Month: November 2017

Five Fab Finds in Golden, BC: Exploring Kicking Horse country

Cradled between both the Rocky Mountain and Columbia Mountain ranges, Golden is about a 3-hour drive from Calgary airport (or 1.5 hours west of Banff) along the Trans Canada Highway. Golden idyllically sits at the junction of frigid (4ºc) glacier-fed Kicking Horse River— famous for its whitewater rafting—and the Columbia River, that feeds the Columbia wetlands—the largest intact wetlands in North America, and a popular destination for paddle-boarders and nature enthusiasts. If that’s not enough to inspire a visit to this four-season destination, Golden is within a short drive of no fewer than six spectacular National Parks: Banff, Glacier, Jasper, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Yoho.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that Golden is just 14 km away from the fourth-highest vertical drop in North America, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, which is famous for its ‘steep and deep’ dry white “Champagne” powder.

Unlike Banff, one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations, Golden is regarded as an authentic mountain town, untouched by commercialism. Don’t expect to find an Old Spaghetti Factory or a Patagonia shop here, but you will find everything you need, including some fantastic family-run dining establishments, galleries featuring BC artists and a friendly ‘Northern Exposure’ –like vibe (dating myself here) where the locals know each other by name and they are eager to greet newcomers.

“People living in Golden are more known for what they do AFTER work, rather than FOR work,” explains Andy Brown, communications coordinator for Golden.

And with so many activities to explore here, it is easy to why the motto ‘GOLDEN RULES,’ rings true for both visiting adventure seekers and the outdoor enthusiasts who settle into the Golden way of life.

1. Walking with wolves at Northern Lights Wolf Centre

Yes, that’s right. About a 20-minute drive outside of Golden, awaits a unique and unforgettable wildlife experience. You can actually book a small group to go for a stroll with these often-misunderstood canids. You meet at the Northern Lights Wolf Centre, and receive a 25-minute interpretative talk about grey wolves and the dynamic role they play as a keystone species in the environment. You learn how to behave around the wolves when you go on the off-leash hike with the qualified handlers. On the hike – the only one of its kind in Canada – you explore mountain trails and streams while the wolves are free to frolic through the woods, and they sure do treat you just like one of their own pack members. They jump up on you and provide the ultimate Instagram moment with a little food coaxing. You must allow them to approach you, as you are on wolf terms at the centre. Kneeling is a sign of aggression, so you must always stand up if they are close. You learn about the social hierarchy of the pack, how they communicate with sounds, scents and body postures, and that they like to eat moose, caribou and mountain sheep. Did you know wolves are born with blue eyes, which then turn yellow after three months?  To book a session with the wolves and for more information visit northernlightswildlife.com.

2. Big mountain snowmobiling

Looking out my window at the Prestige Inn, I see no fewer than 12 snowmobiles trailored up in the parking lot.  Golden is a major Canadian sledding destination with over 240 kms of groomed trails. Families and those new to the sport can motor through well-established and breathtaking trails while for the more advanced, the possibilities for steep and remote excursions are boundless. The Quartz Creek trail, about 20 minutes west of Golden along Highway 1, is ideal for newbies although there are areas where you need to hug the inside lanes to avoid dropping off the edges. It’s an 80 km round trip with a warming cabin half way. Our guide from Golden Snowmobile Rentals took us past the cabin into deep powder to demonstate the endless possibilities of wide-open terrain. To get kitted out for a family mountain adventure, visit Kim (who grew up in Lorne Park) and Aaron Bernasconi at goldensnomobilerentals.com.

3. Going steep and deep at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Owned and operated by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR), Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is only 14 km from Golden. Opening in 2000, Kicking Horse is British Columbia’s second newest resort. Ballast Nedam (the builders of the Confederation Bridge in PEI) developed the four-season destination featuring: North America’s highest altitude dining at Eagle Eye Restaurant, the Golden Eagle Express gondola that ascends 3,700 feet to an 8,000-foot summit, three luxurious hotels, as well as ski-on-ski-off chalet accommodations at its base. The mountain boasts 2,800 skiable acres, 650-700 cm snowfall a season thanks to its northeast aspect, and the fourth highest vertical drop in North America (4,133 ft). Some describe it as an upside down mountain with expansive terrain at the top, with numerous powder runs from the north and south ridges. These are mostly fed by the one gondola. It is considered a more advanced skier’s resort – some say it’s the most challenging in Canada, but intermediates can head to the Alpine Bowl and ski virtually alone in decent powder. Advanced skiers should head to Stairway to Heaven quad  for steep and deep Champagne powder.

4. Character dining destinations

For a small town, Golden serves up a wealth of dining options. Morning fuellers include the whimsical Big Bend Café with its mountain-sized breakfasts 40 types of hot sauce and no fewer than six Eggs Benny options; the Bluebird Café, a popular stop to grab a packed lunch en route to the trails; and the intoxicatingly aromatic Bean Bag Coffee Roasters with its friendly staff and certified organic fairly traded coffee beans. I recommend the Wetcat (espresso and French Roast) to boost your day! After your long day of outdoor activities there are several fantastic dining options. Whitetooth Mountain Bistro delivers casual elegance on gorgeously grained butcher block tables, Eleven22 is in a century home that bubbles over with local art exhibits, and is ideal for both intimate or family dining. Chef Konan Mar impresses with his creative culinary diversity. The Island Restaurant provides a relaxed vibe an serves up world cuisine in a log building with  mountain views. They also have gluten-free options.

bluebirdcafegolden.com

whitetoothbistro.com

eleven22.ca

bigbendcafe.ca

islandrestaurant.ca

Jitas Cafe

5. Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre

Golden is a hot spot for nordic skiing and Dawn Mountain at Kicking Horse has over 33 spectacular kilometres of groomed skate and classic cross country ski trails, suitable for everyone from beginner to expert. Facilities include the Dawn Mountain Chalet, a heated day lodge, rental shop, plus a kitchenette and lounge area. Trails are well groomed, picturesque and if you are alone, they are silent aside from a cracking branch or two. Temperatures are 4 degrees lower than reported in the town of Golden. When it’s raining in Golden it could be snowing at Dawn Mountian!

goldennordicclub.ca/#dawnmountain

Terry Lankstead visited Golden, BC on a press trip sponsored by, Tourism Golden and Destination BC.

Oceanfront Luxury Without Pretension: Fox Harb’r Resort, NS

IMAGES OF FOX HARB’R RESORT PICTURED: Lighthouse morning

As our driver negotiates a roller coaster of windy narrow roads and stomach dropping hills, I try to focus on the distant mountains and the fresh sea air to curb that queasy feeling. The hour and a half shuttle from Halifax to Wallace, NS after a seemingly quick two-hour flight from Pearson, is breathtakingly picturesque as we drive past both pastoral and forested settings, with the mountainous backdrop of the Cobequid Hills. Our driver is sharing his passion for the area, the landscape and its down to earth people, and I am marvelling at the beauty of Nova Scotia, a province I haven’t visited since a childhood Maritime vacation.

Our destination, Fox Harb’r Resort in Wallace, NS. is the realisation of one man’s dream. That man is Ron Joyce, co-founder of Tim Hortons.

“In 1987, when I first saw this marvelous property, I thought, ‘This should be a National Park.’ Five hours later I was the lucky owner of 1,100 acres of wilderness on the water with 6 kilometres of ruggedly beautiful oceanfront shoreline,” recalls Ron Joyce.

Mr. Joyce did not have to travel far to discover this parcel of paradise, as it is just down the road from his quaint hometown of Tatamagouche. The idea of giving back to the community greatly appealed to Joyce.

And as our shuttle bus pulls up to the impressively landscaped and gated entrance, under the watchful eyes of– what else?– rusted iron fox sculptures, it is easy to see why Ron Joyce was so taken by the property.

Winding down the window I take in an intoxicating blend of pine forest and ocean air, before our driver pulls up to the clubhouse and its uninterrupted views of the peaceful Northumberland Strait. Aside from a few chirping birds, and the occasional drive of a golf ball, the peace and quiet here contributes to its allure.

The Course

Opened in 2001 and designed by renowned Canadian golf course architect Graham Cooke, who has designed 65 in Canada alone including Piper’s Heath in nearby Milton– the Fox Harb’r resort combines two classic golf landscapes in one breathtaking experience.

”The course blends two classic styles where Scottish Links meet traditional parkland golf course,” explains Kevin Toth, enthusiastic president of Fox Harb’r Resort. “On the front nine, which is a traditional Parkland course, the first hole is a a popular par 4 and the 7th a wetlands par 3 and the back nine is our gem being a spectacular oceanview links course that golfers the world over rave about.”

The Resort

Wake up in one of their 86 elegantly appointed manor house suites, don a plush robe and savour a cup of–what else?– in-house Tim Hortons coffee on your private balcony, overlooking an immaculately-groomed world class golf course, fronting uninterrupted views of the sea.

Here you can experience the serenity of their Dol-ás Spa (escape in Scottish Gaelic), where you can be pampered with a steam shower, massage or a mani-pedi, perhaps after hitting the links, mountain biking or horseback riding.

And below the spa is an impressive fitness studio and aquatic centre that includes a beautiful Junior Olympic-sized saltwater pool as well as a mineral pool and a good-sized hot tub where you can take in the sunset over the Northumberland Strait.

It’s the perfect spot to relax after golf or a match at the tennis centre on courts idyllically overlooking the ocean. Be sure to avoid overzealous forehanders or your ball could end up in the sea.

I am fortunate enough to experience a few firsts at Fox Harb’r, including horseback riding over both pastoral and forested terrain, that leads us to the picturesque shoreline “Fox Trot Trail.” The hour and a half guided trail ride provided by Forever Memories Equestrian Centre is a must-do for experienced and beginner riders alike.

“We have two trail guides and the trails are available to riders of all skill levels. Experienced riders can have their trail rides at faster, more challenging paces,” explains Shelbi Gatti, Forever Memories’ owner.

Book an early tee-off time to fit in a ride the same day or for a quicker round of golf try the challenging Par 3 executive course, with sweeping ocean views. And if golf or horseback riding doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of other options including kayaking on the calm and shallow, Fox Harb’r Bay where you may (we do) come face to face with resident harbour seals!

You can also try your hand at sport shooting at Fox Harb’r’s world-class George Digweed -designed sporting clays course. Here, I get to yell, “pull” and fire (for the first time ever) a 12-gauge shotgun at clay targets flying both through the air and across the ground. The extensive 15-acre course includes 24 shooting stations with a variety of targets. I appreciate the ear, eye and shoulder protection and the satisfaction of actually hitting some of the targets!

“The key is to aim where the target is headed as opposed to straight at the discs,” explains the resort’s CEO Steven Joyce, Ron’s son who lives in Burlington and travels frequently to Fox Harb’r direct from Hamilton, in one of their company (Jetport) jets. Having an airfield allows the rich and famous to maximize their time at this luxurious Maritime playground, that has attracted such dignitaries as John Major, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Al Gore, Brian Mulroney, General Colin Powell, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Prince Edward, and on this night, sitting over by the window in the Cape Cliff Dining room is club member Sidney Crosby, one month after winning his third Stanley Cup.

Fox Harb’r prides itself on being the first “Ocean Wise” restaurant in Atlantic Canada. “Only two restaurants in all of Nova Scotia have this status,” explains Toth. Head Chef Shane Robilliard has a passion for sustainability. “With most local produce sourced on property and province-sustainable seafood including line-caught halibut, trout from one of our two fly-fishing ponds, oysters and scallops from Malagash and chicken from the local Truro Farmer’s market. Locally grown and locally harvested always means fresher and more flavourful,” Toth adds.

With more than 500 bottles in their cellars, Fox Harb’r’s two sommeliers source greatly from thriving Nova Scotia vineyards and soon Fox Harb’r will be sourcing from their very own 25-acre vineyard in partnership with Devonian Coast Wineries, whose wines  are already popular at the Cape Cliff Dining Room. Devonian’s closest vineyard is Jost just 20-minutes down the road, and owners Carl and Donna Sparkes actually reside at one of the many gorgeous residences at Fox Harb’r.

IMAGES OF FOX HARB’R RESORT PICTURED: Seagrove living room

The Residences

The resort has several ownership options from fractional (quarter shares) to 4,000 square foot elegantly appointed executive townhomes, as well as custom-new builds. “Whether you are looking for a seasonal ocean getaway or permanent residence, when you are welcomed by name and your every need is anticipated according to your preferences,” explains sales director Eric Lum. Ownership at Fox Harb’r also comes with club membership and full playing privileges as well as access to all resort amenities mentioned in addition to other perks.

According to their brochure, people who buy here have discriminating taste, an understated attitude and appreciate nature and sport. They are independent-minded leaders who see something others don’t. And that’s how it feels, here. You feel pampered but never lose sight of yourself. Everyone is so approachable and engaging.

Future Plans

Fox Harb’r’s 17-year plan includes 254 residences, equestrian stables conveniently located walking distance from your condo, 30 ‘East Coast style’ cottages around their amply-stocked fly-fishing ponds, a 40-unit lodge, a newly expanded Wellness Centre, a Conference centre and if that is not enough they are adding a second 9-hole executive course to bring the total up to 27.

Fox Harb’r’s vision is as grand as its spectacular views, but  no doubt it will be realised. In case you need reminding, when Ron Joyce partnered with Tim Horton, Canada’s favourite coffee and doughnut stop had only two stores!

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