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Vancouver Island: Victoria's Beloved Oak Bay Beach Hotel Debuts Its Second Act: It's been the grand dame of Victoria's Pacific coastline for more than 80 years, and when the Oak Bay Beach Hotel re-opened its doors this winter following a six-year, multimillion-dollar transformation, the legendary landmark showcased that it's still got it. And then some. Alongside the hotel's restored Manor House elegance and brand-new seaside hot pools, there's a sense of the familiar that is more than mere nostalgia. Here's why: to preserve the spirit of the hotel, a careful months-long deconstruction of the existing property ensured that 95 per cent of the building was refurbished and recycled. Recognize the mirrored glass and antique touches in The Snug, Victoria's first neighbourhood pub? That's because they've always been there, along with the original beams and fireplaces that shape this cosy spot, favoured for its frothy brews and hearty fare. And the street-side entrance to Kate's Café? You'll be making strides through the hotel's original entryway before settling in for a latte or a glass of BC wine. Indeed, you'll see timeless touches throughout, whether you dress in your finest for a chandelier-lit Hotel Dining Room menu or nestle in for a live performance at Oak Bay's own David Foster Foundation Theatre. Either way, it looks like Act 2 is bound to be a show-stopper. www.oakbaybeachhotel.com
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Northern BC: New Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole Tells the Story of the Islands and Their People: The Haida people have long been connected to the islands they call home — their bond is etched into the land, in stone and wood. It is a connection that enables the people of Haida Gwaii to tell their stories, a long-standing tradition that will continue for Haida carver Jaalen Edenshaw and his assistant, Tyler York, with the creation of a new Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole. Currently being carved at the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate, Edenshaw and York are crafting the pole from a centuries-old red cedar harvested from the same old-growth forest that provided material for the hundreds of poles that once lined beaches in historic Aboriginal villages. The piece, part of a continuum of monumental carving on Haida Gwaii, will document the story of Sculpin, Grizzly Bear, Raven and Eagle — all figures that chronicle the interconnections between the land, the sea and the people of this special place. While the pole is not set to be raised until August 15, 2013, to mark the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking cooperative relationship between the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada, visitors have the rare privilege of viewing the artistry as it unfolds. Hear first-hand what trees make the perfect totem, how a carver's tools make quick work of the wood, and what it will mean when this pole, the first to be erected in more than 130 years, joins 13 others that stand tall at this Northern BC National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage site. www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/gwaiihaanas/ne/ne5.aspx
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Vancouver, Coast & Mountains: Sledding in BC is Totally Awesome, Man: Looking to rev your engines? Set your snowmobile sights for Whistler and Pemberton for an outing that's, like, totally awesome. In the saddle for 10 years, the pros at Totally Awesome Adventures traverse the wintry landscape aboard top-of-the-line sleds, carving tracks that include short-and-sweet tours near Whistler and full-day rides up Rutherford Creek to the Pemberton Icefield, a vast collection of glaciers that dot southwest BC. A favoured tour of the local landscape, the icefield promises treeless rides, with plenty of technical climbs and seemingly boundless views. Should you yearn for a multi-day traverse, point your sled a little further afield and let this awesome BC crew guide you to the historic mining town of Bralorne. Just beyond Pemberton, where the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region morphs into the former gold mining fields of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, this journey showcases a variety of torque: you can stick to the grooves of the winding Hurley forestry road, or venture off course into one of the many powder-packed play areas en route. Your reward? Cosy overnights following a hearty menu and a cold pint at the Mine Shaft Pub. www.totallyawesomeadventures.com
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Kootenay Rockies: Island Lake Catskiing Tempts with a Winter Lunch and Spa: When you're known as a superlative setting for the cat-ski crowd, there's little doubt that heaps of snow and plenty of outdoor exploration are on the menu. And what if that menu also includes cauliflower and roasted garlic soup, grilled pork chops topped with fennel and sage chutney, and braised short ribs with charred tomatoes? It's simple: the outdoors may be great, but indoor pursuits promise to be equally grand. At Island Lake Catskiing, which is celebrating its 25th year in the heart of BC's Cedar Valley, west of Fernie, that statement certainly holds true, thanks to the resort's offering of a Friday or Saturday Winter Lunch and Spa. The day's festivities begin with a scenic 25-minute cat ride up to the lodge, followed by a hearty lunch in the Tamarack Dining Room, which promises sweet endings of warm honey cake topped with berry compote, vanilla ice cream and honeycomb. Post-meal, a saunter to the spa is in order, where guests can indulge in treatments that include relaxation and deep tissue massage and hot stone therapy. And while you may not have signed on for cat-skiing — it is, after all, what has solidified Island Lake's reputation over the last quarter century — you can rest assured that your winter dine and unwind will prove equally satisfying. www.islandlakecatskiing.com/winter/activities
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Cariboo Chilcotin Coast: Winter is the Coolest Time to Explore the South Cariboo: In BC's South Cariboo, winter may be the season for woollies, but that's just to keep you toasty while you're playing outside. One such option: pack your snowsuit and head to where temperature plunges are celebrated in the mountain-backed meadow and forest playground surrounding Crystal Waters Ranch. Situated east of 100 Mile House, near scenic Wells Gray Provincial Park, this gem of a resort promises all the winter bells and whistles: you can drop a line below the ice to tempt the area's stock of silvery rainbow trout, or strap on some snowshoes or skinny skis to follow the tracks of the region's wildlife along white-powdered plains. Let the folks at Crystal Waters get you in the saddle, whichever adventure you choose; home to a year-round working guest ranch, you'll be in the right hands. Following the day's pursuits, shake off the chill indoors next to a roaring fire (cocoa included), or relax in the soothing steam of the resort's sauna before indulging in a hearty homemade buffet, straight from the kitchen of hosts Nicole and Thilo Guetler. www.crystalwatersranch.com
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Thompson Okanagan: Oliver's Firehall Brewery Stokes the Fire: When you pour premium craft beers in Canada's Wine Capital, you tend to stand out. And when said frothy pints are served up in a refurbished firehall, well, you've really got something to talk about. At The Firehall Brewery in Oliver, Brew Chief Sid Ruhland oversees a team dedicated to producing three fine Okanagan craft beers. There's the deliciously golden Backdraft Blonde Ale session beer, with its light, crisp essence; the smooth and smoky Holy Smoke Stout, which charms with a roasted finish and just a hint of chocolate; and the thirst-quenching Stoked Ember Ale, which promises a sweet start and a hoppy ending, an ideal thirst-quencher for hot Okanagan summers. All three are unfiltered, unpasteurized offerings that incorporate Oliver's groundwater, a British strain of yeast, and barley and hops from various countries, including Canada. Sample for yourself at the brewery's Hydration Station tasting room, select bistros and pubs in the Okanagan, or better yet, pair them with tasty eats — and we're not talking little nibbles of cheese. More like beefy burgers, spicy chili and pan-fried salmon, all delectable choices on the menu at the Firehall Bistro, which shares its living space with the brewery. A happy convenience that will surely encourage you to raise your glass. www.firehallbrewery.com
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