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Feb
11

TravelMuse Guide to the 2010 Winter Olympics

We’re counting down the hours with only two days until the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games!

If you’re heading to Vancouver, Whistler or Richmond, British Columbia, download this FREE, handy guide packed full of restaurants, attractions, nightlife, shopping and event suggestions near the main venues, including: BC Place Stadium, Canada Hockey Place, Pacific Coliseum, Richmond Olympic Oval, Whistler and more.

Winter_olympicsDownload pdf

Whether you’re planning on getting in on the live action between Feb. 12 to 28 or you’re inspired to visit the beautiful province of British Columbia at a later date, we hope this helps you plan a great vacation.  Plan your trip to Vancouver and check out more Vancouver trip information on TravelMuse.

Guide courtesy of WCities

Note: If you have trouble downloading this pdf in your browser, right click on the “Download pdf” link and save the file to your computer.

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Jan
28

Glancing at my Facebook feed, I noticed that the official U.S. Snowboarding team had been chosen for the  Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Will the reining half-pipe champ Shaun White defend his title?

With the countdown to the Games (February 12 to 28) underway all eyes will be on Vancouver and Whistler.

I took a ski vacation to  Whistler Blackcomb in 2007 and this resort ranks as one of my favorites. It offers more mountain than you can possibly cover, great après ski and friendly people. Even three years ago there was a huge amount of construction underway in preparation for the games, so I’d love to return to see what changes have been made.

Fiona heads down the Women's Downhill and Super G

Fiona heads down the Olympic Women's Downhill and Super G.

Highlights of our trip:
What struck me soon after driving out of the airport was the gorgeous scenery of the Rocky Mountains and dramatic backdrop it provided to Vancouver itself. As you make the two-hour drive up to Whistler, the scenery just gets more impressive! As well as the phenomenal skiing, I can recommend:

1. The Westin Resort and Spa Whistler: Located right next to the gondola, this is a great place to stay—especially because they offer suites which made it ideal for preparing food for our 9 month old infant outside of regular eating hours. The FireRock Lounge provides a good après ski hangout and with great tapas. The Aubergine Grille also offers fine cuisine with a good of range of seafood.

2. Peak to Creek and Dusty’s Bar: One of my favorite runs on Whistler mountain was Peak to Creek—a seven kilometer (over four miles) groomed, intermediate run with over 5,000 feet of continuous vertical. After heading down without stopping, what better place to go than Dusty’s Bar.  A great place to kick back, relax and enjoy a well earned beer!

3. Infant Daycare, Creekside: This was the only one in the resort when we visited and we loved it. However, when I tried to find contact information to share I discovered that it’s no longer available. There are options for children ages 18 to 48 months with Whistler Kids Winter Childcare, including a daycare at The Westin. For children younger than 18 months, the resort advises contacting Babysitting Whistler.

4. Whistler Village: Offers great restaurants, bars and shops. The place really comes alive later in the afternoon as everyone descends from the mountain providing an après ski vibe reminiscent of European resorts. Check out places to eat in Whistler.

5. Granville Island, Vancouver: Only five minutes from downtown Vancouver, this area is not to be missed with a great food market, shops, restaurants, cafes, galleries, etc.

What do I dream of doing on my next visit to Whistler?

1. Try out the new Peak-to-Peak gondola that connects Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

2. Go helisking!  Maybe I’ve been watching too many extreme ski/board Warren Miller movies, but I’d love to try helisking –packages start at $795.

3. Stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler—consistently rated as one of the top 50 ski resorts by Condé Nast Traveller.

Typically host resorts of the winter Olympics have fewer skiers and snowboarders the entire season of the Games, so don’t rule it out as a place to visit this year—plan a trip to Whistler and/or plan a trip to Vancouver.

For more tips and advice read related articles on TravelMuse:

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Jan
21

With over three feet of fresh snow in Lake Tahoe this past week, it’s time to plan your skiing or snowboarding getaway for Presidents’ Day weekend, February 13 to 15! Enjoy some great conditions, mountain air, and fun with your family and friends.

We have been lucky enough to take a couple of trips this year to North Lake Tahoe, and since our daughter is 3 years old (and potty trained) she was excited to try ski school.

Alpine Meadows offers a great kids ski and snowboard program that spans ages 3 to 12 years old. We signed up for two half days of the Munchkins 3 to 4 years program starting at 9 a.m. From the minute we stepped into the indoor sign-up area, the instructors were upbeat, friendly and helpful. Given the fun environment, our daughter had no hesitation waving goodbye to mum and dad. The nursery slopes are close to the main building, so it’s easy to sneak-a-peek. After the instructors get the kids comfortable wearing their skis, they mainly focus on the “pizza” (snow plow—so you can stop) and ”french fries” (parallel) and let the kids go up and down a shallow slope on the magic carpet.

Ski School at Alpine Meadows

Ski School at Alpine Meadows.

With a happy munchkin, we enjoyed grown-up playtime and hit the front and backside of the hill. This year we joined the Alpine Members club. For a one time fee of $15 you can pre-load your ticket online for $59 (incl. holidays) versus $69/$74 (holidays) at the resort—they also offer $44 select days. This program is a great deal and, more importantly, saves time waiting in line.

For our afternoon activity we strapped a harness onto our munchkin and had fun on the larger magic carpet and on a couple of the green runs with chair lifts (Meadow and Subway). The harness worked out well, although someone enjoyed the need for speed and was reluctant to practice her “pizza” position!
Read more about tips for teaching kids to ski.

Afternoon ski fun at Alpine.  Photo: Fiona Ashley

Afternoon ski fun at Alpine Meadows.

Where to Stay?
Stanford Alpine Ski Chalet: It is reminiscent of European-style ski accommodations with 14 family rooms (queen + bunk bed) downstairs,  while upstairs you can enjoy a shared communal room with comfy sofas, a roaring fire, and a bookcase full of kids games, books and activities. A set menu ($25 per adult) is offered every night in the adjoining dining room with communal tables. The food is good, staff are friendly and it’s the perfect setting to let kids back to play after dinner, while the adults can continue chatting. The chalet runs a complimentary shuttle bus to the resort only a couple of minutes away. (Note: affiliation with Stanford University is not required).

More places to stay in Lake Tahoe .

Where to Eat?
Rosie’s is good for a hearty breakfast.
River Ranch Lodge offers great pub lunches, dinners and also has a fine dining restaurant.
Christy Hills offers a great menu if you’re looking for fine dining.
More restaurants in Lake Tahoe.

What to Do?
If skiing’s not your thing, you can also have a great time snow tubing, sledding and taking winter walks. Bring your own sled or rent one for $9 at Granlibakken resort. Tahoe City and nearby Truckee also have great local shops.

Dad and daughter sledding at Granlibakken resort. Photo: Fiona Ashley.

Dad and daughter sledding at Granlibakken resort.

Childcare Options
If you’re looking for baby sitters or childcare here are some useful sites:
Interactive Childcare
Tahoe Kids Guide

Other Ideas on Where to Plan a Ski or Snowboard Trip
Check out our ski and snowboarding articles and destinations on TravelMuse

See Fiona’s Trip:  Skiing and Sledding in Lake Tahoe.

Photos: Fiona Ashley

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Mar
21

Last month we tagged a mini-vacation onto the end of a conference my husband was attending at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, nestled in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Surrounded by spectacular views of the mountains and the expansive lake, it’s no wonder it’s referred to as the “diamond in the wilderness.” This was my first stay at a Fairmont, and I was pleasantly surprised at the down-to-earth and friendly vibe of such a high class establishment.

I was intrigued to learn the history of the Fairmont Lake Louise, as it was first established as a resting place along the Canadian Pacific Railway for luxury passengers encouraged to travel out West. Secondly, as this area is renowned as the birthplace of Canadian mountaineering, it attracted Swiss mountaineers in the early 1900s and as a result influenced the Chateau’s charming architecture, cuisine (including fondue) and mountain activities still on offer today.

Highlights of our stay:

Activities abound at this outdoor retreat, and even if you’re not into skiing, there’s plenty to do right at your feet. We enjoyed exploring all the ice sculptures, walking out across the frozen lake and splashing in the swimming pool. There’s also ice skating on the lake, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, sleigh rides, dog sledding or snow mobile tours. I wasn’t very interested in shopping, but for those in need of retail therapy, there are around 20 small shops on site, including a cute bookshop.

We did ski Lake Louise and had a great time exploring the Rocky Mountain peaks. Our daughter enjoyed the friendly daycare and it was fairly priced: $52 CAD per day/$30.50 CAD per half day. We also put her on skis for the first time. Being under 3 years old, she was too young for ski school, so we just worked with her ourselves, going up and down the magic carpet. Although the temp was 18 degrees Fahrenheit, the sun shone and she had lots of fun lasting over two hours on the bunny slope! See our related article on teaching kids to ski.

The breakfast buffet in the Poppy Brasserie certainly set us up for the day. We didn’t hold back sampling everything from cereal, fruit, ham, sausages, eggs, waffles, pancakes, custom omelets, all enjoyed next to the gorgeous backdrop of the lake.

It was “Family Weekend” in Canada, and the hotel made a special effort with a full program of family events and a carefully planned kids’ dinner buffet, laid out on a table about two feet high. Our daughter was thrilled that she could help herself to the mac and cheese, pizza and deserts!

Among the fine dining restaurants, the Tom Wilson Steakhouse was recommended by the concierge. Not only did they cater to our toddler’s every need, they served up a spectacular dinner. Beginning with a selection of preset small plates, served with naan bread, the only real decision we had to make was the cut of meat!

I can thoroughly recommend Lake Louise as an ideal retreat to just get away from it all!

Check out their special family friendly Easter Package from April 10 to 13, where kids can take part in face painting, bouncy castles and an Easter egg hunt.

Lake+Louise

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