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An exerpt from The Globe and Mail

The Globe asked two of the country’s most prolific ski writers, Lori Knowles and Iain MacMillan, about the makings of a great ski trip and found old friends don’t always agree when it comes to planning a holiday on the slopes.

Lori Knowles kicking back at Snowmass.

Lori: This year I’m going to plan my ski trips even better. I’ve made a spreadsheet listing some of the more important aspects of a ski vacation.  Instead of ending the day at the spa, I think one should start at the spa (after dropping the kids off at ski school). On my list: the new Scandinave Spa Whistler—wood-burning Finish saunas, thermal waterfalls, hot stone and Thai yoga massages. And the hotel should be the ski-to-the-door variety, with heated floors, 600-threadcount sheets… perhaps even a butler, like the one at the new Four Seasons in Vail, Colorado, handing out warmed bathrobes by the outdoor pool.

Iain: Your spreadsheet has 600 what count? My spreadsheet (if I knew how to make one) would start with organising the level of skiers on the trip. If my buddies can’t all ski trees and steep chutes, or don’t mind hiking a little to find powder, there’s no point waiting for them at the bottom after the first run. We can all meet up for après ski when we crash your condo’s hot-tub. Or better yet, I’m thinking more about piling the gang into the back of snowcat at in the B.C. Interior, ripping huge lines through the untracked all day and grinning about it all night, then repeating the scenario the next day. And the next.

Lori: Oh sure, nothing like “roughing it” at a cat or heli-ski operation! I’m all for powder, but I prefer lift-served luxury. I hear there’s a new program for gals like me at Sun Peaks, B.C. The Ski Sisters are taking the backcountry back to basics—teaching women how to ski steep chutes or deep snow without scaring the stink out of them. (Or having their male partners breathing down their necks “encouraging” them to keep up with the group.) There’s a new lift at B.C’s Whitewater, too, opening up 303 new hectares of off-piste. Is that “rough” enough for you and the boys?

Iain: Now we’re talking! Nelson, Rossland, Fernie, Golden, Revelstoke…this is starting to sound like a ruthless roadtrip. Arrive for a late evening meal, ski hard the next day or two and then pile everything and everyone back into the rental or buddy from Calgary’s truck and move on to the next adventure. We can do our laundry and yoga when we get back to the city. (Except for the yoga part.)

Lori: Hold up, there. No road trips for me. Where’s the luxury? I’ll stay-put on this dream vacation. I’m thinking Banff’s Post Hotel. Their Gourmet Package includes a six-course dinner with wine pairings, a welcome wine and fruit package, plus a king-size bed and one of those fireplaces they’re so famous for. Travelling from Lake Louise to Sunshine and Norquay is about as much “road tripping” as I’m up for.

Iain: Mmmmm…pairings…like a pair of fat skis and skins—or an overnight storm and a cold, bluebird mid-week day to follow, or the Coast Mountains and the Rockies, the Alps and the Andes. Where were we again? Oh yeah, just how valid is a ski trip without some sweat and challenge, plenty of embarrassing moments and a few sphincter-tightening scary anecdotes?

Lori: Somehow, scary, sphincter-tightening anecdotes don’t fit anywhere into my relaxing luxury ski vacation. And your roadtrip plans seem a little unspecific to me… are you planning to just wing it? And with all this dreaming we’ve both forgotten about the kids. Now adding to my spreadsheet: family-friendly ski fun. How about Vermont’s Smuggler’s Notch? It’s got ski-in/ski-out condos, an indoor fun zone, snow tubing, dog sledding, and yes, even skiing… Three mountains of skiing, including one with some decent steeps. They’ve even got a Snow Sport University… judging by the way you ski, you could use a little schoolin’.

Iain: I’m the first to admit it’s getting bloody hard to find a ski area nowadays that will let you on the lift with a kid in your backpack let alone the family dog for last run but we’re talking apples and oranges here with a boys’ week west vs. Family Day Weekend. I’m going to do both. But where’s the romance of travel if all the details are planned in advance? It’s simply what guys do best. Head out onto the road with at least one vague plan, get lost and not ask for directions, lose stuff and spend hours looking for it until their girlfriends and wives point out it’s right in front of their noses…. As exciting as Vermont’s Von Trapp Family Lodge sounds, I’m going to tell the guys to fly into Cranbrook or Kelowna this winter and we’ll take it from there.

Lori: Okay, but just make sure that wherever you end up, your cell’s got service. Oops, forgot… you don’t have a cell. As for me, I’ll be by the pool in some swanky spot like Aspen or Park City. Relaxed and rested. Kids with that cute South American ski pro. Me sipping a mojito. Wait, let me add ‘mojitos’ to that spreadsheet…

Lori Knowles and Iain MacMillan don’t agree on much… except how much fun it is write about skiing. This article originally appered in the Travel section of The Globe and Mail.

 

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I knew my seven-year-old son was having fun in his ski lesson when he refused to take a pee break. I know, because I would have done exactly the same thing at his age.  And I also know it usually ends badly. 

Despite a solid -18 on the slopes of Sun Peaks, and despite two hot chocolates demanding to be let out soon after they were let in, there was no way Emmett would agree to pee. I’ll let you know the ending… but first let me tell you the beginning: 

“How good a skier is he?” his private ski pro, Hamish-with-the-un-identifiable-accent, had asked at the start of the lesson. 

“Pretty good,” I’d said. “Great, actually.” Modesty is not a trait I boast on the ski hill. “He skis parallel. Loves trees.” 

Hamish-with-the-un-identifiable-accent pulled at his beard and looked at Emmett sideways. “I’ll be right back.”  

The ski pro clomped away, and returned moments later with a radical set of twin-tips.  “Whoa,” I said. “He’s got his park skis now.” 

Emmett and Hamish, Sun Peaks

 

Emmett, who hadn’t been looking forward to me ditching him on this ski lesson, instantly reconsidered. He checked out Hamish’s skis, then his face. He took in the beard, the bandana, the badass helmet. 

“See ya, mom!” And with that I was ordered to take a hike. Hamish was in the building. 

I can’t tell you much about the actual lesson. I used the time to explore Sun Peaks’ sidecountry with a pack of really good guys intent on trees and untracked powder.   

But I can tell you with some authority, that the lesson went extremely well, ’cause like I said, at several points during the lesson Emmett had refused to go in to go to the bathroom. 

“He’s had an accident,” Hamish-with-the-un-identifiable-accent said to me at pick-up. 

I looked down at Emmett’s limbs, which looked like they were still intact. No sign of tears, either. “What did ya hurt, bud?” 

Emmett didn’t speak, but vigorously shook his head. 

“Not that kind of accident,” Hamish said in his unidentifiable accent. “I asked him if he had to pee. Twice actually. But he said he didn’t.” Hamish was talking faster now. “Then we got half way down our last run and he… well, he…” 

“Let it rip?” I asked… knowingly. (Like I said, I’ve been there. Just not lately.) 

“Uh. Yeah,” Hamish said. “And I asked him if he was cold now and he said ‘No. Actually, it warmed me up!'” 

“I bet.” I said to Hamish. We smiled at each other. At least I think we did. It was so cold, both our mouths were covered by bandanas.  

“Better go, huh Emmett?” I asked my son. He nodded, again vigorously, and started to slide away on his skis. He was walking a little funny. 

“How’d the lesson go?” I asked as we headed for the Delta Sun Peaks’ laundry… though I already knew his answer. 

“Great!” Emmett said, waving his poles in the air to make a statement. “We skied the best trees EVER!” 

I believed him. I knew he had a good time… he peed his pants on the ski hill. 

www.sunpeaksresort.com

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Wide-open ski runs are of little use at a ski resort from a seven-year-old skier’s perspective. The more trees the better — add a few jumps, plus some stumps and boulders to ski over and you’ve really got it going on. The only thing cleared trails are good for is getting from one set of glades to another really fast. Other than that… “Nah. Pretty useless.”

Little people, big ideas.

This from my son, who’s skiing Sun Peaks, BC for the first time, and is showing remarkable talent for sniffing out good glades. It doesn’t matter how steep they are, how tight they are, or even if they’re tracked. He beetles from one set to another like a remote-controlled stock car commandeered by Bart Simpson.

“C’mon Mom! You can make it! It’s not that steep. Whattya mean the branches are too low? I made it!”

And this kid’s got more than an opinion or two on how a ski area should be layed out. “5-Mile (a green-circle Sun Peaks run) is good ‘cause it’s long,” he says. “But it definitely needs more trees. The ditches are good on the sides, though. You can get some good jumps in those.”

According to Emmett, the best treed runs at Sun Peaks so far are the Cahilty Glades off the Sunburst Express — well spaced, but not too easy; the trees between Granny Greene’s and Homesteader on Sundance; and Mt. Morrisey’s “easy-peasy” The Sticks.

Emmett skied Cahilty Glades Sunday with a pack of Nancy Greeners (ski racers in the Nancy Greene Ski League), led by Nancy Greene herself, and followed by a CTV camera crew. (The footage will run preceding the Olympics.)

Nancy Greene with the Nancy Greeners!

Nancy was cool about heading into Cahilty trees on the first run of the day — she had to be, otherwise the kids on the ski team would mutiny — but the camera crew was a little challenged!

They duck-taped a wide-angle camera to her skis and got action shots of her skiing with all the kids around her. “Kind of hard to ski with one ski slow and the other fast,” she said, waving the ski/camera around. She blew it off eventually–made one of her quick slalom turns through the trees and the camera went rolling.

Nancy gave the kids a few tips on skiing trees safely. “Ski with at least three people in trees,” she says. “That way, if you’re hurt, one can stay with you, while the other gets help.” She wisely adds: “And you don’t ski through trees… you ski around them!”

At the bottom of Cahilty she stopped — a rare occurrence for energetic Nancy — and pointed back up at the glades.

“You guys know Bode Miller?” she asked? “The American ski racer? He was here once for a Nor-Am race and missed his start ‘cause he thought he could squeeze one more run through Cahilty trees.”

Emmett nodded his head. He totally got it. When you’ve got glades, who needs gates?

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