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)


Snow Summit embraces 2-for-1 lift tickets for Valentine’s Day

(Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

(Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Your dollars for skiing and snowboarding will go twice as far on Valentine’s Day with Snow Summit’s 2-for-1 lift ticket promotion. The tickets are for the night session, so you can bring your sweetie for a romantic time under the stars. Or, make it a group outing and have Mom, Dad, the kids and a few friends come along.

Tickets must be purchased 48 hours in advance — by Thursday afternoon, basically.

For details, call 909-866-5766 or visit bit.ly/RomanticSlopes.

North Lake Tahoe resorts are decorated in a fresh coat of white

Squaw Valley received nearly 2 feet of snow during the weekend, and the resort has 14 lifts running, accessing 23 runs. (Squaw Valley photo)

Squaw Valley received nearly 2 feet of snow during the weekend, and the resort has 14 lifts running, accessing 23 runs. (Squaw Valley photo)

Thanks, Mother Nature.

A snowy weekend has resulted in a wealth of skiing and snowboarding opportunities at North Lake Tahoe resorts. Seven locations in the area have opened a combined 230-plus runs – with excellent conditions reported on terrain ranging from beginner to expert.

Here are the numbers for each of the resorts:

Alpine Meadows
Storm total: 16 inches
Lifts: 7
Runs: 36

Boreal Mountain Resort
Storm total: 15 inches
Lifts: 4
Runs: 23

Diamond Peak Ski Area
Storm total: 22 inches
Lifts: 5
Runs: 15

Mt. Rose Ski Resort
Storm total: 30 inches
Lifts: 5
Runs: 40

Northstar California Resort
Storm total: 19 inches
Lifts: 13
Runs: 70

Squaw Valley
Storm total: 23 inches
Lifts: 14
Runs: 23

Sugar Bowl Resort
Storm total: 18 inches
Lifts: 3
Runs: 31

For information about snow conditions in North Lake Tahoe visit, www.gotahoenorth.com. For lodging, activity and ski deals, visit www.gotahoenorth.com/cooldeals.

Snow alert! Mammoth Mountain welcomes tons of fresh powder

After receiving 13 inches of snow over the weekend, Mammoth Mountain is nearing 100 inches of snow so far this winter. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

After receiving 13 inches of snow during the weekend, Mammoth Mountain is nearing 100 inches of snowfall this winter. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

How was your weekend? … Mammoth Mountain had a snowy one, with the resort receiving 13 inches of heavy powder courtesy a weather system that also drenched Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

The new snow left Mammoth with a base depth of 48 inches at the 11,053-foot summit, and 32 inches at McCoy Station at 9,600 feet.

And more may be on the way. The 10-day Weather Channel forecast says there’s a 10- to 20-percent chance of snow showers on Sunday and again Feb. 17-18.

Last winter, Mammoth received 68.5 inches of snow in February – making it the snowiest month all season.

Snow alert! Fresh powder will be served all weekend in Lake Tahoe

It was a winter wonderland today at the Village of Northstar, where a trio of skaters had the 9,000-square-foot ice skating rink apparently all to themselves. (Northstar photo)

A snowy winter wonderland enveloped the Village of Northstar, where earlier today three skaters seemed to have the 9,000-square-foot ice skating rink all to themselves. (Northstar photo)

Just what skiers and snowboarders have been wanting: snow, snow and more snow.

Here’s the latest from the slopes in the Lake Tahoe area. Check back for updates.

Northstar: “Heavy, intense” snowfall was reported Friday afternoon. New accumulation was expected to reach 4-8 inches overnight, with 6-12 inches coming Sunday and another 5-10 inches on Monday.

Sierra-at-Tahoe: 3 inches of snowfall since the storm started late Friday morning and, according to a resort spokeswoman, “We expect to receive much more overnight.”

Skiing Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort

Photo courtesy of Durango Mountain Resort

Photo courtesy of Durango Mountain Resort

By Bob Goligoski, Correspondent

Durango may not have the glitz and glamor of Vail, Aspen and other major Colorado resorts but this down-home, under-the-radar playground for skiers and snowboarders is one of those special places that we rave about long after we have left the slopes.

First off, lets get the name of the place straight: Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. The resort, some 25 miles from the lively, historic railroad town of Durango, is now in its 49th being sold this month to a new, expansion-minded owner.

In late January, I joined a group of fellow ski writers (members of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association) on an exploratory trip to the sun-drenched Four Corners area of southwestern Colorado – the home of Purgatory.

The Purgatory numbers are impressive: 10 lifts, 88 runs, 2,029 feet of vertical drop, 21 feet of annual snowfall, 1,360 skiable acres, five terrain parks and 20 kilometers of groomed nordic trails.

Photo courtesy of Durango Mountain Resort

Photo courtesy of Durango Mountain Resort

There are a fair number of bunny runs and black-diamond thrillers, but this is mainly an intermediate cruising mountain. Purgatory had the best snow that I have skied on this season (and six more inches fell the day after we left) and the grooming was first class.

When God invented this mountain, he added a distinctive feature. There are natural rollers or risers, some call them whoop-de-dos, on many runs, somewhat like a bunch of steps that keep going down. These are quite entertaining and add a challenging element to the day.

Purgatory gets good snow because of its high elevation. Its base elevation of 8,750 feet stretches to 10,800 at the top. Surrounded by a number of 14,000- foot peaks in the San Juan Mountains, Purgatory can take your breath away – both because of the scenery and the altitude.

If the altitude bothers you to sleep that high in one of the 300 plus beds at the base, head downhill to Durango where its 17,000 residents sleep soundly at 6,500 feet. If you need a little boost on the mountain, there is an oxygen bar at the base.

The world is starting to take notice of Purgatory. Over the last two years, TripAdvisor has rated Purgatory the top value ski spot in North America. Various magazines have piled on the praise including National Geographic which declared that Durango was a “Top 10 Emerging Ski Town.”

In an era of $100 plus lift tickets, the $79 adult ticket here is a bargain. On Thursdays, the fare drops to $49.

The U.S. Forest Service is expected this month to approve the sale of Purgatory to James Coleman, a 47-year-old Durango resident who owns two smaller size ski resorts in New Mexico and is in the process of acquiring Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Looking over his new snow-clad slopes at Purgatory, Coleman said, “My plan is to add new terrain every year for the foreseeable future.”

There is a scattering of bars, cafes, shops and condos at the base. But big changes are potentially coming. Coleman has approval to add 2000 housing units (probably houses and condos) in and around the base area.

Numerous winter activities in and around Purgatory include dog sledding, ice climbing, tubing, snowshoe tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowbiking, snowmobiling and snowcat tours into the back country for skiers and riders.

Our three day trip did not quite allow enough time to wander around Durango. But we did discover a handful of breweries, wine tastings, two chocolate factories, three new marijuana outlets, amazing regional art at the Sorrel Sky gallery and several mind-blowing southwestern dishes at various restaurants such as El Moro, Chimayo Stone Fire Kitchen and the Palace.

Durango has a rich, restaurant vibe. The town has attracted some high-
image chefs. Michael and Birgitte Lutfy at Chimayo formerly were executive chefs for Minchael Andretti’s Indycar racing team and owner-chef Paul Gelose at the Palace formerly cooked for Oprah.

The town was founded in 1881 by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway. It boasts one of the country’s premier transportation museums (heavy on railway history) and visitors can still take sight-seeing trips offered on the Durango & Silverton narrow gauge railroad.

Plan to spend some extra time in Durango. There seems to be an eating, drinking or music festival almost every weekend.

The town is relatively easy to get to as three major airlines, including United, fly about 12 flights a day into the nearby airport.

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

Black diamonds are a girl’s best friend at Breckenridge

Black diamonds can be a girl’s best friend in Breck – black diamond runs that is – especially during the ski area’s inaugural Women’s Ski Week, Feb. 14-22, 2015.

Women’s Ski Week at Breckenridge Ski Resort will highlight the resort’s offerings just for women to help moms, sisters, daughters and girlfriends get the most out of the mountain and town the way only women know how: by providing a welcoming, supportive and fun place to improve skiing or snowboarding skills, meet new friends and take the stress out of planning a family vacation.

Women’s Ski Week at Breckenridge will offer women of all ages unique ski and snowboard lessons, gear demos, fashion tips, and more!

Women’s Ski Week Schedule:
Feb 14 – 16           Ski Girls Rock – Created by the most successful woman skier of all time, Lindsey Vonn, Ski Girls Rock features lessons for girls ages 7 to 14 from our top women instructors. The lessons are headed up by devoted women instructors who have had an opportunity to meet with Lindsey recently to understand her vision for Ski Girls Rock and hope to convey this same sense to each of their students.

Feb 14 – 22           Women’s Ultimate 4 / Ladies First With a maximum of four women per class, the Ladies First lesson gets you more individualized attention with experienced female instructors.

Feb 18                   Women & WineSometimes, a full day lesson can just be a little too much. That’s why we’re introducing Women & Wine – a half day lesson for women only (starting at 1:15 p.m. every Wednesday) followed by a complimentary glass of wine for après. Ski, sip, and play for just $69 as you learn from the best women instructors at Breck. Special for the Feb. 18 session, Gallo wines will join to show off the best wines in their line and explain the proper pairings. This class is held every Wednesday through March 4.

Feb 20                   Women’s First Tracks Join Breck February 20 for first tracks on the mountain! Anyone who books a women’s program or lesson this year at Breck will get free access to this event!

Feb 20 – 22            Women Ski/Snowboard Camp – At Breck’s three-day Women’s Camp, you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for — whether that’s just a bit more confidence in the bumps, or just a better understanding of the equipment on your feet. Our supportive and fun female instructors will break the group down by ability and guide you and your friends around our incredible mountain at your pace.  And speaking of feet, Smartwool will be giving out free socks to the ladies during the clinic.

Feb 21                   Bombshells Specifically for the moms of our Bombers and BAM kids, we’re offering discount lessons for women of any level looking to get the most of their time on the mountain. Held from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. each Saturday, this lesson is the perfect length to let you drop your kid off, grab a coffee and catch your lesson right on time.

Feb 21                   Get the Girls Out – Join women’s outdoors organization SheJumps for a fun women-only ski day. Meet the ladies at the Starbucks at the base of Peak 8 at 10:00 a.m. to ski in an all-woman, all-fun ski or snowboard day.

Feb 21 -22             Breck Sports Women’s Gear Demo Days – Try out new gear before you buy! Demo a pair of skis or a snowboard on the slopes at Breck at a special price for Women’s Ski Week ($30!). Gear experts will be at the base of Peak 8 offering great demo selections tailored to your ski/ride style and ability. Demo days are brought to you by Breck Sports.

Learn more about Women’s Ski Week and the five new Breckenridge Ski and Ride School programs tailored to women only at WomensSkiWeek.com.

Sugar Bowl is rated a sweet place to tie the knot on the slopes

While offering skiing and snowboarding in the winter, Sugar Bowl also is a popular wedding venue throughout the year. (Sugar Bowl Resort photo)

While offering skiing and snowboarding during the winter, Sugar Bowl also is a popular wedding venue throughout the year. (Sugar Bowl Resort photo)

Sugar Bowl isn’t just a place for skiing and snowboarding. It’s also for weddings, as the resort recently earned three awards – including its fourth consecutive “Best of Weddings” award – from The Knot, the nation’s most visited wedding planning website.

Sugar Bowl also was inducted into The Knot’s Best of Weddings Hall of Fame, making it one of only six venues the Sacramento/Lake Tahoe/Reno area to earn the distinction.

Wedding experts at The Knot select the annual award from top venues nominated by the site’s brides. Venues selected for a Best of Weddings award four or more times receive an honorary place in the Hall of Fame.

Sugar Bowl’s wedding venue, a secluded mountain lodge with an adjoining private lake, is just hours from the Bay Area, and run by expert staff noted for their attention to detail and personalized approach to wedding planning, according to the resort.

In addition to being recognized by The Knot, Sugar Bowl also was selected for a 2015 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Award, ranking it among the top 5 percent of venues listed on the website. The recognition is given based on reviews by couples who chose Sugar Bowl as their wedding venue. Dozens of brides and grooms gave Sugar Bowl high ratings for attributes such as “responsiveness,” “professionalism” and “value.”

Tahoe Unveiled also included Sugar Bowl in its Top 5 Receptions of 2014 for “Venue with the Best View.” Tahoe Unveiled was impressed by photographs of a wedding reception at Sugar Bowl that illustrated the rich depth of the scenery experienced by a newlywed couple and its party.

The resort’s High Sierra location features blooming wildflowers, a rolling creekside lawn, and large, open-air fire pits. Sugar Bowl also offers unique details like a private chairlift ride to the top of Mt. Disney for drinks and appetizers on a mountaintop sundeck.

“Sugar Bowl is honored to be selected numerous times this year as an award-winning wedding venue by the brides who have been married here,” said Meghon Shrewsbury, wedding and event manager for Sugar Bowl Resort. “Wedding parties choose Sugar Bowl because of the resort’s unmatched natural beauty and the secluded and intimate setting, but also because our wedding staff is dedicated to getting each detail perfect.”

Sugar Bowl is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a ski resort. On Feb. 14, the popular destination will host its anniversary celebration at Mt. Judah Lodge. There will be live music, numerous activities, and giveaways.

Information: www.sugarbowl.com/weddings

On the slopes: 2015 guide for skiing, snowboarding at June Mountain

One season pass — the Cali4nia Pass — is good for skiing at June Mountain and three other resorts. Mammoth, Bear and Snow Summit also are part of the deal. (June Mountain photo)

One season pass — the Cali4nia Pass — is good for skiing at June Mountain and three other resorts. Mammoth, Bear and Snow Summit also are part of the deal. (June Mountain photo)

This is the fifth in a series of updates from mountain resorts in California and Nevada.

What’s new: The Cali4nia Pass allows all-winter access to the slopes at June, Mammoth (where they’re generally more crowded), Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.

For the family: Kids 12 and younger ski for free at the resort all season long.

Hidden gem: “The face at June has some of the best power skiing at any resort — and I’ve skied most of them, particularly in the U.S.,” says Rusty Gregory, chairman and CEO at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, which also operates June. “It’s not that hidden because it’s the first run you see. The geography at June is very European oriented, so it’s steep at the bottom. The face is my favorite run there, and on a powder day my favorite run period.”

Social connections: @JuneMountain on Instagram and Twitter; www.facebook.com/JuneMountain

Information: 800-586-3686; www.junemountain.com

— Jerry Rice