Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 19, 2017
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Steep & deep

DOCTOR'S REVIEW stokes the winter fires with a roundup of North American ski hot spots

Want to know what a day's lift ticket will cost you or how you can discount a week of skiing at one of North America's most challenging mountains? Look no further.

Canada
Fernie Alpine Resort, BC
(tel: 877-333-2339; www.skifernie.com)

Nestled in the southeast corner of the BC Rockies, Fernie has it all -- defined trails, chutes, steep glades and easy-to-access alpine bowls. Its powder is the stuff of legend. Watch out for rain though; it can affect hill conditions.

What a lift ticket costs: Adults $60. Ski four days or more and save on multi-day tickets.

Where to stay: The four-star Lizard Creek Lodge features fully equipped suites and residential-style condos metres from the Elk Quad Chairlift. Guests can dip in the outdoor heated pool. Doubles from $195. Reservations: (877) 228-1948; www.lizardcreek.com.

Just a few steps from the Deer Chair, Cornerstone Lodge offers one- and two-bedroom deluxe suites with underground parking. Units include washer, dryer and gas fireplace. Doubles from $199. Reservations: (888) 423-6855; www.corner stonelodge.ca.

Packages: Fernie's Christmas package includes a five-day lift ticket, seven nights' lodging, roundtrip airfare from Toronto to Calgary, seven-day intermediate Budget car rental including ski racks and unlimited mileage. The Bronze On Mountain package (a standard room at Wolf's Den Lodge) starts at $1479 per person. Silver Ski In Ski Out package (a one-bedroom condo at Stone Lodge) from $1709. Gold Ski In Ski Out package (a lodge studio at Lizard Creek Lodge) from $1854. Reservations: (866) 579-7669; www.skircr.com.

Deals: For serious savings, check the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies last-minute specials at www.skircr.com/vacations; (800) 258-7669.

Why go now: Fernie has recently upgraded its snowmaking facilities and a newly built yurt (warming hut) greets skiers mid-hill.

Whistler Blackcomb, BC
(tel: 866-218-9690; www.whistlerblack comb.com)

While resort giant Mont-Tremblant and US snow havens like Killington in Vermont keep skiers gung ho on the east coast, dedicated powderhounds insist on heading west for the steepest runs and the deepest powder. If you're looking for a fully equipped big hill, what better place to begin than Whistler Blackcomb, where the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will be staged?

What a lift ticket costs: Adult $72. For the afternoon, it's $52. Save on two- to six-day passes.

Where to stay: Relax in the midst of Whistler Village at the three-star Whistler Village Inn & Suites, just a short walk from the lifts. Full kitchens, fireplaces and mountain-view patios are available with some rooms. Frills include an outdoor heated pool, hot tub and complimentary breakfast. Packages and monthly specials available. Reservations: (800) 663-6418; www.whistlervillageinn.ca.

Packages: Centrally located in Whistler Village, the three-star Listel Whistler Hotel offers a great value two-night family package starting from $421 (Sunday through Thursday), including an Adventure Passport, sightseeing pass, full breakfast and morning paper. Reservations: (800) 663-5472; www.listelhotel.com.

Deals: Buy lift tickets online and save -- 20 percent on early/late season tickets or five percent in the regular/mid-season. Info: www.whistlerblackcomb.com/tickets.

Why go now: Whistler Mountain has introduced 445 hectares of new terrain including Flute Bowl, an inbounds backcountry experience with deep snow, rolling bowls and gladed areas.

Castle Mountain, AB
(tel: 403-627-5101; www.castlemountain resort.com)

Castle Mountain is as old school as it gets and it's one of those best-kept secrets of the West. Near the town of Pincher Creek, the resort boasts one of the longest vertical runs -- and one of the oldest T-bars (in operation since 1966) -- in North America. If you're there for the untracked powder of the backside chutes or the whopping 910-centimetre average annual snowfall, you won't mind the lack of luxury accommodations. But don't go if there's a chinook in town!

What a lift ticket costs: Adult $48; three-day $128; five-day $215.

Where to stay: The no-frills Castle Mountain Ski Lodge is an on-hill hotel and hostel. Weekend hotel rooms start from $90, double occupancy. Reservations: (403) 627-5121; www.castlemoun tainskilodge.com.

Packages: For limited budgets, the best deals are the ski-and-sleep packages which offer a choice of cabins, hotels and B&Bs along with lift tickets. Visit www.castlemountainresort.com and click "Accommodation" for details.

Deals: Family day passes reap savings. One-parent family $107; two-parent family $145 -- maximum three kids under 18.

Why go now: Castle Mountain is the kind of place that always stays the same, and for some of you, that's reason enough.

 

Lake Louise, AB
(tel: 877-253-6888; www.skilouise.com)

By the time you get your skis out of storage, Lake Louise's six-month ski season, which opens early November, is already in swing. From super steeps to chutes and backbowls, expert skiers won't be disappointed -- even the green runs are more like intermediate. Located in Banff National Park, the views have won this resort awards.

What a lift ticket costs: Adult $60.

Where to stay: Luxury and skiing come more affordably with Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise's Ski the Canadian Rockies Package. It includes room and breakfast, a Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine tri-area ski pass and valet parking. From $181 per person per day, double occupancy. Reservations: (800) 257-7544; www. fairmont.com.

The more moderate Lake Louise Inn fits every style and budget, from standard doubles to self-catering family lodges and lofts. Standard doubles from $99. Reservations: (800) 661-9237; www.lake louiseinn.com.

Packages: Lake Louise's Christmas package includes seven nights' accommodation, roundtrip airfare from Toronto to Calgary International Airport plus transfers and a five-day Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine tri-area ski pass. Bronze package (Deer Lodge) from $1299 per person. Silver package (Lake Louise Inn) from $1509. Gold package (Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise) from $2049. Reservations: (866) 579-7669; www. skircr.com.

Deals: For serious bargains, check the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies last-minute specials at www.skircr.com/vacations.

Why go now: Take a Beyond the Boundary tour in Purple Bowl with a certified ski patroller. The four-and-a-half-hour tour includes a bag lunch, avalanche- and mountain-awareness instruction, tips from a ski pro -- and a worthwhile one-hour hike to sweet backcountry terrain.

Mont Tremblant, QC
(tel: 866-253-0097; www.tremblant.ca)

Owned by resort mogul Intrawest, Tremblant receives over two million visitors each year. An hour-and-a-half drive from Montreal in the Laurentian Mountains, the hill boasts great snow -- an average 380 centimetres annual snowfall and an 870-gun snowblowing arsenal. Two gondolas and nine chairlifts whisk skiers to the trails. And with half its runs rated expert, Tremblant is virtually the skier's paradise of the East. Its only downside -- dress warmly for those long lift lines.

What a lift ticket costs: Adult $55. Discounted Emax lift tickets available online for local guests (postal codes beginning with G, H, J, K).

Where to stay: Hotel Quintessence is Tremblant's only boutique hotel, housing an impressive wine bar and 18-metre cellar. QSuites from $439. See www.hotelquintessence.com for package deals. Reservations: (866) 425-3400.

Packages: The Tremblant Total Ski Package (November 19-December 16 and April 10-17) includes two nights' lodging in the pedestrian village, two days' lift tickets per person, a guided ski tour of the mountain and free parking. Packages start at $105 per person per night, double occupancy; $89, quad occupancy. Reservations: (888) 857-8043; www.tremblant.ca/offers.

Families can choose self-catering slopeside vacation homes starting from $86 per person per night, quad occupancy (excluding meals). Three- and five-night packages also available. Reservations: (877) 944-4405; www.tremblant.ca/offers.

Deals: Book two nights' accommodation at participating properties and get 50 percent off the third night. Book four nights and get the fifth free. No blackout dates, but a minimum stay may be required. Info: (888) 857-8043; www.tremblant.ca/offers.

Why go now: This winter, you can ski Versant Edge's powder, mogul and glades just like in the good old days -- there will be snowmaking but no grooming. Also new this year, the Grand Manitou, the cafeteria at the summit, will feature a "bar à crêpe" serving French pancakes.

Le Massif, QC
(tel: 877-LeMassif; www.lemassif.com)

A mere 73 kilometres from Quebec City, Le Massif boasts an abundant snowfall and the steepest runs this side of the Canadian Rockies. Views from the top plunge dramatically to the St. Lawrence River. Expect fewer crowds -- and chairlifts -- than its big sister resort Mont-Sainte-Anne.

What a lift ticket costs: Adult $45. Ski two to five consecutive days and save on multi-day tickets.

Where to stay: Petite-Rivière's Gïte Tourlognon faces breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence. This quaint, homey B&B has affordable rates, queen-size beds and hearty home-cooked breakfasts. Doubles from $100. Reservations: (888) 868-7564; www.tourlognon.com.

Packages: Get a free night and free gas when you reserve a January stay. Packages start at $388 per person (plus tax), double occupancy and include five nights for the price of four in Old Quebec, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Stoneham or the Charlevoix region, four days' skiing at Le Massif, Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham, breakfast daily and a gift certificate for a free tank of gas. Offer valid January 2-31. Reservations: (888) 386-2754; www.fun 2ski.com.

Deals: The Carte Blanche Tri-Area Pass lets you choose on a whim -- Le Massif, Mont-Sainte-Anne or Stoneham. Info: www.fun2ski.com.

Why go now: Six new intermediate and expert trails and glades, which increases the area's skiable terrain by 15 percent. A new high-speed quad and 90 brand-new snowguns are also additions this year.

 

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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