2012-13 Ski Season Preview: West is best


Whistler is loaded with family fun on the slopes and a scintillating après-ski scene that’s among the liveliest in the world. (Paul Morrison photo)

Story by Miguel Strother
Vacay.ca Sports Editor, Western Canada

nakiska mountain resort kananaskis

Nakiska Mountain Resort in Alberta has opened early for ski season. (Jamie Miller photo)

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — After an incredible and extended Canadian west coast summer, the rains have once again come to Vancouver. But last week the clouds parted long enough to reveal early snow on the tops of the North Shore mountains. In the face of this wonderfully majestic, contemplative sight my literary background and love for the romantic poets brought a single, classic line to mind … Yeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhaaaaaawwwwww! Yep, the 2012-13 ski and snowboard season is just around the corner.

I’ve said it before, but I’ve spent the better part of my life in pursuit of the perfect powder. The early snow gets us all one step closer to another season in the white and that fires me up. Now I’ve done my business all over, from the slopes of Hokkaido’s Hakuba to Quebec’s Mont Tremblant, but there is nowhere, and I mean nowhere, I’d rather cut it than right here is Western Canada. From the Rockies to the Cascades, the Monashees to the Purcells there is more terrain here than any soul could ride in a hundred lifetimes. In fact, I still know locals who’ve been riding the slopes of ultra-popular Whistler Mountain for 30 years and claim they are still finding new spots.

This season, rest assured, Vacay.ca will be bringing you the skiing and snowboarding goods.

Whether you are looking for primetime heli-sking, discount season’s passes, or wicked après parties, Vacay.ca will give you inside info that you will not find anywhere else. And I will also promise you this, we will go anywhere to get our fix and this year we’re taking you along for the ride. So put on your balaclava, pop a hot shot and let’s get this party started with five ski and snowboard stories you need to keep an eye on this season.

Early openings in the Rockies

After a record-setting 2011-12 ski and snowboard season, Banff and the surrounding slopes are picking up where they left off. Sunshine Village and Nakiska are both open for early season riding weeks in advance of American Thanksgiving, the traditional kick off to most of the region’s ski and snowboarding festivities. Both Alberta hills offer stay-and-ride packages starting at just over $100 per person. From the hospitality to the snow quality, both will blow your mind in that oh-so Rocky Mountain way.

New Mica Lodge

British Columbia’s Mica Heliskiing is the leader in ultra-exclusive, customized skiing and snowboarding experiences. And as if they didn’t have enough going for them already, Mica is adding a new addition to their award-winning lodge. It’s built on the same site as the existing lodge and wraps below the front of the already stunning chalet. There are new social areas, retreat areas, a larger fitness room, a business centre, spectacular hot tub locations and one of the best views from any dining room in the world. If you can afford this kind of luxury, you can’t afford not to go to the Mica Heliskiing website right now. Go ahead, we dare you. If you don’t leave wanting to strap up and drop in, please never, ever read anything I write ever again.

Whistler is still, well, Whistler

From the Peak-to-Peak Gondola between Blackcomb and Whistler, to the après life in the best (not-so) little village in the mountains, Whistler is my favourite resort in the world. And while it is undoubtedly a four-season adventure destination, Whistler absolutely made its name on the back of its ski and snowboard scene in BC. Big open bowls, excellent backcountry, rippin’ groomers, some of the longest runs on the planet, the mother hill has it all. I will be there in pursuit of perfect turns this season. Often. You should be too.

Shames is attracting the big boys 

Although it might not be quite as well know on the ski and snowboard tourist circuit, the cooperative of Shames Mountain outside Terrace, BC, and more accurately the endless backcountry surrounding it, is getting major play in the big-time ski and snowboard movies. Word in the lift-line is that film production companies like Matchstick and Teton Gravity Research are giving the ample number of helicopter companies in the region all the work they can handle. It might not exactly be Whistler when it comes to resort life, but Terrace is an easy flight from Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton, is filled with some of the friendliest folks in the mountains, and offers GREAT value once you get there. Full day passes are under $50 (less if you buy in bulk) and we’ve seen passable two-bedroom hotel and motel rooms with kitchenettes for $60 a night in the area. You’ve likely got to have a bit more of a sense of adventure than a taste for luxury to take this trip but take our word for it, Shames won’t stay quiet for long.

Revelstoke keeps on rising 

Although it’s still in its infancy in resort years, the praise for Revelstoke Mountain Resort continues to pour in. This recognition includes Ski Canada’s “Best Snow” honour and a place among Freeskier’s Top 10 Resorts in North America. In addition to the expert terrain for which the area is famous, Revelstoke is also said to have some of the best family learn-to-ski-and-ride packages and most accessible beginner terrain around. If you have the time and really want an amazing ski and snowboard road trip, try making the run from Revelstoke through to Banff, stopping at Kicking Horse, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. There are plenty of other places for pow along the way, but we’ll have to save at least a few secrets for ourselves — at least until later on in the season.

Miguel is an award-winning writer who has travelled from the palaces of Russia to the temples of Japan to the jungles of Indonesia and back again, writing and publishing all the while. As a lifelong sports lover he’s written about everything from NBA basketball to skiing with sasquatches. Miguel’s worked as the Pacific Northwest Editor for OnTheSnow.com, features editor for Black Press, and the editor-in-chief of forgetmagazine.com. He currently owns Tree Communication, a creative services branch specializing in web content production for the travel and tourism, education, and architecture and design industries. He lives, works, and teaches from his creative base in the rural reaches of northern Vancouver Island.

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