Upon graduation, some Lakehead University graduates move away from Thunder Bay to realize their dreams. For Michelle and Darren McChristie, however, Northwesten Ontario is their greener pasture.
Through their publication Superior Outdoors — a magazine they launched locally in May 2007 — the Thunder Bay couple is connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs in the region who celebrate its uniqueness.
“I have met a lot of interesting people in the outdoors,” Darren explains. “That spawned the idea for the magazine. I got tired of picking up magazines throughout Canada that listed the top 20 places for the outdoors in Canada, and there was no mention of this region.”
Darren and Michelle felt that such a publication would fill a void, informing readers of outdoor pursuits other than the traditional fishing and hunting. Superior Outdoors, with its tagline “a magazine of the North Shore,” covers stories and events from Duluth, Minnesota, to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Originally from Thunder Bay and a graduate of Fort William Collegiate & Vocational Institute, Michelle attended the University of Guelph for its environmental sciences program prior to her stint at Lakehead. She met Darren, who was born in Timmins, 12 years ago before her last year in Guelph. As a youngster, he had moved with his family to London, Ontario, and had later relocated to Thunder Bay, where his father started an exploration company during the mining boom.
The McChristies are pleased with how the first two issues of Superior Outdoors have turned out, and are hoping to produce three issues in 2008. “The magazine is helping to put Thunder Bay on the map,” Michelle figures.
Among the professionals involved are Gary and Joanie McGuffin, well known photojournalists and environmentalists with several books featuring their adventures and photographs. Local writer Michael O’Reilly has contributed his expertise to the project, and other prominent photographers whose work is included in the magazine are Gregg Johns, Tom Gvora, and Lori Fox Rossi.
Keeping the notion of a grassroots magazine in mind, Darren has also recruited fascinating outdoors enthusiasts he has encountered. “A couple of guys skated across the bay to the Sleeping Giant,” he recalls. “I asked them if they would consider writing an article, and the article they wrote was a great story.”
Another popular story was “Surfing Superior,” written by Thunder Bay’s John-Paul Marion. Given the McChristies’ busy schedule, their home makes a convenient office location for the magazine. Michelle, 33, is the Manager of Marketing and Sales for Superior Outdoors, while Darren, 36, is the Editor-in-Chief and attends to the graphics, layout, and production of the publication.
But this monumental task is not their only preoccupation. They also have day jobs and for Darren, another sideline – his Superior Kiteboarding business, inspired by the sport of kite boarding, which he took up seriously while living in Nunavut. “I did it with some Arctic explorers while we were living in Iqaluit for three years,” he explains.
Michelle is a Senior Environmental Advisor with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada – a position she has held for the past three years, while Darren is a supply teacher. In Iqaluit, Darren taught grades 5-7, while his wife held the same type of day job as she has now. “In Nunavut, we were above the treeline and I was teased about having a Master’s degree in Forestry,” says Michelle.
Michelle, Sarah, and Nathan
The international company Disticor distributes Superior Outdoors
throughout the North Shore and beyond. It is available at newsstands and bookstores, such as Lakehead University Alumni Bookstore, Chapters, Barnes & Noble, as well as at Mountain Equipment Co-op locations in Toronto, Ottawa, and Winnipeg. The McChristies also distribute the magazine themselves to several outdoor stores in the region. Subscriptions can be purchased through the Superior Outdoors’
). The cost is $8 for a one-year subscription and $14 for two years.
The Thunder Bay couple cannot speak highly enough about Northwestern Ontario and its attractions.
“I don’t think I appreciated it when I was younger,” admits Michelle. “I had to move away and come back. We never really stray too far from what our passion is, knowing what we have here is so rich and diverse and how exceptional the recreational opportunities are along the North Shore of Lake Superior and Northwestern Ontario in general.”
For the McChristies, there’s no place like home – a sentimental feeling that connects them and their two children, Sarah and Nathan, to other outdoor enthusiasts in the area.
With Superior Outdoors they hope to spread the word around.