Winter’s Passing

While many of the local folks are huffing out a big sigh of relief at the thought of warmer weather and snow melt, I feel a huge sense of loss.

I love winter, and everything that is entailed in living in a cold climate. Granted, it has been a busy few months, with visitors, snow sports and home chores, and I do feel grateful for some time to relax and reflect on this past season. However, along with the loss of routine, the cessation of winter brings on a nervous hesitation about what comes next. Change is in the air. Our world is ripe with possibilities … should we ignore the rain, chase the snow and head to the mountains for a last ski-hurrah? Rip off and replace the front porch? Get out the canoes and bicycles? Get out the taxes? Gods forbid – go to town??  … Suddenly, so many choices. Many of them influenced by March madness – A.K.A. cabin fever. Which along with getting high on too much maple syrup leads to a vacation in another way … but sorry, I digress.

No matter how distracted,  I know every season has it’s merits, and besides, the comforting reality is that in six months my world will narrow to a cozy white womb once more. 

Tempering all this emotional and physical disruption brought on by the ending of winter is my general awareness that society does not like to be affected by seasonal climates, and prefers to dumb us all down to a common denominator of the same generic physical activities and social strata. Since when did activities such as skiing and skating become outside the norm?  Since multi-national insurance companies decided so, is perhaps the answer. And Ontario’s winter cities, although few and far between, are not identified in the media for their differences, and applauded as winter destinations, even though cities in the province of Québec have been a success in this field.

Local reporters in the media take every variable of our ordinary weather as a disturbance to personal comfort, a shrieking chance to warn us all of the horrible risks of venturing out the door. On world-wide media, when our community is impacted by winter weather, the public face that we present to the world is negative, reactive and embarrassing. “Power out!” “Freezing in the Dark!” “Ice Storm!” “Whiteouts!” “Road Closure!” The public and highly exaggerated threat to the continuation of all necessary social services! ….Oh MY, how terrifying!

No wonder we northerners are regarded with pity when we travel anywhere south. It’s all in the way we are presented as a society; as needing to be kept safely inside, needing to take Vitamin D, needing to escape the dark and cold!

The provincial and regional government has a mandate to support and promote the tourism assets of Algoma. With the assistance and leadership of many positive advocates and business owners within the tourism sector, acclaim and awareness of what our region has on offer for outdoor activities is slowly being recognised. However, the City of Sault Ste. Marie fails miserably to support and acknowledge seasonal resources and established outdoor activities for its occupants. Even hockey is an indoor sport in this city! Recently the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Christian Provenzano, questioned the Economic Development Corporation, (a public NGO which supports economic diversification projects) about their partnership purchase of Searchmont Resort, which lies just outside the jurisdictional boundary of Sault Ste. Marie. Mr. Provenzano said that the E.D.C. should not have the approval for that venture from the city council. He also went on to make several very disparaging remarks about the village of Searchmont as well.

Such a partnership project should be supported and sought out, not questioned.  Attitudes such as this make our city fail in their intent to be a healthy society. Designating geophysical boundaries of city interests and attributes, ignoring outlying regions and refusing to acknowledge the value of the outdoor activities they offer to the city, such as park use, skiing and snowboarding, keeps this city from competing on the map as a world-class destination. It teaches our youth to be insular and cliché about what should interest and support them. Worse, our citizens and in particular, those children suffer poor health and limited resources for learning how to enjoy a full and active life in a location that has a variable and wide-changing climate.

Learning to ski is not an elitist sport, it is the privilege of every child that lives in a winter landscape. It is a necessity. Children should know that living in a winter city allows for enriching opportunities and activities that set us apart in advantage over more southerly cities.

All these things I ponder today as I watch the snow melt away, and I see the gradual erosion of an individuals’ own experience of place being replaced with indoor climate control and second-hand screen stories.  If there is such a thing as the collective unconscious, perhaps this also has effect on climate change. The more we present a hateful and frightened attitude towards winter, perhaps the less winter we will have to enjoy. And all those negative attitudes, held by insulting and insular city officials, and reactive weather forecasters, just works to make people feel they are apart from the environment, and at odds with the world we inhabit.

Our loss (of enjoyment and experience). Our collective sadness (at denying our culture). Our failure (to enjoy what our environment makes available for us).

…maybe I do need a little Vitamin D after all.



Published in: on March 17, 2016 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Waaaahh! …it’s over!

The 20th Annual Snowflea Telefest has been, and gone – yet we are still basking in the great bounty…of friendships, food, music, laughter, and the deep contented tiredness that comes from the physical challenge of donning a largesse of gear to co-exist with the elements of nature.

Kudos to all the happy, stalwart and impervious skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers who joined in for a mix of the above, and did not even complain about the incredibly strange and awkward medium we were all playing in.

Synonyms mentioned in passing reference included meringue, mashed potatoes, drywall paste, oatmeal, creme brulé (with glazed top), The Blob, slushies, and wet concrete. At no time did the material warrant being called “snow”! Yet the challenging conditions did not stop you from traversing this amazing backyard of viewscapes and verticals, using your own high speed quads and the occasional avalanche to move you on.

Many thanks to all participants, and our local retailers who gave us such incredible prizes to award your efforts with.
The Duke of Windsor Sport Shop, Algoma Bicycle Company, Velorution Bike and Ski, Searchmont Resort, and The Outpost at Searchmont. We are very grateful!

Katherine Wheatley entertained us musically with great style and skill and gave us an excuse to sit down for an hour after dinner on Saturday….. thanks also to Permafrost band members Rick Charbonneau, Kevin Lucas, Jason Willet and Jeffrey Hinich who carried the show onwards.

So many people help us in creating this fun event – last but not least I would like to thank Teija Aspegren who cooked up a tasty storm, Michelle LeDuc Fitton who pitched in on Saturday to save my day, Conor and Kim Mihell who led the tour, and Lyle Robinson, whose help this week has been indispensable.

…and thank you, Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick, for these sweet pictures!

Published in: on February 23, 2016 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  


Published in: on January 20, 2016 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

2016 – 30 years!?

Oooomph!! That’s a hard thing to believe!

30 years since this little guy showed up in our long winter’s night dreams, and helped us embark on this interesting venture. And …

“what a long strange trip it has been”! Telegraphic!

As Enn and I head into our 30th year as keen ambassadors for back country telemark skiing – (all right, it’s an obsession!) we are a little surprised to find ourselves still here! Well, of course there have been a few close calls, and yes, we’ve lost some dear souls from the slopes along the way, but … really? How incredibly lucky we are, even with this kind of behaviour out there in the wilds! Kudos to us!

Oh, hey, remember it wasn’t all easy like it is now, you young ‘uns have it all handed to you on a board now – we had to make our own gear up as we went along!

Skinny noodle wood skis…


…in Enn’s case ones he made himself, while working with Mauri Luomeranta at The Superior Ski Company.

…and these really REALLY long poles were needed to fend off the snow snakes and keep wild porcupines at bay … all sadly now extirpated from the woodlands …and the extensions also helped to test the depth of the snow in those deep drifts.

However there was this one time they weren’t long enough! – my pole was extended as far as it would go beneath me and there was no ground to be found! …if not for a trusty dog friend that came under my armpit and rescued me I would have suffocated.😦 It’s every man (and woman ) for themselves out there – and laughter is the best medicine they say! Even at the risk of your friends’ precious lives and limbs…

snowy grave….anyways maybe that will help you understand my mantra “Levity gets you up, and gravity gets you down”!

Oh, and what about those wonderful little leather slippers that were all the rage for backcountry? About as useful to a telemark turn as a plastic spoon is to ice-cream … the old leathers

But back then, things were simpler.

Your mom made you a hat, based on your favourite design Robin with Emme hat on …..and if you had lots of hair –

well,  then you didn’t need one!Enn with HAIR

Of course that was back in the day when it would snow for forty days and forty nights, and the power would go off for a week and there were no roads, only skis and horses…..and all the men had hair.

The one thing you do always need; to keep the mantra going around, the trails navigable, and remind you what you looked like back then – is your FRIENDS!

So hey out there, everyone – hope you’ve enjoyed this little celebration of the path we’ve been on together. Perhaps you can come on out to the 20th Annual Snowflea Telefest, February 19-21st 2016!  We will spin some yarns and tell tall tales of all the routes we’ve taken and the ones that we did not , still out there for us to discover.

Ski you on the slopes!




Trail Clearing October 24th, 20th Annual Snowflea coming soon!




October 8th, 2015the overlook, Goulais River


Dearest ___________,
I regret to say I have not dropped by this blog in a while.

Time not only slips – He stomps! …and all those quick links, like Facebook and tweets and Messenger are sad but useful substitutes still able to keep up to those seven-league boots that Time stomps around in.

So “here’s to” this obsolete yet good ol’ Lodge Blog. Please pretend it’s an honest to goodness letter, one with a stamp and a faint scent of the northern woods hovering about it. The mysterious stain at one end of the envelope is from being dropped in a puddle en route to the mail ladies’ van. You can even see where I started to write “CAN” instead of “USA” under your street address. That was your first clue that within lies a chain letter, mimeographed with a space left blank where I have written your name in by hand. That personal touch, you know!😉

However, even while aware that others are reading these same words, you are pleased to belong to an appreciated and important group of people who are friends of this little piece of paradise, home of Bellevue Valley Lodge. And Enn and I hope you are still interested in hearing our news; we relish yours, even if the postcards are few, and far between arrivals!

There is a cold wind in the air today – and rain, beautiful rain. The grey skies and mist are enhancing the palette of crimsons and flame orange of the forest, at peak colour right now. Our fall season is a month late, and I apologize for blithely telling people who inquired in the summer that the best colour to view this wonder is in September. I’m so sorry, but for thirty years it WAS! As well as slow in changing, this season has been gentle, no storms or wind to tear the trees apart, or make log-jams of the trails.

We have been taking advantage of these halcyon days, and working on many repairs and upgrades to the buildings and immediate yard. We are replacing the upper deck on the main house, and have installed a full cooking range in the chalet. Good news for the squirrels and the chefs! ….new front stairs, and a more gradual approach to the pond will make the sauna crowd happy, and new cupboards, counter and sink in the main kitchen make me a happier breakfast host! We’ve built a bonfire and seating area where Clancy used to hang out. Some other 21st century improvements include a better HearthStone wood stove in the chalet, and the ability to take payments by credit card or debit, instead of those paper things that came in a book… what was that called, anyways?
I still have to repair this website, but being outside is more enticing. We are excited to be going into the winter months mostly prepared and rested, anticipating our snow friends, old and new, and continuing to add to the ranks of the Telemark Tribe! Even Searchmont has caught the Tele-ski virus, the new management has great plans unfolding for the mountain, and is creating off-piste glades for the powder-lovers.

And appropriately, here at Bellevue Valley Lodge, the 20th Annual Snowflea Telefest is planned for February 20th, 2016. (…synchronistic or WHAT?😉
Reserve early, it’s a milestone for sure. It has been 20 years, and we are still counting …!
Coming up even sooner – at this time of year we go tromping the woods, clearing downfalls, branches and other snaggy things to make this incredible trail network for backwoods skiing one of a kind.
Please join us if you can in two weeks time – Saturday October 24th for our Lopp-It-Good weekend! Wield a saw, axe or armload, and we’ll provide the bed and board in return.

…and if you want a real life report – call or email ….we would love to hear your news in real time too! Until then, thanks for reading!
Have fun, keep well, and prepare for the snow flies,
Robin and Enn (with Suvi and Heikki)Enn steps into spacerobin and suvi

Countdown to Snowflea Telefest 2015! February 20-22

Our Winter of Contentment = A Snow Day, Everyday!🙂

Hello Lodge-Blog!

It’s been SO long since I’ve stopped by to have a cup of tea with you, I was very happy to see you still sitting here, patiently waiting for a Bellevue update. What a loyal little blog you are!

It’s been a beautiful winter for back-country skiing – cold bluebird days, with powder conditions on top of a huge base, and every few days a few freshies to clean the slopes. Global warming seems to mean “colding” in this region – or perhaps it’s just that La Niña has switched places with her little brother for a seasonal holiday. Such a throwback to the “old” winters I keep being surprised by the fact that my knees have not reset themselves to a more bucolic time! However I am extremely lucky that once the adrenalin pumps through those cranky joints I forget I even have knees until much later in the day, when the skis are off, and more mundane tasks remind me how annoying walking can be.

So in this way, December and January just flew by, and now it’s Telefest month!

SnowFlea Poster 2015



This year will be our 19th Annual Snowflea Telefest, and like this past                  month, nineteen years have streamed by in a blurr. Back in  1996 we planned one little weekend of fun to share an activity we love, and empower people to travel winter landscapes under their own bipedal power    and gain confidence in backwoods adventure on their own.

Hurtling ourselves through the spaces between trees, experiencing pure gravity on skis, riding pillowed slopes of snow, aware of being many feet above the actual    ground was just a side benefit, but one that became the raison d’étre rather immediately! ….well, who could resist, considering adrenalin and laughter go hand in hand!

So many great times with friends over these years, and opportunities to share joyful times. I don’t think anyone in the tele-tribe will stop until we have to. Perhaps while we still have questing natures, we can work on building a senior ski binding that does the uphill step to climb automatically!

It is so much easier to learn the sport and techniques of tele-skiing now, what with the awesome equipment out there, changing with the times and responsive to different conditions. Heck, we started with wood cross-country skis! That was hard. Then cambered metal edges, super long; Oh boy, what a flail-fest! Thankfully Chris Stoppel took pity on us and brought us some old Hexel downhills.  Remember, this was before the days of short fat powder skis, even at resorts. What took us three or more years to learn, an athletic person with good gear can now conquer in a day. It has been amazing to see so many younger folks keen to strap on a new binding, even snowboards …. and EARN THEIR TURNS!

So here it comes, our annual weekend that marks the full circle of our passion for so many things that go hand in hand to make us happy. Music is a big part of that too – like skiing, another language to enjoy life with! This year we welcome Dana Whittle as our featured performer. Dana is a whirlwind of song and musicianship – we are very excited to welcome her energy and enthusiasm to Snowflea! Please drop by her band site to read about her many accolades and musicalwork –

…and if you are planning on joining us ~ drop us a knee – oops I mean a line !! See you on a snow-day!

Countdown, 12 days ’til Christmas!

Suvi leapsChristmas is all year ’round here – Enn and I always know to make a split decision for acquisition when we see something we want, and usually the item is not only wanted, but necessary! This certain mutual gift is no exception.

Meet Suvi, our newest family member! She is a… well, we are not sure what she will turn out to be, but suffice to say she is a registered Northern Dog. Smart, cheerful, and oodles of fun. Born in August, along the James Bay Coast, a place where every season except winter is a short and sweet time, we gave her an Estonian name that means “Summer”  ~ because sometimes in this winter landscape we need a reminder that the light will return, and the fair breezes will come back.

Winter solstice is upon us next weekend. We will light a bonfire, play in the snow, and ring in the return of the light with friends, food and music. This is the night we can write out our year – or perhaps a lifetime? of regret, sorrow and anger into simple words  – our “bummers” – onto a bit of birchbark and send those words into the stars as fiery embers; it reminds us to make room in our hearts to place grateful thoughts for all the things we have that enrich our lives, and for the paths we choose to take.

Sometimes making a split second decision to adopt a puppy works that way too!

Happy Solstice to everyone out there in the starry world, and i hope you find your puppy of joy to enrich your lives this winter! Or if you like, come share ours … she certainly has a lot of capacity for enjoying humans, and we also have a lot of open nights still available in our chalet, and in the B&B, for this winter season of snow-playing. With the new management at Searchmont Resort and Stokely, as well as a very auspicious jet stream pattern to bring us oodles of snow, looks like it will be a wonderful start to 2015!

Published in: on December 14, 2014 at 6:21 pm  Comments (2)  

Annual Fall “Lopp-It-Good” – happening November 8th 2014

Hi folks,

A lovely little nip is in the air today – you can smell snowflakes in the stratosphere. Yes, you can!😉

All the maple and poplar leaves have been set free, swirling in huge drifts over the yard. Raking has been a chore with these huge northeasterly blows happening all week. Only the rubrous oak and citrine tamarack are stubbornly holding on to perk up the hillside views.

Enn is walking the mountain this weekend, making note of large windfalls and areas that need some saw work to keep the turns safe this winter.

mike marie conner loppet

We’ve planned the big trail clearing on November 8th and 9th … if you can join us, we would love to have you!

And ……..Snowflea Telefest is planned for February 20th – 22nd 2015.

This will be our 19th Annual! I hate to admit how many more years we have been tromping these woods, clearing deadfall and limbs to make this incredible trail network for backwoods skiing one of a kind.  Lopp it Good weekend asks for your participation in exchange for room and board … it’s a great way to get a deer’s eye view of our ski area, and become a part of the tribe, whether you love to make Telemark turns or prefer to snowshoe! Give us a call or send us an email for more information, or to reserve a bed – hope to see you soon.

Fall is Featured!

Fall maplesGosh, that summer just flew past – even though it was a difficult one to enjoy.
Global warning has made an impact on us here in the Great Lakes region, it was cool and wet, and not a warm summer season. However we did have enough rain for the gardens, and the ground water levels are high. And there is no denying that the higher water levels in Superior have made The Big Lake happier – no long walks necessary to get to a swim in the shallows of the sandy bays, and lots of great wave viewing opportunities from the rocky cliffs! No, it was the amount of biting insects that made this summer rather a hellish one.
We often host guests who cannot believe that we have so few people per square mile – and that prices for cottage land are relatively low. Those are the poor misguided souls who have never had to run screaming for their lives – from hordes of mosquitos! June and July are screen-porch months – and smoky fires during the day. The happiest way to enjoy a day out-of-doors in June is from the surface of a lake! Thank goodness for kayaks and canoes – offshore travel that keeps you out of the bug-lands.
…I have been thinking a lot this year about the effort it takes to live north of the 49th parallel – it can seem at times that the amount of effort, money and planning is not commiserate with the rewards of where we live. As I get older and become more discerning about what I put my energy towards, it becomes obvious that at least half of our resources and time goes towards staying alive in this aggressive climate! That extends not only to gathering fuel and food, but also to creating activities and arts in an underpopulated and remote region of the country, necessary to build and maintain culture and community – things that people in a more urban environment take for granted.
Missing out on the simple rewards of a good summer growing season, and weather suitable for basking in the sun can really make you feel overextended and bitter in the face of all that effort.
Viewing the sudden blaze of autumn somehow helps us reflect on our thoughts and centre our mood – akin to hearing a church organ swell with a huge note of praise, or being given a gift of worth no money could buy …. our spiritual reward for the “sow, toil and reap”  –  of collecting food, heat and habits to get us through those cold dark months. This land really comes into its own celebration in September and October – harvest season is always spectacular, with the maple forest ablaze in colour, and the clear clean air allowing for views that sparkle! Visiting a new farmers’ market venture, or taking part in organising a community festival makes you realise that the rewards are sometimes gained through the process, not the outcome.
So after a few trying months, we greet the blessing of Indian summer like an old friend – we have given up on tanning, and gardening, I hear Doris Day singing “what will be, will be”! – and we can open our hearts to the bittersweet few weeks of fall. One week of warmth and t-shirt weather in this season is worth two months of fickle summer – our northern afternoons are warm with possibilities, thick with golden light and rich in sensations. Crisp apples and carrots, the last monarchs and sandhills heading south, within the startling contrasts of the colour wheel. Nordic blue of sky and water, set against mustard yellow fields and vermillion woodlands becomes a therapy session for your soul. Driving into the Sault from Goulais River is a feast for the eyes, soothing and uplifting, a euphoric better than any mood enhancing drug. You forget all about the trials and tribulations of the summer season, and swear to one and all that you live in a paradise and feel sorry for anyone unable to share in this glory – and even wax poetic about the best yet to come, yes, SNOW!😉
Cleaning the skis and planning some gatherings to enjoy your friends, old and new, helps out too!

Published in: on October 3, 2014 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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July 1st 2014 is almost upon us … and it  is hard to believe we are already past our longest day of the year. We marked the solstice this month (….and our thirtieth anniversary of putting up with each other!)  – with a wonderful house concert by Liam Titcomb, who most definately keeps me believing in the value of live performance! Such expertise and spirit, I’m hard pressed to think of anyone who can measure up to Liams’ level, at any age. Listening to his performance, delivered so effortlessly and yet with such intricate guitar work and writing abilities, it is shocking to think he is not yet thirty years old, and has that depth of resource within. I have always felt guilty for not enjoying those shows “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” … people tell me they get so much pleasure from them – but having been in the music business for so many years it is just so painful to see how “dumbed down” a performance or singer/musician’s message has to be to appeal to the mass population. I find most of those performances so boring and predictable, it is actually painful for me to see the accolades that are heaped on the artists. Music is one of the easiest arts to force a square peg to go in a round hole. Once that happens you aren’t hearing the performers’ voice anymore – just the “star-maker machinery” as Joni Mitchell called it. 

The summer so far has not been kind – we have a surfeit of mosquitos and yet a lack of water. Keeping the garden happy has been a struggle! It is rather discouraging to invest so much time energy and sweat to grow a great crop of lettuces and greens – and then be unable to harvest any for dinner because of attacking hordes of mosquitos! They are lasting so long this year … taking the place of the usual swarms of blackflies. Enn says when he was a child and returned home after a buggy play day, his mom called the blackfly bites his “northern Ontario necklace”! ..and yet I don’t think I have seen one blackfly here yet this year.

But these MOSQUITOS!! We have been so clothed! – this morning is supposed to be the hottest day of the summer so far, up to 30 degrees – yet at six thirty this morning when I rose to water the garden, I dressed in wool socks, undershirt, overshirt, long pants which I tucked into the socks, put on a hat, dove into my bug shirt, zipped the face screen up, nitrile gloves, tucked the sleeves of said bug shirt, …then sprayed citronella, and eau de DEET over all this concoction. Then I opened the door and stepped out into this beautiful day. You think the sight would just frighten them away! Here we are, pasty white and suffering scurvy from a lack of sunlight and fresh food! At the height of summer!  ;)

I have to admit I have refused a few bookings here at the lodge, knowing that some people would not be able to enjoy their holiday with us at present. It’s a matter of assessing if people really know what you are warning them about when you say the bugs are horrendous … let’s hope the heat today will take them out, and we can cautiously get on with the short and tank top season, even if it only lasts a few days I will welcome it!

No  one seems to be talking about west nile virus this year – was all that discussion just a flash in the pan? I’m sure most of us living in theses muskeg and cedar swamplands of Ontario have been exposed to it by now. And I don’t want to appear alarmist – but there is a definate lack of warblers, forest birds and bats this year. And that is who eats most of these mosquitos. Most summer mornings at 5 am I am awoken by the beautiful dawn chorus – usually starting with wood thrush, oven birds, vireos, then the robins, warblers and other less solitary birds join in….this past week the whine of mosquitos at the windows is the prevalent song. Bats have suffered in this region from White Nose Syndrome … a fungus that infects them in their winter hibernaculae … and a bat will eat 4000 – 8000 mosquitos in one night. That is an amazing amount! I still have one old friend of a bat spending the days in the cedar shakes above the door, but other resting sites don’t seem to have been used yet this summer. If those bats were alive, they would be here, bats return to the same areas every year just as birds do. 

Mornings that I have this particular style of internal dialogue I just try to remind myself that once we make this planet uninhabitable for humans, either by bad art or bad air and water, other species will fill the niche and perhaps there will be a time when the rise and fall of hominoids will happen with a different set of defining values. 

Happy Canada Day, everyone!  ♥