In the summer, Cliff Speer and his staff teach canoeing and navigation courses, and lead guided canoe tours on southern and northern waterways, including the South Saskatchewan and North Saskatchewan Rivers, the Churchill River and the lakes in Prince Albert National Park. The tours include waterfowl viewing, history and archaeology themes, rock art camps and women-only trips.
In the winter months, adventurous skiers can join him in a northern cross-country skiing/dog sledding getaway - while skiers more interested in developing technique may opt to take cross-country ski lessons in downtown Saskatoon.
In 1990, Cliff set off with his first tour group of 5 canoes, paddling an 8-day trip on the Churchill River. His outdoor adventure enterprise, CanoeSki Discovery Company, has been in the business of helping clients discover the Canadian wilderness ever since.
When experiencing the environment is at the heart of your business, one might think sustainability comes naturally. However, as Cliff can attest, it's a practice that requires preparation and discipline - one that shows in the way each tour is designed.
As he puts it, " Putting in time on the prep side has payoffs on the ecological side."
"I have always been interested in the field of sustainability - although it hasn't always been called that - and the health and integrity of ecologically pristine places," says Cliff. "Over the years of travelling in the wilderness, it has become ingrained in my soul!"
Regardless of the season, route, or final destination, CanoeSki designs experiences to incorporate ecologically sound practices and to teach clients about minimizing their impact on the environment. Tours include:
CanoeSki makes a point of familiarizing each group with why each tour is designed to minimize their environmental footprint. Before each tour, Cliff distributes a short light-hearted quiz on back-country ethics to guests. It's an element that CanoeSki has strategically incorporated into its booking procedure, knowing that the quiz will generate fodder for fire-side discussions during the excursion.
"Because it's important to me personally and to my business operation, I like to include the idea of sustainability in these campfire discussions. The ethics quiz is a fun tool to get my guests to think about sustainable practices in the wilderness, but which may also lead them to think about their own everyday actions."