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February 2011

February 28, 2011

Whistler Blackcomb: Too Long for Our Legs

Skier trail (Bruce Rowles)
Long slopes and flying powder at Whistler Mountain (Bruce Rowles)

I must admit I did not see this one coming. Last week I skied Whistler Blackcomb. Nothing to get excited about, I thought. I’ve probably already skied some 70 days this winter across a few dozen resorts. And I’ve lived at Whistler off-and-on over the years. I confess to a love/hate relationship with the place. The hate mostly revolves around the inordinate number of cloudy days. I was there last November prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics when it snowed a record 28 feet in the alpine. But what that meant was 29 days of rain in the village. (November is the wettest month on the B.C. coast.) It was, to lift a phrase from Joan Didion, the season of divorce and suicide. The love? Please read on.

But first, let’s get another voice in here. Leslie Anthony, Powder magazine feature writer and author of White Planet: A Mad Dash Through Modern Global Ski Culture, sent me this email when I asked him about Whistler. “I travel to some of the most amazing places in the world,” Leslie wrote, “and Whistler is still the best place on earth to come home to.”

I could tell you a hundred things about Whistler, and maybe I know nothing at all. But I first skied Whistler Mountain (located 75 miles north of Vancouver) when it was a snow-bound, one-whistle B.C. Rail stop called Alta Lake. In the summer of 1981, when they were building the core of what is now Whistler Village and erecting the lifts on Blackcomb Peak, I was a coach at the summer racing camp on the high glacier. In the afternoon, during our dry-land training sessions after a morning of technical skiing, we’d run slalom-like through the pylons that now anchor the underground parking. One of the young racers, 15-year-old Karen Percy from Banff, went on to win two medals in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

Continue reading "Whistler Blackcomb: Too Long for Our Legs" »

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February 24, 2011

Top Ten Movies of 2010: The Best in Travel

Chesler Park
Canyonlands National Park, the setting for our #2 pick (Corel)

The best films transport you to a place that you've never been, or perhaps yearn to relive. And each year, as the Academy recognizes its favorites, we pause to look back at those films in 2010 that best evoked a sense of place on the big screen. 

10. The Ghost Writer
This film posed an interesting challenge for director Roman Polanski: the bulk of the narrative takes place in Martha’s Vineyard, where the former British Prime Minister is hiding out while finishing his memoirs. But with Polanski in exile from both the United States and London (where parts of the film also take place), the movie was mostly shot on the island of Usedom, Germany. This locale in the Baltic Sea—a geographic world away from where it's supposed to occur—still perfectly conveys the windswept environs of the Massachusetts island, but also imbues the film with an ominous specter that perfectly complements the film’s title.

Continue reading "Top Ten Movies of 2010: The Best in Travel" »

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February 22, 2011

32 Inches in 24 Hours at Grand Targhee

By Lacy Morris

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Hitting the powder room at Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming (Powder Day Photography)

Midwesterners woke to canceled flights, snowed-in cars, and ice-coated roads, and while similar hazards persist further west throughout the Tetons, skiers at Grand Targhee have a more optimistic outlook on the Presidents' Day weekend storm that crippled much of the U.S. Within 24 hours more than 32 inches of perfect, dry powder had blanketed Targhee. The storm arrived Sunday, February 20, bringing the two-day storm total to 41 inches. Current snow depth is 126 inches and season-to-date snowfall is approaching 400 inches. With more snow in the forecast this week, this could be one of the best Presidents' Day ski weeks in history at the Teton resort.

"There's still a chance to get a room up here this week," said Shannon Brooks Hamby, communications director at Grand Targhee Resort. "If you were waiting to see what the conditions were like, it doesn't get much better than this. Grab your snorkel and come on up."

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February 16, 2011

Vancouver's Backyard Skiing: North Shore Ski Resorts

Bc ski
WHITE OUT: Cypress Mountain, Vancouver (Gerry Wingenbach) 

Remember the sunny, foggy, rainy, and wildly exciting Vancouver Winter Olympics? The games where Shaun White flew and Bode Miller delivered? It all began one year ago this week. For the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Association, it yielded the best Olympic results ever (eight medals in alpine skiing alone—even if Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso did swipe at each other).

Remember Cypress Mountain Ski Area, the Vancouver North Shore venue? Remember the straw and mud and helicopters dumping snow on the halfpipe, battling Mother Nature after the warmest January on record?

Let’s go back there this week. Vancouver and Whistler (70 miles north of the city) might be synonymous in the mind’s eye of many snowriders. But perched directly above extraordinary Vancouver, where the Pacific and the Coastal Mountains meet, are three ski resorts—Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Mount Seymour. They are visible from downtown Vancouver and can be reached before the latte you bought on Robson Street gets cold. The vertical drops might be far less than Whistler, but the runs are challenging enough. Even the routes up to these resorts are reminiscent of the breathtaking drive to Whistler, with waterfalls roaring down the mountainsides every few miles. The views back over the water toward the city, Vancouver Island, and south to Washington State are worth the lift ticket just in themselves. But not today. This week is as foggy as it was last year during the Olympics. However, unlike last year, the snow is bountiful.

Continue reading "Vancouver's Backyard Skiing: North Shore Ski Resorts" »

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February 14, 2011

Spring Back to Vail: Two Free Vouchers, Nights, and Lift Tickets

By awayblog

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Ski little Spring is on its way and one of the best parts of the coming season is making use of the last remaining signs of Old Man Winter. End-of-season skiing is the chance to ride jacket-less under a mountain sun—and you can't do that for free anywhere but here. Enter for a chance to win our Spring Back to Vail contest for a shot at two round-trip flight vouchers, two nights at The Lodge at Vail, and two day lift tickets to Vail Ski Resort. To win, you must go to's Ski and Snowboard Resort Guide and write a review of your favorite/least favorite resort. Submit your best review between now and February 28. Come March 7, we'll read the reviews and pick a winner.

Official terms and conditions here.  

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February 09, 2011

Royal Honeymoon Guessing Games

Lillies bloom near a garden shed on the Isles of Scilly. We assume the royals will have nicer digs. (Jim F. Bleak/Wikimedia Commons)

Let the guessing games begin: Where are Prince William and Kate Middleton heading on their honeymoon? British and American news reports cite vague rumors that the royal couple is planning a honeymoon close to home, possibly in the Isles of Scilly off the southwestern coast of Cornwall, where William took a vacation with Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and his brother, Harry, in 1989. The reporting in all the stories is rather light, but quotes attributed to an aide in this Daily Mail story say that Kate and William are sensitive to the economic toil many Brits are facing and don't want to take an expensive luxury honeymoon while others are losing their jobs. Which is a shame for tourism on several island paradises (early speculation had them going anywhere from the Seychelles to Australia to Bora Bora), but actually fits with history quite well. Charles and Di spent their honeymoon at the Royal Family's Scottish estate in Balmoral in addition to a cruise aboard the HMS Britannia, while Queen Elizabeth spent her honeymoon at the estate at Birkhall. There's no royal residence on the Scilly Isles, though there are several resorts, including Star Castle, a one-time fort built in the late 1500s that's been renovated into one of Britian's top hotels.

If you're planning a honeymoon close to home or far away, get started with our Top Ten Budget Honeymoon Vacations or best Romantic Resorts. If you want more info on the royal wedding, check out our Westminster Abbey Photo Gallery.

Have an opinion on where William and Kate should go on their honeymoon? Let us know in the comments below.

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February 08, 2011

Saas-Fee: Switzerland's Highest Mountains and Glaciers

Saas-Fee, Switzerland (Gerry Wingenbach)

For two weeks I’ve been traveling around Switzerland. The days no longer have names. I’ve got a Swiss rail pass and I’m in the groove. So this morning I did what I’ve always done when life is perfect: I screwed up.

I left a bag on the train while making a quick connection at the main station in the capital city of Bern. But thanks to the kindness of a few Swiss strangers I’ve got it back. The people we meet traveling can make or break a trip. I’ll remember that when I meet a visitor in my own hometown.

So let’s go skiing.

Not even the Swiss rail makes it up to Saas-Fee. A postal bus from Visp paperclips the last 15 miles to this extraordinary village. En route, the bus stops at three other villages that populate the otherwise isolated Saas Valley—Saas-Grund, Saas-Almagell, and Saas-Balen—before coming to the end of the line at Saas-Fee, a resort best known for the glaciers that seem to tumble right into the village.

Continue reading "Saas-Fee: Switzerland's Highest Mountains and Glaciers" »

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Chicago-to-Yellowstone National Park Family Road-Trip Advice: Announcing Our Next Travel Q&A Flight-Voucher Winner!

By awayblog

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PERFECT PIT STOP: Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills region of South Dakota (Stefano Salvetti/Photodisc/Getty)

"We are planning an extended family road trip in June from Chicago IL to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 6 children ages 11-2yrs. What is the most scenic route and how do we plan for it?" reader Sue M. of Springfield, IL, stepped up to the plate and offered her own detailed insights to the above query from one of our readers. And to thank her for her efforts, Sue is the winner of a free Delta Airlines flight voucher ($1,000-plus value!), the third of four that we’re awarding this year for the best reader-submitted advice on the Travel Q&A. Here is Sue’s answer :

"This is a great trip! I would take a route north and go through South Dakota and make a stop at Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills. Custer State Park is a must see! Don't miss Sylvan Lake and the Needles. Lots of easy hikes with great payoff! You only add about 75 miles by going the Northern Route and it is well worth it, because the southern route through Iowa and Nebraska offers little for sightseeing. Then you can go on through Yellowstone and down into Jackson Hole. Rapid City is about 13 hours from Chicago, so if you leave early you can do that in one day, and then it's an easy 7 1/2 hours onto Yellowstone. The kids will love Yellowstone and June is a great time to beat the crowds that come in July and August. The earlier in June that you are able to go, the fewer people and the more animals you will see! Jackson's Hole is only 2 hours south of Yellowstone and you will drive right through the Grand Tetons by going this way!"

For your chance to win our next airfare giveaway, share your best travel advice with your fellow travelers today! For more information about this giveaway, check out our contest-detail page here.

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Related Topics: News · Family Vacation · Road Trips · Travel Tips

February 07, 2011

From Pizza to Pasta: Get Cooking in Rome

(Kendra Bailey Morris)

It goes without saying that Italy is all about the food. Whether you're downing a big bowl of wild mushroom risotto with a glass of Sanviogese or diving into a pile of fried zeppoles drizzled in chocolate sauce, you can bet your bolognese you're going to eat really, really well in Italy, especially in the Lazio region, including the city of Rome.

Roman cooking, like much of Italy's cuisine in general, is based on simple preparation procedures using the freshest of local ingredients. Spaghetti is tossed with bacon, eggs, and parmesan to make a classic carbonara while bucatini is simply accented with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and pecorino for "cacio e pepe" (a very simple cheese-and-pepper spaghetti dish). Fresh vegetables, such as eggplant and zucchini are rolled in seasoned breadcrumbs and fried for frittis, and of course, wood-fired pizzas are topped with everything, from hand-pulled buffalo mozzarella to earthy porcini mushrooms.

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Related Topics: Culinary Travel · European Travel · Food and Drink · Travel Tips · Trip Ideas

February 03, 2011

Tale of Two Swiss Resorts: Disentis and Arosa

Arosa Ski Resort (Gerry Wingenbach)

Back in December an acquaintance of mine, Chris Solomon, wrote a front-page story for the travel section of The New York Times about skiing little-known Disentis, blowing the lid off what he thinks is the best-kept secret among freeriders looking for undiscovered, dramatic powder-filled terrain in the Swiss Alps.

"There goes the neighborhood,” I thought. “Every yahoo, has-been, and never-was is going to flock there.” And I was right. Because here I am, getting off the regional train at Disentis early on a bluebird day with fat skis over my shoulder.

I’ve passed through Disentis before. The place is perched along the route of the extraordinary Glacier Express train that grinds its way between St. Moritz and Zermatt. The Rhine River begins nearby as a mere trickle on the Oberalp Pass. But until today I never bothered to ride the aerial tram that rises from this ancient town of 2,100 people, up to the backcountry snow and a handful of lifts, mostly T-bars serving gentle terrain. I never considered the extraordinary off-piste skiing that surrounds the resort.

Continue reading "Tale of Two Swiss Resorts: Disentis and Arosa" »

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