Amazing Race contestants making happier memories in the Yukon
A Summer 2015 Yukon Prospector Web-Extra.
The first time Nicole and Cormac Foster came to the Yukon, it left a disappointing memory playing out over and over again in their minds. Now they’re back in the territory to make some happier ones.
The mother and son duo were part of 2014’s Amazing Race Canada. They had made it through challenges in Alberta, B.C., Hong Kong, and Macau before landing in the Yukon.
They were doing well. Usually landing around the middle of the pack at the end of each episode. But when they got to the biathlon range on Grey Mountain, they missed their mark.
The contestants had to do a 1km lap on a fat-tired mountain bike. Then they were given five bullets to try and hit five targets. If they missed any shots, they had to do another lap for more ammo. Most teams got through after a few laps around the track. Nicole however, had to make the trip 22 times. She was still at the range hours after everyone else had left. She knew she had lost the race (plus the $250,000, the free gas for life, and the brand new pickup trucks). She must have been reeling in disappointment. But she didn’t give up. She wanted to set a good example for Cormac she says.
Her dedication impressed Canadians, as did Cormac’s unflinching support. #nevergiveupnicole trended through Canada that summer. And the team so impressed the Yukon government that one official said “they embodied the spirit of the Yukon people” says Nicole.
In 2015 the Tourism Department brought them back for a whirlwind press junket, and an adventure on the Alsek River.
The Foster’s arrived on August 22, and were subjected to a slew of interviews with local media. They were taken up to the Biathlon range Sunday to meet with Tourism Minister Elaine Taylor, and try their hand once more at that fateful challenge.
“I cleaned [all the targets] the first time out,” says Nicole. “It was an emotional experience.”
Cormac felt the same. He says he'd wanted to do the shooting challenge, but ended up letting Nicole do it because of the show's rules dictating each contestant must do an equal amount of challenges.
“It was the only time we were out of sync,” he says. He hit his first target no problem.
Of course, neither had the distraction of just under a million in prizes hanging over their heads.
Despite this bittersweet nostalgia, they’re happy to be back in the territory. And happy to have another shot to redeem themselves at the biathlon course.
“It’s like closure for us,” says Nicole.
And tourism is doing their best to show them the best of the Yukon. Aside from the junket, they’re getting to see a slice of the territory few people ever see.
On August 24, the pair set out on a fantastic five day journey headed by Jill Pangman, the sole proprietor of Sila Sojourns. Pangman has been guiding for over 30 years.
She’s a biologist, conservationist, and all around amazing individual. In short, she's the perfect guide for such a trip: knowledgeable, passionate and experienced.
The group launched from Haines Junction, following the Dezadeash River down to the Kaskawulsh, then on to Lowell Glacier where they were helicoptered out. It was the trip of a lifetime, and the Foster’s knew it.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors, but I’ve never had a chance to do something like this,” says Cormack.
Not many have.
The trip wound its way through the backcountry of Kluane National Park; each day bringing a unique vista to gaze upon. Day one on the Dezadeash looked like marshland, with high, snowcapped hills in the background. Day two saw rolling hills of red lava rock beset with pine trees and silt. Day three was pink cliffs and small yellow/red birch. The fourth and fifth were spent camped out on a bizarre grey flatland in front of the majestic Lowell Glacier. Ice bergs floated in the lake in front of the campers, Goatherd Mountain stretched its great cliffs behind. And the neon blue glacier sat lounging in the distance, rumbling and booming.
“It’s like a little touch of heaven,” says Nicole, despite having battled some tough rain and wind on the journey.
Throughout the week it was apparent the two still make a good team. Like any mother and son, there are moments of tension, but they managed to resolve them quickly and amicably, instead of letting them fester and blow up later. They seem to genuinely like each other as people, beyond their formal relationship.
“It feels like we’ve conquered something.”
“We have a healthy, mutual respect for each other,” says Cormac.
Nicole attributes this to “healthy doses of discipline” for Cormac when he was younger. She also says she played a very active role in his young life. From reading textbooks to him late into the evening when he couldn’t sleep as a baby to making herself accessible to him and his friends growing up.
The Nicole and Cormac you see on T.V.—the ones who demonstrated a loving and healthy parent/offspring relationship (who inspired one girl to write them and say they gave her hope for her own parental relationships) are largely who they are in real life. Even though they seem aware of their celebrity, and measure words accordingly, they’re good people.
It’s this good nature and never-give-up attitude that’s allowed them to make a name for themselves outside the Amazing Race. They are available for speaking engagements concerning their experiences, and what it means to never give up.
But they also crave another shot at the race that haunts them. Cormac says he still wakes up to crushing disappointment, from dreams that he’s won the Amazing Race.
“I’d love to be on the All-Stars show,” he says - a race for returning contestants.
Until then, the two will go on living their almost-normal lives. They still get recognized on the street (to the increasing irritation of friends says Nicole), but otherwise they're grinding it out. Nicole goes to work as a Director of Resident Services and has a ravenous appetite for healthy living. Cormac is completing a degree in Biosystems Engineering, and is deeply passionate about lego.
But at the very least the positivity they exude, which encouraged the tourism department to bring them back, means they get to leave the Yukon with happier memories. As the pair heads back to Whitehorse, they reflect on the epic journey they’ve just had.
“We’re exhilarated, but tired,” says Cormac.
“It feels like we’ve conquered something,” says Nicole.
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