Quebec’s Hotel de Glass dazzles with its fanciful frozen decor

The Hotel de Glace in Quebec features guestrooms with elaborate carved walls and a bed made of ice. Some, like this one, come with a fireplace, though it's only for looks - no heat enters the room. (Photo courtesy Hotel de Glace)

The Hotel de Glace in Quebec features guestrooms with elaborate carved walls and a bed made of ice. Some, like this one, come with a fireplace, though it’s only for looks – no heat enters the room. (Photo courtesy Hotel de Glace)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

The bed is made of ice, the walls and floor made of snow, and the ambient temperature is a brisk 24 degrees F. Sound like a place you’d like to spend the night? Surprisingly, many people do.

The Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel), located a few miles from downtown Quebec, is an imaginative creation of snow and ice, reconstructed every winter in a matter of six or so weeks. From the grand entrance, complete with check-in counter, to the guestrooms, the walls of every room are intricately carved into masterpieces of art, and some of the beds feature massive ice canopies and elaborate headboards.

The hotel is open for overnight stays and to tourists from Jan. 5 to March 22. With 44 rooms, a vaulted hall with an amazing ice chandelier, chapel, bar, disco, and ice slide, there’s a lot to see. Visitors can walk around on their own or sign up for a tour.  We opted for the tour, which included a drink at the ice bar.

Like any hotel, the guestrooms range from the small and simple to elaborate suites with fireplaces, which are for ambience only as no heat enters the room. Most rooms come with an ice chair and ice table (can’t imagine spending much time there!) and have one to three beds. But all feature amazing sculpted decor, every one different from the last.

This year’s theme is “Space-Time,” and as visitors wander from room to room, they journey from ancient times into the future. On our tour, we saw one room depicting humankind’s space exploration with a relief of the Space Shuttle and a full-height sculpted astronaut, and another showcasing automobiles, complete with an ice car bed.

Our guide Sara explained that in the evening, the guestroom areas are closed to the public, cleaned and prepared for those staying overnight. A mattress and an isolating bed sheet are placed on the bed to keep the cold from seeping in, and each person is given an arctic sleeping bag. “We advise guests to take a warm shower before bed to increase the body temperature. This will help you stay warm throughout the night,” she said.

After visiting the entrance hall, several rooms, the chapel and disco, the tour ends at the ice bar – a popular stop apparently from the size of the crowd. Sara explained the beer, wine and alcohol are stored in refrigerators not to keep them cold but to keep them from freezing. Everything from the bar counter to the lounge chairs and tables are made of ice. Even the drinks are served in an ice glass, a bulky square block of ice with a hole in the center to hold the liquid.

The first ice hotel went up in 2001, and it’s been a popular winter attraction ever since. With the outside temperature only in the single digits, standing at a table in an ice bar enjoying a vodka and cranberry juice cocktail out of a frozen glass in an ice hotel at 24 degrees feels downright warm.

The ice bar at the Hotel de Glace. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

The ice bar at the Hotel de Glace. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Racing canoes on ice-covered St. Lawrence River among events at Quebec’s Winter Carnival

Two crews in the elite male class compete in the ice canoe race on the St. Lawrence River during Quebec's Winter Carnival. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Two crews in the elite male class compete in the ice canoe race on the St. Lawrence River during Quebec’s Winter Carnival. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Standing on the edge of the St. Lawrence River watching a group of five women power their canoe over the ice-crusted surface, all I could think of was, “You go, ladies!”

The women are among the 10 teams of elite female crews competing in the ice canoe race, one of many events and competitions at the Winter Carnival in Quebec City. In addition to the women, there are 10 teams in the elite male class, and a whole lot of brave souls in the amateur sport class. (I stopped counting at 25 boats.)

From where we stand near the starting line, we can hear the canoes coming before we see them. We hear the voices of the crew, but mostly we hear the scraping of boats over ice. The ice on the river is broken up in huge blocks, and navigating them takes great physical effort and group coordination.

Wearing spiked shoes, holding on to the gunwale, and kneeling on one knee in the boat with the other leg dangling over the edge, the crews propel their canoes up and over the chunks of ice. The crews do this for half a mile up river before reaching flowing water where they jump in and start paddling.

For today’s race, the temperature is in the single digits, sinking into sub-zero with the fierce wind blowing across the river. But the cold weather doesn’t keep bundled-up spectators from lining the riverbank, four and five deep. Nor, apparently, does it bother the racers.

When I marvel at the utter craziness of it all, a native Quebecer standing next to me counters, “I’ve done it once; it’s a lot of fun!”

The ice canoe race is a carnival staple. It’s been held every year since the carnival’s inception in 1955. The first women’s team participated in the race in 1966. The race begins in Quebec City, and teams navigate a course across the river to Levis and back. The elite male class must complete the circuit twice.

So why a canoe race on a frozen river? According to the Quebec City Tourism website, carnival competitions were created to represent Quebec winter traditions. The canoe, dogsled and sleigh are traditional modes of transportation and were important to the settlement and history of Quebec.

Quebec’s winter carnival ends today with the sleigh races and the closing ceremonies.

A crew in the elite female class work to get their canoe across the ice. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

A crew in the elite female class work to get their canoe across the ice. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Everyone loves the parade at Quebec’s Winter Carnival

Spectators line the streets to watch the night parade in Quebec. Photos courtesy Quebec City Tourism

Spectators line the streets to watch the night parade in Quebec. (Photos courtesy Quebec City Tourism)

By Marlene Greer/Correspondent

Lights, camera (yours) and lots of action.

That’s the night parade at Quebec’s Winter Carnival, a 17-day long celebration of all things snow and ice. The parade is so popular it’s done twice – once in the suburb of Charlesbourg and a second time through the streets of Quebec. The Charlesbourg parade was held last weekend, and the parade in Quebec is set for Saturday.

“The parade in Charlesbourg is held earlier in the night at 6 and is better for children,” said Paule Bergeron of Quebec City Tourism.

Standing with the crowd in Charlesbourg, a look across the street at the row of children lining the parade route definitely gives the impression this is a family event. And the zero-degree temperature hasn’t spoiled the fun. But it does make for a lot of stamping of feet, clapping of hands and dancing around by spectators just to stay warm. Even the marching bands had to wrap their instruments to keep them from freezing.

The parade begins with groups of jesters and jokers who dance, mime and perform acrobatics. Spectators blow their long, red plastic horns, a carnival necessity, in approval. There are musicians, singers and marching bands, playing mostly Canadian tunes, but we did recognize the familiar “Eye of the Tiger.”

This wide-eyed creature is just one of many in the parade.

This wide-eyed creature is just one of many in the parade.

It’s the colorful lighted floats, however, which are the most interesting. A long procession of sea creatures, magical creatures, and what looked to me like dancing snow wolves entertained the crowd.

At the end of the parade came Bonhomme, the carnival’s mascot. Bonhomme is a snowman who wears a red cap, an arrowhead sash and a big smile. And just like with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, the kids, parents and tourists all clamber for a photo with the famed character. Bonhomme’s been around since the first carnival in 1955, and kids seem to love him.

The carnival concludes this weekend with the snow bath (put on your swimsuit, some boots and roll in the snow), Quebec night parade and after-party on Saturday and the sleigh race and closing ceremonies on Sunday.

Bonhomme waves to the crowd.

Bonhomme waves to the crowd.

Enjoying the Carnaval de Quebec with an ice castle, rides and caribou

Ice castle at Carnival de Quebec (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Ice castle at Winter Carnival in Quebec. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Bundled up in several layers of clothing, we braved the single-digit temperatures for a sled ride down an ice track, a round of bumper rafts on ice, a drink of caribou at the ice bar, and a walk through an ice castle. We even made our own “maple-sicles” in the snow.

It’s all part of Carnaval de Quebec, a 17-day long celebration of all things snow and ice. Quebec City, like much of the northeast in early February, was in the grip of a deep freeze, but that didn’t keep families from bundling up in their snow gear for some winter fun.

Christian, a native Quebecer there with his two children, the youngest he was pulling around in a sled, joked, “We have to do something in winter.”

The carnival is spread across the Plaines D’Abraham just outside the old walled city. In addition to the rides, food, music, snow sculptures and events at the Plaines, parades, concerts and races take place throughout the city.

Making maple popsicles (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Making maple popsicles. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

The first thing you notice – and can’t miss – at the carnival is the large ice palace, a tradition going back to the first carnival in 1955. As you go from room to room, you can lounge in an ice chair, check out the ice bar, and explore ice tunnels (for kids, except for one parent we watched crawl in to retrieve her wayward toddler).

Then there are the beautiful to fantastical snow sculptures. The international snow sculpture competition has been part of the carnival since 1973. Sculptors from around the globe come to Quebec to create these intricate and realistic works of art. A trail winds among the sculptures so you can view them from all sides.

Being Canadians, of course there’s a small hockey rink, where kids can grab a stick and join in. There’s also ice fishing, dogsled rides, a tubing hill, and bumper rafts, where you just sit back and enjoy the spin as the boats (on wheels) are pushed around the ice. And what’s a carnival without food and drink? We tried the make-your-own maple pop and caribou. To make a traditional Canadian maple pop, a foot-long strip of warm maple syrup is poured on top of snow, and you take a popsicle stick and roll the slowly hardening syrup around the stick. As for caribou, with a name like that how could we resist? Caribou is made with Canadian port, vodka and brandy and is served warm – perfect on a frigid winter day.

The carnival concludes this weekend. Special events include the night parade and after-party, a sleigh race, and the crazy snow bath.

Snow sculpture at Carnival de Quebec (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Snow sculpture at Winter Carnival in Quebec. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

 

British Columbia’s ski resorts offer inspired food

Think BC’s slopes are dominated by powder, chutes, bowls and glades? Sure, but they’re paired nicely with power-foods, rice bowls and sablefish with miso glaze. Indeed, menus at these delectable resorts go far beyond the standard fare, opting instead to creatively — and deliciously — fuel adventurers onto their next snowy stash.

Whistler Blackcomb may earn rave reviews from the ski and snowboard crowd, but it’s their tasty offerings both on and off the slopes that ensure time spent in the snow satisfies every appetite.

Adventurers can stop at the top of Creekside Gondola to sample the goods at the resort’s first vegetarian restaurant, Raven’s Nest, where plant-based menus prove they can stoke the fire with equal fervour.

If curry is more pleasing to the palate, Vancouver chef Vikram Vij’s signature Indian dishes (think chicken with chickpea, beef with spinach, and vegetable bean and kale) at Whistler Mountain’s Roundhouse Lodge or Blackcomb Mountain’s Wizard Grill are worth planting the poles.

Off the mountain, hungry hordes can tuck skis and boards away for strolls along the pedestrian-only village in search of pie — Peaked Pies, that is. At this popular spot, Aussie staples will satisfy even the heartiest of cravings with steak, chicken and veggie pies, topped with mashed potatoes, mushy peas and gravy.

Options abound: La Cantina Urban Taco Bar dishes out time-honoured favourites and Mexican fusion in equal measures, while Stonesedge Kitchen serves up comfort food with a decidedly local twist. Should a more intimate indulgence be on the menu, locavores can raise a glass to Alta Bistro’s cutting-edge take on French cuisine — with some of BC’s best reds and whites, of course. whistlerblackcomb.comwhistler.com

Whitewater Ski Resort, near Nelson in the province’s Kootenay Rockies, wrote the book (literally) on mind-blowing cuisine, thanks to the success of Shelley Adams’s wildly popular Whitewater Cooks series.

With menus plucked from the on-mountain restaurants, home cooks can whip up the wild game bratwurst or the spiced falafel goodness of the Glory Wrap in the comfort of their own kitchens, or, better yet, sample dishes first hand on the mountain.

The best part? Snow isn’t Whitewater’s only legendary offering: here, skiers and boarders can maximize their powder play, courtesy of the resort’s own Fresh Tracks Café Express, set at the base of the Glory Ridge Chair.

This crowd-pleasing food truck — the first of its kind to make an appearance at a BC resort — satisfies with the Evening Ridge Quinoa Bowl, zested with almond lime dressing, and the two-hands-required Ymir-style Turkey Bun, served with spice-infused turkey breast, roasted garlic aioli, handcut seasoned ripple chips and banana peppers. skiwhitewater.com

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, another famed Kootenay Rockies destination, is known for its heart-thumping mix of terrain and fluffy champagne snow — toast-worthy traits best celebrated at the resort’s Eagle’s Eye Restaurant.

Set 2,346 metres (7,700 feet) in the sky, Eagle’s Eye reigns as Canada’s most elevated restaurant, boasting sophisticated menus that celebrate scallops with pear and parsnips, and wild boar tenderloin nestled on beluga lentils.

Afternoons will prove a delicious adventure, too, with the resort’s new Sky Lunch Package, a gondola sightseeing ride up and up paired with a lunch entrée and dessert. Smoked salmon bruschetta, anyone? kickinghorseresort.com

BC’s Powder Highway draws adventurers

There’s something compelling about British Columbia’s Kootenay Rockies. The nature here is big — monumental, in fact — but amidst this imposing landscape adventurous communities thrive, small but hardy.

Prospectors originally mined this area for gold; now something else beckons, a rush of adrenalin that requires skis and boards, and a GPS to map the way.

The outdoor-adventure action here is concentrated along the Powder Highway in southeastern BC, where eight full-service alpine resorts mingle with more than 10 Nordic ski destinations, nearly two dozen snowcat and heli-ski operators, plus a complement of 23 backcountry lodges.

Heli- and cat-skiing were born here, and it’s where winter resorts offer remarkable, and varied, mountain experiences, chock full of warmth and charm.

Case in point: Fernie, a historic mining town that is now a ski mecca whose population nearly doubles during the winter season.

Here, adventurists can make tracks in Fernie Alpine Resort’s legendary powder, a playground that includes 1,000 skiable hectares (2,471 acres), 142 runs and five alpine bowls. As a bonus, après-ski, Fernie-style, is easily achieved with a pint of Glacier Fresh Kokanee at The Griz Bar.

And that’s just a taste of what’s on offer along BC’s Powder Highway. Die-hards could, for example, explore whole new realms of possibility at RED Mountain Resort, where the addition of nearly 81 hectares (200 acres) of gladed tree skiing on three newly cut runs on Mt. Kirkup’s south side promise to redefine steep and deep.

A venture to nearby Whitewater Ski Resort offers equal challenge — thanks to a wintry landscape that boasts an annual 12-metre (40-foot) snowfall — that is blissfully rewarded at nearby Ainsworth Hot Springs. (Both the resort and the springs are just a short drive from Nelson, one of BC’s quirkiest and most beloved towns.)

Powder addictions will be further sated at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden, “The Champagne Powder Capital of Canada,” or at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, home to North America’s longest vertical.

For those eager for some high-flying action (a.k.a. an opportunity to perfect their Double McTwist), Panorama Mountain Resort’s terrain park is just the ticket.

There are down-to-earth options along this road trip, too: grown-ups can leave the aerials to the pros, enrol the kiddies at Kimberley Alpine Resort’s Owl Learning Area, and make tracks along open glades and heart-thumping steeps. (Planting poles and warming up with a steaming cup of hot buttered rum at the Stemwinder Bar & Grill is an equally tempting alternative.)

Bottom line: along BC’s adventurous Powder Highway, options for powdery play are seemingly endless. And the locals are pretty friendly, too. PowderHighway.com

Last chance to book Banff Springs Hotel Xmas ski package

Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine

Deals

Save 40% on Fairmont and 4th day skiing free

Last Chance: Book Your Ski Vacation and Save

Our popular Banff Springs Hotel 40% Off and 30% Christmas Special both end on August 31. You won’t find a better time to book your Fairmont ski vacation in Banff-Lake Louise. Most of these offers include 4th day skiing free in addition to 30-40% off your room rate.

Don’t wait! 40% and Christmas offers end August 31

30% OFF – BANFF SPRINGS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

No Christmas blackout, 4th day skiing free
Valid for travel between Dec 19, 2014 and Jan 3, 2015
5 night minimum stay

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40% OFF EARLY BOOKING SPECIAL – BANFF SPRINGS HOTEL

Includes a 4th day skiing free
Valid for travel from Nov 1, 2014 – April 30, 2015
4 night minimum stay, Christmas/New Year blackout applies*

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30% OFF – CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE

No minimum stay, Christmas/New Year blackout applies*
Valid for travel from Nov 1, 2014 – April 30, 2015

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40% OFF – CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE

4 night minimum stay and get your 4th day skiing free!
Christmas/New Year blackout applies
Valid for travel from Nov 1, 2014 – April 30, 2015

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Banff-Lake Louise gets tons of fresh powder this weekend

Photo: Paul Zizka/Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Photo: Paul Zizka/Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Banff-Lake Louise is preparing for up to 30-40 cm of fresh powder by Saturday morning. Heavy snow is forecast to fall over the next 36 hours over the mountain park regions of Alberta.

Kicking off the new year in style and just in time for the weekend, what better way to burn off that turkey/Christmas chocolate/adult beverages than by plowing through fresh powder at Canada’s Big 3 Resorts.

Happy New Year, we’ll see you on the slopes.

Ski Banff–Lake Louise–Sunshine is Canada’s largest ski destination, a joint venture of three of the world’s finest ski resorts: Mt. Norquay, The Lake Louise Ski Area and Sunshine Village.
Available on one tri-area lift ticket, our three resorts offer almost 8,000 acres of skiable terrain and one of the longest ski seasons in North America, from mid November to late May, all in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Canada’s Protected Playground, Banff National Park.

Learn how to make those cool ski flicks

By Jerry Rice

While it may not be as celebrated as the School of Cinematic Arts at USC, the Canadian Mountain Holidays Film School has put together some impressive productions.

The CMH Film School, in Revelstoke, British Columbia, is where nascent ski filmmakers come to sharpen their skills. The program is featured in the February issue of Ski Magazine.

“Our legs ache from a day spent blasting arcs in the high alpine, and now we watch as Guy Clarkson, a cinematographer who owns Raven HD, makers of award-winning documentaries, dices and splices clips as fluently as he skis,” writes Joe Cutts.

Clarkson comes with an impressive resume: besides film work, he’s a licensed pilot, sailor, rancher and military trainer. And he’s been to the top of the world, watching the sun rise on Mount Everest.

The film school’s courses aren’t cheap, but they come with lots of neat bonus features. The cost of the Feb. 4-9 session at CMH’s K2 Lodge is $6,080, and the March 28-April 1 course at Revelstoke is $4,038. Both include lodging, heli skiing, equipment and meals.

In the story, Cutts recalls a recent crash course on editing with Clarkson.

“We go through footage he shot on a professional-grade camera and stuff clients shot with their GoPros and his guidance,” Cutts writes. “We’re learning the techniques and decision making that make the magic happen — how to have the skier ski into the shot, how to fade out on a spray of snow, even how to ski for the camera ourselves.”

For information, visit www.canadianmountainholidays.com. Here’s a sample of their work:

Red Mountain: North America’s last great undiscovered ski resort

Skier enjoys powder run at Red Mountain Ski Resort in British Columbia. (Photo courtesy of Red Mountain)

By Richard Irwin
Savvy Skier

Many call it the last great undiscovered ski resort in North America. And with its latest expansion, Red Mountain certainly is poised to become one of the largest.

The British Columbia resort is adding another mountain and 1,000 acres of terrain. That’s on top of the two mountains and 1,685 acres that it already has.

“The scale of this expansion is a true game-changer for Red Mountain Resort and for the community of Rossland,” said CEO Howard Katkov. “The management team has spent the last eight years carefully reinforcing the company’s infrastructure, investing $50 million in the facilities and completing world-class slope-side accommodations. Now we’re truly ready for prime time. We’ve consciously kept a low profile while we diligently readied ourselves for this massive expansion.”

The addition of Grey Mountain alone is close to the size of Mt. Baker Ski Area in Washington. The total acreage will make Red larger than Jackson Hole, Wyo. And the resort will join the top 3 percent of North American ski resorts with 2,682 acres of skiable acres.

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