Ask Jolene Brewster about the Alberta Rockies and her eyes immediately light up. After all, this place is in her blood.
Jolene is part of a long line of Albertans passionate about the Western lifestyle. Her father still goes hunting in the mountains every year and her grandfather used to pack and guide in the wilderness with Bud Brewster – one of the very first tour guides and operators in Banff National Park.
You might say that Jolene is the quintessential Alberta cowgirl: she’s a former rodeo queen and is proud to carry on many of the western traditions that have been so important to her family.
“The older I get the more I realize how important it is. You have to keep the spirit alive. I see why my parents and grandparents were so excited to share it (the western lifestyle) with me and now it is something I am really excited to share with my daughter,” said Jolene.
Growing Up With Alberta Traditions
She remembers her parents taking her to the Calgary Stampede when she was a child, which instilled within Jolene the importance of celebrating her Alberta Heritage.
“Horses were always a part of my life, as well as the cowboy lifestyle and the Western spirit,” she says. “My family is very proud of their story of coming to Canada in the late 1800s and the Western spirit runs pretty deeply in all of our blood.”
Becoming a Rodeo Queen
In the year 2000 Jolene was named Calgary Stampede Rodeo Queen, an honour that was incredibly important to her.
“That was a huge moment. It meant so much to my family and that was one of the most meaningful parts of that story for me – the fact that I was representing our family heritage.”
“The Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses are the walking, talking poster for the city of Calgary. We travelled all over Alberta and our job was to meet and greet people,” describes Jolene. “The Calgary Stampede is famous for Western hospitality and we were the epitome of that.”
Guiding Celebrities Through The Rocky Mountains
One of the most memorable moments on the job for Jolene was when the Calgary Stampede phoned her to ask if she would take 2014 Parade Marshall William Shatner out on a horse riding trip. She recalls being impressed at the fact that Shatner, a man in his 80s, could ride for seven hours through the mountains.
“We took him out with his wife, his kids and his grandkids. We crossed rivers and had a campfire cookout, it was a beautiful sunny day and every one was in good spirits… I was so proud to be hosting Captain Kirk on a horse!”
Working at Banff Trail Riders
Banff Trail Riders is the largest outfitter in Alberta and plenty of cowboys and cowgirls walk through the door every day. Jolene has plenty of awe and admiration for the people who live as closely to the authentic Wild West lifestyle as possible.
“Within the Stampede family there are a lot of devoted cowboys – but not many people live the lifestyle in totality. They live, eat and breathe it. They don’t have a side city life, they are true cowboys.”
Many visitors to Alberta are surprised to discover that this authentic world of cowboys still exists – but what surprises them more is how wild and untamed the Rockies really are.
Jolene says that she often sees guests blown away by the number of animals they can spot in Banff National Park, from elk to deer to bears to muskrats.
“People know they are coming to the pristine Rocky Mountains but I don’t think they realize how raw and authentic it really is. They get to see wild animals from town, they don’t have to go out in the middle of nowhere in an unsafe zone.”
Jolene grew up surrounded by this wilderness and has never taken her location for granted. “I feel very lucky and grateful to have been born here and to live here.” Working with Banff Trail Riders allows her to share her passion for the Rockies with others and pass on these authentic Western traditions.