Spotted: A Fernie Mountain Mama at play in the wild. Watch as the courageous and daring Mama plans and executes a kayaking trip with her precious babe in tow. Balance is essential in work, life and play. If we are not focused and steady, the pendulum swings and SPLASH, we are thrown overboard. Through outdoor play, individuals mingle with the natural elements and in turn, learn to find their perfect equilibrium between work and play. The water is an escape from one’s busy workplace. The water does not demand more, does not impose deadlines, does not require overtime: The water simply asks for presence. A precious life skill that serves Mountain Mamas on the daily!

Lab technician and Fernie-born Liah Van Veen understands the importance and value of balance in one’s life. The call of the Fernie terrain is in her blood. Liah has always thrived in the mountains as she has a genuine love for all things outdoors. From snowboarding to touring to wakeboarding, the Kootenays are her treasured playground. Her latest daring adventure: Motherhood.

Her daughter Kyah, was born 28 years later in the exact same Fernie hospital room as her. She is now a part of the same mountain warrior lineage. Kyah hears the wild Rocky Mountains calling, calling for play. Van Veen hopes that her daughter will feel at peace in the outdoors. “I want her to be wowed by the natural beauty of the East Kootenays. I think it’s important to teach children about the joyous accomplishment that comes from undertaking outdoor activities while also teaching them to be prepared for what the natural world can bring like bad weather, getting lost, and close proximity to wild animals.” When venturing out to play one must always be aware and prepared for anything. Again, balance is key.

Kayaking is a powerful source of outdoor meditation. A chance for yourself and your child to tune into the sounds and slow pace of nature. The health benefits of a nature bath on the open water, away from technology and the white noise of the city, are tenfold. The daily routine of one’s busy life melts away and repetitive thoughts disappear as you relax into the dance of each steady stroke. It has been proven that at play in nature one can reduce stress levels, improve memory and heighten one’s senses. What parent couldn’t benefit from this peaceful endeavour?

When planning a family kayaking trip, Van Veen recommends putting the life jacket on your baby at home in the bathtub as a test to ensure that it keeps the child face up when in the water. Testing out the life jacket at home also helps infants to become accustomed to and comfortable in the life jacket. Liah also suggests packing some small toys to keep the little one entertained, but make sure that the toys float. Her family’s favourite lakes to kayak with the little one are Maiden Lake in Fernie, Rosen Lake in Jaffray, and Lazy Lake in Wasa. Visit a local gear shop, rent a kayak or paddle board and set sail.

Little Kyah loves to watch the scenery floating by, feel the wind in her hair (which she has a lot of!) and laugh when she throws her toys overboard for Mama to collect. Kayaking for Liah is an act of relaxation. She appreciates the quiet solitude that one can find on the water while also enjoying a mild workout and family play time. Van Veen suggests that if you’re nervous, simply paddle along the shallow shoreline and build your skills before venturing into deep water.

Play is a life skill that parents sometimes reserve only for their young children. When the truth is that we all need play to find balance in our work-heavy lives. It is never too late to get out there! Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.

Are you also a Fernie Mountain Mama? Please feel free to share your outdoor adventures, family stories and photos by writing to, or hashtag #ferniemountainmamas to encourage more parents to take their little ones outdoors and share in all the fun that Fernie has to offer.

Happy kayaking!