Thursday, February 1, 2018

Could this be the future Olympic kit for the Canadian team?

Dave Irwin's wife Lynne Harrison putting Crazy into Canuck Couture at Sunshine Village
When a creative colour alchemist turns her mountainscapes into fabric, the entire skiwear industry is disrupted. The prevailing palette of plain colours in today's brands - two-tone if you’re lucky and a preponderance of black, beige, plain red or navy - means that Lynne Harrison’s multi-hued, outsized prints stand out like flamboyant flowers at a funeral. 

Lynne Harrison, Alchemy of Ride
Wife of Crazy Canuck Olympian Dave Irwin, Harrison has been running an eclectic art studio and creative clothing shop in her home town of Canmore, Alberta since May 2015. Starting with paintings, prints and postcards, she morphed her mountain motif into printed bike, running and watersports clothing first and then, this season, moved into the Alchemy of Ride range of ski jackets, pants, vests, one-piece Nordic outfits, and wickable underlayers for men and women. “It is about sharing colour and fun and happiness,” says Harrison. “Alchemy is the ancient process of turning base metal into gold and The Ride is a metaphor for life.”

The 57-year-old had been selling her artwork in Whistler for many years and turned to sports clothing design out of frustration with the market: “I couldn’t find anything to buy that I liked, so I started to think about how I could wear my art. I wasn’t sure how it would transfer to fabric at first but I loved the results.”

Her inspiration is vibrant colour, the Canmore area, and the breathtaking scenery of the Rocky Mountains in which she works, lives and recreates. She blends the shapes and contours of the stunning scenery with her own vivid hues, adding bold brightness to the slopes where these days the colours black and grey prevail. She says she can’t sleep when she has a new idea: “When I thought up Alchemy of Ride I was so inspired that I couldn’t sleep for six weeks with developing the concept.” After a year researching fabrics and manufacturers for skiwear, she launched the ski range this season. 

As well as Silver Tree Studio in Canmore’s gentrified Main Street, her whimsical work is available at stores in Lake Louise, Banff, Whistler and Scottsdale, Arizona. She has sales reps in BC and AB expanding her Canadian reach, and a new rep based from Boulder, CO serving the US market. Both her ski brand and her summer running/biking/watersports line are available online.

Always focused on helping others beleaguered by mental health issues (due to her famous husband’s brain injury and rehabilitation), Harrison donates a portion of her profits to her own Mental-Aid Foundation, to the Kelty Patrick Dennehey Foundation in Whistler, and Banff’s Mental Illness Stigma Support Group (MISS). As an integral part of the Canmore art scene, the artful alchemist shares her talents and insight, inviting artists and art enthusiasts to paint with her at her studio shop.

Ambitions include clothing the Canadian Winter Olympic team, expanding into China where the ski market is burgeoning, challenging the black-and-beige bias in the Alps, and designing “a jenny” for the Americas Cup. "I have designed jerseys for the Eric Beugnot team for 24 Hours of Lemans, France 2017," says Harrison. "I am also designing for the 2018 team and I will be competing in this event myself in August 2018." The self-taught artist is a keen sportswoman: "I love sports! I competed in gymnastics in Ontario till I got too tall, played competitive volleyball and skied since the age of seven when my 30 year old parents took it up in Quebec." She has also done Ironman Canada, the Racing the Planet Gobi Desert 7 day multi self supported foot race, Racing the Planet Sahara Desert 7 day multi self-supported foot race and various marathons, all raising money and awareness for brain injury. 

The multi-talented mountain maven also wrote a screenplay documenting her love story with Dave Irwin, his accident and recovery which she submitted to Charlize Theron's production company. "It got through the front door, the first round of cuts, the second round of cuts, then the third round of cuts and in the final analysis it was declined as the story was 'too Canadian'," Harrison laments.  

Dave Irwin in the Rocky Mountain Bagel Co,
This season the charismatic and very Canadian Canmore couple can be spotted stopping traffic in Harrison’s hectic hues at Sunshine Village, Banff where other skiers can't resist commenting, asking where they got their riotous rainbow ski suits and taking their photos. Instagram is also starting to notice! Irwin, who occasionally helps out at the store, is a model for the men’s line, sporting the skiwear at the Rocky Mountain Bagel Company where he is a daily regular in winter, and rocking the bike and running range in summer.

Appetite whetted? Find out more by contacting Lynne Harrison at: 

Heads up - the Silver Tree Studio winter hours are 11:15am - 5:15pm.  

Yours truly with hubby, Simon Hudson sporting Alchemy of Ride
outside Lynne's Silver Tree Studio, Canmore 
Visiting Canmore this winter?

Don't miss the new $5 bar, Hy5!! Yes, $5 and it isn't over-promising and under-delivering: All the drinks are $5 all night, every day of the week, and the appetizers are $5, too. 

Challenging the general trend to gouging in ski towns, it's certainly getting a High Five from skiers and snowboarders - packed every night with a mix of locals, tourists, weekenders and seasonal workers when I was there in January, the first week it opened.  

Succulent slider selection at Hy5, Canmore
On 6th Ave in the downtown core, it is the brainchild of local restauranteur, Tony Pisano who also owns Graze in Main Street. Pisano renovated the old Last Call pub, adding communal wooden slab bistro tables, high metal stools, modern lighting, and large screen TVs, all finished off in a wood/metal motif. The mandate is $5 bites and bevvies (including Grizzly Paw craft beer, Canmore Brewing Company brews, liquor and house wine) and the array of Canadian, US, Italian and Japanese sliders concocted by chef Gerrit Galeshoot and served artistically on long wooden boards, is amazing - people come for the $5 drinks and then can't resist staying for the sliders. Menu options include popcorn chicken, octopus legs, Canadian and Asian inspired sauces, charcuterie meat and cheese boards, plus decadent daily features.

Canmore may be the lower-profile wallflower to Banff's tourist attractions, but it is equally a gateway to the SkiBig3 resorts. And, it is also close to Nakiska (40 min drive), famous for hosting multiple alpine events and freestyle moguls at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Nakiska is still the official training centre of Alpine Canada and an early season venue for alpine ski teams from all over the world. 

Nakiska, Alberta
I was there in early Jan, showing it off to my son's girlfriend, Alicia Walch - a newbie on skis having made the momentous move from snowboarding. “The first time I skied was on a beginner mountain near Kamloops called Harper Mountain, which was pretty small. I have also skied one day at Big White and one at Lake Louise, both of which were amazing,” she told me. That day the 22-year-old geography student from the University of Calgary, admitted to being somewhat anxious. “I hadn’t skied in two years so I was a bit worried I wouldn’t remember how to stop," she said. "For the first ten minutes I wasn’t doing very well because of that. But then I just decided to go for it and I got back the flow of turning and stopping."  

Nakiska's Monster Glades

Nakiska's Gold Chair - by Boris Gligoric
First run of the day was Easy Street, a new wide green off the Silver Chair, ideal for finding your feet. It eliminates the top pitch of Grand Trunk which had proved difficult for some beginners. The new trail was created during the off-season using a mulcher which did the whole job in about 15 hours. 

As the day unfolded in perfect sunshine, she gained confidence and was gradually keen to try more challenging blues. By the afternoon she was at the top of the Gold Chair where she adored the expansive views. "It turned out that, because of race training, parts of the blue path down to the lift were closed off," Alicia said. So, instead, she had to tackle two long sections of the Monster Glades – off-piste, tree runs. “It was actually exhilarating!” she said. “Although I got so hot I steamed up my goggles and had to take them off and ski without them in order to see. I would do it again if I went back to Nakiska. I think challenge is good and it is an interesting change to do the glades after all the wide open slopes. I feel I burned a lot of calories too!” Her conclusion was that Nakiska is a great place for newer skiers to improve and she loved the bustling but cosy lodge with its wraparound sundeck.

Nakiska's glorious groomers
New At Nakiska this season:

VIP Parking Option: Get down with the VIP life, Nakiska now has a Priority Parking Lot, the closest lot to the base area. Access to the lot is granted by purchasing a VIP Parking Pass.

Up your park game with Park Lessons: Master NaJibSka! Book a rail park lesson with Nakiska Winter Sports School to improve your bag of tricks with knowledgeable instructors that will work on your style, ow and con dence on all features in our park.

Take it to the next level with Performance Private Lessons: What’s the goal of Nakiska's new performance private lessons? That’s up to you! Catering to what you want to learn, take these new lessons to improve your skills on carving, all mountain freestyle, freeskiing/riding, glades, moguls and bumps. Contact Nakiska Winter Sports School for more information –

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Top of the Gold Chair, Nakiska