MODERN FRONTIER SKIING THE BREATHTAKING WILD WEST AT TELLURIDE
THE FREEDOM ISSUE SKIING SWITZERLAND Portes du Soleil and Gstaad
remind us what skiing is meant to be: wide open and limitless
EARLY WINTER 2016 $4.95 VOLUME 10, ISSUE 1
S-COMP: WORLD CUP TURNS 50 + APRÈS-TEA AT CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE + SUNGLASSES VS. GOGGLES + PARK CITY: SKI IN, DRINK IN, SKI OUT
CANADA POST PUBLICATION AGREEMENT # 42084025
Spoil yourself! LET OUR HOSTS TAKE YOU ON A WEEKLY TRIP TO THE WORLD'S FINEST DESTINATIONS. + SKI TIPS + RESORT PROFILES + HOT COMPETITIONS + SKI TRENDS Check out the broadcast schedule at: SNOWSPORTSCULTURE.COM (SKI TELEVISION > TV GUIDE)
28 IT WAS A WEEK OF SLOPES BLANKETED IN SNOW WITH NO COMPETING FOR THE GOODS, GORGEOUS SCENERY AND VILLAGES.
IN THIS ISSUE
EARLY WINTER 2016
12 ED NOTE Finding your freedom
28 SKIING FREE Switzerland’s Portes du Soleil and Gstaad
15 Opposite page: Paul Morrison. Clockwise on this page: Ryan Bonneau, Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Sun Peaks Resort.
FIRST LOAD The Golden Triangle, Vij in Whistler
remind us what skiing is meant to be: wide open and limitless with a feeling of pure freedom. By Claire Challen. Photography
59 ELEVATED LIVING Après-tea in Banff
by Paul Morrison.
and Lake Louise 40 MODERN FRONTIER 64 TIPS UP Balance physics and flair for
a symbiotic skiing experience
Ancient geological formations make the Wild-West mining town of Telluride a breathtaking – yet thoroughly modern – place to ski.
66 PARTING SHOT The ski dude
By Rob Story. Photography by Ryan Bonneau.
with style bravery 49 REACHING THE PEAK >On the cover: Claire Challen rests on a quiet street in Champéry, Switzerland. Photo by Paul Morrison.
Sun Peaks continues to inspire and grow as
a leading Canadian ski resort with innovative expansions and leadership. By Edith Rozsa.
SASSY CITY BOOTS page 21 snowsportsculture.com
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Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you. – Jean-Paul Sartre
November 2015 – Vol. 10, No. 1 EDITORIAL/ART/ PRODUCTION
FINDING YOUR FREEDOM The year was 1996. Fresh off the NCAA racing circuit and more accustomed to icy race tracks than the seemingly endless powder resting below my tips, my first feeling was regret … that I’d ditched my group on a hunch about this west-facing slope, which today I believe is called Col de Cluy. I was on the famed Alpe d’Huez – known more for its Tour de France lore than primetime skiing – and I quite literally couldn’t see the end of this steep chute. Far in the distance, I could see the village of Les Deux Alpes (where we were staying), a gentle reminder that I would connect with my friends later.
EDITOR Gordie Bowles ART DIRECTOR Agata Piskunowicz COPY EDITOR Christina Newberry SENIOR EDITOR Don Cameron SENIOR PHOTOGRAPHER Paul Morrison SENIOR WRITER Michael Mastarciyan PRODUCTION Lisa Crowley CONTRIBUTORS Ryan Bonneau, Trevor Brady, Claire Challen, John Evely, Josh Foster, Paul Morrison, Christina Newberry, Julie Nieuwenhuys, Michel Painchaud, Edith Rozsa, Rob Story, Steven Threndyle Caroline van ‘t Hoff Publication Agreement No. 42084025 Canada Post No. 7309575 ISSN: 1913-9861
It’s seriously high up there (over 3,300 metres). The snow wasn’t crazy deep that day, maybe shin level, but the turns that I made by myself – honestly, hundreds of ‘em – were the greatest turns I’ve ever made. Yes, it’s been 20 years, and no, this isn’t a “fishing tale.” It was the moment I felt pure freedom. As my racing days would soon be in the rear-view mirror, this day would have a lasting effect – one that I’m still trying to recreate.
ADVERTISING Ashley Herod Tait email@example.com SNOWSPORTS MEDIA INCORPORATED PRESIDENT & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Chris Robinson PARTNER Mark Kristofic DIRECTOR, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Ashley Herod Tait
I’ve been asked many times where is the best place to ski. I usually answer that question with a question of my own: “What is your idea of perfect skiing?” Do you prefer snorkel-deep powder? Endless cruisers? Scenic vistas? Trees or wideopen glades? Or all of the above? It’s really hard to go wrong in pursuit of the answers to these questions. Claire Challen and Paul Morrison teamed up to seek a bit of perfection in Switzerland (Skiing Free, page 28) at Portes du Soleil and Gstaad, while well-known author Rob Story joined photographer Ryan Bonneau to show the S-Media team the ropes of their hometown in Telluride (Modern Frontier, page 40), our first profile of this breathtaking old mining town in Colorado. This edition of S-Mag – our 52nd in our 10th year of publishing – captures the elements of skiing free that we all seek and sometimes even find.
CONTROLLER Lisa Crowley DIGITAL Kit Redding PRODUCTION & CAMERA Steve Simons and Darryl Palmer HOSTS/CONTRIBUTORS Claire Challen, Josh Foster, Martha Lee, Edith Rosza and Steve Young S-Magazine is an independent publication of Snowsports Media Inc. 82 Hume Street Collingwood, Ont., L9Y 1V4 Phone: 416-840-6615 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.snowsportsculture.com
Gordie Bowles, editor 12 S–MAGAZINE | snowsportsculture.com
With a well-deserved reputation as a powder resort, Revelstoke and its trifecta of offerings – lift, cat and heli – caters to a diverse crowd. Its legendary glades spread across its 515,000 acres of terrain have put the resort in a new class. We also explore the epic Jackson Hole in Wyoming, as the mountain resort gears up to celebrate its 50th season in style.
IN THE NEXT ISSUE
FIRST LOAD People, news, gadgets and other chairlift ramblings
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FOR THE CARNIVORE Meatatarians can order up a meat-of-the-month box that comes with unique charcuterie, terrines and locally crafted jerky delivered to your door for $50 a month from the Toronto-based Carnivore Club. carnivoreclub.com
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GET YOUR VIJ ON IN WHISTLER SKIPARAZZI.........16 SKIBIZ..................18 GEAR................. 20 PEOPLE............. 22 GALLERY........... 26
Next to high-speed lifts, the most significant improvement at mountain resorts has come in the way of food services. Mind you, the bar was pretty low back in the ‘70s, when tough, hockey puck burgers and lukewarm beef chilli (that tasted suspiciously like something you’d eat from a can) ruled the menu. Whistler became a veritable den of culinary drama last year with the arrival of Vij’s curries at the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler and the Wizard Grill at the base of Blackcomb. Chef Vikram Vij is best known for his award-winning Indian res-
taurants in Vancouver – Vij’s, Rangoli and My Shanti. The charismatic Vij made several sampling appearances at the Roundhouse Lodge this winter, where guests had the opportunity to meet the man in person and sample his Indo-Canadian fusion fare. He also made a star appearance at the Winemaker après event at Steeps Grill and Wine Bar, where he wowed the crowd with his trademark curried lamb popsicles. – S. Threndyle
n the United States, speedy air service from major metro areas like Chicago and L.A. into Aspen and even Jackson Hole is a given. But given the vast distances (and much smaller population) in Canada, shuttle flights from major airports to within a short cab ride of the slopes here are rare, unless you want to charter a chopper. But there are options: In Toronto, Porter Airlines has been very successful with its direct flights from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport right to Mont Tremblant – a trip that takes just over an hour to complete. (You won’t even have time to finish browsing the snazzy re:porter inflight magazine). In Vancouver, smaller airlines like Hawkair and Pacific Coastal service remote places like Terrace and Bella Coola, way up in heli-skiing country. In Calgary, you can jump on regularly scheduled flights to beat the rush to both Fernie and Kimberley by flying directly to Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook on Air Canada or WestJet. Depending on when your flight lands, you might even be able to hustle up to the hill and squeeze in a few turns. And to think you started the day in your three-piece suit! – S. Threndyle
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MORNING FLIGHT, AFTERNOON RUNS
250 GALLONS, 7,000 FEET Appropriately located at the bottom of Quittin’ Time ski run in Old Town Park City, Utah, you’ll find the world’s first and only ski-in distillery.
igh West Distillery and Saloon has been making small-batch rye whiskey at this 7,000-foot elevation since 2007. Housed in a pair of hundred-yearold buildings with a bar made of wood reclaimed from a 1904 bridge, High West takes its mining-town history seriously. But this is no novelty shop – the distillery was named 2011 Whiskey Pioneer of the Year by Whiskey Advocate magazine. Whether it’s quittin’ time or just time to refuel, drop your skis on the rack and sidle up to bar to enjoy Utah’s widest selection of whiskies, or head for the Zagat-rated dining room voted best restaurant in Park City. Distillery tours (including samples) show off the 250-gallon copper pot still three times per day. highwest.com – C. Newberry
BIG A IR
IN THE CITY
A 110-foot ramp will transform Fenway Park into a freeski and snowboard showcase Now that big air snowboarding is an official Olympic sport (debuting in PyeongChang, Korea, in 2018), all eyes are on the ramp. This February, that ramp goes urban at Boston’s Fenway Park in what U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association CMO Michael Jaquet told Sports Business Daily will be “the biggest and best big air competition in the history of the sport.” The 110-foot ramp will transform the baseball field into a freeski and snowboard showcase, filling the space between centre field and home plate and giving spectators a close-up view of the athletes as they launch into their aerial tricks. With nearly double the usual prize purse, expect a prime roster of top-shelf athletes when the competition, a U.S. Grand Prix tour stop, arrives in Boston February 11 to 12, 2016. – C. Newberry
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NO SNOW, NO PROBLEM Off season? What off season?
Skiers and snowboarders in Ontario can now train all year long at the Alpine Indoor Ski and Snowboard Training Centre in Mississauga, the first indoor ski centre in Canada. Skiing on a 6 × 11-metre rolling carpet may not get the adrenaline flowing like a run on fresh powder, but it’s the secret training (and rehab) weapon of elite European ski racers, who have been using similar systems for years. “I liken it to a driving range for golfers,” says Alpine’s John Peters. “It’s exact sport-specific fitness training.”Alpine’s fees include an instructor and all equipment. Skis and boards are modified to work with the Maxxtracks indoor ski slope, but you can bring your own boots and helmet to keep the sweat you’ll be working up all to yourself. alpineindoorski.com – C. Newberry
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GOLDEN COUNTRY This scenic town of 4,000 acts as the jumping off point for B.C.’s burgeoning guided ski touring industry, with the highest density of backcountry lodges in North America. This scenic town of 4,000 acts as the jumping off point for B.C.’s burgeoning guided ski touring industry, with the highest density of backcountry lodges in North America. Virtually all 29 members of the Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association offer accommodation and meals that are easily on par with their larger brethren; in fact, many lodges employ the very same skilled mountain guides you might find in a helicopter skiing operation. Backcountry skiing around Golden occurs mainly in the Selkirk Mountains, perhaps the world’s most perfect mountain range for skiing. Huge glaciers (no, they have not all melted), upwards of 20
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metres of snowfall, reliably cold (but not frigid) temperatures and remote, spectacular mountains are the draws here. The beauty is that most of the lodges (Selkirk Mountain Experience, Selkirk Lodge and Golden Alpine Holidays are perhaps the best known, though Purcell Lodge, Amiskwi Lodge and Sorcerer Lodge are also spectacular) are just a short helicopter ride away from the staging area at Revelstoke airport. Once you’ve arrived in aerial style, your weeklong adventure will begin. Avalanche safety gear, guided tours suitable for all ability levels and gourmet meals are all part of the fun. tourismgolden.com – S. Threndyle
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UNIQUE PROPERTIES – WATERFALL WALLS S-Mag has seen its share of covers: 26 in fact, and another 26 under the title SRC. We’d like to know your favourite. GO TO SNOWSPORTSCULTURE.COM TO VOTE
Thankfully, ski cabins don’t resemble log cabins or Swiss chalets any more. Luxe new resort homes take their cues from the stylish, open-plan “new modern” style of architecture seen in magazines like Dwell and Sunset. North Vancouver architect Peter Buchanan is the mastermind behind many of Western Canada’s most striking, award-winning institutional structures (including Vancouver’s futuristic SkyTrain
PODIUM TESTED COVER CONTEST
Columbia has been building custom uniforms for the Canadian freestyle team since 2008, using technology to benefit performance. The CSC Mogul Jacket, part of the Titanium line, is lightweight, warm, waterproof and breathable. The removable storm hood and underarm venting allow for activity options. And you can pretend you’re Mikaël Kingsbury, crushing the competition. Men’s jacket and pants shown. CSC Mogul jacket $349.99 Jump Off Cargo pant $299.99 columbia.com
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stations). In Whistler, Buchanan’s North Architecture Studio has turned its attention to a spacious two-acre site tucked onto a mountainside just south of Creekside. Clean, elegant and spacious in the manner of Frank Lloyd Wright and other organic modernist designs, this 4,600-square-foot home is situated alongside a waterfall, not unlike Lloyd Wright’s famed Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. As with any prestige mountain home, the view is to die for – in this case, facing west to encompass the jagged peaks of the Tantalus Range. – S. Threndyle
JOAN of ARCTIC This sassy city boot built on a comfy wedge can also hold its own on snow. Inspired by a French visionary, this soft-to-the-touch boot features waterproof materials (not lined) and full-grain leather upper with burnished touches at the toe and heel. – S. Threndyle $280 | sorelfootwear.ca
SNOJO 20 BACKPACK
There’s nothing worse than fumbling with your pack straps when you’re loading the lift, but this slim, low-profile, full-wrap pack can just stay on. It also double as a carry system for skis, and the dual storage compartments allow for dry storage for extra layers. – S. Threndyle
$150 | mountainhardwear.com
No piece of gear defines the yin and yang of the ski experience quite like eyewear. Bluebird days call for highperformance sunglasses that screen out harmful UV rays while offering
fashion-forward frames that do double duty on the slopes and the après-ski patio. Snowstorms and overcast days are when the goggles come out to protect your eyes from swirling snowflakes. But if there’s a happy medium – that is, a shield that both covers your eyes and protects against errant wind gusts while still providing fog-free vision, then Scott’s new Leap LS sunglasses might be it. The impact-resistant light-sensitive lenses use photochromic technology that automatically adapts to sunlight intensity. The lens darkens and lightens as sunlight becomes stronger or weaker, enabling you to ski in a wide range of light conditions from intense brightness all the way through to flat light. – S. Threndyle
Perhaps you’ve been delaying joining the GoPro generation because, well, you think the cameras really do look dorky on your helmet, especially when you’re in a lift line. Or maybe you’ve been intimidated by the amount of technical trial and error you need to go through to in order to become halfway decent with it. The new GoPro Session breaks with the past and presents a much lighter unit that is waterproof to 10 metres (no housing needed) and features a sleek, unobtrusive cube shape that’s almost half the size of existing Hero models. Aimed at the “point and shoot” amateur who might be intimidated by the multiple shooting modes and options of more advanced models, the Session’s QuickCapture mode is essentially a foolproof “always on” button that starts recording at the push of a button. Indeed, it’s ideal for filming those short “sessions” that seem to come out of nowhere. – S. Threndyle $525 | gopro.com
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HEIKO SOCHER: FERNIE’S PIONEERING SPIRIT Before they had stock market symbols, ski resorts were locally owned and operated. Often, “one guy” ended up doing most of the work. At Fernie Alpine Resort, that guy was Heiko Socher.
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Socher stumped across western Canada to attract skiers to Snow Valley, which averages a reliable 900 centimetres of snow. Many early customers were farmers from Alberta and Saskatchewan. “They had money,” Socher said, “and they took the winters off, in many cases. They would drive to the hill; it was exclusively rubber tire traffic.”
faster lifts and a more refined experience. Many of his plans for greater expansion have been realized since Fernie’s sale to Resorts of the Canadian Rockies in 1997. Since Socher retired in the late 1990s, he spends his summers maintaining the 25-kilometre Mountain Lake Trail, an epic journey of alpine scenery that crosses into grizzly bear habitat and ends at the worldfamous Island “We were able to build good quality trails and Lake Lodge. He roads,” he said. “There weren’t any stumps not only built the left behind. We could ski on a foot of snow.” trail, but lovingly carved handrails While Socher designed the log cabin into some of its steeper sections and handbase lodge, his wife, Linda, ran the ski crafted the signs and markers. He is also school and ski shop. More trails were involved in the historic preservation of cut and lifts added. Socher ploughed the downtown Fernie. profits back into the mountain as the skiing Fernie’s “one guy” is still going strong. – S. Threndyle public began to demand better grooming,
JUDY MCMAHON WEIXELBAUM
ocher grew up the son of an engineer in eastern Germany during the Second World War. To escape the post-war chaos, Socher’s older sister immigrated to Canada and then sponsored her brother. After a brief stop in Montreal, Socher headed west to study forestry at the University of British Columbia and be close to the mountains. Socher had skied occasionally before coming to Canada, but took the sport up in earnest after finding a job in Fernie, a small resource-based community in eastern British Columbia. Ownership of the local ski hill was split among numerous shareholders, and though the economy was relatively robust, the operation was losing money. Socher saw opportunity. He soon acquired 30 per cent of the company’s shares, then became general manager. Utilizing his forestry knowledge, he made money selling trees cut from the ski hill using bulldozers and backhoes. “We were able to build good quality trails and roads,” he said. “There weren’t any stumps left behind. We could ski on a foot of snow.”
Vonn was nominated for two ESPYs, in the Best Female Athlete and Best Comeback Athlete categories.
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Lindsey Vonn refuses to slow down, even when she just can’t catch a break. The skiing superstar suffered another injury in August – an ankle fracture during a training run on Coronet Peak in New Zealand – but the resilient American appears to be ignoring her latest setback and charging ahead with rehab. During a summer that was otherwise full of obligatory marketing and PR appearances mixed with several hours every day of training, Vonn still found time to sneak in some fun. – G.Bowles
BIKINI WORKOUT Days after her ankle injury in midAugust, Vonn shared photos of her svelte bikini body. “Just because I’m on vacation doesn’t mean I’m not working hard :),” she wrote on Instagram.
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When Vonn launched her foundation in early 2015 dedicated to empowering and mentoring young women through scholarships and camps, her hopes were for something lasting and relevant. “We’re trying to figure out camp dates and collaborations with other foundations. Things are on a good track. I really like the work — some of the essays from girls that are inquiring about a scholarship are so cute and meaningful. It’s why I do it. It makes it worthwhile.”
How many kids have dreamed of having Disneyland all to themselves? “We went to the Tomorrowland premiere and they blocked it out for us to do all the rides,” Vonn said. “We did Space Mountain twice in a row ... scarfed down some hamburgers before that. (And) I got my selfie with Mickey Mouse, which was the highlight of my night.”
MOVIE PREMIERES Vonn walked the red carpet for second time this summer at The Age of Adaline starring Blake Lively.
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Markus Berger / Red Bull Content Pool Ski racers usually make their descent on a blanket of white. Not so for four-time world champion Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who left behind rainbow-splattered snow after conquering a specially prepared slope in Reiteralm, Austria, to complete what were likely the most colourful runs of all time. “It was a surreal experience – simply amazing,” he told Red Bull, the organizers of the event. “I couldn’t ski with the speed I normally do in races, even though the course was very steep in the first part, up to 75 per cent incline. At each gate I was blinded for a split second because I had to ski through a cloud of yellow and blue.”
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THE FREEDOM ISSUE / SWITZERLAND
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C L A I R E
C H A L L E N
P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y P A U L M O R R I S O N
SWITZERLAND’S PORTES DU SOLEIL AND G S T A A D R E M I N D U S W H AT S K I I N G I S M E A N T TO BE: WIDE OPEN AND LIMITLESS WITH A FEELING OF PURE FREEDOM
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THE FREEDOM ISSUE / SWITZERLAND
FOG WRAPPED ME IN ITS DAMP EMBRACE AS THE ZIPPY P L AT T E R L I F T C A R R I E D M E D E E P E R I N T O N E W T E R R I T O R Y. I T C O N T I N U E D T O D U M P – T W E N T Y - P L U S C E N T I M E T R E S O F S N O W O V E R N I G H T A N D M O R E A C C U M U L AT I O N E V E R Y M I N U T E . I N A N U N U S U A L LY D R Y W I N T E R W O R L D W I D E , I T W A S I N C R E D I B L E T H AT W E W E R E T H E O N LY O N E S O N T H E L I F T, F O U R I N A R O W G L I D I N G S I L E N T LY U P W A R D S , C U T T I N G A S W AT H I N T O T H E U N T R A C K E D . T H E F A I N T SLICING OF POWDER TURNS BROKE THE SILENCE. APPEARING OUT OF THE FOG, SKIING STRAIGHT DOWN THE LIFT L I N E , W A S T H E O N LY O T H E R S K I E R C O M P E T I N G W I T H U S F O R F R E S H T R A C K S , H O N I N G I N O N T H E L AY E R O F N E W S N O W O N T O P O F P E R F E C T LY G R O O M E D . T H E T R A I L S O N E I T H E R S I D E O F T H E L I F T W E R E E M P T Y, B U T T H I S G U Y PREFERRED THE HIGH-SPEED LIFT-LINE POACH. I DIDN’T SEE ANY “INTERDIT” SIGNS, NOR DID I HEAR SHOUTS FROM T H E L I F T O P E R AT O R B E L O W. I ’ D H E A R D A B O U T T H E FREEDOM OF SKIING IN SWITZERLAND, AND I LIKED HOW THIS WAS S
A R T I N G O U T.
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THE FREEDOM ISSUE / SWITZERLAND
DOORS OF THE SUN WITH OUR RENTAL VAN STUFFED FULL OF GEAR, videographer LG Palmer, S-Media producer Ashley Herod-Tait, photographer Paul Morrison and I headed off in search of coffee. As I took in the views of Lake Geneva and lush pastures dotted with farmhouses along the autoroute, I found it hard to believe that we could be skiing later today. Exiting toward Portes Du Soleil, zipping around a final roundabout and
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veering onto a tiny road, we began climbing into the mountains. Snow coated the hillsides alongside the twisting roads that were barely wide enough for our boxy rig to scrape by should a large vehicle come along. Villages built into the hillsides and weathered wood chalets sat so close they were almost within reach. As we pulled into the tiny driveway of Art. Boutique.Hotel Beau-Séjour in the historical village of Champéry, it began to snow. We immediately scurried down Grand-Rue for lunch
PREVIOUS PAGE: Champéry’s main cable car rises more than 1,200 metres above Portes du Soleil. THIS PAGE: Claire navigates the snowy pockets of Champéry.
at Le Nord, a cozy post-and-beam space a threeminute walk from our hotel. Despite our jetlag, we managed to decipher the French menu with a little help from our patient waiter and savoured a variety of röstis, the first meal of many in the delightfully decadent Swiss tradition. Chivalrous as usual, the boys sussed out the resort conditions after lunch, reporting low visibility and goggle-coating freezing rain. I was feeling slightly under the weather and opted out of skiing. Depositing armloads of gear in my quaint room and eying the cozy twin combo topped with Swiss down comforters, I allowed myself the luxury of a daytime nap, knowing Ashley was probably doing the same thing in the next room. Later, hearing giddy tales from the boys of highspeed turns down unknown slopes, blinded by the fog and the danger factor compounded by lack of sleep, I
and shoots just off the cat-tracks in this ski-whereveryou-wish country, our explorations led us to the crossroads of Avoriaz and Châtel, where we skied to Les Rhodos in Village des Chèvre, a summertime mountain pasture for goats. Following éscargot and a warming vin chaud with Andy’s recommendation of chanterelles a la crème maison, I felt guilty for taking up valuable real estate in the chalet for so long. Looking around, though, I saw most people were taking their lunches seriously. We staggered out two hours later. The top of Le Pas de Chavanette, also known as the iconic Mur Suisse [Swiss Wall] gives skiers the option to drop into France or Switzerland. Following closely behind Andy, we launched into the 40-degree slope toward Les Crosets on the Swiss side, making our silent debut on the wall. Normally topped with De Chevaux-sized moguls, today it was blanketed in thigh-deep powder. To celebrate our conquest of the Wall, we skied to Buvette des Clavets, an inviting trailside chalet. As P E R F E C T LY S AT E D A F T E R A V A R I E T Y T R I O O F the sole guests, we had no problem quickly acquiring plus de vin chaud, but guests can S H A R E D C R È M E S B R Û L É E S , W E W AT C H E D A S , book ahead for fondue and an exciting ski M U C H T O O U R D E L I G H T, H E AV Y S N O W B E G A N down through the darkness – guide recommended. TO FALL, VISIBLE IN THE SOFT GLOW OF THE An untracked snowfield greeted us off the back of the chalet. Weaving along the OUTSIDE LIGHTS. exit trail’s switchbacks, we arrived at the base in an area known as Grand Paradis and popped into a yurt off the parking lot. Andy showed up a couple of seats shy and squeezed thought perhaps I’d missed out a little. us all into a borrowed Subaru. After unraveling our Champéry’s main cable car passes directly over the intertwined bodies from the front and peeling Paul and hotel, rising more than 1,200 vertical metres above LG the Friendly Giant from the back, we clattered our the village into the heart of the Portes du Soleil ski way onto the quiet village street. area, where one lift pass provides access to 12 linked We returned to Le Nord for an evening meal resorts in Switzerland and France, with 209 lifts, 700 sans jetlag. At a corner table under rustic miniature kilometres of piste and unlimited off-piste. From the lanterns in a room abuzz with happy diners, we dove top of the Champéry tram, skiers connect with the four into sensational gooey raclette and salt-pressed Swiss resorts of Champéry, Les Crosets, Champoussalmon. I was encouraged (forced) for the second sin and Morgins. To the west lie eight French resorts, evening to partake in the génépi de Champéry – locally including Avoriaz and Châtel. prepared hooch made by steeping alpine plants in pure That evening, we discussed the next day’s plan in grain alcohol – as it might knock out my nagging cold. the hotel’s La Vieux-Chalet restaurant over seared Day two brought sunshine, and with it, the Switzerlocal beef grilled mid-restaurant on an open fire. land of my imagination. Photos I’d seen of the region Perfectly sated after a variety trio of shared crèmes boasted astounding scenes like this. From my balcony I brûlées, we watched as, much to our delight, heavy could see the Dents du Midi and Dents Blanches. Atop snow began to fall, visible in the soft glow of the the tram, the 360-degree mountain views were breathoutside lights. taking. We alternated between firm groomers and Grey skies and low visibility greeted us in the hiking into steep powder patches wherever we chose, morning, as did fresh snow and the energetic Andy not once being told, “you can’t ski there.” Pointing this MacMillan from Abbotsford, BC. A denizen of the way and that to peaks, open bowls and rocky-cliffed Alps for the past 25 years, Andy owns La Crevasse, lines across the valleys, Andy told us he discovers new Champéry’s only nightclub, located within crawling lines each season; the nearly limitless opportunity distance of anywhere in town. Spending his daylight for off-piste skiing is a large part of what keeps him hours as a mountain tour guide whenever possible, here. As I made my final run of the day, the sky was he puts his ripping ski skills to good use. Once Andy a pink backdrop for my turns and the trailside chalets. ensured we had safety gear, including probes and I could have skied into the evening, but increible shovels, and that our avy beacons were transmitting, delicacies such as beef carpaccio and foie gras he took off in a flash, challenging us to keep up. awaited at Champéry’s charming Café du Centre. After a morning spent dropping into snowy pockets
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THE FREEDOM ISSUE / SWITZERLAND We awoke on our third day to limited visibility and widespread lift closures, but our attention was diverted as we savoured the creations Beau-Séjours owner Sophie cooks up daily for guests – raspberry-topped meringue, cakes, pies and chocolate éclairs. Bellies full, we hopped on the train for the 10-minute ride north to Thermes Parc – Les Bains du Val-d’Illiez to float and rejuvenate in the natural hot springs. Massages provided further comfort after chasing Andy through the Alps for two days. We spent a quiet afternoon touring the village, stocking up on chocolate and wine at the local grocery store. Rumours of too much cheese wreaking havoc on the internal workings prompted us to seek a casual one-course evening meal at Chez Joe. Owned and operated by Joel Leroux, a young Canadian snowboarder from Gaspé, Quebec, the venue offers a great beer selection and beef and chicken burgers served in a laid-back atmosphere, with lower prices than the average restaurant in Champéry. Comfortable chatter and savoury aromas filled the small space as we tucked in for a perfectly delicious meal. Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet I was discovering a country rich in understanding that life’s simple joys are what really count. These folks work hard, but they also take the time for outdoor recreation and to share good food and wine with loved ones. Hard work in the fields fills plates with local vegetables and meats, and grottos produce the incredible cheeses in the Swiss fondues.
K I S H TA H D As our time in the Portes du Soleil region came to a close, we travelled north to Gstaad. Switzerland travel is made incredibly convenient by the Swiss Rail GoldenPass. The line spans nearly 240 kilometres, allowing guests to travel from Lake Geneva in the south-western tip up to central Lucerne aboard panoramic trains. Seated in first class with camera one and camera two at my side and a couple of bottles of champagne at 10 a.m., life was grand. Foggy skies blotted out the distant peaks, but there were lovely villages right beside the tracks flanked by expansive pastures and homes dotting the hills. It was snowing heavily as the train arrived in Gstaad. Pronounced “Kishtahd”
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by locals and consistently mispronounced by all of us, this high-end village has accommodated the likes of Madonna and Elizabeth Taylor in its posh five-star hotels, yet offers far more than swanky lodging and designer clothing. Three kilometres down the road from Gstaad lies the understated village of Saanen, where we spent an evening in the trendy 16 Art Bar, an old bell foundry turned restaurant with low ceilings and a menu that shifts with the seasons. Above the town sits the Hotel Solsana, our lodging. This three-star turreted castlelike structure is unique not only in architecture but also in that it caters to visually impaired guests with braille signage, open hallways and spacious rooms. A bit incongruously for Switzerland, it also has a bowling alley. On clear days, the hotel boasts a spectacular view of the valley and surrounding ski resorts. A narrow farm road continues up beyond the hotel to the Sonnenhof, where we dined extravagantly on truffles and sea bass, gazing at the lights of the valley through the thickening snowfall. Though there are more than enough dining and shopping options to keep a person busy for days without ever stepping into a pair of ski boots, there happens to be a lot of skiing in Gstaad. It attracts beginner and intermediate skiers because of its lower elevations (most peaks top out at around 2,000 metres, with only the glacier at Les Diablerets rising to about 3,000 metres) while offering a large variety of terrain in its 220 kilometres of piste for those with a higher level of expertise. We discovered that this is a hidden gem for the die-hard skier, as it mainly attracts piste skiers, leaving the remarkably extensive and varied off-piste for those with powderseeking radar. In the nearby SaanerslochgratHornberg ski area, we found a low-key base area with an unpretentious après yurt and simple roped pathways funnelling skiers toward the only lift – a tiny gondola with barely enough room for guide Bernhard Hauswirth and I on one side and LG and camera gear on the other. Rising 1,900 metres into the glorious sunshine, we arrived at an understated alpine restaurant with skiable terrain dropping off from all sides. With every signpost that morning leading to Saanen-somewhereelse but none to Saanerslochgrat, we were late getting started. Late arrival normally
causes panic in North American powder seekers, signalled by frenzied ski boot power walking, sneaky lift-line management, aggressive boot cleaning and finally the powerful binding stomp leading to the poling, skating combo in an attempt to regain what has been lost. Even 15 minutes can be too late in North America. Yet here, I realized there was a considerable amount of terrain, few people – most sticking to the groomed slopes – and an unusual amount of fresh, untracked snow. Dropping in behind the restaurant, we warmed up on a steep and deep pitch similar to cat or heli-ski alpine terrain. It was a fine start to a day of untracked pitches alternated with gradual intermediate slopes that required minimal effort, all with a high floating factor. After a quick change into the finest clothing we’d stuffed into our duffels, we entered the palatial five-star Alpina hotel. I climbed the grandiose staircase to Sommet, one of three restaurants within the hotel, wondering if there was a note beside our names stating, “can’t afford to eat here.” I may not be able to frequent establishments like this on a daily basis, but it’s not difficult to recognize the ultimate in class and service. Every effort was made to ensure our table was satisfied: two visits from the head chef, endless education from our charming sommelier and seven exquisite courses. While we dined, the snow continued to fall heavily. As designated driver, I realized my inaugural European driving experience would be in five inches of snow. The van was a great rig, but it resisted steep, snowy roads, which happened to be what I’d be navigating to get back to our hotel. As I pulled over amidst yells of “No, No, No,” for a speeding cab on our single lane road, I knew my momentum was lost. Trusting my driving or allowing his seven glasses of wine and génépi chaser to instil courage, a certain brave photographer splayed himself on the narrow slanted hood of the van, gripped the edge and yelled, “Gun it!” Safely back at the Solsana, I stared from my balcony at the fairy lights of the villages of Gstaad and Saanen.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Claire drops in off the top of Le Pas de Chavanette – alongside the iconic Swiss Wall – on the last run of the day. The Sonnenhof Restaurant near Gstaad. Reflecting on the day at the hot springs, near Champéry.
I WAS ENCOURAGED (FORCED) FOR THE SECOND E V E N I N G T O PA R TA K E I N T H E G É N É P I D E C H A M P É R Y – L O C A L LY P R E PA R E D H O O C H M A D E B Y S T E E P I N G ALPINE PLANTS IN PURE GRAIN ALCOHOL ...
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W A S S E R N G R AT AND EGGLI I threw back the curtains. It was going to be deep again. On the narrow farm road, we retraced the route we’d travelled by horse-drawn carriage two days earlier with our host Antje. We clamoured out in our ski boots to push the van after pulling off the road for a local heading into the village. Sliding door open, we dove back in and made it up to the tiny four-row parking lot of Wasserngrat, a unique resort with one lift, no people and 25 centimetres on top of 25 centimetres. Steep, with a considerably smallerthan-average destination resort vertical of 625 metres and four marked trails, Wasserngrat was perhaps an unlikely candidate for an incredible day. Normally this terrain could be considered limited, but the snow kept replenishing itself, and
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we had only our own tracks to contend with until a handful of others arrived late morning. Bernhard told us that many locals and visitors stay in for another cup of coffee when it snows too much – they don’t get worked up about mopping up new snow. With huge accumulation and nobody but us all that interested, it was magic. It doesn’t get much better than looping lap after lap on the only lift and a mountaintop lunch at the Bergrestaurant Wasserngrat, capped with numerous helpings of meringue and thick triple crème. Even our trusty video and camera men briefly stopped slaving away for a couple of runs without backpacks of heavy camera gear. We’d already been blessed with two incredible powder days in the Gstaad mountains, and Mother Nature graciously granted us one more. Only a 10-minute walk from the centre of Gstaad, the easily accessible Eggli Resort welcomes skiers with a unique egg-shaped gondola. Contemporary skis and snowboards won’t
fit in the racks, so you share the tiny space with your equipment. At its peak, Eggli sits at only 1,672 metres, making it an attractive choice for beginners and intermediates. Initially, it was so deep that no amount of tucking and poling could get me to high enough speeds to make any turns. Luckily, we found steeper slopes one lift ride up at Vorderes Eggli, where I watched as Ashley was instantly devoured by the snow. When LG, the tallest man on the mountain, disappeared with only goggles visible, I suspected this might be the deepest snow I’d ever experienced. As I rode the T-bar digesting a glorious lunch from the Bergrestaurant Eggli, Gstaad’s motto of “Come up, slow down” came to mind. People are encouraged to take time to unwind and enjoy the good life. I thought we were doing a fine job of following that advice. In North America, I could check snow accumulation statistics to determine how much snow had fallen overnight.
I WAS DISCOVERING A COUNTRY R I C H I N U N D E R S TA N D I N G T H AT LIFE’S SIMPLE JOYS ARE W H AT R E A L LY C O U N T. PREVIOUS PAGE (clockwise from top): A charming mix of old and new in Gstaad. Tea-time cakes and pastries at Hotel Beau-Séjour. Andy MacMillan, owner of La Crevasse (Champéry’s only nightclub) and Claire at lunch at Les Rhodos – the home of the dish “Sex on a Plate.” THIS PAGE: Le Vieux-Chalet restaurant in Champéry.
Here, I was unable to find any snowfall sites to help me prepare. If I found any numbers, they were gross underestimates. I asked our guide, Karin Bach, why, and she replied that nobody here really wants to know. Too much snow could even be a deterrent for locals and vacationers wishing to stick to the groomers. Or, perhaps in the scrupulous Swiss way, reported snowfalls would be refuted as they discovered 15 centimetres on the lee side but only 10 on the other. Limited reporting avoids argument while serving up a daily surprise of more snow than the small crowds let on. It was a week of slopes blanketed in snow with
no competing for the goods, gorgeous scenery and villages, and three meals a day relished alongside riveting company. I didn’t think one could get to the slopes late morning and still find untracked powder, but I found just that in the thriving yet underrated Portes du Soleil and Gstaad. Resorts here are well developed, with high-speed lifts, yet retain their old-world charm and tradition. Villages, public chalets and restaurants are built into the mountains. The mountains are a way of life in this classic alpine country; set right in the middle of the Alps, Switzerland is the essence of European skiing ... with just a little more cheese.
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ANCIENT GEOLOGICAL FORMATIONS MAKE THE WILD-WEST MINING TOWN OF TELLURIDE A BREATHTAKING – YET THOROUGHLY MODERN – PLACE TO SKI B Y
R O B
P H O T O G R A P H Y
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S T O R Y R YA N
B O N N E A U
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F O U R T E E N - T H O U S A N D - F O O T P E A K S M E LT I N T O R E D - R O C K M E S A S A S C O U N T L E S S S TA N D S O F S P R U C E WA T C H I N A W E S T R U C K S I L E N C E . 42 S–MAGAZINE | snowsportsculture.com
TELLURIDE SKI RESORT LIKES TO CALL ITSELF
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE YOU’LL EVER SKI, AND VISITORS NEVER ARGUE. THE SKI AREA
CLINGS TO A TOWERING MASSIF IN COLORADO’S
S T E E P E S T R A N G E , T H E S A N J UA N M O U N TA I N S. I T S
L I F T- S E R V E D V E R T I C A L D R O P I S A T H I G H - M E LT I N G 3 , 8 4 5 F E E T, A N D Y O U C A N B U M P T H AT U P T O 4 , 4 2 5 F E E T I F Y O U C H O O S E T O H I K E 1 3 , 1 5 0 - F O O T PA L M YRA PEAK (THE SLOPES OF WHICH ARE C O N T R O L L E D A N D PAT R O L L E D ) .
OPENING PAGE: Skiers and borders preparing to drop into Genevieve ski run on Prospect Ridge. OPPOSITE PAGE: Claire skiing Revelation Bowl.
What’s more, the snow blanketing Telluride’s slopes is as good as any resort’s, even rivalling the champagne powder of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. Telluride sits only 50 or so kilometres east of the Utah desert. Indeed, the most famous groomed run at Telluride is called See Forever, because from its location atop Telluride’s highest ridge you can see deep into the red-rock canyons near Moab. When storms blow across the United States from the Pacific, they lose moisture for more than a thousand kilometres, then drop very light, very dry snow on Telluride. Average annual snowfall is almost 760 centimetres. With trees bordering or forming nearly every in-bounds run, the glade skiing at Telluride is excellent. If you like your trees tight, consider worming around the clusters in Log Pile or skier’s left of Allais Alley. If you like your trees a little wider apart, head for Sully’s. Also, know the difference between trees. Telluride’s aspens are tall and white and wear their branches high, so it’s easy to maneuver around them. The evergreen conifers (pines and firs) are a lot grabbier, with low verdant branches. But you can ski into a pine branch and it won’t feel a lot worse than brushing up against a Christmas tree. The wood is soft and giving. Smack into the brick-hard bark of an aspen, though, and you could finish the run in a ski patrol toboggan. As a Telluride local, I got to show off my mountain to the S-Media team last winter. We lunched at Alpino Vino (elev. 11,966 feet), which calls itself the highest restaurant in America (and could make a case for the most pricey). Over a saucy zinfandel, I asked Claire Challen how she liked Telluride. “I’ll tell you later if I like it,” she said with a frown. I couldn’t believe it. No skier dining at Alpino Vino has ever sounded so blasé. I asked, “When did you get here?” “Sunday,” she replied, a faint grin creasing her mouth. Aha! Sarcasm is alive and well – because when Claire arrived Sunday, so did 60 centimetres of blower powder. It was the finest storm of the season, and Claire had subsequently skied her tush off. Once she began telling the truth, Claire praised many components of a Telluride
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THE FREEDOM ISSUE / TELLURIDE winter: The talent of local shredders. The great energy percolating in the quaint valley. And the scenery, which she said blows away the visuals of the ski areas on Interstate 70. It’s hard to believe developers waited till 1972 to build a ski area here. It’s not as if Telluride occupied some secret, empty valley. It’s been around forever. Almost a century before Vail happened, Telluride was settled – and that just means the European settlers. Ute Indians and countless elk lived here long before the town was founded in 1878. Say you’re staying at the landmark New Sheridan Hotel, which added the “New” back in 1895, when a brick structure replaced the original wooden hotel after it burned down. You don your high-tech wicking base layer, top it with a Gore-Tex laminate jacket, then cross the street where Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank in 1889. (Cassidy absconded with $24,580, which would buy a lot of Gore-Tex even today.) Butch had told a local horse breeder he and his cohorts were track racers from the East and needed the breeder’s fastest steeds. The next day, they knocked off the bank and easily escaped the slower horses of the posse that chased them. Look to your right and spot the sign noting that after gold was discovered in the San Juan Mountains in 1858, miners built 350 miles (563 km) of underground tunnels here. Keep walking toward the close, in-town lifts, marvelling at the consistent Wild-West Victorian architecture – the reason for Telluride’s designation as a National Historic Landmark District. You almost expect to hear the creak of leather saddles and the jingle of spurs. Instead, there’s the clomp of heavy boots from skiers and snowboarders bent on riding fresh powder. At Station Telluride, board the sleek, modern gondola, built 100 years after the New Sheridan, and rise above the 12-blocks-by-8-blocks core of Telluride (about the same size as in Butch Cassidy’s day). Step out at 10,551 feet above sea level, click into your bindings, and gape: The geology gods did some of their best work here in the southwest corner of Colorado. Fourteen-thousand-foot peaks melt into red-rock mesas as countless stands of spruce watch in awestruck silence. Aside from the ski lifts and Tom Cruise’s house, you won’t see much civilization. Telluride, after all, sits 62 kilometres from the nearest traffic light and more than two
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hours’ drive from the nearest interstate. Make your way to a run called Plunge. Even the most jaded experts still tingle on the Plunge, which offers a classic Telluride experience – staring through your ski tips at the town hundreds of feet below while you prepare to tackle mogul-infested pistes. Or head up, up and up some more to Revelation Bowl, which houses Telluride’s newest slopes. Opened for the 2008– 09 season, Revelation boasts Europeanstyle terrain far above the tree line with a natural open bowl that offers big-mountain skiing in a setting so stunning you have to dodge photo snappers just to drop in. The sides of Revelation Bowl maintain steep, unmanaged snow for experts, while a groomed pitch down the middle appeals to intermediates. When you slide off Revelation’s Lift 15, you’re 12,570 feet above sea level – significantly higher than any skiable peak in California, Montana, Utah or Idaho. When skiing or snowboarding burns all your calories – which it will here, as Telluride’s remoteness all but guarantees short lift lines – a number of eateries vie to replenish them. Burgers, chilli and other casual fare await mid-mountain at Gorrono Ranch, a former Basque sheep ranch. In town, there’s Baked in Telluride, the region’s oldest restaurant (opened in 1976). Its chocolate doughnuts and hamand-Swiss-cheese empanadas promise a high carb-to-dollar ratio. Pastry in hand, step outside and take a long look around. You’ll note that Telluride’s most ancient history – its geologic formation – is still riveting. Eons before the miners got here, glaciers carved out a drainage with steep walls on three sides, a so-called “box canyon.” To the glaciers’ everlasting credit, they opened the canyon to the west. That east-west orientation lets locals and tourists ponder heavenly sunsets long after other Colorado mountain towns dwell in shadow. You might want to spend the gloaming roaming the old clapboard storefronts, discovering Telluride’s new sophistication. What was once a rowdy saloon may now house a Western art gallery; a stylish boutique can occupy what may have been a brazen bordello. Some say Telluride was named for the gold-bearing ore found in parts of Colorado. Others say it means “to hell you ride,” reflecting the boisterous nature of the town when it was a mining outpost in the 1800s. Whichever is right, Telluride remains both: kind of golden,
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: A local ice climber under the stars in Ames, a local ice climb just outside of town. Local skier Mike Munno drops into Upper Bear Creek from the top of the ski area through the backcountry gate. Telluride’s Main Street dressed up for the holidays. FOLLOWING PAGE TOP: Skiers grab a bite at Giuseppe’s, near the top of Lift 9. BOTTOM: Telluride’s favourite local, the elk, in front of the Wilson Peak in the San Miguel Range.
THE GEOLOGY GODS DID SOME OF THEIR BEST WORK IN THE SOUTHWEST CORNER O F C O L O R A D O.
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OA K Situated on the Gondola Plaza in the heart of Telluride, Oak is the town’s only ski-in, ski-out booze emporium. While dogs and kids romp around the adjacent courtyard, skiers settle their tired trunks on barstools and sigh with relief. Outside are sunny tables; inside is a long wooden bar serving cheap drafts of Schlitz and, befitting Oak’s Deep South ownership, a wide selection of fine bourbons. Oak also slings T-ride’s best finger food: zesty nachos, sweet potato fries and deep-fried okra.
R E S TA U R A N T
A L L R E D ’S
UTE INDIANS AND COUNTLESS ELK LIVED HERE LONG BEFORE THE TOWN WA S F O U N D E D IN 1878.
Easily the loftiest restaurant in Telluride, Allred’s occupies the San Sophia gondola station at 10,551 feet. No other bistro comes close to Allred’s in the scenery department, offering a birds-eye view of town as it twinkles happily beneath immense canyon walls. Try the bourbon-marinated elk short loin or pinot grigio–steamed Prince Edward Island mussels. Open to the public only for dinner.
T H E P E A KS R E S O RT A N D S PA Towering over the ski area’s modern base village, the eight-storey-tall Peaks has 174 rooms. Try room 332, whose small deck overlooks the San Juans and the Peaks’ outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs. From its expansive lobby, you can gaze through nine-metre-tall floor-to-ceiling windows all the way to Utah – or at legions of guests padding through in terry-cloth robes. The spa is the thing here, with an oxygen bar, 32 treatment rooms, avocado/citrus scrubs, every imaginable kind of workout facility and a two-storey waterslide. All in all, the spa boasts 3,900 square metres of pampering. And, yes, the helipad is just outside the door.
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REACHING T H E
P E A K
S U N P E A KS C O N T I N U E S TO I N S P I R E A N D G R O W A S A L E A D I N G C A N A D I A N S K I R E S O R T W I T H I N N O VAT I V E E X PA N S I O N S A N D L E A D E R S H I P BY EDITH ROZSA
P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y A D A M S T E I N , K E L LY F U N K A N D R O Y C E S I H I L I S
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H O M E : hōm 1 . A P L A C E W H E R E O N E L I V E S ; A R E S I D E N C E . 2 . A N E N V I R O N M E N T O F F E R I N G S E C U R I T Y A N D H A P P I N E SS . 3 . T H E P L A C E W H E R E S O M E T H I N G I S D I S C O V E R E D, F O U N D E D, D E V E LO P E D O R P R O M O T E D.
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TRAVELLING TO SUN PEAKS has for many years felt like coming home. There are many aspects to that homecoming: the off-camber corner I instinctually and reluctantly slow down for; the sparkling lights on the eaves twinkling between the trees, beckoning hello, relax, come play; the smiling face at the front desk saying, “Welcome back, Edith – how was the drive?” or, sometimes, “Willkommen!” Regardless of where I stay, Sun Peaks has all the qualities of home.
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>WANNA-BE LOCAL (yup, that’s me) tips:
Sticky buns at the Sunburst Lodge are to die for. I generally try to avoid having one on day one. Why? There’s no going back once you start. Watch for the Christmas trees peppered throughout the mountain. They’re lovingly tended by Sun Peaks residents, many of whom hike the mountains during the summer to decorate. Torchlight fondue on the mountain is a must – date night will never be the same. Think mid-mountain live music, incredible slow food and an adventurous ski (first tracks!) back to the village, where the fun can continue.
From left: The village at Sun Peaks. A view to Mount Morrisey. Skills Camps are offered for intermediate and expert skiers.
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Few towns boasting a year-round population of 500 welcome visitors so fervently. People who have the privilege of spending time in this resort municipality recognize that visitors drive the economy and the residents depend on tourism. It’s not the ball-and-chain kind of relationship, where need can force obligation, but a much freer connection: “Welcome to our home, what can we do to make your visit great? Will you come back and play?” Predictably, locals champion their resort like Canadians back their hockey teams, and Sun Peaks is no slouch in this department. Vertical Café owner John Dormer sums it up: “Our community makes us successful, and we contribute to making our community successful – that’s the way it works.” In the 20-plus café’s, pubs and restaurants, and the multitude of shops featuring locally handcrafted soaps, jewels and other supremely creative wear, the passion for Sun Peaks is spellbinding. The people’s hearts and souls are kind. As ski people, our world is small, which was proven to me once again during a recent visit to Jackson, Wyoming. During a couple of country dances (sorry about your toes, sir) and an engaging conversation, I learned that the person I was dancing
and speaking with was a fellow mountain enthusiast and a visionary of the Sun Peaks resort plan. Mori Bergmeyer, once a Boston-based architect and firm owner, had purchased and breathed new life into Telluride Mountain Resort, which later led to a collaboration with a renowned Whistler-based mountain resort–planning company, Ecosign. Mori set off on a scouting mission to Europe to bring back ideas for the new Sun Peaks village at the base of the three mountains and returned with concepts from central European villages that Sun Peaks visitors enjoy today. Seamless ski-in ski-out accommodations and dining, strategically placed underground parking resulting in a pedestrian-only village, gabled rooflines, colourful facades and a covered walking bridge are some of the highlights. If this all sounds quite magical, it is! I believe part of the magic derives from the geography. Think of a snow globe on a fireplace mantle. Within the dome lies a quaint village cradled between snowcovered mountains. A horse-drawn sleigh slides through the snow-filled streets, and snow sparkles in the sky. Now expand that scene exponentially, and BAM! – you’ve got Sun Peaks. This quaint European vil-
ALL MOUNTAIN SKILLS CAMP
lage seems to be out of a picture book, and so it is perhaps no accident that the place makes the people here. Sun Peaks Resort is surrounded by three unique mountains, all of which have double black to green runs: Tod Mountain to the north, Sundance Mountain to the east and Mount Morrisey to the north. To the west is the draw, which leads visitors to and from the resort and through which the evening sun often breaks through snow-filled clouds to filter golden light on the resort. That light is a small dose of the 2,000-plus hours of reported sunshine per year. The resort gets an average of six metres of annual snowfall. With the high number of sunshine hours, it must snow at night to make that equation work – every skier’s dream. If you’re heading out to catch first tracks, you may ski through the village to the lifts with backpack-wielding kids and hoteliers and restaurateurs wishing their kids a good day. These kids coast up the platter lift to their one-room schoolhouse, which lies halfway up the slopes. In 2010, community parents banded together to raise funds for a resort school to avoid bussing the children an hour to Kamloops. It began with 19 children in kindergarten through grade 6. In five years, the school has grown to 65
students and now goes to grade 12 with full British Columbia curriculum and public funding. These fortunate mountain kids ski during their lunch break and are encouraged to be true explorers while aspiring to academic excellence. The resort school is a great draw for young families looking for a different kind of childrearing philosophy and experience. Most of us would say, “Sure wish they had that when I was a kid.” That being said, I am not one to complain about my growing up in Whistler, where the head of the Blackcomb Ski Club was Nancy Greene Raine. I spent considerable time with her boys: Their log home was my second home. Nancy understands what it takes to become the best in the world, and through my racing career, both she and her husband, Al, were important mentors. They were my first employers in a job that helped pay for my racing, and later established a fundraising campaign when the Espoir Team collapsed. Al took me on my first foray into heli-skiing when scouting his dream project in the Cayoosh Valley. Trading their log home in Whistler for a new hotel at Sun Peaks in 1994, Nancy became the resort’s director of skiing. Add female athlete of the century and senator to the resume, and Nancy continues to inspire.
Western Canadian mountains are a draw for many snow enthusiasts due to their accessibility, snow load and steep pitches. Along with the fun comes the potential for extreme danger for those who are inexperienced and ill prepared. Bodie Shandro, a certified Canadian ski guide, has created the All Mountain Skills Camp at Sun Peaks to educate people of all ages to enable them to enjoy more of the mountains in a safer way. “Sun Peaks is taking a ‘preventative maintenance vs. crisis management’ approach by offering educational camps such as this,” Shandro explains. The two-day camps are offered Thursday to Friday, and are designed for intermediate to expert skiers. In addition, skiers can enrol in the Beyond the Groomers camp, which was launched last year.
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THE FREEDOM ISSUE / SUN PEAKS
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THE GILS OPENS UP, MORRISEY EXPANDS Sun Peaks was rated second-best overall resort in the SBC Resort Guide’s Editors’ Choice Awards 2014 after Whistler Blackcomb. With an additional 522 acres added to its skiable terrain, the resort is now the second-largest in Canada with 4,270 acres. Several years ago, I cat-skied at Sun Peaks in an area called The Gils on the upper reaches of Tod Mountain. Call it slack country or off-piste, but it is no longer out of bounds. You can find fresh lines days after a storm that blows snow from the south and southwest into the Gils – hike for maximum vertical and more freshies. Only venture into the Gils if you like incredibly light snow, perfectly spaced small trees, moderate to steep pitches and a ski out that goes on and on with varying terrain – code for “not a road.”
Al was instrumental in attaining municipality status for Sun Peaks in 2010, and continues to be the acting mayor. He jokes that he needs something to do while Nancy is away in Ottawa. What a couple! They’re hard to miss on the hill, as they both so gracefully and still powerfully arc their skis top to bottom. When I get the call to host an episode of Ski Television at Sun Peaks, or when I
make the call to go for a visit, the scenic 2.5-hour drive from my home in Kelowna starts to bring to mind the special people in my life whom I will enjoy visiting there and the relaxed vibe at the resort. The skiing is an easy sell regardless of conditions or what I feel like: steep, moderate, deep, groomed, off or on piste. It is consistent, exciting and awesome! What else do you need from a winter getaway?
Mount Morrisey was the most recently developed mountain, with north-facing slopes and a vertical of 1,675 metres. New advanced runs here include Spin Cycle and Lint Trap, adding to the already popular Agitator and Static Cling. As a part of the resort master plan, this area will see a new lift in the coming years.
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Living the mountain high life BY MICHAEL MASTARCIYAN
APRÈS-TEA WARMING UP THE BRITISH WAY AT THE FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS AND
CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE Après-tea: You’ve probably never heard the term before, and that makes perfect sense – because it was coined by my wife, Jayne, on a ski safari in Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta, last winter. When I stumbled into my room at the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel after a spectacular day of ripping up at Lake Louise and a few beverages at the Waldhaus Pub downstairs, I found my wife lounging on the bed in a fluffy white bathrobe. She was watching Downton Abbey on her laptop after a long, hard day of pampering at the hotel’s ultra-luxurious Willow Stream Spa (she’s
more spa queen than ski queen). Quickly surmising that I probably had way too much “fun” down at the bar, my wife scowled at my sorry state. Pointing at her laptop, where Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, was having a very civilized, and very English, afternoon tea with her daughter-in-law Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham, she chirped, “Maybe tomorrow you should try a little après-tea instead of your primitive, beerinfused après-ski ritual, dear.” “Fortunately,” she added in a stern, admonitory tone channeling the Dowager Countess herself, “this hotel serves a very traditional British afternoon high tea.” She continued in an eerily accurate English upper class accent: “And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll meet me at the Rundle Lounge at 3:30 sharpish tomorrow after you get back from skiing – showered,
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Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs
shaved and preferably in a proper shirt and jacket.” Flash forward to the next day, when at precisely 3:29 p.m. I walked into the spectacular lounge. I found my wife sitting in front of a postcard window with a breathtaking view of the Bow Valley and a tea party fit for a queen laid out on the table. “Nice of you to show up early, darling,” she said in a playful tone, with a twinkle in her eye. “We’re going to have tea here this afternoon, and I’ve made reservations at The Chateau Lake Louise tomorrow for after you pull yourself away from the mountain. I thought a little tea safari would class up your ski safari.” Well, if you’ve heard the old saying “happy wife, happy life,” I’m sure you know exactly where this story is going. So, without further ado, let me tell you how amazing après-tea actually can be – and I say that with complete and utter sincerity. Here,
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then, are the culinary highlights of our twoday après-tea experience at The Fairmont Banff Springs and Chateau Lake Louise hotels. For starters, I found out that the consumption of alcoholic beverages, if you are so inclined, can be an excellent starting point for an afternoon spent sipping exotic teas and nibbling scones, pastries and gourmet sarnies (a colloquial term for sandwiches my wife picked up from her Nanny Gilbert, who worked as a head housekeeper in Bournemouth, England, during the 1920s and ‘30s). Jayne started with a glass of Moët et Chandon Ice Impérial, which is probably the only champagne in the world made specifically to enjoy on the rocks. Simply put – spectacular! Light and uber-refreshing with hints of tropical fruit, I got a whiff of grapefruit in my sip when I begged for a taste.
My boozy starter was a Matcha Martini, a magical blend of white cranberry juice, simple syrup, Absolut vodka and lemon juice infused with pulverized White Kenya Lesla Matcha tea leaves. It was delicious – and good for you, given matcha’s high antioxidant content. Next up was the après-tea moment every hungry skier dreams of – the arrival of the tiered dish of savoury finger sandwiches, buttermilk scones and tea fancies (cakes, tarts and assorted baked goods). The finger sandwiches did not disappoint. My favourites, two in number, were the heirloom tomato sandwich with bocconcini, pesto and butternut squash (a must for fans of Caprese salad) and the Waldorf chicken, chock full of walnuts, apples and grapes. Jayne’s favourite, the grilled vegetable sandwich, was a delicious concoction of portobello mushrooms, artichokes and parmesan cheese.
Clockwise from left: Berry mascarpone cheesecake and chocolate-dipped pecan brownie. An assortment of savoury finger sandwiches. Piper Heidsieck champagne.
Scones, the anchor of every high tea, are of the buttermilk variety at the Chateau and Banff Springs. They were served warm from the oven, and included a savoury parmesanthyme creation and a sweet white chocolate cranberry scone. Both were amazing slathered with mogul-sized dollops of fresh cream and cherry preserves. At the Banff Springs, the bite-sized sweeties included an incredible key lime meringue tart macaroon, a chocolatedipped pecan brownie that looked like a lollipop cake, berry mascarpone cheesecake and a scrumptious almond sponge cake madeleine. At the Chateau, there was more divine decadence in the dessert department. The standouts: a chocolate cream mousse served in a pastel chocolate cup, a matcha profiterole and something I’ve never seen before – a raspberry opera cake. It was the classic French almond sponge dessert
NEXT UP WAS THE APRÈS-TEA MOMENT EVERY HUNGRY SKIER DREAMS OF – THE ARRIVAL OF THE TIERED DISH OF SAVOURY FINGER SANDWICHES, BUTTERMILK SCONES AND TEA FANCIES reinvented with raspberry cream and milk chocolate glaze. The high point of this two-day high tea smorgasbord was the vast selection of fine teas available at both hotels, which range from the exotic to a tea called Bubblegum for the little ones. Both hotels have in-house certified tea sommeliers with encyclopedic knowledge of all the teas on the menu.
We were guided by Berenice Gonzalez and Sophia Marie Crisol on our Rocky Mountain après-tea odyssey, and we are forever in their debt for opening the doors to a world of fine tea to which we were oblivious. So, what did we sip – and what did we like? My favourite was a yellowy green infusion of Kyoto cherry blossoms called Kyoto Cherry Rose. Fantastically aromatic, this Japanese green sencha tea is a standout, especially if you are into floral fragrances wafting out of your teacup. Another I loved was Egyptian Camomile, made from flowers grown in the delta of the Nile River. It had a lovely saffron colour with an exquisite fragrance. One of the most popular choices at The Banff Springs is a garnet-coloured tea called Berry Berry. Slightly tart, with a hint of hibiscus, this tea is also perfect for letting cool and serving over ice – think of it as a
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THE QUANGZHOU MILK OOLONG WAS BUTTERY BUT STILL LIGHT AND REFRESHING. IT REMINDED BOTH OF US OF THE DANDELIONS WE PICKED AS KIDS. gourmet Kool-Aid for adults on a hot day. I even enjoyed it once cold after a round of golf at the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Banff Springs Hotel Golf Course, but that’s a story for another day. If you’re not big on tea but still want to enjoy the experience, the Ethiopian Mocha Pu-Erh is a perfect choice. It’s a tea that tastes almost like finely roasted coffee, with a dark chocolate and light caramel finish. We both loved it! The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Organic Signature Blend was absolutely magnificent. Almost reddish in hue, this smooth-tasting tea has zero bitterness and a faint touch of Earl Grey. Maple Maple is another tea you’ve got to try, especially if you are a patriotic Canadian. This tea has a distinct maple flavour
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Top: Graham Smith, executive sous chef, and Sophia Marie Crisol, tea sommelier, explaining the varieties and blends. An assortment of decadent tea fancies.
with a velvety finish, and hints of tobacco and butterscotch. The Quangzhou Milk Oolong was buttery but still light and refreshing. It reminded both of us of the dandelions we picked as kids. I’d categorize a couple of the teas as “energy” blends. The Brazil Green Yerba Mate, rich in caffeine, was a nice pick-meup after a day on the slopes. The Lemon Rooibos, a vitamin C–enriched tea made from a red African bush, was both smooth
and invigorating. I’d love to fill a thermos with either of these for a day of hiking or cross-country skiing. The most exotic and memorable tea was the Lapsang Souchong Butterfly. Think of this tea as a campfire in a cup with hints of bacon and oak – deliciously comforting and very Canadian, like warming up next to a cozy fire and then drinking it in. We bought some at home from a well-known local tea shop, and it’s like a trip to the Rockies every time we brew up a pot.
Suggestions and tips from the pros BY JOSH FOSTER
TECHNIQUE VS. STYLE, SCIENCE VS. ART
Balance physics and flair for a symbiotic skiing experience When people rock up to my Big White ski school, they usually say they want to improve their style and/or their technique. So are these worthy goals the same, or are they completely different? Does technique lend itself to style, and is style part of your technique? I believe they are very different. You can go back a long way to research ski technique: the Arlberg technique, wedeling, Christie progressions, fast track to parallel – and you can bet there will be something new this year from the instructional bodies of the skiing nations, because there always is! Although it’ll be shiny and new, the basic premise is always the same. It has to be, because ski technique is based on physics.
THE TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED THE TECHNIQUE. Technique describes the way a skier moves and reacts to conditions, turn shape, terrain and speed to create a positive outcome, which is standing
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up at the bottom of the slope. What changes is ski equipment. Our understanding of how to move in relation to the equipment is part of an evolutionary – sometimes revolutionary – process. Ski technique is constantly evolving because the changing equipment allows us to achieve different outcomes. Twenty years ago, we used huge, straight skis: A 200-cm ski was average for an advanced skier. Big movements were required to unweight the skis to head downhill. Up-unweighting was a common term, and in most cases a necessary move. Now, a 170-cm or shorter ski is average, with a ton of shape or side-cut to allow the skier to roll between edges with little to no “up” movement. The technology has changed the technique. If technique is the science of skiing, then style is the art. It’s possible to be very stylish in your approach to skiing but have a weaker technique. The converse is also true: Too much focus on technique can leave your skiing with an unappealing, boxy or rigid look. It’s possible to have the best of both worlds if you don’t let style get in the way of technique. A skiing style that’s free,
loose and relaxed is great, but if that involves a big arm swing for your pole plant or an unnecessary turn of the shoulders, then your performance will suffer. Those big moves take away from your balance against the outside ski and you’ll lose grip. Discipline in the upper body is key for balance. Think of a bit of tension in your core – not super stiff, but not a mushy noodle either. You want to be somewhere in the middle – al dente! Many people equate technique to highperformance skiing and edge grip. Oddly enough, though, when people focus on edge grip, their “inner weirdness” comes out. Awkward moves that are forced and unnecessary can leave you rigid towards the end of the turn and fighting for balance. Good technique has a lot to do with feel. You need to be sensitive to the forces in your ski boots throughout the turn, seek balance on your edges and move with your skis. If you hammer on the gas or brakes when driving on an icy road, you are either going to spin your wheels or skid out of control. It’s the same on your skis. Style is very different from technique, but you need both. Don’t let style affect your technique, and don’t be so focused on technique that your skiing doesn’t have any style.
Fashion hasn’t always been a prerequisite for skiers, although this guy (circa 1929) from Berlin, Germany, earns some points for his style bravery.
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