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The Travel Map - August 2008

Skiing in Italy

August 24th 2008 10:23
When thinking about a ski holiday in Europe, Italy may not be the first place to spring to mind. Most people associate world class skiing with famous resorts in Switzerland and France. However, since hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics the Italian region of Piedmont now offers some world-class facilities.

The overall ski area known as the Milky Way consists of over 400kms of skiable terrain and 129 lifts. The resort towns in the area are Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, Sansicario, Cesana-Claviere. It is easy to access any of the ski areas from any of these towns.

We stayed in a small resort town called Claviere, which lies on the border of Italy and France. As one of the oldest resorts in Italy, it oozes with rustic charm. Also being on the border with France means on the days we did not ski we could entertain ourselves by crossing border between Italy and France – saying, “Now I am in Italy, now I am in France.” Which may seem weird to some, but when you are brought up in an Island country like New Zealand where you have to get on a plane and travel for hours until you are in a different country, it is quite a novel experience.

Due to the snow conditions (there wasn’t a lot near us) we went Seistere everyday to ski, as they have snow making facilities. Seistere is one of the biggest resorts in the Piedmont area and has access to some of highest most challenging tracks in the Milky Way.

The runs are suited to intermediate and advanced level skiers and those that prefer long ski runs with less time in lifts queues. There are also some nursery slopes and gentle blue runs for those just starting out.


Queuing for the ski lifts is an interesting experience. Europeans, unlike their British counterparts don’t believe in queues and they tend to blatantly push in. The other thing I found interesting is after all the skiing at high altitudes where it seemed difficult to breathe anyway, a lot of them would light up a cigarette as soon as they were in the queue.

The skiing is fabulous and Siestere has some great bars and clubs as well as many other apres ski activities such as dog sledding and toboganning.

The main airport in the region is Turin, which is about 60 miles away by road. We took a package holiday from London with Crystal Ski.

Milky Way Trail Map
Milky Way Trail Map

The Canadian Rockies

August 18th 2008 02:13
I was full of excitement at visiting Banff National Park; everybody had told me that it is the most spectacular scenery in the world. People have said that about many other places in the world but after spending time in New Zealand’s South Island my standards were very high. I had never experienced anything that compared, until now.

I cannot be disloyal to my home country, but this is some of the most magnificent scenery I have ever had the pleasure of being surrounded by.

Banff Skiing
Banff photo credit rabesphoto flickr

There are three ski areas within the Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Ski Norquay and Sunshine Village. On our first morning, we had to make the big decision, where will we ski today. We decided to take the shuttle bus to Sunshine Village located just 15 minutes drive from our hotel in Banff.

When we arrived at Sunshine Village, we hopped aboard the high-speed gondola and 13 minutes later, we disembarked at some of the most magical mountain terrain I had seen.
It was one of those beautiful clear days where you can see for miles, and makes skiing the most enjoyable experience in the world. The snow was the perfect powder that you can sometimes hear squeaking under your skis. With 12 lifts including the high speed Gondola and 107 runs, we never had to queue for a lift all day. Sunshine Village spans the border of Alberta and British Columbia, which means you can boast to all your friends you skied in two proivinces in one day.

Sunshine Village
Sunshine Village

After dinner that evening, we enjoyed a horse drawn sleigh ride along the Bow River in Banff. The sleighs run every 45 minutes, from the Warner Stables on Sundance Road. There are also romantic sleigh rides that include liqueurs and chocolates for the lovers out there.

What I loved about walking around the beautiful town of Banff was seeing the wildlife just hanging around the streets, particularly caribou that we walked past in touching distance. Although we were warned not to touch them as, they can be dangerous.

The next morning we were ready to tackle Lake Louise located 60kms southwest of Banff. We were blessed with fantastic weather again as we approached Canada’s largest single ski area. As I looked around, I could see why this is named one of the most scenic resorts. The snow is pristine and you are surrounded my stunning wilderness.

The good thing about Lake Louise is that every lift has several runs catering for beginners to more expeerienced skiers, which means you can ski with your group regardless of differing levels of ability.

A highlight was the powder bowls where my skiing ability was challenged, as I made my way down The Wall. It is something I tried only twice that day before I was worn out and decided to take it easy.

With 4200 skiable areas and 139 runs, even if you spent a week at Lake Louise alone you would not get a chance to ski all of them.

The next morning we were off to Norquay. The first thing I noticed when we arrived was the was the steep moguls field and free falls in front of us. I thought this might be a challenging day, and it was! Later I discovered the Lone Pine and Gun Run, which are challenging black diamond runs even for the most hard out skiers.

However, beginners and intermediate level skiers need not be put off there are plenty of gentler slopes to.

For those that want to avoid the crowds Norquay also offers night skiing from 5pm – 9pm on Fridays.

Skiing in the Canadian Rockies is one of the most magical experiences for skiers of all levels, not only is the snow like squeaky powder under your skis, you are surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery.

After a hard days skiing there are some there is plenty to do in the beautiful town of Banff.

What's new at Whistler

August 11th 2008 01:10
I have just received my Ski Max brochure, reminding me that 2008-09 ski seasons in the Northern Hemisphere will soon be underway.

Whistler, voted number one ski resort in North America, will be even better this year as preparations are well underway for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

One of the most exciting developments ready just in time for the northern winter is the Peak-to-Peak Gondola, which is due for completion in December 2008.

The Gondola that will span the peaks between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains is one of the biggest undertakings of its kind. It will spark all sorts of opportunities for growth and tourism in the area.

Once completed the Gondola will travel the 4km distance between the two peaks in just 11 minutes. The individual cars hold up to 28 people, 24 sitting and 4 standing and it will be able to transfer 2050 people in each direction per hour.

The best part is that skiers will not have to choose which mountain to spend the day at any more.

“Most of our guests choose to ski either Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain each day. The PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola will link 8,171 acres of terrain into one continuous lift system allowing skiers and riders to maximize their day by moving quickly and effortlessly across the valley to the best snow and weather in each alpine area.” Dave Brownlie Chief Operating Officer of Whistler Blackcomb.

peak to

Proposed gondola track
Gondola track

If you want to try out some of the trail before the Olympic athletes get there in 2010, the WhistlerBlackomb website has the details of event locations.

For more information on getting to Canada, visit the Skimax website for a brochure.

Vancouver's Night Markets

August 7th 2008 06:23
"T-shirt $5," shouted the stall holder at the Night Markets in Chinatown Vancouver. I went over and had a look, it seemed like good quality I bought it, although later I was told I should have haggled.

Chinatown in Vancouver is the third largest in North America (behind San Francisco and New York). It is centred on Pender St although the main activity is around Main Pender and Keefer Streets

[ Click here to read more ]

Downtown Vancouver

August 4th 2008 04:52
There is something I really love about Vancouver, I am not sure I can put my finger on what it is, all I know is that every time I am there I feel great. Maybe it is the relaxed atmosphere, maybe it is the friendly local’s, or maybe it is a combination of both.

I have been to Vancouver on several occasions, once in the summer as a dedicated Vancouver tourist, and twice in the winter, on my way to and from the ski fields at Whistler

[ Click here to read more ]

Fun Parks Galore - Universal Studios

August 1st 2008 06:08
Every year around 48 million tourists visit Orlando, and it’s not difficult to see why. With over 100 attractions, and sunshine that lasts all year there is never a bad time to go.
In my last post, I reviewed several of the Disney Parks. This time I will review Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Sea World.

[ Click here to read more ]

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