Ski and Snowboard All Year Round at These Destinations

If you are an avid skier (like me), wouldn’t it be great to ski and snowboard all year round at these destinations? Namely Whistler, Canada; Hintertux, Austria; Las Lenas, Argentina; Keystone, United States. (COVID-19 disclaimer: some resorts, like Las Lenas have announced that they are not opening this season due to the pandemic). What skier isn’t dreaming of that next ski vacation? Ski resorts have always focussed on safety, but this year are doing everything they can to keep you safe. Enhanced safety measures and procedures are in place to deal with COVID including mandatory face coverings, advanced reservations, lift restrictions and more. Physical distancing is a natural with ski and boards and lots of room on the hills. If you’ve pushed off your ski vacation, it’s time to start thinking ahead to ski and snowboard all year round at these destinations.  

Winter Skiing in Whistler, Canada

Every skier or snowboarder in Canada either dreams of going to Whistler or dreams of going back to Whistler. While there are other great ski destinations in Canada, (Lake Louise, Big White and Mont Tremblant come to mind), Whistler is consistently ranked as #1. You have got 2 distinct mountains with Whistler and Blackcomb side by side and connected by the memorable Peak to Peak Gondola. With over 8,100 acres of skiable terrain, you could spend days on either Blackcomb or Whistler Mountain without getting bored in the least. And with an average of 460 inches of snow each year, there’s plenty of the white stuff. The top of mountain temperature and bottom/valley temperature vary greatly as one would expect. At the peak, you can ski the glacier and stay up top for some bowl skiing. At the end of your day, make sure you leave plenty of energy to ski down the mountain. The Peak to Creek run is 7 miles long.

Spring Skiing in Austria

Hintertux Glacier Ski Resort is Austria’s only year-round ski resort (yes, 365 days per year). Hintertux is in Austria’s Tirol Region, a warm and welcoming area that is my favorite and the real heart of the Alps. In winter, one lift pass, the “Ski- und Gletscherwelt Zillertal 3000”, gets you access to interconnected resorts like Finkenberg and Mayrhofen with 60 km of terrain. 72% of Hintertux’s ski pistes are Intermediate which makes this glacier more manageable for groups and the average skier.  The mountains of Tirol have many more ski resorts available during ski season (including Kitzbhuel, St. Anton, Zugspitze and more) as well as other activities like hiking, swimming, and mountain biking. Innsbruck is nearby and offers great Austrian hospitality, food, and culture when you are finished with the ski portion of your trip to Austria.   

Skiers and snowboarders on the slopes of Austria
Pumuckel42, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

Summer Skiing in Argentina

The highest mountain in the Andes is Las Lenas, Argentina. Las Lenas is very much about the skiing. Its projected opening date is around June 6th with closing in early October. With 30 runs (80% intermediate/advanced), it is not big by any means, but the skiable terrain and vistas draw rave reviews. It is not fancy and does not offer many alternatives for days a way from the slopes. But it’s a bucket list destination for skiers – skiing in South America and skiing in summer. After the skiing is done, it’s time to head to Buenos Aires or neighbouring Chile to experience more of South America.

A view of Las Lenas Ski Resort in Argentina

Fall Skiing in Colorado

Skiiing in the fall can be “hit and miss” due entirely to unpredictable snowfall. Keystone, Colorado is the top candidate (normally open in early November) followed by Lake Louise, Canada and Mammoth Mountain, California. Keystone Resort is a short drive from Denver and covers 7 miles across 3 mountains along the Snake River. There are 3 villages with restaurants, bars, and accommodation slope side and in the villages. Keystone is a top-rated family-friendly resort that is more about skiing than extras and wild après ski. With 130 trails, 20 lifts and night skiing, there is no shortage of terrain and time to ski. You’ll enjoy some the longest runs in the State of Colorado.

Summary – Ski and Snowboard All Year Round at These Destinations

There’s a quick list of ski areas to get too year-round. You are not restricted to skiing and boarding in traditional winter or Q1 of each year, especially this year. For the average skier, these are bucket list destinations. Get ready and prepared for some big terrain, great views and a world class ski experience. And don’t forget your travel insurance and extra insurance coverage for COVID-19. I’m ready for a ski tour of these great destinations. It is time to dream and plan that next great ski trip!

How to Avoid Common Mistakes On The Mountain

A great day of skiing
Photo by Melvin Wahlin on Pexels.com

As a ski patroller and veteran skier, I’ve seen more than my share of mistakes on the mountain. And there is a theme with common mistakes – not being prepared and/or not skiing smart. Here’s how to avoid those common mistakes on the mountain:

1. Be prepared for a Workout

Skiing and snowboarding are great workouts. A day on the slopes requires stamina, a strong core and leg muscles. If you plan on hitting a big mountain with long runs, skiing will be harder still. If you have a decent fitness level, you’ll have a good base for your day on the slopes and adjust easier to the demands of skiing and boarding. A regular fitness routine will help you to ski or snowboard better and longer.

2. Avoid heading straight to the Black Diamonds

Start out easy at the beginning of the day. Experienced skiers always take it easy for, at least, the first few runs before heading off to the diamond runs. Warm up and get your focus on movement, turns and technique before you crank it up on more challenging stuff. Gain confidence with easier runs before moving to diamond runs. Work your way up to the more serious, advanced, narrow, thrill rides.

A skier on a black diamond run
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

3. Use common sense

There is something called the Alpine Responsibility Code which many skiers know, and many don’t. It’s typically posted on a yellow sign at the bottom of most lifts. It’s a combination of safety rules and common sense for skiers and snowboarders. For example, always stay in control; do not stop where you obstruct a trail, before starting downhill or merging onto a trail, look uphill and yield to others, etc. Follow these rules (ski smart) and you’ll stay safe and avoid the common mistakes of others.

4. Pay attention to lifts

Getting on and off lifts is prime for accidents. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll quickly find that the chairlift is unforgiving. High speed chairs pick you up slowly, but then move fast. Be ready, line up with skis pointed forward and poles in hand. Getting off a chairlift can be a challenge for novice skiers and boarders. At the offloading area, simply stand up and let the chair push you. T-bars or other vintage lifts are completely unknown to new or young skiers, so ask for help from the lift operator or ski patrol if you need it.

Walking back to the chalet after a great day of snowboarding
Photo by Visit Almaty on Pexels.com

5. Don’t think you can ski all day (with no break)

If you only ski while on a ski vacation, you’ll need to pace yourself for a full day on the slopes. As a Canadian Ski Patroller, I’m on shift all day and break the day into parts: a few hours of skiing and then take a break. Back out again for a few more hours then take a lunch break. After lunch, I’m back out again with a break in the afternoon. Don’t over do it and your last run will be as good as your first run.

2 skiers taking a break from skiing
Photo by julie aagaard on Pexels.com

6. Avoid borrowing your Dad’s old equipment

Chances are your Dad’s equipment is old, worn out and/or doesn’t fit. Take a pass. If you don’t have your own equipment, rent from a ski shop where they will provide decent equipment based on your skill level. Boots need to be comfortable. Bindings should be set so that they will release your skis when needed. Tuned up skis make it easier to hold an edge and get down the hill. Helmets are very much in style and should be mandatory for their obvious protection. A helmet can’t prevent a concussion, but it could reduce the severity of one. Use quality equipment that fits you and your level of ability.

7. Not Layering Up

I’ve become a bit of an expert at dressing for winter. Wearing the wrong type of clothes can result in a not-so-happy ski day. For example, don’t wear cotton socks and a cotton shirt as your base layer. You will not be warm. The best way to layer up for skiing is to have three high-quality layers: a thin base layer (long johns); an insulating mid-layer (fleece or ski sweater) and then ski pants/ski jacket. Keep active, take rest breaks and keep nourished (your body stays warmer with fuel intake). If your clothes get wet, change them.

Get ready for a great day on the slopes! If you are going on a ski vacation, check out my TuGo post – What to Pack for a Ski or Snowboard Trip. And don’t forget your travel insurance if you travel outside your home province or Canada. Have fun, stay safe and enjoy the great outdoors!

Christmas in Vienna

A Christmas in Vienna is one not to be missed. The Christmas markets in Vienna are truly something magical. Soft sparkling lights, gently falling snow, the smell of freshly roasted chestnuts, and musicians marching through the streets. It sounds and feels like a fairytale, but Christmas in Vienna is very real. It’s worthy of “bucket list” inclusion and one you will always remember.

From mid-November until the end of December, Austria is the place to enjoy traditional Christmas markets. Festive lights, seasonal treats and snow-covered roofs make for a special experience that only Austria can provide. Austrians often refer to the Advent period as the country’s “fifth season”. Vienna always shines, but during the Advent season, it dazzles. Festivities take place in historic squares and pedestrian areas, making long walks from cafés to museums and shops even more enjoyable.

Christmas Markets in Vienna

In Vienna, the markets are an age-old tradition that put a smile on everyone’s face and provide an overwhelming spirit of Christmas. The forerunners of the present-day markets date back to 1298 in the Middle Ages when the Duke of Austria granted Vienna’s citizens the privilege of holding a “Krippenmarkt” or December Market. The character and prevalence of these markets has naturally changed considerably over the centuries.

Vienna itself says that there are 20 official Christmas Markets. There are in fact many more smaller ones. As you walk through the central old city, you’ll come across small squares (or platz) where small markets and vendor booths are open and waiting for you.

The most well-known and largest market is at Rathausplatz and known as Vienna Christmas World. The market sits right in front of the Rathaus (Town Hall) with some 150 booths. The adjacent City Hall Park has an ice rink, ice paths through the park, and a children’s area with nativity path, reindeer train, ferris wheel and carousel. The unique arts and crafts blend perfectly with baked goods and sausage stands.

A short walk away is the Christmas Market on Maria-Theresien-Platz, between the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna and the Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna. Over 70 booths offer traditional Christmas handicrafts and original gifts throughout the season of Advent. There are regular visits by Gospel choirs and music groups to amplify the festive mood. The Christmas Village then transitions seamlessly into the New Year’s Eve Village.

Christmas in Vienna

The Imperial and Royal Christmas Market on Michaelerplatz, in front of the Imperial Palace features Austrian products, sweets, pewter figures, hand-made crafts and more in its white huts. The Christmas Market on Stephansplatz focuses more on tradition, with some 40 booths and huts beside St. Stephen’s Cathedral offering high-quality Austrian products. The Advent market at the Opera House has gingerbread, cheese, meats, punch and wine from regional producers in Austria.

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The best time to head to the markets are weekdays and early evening when the lights come on and the day turns into evening. Weekend days are very busy.

Enjoy the Lights Above The Graben And Kärntner Strasse

The Christmas lights of Vienna shine with a magical beauty. Thousands of crystals and giant chandeliers make you feel like you are in a large imperial ballroom as you walk along the main pedestrian areas in the old city center. Start an early evening walk from the State Opera House building, down Kärntner Straße to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, then along the Graben and up Kohlmarkt to the Hofburg Palace. Walk through the Palace grounds and you’ll end up back at Ring Strasse (and just a few blocks from your starting point).

Christmas in Vienna - The Graben

Walk the Ringstrasse

The Ringstrasse is the grand boulevard that circles the historic Innere Stadt (Inner Town) where ancient fortifications once stood. Along the “Ring” you’ll see museums, parks, restaurants, five-star hotels, luxury stores and Christmas markets. Ringstrasse is decked out with lights and many Christmas displays to highlight Vienna’s impressive architecture. You can walk the “Ring”, get on a public bus or tram, or take a scheduled sightseeing tram with guide.

Weihnachtspunsch Or Glühwein?

Most street corners feature a mulled wine or punch stand where locals and visitors gather for a warm drink and conversation. The local Lions Club has a number of drink stands along with a slightly lower price and a Styrofoam cup. The markets serve their punch in collectable mugs with a unique design for each market. You’ll pay a deposit when you order your drink, so you can keep the mug (or just buy the mugs separately). The slightly more popular steaming mug of warmth is Weihnachtspunsch (Christmas punch). It comes in dozens of flavours across the old city. The more traditional drink is a mug of hot Glühwein (mulled wine). You can’t go wrong with either and should try both. Either choice will take the chill away on a cold winter’s evening. Multiple drinks into the evening may have you singing songs from the “Sound of Music”.

Christmas in Vienna

Try Maronis (Roasted Chestnuts)

You’ll find at least one “Maroni Stand” at every market and at many major street corners in the winter months. They are selling roast chestnuts from one steaming steel barrel and roasted potato snacks from another barrel. It’s a Christmas experience that goes back to the Middle Ages. You can almost imagine children blowing on a hot, freshly peeled chestnut to cool it down. Now you can follow in their footsteps.

Christmas in Vienna - Roasted Chestnuts

Eat Sausage or Leberkäse? (or both)

Sausage stands are year-round in Vienna, but they seem more inviting in winter. Austrians love their meat and the roadside stands don’t disappoint for taste. If you need a little food energy and break from exploring, try a Käsekrainer or Bratwurst. The other must try Viennese snack is Leberkäse. It is a kind of rectangular sausage cut as a thick slice of meat on a fresh bread roll with mustard. It is an Austrian staple, cheap and delicious (trust me- I’ve eaten a lot of Leberkäse).

The Austrian capital is the perfect destination for a holiday hiatus. Vienna combines history, traditions and culture into the world’s most livable city.

Your Christmas spirit will come alive in this fairytale setting. Vienna is really the perfect destination for Christmas – this is Christmas in Vienna.