By Leslie Woit, Ski Canada Magazine
TOP 10 FOR BEST POWDER*
Ride the chair, race for the freshies, just be there…
› Big White
› Mount Washington
› Powder King
› Silver Star
› Whistler *
*and when you’ve had enough of fighting for first tracks, head for the thinking-skier’s destination: a helicopter or snowcat operation. Canada is internationally famous for them. If you haven’t yet discovered why, find out! Hint: great powder, fantastic lodges, top-drawer guiding—and no stress running for fi rst lift in the morning. Heaven. See www.helicatcanada.com for a roster and map.
BEST MONEY MAN
Ken Read’s fund-raising abilities match the Canadian Alpine Ski Team’s meteoric rise. Coincidence?
MOST NOISE AT A WORLD CUP EVENT:
Panorama Mountain Village Nearly 1,000 people each day rang TELUS bells track-side in late November. Many spectators complained of ringing in their sleep for days afterward.
In the cold dark of winter, Canadians have to keep warm somehow. Cue the beer. The classic venues of a peakin’ good time are well known:
› The Griz Bar in Fernie, home of the infamous naked table slide.
› At Whistler, nothing says “day’s over” like a pitcher with pro riders at Garibaldi Lift Co.
› At Sunshine, Mad Trapper’s is right on the hill and oozes old CPR chic. › Head to Rafters at Red for authentic ski-bar atmosphere.
› At Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ontario, hands down it’s Windy O’Neills for more than just Guinness, and when in town check out The Admiral’s Post.
› Farther east, Le Shack and P’tit Caribou at Tremblant give good Gallic.
MOST PLEASANT ICY EXPERIENCE
Kicking Horse’s new Village Skating Rink features a 20x40-metre ice surface, a fi re pit, a warming hut and music to practise your double sowcows.
MOST AWAITED DELIVERY
“We’ve only just begun” is the theme tune at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, the massive resort planned for Mount MacKenzie. After decades of townspeople waiting and wondering, resort developers announced a $22-million gondola and high-speed-quad contract with Leitner Poma Canada which—when the fi nal stage is erected two years down the line— will make Revelstoke North America’s tallest skiable vertical at 1,829 metres. Locals believe they’ll ski it when they finally see it.
Cypress Mountain’s $25-million transformation into a 2010 Winter Olympic Games venue is well underway. Nine new ski runs on the east-facing slope of Black Mountain represent a 40-per-cent overall expansion to the ski area. Cypress will host the 2010 Olympic Freestyle Skiing (Aerials, Moguls and Skier Cross) and Snowboarding (Half Pipe, Parallel Giant Slalom and Snowboard Cross).
The amenities at Banff’s Deer Lodge include a huge rooftop stainless-steel hot tub. Enjoy 360 degrees of breathtaking views as you stew in your bubbling cauldron like a tender shank of beef.
BEST CITY SNOWSHOE ROUTE
Get out of the Van traffic and into lots of beautiful trails, harmless little cliff jumps and the deep powder of Grouse Mountain.
BEST SKI TOWNS TO LIVE IN
Thinking about chucking in the suburban backsplit for a doublewide while you build your eight-bed Southfork in log? Try here:
› Fernie, B.C. *
› Jasper, Alberta
› Le Massif’s Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec
› Nelson, B.C.
› Revelstoke, B.C.
› Rossland, B.C.
› Wakefield, Quebec
BEST PERSONAL ACCOLADE
“I’d like to nominate Jon Rescorla (and all the Powderhounds helpers) who work tirelessly and, may I add, for free to help disabled people get up the mountain and enjoy skiing with all the rest of us. Two years ago we brought my disabled son, Sam, to Big White (having previously had our honeymoon on the mountain) from the U.K. He had the holiday of a lifetime and fi nally skied with all the family. Last year we returned without Sam but skied with the Powderhounds ourselves. These people are total stars and deserve far greater recognition than they currently receive.”
—Jenny George, U.K.
BEST IMAGINARY HIGHWAY
The Powder Highway is more a state of mind than a piece of asphalt. But the marketing construct does serve to focus the mind on all the goodies hidden in this southeastern corner of the B.C. Kootenays and Rockies. No less than eight ski areas, 11 snowcat ops, 10 heli-ski ops and nine lodges for backcountry touring. A highway to heaven if there ever were one. www.kootenayrockies.com
BEST NEW PEAK
Castle Mountain’s new Mount Haig opened last winter, attracting the attention of Warren Miller Films. They caught local skier Peter Hodgson making the fi rst descent down the 1,000-metre, 45-degree lovely. With excellent extreme and backcountry touring terrain, Mount Haig also dishes up nine new novice and intermediate runs.
MOST INTERESTING ROUTE
From Europe by ship via the Panama Canal to Squamish, B.C., the cable spools for Whistler’s new Peak-to-Peak gondola will then travel by train to Whistler on special heavyweight-bearing cars. Once in Whistler, the cable spools will be moved one by one up the mountain by specially designed transport trucks. And you thought you had a lot to pack. but skied with the Powderhounds
BEST PLACE FOR A NOONER
Norquay’s by-the-hour lift pass offers the chance to ride the slopes for as little or as long as you like.
BEST LIFT OFFER
Carpooling—jump in, it’s back in fashion! Enviroaware Sutton supports a carpooling website www.route4.ca that offers drivers and passengers across the country a chance to hook up.
BEST SCENE SETTERS
› Mount Washington
› Lake Louise
› Sunshine Village *
› Le Massif
We don’t mean eateries, condos and hot tubs, we’re talking real real-estate! Moving mountains is what the Huter family of Ontario’s Mount St. Louis Moonstone fame is famous for and over the last four years, 1.5-million cubic metres of earth has been added to the peak—just in time for the new Summit Six Express. MSLM’s 24,000 skiers per hour uphill arsenal now includes three high-speed six-packs, more than any ski area in the country. The little mountain that could!
BEST TREE-HUGGERS’ TARGETS
Selective logging lives!
› All last summer, crews in Fernie worked to open up more glades on favourite spots like Snake Ridge and Siberia Ridge.
› Mount Washington’s old-growth trees are perfectly spaced.
› At Kimberley, more glading has been done across the entire mountain face— they’re most proud of their seven-metre spacing. (In Ontario, we call that a run.) › At Sutton, a full 45 per cent of the ski area is gladed, some of which is groomed—a questionable notion but always fun.
› Also at the top of the tree are deliciously deciduous Big White, Red Mountain, Whistler, Whitewater—and pretty much every cat and heli op in B.C.
Finally, great parties you’re actually invited to! Grab your glad rags and put these dates in the diary:
› April 11-20, TELUS World Ski and Snowboard Festival at Whistler for fi lmmaker and photographer showdowns, Brave Art and loads of free concerts.
› May 19, Sunshine Village Slush Cup contestants wow judges and crowds with awards for the Best Belly Flop, Awesome Air hijinx—and sometimes, the Coldest Popsicle.
BEST NEW FIRST-TIMER RIDES
The 100-metre-long Magic Carpet at Nakiska trundles newbies up to whiter pastures. And at Kicking Horse, the Horse Play Corral stretches fi ve hectares with contour grooming, a slow-skiing and beginner area, and kids’ play trails.
MOST ROMANTIC GETAWAYS
› Bundle up and snuggle on a sleigh ride around the lake at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. *
› Slip out of the Temple spa and decant a special vintage from the awardwinning cellar at The Post in Lake Louise.
› Have a gourmet getaway at the secluded Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff.
› Frigid temps? You need never leave your betubbed suite (with real fi replace) at Tremblant’s Hotel Quintessence in Quebec.
› And, of course, you could always give her diamonds, lots of black diamonds, with a tour of Spanky’s Ladder at Blackcomb. Impress her even more by waiting at the bottom.
BEST FREE 44 MINUTES
Le Massif’s snow guarantee says if you’re not satisfied with the conditions, turn in your lift ticket during the fi rst 45 minutes of operation to receive a voucher to return another day.
BEST CHANCE TO GET IT RIGHT
With Canada hosting a record 10 World Cup races at three different ski resorts this season, this is Alpine Canada’s important dry run for the Olympics—only two years away. Panorama, which last staged events in 1992, featured women’s technical events in November. The races in Whistler, which will be its fi rst World Cup since 1995, will be the only offi cial alpine skiing test event involving able-bodied World Cup athletes prior to the Games.
BEST NEW HIGHWAY
Feel the burn on the new piece of the Trans- Canada Highway into Golden, which gets Ski Canada’s top marks for helping Calgarians arrive at Kicking Horse in one piece. Six kms done, 75 to go!
PLACES FOR A QUICKIE
Men’s and women’s downhill run at Lake Louise, Peak to Creek at Whistler, The OSV at Sun Peaks and Franz’s at Panorama. They’re long, they’re fast and custom built for cruising. What did you think we were talking about?
MOST RELIABLE HAIRDO
Ken Read officially lost his crown to CSIA King Pin, Silver Star Ski School Director, Ski Canada Tester and long-time tips demonstrator, the always hatless (but mousseless) no matter what the weather, Norm Kreutz.
BEST AWAY FROM IT ALL CHALETS
Like all the best getaways, you’ve gotta want to get there.
› Canada’s original backcountry hut, Skoki Lodge, is tucked behind Lake Louise Mountain Resort and accessed only by an 11-km-long ski route. * › With similar effort and equal rewards, we love Callaghan Lodge, near Whistler, and fl y-in-only Burnie Glacier Chalet in Smithers, B.C.
› Out east, the reputation of the Chic-Chocs Mountain Lodge in the Gaspésie can’t get any better.
BEST PLACE TO EAT YELLOW SNOW
Pour warm maple syrup on clean snow, let it cool, roll it up around a stick and enjoy. Quebec’s Mont-Sainte-Anne has a sugar shack right on the slopes.
Bromont has added 10 more newly lit ski runs, for a total of 60 illuminated ski trails over four slopes. Quebec is home to the country’s biggest nightskiing lineup.
When the population of wildlife far surpasses the population of residents, you know you’re in Jasper National Park. Don’t be surprised to find an elk in your driveway in the morning.
BEST DOGGIE STYLE
Whistler shouts “Power to the Pooches” every year at the annual Dog Parade. Canines of all stripes march on all fours and in their finest frockery in the 200-strong parade. Prizes are awarded for Best Dressed Dog and Dog Owner.
BEST CAT-SKIING VIEW
Forget B.C. and all those bloody trees. From the comfy cat at Blomidon Cat Skiing near Marble Mountain, Newfoundland, you can ski B.C.-worthy powder and survey the icy blue waters that give way to the Atlantic. Amazing.
BEST CELEBRITY MOMENT (OR PERHAPS NOT…)
Catherine Zeta Jones shopping in old Tremblant village without her security guards. Beats risking your luck at the Vancouver airport.
MOST IMPROVED INTERMEDIATE FOCUS
Kicking Horse has made a major commitment to slope reshaping and winter grooming so intermediates have a much bigger variety of fall-line cruisers down the frontside.
BEST UNSPOILED NATURAL FREERIDE TERRAIN
Castle Mountain has less than one person per skiable acre of terrain—that’s counting people on the lifts but not counting the thousands of acres of backcountry!
BEST AIR SHOW
“Seven Sunny Days” by Matchstick Productions features an epic sunset shot on Blackcomb Mountain. The booter was almost 30 metres, and was designed by airmeister Jon Ollson and built by Whistler- Blackcomb’s legendary grooming staff
BEST CAFETERIA FOOD
Fresh Tracks Café, Whitewater Resort, Nelson, B.C. It’s wildly popular with locals and imports alike, plus they’ve got the cookbook to prove it. Shelley Adams, longtime chef and co-owner of Whitewater, along with husband, Mike, have created a cafeteria experience like no other. Try the shepherd’s pie and smoked salmon soup— no foil-wrapped shrivelled hotdogs on heat racks here.
This is Sunshine’s 80th Anniversary, and the old girl’s still riding high.
And fast on the heels of Sunshine is Ski Wentworth in Nova Scotia celebrating 75 years of skiing this season.
BEST LOCAL PARTICIPATION RATE
Tough to compare to other areas unless someone wants to make it their Grade 12 term paper, but we’re impressed that a full two-thirds of Rossland, B.C., residents (population 3,200) own a season’s lift pass to Red Mountain Resort, which rises above their sleepy streets. Skiing’s roots are strong here: Canada’s first downhill ski race was held here in 1896.
BEST CHOICE FOR LAZYBONES WHO LIKE TO SKI STRAIGHT FROM THEIR DOORS
› Big White
› Silver Star
› Sun Peaks
BEST WORLD CUP SEASON
Canada made it onto the podium 14 times last year, its best season ever. If Jan Hudec’s downhill gold at Lake Louise in November followed by Britt Janyk’s downhill win in Aspen are any indication, we’re fi nally on track for the 2010 Olympics.
BEST WAY TO PREPARE FOR THE FREE GRADE 5 SNOWPASS
Start with Grade 2! The Husky SnowStars Grade 2 FunPass allows little gaffers in western Canada to ski free all season long at Lake Louise, Fernie, Kimberley and Nakiska.
BEST NEWEST CAT IN TOWN
With more and more people jumping on the bandwagon, the cat population in B.C. just got bigger with the addition of Monashee Mountain Cats. Check ’em out at www.monasheemountaincats.com.
BEST EXCUSE FOR MISSING A SKI RACE
It may have been the fi rst time in his illustrious ski racing career that Thomas Grandi actually missed his start. Dressed as race horse jockeys with plastic Dollar Store steeds between their legs, the “Ski Biscuit” team at the annual Bozo Cup at Sunshine Village didn’t post a ski time, but they later won the unofficial award for knocking back the brews.
BEST TICKETS TO RIDE
Regional airports rock. This winter more than ever, these are the landing strips to watch:
› Cranbrook’s Canadian Rockies International Airport (Fernie, Kimberley, Panorama, Red...), has completed its runway expansion and opened a newly expanded terminal. Now they just need an airline to fly skiers there.
› Kelowna International Airport’s runway extension is moving ahead, increasing in length from 7,300 feet to 9,000 feet. In 2008, international fl ights will no longer have to connect through Calgary or Vancouver to reach Kelowna, making it the third international gateway in B.C.
› This year, watch for little airlines that can do: Porter into Tremblant, and Pacific Coastal into Trail/Rossland (Red Mountain) and Kamloops (Sun Peaks). In coming years, watch for larger planes and new flights to Sun Peaks via Kamloops.
BEST SPRING SKIING IN THE EAST
The season at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec is long, often going right into May. No snow on the roads, lots of snow on the slopes, no crowds and good deals. The proof is in the photo, taken Easter weekend last year.
BEST RECYCLING EFFORT
The 1960s-vintage Tucker snowcats are rebuilt, not replaced, when they break down. The four independent tracks and narrow footprint make them the only cats capable of grooming Mont Sutton’s famous glades. rebuilt, not replaced, when they break down. The four independent tracks and narrow footprint make them the only cats capable of grooming Mont Sutton’s famous glades.
Super Bowl at Kicking Horse is a backcountry experience in a couple hundred uphill steps, with easy access, lots of line options and never crowded. It’s outof- bounds, so be prepared.
HIGHEST CONCENTRATION OF RUGRATS ON ANY GIVEN DAY
On April 3, 2007, Whistler-Blackcomb’s Ski & Snowboard School taught 1,912 Whistler Kids lessons. No reports to suggest any fewer than 1,912 were returned to their owners.
BEST BEGINNER RUN IN THE EAST
The Enchanted Forest at Mont-Sainte-Anne is a secret stash of trees, bumps and soft snow that will have you dragging your kids away from kicking and screaming. If this doesn’t get you hooked on skiing, nothing will.
BEST SKI TICKET PRICE
For Red Mountain’s free ski day, all you had to do was sign for a ticket and they handed you a day pass. Who knows why? Who cares?
MOST SPACIOUS CHALETS
The cabins at Humber Valley Resort near Marble Mountain, Newfoundland, are about the size of Alberta. An Aveda spa has its own chalet in the complex, and the nearby Strawberry Hill restaurant is where Her Majesty once dined.
BEST HOTEL SETTING
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Members of the national ski team of Austria, who train at Sun Peaks every autumn, found time to help athletes from four Native bands that make up the First Nations Snowboard Team. The Shuswap Team is now training at Sun Peaks after forming a partnership between the band and the resort.
This winner (or loser) was too close to call.
› Local Whistlerites on their fi rst-ever “Mom’s Jeans’ Ski Day.”
BEST CELEBRITY MOMENT
Sunshine Village is host of the Celebrity Sports Invitational, our chance to remind ourselves we can still ski better than Robert Kennedy Jr. (not that easy) and Alec Baldwin (a doddle).
BEST NEW SLOPESIDE ACCOMMODATION
Silver Star’s brand-new condo-hotel Snowbird Lodge has huge suites and balcony hot tubs. The village location allows you to ski right into the ski room (if you’re on rentals).
BEST TOWN SPIRIT
Residents of Invermere, B.C., thronged the streets during the women’s World Cup technical events at Panorama in November. Bonfi res with hay bales and hot chocolate for the kids, roaming clowns on stilts, a parade of skiers, Santa Claus, belly dancers and fireworks capped off the “Light Up Invermere” festivities. Close to half of the town’s approximately 3,000 residents showed up for the event, many dressed in Charles Dickens-era costumes.
BEST IDEA THE MORNING AFTER A STORM
Cuddle up with a nice warm cat. At snowcat operators Powder Cowboy in Fernie, and Wildhorse and Valhalla Powdercats out of Nelson, you can hang around town and watch the snow forecast. When it’s good, you’re a go.
BEST MEALS ON WHEELS
The Snow Train to Jasper lets you travel in comfort and style—and eat superbly in the dining car—while headed deep into the heart of Jasper National Park. From Vancouver or Edmonton, arrive relaxed, ready and full for Marmot Basin.
BEST WAY TO GO DOWNHILL FROM HERE
Dreaming of a white wedding—at least a free one? For four years, Sun Peaks has hosted newlyweds looking to exchange vows on opening day. The lucky couple receives lift tickets for the weekend, champagne, a wedding commissioner and a bed to kill time before first lift.
BEAR STUCK UP A TREE
All those skeptical about a bear’s ability to climb trees should pay attention at Sutton, where this watchful bruin has been on lookout for 25 years.
BEST SHOW OF TEUTONIC THIGHS
Since 2005, the Austria National Ski Team has been banking on the reliability of earlyseason snow at Sun Peaks. Their offi cial North American early season training venue is the ideal spot to gawk at the full men’s speed and technical teams.
BEST BOY TOY
New for 2007 and exclusive to Sunshine Village in Canada, the SlopeTracker calculates your top speed, number of runs, calories burned and hours skiing—just what every techno geek needs. Comes with proofof- prowess certificate.
BEST SEASON’S PASS DEAL
At Blue Mountain you get 841 skiing hours for 164 bucks—beat that!
This story was posted on Sat, March 8, 2008
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