Christie & Caleigh Christie.

960047_559212490834233_1781299275_nFalcon Trails is a family-run resort located at the southeast end of Falcon Lake which welcomes guests year round to enjoy private lake-front cabins with hot tubs, magnificent views, friendly people, and the beauty of the Boreal Forest and Precambrian Shield. It is a perfect mix of wilderness and rustic luxury. Owners and operators Barb Hamilton and Craig Christie first started building the resort in 1996 after teaming up with two other couples; Mike & Yuki Valasman and Rich & Lois Pettit, who worked together to dream up a business proposal of a year round resort which would provide a crutch to the struggling local ski hill. The resort accommodation would allow for visiting skiers to have a place to stay and thus make the ski hill operation a more viable business. Today, the ski hill and the resort operate in tandem and are run solely by Barb, Craig, their three daughters Emily, Caleigh, Brooke, and an amazing host of staff who contribute what has become a vibrant micro-community workplace.

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The resort embraces a progressive environmental ethic by striving to reduce their ecological footprint wherever possible. Some of the sustainable initiatives include:

  • All Natural Cleaning Products: we use non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products to maintain all our Falcon Trails and High Lake cabins.
  • Well-insulated cabin design to save heating energy.
  • Passive solar lighting utilizing large windows on the southern wall.
  • Cold-water washing with phosphate-free detergent for all laundry.
  • Composting and recycling program to minimize household waste.
  • Naturally focused landscaping embracing the local habitat.
  • Native plant garden.
  • Inspiring a love for the environment by getting people outdoors and in the woods!
High Lake Eco-Cabin.

High Lake Eco-Cabin.

One initiative that the resort is particularly proud of is the High Lake off-the-grid Eco Cabins which were the winners of the Tourism Manitoba Eco Tourism award in 2003. These four cabins which are located on High Lake, 2.5km from the rest of the resort boast incredible luxury in a very remote and private setting.

373911_176271789128307_1968856398_nThe cabin’s shared features include:

  • Built using largely reclaimed or local materials.
  • ‘Remote Access’ to avoid habitat destruction and to promote sustainable transport alternatives (walking, running, biking, cross country skiing).
  • Solar-powered electricity.
  • Gravity-fed water supply.
  • State-of-the art indoor composting toilets.
Whiskey Jack, the straw bale eco-cabin on High Lake.

Whiskey Jack, the straw bale eco-cabin on High Lake.

The latest two additions to the Eco Cabin rental fleet include a log and straw bale cabin. The log cabin which was built with the help of local swiss log builder Walter Keller is a beautiful, rustic cabin made for couples with a fantastic lookout over the lake, right from the master bed. The straw bale cabin, with an interior timber frame design, is a beautiful example of how an unconventional yet extremely smart and environmentally friendly building technique can also be luxurious and comfortable. Falcon Trails pursues these efforts to respect and sustain the environment for ourselves and future generations to live, work, and play.

395515_499700016749672_496207185_nIn recent years, the resort has become akin to Manitoba’s vibrant music scene.  As an intimate live music venue, playing host to many concerts from artists such as Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans, The Crooked Brothers, Red Moon Road, Fish and Bird, Ridley Bent, Scott Nolan, Oh My Darling, the F-Holes, and many more. In addition to this, the resort and its cozy little cabins have acted as recording studios for a handful of albums. To offset the lack of weekend music festivals in the winter Falcon Ridge Ski Hill has recently started hosting the “Snow Dance Music Festival” where people can come out, go skiing for the day and enjoy music workshops all the day through in the comfort of the warm chalet, with a cup of hot chocolate of course!

1470207_559211180834364_1889254026_nClearly Falcon Trails is about more than just cabin rentals.  It’s participation in music, outdoor recreation, community, environmental ethic, and hospitality makes for an excellent opportunity for folks to get out and explore, participate and really experience what the Whiteshell has to offer.

Photos by Emily Christie.

Whiteshell Business: South Moon Studio

After years of being a gypsy studio, travelling within the Whiteshell and South Eastern Manitoba, South Moon Studio has planted its roots in East Braintree. A unique and cozy studio nestled along the Boggy River is now home for a variety of classes and workshops, celebrating the visual and healing arts.

IMG_1715Built with love and a fiery passion for the arts Chrissy Sie-Merritt and Colin Sie designed and constructed a barn style studio with a small store, treatment room, and a large open space on the second floor.

Classes for all ages in yoga, dance, pilates, and a variety of art styles are offered by Chrissy Sie-Merritt and many other great instructors from all over Manitoba. Treatments for massage, reflexology, and reiki are available by appointment.

IMG_1870A dreamer that wishes to transform how we navigate our way through this world, Chrissy Sie-Merritt, dives into the subtle details of life. Inspired by the textures of all living things, Chrissy is drawn to explore the wonders of nature with paint on canvas. Gracefully dancing between the visual and healing arts world she has tapped into a sacred balance that lies within the healing powers of colour, creation, breath, and movement.

beach yogaAlthough roots have been planted, South Moon still travels throughout the Whiteshell hosting classes in Falcon, West Hawk, Caddy Lake, and Ingolf, Ontario. Regular summer yoga classes on the beach make for a beautiful and refreshing way to greet a summer day. Custom retreats or classes are available at your own cabin with your own family and friends for an intimate experience designed to your desire. Chrissy also runs an annual yoga retreat hosted by Falcon Trails Resort that fills up every year with guests from all over Canada. Plans are in the works for South Moon’s first yoga retreat in Costa Rica.

021Chrissy’s vision for South Moon Studio is to continue to grow a sacred place in which to promote artists all over Manitoba, to empower people to feel good in their own bodies and celebrate the unique creative spirit and expression of children and adults of all ages.

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For more information on South Moon Studio visit southmoonarts.com, e-mail southmoonarts@gmail.com, or call (204)-918-5359

You can huff and puff… But you won’t blow this straw bale house down.

Story by Caleigh Christie.

One year ago, my friends, family, and I set down the first of 200 straw bales that would soon become the walls of my new straw bale cabin. Today, the cabin (which is now known as ‘Whiskey Jack’) sits on the beautiful shore of High Lake ready to be rented as the latest addition to the Falcon Trails Resort Eco Cabin rental fleet.

558490_380758438661308_666270687_nWhen my parents (journey-WOman carpenter Barb Hamilton and Craig Christie) first approached me asking if I wanted to lead this construction project, I jumped at the opportunity. Under one condition… that we would step outside the box and try our hand at building with straw bales, an unconventional but extremely smart and environmentally friendly form of construction. Straw bale buildings are best known for their efficient insulation. Compared to a conventional home, which typically has around an R20 insulation rating, straw bale homes can have anywhere from an R35-50 rating. Often, people will be concerned with pest and fire problems when they first learn about these buildings. Studies conducted at the University of Manitoba have shown that straw bale buildings are less prone to these types of issues as mice tend to prefer the less dense fiberglass insulation of conventional homes and fires have a hard time catching on bales that are so tightly packed. The cement/lime stucco, which is applied to either side of the bale, both protects the bales from rain and water damage and acts as a type of desiccant, wicking up unwanted interior wall moisture and allowing it to flow to the outside of the building.

3700_380758381994647_2057800286_n3730_389412861129199_1054137917_n527255_380758865327932_686394917_nPresented with these facts, my parents became excited to take on the project with me. The building kicked off on the September long weekend of 2012 where we hosted a straw bale building workshop lead by Paul Reimer, my former high school english teacher. Twenty course participants, a lot of whom were friends, showed up to try their hand at straw bale building.

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The crew was quite eclectic; carpenters, blacksmiths, musicians, beekeepers, forest fire fighters, documentary film-makers, farmers, and even a falconer! We had a diverse skill set to say the least. Once the course was completed the “Straw bale Crew” (Brooke Christie, Kristine Askholm, Kurtis Ulrich, Benita Cleaver, Jesse Matas and I) camped out at the High Lake boat house and continued to work on the walls through the months of September and October to finish them up. The memories of working on Whiskey Jack for those two fall months last year are some that I will never forget. It doesn’t get much better than sharing meals, music, learning, and fun in such a beautiful setting with some of your closest friends.

578435_10152116928960567_1858546653_nMany months later, with the immense help from my parents and countless other friends, we now have a beautiful low-impact straw bale cabin for rent. I can’t wait to show the guests of Falcon Trails Resort how this unconventional building technique can offer efficiency, beauty, and comfort within the cabin setting.

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Fall Colours: Part I

Fall. It’s one of the most beautiful times of year in the Whiteshell. With warm temperatures and gorgeous changing colours, you couldn’t ask for a nicer fall than the one we’ve been having. Experience the Whiteshell is sharing the stunning fall time scenery in our Fall Colours photo series.

Photos by Emily Christie & Michael Jordan.

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Swamp Slogging.

More than 360 people were in Falcon Lake last weekend to take on a rugged trek that involved paddling, biking, hiking, and a whole lot of navigating through the wilderness. This trek is also known as Swamp Donkey, North America’s largest adventure race. Last Saturday 121 teams of three spent a full day canoeing, cycling, and bush-whacking through the back woods of Falcon Lake and High Lake. Swamp Donkey participant Warren Blunt shares his story about slogging his way to the finish line:

IMG_7133 copyThe morning dawned clear and cold as racers began to show up to the Falcon Lake Community Centre at the wonderful hour of 6:00 a.m. Having not registered the night before, there was plenty of running around to do. I could see frost on the ground as the racers convened on the behind the Falcon Beach School for the roll-call, which always promises to feature funny (and sometimes even cheeky) team names.

This was the first time that the race started with the bike portion which got underway by 9:00 a.m. I couldn’t help but miss the ceremonial bagpipes to signify the start of the 2012 race, but I digress. Having never started off with the bike portion before, it presented some its own set of challenges. Solid traffic from over 360 cyclists made it difficult to get separation, especially when fear of crossing the dividing line of the road meant disqualification (admittedly, I pushed that rule as far as it would bend). Getting ahead on the narrow (but gorgeous) trail following the southern shore of Falcon lake was even more difficult.

IMG_7143 copyEventually we made it to the High Lake cabins, where we happened upon mass confusion in trying to find the first check-point, which was supposed to be located at one of the cabins. It turns out, the ‘cabin’ was a mere shack just off the main path, and was not one of the fancy eco-cabins. Several racers that I had talked to after the race had made that mistake, apparently to the ire of the tenants. All the more reason to be on our merry way down the Red-Green trail and to the Falcon Trails Resort, where our canoe was waiting for us.

Upon piling into our canoe, the lack of practice this year (new team compared to last year) almost proved our downfall, and we had to adjust on the fly to avoid going for a swim. Although despite the cold start, that idea was most appealing at this point. We reached the portage to High Lake, only to get into my first ever portage traffic jam. After what seemed ages, we finally launched our canoe into High Lake probably 25 minutes later. Our next destination was the north shore, where we struck out on foot looking for out next checkpoints. After some confusion, we made it back to the canoe in time to qualify for the next portion of the race , which took us to the  eastern end of High Lake, now well into Ontario. This was, without question in my mind, the most difficult part of the race. These check points were located in unbelievably thick brush that made for very slow and tiresome work. We were able to find check points five  and six before getting concerned about being able to get out of there on time. Rumour has it, however, that you had to go for a swim to get to the seventh check point, darn!

We returned to our canoe at 4:00 p.m., and set off to reach the portage on the opposite end of the lake. Struggling hard to keep up with the light, fiberglass racing canoes in our aluminum tub, we made the other end of the lake in just under an hour. After the portage we were heading back across Falcon Lake to the ski hill to get on our bikes and boot it back to the Community Centre before the 6:00 p.m. deadline. For the sake of time, we decided not to bother with the final two check points but we were able to (painfully) make it back to the townsite with about 10 minutes to spare, 55-kilometres later. The banner at the end of the race was a very welcome site to behold.

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Tales From the Whiteshell

Question: What do you get when you put three talented musicians in a beautiful and inspiring place for a significant amount of time?

Answer: An album called Tales From the Whiteshell by Red Moon Road.

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Daniel Jordan, Sheena Rattai and Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner are the three musical geniuses behind Red Moon Road, and after spending much time in the Whiteshell, it was obvious that an album about the Whiteshell would soon be born.

“Daniel and I recorded some of RMR’s first songs out there (Whiteshell) and always thought of doing it officially in the future,” said Jordan. “When studio blues or frustrations rear their ugly heads, there is nothing like towering jack pines, blue water and soaring eagles to make everyone chill out.”

Tales From the Whiteshell was recorded at High Lake in the Falcon Trails Resort eco-cabins last March. The solitude of being tucked away peaceful in the High Lake cabins made it the perfect place for the band to produce a musical masterpiece.

“It provided a natural rhythm to the proceedings,” said Jordan.  “We woke up each morning, chopped wood to keep warm and heat the coffee.  Sheena got really good at chopping through the ice for water.  We would record all day until the solar power ran out shortly after dark, and then woke up bright and early each day to do it all again.  It’s great that no one’s cell phone really works out there, yet we were able to hook up enough Internet to send finished tracks to our producers in Winnipeg, and a fiddle player in Victoria.”

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The songs on Tales From the Whiteshell were all inspired by certain things from the lake. Halfway to Juniper is described as a sprawling instrumental about the journey out to ‘Juniper’, one of the cabins at High Lake (High Lake cabins are isolated and not accessible by road).

“Lots of ups and downs, dips followed by exhilarating crazy ascents on rocky cliffs, always weaving in and out of the towering pines, and sometimes, you even need a push or two,” described Jordan. “We feel the song truly captures the ever increasing excitement of the journey out to Juniper.”

Even some of the Whiteshell wildlife was an inspiration to Red Moon Road.

Mighty Glad You Came was something I heard from a little bird. Literally. Anyone who has ever been to the Whiteshell has heard the song of the white-throated sparrow,” said Jordan. “As this song is on constant repeat from about 6:30 a.m. till sunset during the summer.”

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One song on Tales From the Whiteshell is dedicated to a local business owner in the Whiteshell, who has provided great hospitality to the band.

“The song Craig’s Reel is even more tangibly tied to the region, being the romanticized biography of Craig Christie, the patriarch owner of Falcon Trails Resort,” said Jordan. “The Christie-Hamilton family (owners of Falcon Trails Resort) have been really kind to us, sharing their amazing way of life so generously, and Craig in particular seems completely at home in these woods and also happened to present a great song subject. The first verse goes like this:

The cold wind blows in the wintertime
The axe blade cuts a perfect line
The ski trail weaves through the towering pines
And the tall tales grow with the deepening snow

While Red Moon Road has travelled all over Canada, they still feel that no place compares to the Whiteshell Provincial Park.

“The country is full of beauty of 1,000 sorts,” said Jordan. “But there is something about wind scattering the sun on a pristine lake, blurring the reflections of the pine and carrying the scent of myriad of lake life that is pretty unbeatable.”

For more information on Red Moon Road, check them out here http://www.redmoonroad.com

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