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Snoeshowing @ Mt Seymour

Snowshoeing is often referred to as the fastest growing winter sport in North America! While we have no proof to support this (we don’t really like to spend our weekends counting snowshoers) it kind of makes logical sense. Snowshoeing is an inexpensive activity, which requires only some warm clothes, a moderate level of fitness, no lessons, a pair of snowshoes and some snow!!

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Why give Snowshoeing a go at Mt Seymour?

For the powder junkies amongst you the thought of giving up the opportunity to be tearing down a mountain at high speed scaring the life out of beginners doing pizza wedge turns in order to go walking on the snow might sound ludicrous! However, have an open mind for a few moments and consider the following as to why you might want to make the 30 minute drive from Downtown Vancouver to Mt Seymour Snowshoe Centre….

– The trail passes for snowshoeing are relatively inexpensive at around $9 per day at Mt Seymour when compared to the cost of a full day lift ticket!

–  You only need snowshoes and some warm clothing to participate, no need for fancy “go-pros” or carbon fibre skis made from recycled NASA rocket ships. We managed to pick up a beginner pair of glorified tennis rackets at Sportchek for around $70 in the January sales. If you don’t have your own you can always rent from Mt Seymour at a price of $27 per day which includes your trail pass.

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– While your average downhill skier or rider would suggest their day is tiring, they clearly have not tried snowshoeing where gravity is not your friend! A 5 minute trudge uphill is a serious workout which certainly strengthens your legs and core!! Mt Seymour has around 10km of well-marked trails ranging from green, through blue to black.

– There are no barriers to entry such as needing expensive lessons to know what to do – if you can walk in a straight line you can go snowshoeing!

– There is low injury risk when compared to other winter activities such as downhill ski racing, ski jumping and the Skeleton Bob!! The trails at Mt Seymour are groomed and well-marked so you should not be able to get lost, even if the weather is inclement! Saying that you should remember you’re in a winter environment so you need you to carry water, snacks and a spare layer or two in case you happen to have an accident with a tree well!

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– The groomed trails offer a great way to enjoy the mountains, beautiful forests and frozen lakes in a safe environment.  The more hardcore of you can progress to showshoeing in the Back Country. Out of Mt Seymour car park there is the well-trodden Dog Mountain trail which is not maintained by Mt Seymour but has the added bonus of being completely free!

– It’s a great social activity where you don’t have to learn a new language to participate. There are no rails to grind, no biffs to incur, liplayers to avoid or jampiece shredders to applaud. It’s a great activity to enjoy the mountains and catch up with friends and family while getting fit!

– Mt Seymour also offers Twilight, and Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe guided tours if you fancy something a bit different!

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Insider tips

– Bring snacks as there is nothing to eat on the trails except some forest floor fodder (but only if you are Survivorman or Bear Grylls) . However, at the end of the day the Mt Seymour Day Lodge serves up a choice of burgers, fries, chilli, coke, coffee, cookies…..basically everything you need to restore your sapped energy levels!

–  Be warned that the last trail back to the car park is just under a km uphill so keep something in the tank to get back or you could look a little silly trying to jump on the magic carpet ride with the kids just to avoid the hill (the thought did cross our minds!!)

– When you get your trail pass stick it to a metal clip on your coat, not on your back as you will look like an amateur who has no idea what they are doing!

– And finally when going downhill don’t lean back….as you will soon find yourself moving rapidly downhill on your backside cleaning out any fellow snowshoers in your path!

So all in all, a cheap and fun way to enjoy the mountain, and a great way to get fit too!

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Cross Country Skiing at Lost Lake, Whistler

If the fresh powder gods have gone on strike for the past two weeks over pay and conditions in heaven, or Mother Nature has decided that the ski hill should be covered in thick mist so that you can’t tell the difference between up and down, then the fair weather downhill skier can often find themselves asking ‘what shall I do now?’

Well if you’re in Whistler, a possible answer is to try cross country skiing! It’s not just for those ultra-fit good looking Scandinavian types who regularly model see-through lyrca for Lululemon – downhill skiers who rely lazily on gravity for their perpetual motion are also allowed to join in the fun provided they are fit enough!

So one day when the snow report said “hard packed,” (which for seasoned users of this code means “ice”), we decided to give cross country skiing a go knowing it at least would mean we would be able to justify a 3000 calorie lunch!

Based in the Lost Lake Passivhaus Daylodge, Cross Country Connections offers Whistler Village’s only centrally maintained cross country ski tracks (as well as snowshoe trails). Other marked trails are available at Whistler Olympic Park, known as Callaghan Country (16km south of Whistler Village) and for the more experienced cross country skiers there is a small place called the Backcountry (not for us just yet!).

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Reasons to try Cross Country Skiing at Lost Lake

– Great value beginner lesson packages – $89 (plus tax of course) for a 75 minute group lesson (max of 6 people but we lucked out and had an instructor for just the 2 of us), all day rental package of boots (so much more comfortable than ski boots) and skis (really light and thin), and a full day ski-pass (unless you are an ironman competitor or have an advanced energy saving technique 3 hours is definitely enough). If you know what you are doing full day passes are around $20, with rentals at $25 per day. See the website for more details.

– Lost Lake Cross Country Park has lots of different trails to choose from ranging from green (easy) to black (Canadian) in difficulty, and they are only for cross country skiers….those on snowshoes have their own trails and hikers are banned!

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– The athletic lycra clad folks that go cross country skiing tend not to rip past you at 90kph with their pants around their legs spraying you with snow – participants are much more mellow (in their attitude not their agility), polite and happy to help you up if you have fallen down (something you do quite often within 10 minutes of putting on a ski which is only attached at the toe).

– We discovered quickly there are two types of cross country skiing…”classic” which follows carved train like tracks and “skating” which is more free form (it’s meant to be like ice skating on skis) and uses the whole path!

– Our instructor was excellent – Jarka (we hope we spelt it correctly) from the Czech Republic was super encouraging and did not laugh at us too much as we ate snow a few times after comedy errors, including stabbing our poles into the ground in front of us in a desperate attempt to slow down, but which only resulted in us spearing ourselves in the midriff and hitting the deck! Not one to try at home!

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– Going uphill was surprisingly easy as the skis feature special grips on the bottom which are initiated under pressure (when you get good you can do something we like to call the Haribo – apparently its actually Herringbone). Going downhill was a little more challenging….you could either get in the train tracks, leave your fear at the start line and just go for it ski jumper style and hope for an uphill section, or you could snow plough (pizza wedge for North Americans) and hope that your one inch skis will find enough grip to slow you down!

– The final reason to give Cross Country Connections a go is that the staff are very helpful, flexible and friendly – nothing is too much trouble and you leave with the impression that they really enjoyed having you try out their sport! We will be back to upgrade to the blue runs next time!

Insider Tips

– Leave your rucksack at home, as when learning this affects your weight and therefore your balance and therefore your ability to stay upright….in short rucksack = eat snow!

– If you get thirsty (and don’t have your rucksack) there is a drinking fountain near the Lost Lake Warming Hut (which strangely seemed closed even on a busy Saturday)

– After cross country skiing you will be incredibly hungry……the Cross Country Connection Café at the Passivhaus Daylodge offers energy replenishing and very reasonably priced “energy food”..chili, paninis, baked goods, gelato…..yum!

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– We tried to turn at speed, we fell over.  Probably best to slow down using the snow plough and turn at the speed of coastal erosion until you have mastered the technique of turning on a pin head, well one inch wide ski!

– You can park for free just 100m walk away in lot 5, but be warned that the surface is not covered so the car park can be a little bumpy with pot holes!

–  You don’t need to wear a helmet (as speeds are lower and the etiquette is for those behind you to go around you rather than through you), and you don’t need too many layers as you get hot quickly…2 is probably enough up top!

– Don’t forget your camera, some great opportunities for photos of the frozen Lost Lake with Whistler Mountain in the background.

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So all in all, a great value day out, which is very good exercise and offers some fantastic views of the mountains and Lost Lake. A new sport for us to try and maybe even progress into touring….watch this space!

Skimoon @ Big White

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After our beautiful winter wedding in Whistler, we decided to head the 2nd largest ski resort in British Columbia for a “ski-moon” in mid-February.

Big White is about a 5 to 6 hour drive from Vancouver, which by Canadian standards is a trip to the shops.  However, having taken on the “Coq” in winter before and lost with a cracked wind shield, and having fear further instilled in us by watching “Highway through Hell,” we decided to take the safety first approach and fly on Westjet the 450 km to Kelowna International Airport in a rapid 33 minutes!

We then jumped on an official Big White minibus for a short 50 minute transfer to the highest mountain of the Okanagan Highlands. Our driver Harry was extremely friendly and informative and before we had arrived we knew everything we needed to know about Kelowna real estate, skiing techniques, Aussies and the best bars in Big White!

Reasons to pay a visit to Big White:

  • Okanagan Champagne Powder! You have to ski it to believe it but the snow is fresh, light and fluffy which makes skiing effortless and very enjoyable!
  • No ice as temperatures stay below zero (well it did during our visit anyway) as the Village is located at 1750m, which is over 1000m higher than Whistler Village.
  • The terrain at Big White is great for beginners and intermediates like us with over 70% of the 118 runs being green or blue.
  • Daily “Slow Zones” that make it easy for beginners and those who don’t like crowds and want a run to themselves.
  • A genuinely ski in, ski out set up, plus bars, restaurants and supermarkets centrally located in one village which you easily navigate on foot  or using the free village gondola.
  • Big White markets itself as knowing what skiers want, and from our observations we could see that most apartments had private hot tubs, a great way to relax with a beverage after a hard day bashing pow!
  • Big White is very family orientated as evidenced by the 100s of kids we felt like we looked after on the ski lifts on behalf of the stressed out instructors / child minders. Every afternoon and evening the resort puts on a family friendly event such as a bonfire and free hot chocolate. There is also a large ice skating rink as well as an impressive tubing area. Obviously being 32 Paul was far too old to go on the ice climbing tower (nothing to do with fear then!)

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Top insider tips

  • Big White is heavily populated by Aussies, so learn the local lingo, which is basically involves using “no worries” at the start of every sentence. To really fit in grow a beard, don’t cut your hair and swig beer like it is water!
  • Unlike a lot other ski resorts we have visited Big White offers flexible lessons – just show up at 10am or 1pm with a valid ski lesson voucher, choose your group and off you go! If the head is a little sore form the night before, “no worries” – start your lesson in the afternoon instead!
  • On our 3rd day we quickly understood why sometimes this ski Resort is referred to as the “Big White Out” as we could not see the ground from our 4th floor balcony. In these conditions head over to the Black Forest where the mist seems to go missing and the tree lined runs make navigation significantly easier!
  • We tried a couple of restaurants and were definitely not disappointed. The baby back ribs at the Bull Wheel come highly recommended, while the Kettle Valley offered some fine premium steaks (the long wait for them was worth it!)
  • If you want to spoil yourself, we highly recommend Stonegate 3 (specifically room 405) as a place to crash. The condo was fitted to a high spec, had an amazing view over the valley from the hot tub and even had an xbox!
  • If you want to get to know the mountain better, snow hosts are available to take you on a complimentary guided mountain tour at 10.30am every morning from the village centre, just look out for the yellow jackets.
  • If you want a massage book in advance, with just two spas it can be hard to get a “drop in” appointment even on a weekday at 9am!
  • Look out for special deals – we booked before November 30th and got a night’s accommodation and a day’s skiing free!

Overall, a fun family friendly ski resort with great powder and “no worries”

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