By Peter Wilson
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – January 19, 1992
If it comes to a choice between the buzz of cash registers and the call of the wild, Cliff Speer opts every time for the wilderness and the peace of Northern Saskatchewan’s back country. The world of commerce has little attraction for Speer if he can’t participate in the pristine beauty of the outdoors. He realized that about himself back in 1989. That’s when he moved from a position in the commercial insurance industry to start CanoeSki Discovery, an outdoors adventure business.
It’s in the planning and participation of canoe trips and ski tours across the province’s north that Speer finds his true pulse. The financial rewards are not great, but as he says, there’s more to life than money. “Let’s face it, if I wanted to get rich, I wouldn’t be in this business. All I know is that I enjoy getting out of bed in the morning.” After university he had become a school teacher in his native Manitoba, sticking it out for about 3 years before finally throwing away his chalk. “I think teaching is an unappreciated profession where you end up performing as a glorified babysitter.”
While Speer might be skeptical about the educational system, his concerns about one particular area of education are high. He feels knowledge among Canadians about Canada’s wilderness is sorely lacking. Those concerns are of high priority in the tours he organizes into the north. Whether paddling a canoe on a quiet lake or skiing a forest trail, Speer’s groups are treated to his knowledge of natural history and local folklore. As a nationally certified canoeing and cross-country skiing instructor he is a good source of technical information for his clients. He conducts classes in both sports in conjunction with his regular tour programs.
With three and four-day ski trips into Nistowiak Falls, north of La Ronge, as well as ski trips to Waskesiu and Whitetail Resort near North Battleford, Speer plans a busy winter. However, the warmer excitement starts this summer for canoeing enthusiasts with trips to a number of northern destinations including the Churchill River system. One of the new additions to his portfolio of adventure trips this summer is an 11-day canoe trip down the Clearwater River in early July.
“The scenery is spectacular throughout the wilderness park and we are taking enough time to soak out all the urban cares of the participants.”
If Speer has any urban cares left in his own psyche it doesn’t show. I’m doing what I want to do and I guess in this day and age that’s a luxury.” He says he enjoys sharing his skills and knowledge with people who appreciate physical exercise and the outdoors. And while the financial remuneration from his business might not be high, his sense of wonder at the scope and beauty of Saskatchewan’s wilderness is a big part of his pay cheque.