Monday, February 4, 2013

Tourism British Columbia slope angels, Winter 2013

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In British Columbia, heaps of snow, diverse terrain, spectacular scenery and celebrated après-ski adventures abound. Not sure where to start? Check out our newly launched ski website for the latest and greatest, including special offers, live snow conditions and insider information on BC's winter resorts. You're bound to discover a destination that's right for you. But don't take our word for it. You've got to ski it to believe it.

Sun Peaks Resort's Olympic Pedigree: Sun Peaks Resort boasts an Olympic and World Cup pedigree second to none. Home to Canada's female athlete of the 20th century, alpine ski champion (and frequent on-mountain ski host) Nancy Greene Raine, this Thompson Okanagan destination is also the stomping grounds for a new breed of alpine racers, including Elli Terweil, a third-generation resort resident who is making her “White Circus” debut on the national ski team this winter. Have some big-time aspirations of your own, ladies? Then why not start with a Da Ski Sistahs session. Over the past three winters, women keen to improve their slopestyle techniques have discovered mind- and form-altering instruction, thanks to “Da Ski Sistah” Laurie White, who runs a gals-only program for those who are ski-schooled out. Class size is limited to three, and there's only one requirement: share your on-slope stories with family and friends at day's end. Speaking of buzz, word is out that St. Patrick's Day will mark the appearance of local snowboarder and international cover star Chris Dufficy. The top pro rider returns to his hometown March 17 to host the first-annual Ripcurl Duff Invitational Slopestyle, sponsored by apparel manufacturer Ripcurl and Kamloops' Oronge Boardshop. What can you expect? Slopestyle shredding — a brand of terrain park gymnastics — sure to blow your mind. Consider this an introduction to what will be on display when slopestyle debuts at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Slash the Steeps and Bash the Bumps at Big White: The party's on at Big White Ski Resort, where 50th birthday festivities have been well underway since the mountain's early season opening. The best present of all? A wholloping of white that continues to dust the slopes, offering powder-packed exploration of the family-friendly Okanagan-based resort, whether weaving among snow-cloaked hoodoos that populate the mountain's three peaks or scaling an 18-metre (60-foot) ice tower in Happy Valley. Take advantage during the season of snow, and sign up for Big White's new High Performance sessions, featuring Canada's top level-4 instructors. Each class focuses on a specific aspect of skiing with an eye to maximizing individual performance; group sessions include Slash the Steeps, Bash the Bumps and Tackle the Trees, and adventurers will spend an entire day with a pro who will show them how to tame Big White's most challenging terrain. Each outing, which includes a full day of skiing with lunch at the Happy Valley Day Lodge, promises small group sizes (maximum of four per session), plus the use of video analysis, sure to help participants fine-tune their skills. If speed isn't your thing, not to worry; strap on the snowshoes for a new, and invigorating, sunrise snowshoe trek up the mountain, or gather the gang for a family tour or sunset snowshoe. Your Big White guides will showcase part of the resort's 15-kilometre (nine-mile) network of dedicated snowshoe terrain, not to mention some mighty fine views.

Apex Mountain Resort Soars: Apex Mountain Resort, west of Penticton, boasts sunny skies and over six metres (20 feet) of the fluffy stuff every year. Reason enough to pack up the skis and boards, but here's another: mountain culture at this Okanagan destination has a definite bend towards freestyle skiing in all its many forms, from mogul competitions to high-flying aerials to ski-cross racing, the “new kid” on the slopes. To prep for this season's snow, the team at Apex spent the summer building a new skier and boardercross track, complete with five-metre (15-foot) walls on some of the banked turns. The gravitational forces at play in these corners are as exciting as those experienced when a skier or rider slides up and down the smooth roof of a colourful school bus, uniquely installed as if it had crash-landed nose-first into the slopes of Apex's terrain park. As an added bonus, ClaimJumper, one of three terrain parks at Apex, is bigger and better than ever this year, thanks to 18-metre (60-foot) step ups and multiple takeoffs on every table. As part of the BC Series Slopestyle competitions, and host site for the Junior National Slopestyle, this park, which is designed for all ability levels, is built to impress, especially if you want to huck it big or take a slide one of the many rails. And there's incentive for your efforts, namely if you take on the 30-metre (100-foot) shotgun rail: an “award” awaits if you can slide it end to end.

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort's New Approach to TLC: From groomed corduroy to untracked drifts, every definition of snow is on spectacular display at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, near Golden. But that's not all you'll find at this the newest member of the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies family, which also includes nearby Kimberley Alpine Resort and Fernie Alpine Resort. Should you be in need of some TLC, look no further than The Learning Centre, Kicking Horse's newest family-friendly facility, situated in the heart of this bustling Kootenay Rockies village. Designed with “never-ever” and beginner skiers and riders in mind, TLC caters to more tastes than might first be imagined, including lessons for those looking to hone their telemark ski skills, one of the hottest trends in this neck of the Kootenay Rockies region. A quick look around this lively resort, and you'll see there's even more to be had: next to The Learning Centre, and a snowball's throw from the Golden Eagle Express gondola, stands a brand-spanking-new retail centre, while the slopes high above boast new groomed access to the mountain's Feuz Bowl, sure to ease intermediate-level skiers and riders on their way to more challenging terrain. Wherever you look, you'll see that there's more than enough TLC to go around.

Explore British Columbia's Backcountry: If self-propelled adventure tickles your fancy, BC promises plenty of track, both on and off the beaten path.

In the Coast Mountains near Whistler, Callaghan Country offers backcountry adventure for both day-trippers and those eager for an overnight stay. Here, the journey is part of the fun, thanks to the gentle track-set approach that winds alongside Whistler Olympic Park's Nordic trail network — one pass gives access to both — into the pristine Callaghan Valley. Once there, you can ski tour beyond Callaghan's Journeyman Lodge into a wilderness of white on the slopes of Powder Mountain or take a snowshoe crunch across open meadows to Conflict Lake's frozen expanse.

Looking for something a little different? Point your poles to the South Chilcotin Mountains, north of Whistler, where locals take their backcountry skiing seriously. Here, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast-based Spruce Lake Adventures and Tyax Air Services have teamed up to offer air drops for both guided or unguided alpine touring ski groups onto the massive icefields of the coastal mountains. On these multi-day trips, you can camp on the glacier and tour across rolling ridges to your heart's content until the workhorse DeHavilland Beaver returns to fetch you.

Northern BC's Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Area, now in its third season, holds the distinction as the first dedicated backcountry ski area in North America. Situated just outside Smithers on the east slope of the Coast Mountains, the Hankin-Evelyn area provides easy access to five alpine bowls and 11 cut ski runs catering to all abilities. Bonus: warm the fingers and toes at Hankin Hut (day-use shelter) situated in the sub-alpine or stay overnight in the historic Hankin Fire Look-out.

Heli-Ski Magic: Eager to elevate your adventure? In BC, you’ve got plenty of high-flying action to choose from.

In the Selkirk and Monashee ranges, CMH Heli-Skiing, the world's first and largest heli-ski operator, has launched a new partnership with renowned ski manufacturer K2. Together, the joint venture offers multi-day heli-trips to exciting treed and alpine terrain based from the CMH K2 Rotor Lodge in the small town of Nakusp. With outings designed to appeal to a wide cross-section of snow eaters, trips include "steep shots and pillow drops," athlete weeks, K2 ski testing and film school sessions. Bonus: every heli-ski guest receives a free pair of K2 skis.

No matter the conditions, Northern Escape Heli-Skiing near Terrace has a plan: if the choppers can't reach the peaks because of overcast conditions, Northern Escape's snowcats offer the ultimate backup, with optional outings through challenging treed terrain, plush with pillows and open bowls. Add to this that these pros aren't afraid to guarantee guests the most day-in, day-out vertical coverage of any heli operation on the planet. Sounds like a foolproof approach to tackling the region's huge alpine bowls and steep-tree runs.

Not to be outdone, Bella Coola Heli Sports on the Central Coast oversees the largest terrain anywhere — as big as the Swiss Alps — from three distinct lodge locations. Skiing exclusively in small groups, there's plenty of terrain to keep intermediates entertained, while Experts Only tours cater to the truly skilled. And from your vantage point, you'll marvel at the scale of these mountains, where they rise from sea level to as much as 3,000 metres (9,000 feet) in height. Looking for something outside of the box? Try casting for salmon or trout following a morning on the slopes. With Bella Coola's main lodge situated on one of the best fly-fishing rivers in the world, you won't want to miss an opportunity to reel in a big one.


Head to the North Shore: If you make your way to one of Vancouver's three North Shore Mountains this season, here's a tip: come prepared. More specifically, you might want to bring along a full quiver of skis, boards, snowshoes, even skates.

Start your North Shore exploration at West Vancouver's Cypress Mountain, where, alongside its crowd-pleasing cross-country and snowshoeing trails, adventure is all about high-flying action. This season, Cypress boasts two installations among the 20 new additions to the freestyle terrain parks on its Black Mountain runs. There's even more high-flying action, and aerial antics, on mountain, thanks to the arrival of a Katal landing pad. (This jumbo air bag in the Patio Park adjacent the day lodge allows high-flyers to practise going big with less fear of injury.) Little ones can perfect their moves, too, thanks to a kid's carousel in the learning area, which helps youngsters get comfortable with sliding on snow while being towed in circles at less than dizzying speeds.

In the eyes of those keen to trade schussing for a mellower approach in the Coast Mountain forest, you can lace up the skates for a twirl on Grouse Mountain's outdoor skating pond, or slip into snowshoes for a tour through Munday Alpine Snowshoe Park. Sure, you can still hop on one of four quad chairlifts to ski or ride off the top of the Peak (elevation 1,249 metres/4,100 feet), but a few spins on frozen ice or a crunch through the park's blend of beginner and high-performance loops promise to get the blood pumping at a downhill pace. For the truly adventurous, a hardcore Snowshoe Grind (think: snowshoeing with plenty of elevation) is sure to take it up a notch.

While a leisurely snowshoe through the groomed paths in Mt Seymour's Discovery Trails network may tempt, you won't want to make the journey to Grouse's neighbour to the east without strapping on your skis or snowboard and taking a ride on the new Mystery Peak Express high-speed quad chairlift. Offering quick access to the landscape's natural gullies and features, Mt Seymour unveiled the $5 million addition this winter — the single biggest investment in the history of the mountain. The installation of the chair, along with the investment of Vancouver's only covered Magic Carpet®, demonstrates Mt Seymour's commitment to being one of the best places to learn to ski and snowboard in the Lower Mainland.

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