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Lori Knowles

Lori Knowles

I guess a Tuesday at the start of November is as good a time as any to start planning our 2014/15 ski season–yours and mine. In truth, as someone in the ski biz, it’s been on my mind since July… or earlier. But I’ve waited ’til now to get you revved up, otherwise your engine might burn out.

I hope to tell you the few tidbits I get now and then on new stuff in the European and North American ski markets: new ski lifts, new runs, glades you can’t miss, or an apres-ski experience neither of us can pass up. Let’s see how it evolves. Hopefully the info will help you plan our next ski trips.

I’ll start with some news from a sunny ski area in British Columbia (BC) called Sun Peaks. Here it is, in a photo courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort, taken by Adam Stein:

The Village at Sun Peaks, BC. Photo by Adam Stein, courtesy of Sun Peaks.

The Village at Sun Peaks, BC. Photo by Adam Stein, courtesy of Sun Peaks.

Sun Peaks is in idyllic ski spot in near the Canadian city of Kamloops. Its village is auto-free, its runs flow along a consistent and excellent fallline, and its trees are spacious and not too steep, which gives any ski area an A in my playbook.

Tree skiing at Sun Peaks. Photo by Adam Stein, courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort.

Tree skiing at Sun Peaks. Photo by Adam Stein, courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort.

All this you can learn by visiting its website. My news is this: For 2015, Sun Peaks has expanded to a point at which it’s now Canada’s second largest ski area. That’s pretty big — Canada’s largest is Whistler. This season Sun Peaks has grown to more than 4,200 acres of in-bound ski terrain with the addition of two new areas: West Morrisey and Gil’s.

“New runs in the West Morrisey area will be expert ability level and utilize the same aspect as the popular Static Cling and Agitator ski runs,” says a recent press release. “The second section, Gil’s—a popular backcountry ski area at the top of Tod Mountain—will see the area’s vertical double with the creation of a lower ski out back the main ski runs.”

A panoramic shot of Sun Peaks taken from Mt Morrisey. Photo by Adam Stein courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort.

A panoramic shot of Sun Peaks taken from Mt Morrisey. Photo by Adam Stein courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort.

In short, this expansion just might move Sun Peaks onto your short list of top spots in Canada to visit. I hope so. As I said, the resort is idyllic.

That’s it for today. More tidbits soon — news to help you explore your ski travel options. Let me know how your planning is progressing. I’m @LoriExploring

Lori Knowles is a ski and travel writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. She is the editor of SNOW Magazine. See past work at LoriKnowles.com or follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring.

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This week marks the launch of the Winter 2014/15 edition of SNOW Magazine, a sure sign winter is coming. isn’t she a beauty?

SNOW Magazine Winter 2014/15

SNOW Magazine
Winter 2014/15

On stands now, this edition is focused on all that’s warm and sumptuous and luxurious in the winter ski lifestyle. Lech’s lovely Chalet N–a luscious slopeside retreat for celebs–is profiled. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Shribman lends us a peek inside Dartmouth, his alma mater and the world’s only Ivy Ski League. Fashion photographer Daniela Federici has captured the bold colours of 2015 skiwear. Barbara Sanders, SNOW’s publisher, profiles a spa laden with Swarvoski crystals. And I, Lori Knowles, trace the rich history of Idaho’s Sun Valley, where Clarke Gable and Ingrid Bergman and Ernest Hemingway launched the first American Ski Resort, an iconic spot once known as the “American Shangri-la.”

The magazine is on stands now, as well as inside the rooms of the world’s best alpine hotels, in Air Canada lounges, and available for download on Zinio. See www.TheSnowMag.com and @SNOWmagazine for more information.

Once you’ve got it, curl up in front of a warm fire, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy your read. Lech, Park City, the Okanagan, Sun Valley, Courchevel, Aspen… Reading these pages is the next best thing to skiing in one of these fabulous places.

Lori Knowles is Editor-in-Chief of SNOW Magazine @LoriExploring

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If you’ve ever experienced a family trip so fun you weren’t sure you wanted it to end… you’ll know exactly what we were feeling at the finish of our family’s summer exploration of Vancouver Island, BC. The tour was so enlightening and the island so well suited to family travel, we wanted the experience to last… almost forever. Here are the highlights (a reprint from the Toronto Sun, Wednesday, August 4)

Family Friendly BC Ferries

BC Ferries

Our journey began with a striking BC Ferries ride aboard the Queen of Oak Bay, from Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, BC. Equipped with an indoor playground, television and onboard WiFi, there was plenty to keep the kids occupied for the two-hour journey. But it was the sight of the sun sparkles dancing on the ocean that stopped them in their lively tracks—Mt Baker and the gulf islands looming silently in the background.

Tip: In summer, secure a ferry reservation.

www.bcferries.com

Parksville—Canada’s Riviera

A 36-kilometre drive from Nanaimo delivered us to our first two-day rest stop at Parksville, BC—popularly dubbed Canada’s Riviera. I can see why. A string of Parksville resorts play host to all kinds of tourists, from luxe travellers to kayaking, whale-watching eco adventurers. But it’s the travelling family that wins the daily double here. This Oceanside region—akin to Ontario’s Muskoka—is home to four massive, warm-water beaches:

Rathtrevor Beach

Rathtrevor, Qualicum Beach, Qualicum Bay and Parksville, all of them framed by snow-capped mountains. Parksville Beach wins the prize for owning the best playground my well-travelled family has ever encountered. Parksville’s beachside Ventureland (waterpark included) has every fun slide, swing and monkey bar imaginable. Plus, when the tide is out, the Parksville Beach next door extends outward at least a kilometre, leaving tide pools full of mini crabs and sand dollars. Kid heaven.

Tip: Rent a family-perfect cabin at Oceanside Village Resort, a brief and well-cedared walk to the mountain-ringed Rathtrevor Beach.

www.VisitParksvilleQualicumBeach.com

The Dinosaurs of Comox Valley

Fossil Hunting

Another short shot north led us into Vancouver Island’s gentle Comox Valley, which lies peacefully between the Beaufort Mountains and the Strait of Georgia. But it’s the region’s dinosaurs that caught our imaginations. Yes, dinosaurs. Don’t let the following title bore you: the Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre is home to a captivating collection of prehistoric predators—including an 80-million-year-old Elasmosaur discovered nearby. The Centre’s ace-in-the-hole, though, is Pat Trask, a local palaeontologist who leads fossil tours to nearby rivers. Our tour fascinated the children, who slogged Indiana-Jones-like…

For the remainder of the article, please visit the Toronto Sun Travel

Lori Knowles is the Family Fare travel columnist for the Toronto Sun. You can follow her travels on Twitter @LoriExploring

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Fossil Hunting with Dinosaur Pat.

Our day took an unexpected turn here in the Comox Valley of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. What we thought might be a run-of-the-mill visit to a local museum turned out to be a rather spectacular search for dinosaur fossils… hammers, chisels and all.

The Courtenay & District Museum & Palaeontology Centre–a mouthful for most adults and way too many words for children–sits in a rather imposing brick building on a busy city corner of Courtenay, BC, which is in the midst of the pretty, very green Comox Valley. It’s not a place we expected to find dinosaur bones… or any other bones for that matter. But there they were, just inside the door. Best part, they were discovered in the local Puntledge River.

Back in 1988 the 80-million-year-old skeleton of an Elasmosaur was found about four km from the museum by a local man and his kids who were out fossil hunting. (Hunting for fossils is a popular pastime here in this Valley. Vancouver Island was once at the bottom of the sea, and before it rose up again as a huge hulk of dry land and mountain, a whole bunch of neat prehistoric creatures scoured its depths… among them: the Elasmosaur.)

Looking a little like a crocodile, this Elasmosaur ate fish while there were alive and whole. Whole! Lacking sufficient teeth to grind them, it also swallowed rocks on a regular basis to help churn the fish up in its tummy. My kids found this, plus the museum’s other palaeontological displays fascinating. But what was really cool was what came next… a real life dig.

Dinosaur Pat (a.k.a. Pat Trask), the centre’s assistant curator–and who’s twin brother was the guy who originally stumbled on the local elasmosaur–leads fossil-digging tours around the outskirts of the museum. We followed him by car to the dig site along the local Trent River. With pails and hammers and chisels and goggles in hand, we scoured the bottom of the cool river bed hunting for fossils.

In short… my kids loved it.

Tours run daily during the summer.

Did we find any? Sure. Lots of concretion fossils… lobsters, shrimp, clams, all around 80 million years old and most enscased in mud balls–mysterious golf-ball looking things where fossils lurk.

Our tour was all part of Pat’s daily tasks at the Courtenay Museum. You can sign up for one, too… if you’re touring Vancouver Island. Especially if you have dinosaur-crazed kids… I highly recommend it.

For more information: www.courtenaymuseum.ca or www.HelloBC.com

Lori Knowles is the family travel writer for the Toronto Sun. You can read more of her work in this blog (www.loriexploring.wordpress.com) or on her website: www.loriknowles.com. Follow Lori’s adventures on Twitter @LoriExploring

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Mountain view at Parksville Beach

There are reasons The Globe and Mail, Better Homes and Gardens, even Conde Nast has listed Parksville, BC at the top of their lists for Best In Family Travel. Here are only a few of them:

Parksville Beach is part of British Columbia’s Oceanside region, which is also known as Canada’s Riviera.

Besides being long and extremely wide, Parksville Beach has loads of tidepools kids love to play in. Top on the list of activities are crab hunting, sand castle building, and sand dollar collecting.

Parksville Beach is home to a fantabulous community playground adjacent to the beach, which includes swings, climbing structures, slides, even a zipline, plus a waterpark, beach volleyball courts and an ice cream stand. (Parksville Community Lions Club Venture Land)

Parksville is easy access from Nanaimo, BC (about 40 minutes drive), and fun ferry ride from the pretty Horseshoe Bay terminal of BC Ferries. Tip: MAKE A RESERVATION! (www.bcferries.com)

Accommodations are family-friendly and plenty along Resort Drive on the outskirts of Parksville, including the Oceanside Village Resort: a series of newly crafted cottages, exceptionally equipped, surrounded by cedars. There’s an indoor pool, some shops, two mini-putt courses (Riptide Mini Golf), all at www.oceansidevillageresort.com

For more information on Parksville: www.VisitParksvilleQualicumBeach.com

Lori Knowles is the family travel writer for the Toronto Sun. You can read more of her work in this blog (www.LoriExploring.Wordpress.com), on her website (www.loriknowles.com) and on Twitter @LoriExploring.

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Science, shm-ience. Tide pools exist solely for kids.

Tide Pools of White Rock

Our first full evening along the Pacific coast of British Columbia was spent combing the enormous beach of a pretty little community called White Rock. The tide had receded (for miles), leaving acres of tide pools. And the kids LOVED them. Warm and shallow, these pools run along the beach forever, perfect places for little kids to skip and play… who says tides recede for any other reason other than to entertain children?

White Rock, BC is situated about 40 minutes south of Vancouver, not far from the Canada/USA border. You reach it from Vancouver by following the Oak Street Bridge to Highway 99 South… the same fabled roadway that also leads northward to the ski community of Whistler. There’s little wonder Highway 99 is called the Sea to Sky Highway.

The town of White Rock is anchored by an enormous beach along its western edge. A bike path, some shops, and a plethora of seafood cafes line its Marine Drive. On sunny days, masses of tourists and locals wander along the street. Kids mainly head for the beach, sand buckets in hand… which is exactly what our family did.

Sand Castles

As the sun was setting on a warm Saturday in July, we waded through the tide pools, chasing fish and searching for clam shells and crab legs. We built a sand castle and shored it up with rocks, hoping it would survive the encroaching tide. No such luck. The tide eventually moved in and destroyed our masterpiece–nature has its way of ‘having its own way!’

Once the red sun had sunk over the Pacific horizon, we made our way wearily back to our hotel, White Rock’s Ocean Promenade (www.oceanpromenadehotel.com/)… and slept.

Tomorrow: more from White Rock. www.hellobc.com

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Hello British Columbia!

BC Cedars

I’ve arrived in Vancouver, entire family in tow… something new for me. Usually I have only one tagging along for my research trips, but this time I’ve got the whole crew: husband and two kids under 10. Should be the real-life experience. It’ll give me a feel for the challenges faced by families road-tripping through the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Truth be told, we’re not doing the entire province. Not even close. We’ve landed via Air Canada at Vancouver International. We’re touring Vancouver and an oceanside suburb (White Rock) first, then boarding a BC Ferry for Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. We’ll be visiting Parksville, the Comox Valley and Tofino, before heading along our last leg to Victoria where we board a plane back to Toronto. A big thank you to Tourism BC for setting this up (www.hellobc.com)

It’s our first visit to the island, so we’re truly stoked!

I’ll keep you posted along the way. Or, you can read the story and see the pix in my Family Fare column that runs in the Travel section of the Toronto Sun: www.TorontoSun.com/travel

Or for something more immediate, follow our live tweets on Twitter: @LoriExploring

Now… let our adventures begin…

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