Couched in the soaring peaks of the Coast and Rocky Mountains, Canada’s ski resorts cover the gamut from the enormous expanses of Whistler Blackcomb to the quaint resort towns of Silver Star Mountain Resort and Fernie Alpine Resort.
Western Canada is the Mecca for most snow sports addicts. Whistler Blackcomb – the largest ski resort in North America – is just two hours from the major international destination of Vancouver and attracts the lion’s share of visitors. People who have lived here for years still say they haven’t skied everything these mountains have to offer.
For those who haven't been before, the combination of value for money, great snow, great resorts and freindly, laid back people is hard to beat.
- 1 Climate
- 2 Getting There
- 3 Cultural Info
- 4 Health and Safety
- 5 Resources
In winter, cold and snowy. The inland rarely climbs above zero in winter. Resorts tend to have maxima in the range -10 on the coast to -20 inland, but temperatures can get much colder.
In Western Canada there are three main areas with ski resorts. They are in the Coast Range and Victoria Island, a north south strip based on the Okanagan Valey and the Rockies.
Whistler Blackcomb is the main resort on the coast. It is the largest ski resort in Canada, and probably the whole of North America.
The Okanagan/Western Rockies resorts include Sun Peaks, Panorama, Apex, Big White, Fernie, Silver Star and Red Mountain. Fernie, Panorama and Red are not in the Okanagan, but are in the Western foothills of the Rockies, a bit further from from the coast.
The Rockies include Lake Louise, Sunshine and Kicking Horse.
Drumheller Valley Ski Club is east of the Rockies out on the Alberta prairies. It is the Rivendell of western Canada - the last homely house with a hill in the middle of a wilderness of endless plains.
In Eastern Canada, there are a lot of resort in Québec province. Most of them are really nice, with some of the nicest snow in the world. They are quite different than western resort, due to their smaller height. Even if the province is French speaking, staff in resorts usually also speak English.
Getting to Vancouver, or Calgary is easy. Connections to airports beyond there, such as Kamloops, Kelowna or Cranbrook may involve a wait. They are regional airports and have limited flights. There are frequent shuttles from Calgary airport up to Banff.
There are Greyhound buses that go to major centres, although not necessarily to resorts and not always at the most convenient times of day. Last time I looked at the timetables buses arrived in Fernie, for example, at about 3-00 am.
Driving is possible. If conditions are good driving is a breeze. If conditions are bad driving can be very worrying indeed. The Coquihalla, from the coast to Kamloops and Kelowna in the interior, can be a scary combination of fog, snow, treacherous surface and trucks going sideways. Highway 1, via Hope and Cache Creek to Kamloops is longer but lower. When things are really bad it is an option worth considering.
The main drag through the Rockies, beyond Salmon Arm, is sometimes closed because of avalanche danger. The road can be closed for up to 24 hours, although a closure this long is rare.
The unfortunate news is that the better the season the worse the road conditions.
Visas and Documentation
Australia citizens do not require a visa to visit Canada for a period of up to six months.
If you are a parent travelling with a child but not the other parent, Canadian Immigration requires a letter of permission from the absent parent. It is possible to talk yourself through, but it is much easier to have the letter.
Serving the east, most travellers will transit by Toronto, or Montreal airports. There are smaller airports in other major cities, like Québec city.
Customs and Quarantine
Inbound, customs and quarantine are pretty efficient. If you are a parent travelling with a child but not the other parent, Canadian Immigration requires a letter of permission from the absent parent. It is possible to talk yourself through, but it is much easier to have the letter.
If you are travelling home through the USA via Vancouver airport you will clear US customs and immigration on the ground in Vancouver, before boarding. This is much more efficient. On most airlines it means that, if you are not stopping over in the USA on the way home, you can check your bags all the way to Australia from Canada without having to collect them and re-check them in Los Angeles. You do have to check yourself in. If your flight commences in a regional airport such as Kelowna or Kamloops and transits through Vancouver you must collect your luggage in Vancouver in order to clear US customs and security there. The set up in Vancouver airport is convenient for this.
- Canada Day, July 1. Anniversary of the union of the Canadian provinces under one government, which took place in 1867 under the British North America Act. Previously known as Dominion Day.
- Remembrance Day, November 11. See Veteran's Day.
- Labour Day, first Monday in September (Sep 6, 2004).
- Thanksgiving Day. Usually in early October, and determined by annual proclamation.
- Victoria Day, second to last Monday in May (May 24, 2004). Commemorates Queen Victoria's birth on May 24, 1819. It was made a statutory holiday in Canada in 1908.
- Alberta Family Day, third Monday in February (Feb 16, 2004). Celebrates the family values of the pioneers who built Alberta. Some employees may have the day off.
- British Columbia Day, first Monday in August (Aug 2, 2004). PLEASE EDIT
- Québec's National Holiday, June 24. Also known as St-Jean Baptiste Day, Québec's National Holiday is a big cultural event. The biggest celebration is the night before, in Québec city (the provincial capital of Québec), where nearly 300 000 peoples join on a plain for a night of music, danse, and party.
Canada's road system is excellent, with lot's of really nice highways, kept clean even during winter.
Unlike the USA, Canada uses the metric system, so the speed limits are in km/h.
Food and Drink
The national dish is poutine - hot chips, cheese and gravy. A dish to gladden the wallet of any cardiologist. Otherwise, it is typical North American fare, although a bit more restrained than the southern barbarians.
Wine made in the Okanagan is excellent. Ice wine is amazing - it makes botrytis affected wine taste dry. Do not, under any circumstances, order wine made in Ontario. Unfortunately, in many places, the success of the Australian wine industry means that sometimes there is more Australian wine than Canadian wine available.
Technology and Networks
Canada is a civilised and modern place. Many hotels and apartments in ski resorts have wireless broadband or cable broadband connections in each room. There are internet cafes all over the place.
North America operates mobile phones on a separate band to the rest of the universe, so global roaming only works if you have a tri-band phone.
There are two taxes added to most purchases in shops and to restaurant meals and accommodation charges.
- GST (Goods and Services Tax)
This is a federal tax of 6%. Overseas visitors can obtain a rebate on GST paid on accommodation and goods brought home subject to certain requirements, although it seems that this rebate will be eliminated soon.
- PST (Provincial Sales Tax)
Most provinces levy a sales tax on most purchases including meals and accommodation. They range from 0 to 12%. depending on the province. No rebate available.
Major credit cards such as Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club are accepted in Canada.
Most ATMs spit out money with an Australian card, but it may be wise to check with your financial institution first.
Tips or service charges are not usually included in the bill. As a rule, a tip of 10-15% of the total amount should be given. This also applies to hairdressers and taxi drivers. Bellhops, doormen and porters etc generally expect C$1.00 per item of luggage.
Health and Safety
Avalanches occur frequently wherever there are mountains. At times avalanche danger can close major roads, including Highway 1 - the main road across the country.
It hardly counts as a disaster, but in heavy snow and fog driving can be unnecessarily interesting, particularly after dark. The roads do not have catseyes or roadside reflectors and it is sometimes difficult to know where the road goes next.
Michael Moore was right. Canada is a lot safer than the USA.
Crime does happen, but there do not seem to be many "no go" areas in Canadian cities. Be careful with your stuff, as you would travelling anywhere.
This category has the following 10 subcategories, out of 10 total.
Pages in category "Canada"
The following 28 pages are in this category, out of 28 total.