Best of Skiing in Canada Awards 2011
Every year we dole out roses (and a few bricks) to the people, places and things that make skiing at home so great. Numbers don’t play much in our selection process; neither does honesty, integrity, serious measurement or an awards gala with acceptance speeches, for that matter. But in the end, all these photos and fodder that’s taken a year to collect makes for some entertaining reading indeed.
*if you like sun on your powder
- GOLD MEDAL
- Silver Star
- Sun Peaks
- SILVER MEDAL
- Castle Mountain
- Lake Louise
- Marmot Basin
- Sunshine Village
*if you like powder on your powder
- Big White
- Chic Chocs
- Hudson Bay Mountain
- Le Massif
- Mount Washington
- Powder King
- Red Mountain
What better way to celebrate your 80th birthday than reflecting on the 80 days of skiing you got in that season? That’s exactly what Nick Maika did at friendly Sun Peaks. We only have one question with this obviously upward-sliding scheme: With the resort typically open 140 days a year, what’s Nick planning to do when he turns 141?
Best way to order lunch with your thumbs
Silver Star’s Bean to Cup coffee shop takes orders by text message so txtbots, mutes and guests generally under the age of 24 don’t have to utter a word—or miss out on a single turn.
Best best vests
Mica Heli’s travel pillows are second to none—just like their powder.
Best off piste on piste
With more than 3,200 hectares of skiable terrain around Whistler-Blackcomb, it’s hard to imagine that there wouldn’t be some secret stashes inside the boundary lines. A 15-minute hike up The Chimney will bring you to The Grey Zone—a pocket of untouched white fluffy stuff that pops you out above the Crystal Hut. A half-hour hike to the top of Flute will give you access to an epic bowl and a fairy tale-like tree run. It’s enough to make you think you were spending the day in the untouched beauty of the backcountry.
Best home away from home
With Ontario still hugely dominating the destination market for Tremblant skiers, you’re more likely to see your buddy on the gondola there than on the subway in Toronto.
Best new albertan town in b.c.
Panorama Mountain Village parking lot is plated in “Wild Rose Country” any given weekend, all winter long. Only a couple hours past Banff (and just over the B.C. border) gets Southern Alberta residents to a ski-in/ski-out resort with activities such as heli-skiing that aren’t allowed in national parks.
Best make your own fun project
The Park in the Park used snow removed from a parking lot at Castle Mountain to convert into a terrain park. Spotlights were installed and rails and small hits were moulded for fun under the stars. Everyone had to keep an eye open for the snowplow, Castle reports, since it had a tendency to change the features—quickly and without asking.
Best longest welcome mat
Sir Sam’s new 335-metre-long, covered carpet lift in Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands is one impressive people mover—and the longest in the country.
Best most romantic skiers’ city
Year after year, century after century, the attention may deservedly go to nearby Quebec City, but Charlevoix’s little Baie-St-Paul (just beyond the ski centre of Le Massif) is a gem worth discovering. Start with le Orange Bistro.
Best place to start spending your savings
Mike Wiegele’s private Albreda Lodge is one luxe log cabin for you and 15 friends to wake up in. And after your bowl of Cheerios in the morning (or something more gourmet), it’s only a six-minute flight to more than 1,500 vertical metres of the world’s best powder.
Mont Sutton just about wrote the book when it comes to glade skiing, where almost every run seemingly follows an almost perfect fall line cut through pristine maple forest. Even beginner and intermediate skiers can get the unique feel of skiing surrounded by trees.
Best new training centre
Newly completed Kimberley Conference& Athletic Training Centre is a $6-million, 24,000-sq-ft conference centre—and the only Canadian digs with a fully accessible training facility for both able-bodied and Paralympic athletes.
Best dessert burger
The Tooth Fairy Burger at Jackpine Pub at Panorama Mountain Village is a burger topped with hot brownie, crumbled cookies and chocolate syrup. Thankfully more dentists ski than any other profession.
Best lift/run ratio
Apex may have only four lifts, but with 67 runs, including some of the country’s best steeps, we like those odds.
No contest! Bob Bell’s Marmot Basinmobile easily won – although we hear he’s getting tired of being stopped for driving in ski boots.
Best slopeside sushi
Don’t scoot back to the Sunburst Express quad at Sun Peaks too quickly or you’ll miss a tasty stop at the Horie Sun Lodge. Neatly tucked away right on the hill, the only Japanese restaurant (and take-away) in Sun Peaks is also a neat and tidy B&B. Plenty of choice but reservations recommended—and the menu advice we particularly like states: “Bring your own alcohol.”
Best cheap sleep
It’s not always about Post Hotel and Four Seasons service in ski country. The Raging Elk Hostel in powder-mecca Fernie suits many of us just fi ne. A dorm bed will set you back $25, a private “deluxe” room, $69; both include an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. It’s welcoming, friendly, abuzz with friends and activity – and close to the bus stop! Plus the Kodiak Lounge is one rockin’ après-ski spot with the best price for a 16-ounce beer we could find anywhere in the province: $3.50.
Best new park name
NaJIBska—the new rail park at Nakiska with 18 features and a cool name.
Best little rippers
Ace race club Red Mountain Racers has moved more skiers onto the national ski team than anywhere else – it must be doing something right.
Best chance to ski and golf on the same day
Many know about the opportunities at western destinations such as Mount Washington or Whistler, but Collingwood’s Blue Mountain and Monterra Golf has been known to offer the decadent duo in April.
Best leg burner
The Mountain Smoker, a 1980s endurance test, has been revived. The three-hour race down Mount Norquay’s legendary Lone Pine double-black mogul run is only for thunder thighs though. The record—23 runs—still stands as earned by Bob Rankin, heli-guide and glittering star of Warren Miller flicks.
In La Malbaie, in the heart of Quebec’s Charlevoix region, $185 buys two skiers a night at Hotel and Pavillons du Petit Manoir du Casino, dinner and breakfast, plus lift tickets at Mont Grand-Fonds. The family ski area ties with Le Massif nearby for the Best Powder in Eastern Canada—more than 600 cm a season!
Best place for extreme leisure
Big White has rotating slow zones that change every day. Three out of 12 groomed runs are chosen each day, and then gated off with extra patrollers for guests who aren’t in a hurry.
Best most generous olympic ooster and civic am assador
Tom Thompson is a Whistler Village councillor extraordinaire who volunteers for events and causes at every opportunity. The keen skier can frequently be spotted on the mountain.
Best new day lodge
Red Mountain’s long-awaited reno to the original base lodge is finally complete—and everyone so far is giving Red a green light.
Turning used French fry oil into snowcat fuel makes Whitewater’s groomed powder 100 per cent trans fat free!
Best hot doggin’ parties
Fernie, the granddaddy of all things flower power and groovy, finally has some decent competition a few mountain ranges over. The day after Whistler-Blackcomb closes, locals come together for a last hurrah. An ode to the ’70s flick of the same name, the Garibaldi Lift Co’s annual Hot Doggin’ party features a hot dog eating competition, limbo and bad ski kit as far as the eye can see. Singles and duos perform their best tip drags and pole flips, and vie for the title of ski ballet king and queen.
Best place to get lost
Skiing Powderfields at Red Mountain means never taking the same line, but never leaving the trail map.
Best best new pooch pad
Whistler’s new doggie daycare, Cheakamus Doggie Den, is open seven days a week and offers the Very Important Pooch (VIP) limo service to and from your hotel. If your dog doesn’t do daycare, you can always accompany him to The Pooch Loop at Whistler OlympicPark, where people can ski alongside their dogs. This year the track has expanded and includes a new lookout featuring views of Black Tusk and the Callaghan Valley.
Best new playground
Red Mountain expands with more than 120 hectares of off-piste terrain on freshly gladed Grey Mountain, just a 20-minute hike, skip and skin away from the access gate. Also new this year is the well-anticipated Alpine Glory Hut yurt on Kirkup Mountain, centred around day and overnight guided backcountry tours.
Best ski bum town
Home of the original ski bum, Olaus Jeldness, Rossland is celebrating more than 113 years of skiing—and living to ski.
Best original ontario après
Jozo’s, Blue Mountain’s first après hot spot, is still home to the silver fox, cougar and many younger wildlife species.
Best skiers’ airline
br> It’s getting hard to find an airline that doesn’t bean you for bringing your skis (let alone offer free wine and beer), but Porter Airlines, with service to snowy spots like Quebec City, Tremblant and Montreal, certainly defines “flying refined” by welcoming skiers (and their gear) with open arms.
Best pagan holiday
The secret ski burning offering to Ullr the snow god is a long-running tradition in Kimberley. Only those who have shown their dedication to snow and the sport of skiing are privy to the whereabouts of this celebration. Follow the smoke.
Inspirational Trapper Jerry, who turns 94 on February 14, 2011, plans to be skiing Sunshine’s double-black diamonds with his Crocodile Dundee hat tied on tightly for years to come.
Best snow snouts
A dog’s life can be pretty rough, but Wiser, Barren and Brooke have it pretty good. These pooches are hard-working members of the Kicking Horse Mountain Safety Team and proud members of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog program.
Best ho ho ho
More than 35 Christmas trees were spontaneously and lovingly decorated by guests and locals last December along Sun Peaks’s lift lines on all three mountains of Tod, Sundance and Morrisey. Festive firs indeed!
Best place to be a virgin
Kimberley’s $99 Newbie Pack lets you introduce a new skier to the sport, and provides a lift ticket for you and a Learn to Ski package for your newbie.
Best alternative to swimming in georgian bay
A $1.2-million renovation to the 30-year-old Blue Mountain Inn, the resort’s first hotel, delivers a hillside oasis with four new hot tubs.
Best nordic ski destination
The entire province of Quebec may partake in cross-country skiing, nevertheless Silver Star Mountain remains the National Training Centre and visitors to the resort get to take advantage of all the spoils.
Best reason not to pick up loose change
“If you put a quarter in your bumcheeks, squeeze tightly and hold it there for the whole run down,” says Senior Ski Canada Tester and instructional guru Lauralee Bowie, “you, too, will become a better skier!”
Best way to ski for free
Whistler local Ashleigh McIvor rose to stardom in 2010 when she won a gold medal in Ski Cross at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. In November she received a Whistler-Blackcomb lifetime season pass to honour her dedication to the sport and to the community.
Best new bowl
Kicking Horse’s fourth playground—Super Bowl—is chock full o’ terrain with some 17 new advanced and expert chutes, delivering more off-piste feel within a controlled environment. (And for the full taste sensation, stop off at the top-of-the-mountain restaurant, Eagle’s Eye, for a new yummy local game treat, also aptly named Super Bowl.)
Best reason to have lefties in charge
Toronto’s city council voted to restore $600,000 in funding to keep its two ski areas operating this winter. A report had recommended closing both Centennial Park Ski and Earl Bales Ski and Snowboard Centre and officials issued a call for bids to private companies to operate the areas. No one responded.
Best way to get out of mowing the lawn
Alberta’s Canyon Ski Area recruited nearly 500 sheep to eat the grass. New owners hope to make Canyon the greenest ski hill in Canada.
Best reason to stay at the springs
Ski buses no longer make multiple stops at Banff hotels to take guests to area ski resorts, but will instead make pickups from just three locations—Banff Springs Hotel, the bus terminal or the parking lot behind the Mount Royal Hotel.
Best economic gloom buster
Stoneham and Mont-Sainte-Anne each set a new resort record for the number of season passes sold this fall, with a total sales increase of 35 per cent over last year.
Best new backcountry film
A Life Ascending (USA, 2010, 57 min) Director/Producer: Stephen Grynberg The film follows the unique lives of mountain guide Ruedi Beglinger and his family on a remote glacier in the Selkirk Mountains of B.C., and their journey in the years following a massive avalanche that killed seven people. See trailer here.
Best route to weaseling
Alpine Canada’s volunteer website is a new one-stop shop for volunteer recruitment for ski races in Canada. More than 1,000 volunteers are required this season, and for the first time, volunteers can now register online for Ski Cross as well as alpine and para-alpine competitions. www.canski.org/canadian-alpine-races
(or best way to lose your lunch)—you decide on Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak gondola.
Best little extras
A stay at an Intrawest property at Tremblant offers more than points. Guests get first whack at the corduroys (the gondola starts loading at 7:45) plus an assortment of free evening activities like skating and tubing.
Best way to be shaken and stirred
Sharpen your skates because Red Bull Crashed Ice will be held in Quebec City from March 16 to 19, 2011. Since 2000, hundreds of thousands of spectators have watched this thrilling event in eight different countries. It’s been hosted by, among others, Moscow, Prague, Lausanne and Quebec City.
Best new après hangout
The completely renovated Creekside Bar& Grill at the Sunshine base, with beautiful stone-and-cedar exterior and mountain-modern interior.
Best place for pick- up hockey—but not to chase high pucks
Best first out of the gate
Lake Louise was first to open in Canada this season on November 5. Happy skiers were able to track Louise’s share of the area’s 3,000+ hectares of Banff-Lake Louise terrain, in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Best new screamer
Climb aboard a piloted four-man bobsleigh or solo a skeleton down the fastest, steepest course in the world at Whistler. (Don’t worry, you have a special starting gate lower down the course than the Olympians.)
Best perfect 10
In honour of its 10th anniversary, Kicking Horse offered the first 10 devotees to show 10 years’ worth of KHMR season passes a 2010-11 pass for the same price as the first year of operation. It took three days and a lot of digging for them to be collected and claimed. If only they’d announced the deal 10 years ago.
Best dosshouse in whistler
Hostelling International Whistler’s 188-bed facility was used by athletes and staff during the Olympics. The first purpose-built hostel of its kind in Canada, it now offers dorms, private ensuite and family-friendly rooms as well as a café, outdoor patio, self-catering kitchen, dining room and ski storage. Rates start at $30 a bed.
Best reason to skip tims
If your tummy can’t make it the whole drive to Whistler, satiate yourself at Timberwolf Restaurant & Lounge, just north of Squamish.
Best cows to powder tale
Who says only the Euros turn from farmers into skiers? Mark Aubrey grew up on isolated farmland in Crescent Spur, B.C., accessed in the early days only by rail. He left but returned in 1987 with wife, Regina, to purchase the family farm and start up Crescent Spur Heli-skiing. The lovingly converted farmhouse is now an impressive heli-ski resort that’s been welcoming guests from across the globe for 19 years.
Best new run still in search of a name
Kootenayers have their eyes on the as-yet-unnamed, plum-line run beneath the brand-new Glory Ridge chair at Whitewater this season. Five new runs have been cut and gladed, and at full build-out the lift will open 303 hectares of new expert and intermediate terrain, doubling Whitewater’s current size and opening new off-piste possibilities.
› With the Coast Mountains and Georgia Strait in the background, “the view is second to none!” say some proud Mount Washingtonites.
Others that can claim “Best view” status: › Vancouver’s hat-trick of Cypress, Seymour and Grouse (bright lights, big city). › Kicking Horse and Panorama of course, (come on, it’s in the name). › Jasper and Banff (our Rockies put the U.S. “Rockies” to shame). › Collingwood (well, it’s all relative). › Le Massif (eyes on the road!). › The view back up at your tracks in virgin powder at any B.C. heli or cat op.br> › From the bar-rail looking up at Tremblant’s P’tit Caribou (now, how did this one get in the file?).
Best new wave
Lake Louise introduces a new circuit hot on the heels of the intro of Ski Cross into the Olympics. The National Championship Course is 650 metres long with a vertical drop of 130 metres—and wide open to the public. Helmets encouraged! Racing your buddies in Big White’s public Snowcross course has kept lots of type-A personalities occupied. Inspired by watching Ski Cross at the Games last February, Silver Star will be opening its new snow cross course located in Silver Woods, catering to riders of every level. Racers, are you ready?
Best recycling effort
The new Doppelmayr quad that replaced the Strawberry triple chair at Sunshine Village was originally Whistler’s for the 2010 Games. Now cruisers enjoy a more convenient and comfortable access to green and blue runs— and can feel the Olympic spirit from the bottom up!
Best randiest apres ski
Elk-mating season in Banff National Park easily outdoes the country’s sportiest cougar bar for inappropriate advances. Avoid eye contact—and short skirts.
Best new backside view
This winter, Mount Washington started backcountry guided tours off the peak and down deep, north-facing lines beyond the boundary ropes of the island resort.
Best pairing for st. paddy’s day
Never had homemade Guinness ice cream? You haven’t lived until you’ve had it at the Globe Café and Tapas Bar at Big White. With an Irish co-owner as well as a family link to Diageo’s finest product—the black stuff—this is the place to experience the Craic in the snow. Guinness is on tap—but just for the day.
Best organic frosting
The snow is 100 per cent natural at ski areas such as Hudson Bay Mountain, Mount Washington, Powder King, Shames, Silver Star, Sunshine Village, Whitewater…no snowmaking, no additives, no need.
Best cat food
Take home more than just memories of fluffy duvets and even fluffier powder. The 180-page cookbook from Island Lake Lodge will remind you of the gastronomical delights you just experienced. And some nice pairing with a selection or two from 2,500-bottle wine cellar.
Best extracurricular class
From Canada’s powder epicentre, Mike Wiegele and his guides have been offering local Blue River kids the ultimate learn-to-ski program. Every Saturday for 12 weeks, Mike and several of his guides fly local kids from the Heli village to Saddle Mountain, where they hop in the snowcat and climb another 1,000 metres to learn ski and snowboard skills, transceiver and snow study practice, and mountain awareness. Not like the gym class we remember!
Best volunteer effort
More than 70 volunteers turned up to build the dream at a Mount Cain work party on Vancouver Island. Mount Cain Alpine Park Society is a non-profi t society set up to provide affordable skiing to the people. Dedicated forestry workers, carpenters, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers donate their time to keep the ski hill sliding.
Best haunted pub
The Mad Trapper’s Saloon building at Sunshine has gathered a lot of ghosts since it opened for business in 1928. Hang around late and you’re likely to see one or two.
Best fuzziest après trivia
While you ski, roughly 70 grizzly bears are hibernating in Banff and Jasper national parks. The grizzlies here usually keep their cubs longer (up to five years) compared with other areas (only two years).
Best alternative to hitting the gym
Just a 15-minute drive from downtown Calgary, Canada Olympic Park is fit for beginners and pros alike. COP has everything from indoor trampoline programs, coaching by former World Cup athletes, and a World Cup standard mogul course and aerials pitch. Add one of North America’s largest halfpipes with seven-metre walls plus jibs and rails at Burton Progression Park, and more than two km of lit cross-country trails—it’s just what you need after a hard day at the office.
Best fuel for global warming naysayers
Mount Washington had the second deepest snowfall in resort history last winter: 15.5 metres! It was so deep the resort resurrected alpine skiing on June 19 and 20, what would otherwise be the first weekend of its summer operations.
Best best place to get splashed—and flashed
Sunshine’s infamous annual end-of-season Slush Cup has entertainment for all tastes… and body types. Costumes optional.
Best route to panorama
New this winter is a direct transfer service to and from Calgary Airport twice daily through Banff and Kootenay national parks directly to Panorama Mountain Village. The scenic route threads through gorges and summits Rockies passes in deer, moose, elk and bear habitat.
Best place to get high
Icy conditions aren’t normally seen at Big White but they’re definitely present at the country’s only resort ice-climbing tower, Big White’s newest attraction, rising almost 20 metres. Let the crampons and ice picks stick it to winter.
Best back country prep zone
With so many cat, heli and backcountry lodge operations in eastern B.C., resorts like Kicking Horse, Red Mountain, Whitewater and Revelstoke are ideally placed for a warm-up for your adventure.
Best new non-ski ride
Blue Mountain’s new Ridge Runner is Ontario’s first mountain coaster and a year-round attraction. Go, even in the snow.
Best (and only) cat skiing in alberta
Castle Mountain started the only cat-skiing operation in Alberta last season, and it’s also one of few resort-based cat-ski operations in Canada. Skiers ride up the Huckleberry Chair to the cat then continue on for double the fun.
Best night expansion
This year the lights come up on Showoff run. Jump on Mile 1 chair to ski a mile-long nightskiing area, tripling the size of Panorama’s evening terrain. (Not very metric friendly, though.)
Best blog entry
From Chef Farkas’s blog at the new, groovy and very tasty Picnic Restaurant in Fernie: “Live lobster soon. Well, 10 arrived today but 7 didn’t survive the trip and went back in a Styrofoam coffin. Sad day to be a lobster. The other 3 were lively and alert. I think we might have a race with them this afternoon!”
Best new day out from banff
A fourth ski resort is now reached easily with the new Nakiska Daily Shuttle, leaving from Banff hotels and the Radisson in Canmore.
To keep the lifts from getting buried, Mount Washington staffers had to dig out the lifts weekly from late January through March last season. Nice biceps, boys.
Best place to meet a lumberjack
Enhancements to what it considers North America’s largest gladed ski terrain continue at Kimberley. The largest glading project in Canada has created yet further new glades in the Black Forest between Windfall and Tramway, as well as between Twist and Geneva.
Best place for an exit strategy
Take your unfaithful partner for a “cruise” down Sunshine’s Delirium Dive. With a little luck, you’ll never see the slug again.
Revelstoke’s Selkirk Tangiers Helicopter Skiing gets you out into incredible ski touring terrain. Customized packages require a minimum of three guests, and includes a helicopter lift into the Selkirk Mountains and then out at the end of the day, and a day of ski touring with a certifi ed ACMG guide for $635 per person.
Best new lift to some best new backcountry terrain
Le Massif’s sweeping St. Lawrence scenery is laid bare from within its shiny new 10-minute, gabillion-dollar, base-to-summit eight-passenger gondola. Add to this the resort’s expansion of the backcountry sector, which doubles Mont à Liguori’s off-piste skiable terrain for experts, and Le Massif’s repeated “Best on-mountain gastronomy” award finally has some competition.
After a day at Silver Star, the M&M tag-team massage by the miraculous Melissa and Magdalena at the new Sparkling Hill Resort and Wellness Hotel, a destination spa in Vernon, is Swarovski-tastic.