Posts Tagged: mountains


14
Dec 12

Powder and Pamper in Whistler

Terrified. That’s how I feel as I trudge towards the ski school check-in at Whistler village. I’m going to have my first ski lesson and I am absolutely bricking it. I should explain, a few years ago I had surgery on my spine. It took 18 months to get back to being OK again and I’ve just been too scared to try anything even slightly risky ever since. But I figured that it was time to stop being scared and start taking a few chances. After all, moving half way around the world seems to be working out OK, so why not learning how to do that swishy-snow-thing on one of the world’s best mountains too?

I signed up with a ‘Powder and Pamper’ package through Enjoy Whistler, so I can get a taste of whether hurtling at speed strapped to a couple of high-tech planks is my thing or not  – with a side helping of relaxing in the Scandinave Spa‘s outdoor hot pools and cold plunges afterwards. Earlier, I’d checked into the Westin, right in the heart of the village and decided that I’d get in some quality ‘relaxing in front of the fireplace’ time before I head out later. If, indeed, I can still still walk…

Radiating waves of confidence: meet Dave, my instructor

After nervously signing in, I’m despatched to the equipment hire area, which is when I start to feel seriously out of my depth. Everyone seems to know what they are doing except me. I get strapped into a pair of ski boots and rapidly discover that I cannot walk in them.
At all.
I’ll never even get to the gondola to get up to my lesson…  I sit sadly on a bench and wonder whether I should really do this when Dave appears. Dave is my instructor, a man of some 50 years experience who is a cross between santa and a cheerleader. He shows me how to walk (heel, toe), swiftly organises the right skis and poles for me, fits me with a helmet and confidently leads me out towards the gondola.

As we ascend the mountain in flurries of snow (Whistler was having record amounts of snow ‘dumping’ that day), Dave explains how to correctly hold my skis, where to put the poles while we’re in the lift and tells me a little about himself. By the time we arrive I am feeling completely relaxed and ready to learn. We take it slowly; first walking around the nursery slope learning the moves that I’ll be making once the skis go on. Next, learning how to actually put the skis on. We get joined at this point, by two late arrivals. There’s never more than four in the classes and even with the two extras, I feel like I get enough attention to be able to learn. I’ve snapped on one of my skis (“Toe in, heel down, stamp the bug!”) and we practice sliding around in circles on one ski. I like it! I feel excited; maybe this could be fun? We take a while to learn that there is no left or right ski and practice putting them on and taking them off.

One-legged skiiing? Whatever you say, Dave.

Just when I’m feeling all confident, Dave raises the stakes. We’re going to go down the slope and learn how to stop. On two skis. Dave wants me to do this by adopting a wide-legged stance and making the toes of my skis make a V shape. I show Dave just how well I can do this by falling over. It’s nice, flat on my back in the snow. Soft. The snow cooling on my already-achey muscles.

It feels tough, trudging sideways up the hill with baby-steps, I’m scarlet-faced and hot. This feels hard. Again I try doing what I’m told, but again, I just don’t get it. It’s only when Dave suggests that I imagine I’m carrying a tray that things start to fall into place. Add an imaginary basketball between my knees and whaddya know? I can stop! “Atta girl, Nikki! Whooo!” enthuses Dave as I wobble down the briefest incline on the hill and  successfully grind to a halt. I feel like something clicked. Amazingly, not my back. I’m getting this! I stomp up the hill again. Higher this time, then go back down, pointing skis in, bend aaaand stop, then rise, look forward, (holding my imaginary tray) and swoop forward. It feels great, I’ve a huge grin plastered over my face, I love this!

Soaking wet, bruised and completely delighted

Dave beams with pride and tells me that I’m graduating to level 2. We get to go over to the moving walkway that’s been installed on the slopes a little further up which takes us to what seems like a dizzyingly distant slope. My last task before we break for lunch is to zig-zag down the slope. I get 4 straight runs in, gaining more control each time I do it. It’s taken two hours and I am hooked. I’m soaked to the skin from the blizzard, covered in bruises, but could not be happier. I’ve conquered the ‘powder’ part of this package and am more than ready for my ‘pamper’.

First time I managed to stop without falling over. Whooo!

Find out more at Tourism Whistler.

Nikki travelled as the guest of Enjoy Whistler 


7
Dec 12

Three month-i-versary

So, it’s been three months since I arrived in Vancouver and so far, I’ve not regretted it for a second. Sure, there have been times when it’s been tough being so far from everyone and everything that I love, but thank goodness for Skype and social media! I get to feel like I’m still sharing in my friends’ lives and although talking on Twitter or Facebook is no substitute for sitting down with my mates, well, it’s better than waiting for weeks for an airmail letter.

How can you not just stare and stare?

How can you not just stare and stare?

Vancouver has dazzled me with its beauty. If I was smitten before, it’s a full-blown love affair now. Staring at the clouds and mountains has become my new favourite thing to do. Right next to staring at the skyline at night.

Beautiful at night, with the dazzling city and lights of Grouse Mountain twinkling

I’ve got used to the torrential rain. I’ve started to dress for downpours and have become utterly unselfconscious about stomping around in my rubber boots. I’ve taken to feasting on Kale, the leafy green brassica that’s in every Vancouverite’s shopping basket. Most importantly, I’ve started to make friends.

I made kale chips. This makes me a local, right?

Next week I move to my new apartment. Bye bye Kitsilano, hello West End. I’m so looking forward to living there and exploring another part of this gorgeous city. Small problem: it’s unfurnished and I don’t have any furniture, so, for a while it’ll be awfully minimal! But that’s just so much less to clean, right!? So, here’s to new beginnings…

Stanley Park. Turns out I moved to the end of the rainbow…

Feel inspired: Keep Exploring Canada

 


25
Nov 12

Whistler Weekend

One Mile Lake, just past Whistler

Winter takes on a different feeling when you have one of the world’s most beautiful mountain playgrounds on your doorstep. When it rains in Vancouver, you know that it’s probably snowing just 90 minutes away in Whistler, making perfect powder to play in. Whistler is less than two hours away from Vancouver and the drive there on the Sea to Sky Highway is simply breathtaking. The road twists and turns as you hug the coast and venture higher into the mountains. Each turn brings a fresh and gorgeous perspective. Take it slow though; it’s also one of Canada’s most dangerous roads. So stick to the speed limit and don’t try out any F1 moves.

I stayed at Nita Lake Lodge, a little distance from Whistler village and for me, if you’re looking to soak up the relaxing side of the mountains, the perfect place to chill. I loved my room on the top floor; huge ceiling and a gorgeous fireplace. I curled up on the sofa, reading a book and got lost watching the flames. I have to mention the staff here; the brilliant receptionist who went the extra mile for me as I’d forgotten my adaptor plug and she found a mac cable for me so I could re-charge and the friendly driver of the hotel’s shuttle bus who cheerily drove me back and forth into the village.

Nita Lake – the perfect view for breakfast

There’s a spa at Nita Lake – which unfortunately I didn’t get to try out – especially as it has those gorgeous Ila treatments which I love. No matter, I spent time in the spa’s yoga studio doing some Pilates and then padded out in the minus six chill to the outdoor hot tubs, slipped off my robe and hopped into the bubbling warmth. There is something magical about your sore muscles getting massaged by bubbles as you lie back under a blue sky and look at the snow on the mountains. I was lost in nature worship again!

Starving after all that beaming at the mountains I wanted to check out the Southside Diner at the end of the road. I’m so glad I did. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, this was the only place that didn’t hike its prices and the queue for Sunday brunch told me just how good the food was. I sat at the bar and lost a battle against the biggest and fluffiest pancake I’d ever seen. I loved watching the staff plate the food – it would not have been out of place at a Michelin-starred restaurant – but this was diner food made with love and care. I’ll be back next time I visit for sure. I want to try the cornflakes-and-Baileys…

Drinky Brunch at the Southside Diner

I’d read about a spa in town that used the 100-mile principle in its treatments. I’m a huge fan of this idea – using only ingredients from a 100-mile radius to keep the carbon footprint low and truly support local, sustainable living. Eco Chic is tucked away in the village, it’s small but spotlessly clean and had a real sanctuary-like atmosphere. The treatment rooms were compact but attractively-decorated. My therapist Michelle has won herself a place in my Top Five Massages of All-Time. I was meant to be having a full-body treatment with hot stones. The linens and oil used were locally-sourced and the stones were from the nearby Sunshine Coast. About 20 minutes into the massage, Michelle stopped and started quizzing me about my sore shoulders and horribly stiff leg. She decided that what my body needed was intense trigger point therapy instead and that’s what she gave me, focussing on my back. I stayed face-down for the whole treatment and yes, it was painful at times but oh wow, that loose muscular-release stayed with me for days. I left the spa and had to go and sit in a cafe for an hour or so before I could drive, I was so relaxed. Go and see her when you visit! An amazing intuitive therapist.

I’ll be back to Whistler soon to check out some of its famous restaurants and, SCREAM!, to try a skiing lesson. I’m nervous but I can’t wait to try it out. Any tips for first-timers… let me know.

I stayed as a guest of Tourism Whistler and was hosted by the Eco Chic spa. My views are 100% my own.

Keep Exploring Canada  and find out more about Whistler

 

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