Cowboy country in the Sea to Sky 

Wild west alive and kicking and roping in visitors

For a brief moment each summer Canadians aren’t just beer-swillin’ lumberjacks living in the frozen north. Instead they’re beer-swillin’ cowboys, roping steers, riding bulls and strutting around town in their spurs, oversized belt buckles and, of course, their Stetsons.

It’s that time again in Cowtown, when the scenes hardly seem in keeping with Canada’s international image. They seem more like something out of a long-forgotten John Wayne film or a Dallas rerun.

Tourism Calgary estimates that the Stampede will inject roughly $143 million into the area’s economy this year, proving once again that the Canadian west, even if it is north of the 49 th parallel, is cowboy country after all.

This wild west heritage has spilled into Sea to Sky country too, where stables get visitors into the saddle for a small taste of the cowboy way.

Just as the Stampede draws over one million visitors into Calgary to go stampedin’ for 10 days, the charm of local stables entices visitors to the corridor.

There may be a lot of activities on hand here, ranging from rafting and canoeing to Hummer and ATV tours, but Cora Menzel, the bookkeeper with Blackcomb Trail Rides, Pemberton Stables and Cougar Mountain Wilderness Adventures, said horseback riding is still a big draw.

It has kept them in the business of horses for the past 15 years and they now have about 70 horses.

Most of their riders are first timers and many are from the United States, she said. Business changes from day to day.

"It depends on the weather," she said. "It’s very unpredictable."

When it’s really hot people prefer to be on the water, she said.

It was a steamy June day in Squamish when Little Red, Socks, Fifty-one, Blue and Levi headed out on tour at Sea to Sky Stables.

The four-legged tour winds through forest, along rushing Cheakamus River, and over meadows dotted with wild daisies, nearly ripened salmon berries and bleeding hearts.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been on a horse.

A few quick tips about how to hold the reins and steady your feet, and you’re on your way.

The horses went straight into the forest first, which offered the one respite from the heat for both the horses and their loads. And so began their sauntering rhythmic journey into a maze of timeless trees, dappled with sunlight poking through the treetops.

Sounds were reduced from the constant hum of the highway and a nearby mill to the clopping of the horses’ hooves. Leaves brushed lightly on their flanks along the way.

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