LETTER FROM OVERSEAS EDITOR

It’s early, the sun begins to ignite the mountain tips and you’ve just narrowly dodged a group of Aspen trees. The view is so breathtaking nothing can alter your euphoric state. Suddenly an edge appears and you’re airborne long enough for that magical sensation of floating then slammed down to earth as your skis dive and sink into the fresh powder. Now you are waist deep in snow losing control for a moment but then you find your rhythm as your skis bump and cut and turn a perfect zigzag trail. Just another day in paradise.

Happy New Year everyone. I spent my New Year’s holiday in Utah with Edge’s Director of Leisure, Yvonne Verstandig, and her family for a white Christmas on the mountains near Park City. Used to tearing up the slopes, a foot injury kept my dare-devil in check, but I have to hand it to Yvonne. Despite blizzard-like conditions in The Canyons with virtually zero visibility, nothing could stop her. Skiers in general are a hardy bunch, willingly subjecting themselves to harsh weather, sheer terrain and breakneck speeds – but Yvonne, who used to be an instructor, ranks as one of the most hard-core skiers I’ve known. Congrats to Yvonne – she won our bet and proudly wore a pin with two black diamonds announcing, "Diamonds are a girls’ best friend."

Skiing is one of the most celebrated sports attracting millions of adventure seekers around the world. Australians, renowned sports enthusiasts, simply don’t have the ski terrain available, so must travel overseas for the ultimate downhill experience. This issue I tackle a few of the famed American ski towns as well as the top three Canadian ski resorts in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec for our clients to try. Many resorts offer excellent spring and summer skiing, so there is still time to book a trip this ski season.

We also launch our first Edge Around the World photo competition in which all our clients have a chance to win bi-monthly travel prizes. See below for more details…

As you read this I’ll be in South America soaking in the sexy Latino culture and partying Carnaval style in Rio. So next issue coming out in April is solely dedicated to the spectacular city of Rio de Janeiro and its sensual St. Tropez-equivalent coastal town, Buzios.

For now, let it snow!

Sincerely, Kimberly Rosbe
Editor at Large

EDITORIAL

No Guts No Glory

Every seasoned skier has one – a wipeout story so dramatic and/or hilarious that it’s worth telling over and over solely for the sheer amusement of friends despite your infinite embarrassment about how unbelievably foolish the tale makes you seem. Here’s mine…

I’m 15, in high school and spending Spring Break skiing in Keystone, Colorado with my best friend Carrie. Already on a high from having my braces removed and making the Pom Pon Squad the same week thus feeling too-cool-for-school, my girlfriend and I hit the slopes in our chic gear and cute pony tails. Back in the day, I was quite the skier – black, bumps, double diamonds didn’t scare me a bit and falling was not an option. On the second day, Carrie and I discovered the easternmost run had the hottest 21-year old ski instructor manning the lift at the bottom. Instantly smitten with his boyish good looks and innocent flirtation of cheeky brief exchanges, we hopped on the lift each time beaming as he sent us back up the mountain. We concluded earnestly after much discussion, that he had the most perfect hair we’d ever seen.

By the fourth day, Carrie dared me to ask him to join us for hot chocolate at the lodge apres-ski. I finally got up the courage and headed down the last incline to the lift to ask him out. This particular run is a wide, black diamond run with many bumps and totally visible from below. Carrie made it to the bottom before me and stood chatting with our handsome lift boy looking up the hill and gave me a little wave. So knowing he is watching, I made my move and took off down the slope – swish swish swish. Perfect form – swish swish. How impressive am I?? At the bottom I would always cut a hard 90 degree left and zip into the lift line at warp speed with Olympic-like precision coming to a graceful, elegant stop directly in front of our crush. Not this time. I come careening down the hill, cut left as usual but, as it was the last run of the day, the lift line is roped off. At such speed the rope flips me into the air, skis flying, I skid 30 feet and land in a cloud of snow directly in front of him. When I look up, closely resembling the abominable snowman at this point, Carrie and Crush are doubled over laughing. Mortification personified. Not my finest hour!

FEATURE

Mountain Highs: American Ski Towns

ASPEN – Colorado

Aspen – the name alone conjures up images of a super glam celebrity ski community, picturesque Rocky Mountain town and international hot spot of ostentatious wealth, chic restaurants and phenomenal skiing. Aspen is, in fact, America’s premier ski destination. The town also has real history in the 19th-century American West – in 1893, it was the nation’s silver mining capital. Aspen also boasts a wide array of culture beyond the slopes with over 300 events annually at the Opera House, 30 galleries to wander through and an abundance of designer shopping along its perfectly manicured red-brick streets. For your entire family, Aspen offers a well-rounded ski holiday with a huge variety of runs and terrain for every level as well as a plethora of apres-ski activities and world-class food and accommodations. The atmosphere is sophisticated, the slopes pristine, and the town and wilderness majestically beautiful.

SKI: Aspen is one of the only resort towns in North America with four separate ski mountains totaling 5,285 acres of terrain – Aspen Mountain (called Ajax by the locals), Buttermilk, Snowmass and Aspen Highlands inclusive of the famed Highland Bowl. Ajax is for the ambitious skier and forbids snowboarders. Closest to downtown with intermediate and advanced trails, venture off the groomed runs to find double-black gullies, mogul slopes and tree runs. Intermediates must not miss skiing the vertical drop of over 3,000 feet from the top of the Silver Queen gondola ride. For beginners and snowboarders, head to Buttermilk. Snowboarders will appreciate the more than 30 rails and 167 meter superpipe. The slopes on Buttermilk are gently undulating and have a reputation as one of the best mountains for novices in the U.S. Snowmass, which has its own village, has a vast sprawl of wider runs for all levels but mostly blue. There is also a beginner area at the top of the Elk Camp Gondola. Aspen Highlands is a favourite amongst locals and advanced skiers, a free 10-minute shuttle away from town. Opened officially in 2002, it’s one of the largest bowls in the world that is entirely ‘in bounds,’ maintained by ski patrol. Earn your stripes by hiking 45 minutes with your skis strapped to your back to the summit of Highland Bowl, then tackling the downhill. The Highlands also has good mid-mountain facilities for beginners, reached by a fast quad chair.

SLEEP: Little Nell – Conveniently located at the base of Aspen Mountain, Little Nell is legendary – famous for its glitterati guest list, impeccable service and heavenly ski valets. Only ski-in, ski-out resort in town.
Sky Hotel – The best value in town and recently renovated, now a very chic address located at the foot of the Ajax gondola. Bottled oxygen and faux-fur throws await you in its 90 rooms.
Hotel Jerome – Historic landmark exudes elegance and charm of a bygone era.
Aspen Meadows Resort – Outskirts of town and shuttle from slopes, large property with excellent rates.

St. Regis Aspen Resort – Sprawling stone compound two blocks from main gondola. Highest price tag in Aspen complete with Todd English restaurant and Remede spa.

EAT & DRINK: 39 Degrees – Chic lounge at the Sky Hotel at foot of the Ajax gondola.
Cloud Nine Bistro – Ski to an a la carte lunch of wild game, fondue and soups atop Aspen Highlands to dine with magnificent views.

Social – The latest place-to-be restaurant, situated in the same downtown building as Elevation, serving tapas-style plates. Eat upstairs and head downstairs to Elevation for a drink.
Montagna – Great for stargazing breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Little Nell Hotel – casual but elegant atmosphere.
Toppers – Serves brick-oven pizzas in casual setting in town.
Matsuhisa – The Nobu restaurant located on East Main owned by billionaire resident Michael Goldberg – superb Japanese. Opt to sit upstairs, quieter than main dining room.

Pacifica Seafood & Raw Bar – Good place for a drink and only raw bar in Aspen.

HOT TIP: Comprehensive information on Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Snowmass, including package deals and lift tickets, can be found at www.aspensnowmass.com

DEER VALLEY, THE CANYONS, PARK CITY – Utah

Everyone has heard the chatter about Sundance – the famed annual film festival in Park City, Utah where all of Hollywood’s elite put on their snow boots and descend upon the town on mass at the end of January each year. Heck, Sundance legend Robert Redford even has a restaurant here aptly named Zoom. However, the real draw to Utah is the Wasatch Mountain Range offering seven ski resorts (Deer Valley, The Canyons, Park City Mountain Resort, Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude) all within 45 minutes drive of the Salt Lake City airport. Locals will brag that Utah is easier on your body skiing at the lower altitudes than Colorado and the snow falls more consistently – more than 500 annual inches in fact – and called justifiably ‘champagne powder.’ While we were there over Christmas, the snow hardly stopped falling for a minute. Staying at the Grand Summit Hotel at The Canyons, dubbed the ‘ultimate winter playland,’ the Flight of the Canyons gondola speeds you directly up the mountain to its 3,700 skiable acres, 17 lifts, and 163 trails of predominantly blue, black and double black runs. Advanced skiers must try Ninety-Nine 90, some of The Canyons most exciting terrain and deepest powder at the resort with amazing steeps, cliffs and trees. Park City Mountain Resort is a more family-oriented ski playground with excellent kids’ instructor schools as well as a range of activities including snowboarding, tubing, sledding and more than 2,000 acres of terrain via the new high-speed lift. Stay at The Homestead in Park City which offers lodging from private rooms to cottages to private homes for rent.

Deer Valley boasts Utah’s finest reputation, certainly in terms of accommodations, and is renowned for its corduroy-groomed slopes and excellent service. Upper Deer Valley/Silver Lake Village exudes old-world charm with its postcard-perfect European-style chalets including Goldener Hirsch and the elegant Stein Eriksen Lodge in a cozy alpine setting. Skiing in Deer Valley has a precious image given its beautiful lodges and superb dining and the kind of natural beauty that tempts painters and photographers to linger. People do, admittedly, come here for a pampered ski holiday and customer service has always been its central selling point with pre-moisturized Kleenex awaiting you at the head of each lift line. However, in the past few years alone, Deer Valley has opened hundreds of acres including Empire Canyon which is not for the faint of heart and attracts serious skiers with its summit elevation of 9,570 feet and 2,026 skiable acres.

When your ski legs give out, refresh and recharge on Park City’s Main Street which has shopping, restaurants and bars to suit all tastes and budgets in a charming setting. Our favourites were Chimayo (Southwestern), Grappa (fine Italian) and 350 Main (American). For a more sophisticated palate, venture up the mountain just 10 minutes from Main Street to Upper Deer Valley where a few culinary delights await you – notably Mariposa at Silver Lake Lodge rated #1 in the Zagat restaurant guide, Fireside Dining at Empire Canyon Lodge featuring four courses served from stone fireplaces and Seafood Buffet at Snow Park Lodge, a local favourite and best seafood in town. For a truly authentic alpine dining adventure, try The Viking Yurt at The Canyons. Ride a snowcat drawn sleigh up to 8,200 feet to an intimate 32-person yurt for a delicious four-course Norwegian-inspired meal amidst the tinkling of a baby grand in an intimate, candlelit space. The meal and experience topped the Glitretind at Stein Eriksen – it’s that worthwhile.

Two other notable ski towns/slopes in the Wasatch mountain range just up the canyon from Salt Lake City worth checking out are Snowbird and Alta. Alta is for hard-core skiers and no snowboarders allowed. Snowbird proudly has the longest ski season in Utah at its Little Cottonwood Canyon.

HOT TIP: Ski Utah Interconnect provides a tour that allows you to ski six of Utah’s resorts – Deer Valley, Park City, Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird – in ONE DAY on one lift ticket. Geared towards strong skiers wanting a guided back-country experience of the Wasatch and untracked powder. www.skiutah.com/interconnect

TELLURIDE – Colorado

Put simply – I absolutely adore Telluride. The town and skiing rank as my personal favourite amongst American ski towns. Often overlooked by international skiers because it is not directly off Colorado’s Interstate 70 (a bonus in my opinion), Telluride has some of the most diverse and highest ski terrain in the world as well as truly superb apres-ski venues in an authentic mining town setting. It’s considered a well-kept secret by Tinseltown as Telluride offers the class and sophistication of Aspen without the scene. The locals will tell you, "Aspen is where stars go to be seen, here they come to escape." And you’ll find that Telluride folk are as down to earth as the West itself.

A harrowing small-craft plane ride from Denver, you land on a Rocky Mountain top at the second highest elevation airport in the world at 14,000 feet. It’s not all downhill from here as the skiing is also from this altitude. (And yes, the first few days you will struggle to catch your breath as your body adjusts to the high altitudes – Emergency C and humidifiers at night will help.) Alpine heaven awaits you with 84 trails, 700 hectares of terrain, America’s most envied ski base, 16 lifts with NO lines EVER including 7 high-speed quads. Simple math explains why there are never any queues – the village accommodates 5,200 people and the lifts carry 20,000 people an hour. Half the trails cater to beginner and intermediate skiers and the other half are brutal. But the unique asset of Telluride is, unlike most resorts, both beginner and intermediate trails are at the top of the mountain including Prospect Bowl – beautiful glade skiing with endless undulating green and easy blue runs with lots of variety. There is even a 7-km intermediate run, the longest in Colorado, complete with jaw-dropping views over the La Sal Mountains. Telluride is, in fact, known for its long runs and Volkswagen-sized bumps, the best of them are accessed by Chair 9. Revelation Bowl is also a must on the backside of Gold Hill – breathtaking terrain and a wide-open bowl enclosed by 13,000-foot peaks with a real alpine feel.

Logistically, Telluride is split into two parts – Historic Telluride in the valley with a Main Street and a well-preserved Old West feel and Mountain Village, mid-way up the mountain at 9,500 feet overlooking the highest peaks of the San Juan Mountains with the luxury Wyndham Peaks Resort & Golden Door Spa, Franz Klammer Lodge, The Inn at Lost Creek, rentable condos (The Terraces and Centrum) and private homes. All accommodations in the Village are ski-in, ski-out. But bonus, no taxis or rental cars are necessary to get to town as a free 13-minute gondola links the two villages so every restaurant, even if you are staying on the mountain, is walkable. And the restaurant selection in historic Telluride is a world-class gastronome’s delight. I can personally recommend La Marmotte, French cuisine in a rustic country setting, Cosmopolitan, located in the affordable Hotel Columbia at the base of the gondola, Rustico Ristorante on Main Street with casual atmosphere and Naples-quality wood-fired pizza, and grand lodge atmosphere Allred’s, perched at 10,550 feet directly off the gondola at the half-way station, the finest restaurant in town. Sip a cognac, relax from the day’s skiing, and look down on the twinkling town lights below.

HOT TIP: Serious skiers should book a private tour with Telluride Helitrax which provides the only helicopter skiing in Colorado. www.helitrax.com

VAIL & BEAVER CREEK – Colorado

The largest ski mountain in the United States is Vail’s claim to fame. Vail was erected specifically for ski tourism and continues to be under perpetual construction and redevelopment. Currently there are about a dozen expansion projects underway. Authentic Old West mining town Vail is not. Although it lacks the charm of Telluride or rival Aspen, Vail does have a superb mountain. And after all, isn’t it really all about the skiing? Not to mention, Vail boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, so you are guaranteed a tan and can safely plan a holiday into April and May when crowds disappear and airline and hotel rates are lower.

VAIL SKIS: Vail sprawls over 11 km east and west with 193 named trails and divided into three distinct areas: the front side of the mountain with green and blue runs, 7 back bowls with expert trails and the Blue Sky Basin with remote pine glade skiing. The variety of terrain at Vail is nothing less than spectacular and you will be hard-pressed to ski the same run twice with such diversity – tree skiing, terrain parks, powder bowls, bumps, wide cruisers abound. The snow is dry, the powder deep, and the expanse of trails endless. Vail’s four-resort package also includes Breckenridge (a historic Victorian township 56 km east of Vail) and nearby Keystone, a family-friendly resort that also offers night skiing and snow-cat skiing to remote, inaccessible terrain for advanced skiers. I grew up going to Keystone every year with my Dad, so the resort holds a special place in my heart. My father, an expert and somewhat kamikaze skier, had a motto he lived by on the slopes, "no guts, no glory!" I can still picture the tornado-style wipeout he took over a cliff one day, got up unfazed and called over his shoulder incredulously, "Kimber let’s go! What are you waiting on?"

VAIL SLEEPS: Vail consists of three main regions but does operate an efficient shuttle service between them – Lions Head, Vail Village and Golden Peak. Arrabella, part of Vail’s $500 million redevelopment plan, opened last year in Lions Head with its Great Room overlooking the mountain, ice skating rink, condo units, restaurants, ski shop, hotel, spa, and Ski Club with valet service and exclusive lounge access. Coming soon – Four Seasons slated to open in 2009 and a Ritz-Carlton. For now, here are some accommodation options:

Tivoli Lodge – Situated at the edge of Vail Mountain in the Vail Village steps from the Vista Bahn ski lift, a 62-room family-owned lodge with European architecture and ambience combined with modern amenities including digital lighting and Swedish walk-in showers with body jets. Bonus – low rates compared with the bigger hotels.
The Lodge at Vail – The resort’s signature hotel in the heart of the Vail Village is ski-in/ski-out and also has an outstanding restaurant called Wildflowers.
Vail Marriott Mountain Resort & Spa – Located 150 metres away from Eagle Bahn gondola in Lions Head Village, always has deals available.

HOT TIP: Try the new "Ski-Mersion" program which claims it will boost your skiing proficiency with six days of intense training. www.vailresorts.com

BEAVER CREEK SKIS: Beaver Creek, Vail’s sister mountain 16 km west along Interstate 70, is a more upscale resort designed to impress the high-end skier with its covered escalators, heated pavements and overall superior polish. Beaver Creek has one third the terrain of Vail but similar elevations and still very challenging skiing.

BEAVER CREEK SLEEPS: Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gultch – Positioned at the enviable location base of Bachelor Gulch Express lift, this grand lodge is ski-in, ski-out with Ski Concierge and Ski Nanny services – it’s the most luxurious in town.
The Osprey at Beaver Creek – Newly renovated modern yet intimate hotel, 41 alpine-chic rooms and closest hotel to the chairlift in the Beaver Creek Village. Great rates and winter specials available.
Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa – Newly opened at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain and steps from the Riverfront Express Gondola is Colorado’s first upscale sustainable hotel. All rooms and one, two and three bedroom apartments have terrific views, kitchen facilities and fireplaces.
The Pines Lodge – Luxurious and intimate, slope-side, ski-in/ski-out access, great vistas. Only 60 guest rooms and a small selection of deluxe condos and town homes. Currently offering a Ski Free Stay Free Package from $374 US per person for three nights. Their Grouse Mountain Grill is Zagat Survey recognised and received the AAA Four Diamond Award.

HOT TIP: Don’t miss the scenic snow-cat sleigh ride to Beano’s Cabin, a 150-seat fine dining restaurant with live music atop the mountain.

JACKSON HOLE – Wyoming

Jackson Hole is notorious for its wild and woolly Old West image and its reputation is well-deserved. Tucked away in the northwest corner of Wyoming’s Rockie’s amidst the untamed wilderness of the glorious Ansel Adams Teton Mountains, Jackson Hole possesses the greatest vertical drop in the country at 4,139 feet and some of the most difficult terrain on the continent. Jackson Hole is for serious freeskiers. Against arguably the most breathtaking skiing backdrop in the world, two splendid mountains flaunt 2,500 acres of mostly advanced terrain. Apres Vous Mountain is classified as ‘intermediate;’ however, Jackson Hole’s definition of that level breaks down into 10% beginner slopes, 20% intermediate, and 70% expert black and double black runs. Rendezvous Mountain is all hard-core with its highly advanced terrain which includes glades, chutes, bowls, the 4,100 vertical foot drop, the most famous expert ski run in the world, Corbet’s Couloir, as well as the greatest continuous inbounds in the U.S. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort debuted its new 100-passenger tram in December with double the capacity of the old tram. Unwind apres-ski at the Mangy Moose, a Jackson Hole classic. Don’t forget your cowboy hat!

Well-preserved from modernisation, the town feels untouched by time and the Old West spirit is alive and well with wooden boardwalks and cowboy influences everywhere you look. Stay slope-side at Hotel Terra, a modern, eco-friendly boutique hotel with natural light in 90 percent of the interiors. They’re offering a Ski Green Package of $172 US for lodging, lift ticket and breakfast at time of press. For a taste of Austria in Wyoming, Alpenhof Lodge is an intimate Bavarian lodge with just 42 rooms 60 feet from the aerial tram and has hand-carved white cedar balconies and heated walkways leading directly to the slopes. Ski-in/ski-out, the Four Seasons Jackson Hole is expectedly elegant and regularly rated the #1 ski hotel in America. For less expensive digs, try the Snake River Lodge & Spa located in the beautiful Teton Village and recently renovated – a 5 minute walk from the slopes with excellent ski package deals like the Ski Tracks Special starting at $147 US per person per night this winter. Finally, Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa is a family-friendly lodge just steps from the new aerial tram to the summit with ski-in convenience at the base of Jackson Hole.

EDGE PHOTO COMPETITION

Edge Around the World

Simply shoot and win! Executive Edge Travel & Events is announcing its first all-client worldwide competition with exciting bi-monthly travel prizes. Everyone can participate and has a chance to win. Only three simple steps to enter:

  1. Book your trip with Executive Edge Travel
  2. Take a photo in a fantastic unique location of you or your family which clearly displays the Executive Edge white travel wallet (or other Edge promo material). The better the background, the more spectacular the setting, the more likely you will be chosen.
  3. Email your photo, name and location to our Office Manager Athina Morfis at athinam@executiveedge.com.au

Every other month, our favourite photo will be chosen and featured in the leisure newsletter. Also, these bi-monthly winners will receive a special travel-related prize.

First entries must be received by March 15th for consideration as the April winner. We look forward to seeing your entries and happy travels!

2009 BEST TRAVEL PROFESSIONALS

Congratulations to our team at Executive Edge for making the Top 20 Travel Professionals in Australia in Luxury Travel Magazine’s 2009 Gold List for the second year in a row. The Gold List awards are regarded as Australia’s premier luxury travel awards and are voted upon by tens of thousands of Luxury Travel Magazine readers as well as the customers of Virtuoso – the most exclusive collection of elite travel agents in the world. Executive Edge has been highlighted as the "Best Travel Professionals" in Australia coming in at Number 14. Only two other Victorian travel agencies have made the list this year, so we send out an enormous congrats to our amazing leisure and corporate consultants. We also send out a huge thank you to our loyal clients for your support in helping to nominate Executive Edge for the prestigious honour. We are grateful to Luxury Magazine for the recognition and will continue to strive to be the best every year.

EDGE GOLD LIST

Top 3 Canadian Ski Resorts

Luring the Winter Olympics to Whistler in 2010, Canada entices the world’s greatest skiers to its jagged slopes and fine powder. Canada tempts mere mortals as well with its soft and light snow, family-friendly yet cosmopolitan resorts and the breathtaking splendor of its notoriously beautiful blue razor-sharp ridges. We’ve chosen three standout resort areas and ski towns from British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec respectively to highlight – Whistler Blackcomb outside Vancouver, Lake Lousie, Sunshine and Norquay near Banff, and Mont Tremblant outside of Montreal.

WHISTLER BLACKCOMB
Vancouver, British Columbia

Known as the "king of all ski resorts," two hours north of Vancouver, Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains together form the largest single ski area in North America with 8,171 acres and over 200 trails accessed by 38 lifts spread across British Columbia’s vast Coastal Range. And let’s face it when it comes to skiing – bigger is better. Whistler Blackcomb has the greatest vertical drop in North America at 5,280 feet putting even Jackson Hole to shame. The snow is soft, scenery awe-inspiring and the season runs long with summer skiing on Blackcomb Glacier through June. And to top it all, the jewel in Whistler Blackcomb’s crown has just arrived. As of December 2008, this colossus of a ski area is now connected by the Peak 2 Peak gondola merging the two mountains and creating a whole new skiing experience. The technological feat gondola ride takes a mere 11 minutes, speeding passengers 2.7 miles (4.4 km), almost 3.5 times the span of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

Where to stay: The resort village serves as the gateway to both mountains. Whistler town itself is a developed ski resort village with a cosmopolitan international flair. There are so many tempting apres-ski venues that late nights blur into powder mornings. At the heart of the apres-ski party scene, rest your weary legs after a long day on the slopes with a drink at the Whistler classic, Garabaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill, at the base of the Village Gondola.

Accommodation is plentiful and visitors are guaranteed to find a hotel that suits every family, style and budget. Steps from the Whistler slopes lies Nita Lake Lodge, a luxurious boutique hotel for discerning travelers functioning at a quieter pace with oversize suites and high-end private chalets right on the lake. Another boutique hotel but more geared towards fast-paced families is the Summit Lodge & Spa with in-room kitchens and a heated outdoor pool located just steps away from both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain ski lifts. In the quieter upper village and fresh from a $13 million upgrade, the mammoth 550 room Fairmont Chateau Whistler is ski-in/ski-out at the base of Blackcomb Mountain with a range of package deals. As close as you can get to both Whistler and Blackcomb gondolas sits Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside in the heart of the pedestrian-only Whistler Village offering 121 suites with great rates complete with full kitchens, fireplace, balcony, floor-to-ceiling windows and valley or mountain views. Also, find family-friendly ski-in/ski-out deals at Delta Sun Peaks Resort.

LAKE LOUISE, SUNSHINE & NORQUAY
Banff, Alberta

Only 36 miles west of Banff’s storybook streets of lanterns, stone and wood, rise three awesome ski resorts – Lake Louise Mountain Resort is Canada’s largest single ski resort, Sunshine Village boasts Canada’s highest elevated resort and family-friendly Mt. Norquay is touted as the ‘best kept secret in the Rockies.’ The three resorts rest within Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies and are designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site providing 7,500 acres of combined ski terrain and 274 trails on one tri-area lift pass. All three have notorious runs like Sunshine Village’s Delirium Dive with its average pitch of 40 degrees. Other superlatives seduce…Lake Louise offers the most skiable acreage of the three spread over four mountain faces including The Jungle, North America’s largest terrain park. Sunshine is home to the fastest gondola in the world. And Norquay tempts with the only night skiing in Banff-Lake Louise.

Where to Stay: Post Hotel & Spa – Rated the #1 ski hotel in North America by Conde Naste Traveler, this quiet 1942 lodge along the Pipestone River in Lake Louise is family-owned and operated. It has a luxurious and intimate chalet atmosphere and currently is offering every 4th night free. Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a massive European-style resort hotel on the banks of Lake Louise with 552 rooms, 5 restaurants and 2 bars is sublimely set on 20 lakeside acres with dramatic views of Victoria Glacier. Fairmont Banff Springs, located in the Sunshine Village, is the Park’s most historic hotel – an 1888 Scottish baronial-style manor with Willow Stream Spa at the intersection of the Bow and Spray Rivers just a shuttle ride from the slopes with 768 rooms. Rimrock Resort Hotel is a 10-story lodge set atop Sulphur Mountain boasting the largest rooms in the area only 10-minutes drive from the Banff Gondola. Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets is a family-friendly condo accommodation 5 minutes from downtown Banff. Three minutes from downtown Banff, The Buffalo Mountain Lodge lies on the slopes of Tunnel Mountain with stone fireplaces, balconies and close-up mountain views.

MONT TREMBLANT
Montreal, Quebec

Although it can be bitter cold in January (currently
-29 degrees C), Mont Tremblant has some of the best spring weather skiing conditions in North America. Ninety minutes from Montreal, Mont Tremblant is where the East goes to ski ranking as the #1 Quebec ski resort. Tremblant is also a magnet among snowboarders as it showcases a killer superpipe. The mountain has 94 runs, 13 lifts and the highest peak of the Laurentians. When the sun sinks behind the mountain and it’s time to retire your ski boots, the area reveals a charming European-style village with a French Canadian flavour, delicious restaurants and excellent hotels. The village itself with its pedestrians-only cobblestone streets ranks the highest in the East for Town Ambience. Beware though, the ancient Algonquin Indian tribe named the mountain ‘Manitonga Soutana’ meaning mountain of the spirits. Legend says, if you disturb the laws of nature here, the spirits will make the mountain tremble hence the modern name Mont Tremblant.

Where to stay: Old world charm meets modern luxury at the fortress of a hotel Fairmont Tremblant which sits at the foot of the mountain with a high-speed chairlift at its doorstep. Ermitage du Lac is a new boutique hotel in the village within walking distance to the slopes. Le Westin Resort & Spa, named the #1 Ski Resort in Eastern North America by SKI Magazine for 7 years in a row, offers cozy rooms and great views of the mountain from its village perch.

EDGE TRAVEL

Pina’s Travel Diary – Egypt

It’s always been a dream of mine to visit Egypt, see the Pyramids and sail on the Nile. Finally in May I had the opportunity to visit this amazing country with Icon Holidays. I had heard from clients in the past that although the major attractions in Egypt were spell-binding, the cities were dirty and dusty, the people were nice but suspicious and best to hold tight to your handbag when walking around. My experience was totally different filled with friendly and embracing people whose smiles alone welcomed you and incredible cities alive with mystical and engaging history.

Flying Emirates from Australia, we arrived in Alexandria around lunchtime. Weary from the long trip, we were greeted by the ever sweet and sincere Tarek Mousa, the CEO of Albarari Travel who represents Icon Holidays in Egypt. Tarek greets all his clients with a single long stem red rose – a charming and delightful gesture that will put a smile on any tired and jet-lagged face. We also met our official guide for the trip, Bob, an Egyptologist with endless knowledge of history and an intense passion for the country and all it has to offer.

The drive to the city of Alexandria takes approximately 45 minutes and the scenery is mainly farm land and animals. Once we arrive in the city centre, it reminded me of the older cities in Italy with its old, tall coloured buildings which could use a facelift with the washing hanging from strings outside windows of the many apartments. The street level shops had lots of people busy going about their daily chores and many men sitting outside shops smoking water pipes.

We first visited the Qait Bay Fort where the Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria stands – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After stretching our legs, we headed to the famous Bibliotheca Alexandria which stands near the site of the original Library of Alexandria, a modern building of extraordinary architecture amongst the original city buildings.

That night we stayed at the Four Seasons Alexandria at San Stefano which can only be described as stunning. The hotels boasts gracious service, first class atmosphere, many dining options and breathtaking floral arrangements scattered around the hotel. Apparently, the hotel spends around US $15,000 on a daily basis to have their flowers imported from the Netherlands. I envy the person that gets to take home the old flower arrangements once the new ones arrive!

The following morning we headed out on the road towards Cairo for our flight to Aswan. I admit, traveling with Icon Holidays was a treat – cold bottled water at every stop, luggage taken care of and airport arrival and departure a breeze. As we got closer to Cairo, we could just see in the distance an outline of the Pyramids. I had always imagined the Pyramids to stand in a desert-like area, but in front of this vision was what seemed like an oasis of trees – such a surprising contrast.

I was thrilled to finally arrive in Aswan, a beautiful small town on the edge of the Sahara. The Nile pours out of the Aswan Dam forming the famous cataract and huge sand dunes which run all the way to the water’s edge. Our first stop was viewing the High Dam to witness where the Nile passes though. We then took a short boat ride to visit the beautiful Philae Temple on an island in the Aswan Dam which was once rescued from what is now the dam floor and relocated to its new home. Afterwards, we a transferred to our accommodation for the next 3 nights, the Sonesta Nile Goddess. This vessel is only 18 months old and although its ambience has a sumptuous and luxurious feel, it pales in comparison to the excess of the Pharaohs!

The following morning the ship set sail for Luxor and our first stop for the day was the Temple of Sobek at Kom Ombo. Set on the banks of the Nile, this beautiful temple is dedicated to Sobek, the Crocodile God. After our exploration we sailed to Edfu where we visited the amazing Temple of Horus dedicated to the falcon god. This temple is the only temple to retain its roof and the paintings and hieroglyphics are still clearly visible. Back on board the ship, we continued our sail towards Luxor. From our perch on the top deck we watched as we passed by Nile villages on the edge of lush river banks covered in palms, sugar cane, wheat and corn and villagers going about life as they have done for countless centuries.

The next morning we awoke to find ourselves at the foot of the bustling life of Luxor – a beautiful city indeed. We visited the Karnak Temple, which is the largest of all Egyptian Temples, and the Luxor Temple, which is connected to Karnak by an avenue lined with small sphinxes. Further highlights in Luxor were the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and the Temple of Hatshepsut, the only female Pharaoh. That evening we visited the markets of Luxor by foot where all the vendors tried to haggle us to make a sale.

We were very lucky to stay on the S/S Hadeel, a dahabiyyas. Dahabiyyas were common in Egypt during the 1920s to 1940s when sophisticated travelers loved to cruise the Nile in style. These vessels travel at a leisurely pace and are small enough to skirt the river banks to observe closely life along the Nile. The Haddel only has 8 cabins so it is definitely a more personal and intimate experience compared to the other bigger ships. We were the only group on board, so it felt like our own private home away from home complete with 21st century comfort and facilities.

The next morning we flew to Cairo and upon arrival we went straight to the famous Egyptian Museum which houses an astonishing array of archaeological finds including the riches of Tutankhamun. Although the building is old and some might say decaying, the collection mesmerized us in its size and sheer beauty. The Mummy Room was creepy but extraordinary at the same time. Whilst in Cairo we also drove to Giza to view the Great Pyramids, the only surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the Sphinx. Although you can enter the Pyramid to explore the actual burial chamber, we chose to not go in so to respect the final resting place of the Gods. The view from the outside was breathtaking and overwhelming. That same day we also visited the Solar Boat which was built to transport the bodies of the Pharaohs to the after-life. Afterwards, we went to Sakkara to see Egypt’s first pyramid, the Step Pyramid and then toured Memphis, the capital city of the Old Kingdom (no Elvis sightings here though) to view the alabaster statue of Rameses II. Our accommodation in Cairo was at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza which is a sophisticated property that stands right on the famous Corniche which follows the Nile through the city of Cairo. It’s a glamorous hotel that offers great ambience, service, facilities and views.

Our last day in Cairo was filled with many last minute sights and journeys. We first explored the Islamic Cairo which included a visit to the Mosque of Mohammed Ali and then we went to the Grand Khan El Khalili Bazaar filled with its gold and silversmiths, cloth-makers, metalworkers and woodworkers. We even made it to the famous Café’ Fishawi which is where author Naguib Mahfouz sat to write his wonderful novels about life in Cairo. I was feeling poetic myself thinking of leaving Egypt after an amazing week there, but I have promised myself to visit again and experience the mystical and exhilarating country filled with its rich history and proud people one day soon.