MountainSkills.Ca

V.A. Poulin & Associates Ltd.

  1. 2153 West 46th Avenue

  2. Vancouver, British Columbia

  3. Canada                     V6M 2L2

  4. (604) 263-0424

Experience Canadian Aboriginal Culture!

Rocky Mountain Foothills

Rocky Mountain Wilderness Skills This unique Canadian experience takes adventure students to the Canadian Rocky Mountains where they spend 7-days learning Aboriginal Culture and Wilderness Survival Techniques. The course is completed in the foothills of the Rocky Mountain 1-hour from Jasper, Alberta. Our camp is based at the Blue Lake Aboriginal Culture Centre at Blue Lake in William Switzer Provincial Park, Hinton, Alberta.  Our curriculum includes traditional Arts and Cultural Activities including drum making and singing, needle felt work, moccasin making, and story telling. Students will learn aboriginal survival techniques including shelter making, fire starting, food gathering and cooking. We’ll eat traditional native stews and learn to cook authentic indian bannock.  Activity days include a full day trek to scenic Ogre Gorge, a deep mountain chasm carved out of bedrock at the base of the Rocky Mountains near Grande Cache, Alberta. We spend a full day canoeing through William Switzer Provincial Park stopping to learn wetland and forest ecology, view wildlife and spot brown trout. Our adventure camp wraps up with a 2-day trek and overnight camp in the high alpine of Willmore Wilderness Area. We’ll hike alpine ridges for spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies and wildlife which could include bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose and bear. Students learn how to set up tents, use fuel and gas stoves, cook their own meals, wilderness first aid, and navigation using natural features. 




Participants will be greeted on arrival in Canada and lodged in Vancouver their first night. We spend one more day in Vancouver resting, doing a gear check and touring city sites including Stanley Park, Granville Island, and Capilano Suspension Bridge. While in Vancouver, students will enjoy meeting local Vancouver people, other Vancouver Area Scouts and some wonderful home cooked meals with english speaking hosts. Our Rocky Mountain Program begins with a drive to Lucerne Lake Campground in Robson Provincial Park, 20 km west of Jasper National Park. The next day we proceed to Blue Lake Lodge, taking time to tour Jasper and view wildlife. Once at Blue Lake Lodge we commence our outdoor program. See Program Below.



Blue Lake Lodge Training Centre: The Blue Lake Centre for Aboriginal Arts and Culture is an outdoor recreational facility located in the foothills of the Northern Rocky Mountains in the Province of Alberta, Canada. The mission of the facility is to preserve, share and enhance the heritage, life-ways and customs of Aboriginal peoples through ecological and culturally driven world views and activities. The Centre is fully contained within the  William Switzer Provincial Park with private access to 220 acres of land including Blue and Cache Lakes. The Centre maintains excellent training facilities including conference rooms, eating hall, cabins, campground, canoes, and natural  space for wilderness training programs. Our groups will camp throughout the program, but while at Blue Lake we have access to covered outdoor eating and sleeping facilities if needed. Power is available.  Guests have access to free WiFi. Students will be immersed in aboriginal culture through native art workshops, tipi building, food and story telling. While at the lodge we will cook our own meals in outdoor surroundings, but on longer days our meals will be prepared by lodge staff. Lodge meals will include traditional foods accompanied by fireside chats. 

Blue Lake Centre is managed by Sharon and Cam Kootenay, two native arts and knowledge keepers from Alberta, Canada. Expert artists in their own rights, they serve as in-house facilitators on native bead and needle work, drum making, hide tanning, and jewelry making. We will use the lodges 220 acres for wilderness and ecological training. Aboriginal facilitators will provide training on use of local wild edible plants for food and medicine. An in-house facilitator will share experience on traditional trapping and hunting methods. 



Who should take this course? Students, adventurists, naturalists, and outdoorsman looking to learn wilderness skills in a safe, fun and exciting environment should consider this unique opportunity. Originally designed for international youth groups this program is developed to complement the goals and aspirations of the Blue Lake Centre for Aboriginal Arts and Culture making it a perfect fit for wilderness skills training of aboriginal people re-connecting with cultural heritage practices. For international students it is rare opportunity to learn the life skills of the Canadian Metis and First Nations people of Northern Canada. The rich natural environment of the Northern Rocky Mountain Foothills is our classroom, its lush meadows, streams, lakes and forests the inspiration for learning. The program is suited for students and individuals 15-years of age and older. They should be capable of carrying a 2-day mountain pack. For international students we ensure student success by providing pre-trip training and orientation in Hong Kong prior to the wilderness camp. Training for them includes selection and use of all required equipment, fitness assessment, and an introduction to wilderness camping. Cultural sharing is an important aspect of this program. Student interactions with native mentors and staff give opportunity for cross-cultural sharing.  International students will leave Canada forever changed knowing what it takes to live in the Canadian wilderness using traditional skills of Canada’s indigenous people. Aboriginal youth will  leave equally life changed having re-connected with the wilderness skills used by their elders and mentors. 


All Inclusive Trip  This trip is all inclusive with the exception of personal clothing, camping  and hiking equipment. Fees include transportation, food, lodging, tents, stoves, cooking gear, and workshop fees. Participants are required to bring their own foot ware, clothing,  head gear,  backpack, sleep system, and personal equipment. Gear requirements will be reviewed with our leaders at the time of booking.


Schedule: 
Blue Lake Cultural Centre Operates Year-Round 
Contact us for timing windows that best suit your group


MS.ca Blue Lake Centre Outdoor Program:
Day 1 - Arrive in Vancouver, group welcomed at Vancouver International Airport and escorted to accommodation in Vancouver.
Day 2 - Tour Vancouver: Participants spend the day touring Vancouver visiting attractions such as Stanley Park, Granville Island, University of British Columbia Endowment Lands and Capilano Suspension Bridge. 
Day 3 - Depart Vancouver for Jasper National Park: Leave Vancouver by minibus and travel through the central interior of British Columbia then up Yellowhead Highway to Robson Provincial Park. Group tent camps at Lucerne Lake, 15 km west of Jasper National Park Entrance. 
Day 4 - Depart Lucerne Lake for Blue Lake Cultural Centre: After breaking camp the journey continues to Blue Lake Cultural Centre  by travelling through Jasper National Park to Hinton, Alberta. We spend several hours touring world-famous Jasper Village then continue along Yellowhead Highway stopping to view wildlife along the way. Deer, elk, bear and bighorn sheep are abundant and commonly seen feeding in the lush wetlands and rocky crags found along the highway. Near Hinton, Alberta we turn north on Highway 40 and drive a short 15 km to Blue Lake Cultural Centre in William Switzer Provincial Park where centre staff and aboriginal facilitators welcome our group. Before dinner the team sets up tipis that become their shelters for the duration of stay at Blue Lake.  These traditional lodges were used by many plains tribes until the late-1800’s and remain today as a respected symbol of native culture. The day ends with camp orientation and a welcoming native fireside feast.
Day 5. - Trek to Oger Canyon: Our 7-day outdoor program at Blue Lake Lodge begins with an easy wilderness hike to Oger Canyon near Grand Cache, Alberta. Oger Canyon is one of the northern gateways into the Willmore Wilderness Area, a large contiguous track of wilderness on the eastern boundary of Jasper National Park. The gorge offers breathtaking views into the wilderness area and of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. It is camera day and one to stretch legs after the long journey from Vancouver to Blue Lake.
Day 6. - Native Crafts, Aboriginal Food Gathering and Preparation: Our training begins with boys and girls learning an essential native craft - making moccasins the traditional native footwear. Made of leather and trimmed with natural fur each student crafts his own pair of moccasins which they will wear inside their tipi lodge and elsewhere when weather is dry. After lunch we meet and are introduced to Aboriginal Food Gathering and Preparation by a native facilitator. Students learn how native people lived off the land by gathering berries, roots, above ground plants and made meat by hunting and trapping. Field dressing game and meat drying methods are demonstrated. We leave the classroom to hike through forested and wetland areas on Blue Lake property to forage by eye for seasonally available edible wild food. We learn to identify food and medicinal plants and also study the behaviour of animals that were traditionally hunted. Animals make their presence know by leaving tracks, droppings and evidence of their feeding behaviour. Using these cues students think about how first nations people used their hunting and trapping techniques to successfully gather them.
Day 7 - Native Crafts and Wilderness Survival Skills: This day focuses on wilderness survival skills but begins with a 2-step drum making project for boys. Girls take on the task of learning needle felt work. Drum making is done in 2-steps. Step 1 is the actual construction of an authentic raw hide drum. Step 2 is the drying of the drum. The process requires 2-3 days to complete in order to allow adequate drying time for wetted raw hide. Needle felt craft is an embroidery technique that adds colourful designs to any project made of felt or soft leather. Needle felt work as an alternative to beadwork because it is easy to learn, quick and not expensive. After lunch the group re-convenes at the Learning Centre for introduction to wilderness survival and skills needed for becoming wilderness smart. The seminar concludes with field training on survival techniques including: 1. Use of Survival Gear, 2. Building a Shelter, 3. Making Fire, and 4. Hunting using animal snares and Fishing.
Day 8 - Wilderness Float Trip and Riparian Ecology: After a 3-hour canoe orientation and safety course that covers proper and safe use of a canoe, paddling techniques, and balance we paddle across Blue Lake and into a soft flowing meandering stream that connects Blue Lake and Cache Lake. We complete the canoe trip by paddling the lake shores of Cache Lake. During the trip we portage (carry canoes out of water to bypass a beaver dam) once and also stop to spend time learning wetland plants, the lives and behaviour of riparian animals such as beaver, muskrat, fishers and otters. We’ll search for tracks of moose, deer and elk and where good tracks found make plaster casts of the tracks for future study and keepsake.
Day 9. - Wilderness Trek (start): With 3-days of wilderness skills training completed we put our knowledge together and head into the Rocky Mountains for a 2-day trek into the alpine to camp, walk ridges, view wildlife and take in the incredible views of the precipitous Rocky Mountains that lie west in Jasper National Park. We carry 1.5-days of food, tents, hiking and camping gear for a night under the stars in the high alpine.
Day 10. - Wilderness Trek (finish): Up early we spend morning ridge-walking, taking photographs and trying to spot mountain sheep, elk, deer and bear. Early light will cast unforgettable shadows and colours on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. As sunlight draws higher in the sky we break camp and re-trace our steps back to Blue Lake Centre to finish drum projects by making drum sticks while girls complete Hand Game Sets. That night at closing ceremonies everyone learns drum songs and participates in a  Hand Game Tournament and Native Round Dance. 
Day 11 - Return to Vancouver: The drive from Blue Lake Cultural Centre to Vancouver is approximately 11 hours, but we return to Vancouver same day by minivan.  
Day 12 - Return Travel to Home Country: For international participants Day 12 is a free-day, but we meet together for a final evening dinner at the Club House - Japanese Restaurant followed by drop-off at the airport for flight home.
 “Hiy, hiy... Kiythum Ciy Kawaw Pumtinow” Thank you, we’ll meet each other again. Cam and Sharon Kootenay, 

Blue Lake Centre and 
the Aboriginal Arts Council
Hinton, Alberta