Category Archives: Canada

Vail CEO’s Epic Generosity

Ski company boss writes BIG checks to worthy causes.

Vail-logoVail and Aspen, the most glamorous names in American skiing, are the linchpins of the communities where their ski mountains are located. Rob Katz, the mega-resort operator’s head man, and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, have opened their checkbook with unprecedented generosity.  From Vail Resorts’ press release:

Vail Resorts, Inc. CEO Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, founder of Elana’s Pantry, made personal contributions totaling $2 million to 12 local non-profit organizations in the communities where the company operates, including Eagle, Summit, Denver and Boulder counties in Colorado; Summit County in Utah, South Lake Tahoe in Nevada, North Lake Tahoe in California; the Municipality of Whistler in British Columbia, Canada; Afton in Minnesota; Brighton in Michigan; Kenosha County in Wisconsin (near Wilmot); Cooma in New South Wales, Australia (near Perisher); and Jackson in Wyoming (near Grand Teton Lodge Company). Each of the contributions will be directed toward programs that support the welfare and education of children in these local communities.

“The success of our local communities brings a number of unique challenges that require our focus and attention – none more important than helping kids and families who are most vulnerable. Elana and I feel fortunate to be able to provide this support to these outstanding non-profits to allow them to continue their great work,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

This announcement follows last year’s $1.5 million contribution by Rob and Elana to the Epic Promise Foundation, which provides grants to employees of Vail Resorts who are in need or are looking for additional educational opportunities…[There are] non-profit organizations receiving funds from this $2 million gift and the impact these funds will have on children and families in the local communities they serve. 

Think about this next time you buy VRI resort pass or buy a lift ticket.

Mt. Norquay Launches 89th Season

Smallest and oldest of the Banff area’s Ski Big 3 group.

Norquay_LogoColorado’s Winter Park Resort is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season, but up north in Alberta, Mt. Norquay was a teenager when Winter Park was born. The ski area within Banff National Park is closer to its centennial than to its diamond jubilee as it launches its 89th season today. Earlier this month, the ground was bare, and Norquay actually pushed back its opening date. But that was then and this is now, and the season start is starting with an abundance of powder. The area reports that “snow has been falling continuously for the past 48 hours resulting in more than 45cm of accumulation.” That’s a foot and a half of snow.

What a way to start the season. Mt. Norquay's 89th kicks off with abundant new snow.
What a way to start the season. Mt. Norquay’s 89th kicks off with abundant new snow.

Norquay is part of the Ski Big 3 consortium that promotes skiing in the Banff/Lake Louise area, markets a joint three-area lift ticket and operates free bus service between Banff and all three. Of the trio, Norquay is the smallest, oldest and closest to town. Many visitors focus on the enormous Lake Louise Resort and high-elevation Sunshine Village. This has given Norquay a reputation as a  local’s favorite known for its flexibility and family-friendly services. And there are the eye-popping views — when it stops snowing, that is.

New this year are expansions of the beginner area within the extensive terrain park and the on-site tubing park.  Located at the top of the North American Chair, the recently renovated historic Cliffhouse Bistro will open to skiers and sightseers alike on weekends and holidays throughout the season. Chef Morne Burger (isn’t that the best name for a chef?) will be serving up fresh flavors, craft brews and a unique wine list.

Heli-Skiing Pioneer Debuts Day Trips

New CMH day trip out of Revelstoke during the holiday season.

CMH-logoThe late Hans Gmoser, founder of Canadian Mountain Holidays, wrote the book heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies nearly half a century ago. A week of skiing (and then snowboarding too) in the snow-blessed mountains of British Columbia. Lodging, meals and socializing in on-mountain lodges reached by helicopter. Days of plowing through powder with a well-trained guide. A  pricey adventure, but heaven on earth for those who could afford it.

I’ve read so many glowing articles about CMH that I feel as if I really have spent a week in the Monashees or the Bugaboos or other ranges. In truth, I have actually never done that, but I have heli-hiked with CMH, cat-skied in various places and day heli-skied for a day with an operator out of Canmore, Alberta, whose name I can’t recall. Now, for the first time, a day of heli-skiing is on CMH’s schedule.

The new three- and five-run packages will enable powder enthusiasts to experience deep snow with big, open alpine runs, glacier terrain and stellar tree skiing in the Monashees and Selkirks from December 27 through January 3, a wonderful opportunity for holiday vacationers — both first-time heli skiers and riders and veterans of previous heli-trip to experience expansive terrain removed from a resort setting.

Prices: 3 run package, CDN $799; 5 run package, CDN $959 and additional runs $89 each, all plus applicable taxes — and a tip for the guide, who earns every cent. The package includes helicopter safety briefing, backcountry safety training; use of avalanche transceivers, shovel, probe and radio; powder skis and poles, or snowboard (bring your own ski or snowboard boots); transportation from and return to Revelstoke’s Regent Hotel to and from the heli-pad; professionally certified and experienced ACMG and/or IFMGA Guide, and gourmet mountain lunch and après ski snacks. FoMoInfo or to book: 800-661-0252.

Top Vancouver Hotel’s Rooftop Restaurant

Fine dining returns to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s roof .

FairmontVancouver-logoArguably the pop-up restaurant of all pop-up restaurants in Vancouver adds old-world class to a view of the city’s glittering skyline. The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s space called The Roof Restaurant + Bar will operate as a public restaurant through fall 2014 offering Vancouverites and visitors panoramic views of the coastal mountains, soaring high-rises and endless expanse of ocean.

First opened in 1939, the classic room became a nationally known for its dinner, dancing and live performances. Even though The Roof is only slated to operate as a public restaurant for a few months before being converted into private function space, this glamorous space takes guests back to the swank glamour of the past.

Classy retro drinking and dining at The Roof Restaurant + Bar.
Classy retro drinking and dining at The Roof Restaurant + Bar.

Buffet breakfast, a la carte lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are based on classic menus that match the ambiance. Expect such traditional favorites as oysters, prime rib and Yorkshire pudding at dinner and a sunken bar guaranteed-to-impress cocktails. The Roof is part of a $12-million renovation that will result in a more classic-contemporary Hotel Vancouver by late 2014. Meanwhile, enjoy this blast from the stylish past while you can.

The hotel is at 900 West Georgia Street, Vancouver British Columbia. The general phone number is 604-684-3131.

Cross-posted to .

Sun Peaks Celebrates Chinese New Year

Resort in the Canadian Rockies ready for the Year of the Horse

YearOfTheHorseOn the Chinese calendar, January 30 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse, and the beguiling mountain resort of Sun Peaks , British Columbia, is celebrating  its first Chinese New Year event from January 31 to February 2. Guests and locals can usher in the Year of the Horse with fireworks, traditional decorations, Asian food and cultural activities.

Festivities begin on Friday with the distribution of red envelopes  decorated with characters representing happiness and wealth, and participating  village restaurants feature Asian-inspired cuisine to get diners in the spirit. On Saturday, guests can participate in an afternoon Tai  Chi session, watch street dancers perform and gaze at a freshly hewn, life-sized ice sculpture of a horse. Children’s activities introduce them to the cultural significance of the occasion. The  evening culminates with fire dancing, a Year of the Horse torchlight  parade and traditional Chinese fireworks, all visible from the village base.

The weekend includes a Chinese New Year Dinner on Friday evening Mantles Restaurant. The Sun Peaks Spa is offering a special treatment from January 31 to February 13, featuring a hot foot soak with sunflower petals to wish guests good luck all year, compression, tapotment and reflexology massage techniques and a hydrating mango mandarin butter massage. Capping the weekend’s celebratory offerings is a dim sum brunch (“dim yum!,” I call it) on Sunday.

Mallard Mountain Lodge Opens in B.C.’s backcountry

Small, simple and sensitively conceived and built lodge

MallardMountainLodge-snowFifteen years since the vision of a small, sustainable wilderness lodge was conceived and after a decade of planning and building, the Canadian Adventure Company opened its fly-in backcountry lodge on January 6. Located at 6,400 feet in the newly minted ‘Punch Bowl’ area of British Columbia’s western Rocky Mountains, the Mallard Mountain Lodge sits in a remote area of the Hugh Allan River Valley northeast of Mica Creek.  It offers guided excursions into the pristine backcountry, designed around ski and snowboard touring in winter and llama hiking in summer.

The Mallard Mountain Lodge offers doorstep adventure into the British Columbia backcountry.
The Mallard Mountain Lodge offers doorstep adventure into the British Columbia backcountry.

The lodge accommodates just seven guests in winter (eight in summer), has a living / dining space with a wood-burning stove on one level, semi-private sleeping quarters and showers on the second floor, with washrooms adjacent to the lodge. Every bolt and brace were flown in by helicopter, and the lodge was designed for maximum efficiency, occupying a small footprint with solar panels to generate power and incinerating toilets that produce no waste. Internet access? Of course not. Being out of reach is a bit part of the appeal of the backcountry.

The “Punch Bowl,” adjacent to the area originally named “Committee Punch Bowl” by David Thompson of the Hudson’s Bay Company during the fur trade era, is at the base of the Mallard Peaks with an area comprising five valleys: Whirlpool, Mallard, Simpson, Canoe and Iroquois, which connect to the Hugh Allan River Valley and flow into the historic Columbia River.

The Canadian Adventure Company offers winter itineraries that delve into of one of BC’s remote wilderness areas via ski and snowboard touring, with optional snowmobile assistance to access a wider area. In summer, friendly llamas carry guest packs on hiking expeditions, adding a new dimension to the trekking experience.

Three-, four- and seven-night winter and summer packages cost $1,530 CDN for 3 nights, $1,890 CDN for 4 nights and $2,200 CDN for 7 nights. For US dollars, do the math. Packages include helicopter access between Valemount and the lodge,  all meals, accommodation and guide (A.C.M.G, Canadian Ski Guide or equivalent winter, and hiking guides in summer). Future years may see the addition of snowcat skiing and snowboarding. FoMoInfo: 250-835 4516.

Sea to Sky Gondola Coming to B.C. Coast


Gondola cars with plenty of glass lined up to be hung from the cables of the new Sea to Sky gondola.
Gondola cars with plenty of glass lined up to be hung from the cables of the new Sea to Sky gondola.

Click here for my recent post  about the Glacier Skywalk opening this spring in Jasper National Park, and now comes news of another attraction being built in western Canada. This one is in British Columbia, just outside of the little town of Squamish. Located  little more than an hour’s drive north of Vancouver, it is best known as the place where you turn right on the way to Whistler.  That is likely to change in mid-May when a destination attraction opens. The new high-speed Sea to Sky Gondola situated on a strip of land between Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and Shannon Falls will carry visitors from sea level to 2,900 feet in just 10-minutes. Something of a controversy ensued when the project required  that the project required the removal of about a 5-acre strip of land from the provincial park.

At the top, visitors will gaze at beautiful vistas, enjoy an entire adventure facility or just chill in a 9,000-square-foot lodge with a beer or a bite to eat while soaking up the stunning views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains. From the spacious lodge, a network of gentle walking trails spread out over the mountain.  The Panorama Trail winds about a mile through woods, crossing cedar bridges along the way and leading to a truly stunning platform cantilevered out over the valley for views that won’t quit.  Also, the 2/3-mile Spirit Trail offers an interpretive account of the local First Nations history in the region.

The park’s intentionally wobbly 1,000-foot-long SkyPilot suspension bridge spans a deep gully of the same name and offers 360-degree views of Howe Sound far below and  dazzling alpine scenery. Hikers can also access some backcountry trails into more rugged terrain.  Options range from rewarding day hikes to multi-day excursions along routes like the Sky Pilot Valley Trail, Skyline Trail and Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail. In winter, the gondola will access the snow-covered backcountry of the Coast Range for ski touring, snowshoeing and snow camping.

The gondola bottom (called basecamp) is at 36800 Highway 99, Squamish. FoMoInfo: 855-732-8675 (855 SEA TO SK) or 604-898-4663 (GOND). Cost: $34.95 per adult, $22.95 per youth, $13.95 per child, $89.95 per family and free for children under six years old.


New Skywalk in Jasper National Park

Glacier Skywalk nearing completion

World Of Stock Photo

The quartet of adjacent national parks set along the backbone of the magnificent Canadian Rockies (Banff and Jasper in Alberta, and Yoho and Kootenay in British Columbia) include s handful of commercial islands: two real towns (Banff and Jasper) and three major ski areas (Lake Louise and Sunshine Village in Banff National Park and Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park). Jasper and Banff National Parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and this United Nations cultural agency sees no disconnect between natural and careful man-made wonders.

A prime example of an attraction that most likely would never be approved in a US national park but works so well in Canada is Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park.  It was developed years ago with walkways to enable winter visitors to safely view the magical landscape of frozen waterfalls, surreal ice formations and frosted limestone walls. Several Jasper tour companies lead guided walks down into the canyon. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I loved it.

Artist rendering designed by RJC Engineering & Sturgess Architecture
Artist rendering designed by RJC Engineering & Sturgess Architecture

Now comes the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park scheduled to open to the public in May.  The immense powers of glaciology are on breathtaking display from a fully accessible, cliff-edge walkway that leads to a glass-floored observation platform suspended 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley. With the new awareness of climate change, more people are interested in glaciers and their impact on the land, and this Skywalk provides an easy and again safe way to gain some insights. Brewster Travel,  the concessionaire that, among many other services, operates park transport as well as the Ice Explorer vehicles that travel over the surface of the astounding Athabasca Glacier. This popular summer excursion directly off the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff also includes information about the glacier’s history and surrounding area.

In the US, the Grand Canyon Skywalk opened several years ago, providing a comparable experience but over a deep desert canyon. A major operational difference is that unlike the Glacier Skywalk in a national park, the older Arizona version is on Hualapai Nation land.

Princess Diana Exhibit Coming to Canada

Mammoth West Edmonton Mall to host Princess Diana exhibit

Diana-logoIn the years since the storybook wedding when Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, the royals have provided a stream of news: babies, betrayal, divorce, a suspicious death and another storybook wedding. But through all that, Diana, the Princess of Wales continues to live in the public’s affection. Now, “Diana: A Celebration,” a dazzling exhibition that chronicles the life and work of one of the most complex and remarkable women of our time is on display at the West Edmonton Mall from February 9 through June 9.

The exhibit, which will cover almost 7,000 square feet, contains 150 objects in nine galleries. Among the items are Princess Diana’s magnificent royal wedding gown with its 25- foot-long train, 28 of of the royal fashionista‘s dresses, family heirlooms, jewels, personal mementos, paintings and rare home movies and photos. Also in the exhibit are the original text of the Earl Spencer’s moving tribute to his sister at the funeral in Westminster Abbey and books of condolences left by people throughout the world.

Display of Diana's wedding gown with its 25-foot train.
Display of Diana’s wedding gown with its 25-foot train.

On loan from Althorp, the Spencer family’s 500-year-old ancestral home in England, Diana, A Celebration, chronicles the life of Diana and invites people to share the milestones of her many roles:  as a youngster, schoolgirl and athlete; as the shy kindergarten teacher who was said to have captured the heart of the prince (although subsequent events proved that not to be as billed.  The public loved her as a young, ravishing royal bride, devoted mother, sister and daughter, and as the tireless charity advocate and spokeswoman.

Diana, A Celebration was produced by Arts and Exhibitions International and all profits generated from the exhibition at Althorp and overseas go to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. While the exhibit has traveled extensively around the United States since it was established in 1998 (it recently closed at the Frazier Hisotry Museum in Louisville, Kentucky), it has only had one other Canadian stop and that was in Toronto a decade ago.

Tickets are already on sale at the mall’s guest services for C$23.10 for ages 13 and older, $16.90 for ages 60+ and $18.90 for ages 12 and under, or online from Ticketmaster, which adds service charges.

Quebec’s Ice Hotel is Open for the Season

The ice is nice in seasonal hotel in Quebec

The Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel in English) in Quebec City is open for the 2012 season, its 11th. One great thing about a structure that melts each spring and is rebuilt again the following winter is that it can be redesigned and re-imagined every year. The 2012 version, with its high ceilings and pointed arches is reminiscent of a Gothic church, but it is dedicated to northern Québec and the First Nations of this huge territory.

Gothic-inspired arches of Quebec City's Hôtel de Glace. (Photo: Hôtel de Glace Québec-Canada).

Through their art, culture, knowledge and values, visitors enter a journey between folklore and modernity that helps understand the survival skills and courage it takes to live in northern climes. Thematic weekends around the include festive evenings at the Ice Bar, Folkloric Sundays at the Sugar Shack and more, accessible to day visitors and overnight guests too. The Hôtel de Glace is also offering new outdoor activities for families including a 40-foot-diameter ice skating rink of 40-ft in diameter and the enormous covered Grand Ice Slide completely made of ice and snow.

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