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January 29, 2007 | Tips from Us >
Whistler, Backcountry Skiing
Find more information about Whistler - Backcountry Skiing
I just got back from a long weekend at Whistler, honing my mountain skills with a refresher skiing lesson and an avalanche safety course in preparation for backcountry touring. One thing that struck me, during the approximately 30 hours of instruction I received over the course of the weekend, was that I was being taught by the best of the best. All three of my instructors had well over 10 years experience in their field of expertise, mostly approaching more like 20 years, and this experience gave me the absolute best instruction I could possibly use. In addition, they were all active and longtime Whistler residents who were intimately familiar with the mountains and were able to share thier knowledge with me. The experience reminded me that Whistler is one of the world's biggest and best resorts, and as such attracts many very highly qualified people to be a part of the experience. So for visitors, this means not only skiing incredible runs, but also being able to take advantage of some of the world-class instructors and professionals who call Whistler home.
November 21, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Whistler, Backcountry Skiing
Find more information about Whistler - Backcountry Skiing
This year for the first time I'm venturing off the groomed slopes and into a backcountry ski adventure. In preparation for my trip, I'm taking a Recreational Avalanche Course to help avoid bad decisions on the wrong slopes. If you're planning a backcountry trip yourself, you should definitely do the same. You can find information on courses at Canadian Avalanche Association
. The course is a combination of classroom and field-work, and a really crucial part of preparing for backcountry conditions. The CAA is generally a really great resource for folks headed into the backcountry, as it also maintains avalanche weather reports and danger level bulletins. I'm taking my course through Whistler Alpine Guides
, which is held over a weekend in Whistler, a convenient way to take the course, and a great excuse to spend a weekend in Whistler. I also need all new ski gear, as my downhill equipment is not going to suit a ski touring expedition. But instead of shelling out many hundreds for a new setup, I'll start with renting at least some gear: Mountain Equipment Coop
has a rentals as well as sales for both AT and Telemark gear, as well as beacons, probes, shovels and skins.
August 25, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Nelson - Dining
A tip from a friend led us to the Oso Negro
coffee shop in Nelson. This is a great place to sit back with a cuppa and check out the passing Nelson scene - a bohemian hipster town where peasant dresses mix well with high-tech hiking gear. Oso Negro means Black Bear in Spanish, and is a reference to the global nature of the coffee biz; you can rest easy in the knowledge that the beans are fairly traded. If you're looking for something stronger than coffee - say a pint of the locally brewed Liplock Ale
- check out the Library... the lobby-level bar in Nelson's Hume Hotel
July 14, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Vancouver, Theatre & Performing Arts
Find more information about Vancouver - Theatre & Performing Arts
If you find yourself in Vancouver's Stanley park late one evening, and suddenly a crowd of 100 emerges from the forest and a man comes crashing down from the tops of the trees, don't worry... you've only stumbled across Vancouver's newest midsummer ritual. Boca Del Lupo
is one of Vancouver's outdoor theatre experiences, and this summer they're performing The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces
, a roving play that unfolds in the canopied forest of Stanley Park. My husband and I went to the opening performance last night and had a great time. I went not knowing what to expect and was charmed by the light and tongue-in-cheek tale, of 10 princesses who emerged from their bedroom each night with their shoes in tatters. A hapless 'poor guy' takes on the task of discovering what happens, even though he is under threat of beheading by the daddy-king if he doesn't discover the truth ("Harsh," as the princesses say). I loved it. Even a little light rain and a few pesky mosquitos (complimentary bug spray can be found at the check-in table) didn't dampen the audience's spirit, as we were drawn into the story. The whole crowd was invited to troop into the princesses' "bedroom" to help solve the riddle, while kids as young as one and two (and as old as 62) enthusiastically yelled helpful advice to the 'poor guy'. If you're interested in going, move quickly: this season's performances are almost sold out, and a handful of additional shows have just been added (and are sure to go quickly as well). Keep an eye on their website
, because future seasons will likely be as much fun... and as popular. And if you're interested in other outdoor theatre in BC, check out Bard on the Beach
and Theatre Under the Stars
, both in Vancouver, and Armstrong's
July 13, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Sidney, Cruises & Boat Tours
Find more information about Sidney - Cruises & Boat Tours
While most tourist who board BC Ferries for the first time find their voyage busy with exploring the ship and gawking at the passing scenery, BCers who regularly travels on BC ferries finds they develop a system for their own journey. Here's a few tips, starting with the food options. On the bigger boats, the cafeteria is a popular place to head. In fact, most people head straight for the food lineup upon boarding. I usually wait a while, 'cause I really hate lineups, and wait for the crowds to pass by about 1/2 way through the journey. Two reliable staples from the cafeteria are the fries, and the self-serve soft-serve ice cream. The fries are pretty standard, but happily so: crispy outside, soft inside. As for the ice cream, my husband and brother-in-law can't get enough: they tend to test the boundaries of gravity with the height of ice-cream spirals. Now, my personal favourite food option is being prepared in advance. Last weekend we cruised from Vancouver over to the Gulf Islands on one of the smallest ferries, the Bowen Queen
, who's cafeteria is only stocked with the basics (ie hot dogs; a classic, appropriate in the right context, works in a pinch). But we had other plans: we brought along a picnic backpack filled with cheese, pate, crackers and fresh blueberries. We set up camp on the top, outside deck (north side to take advantage of the setting sun's rays) and had one of the best, most scenic meals I've had in some time. Here's some of my other ferry tips... although keep in mind things can change from ship to ship, and route to route: *If you have kids, head for the mid-section of the boat, there's usually a play area for the kids. If you have no kids, stay away from the mid-section of the boat, it can be filled with noisy kids. Head instead upstairs towards the stern / back of the boat, there's usually a relatively quiet lounge somwhere around here. If you're feeling flush, there's a new 'first class' lounge on some of the Tsawwassen-
July 05, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Queen Charlotte City, Historic & Heritage Sites
One of the most magical days of my life was spent last summer in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Before dawn, we arrived by boat at S'gang Gwaii, previously known as Ninstints, home to a first nations village for hundreds of years until the late 1800s. Today, a collection of totems and the remains of longhouses are slowly disintegrating back into the ground, completing their life cycle. The remarkable carvings can still be seen in the aged wood, and it's not difficult to imagine what a settlement here would look and feel like, when it was filled with families and houses. We stayed for the sun rise, and watched the light hit the front of the poles. After soaking up the silence, we wandered down the path to meet the Haida Watchmen who care for the site, and heard some of the stories of their culture - both past and present. Later that same day, sailing north towards our next site, Hotspring Island, we spotted a couple of long fin whales swimming not far away. We trailed along behind them, until we were joined by a pod of at least two dozen humpback whales. We watched in silence and awe as they splashed around us, feeding on the tiny critters they eat in these waters. And as we reluctantly turned the boat to leave (some hours later) we were joined by a huge pod of about 50 or so exuberant porpoises, who played energetically in our bow wave and jumped through our wake. Haida Gwaii - also known as the Queen Charlotte Island - tops lots of people's list as a dream place for a vacation. But it's a unique place, and can take a bit of time to understand it's extraordinary virtues... as well as it's limitations. For one, it's remote and can be expensive - and time consuming - to reach. And if you're the type of traveller who likes to find a Four Seasons hotel at the end of the journey, it's probably not the place for you! With the exception of a few fly-in fishing lodges, the limited accommodation on the islands is comfortable but basi
June 23, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Vancouver - Dining
I've found my new favourite restaurant in Vancouver. Located on the south side of False Creek, east of Granville Island and west of the Cambie Street Bridge, you'll find Stamps Landing. And tucked in a corner of this square on the seawall is Ocean 6 Seventeen Restaurant. It's tiny - probably about 45 seats in total - and faces out onto the water just a few feet away, overlooking a marina filled with sailboats. The menu is fresh, extensive, generous and well-priced. However, I haven't explored it as much as I should, because I've gotten hooked on their Squid dish - lightly coated in cornmeal and served with tomatilla sauce. That and a glass of Smoking Loon Viognier out on the patio, and I'm set!!
December 22, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Sun Peaks Resort, Wineries & Vineyards
The Sun Peaks Icewine Festival
is coming up in mid-January, and it's an event not to be missed. I attended last years festival, and had a great time. Held at Sun Peaks
, a ski resort in the BC interior (about 45 minutes from Kamloops), the festival is a celebration of harvest time for the icewine grapes. Icewine, for the uninitiated, is a sweet dessert wine which is created from grapes that are left on the vine until mid-winter. They are only harvested after the temperatures have dipped below freezing for an extended period, which freezes the grape right through. The solid grapes are then pressed, and the resulting sweet juice is fermented into a really remarkable drink. But the festival's activities aren't restricted to just dessert wines. Last year, I attended seminars that covered topics such as pairing wine with cheese, and another on BC's unique wines
and wine regions. But for me, the call of the outdoors was too much to keep me inside all day. A snowshoeing tour, a snowbike lesson
, and as much skiing
as I could fit in, put roses in my cheeks all weekend (really, it was because of the brisk outdoor activity, not the wine...) The highlight of the festival is the progressive tasting, where wineries are set up throughout the resort's village, and festival-goers, with glass in hand, wind (or weave) their way through the pedestrian streets to the many tasting tables. This year, the Sun Peak Icewine festival is January 19 - 22, 2006.
December 14, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Vancouver - Shopping
It's not hard to tell that most British Columbians love to get outdoors
. One of the worst-kept secrets for outdoor adventurers in BC is a store called Mountain Equipment Co-op
(also known as MEC). Founded in Vancouver, this large store stocks outdoor technical clothes, backpacks, bike parts, backcountry ski equipment, kayaks and paddles, and much more. The prices are the lowest you'll find anywhere for the same standard of quality. Case in point: a friend who lives in New Zealand and travels regularly to see his sister in the UK, always makes sure his flight has a stopover in Vancouver to stock up at MEC. The store sees a steady stream of out-of-towners checking out the gear, and the logo is almost as common a symbol as the maple leaf, identifying Canadian travellers when they head out on excursions. (When I was hiking in Spain, a fellow traveller noticed I was Canadian when she spotted my MEC socks!) The store requires all shoppers to purchase a $5 membership, and the co-op structure means MEC's pricing is fair and mark-ups are minimal. You'll find two MEC outlets in Vancouver
, one on Broadway and one in North Vancouver.
November 28, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Duncan - Dining
About 30 minutes drive from Victoria
is the Cowichan Valley
, a region which is becoming known as a mecca of food and wine production. As my in-laws live in Cobble Hill, my husband and I often spend time in the area. We've spent many weekends bombing around the backroads, searching out unique nooks and crannies. Over the years, we've developed our list of "must-stops" for every visit. On the top of the list is Merridale Cider
, which is the only estate producer of sparkling hard apple cider in the province. Their not-too-sweet ciders are worth seeking out, and we usually buy a supply to take home with us. They recently opened a bistro on premises, which is a fantastic place for lunch. There's nothing I like better than their "ploughman's lunch" of cheeses and bread, accompanied by a chilled glass of cider, while overlooking the orchard. There's a number of wonderful, small wineries in the area too. My mother-in-law favors Glenterra's "Brio" as her house white, and it's a perfect summer sipper. Nearby Venturi Schulze
winery produces wines that are a real treat, and we always ensure we have a ready stock of their "Millefiori" on hand. Winter might be approaching but the Cowichan is has the mild temperatures of Southern Vancouver Island that rarely drops below freezing. I'm looking forward to a couple days in the Cowichan soon.