“Having clean drinking water is one of those essentials that are so often overlooked.” — Mark Abma, professional freeskier
Mark Abma knows a thing or two about snow. He has skied on it recreationally his entire life and professionally since the early 2000s when iconic ski filmmakers Matchstick Productions (MSP) began capturing his athletic prowess on camera. While his career has now grown to encompass much more than his skiing, Mark still travels across the world during the winter in search of the finest mountain moments. But when you ask Mark about his passions, he’s just as excited about snow’s flowing state of matter; water.
“Our bodies are made up of 70 percent water, I think that’s why water is calming for so many people,” says the 41-year-old. “When I spend time working a physical, high-intensity profession, it’s so relaxing to be able to come home and immerse my whole body in water. Our bodies and minds need adequate hydration to function properly. After being an athlete for so long, I’ve really come to realize how valuable it is to have a good source of water.”
About 14 years ago he read about the benefits of hydrotherapy in an article about Whistler’s Scandinave Spa. With a desire to learn carpentry (and some friends that helped guide him along the way), he slowly transformed his property in Pemberton, BC into a hydrotherapy oasis.
“I decided I wanted to recreate that (Scandinave) experience in my backyard so I could do it every day,” says Mark. “I built the sauna first, then I built a couple of cold pools and pumped water in from a small creek on my property. I was sold on it.”
Mark Abma now lives an hour’s drive away in Squamish and rents out his Pemberton home, but he also built a small enclosed treehouse on the property so he could rest after big ski days in the nearby backcountry. Of course, sleep wouldn’t come without first indulging in a hydrotherapy session.
Bathing in cold water and surfing in the ocean have their benefits, but none of that matters if one is not drinking enough water. Mark’s remote cabin in Tofino on Vancouver Island (another oasis, of sorts) isn’t connected to the town’s utility system. Mark relies on a rainwater cistern, and while that’s sufficient for non-potable purposes like washing, drinking this stagnant water can be risky.
“I’ve experienced parasites through bad water in the past, so when I heard about Acuva, I knew it was a system I wanted to try,” says Mark. “It was the simplest but most inclusive system I could find, having both charcoal pre-filters as well as the UV filter. My cabin is on a steep plot of land, so before I installed the Acuva Arrow 5 I would have to carry a massive water jug up 120 stairs from my neighbor’s cabin. I feel great now knowing we can utilize all the rainwater we need.”
No matter what the season or where he’s residing, Mark makes sure that water is a keystone of his lifestyle. Living on the coast of BC helps with that, but staying healthy, both in body and mind, can take discipline.
“The first thing I do in the morning is to drink a glass of water,” he says. “It’s so easy to get caught up with getting started with the day, whether that’s or getting on my computer or my phone, making a cup of coffee, or whatever else needs to be done. I find that focusing on that first glass of water creates intention for my day; I’m starting out by doing something good for myself. That awareness carries on by staying hydrated throughout the day.”
The same intention holds true for cold plunges as well.
“When you’re in cold water, you’ve got nothing else to do but think about your body and mind. Self-awareness is so important in every aspect of our lives. For me, water helps raise that self-awareness.”
With a packed winter schedule for skiing and another remote cabin project in the works in BC’s Gulf Islands, Mark’s passion for every type of water is only growing stronger. In the mountains, it’s a winter gateway to fun and adrenaline. In the surf, it’s a flowing connection to the world’s saltwater oceans. In Mark’s backyard, it’s a therapeutic treatment for relaxation and recovery. But at the end of the day, it’s really just what comes out of the faucet.
“It’s the simple things you take for granted,” he says Mark. “Having clean drinking water is one of those essentials that are so often overlooked.”