Focusing on the Wilderness

It’s no secret that the boreal habitat in Manitoba is breathtaking. But when it comes to capturing that beauty on camera, it takes a certain eye and talent.

Guy Lichter has got that on speed dial.

eagleThis Manitoba wildlife photographer makes an effort to get out to the Whiteshell Provincial Park at least once a month for ten months of the year, avoiding the busier seasons of July and August. Lichter had a wide array of beautiful wildlife photography from the Whiteshell and all over Manitoba, which goes to show his true passion for shooting in the wild. Continue reading

The Silent Slalom Star of the Whiteshell

It’s a fantastic sight to see a slalom water skier cutting up a glassy calm lake, usually in the rising sun or the quiet of the evening, kicking up a wall of water with each turn and quickly zipping back across the wake. In the Whiteshell, this might be a less common sight in comparison to other water sports such as wakeboarding, wakesurfing, tubing etc. So it may come as a surprise to some to know that a professional water skier started her career in the Whiteshell and is now one of the top 10 female slalom skiers in the world. Experience the Whiteshell talks to Geena about starting out in the Whiteshell, travelling the world, and why she will always keep coming back to her roots.

1291423_10151713533411130_174525454_nThe name Geena Krueger is well-known in the water skiing world. She has travelled all over the world for tournaments, has several titles in the sport, is one of the top ten female slalom water skiers in the world, and is currently ranked third in Europe. It all started at her family cabin on Star Lake, in the Whiteshell Provincial Park.

Geena’s first experience skiing was at the family cottage on an island at Star Lake. She learned to ski at a very young age when her dad propped her up on his own skis.

“My very first memory I remember going on his skis and then I started going off the Star Lake beach on my own,” said Geena, who was only five years old when she got up on two skis. Then the next summer, at age six, she kicked off one ski and started slaloming around Star Lake.

Geena slalom skiing on Star Lake at age six.

Geena slalom skiing on Star Lake at age six.

In 1998, Geena’s family bought a cabin on Lake of the Woods (the Star Lake cabin belonged to Geena’s grandparents). On Lake of the Woods they were close neighbours to the people who owned Sportsman Marine & Ski in Winnipeg, who were the first to introduce the Kruegers to a slalom ski course and even gave them their slalom course because they didn’t use it anymore.¬† The Kruegers set up the course in a quiet bay on Lake of the Woods, close to their cabin.

Geena says she was about 12 or 13 years old when she started going through the slalom ski course, and she did her first tournament at Betula Lake in the Whiteshell.

“That was my first tournament, I was so nervous,” she said. “And then I did a Manitoba record, I didn’t even know what I was doing.”

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First tournament, breaks a record….. No big deal. But it was the start of what would soon become a professional career for Geena. From there she started doing a few more tournaments and then went to Rollins College in Winterpark, Florida. That’s where Geena became really serious about skiing. Geena chose to go to Rollins College because she knew that’s where she could continue to progress her water skiing career.

“Orlando is like central-water skiing, it’s like golfing,” she said. “If you’re a pro golfer, you’re going to go to Florida, if you’re a pro water skier, you’re going to Florida. Once you’re there it has all the best coaches in the world, best lakes, and best facilities.”

“Once you get into that envirnoment where there’s people around you that are taking it seriously, you get more competitive and it pushes you. And at that point, I knew I definitely wanted to do this professionally.”

1370283_10151713533661130_1606517052_nAlong with slalom Geena also does trick and jump skiing. Slalom, which is her strength and her personal favourite, involves skiing through a course that consists of six buoys, with an entry gate and an exit gate. For slalom, the maximum speed for women is 34 miles/hr or 55 km/hr. Once you complete the course at maximum speed, you keep shortening the rope length, making it more challenging to turn sharp and cut across the wake in time to get around next buoy. Trick skiing is based off a point system that involves two 20 seconds passes to do as many tricks as you can. Jump skiing is based off the distance of the jump.
1388102_10151713533696130_196526222_nWater skiing has given Geena the opportunity to do what everyone dreams of: Travelling the world to do what you love most. In March she skied at a pro tournament in Melbourne, Australia, and at another one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in June. She recently received a bronze medal and the Europe and Africa Championships in Greece, and is heading to her first Open World tournament in Chile at the end of November.

Geena (far right) on the podium at the Europe and Africa Championships in Greece.

Geena (far right) on the podium at the Europe and Africa Championships in Greece.

Geena skiing on Star Lake - Summer 2013.

Geena skiing on Star Lake – Summer 2013.

All this world travelling doesn’t stop Geena from coming back to visit and ski at the place where it all started: in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. She says she will continue to return to the Whiteshell and Lake of the Woods every summer.

“I have so many memories here,” said Geena. “I don’t think anyone understands being out at the lake until you’ve actually been here. I’ve been to so many places in the world and I always come here and it’s just so peaceful; I love it here.”

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Day Tripper

Freelance videographer and Creative Communications advertising student Stefanie Cutrona shares why a few day trips to Falcon Lake this summer have her calling Falcon, ‘the happiest place in Manitoba’.

Story and photos by Stefanie Cutrona.

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Up until this summer, I could count on my fingers how many times I’d been to the lake. My family doesn’t have a cottage anywhere and I wasn’t friends with people who did either, so I never had a reason to go. But this summer, I visited Falcon Lake in the Whiteshell for the first time (and several times after) and it’s become one of my favourite places to spend my down time when it’s hot out.

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On a good day, it’s only an hour and a half drive, perfect for a day trip. You’re far enough away from the city to feel like you’ve actually gone somewhere, but you don’t feel obligated to stay the night because you haven’t spent half the day driving there. What I love about Falcon is, while it’s a lake, it’s also a town with stores and places to eat and you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. The beach is lovely: you can actually lay in the sand and go swimming without having to step on gravel and rocks. No offence to Gimli: your town is great, but your beach hurts my feet.

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Once you’ve decided you’ve gotten enough sun, you can head to one of the golf courses (regular and mini!) or grab a bite at one of the restaurants or food stands. Our go-to place for dinner is Popeye’s – they have the best thin crust pizza you’ll ever have. Last time my boyfriend and I went, we took our pizza to this little spot with picnic benches and ate our dinner right in front of the lake. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Spending my days at Falcon Lake was definitely my favourite part of summer break. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend you go and check it out.

Stefanie Cutrona is an advertising major in the Creative Communications program at Red River College and the founder and videographer of Little Bird Films. Check her out here: http://stefspeaks.com/ or follow her on Twitter, @stefspeaks.

Wilflife of the Month: The Loon

There’s nothing that says lake living more than the lonely call of a loon on a glass calm evening. With summer nearing an end, there won’t be much longer that we will be able to hear that beautiful sound. Which is why we are featuring wildlife photographer Anne Klassen’s stunning loon images in our ‘Wildlife of the Month’ feature:

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Riding the Storm.

Storms at the lake: Some find them thrilling, some find them beautiful, some find them scary.

However you feel about them, Mother Nature put on a crazy storm in the Whiteshell last night. Here’s some shots as it drifted past Caddy Lake.

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If you have taken any great storm photos or footage from the Whiteshell, we’d love to see them! Send your photos to whiteshell.lakes@gmail.com

– Photos by Marney Blunt

Whiteshell Through the Lens: Anne Klassen Wildlife Photography

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Whether it’s a bald eagle soaring through a bluebird sky, a wolf running across a frozen snow-covered lake, or three tiny black bear cubs scrambling up a tree, the breathtaking photo opportunities in the Whiteshell Provincial Park are second to none. If there’s anyone who knows how to capture these moments through a camera lens, it’s Manitoba wildlife photographer Anne Klassen.

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Anne Klassen’s passion lies in tracking down different forms of wildlife for the perfect photo opportunity. The self taught photographer got into wildlife photography as a hobby about 15 years ago, although she’s had a strong interest in it her entire life.

The Whiteshell Provincial Park is Klassen’s #1hotspot to capture these once-in-a-lifetime moments. While she isn’t a cottager in the Whiteshell, Klassen always stops in year round’ to visit her favourite remote photography locations. Dressed in camouflage and sitting in a blind for hours on end, Klassen finds tracks these photo opportunities much like a hunter, except the only shooting going on is through a camera lens.

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Out of all the wildlife Klassen has come into close contact with, her all-time favourite animal to photograph are black bears in the Whiteshell. You may have seen some of Klassen’s black bear photography prints available for purchase at Keystone Resort in West Hawk Lake. If you are interested in purchasing any prints of Klassen’s photos, give her a call at 1-(204)-224-5188 or send her an e-mail at chico@mts.net.

¬†Experience the Whiteshell¬† will be showcasing Klassen’s work in our ‘Wildlife of the Month’ feature. Be sure to check back each month to see what incredible moment in the Whiteshell this wildlife photographer has captured.

Article by Marney Blunt, Experience the Whiteshell editor.