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On trails and roads, electric bikes are putting the “coast” in Sunshine Coast

Like everyone else on the Sunshine Coast, I live near a hill. For 20 years, I knew any ride in or out of Roberts Creek would require exertion, some sweat and a little resolve. That resolve would often disappear at the mere sight of my car keys.

Then I bought an electric bike. Turns out, I’m not the only one!

“The e-bike flattens the hills quite nicely,” says my friend and fellow Creeker, Randy Shore. “I had been riding a Devinci hybrid for about 20 years, but I had fallen out of love with steep hills.”

Out on a recent ride with TraC, (Transportation Choices Sunshine Coast) a volunteer member-based group, which encourages people to get out of their single-occupancy vehicles by changing local culture towards active transportation.

To clear his mind and to enjoy the sunshine, Randy mostly rides backroads on his Specialized Como to avoid the noise, dust and highway bike lanes.

“The bike lanes on the Sunshine Coast are at best incomplete,” he says. “But even the lanes that exist are badly cracked or covered in so much debris that they are too dangerous to ride on. Even when a lane is available I feel safer on the road.”

Teacher, Sheena Careless commutes a few days a week from Gibsons to Roberts Creek Elementary School, sometimes dropping off her eight-year-old son, Toby, at Gibsons elementary. She’s clocked 1,800 kilometres on her RadWagon electric cargo bike since purchasing it in February 2021, a choice her family made in preference to buying a second car.

“I can do a week’s grocery shop, ferry two kids … I could do the recycling if I were more organized!

“The highways are not awesome, so we take back-routes when we can,” she adds. “I don’t e-cycle for the exercise; I e-cycle because I want to get somewhere. I don’t want to show up sweaty. I can e-cycle to school and be ready to teach.”

Commuting in the opposite direction for the last 20-plus years is Alun Woolliams, president of TraC (Transportation Choices Sunshine Coast – transportationchoices.ca). A volunteer member-based group, TraC encourages people to get out of their single-occupancy vehicles by changing local culture towards active transportation. It’s also about encouraging local and non-local governments (The provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure-MOTI) to improve infrastructure.

Guerrilla bike-lane cleaning is among the many events organized by TraC. Other activities include Active Transportation Weeks, (formerly Bike to Work Week) bike polo and e-bike scavenger hunts. Photo courtesy transportationchoices.ca

“An e-bike is a brilliant replacement for the car,” says Alun, who bought a Giant e-bike three years ago. “It takes the hills away and makes it so much easier to get out of bed and get on my bike.”

TraC organizes Active Transportation Weeks (formerly Bike to Work Week) and events such as bike polo, e-bike scavenger hunts and guerrilla bike-lane cleaning. (When I call Alun, he is literally at the bottom of my driveway, cleaning the Lower Road bike lane with fellow TraC members.)

The group has worked closely with the Sunshine Coast Regional District, Town of Gibsons, Town of Sechelt and MOTI to establish a designated bike route. It has also hired a consultant to assess the feasibility of a “Connect the Coast Trail” – a multi-use path between Langdale and Sechelt. However, four government jurisdictions plus private land ownership mean a plan is rarely simple.

“It’s not acrimonious, they’re trying to work together,” says Alun. “It’s complicated but there’s room for improvement.”

TraC president, Alun Woolliams. Photo courtesy transportationchoices.ca

For respite from the Coast’s somewhat unique multi-jurisdictional bureaucracy, Alun can still escape to the forests where he continues to mountainbike the old-fashioned way – unassisted.

“If I’m going into the forest, that’s just recreation and I don’t feel like I need assistance, but I think it’s great that people do, if that makes it more accessible.”

Avid mountainbiker and trail-builder, Dale Sapach, counts himself as an e-bike convert. “They have a whole different fun factor to them and they make going uphill trails really quite enjoyable,” he says.

“One of my trails on Mount Elphinstone was super steep; 50 minutes full on pedal to get up there. When I started building that trail, it became obvious that I’d never finish it.”

His Specialized e-bike changed that.

“It still took me over a year to finish the trail, but regardless, that’s kind of how I got into it. I think it’s great these things exist. You can keep pushing your limits and keep riding with younger people.”

While the assist of an electric bike may make uphill trails easier, it does not necessarily make the sport less skillful, or less risky, says Dale. On the contrary: “The pros, the downhill racers know how to keep their speed through corners. You’re ultimately limited by your skill. And that potentially is an issue for some people who lose control.

“I think the biggest issue with full-power e-bikes is the weight. You require more upper body strength. When things go sideways a bit, they can go sideways a lot worse when your bike weighs 52 pounds.”

Gary Jackson agrees: “Where many people believe the e-bike is cheating, as one of the most experienced mountain bikers on the Sunshine Coast, I believe it’s much harder physically and technically to ride an electric mountainbike.

“You’re riding a bigger vehicle faster over more terrain. Because they’re more capable, I end up riding steeper terrain, higher technical climbs, aggressive technical loops, where on a pedal bike you’d have to go around to come back down. An electric bike allows you to ride fall line all day with much more elevation.”

Separation anxiety or eBike envy? Either way, Leah deals with Sylvester’s issues.

Gary owns Off The Edge Bike Shop in Sechelt. When I drop by for a quick chat, we’re still talking an hour later. He’s passionate about bike safety and dispelling what he sees as misinformation about e-bikes.

“Everybody asks, ‘how much power does it have?’ and my answer is always ‘way more than you need! You want to be talking about efficiency, weight, reliability, warranty, all that – they’ve all got lots of power.”

While it’s difficult to track the growth in popularity of e-bikes locally with any accurate measure, Off The Edge sales provide some insight. The store, a fixture for 15 years, sold its first electric bike in 2016. In 2017, it sold eight. In 2018, it sold 40 e-bikes. In 2019, it sold more than 100.

“In 2022, I’ll sell as many as I can get,” he says.

The Coast’s baby boomer demographic with its disposable income means e-bikes sell faster here, according to Gary. He recounts the experiences of older customers who thought their best cycling days were behind them. Now they’re riding to Phare Lake before breakfast, followed by the base of Mount Hallowell.

“It’s like Viagra for bikes!” he laughs. “Boomers have figured out how to not age.”

Gary sees e-bikes as not just removing hills, but also overcoming political obstacles.

“Boomers get stuff done,” he says. “Now it’s a voting entity. All the sudden, where the 60-plus crowd was not a voting demographic for the cycling community, now it is, and they’re going to have their voices heard.

“E-bikes are going to bring infrastructure. E-bikes are going to bring bike lanes. E-bikes are going to bring much needed revenue and resources into a very difficult economy. E-bikes are going to bring conscientious, enthusiastic volunteers, to help build and maintain trails. “Cyclists can learn from e-bikers and we’re lucky to have them.

Gone with the wind

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A muscular six-foot-three and weighing well over 200 pounds in his wetsuit, Stefan Benko is not easily swept off his feet. That is unless he’s afloat on a carbon-fibre board and attached at the waist by a harness and 100 feet of nylon lines to a polyester kite.

Just add wind and waves for lift-off!

“It’s just me and the elements,” says Stefan. “The beauty of being on the water is a fantastic feeling, especially here on the Sunshine Coast. I have been out in 35-40 knots, incredible winds, swells so big you get in a lower spot, you don’t see land, you’re in a bowl, and then on top you take off because the wave propels you up.”

Tacking up and down the coastline on a stormy day, kiteboarders can generate speeds in excess of 40 kilometres an hour, leaping 30 to 40 feet above the waves. Not surprisingly, there’s a learning curve to be navigated.

Attention to detail and painstaking preparation are essential for a safe and enjoyable kiteboarding experience, says Stefan Benko, pictured both in his element and prior to departure.

A south-southeast wind is gusting 15 knots on the sunny day we meet at Davis Bay. Stefan is part of a close-knit but welcoming community of kiteboarders who can often be spotted on windy days, plying the ocean waves from Langdale to West Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast, northwest of Vancouver, Canada.

Many are self-employed like Stefan, connected to each other by the messaging service, WhatsApp, and highly motivated to hit the beach when conditions are right: Davis Bay in a south-southeasterly; Bonniebrook or Wakefield in a north-northwesterly; Shoal Channel between Langdale and Granthams Landing when summer thermals are blowing; or off the mouth of Roberts Creek when a southerly wind blows over the pier.

“We are all connected to weather apps and weather change usually means wind,” says Stefan. “Sometimes though unexpectedly the wind just pops up in the morning. You have two hours and then it dies. If the wind dies, the kite doesn’t fly and I have to swim back. It can be a long swim!”

A fickle wind is just one of several potential hazards of which kiteboarders must be aware. Stefan’s preparations begin in his van where he sorts through equipment based on conditions. A harness, bar and board, boots, wetsuit, impact vest, lifejacket and a helmet if it’s particularly rough are foremost on his mental checklist.

Then there’s the choice of kite. Like boards, kites vary in material and size based on your weight, level of discipline and wind speed. Strong winds mean smaller kites – about seven square metres. Lighter winds mean bigger kites with more surface area to generate better pull.

Today, Stefan is excited to use his new, 12-square-metre foil kite, which unlike inflatable kites, generates more power and operates well in lighter winds. “It’s the Rolls Royce of kites,” he tells me as we head down to the beach. “It just wants to go up, up, up. I love it!”

At the water’s edge and now in his wetsuit and harness, Stefan unpacks his gear – all of which weighs little more than a few pounds. Connected in a bridle, the nylon lines look like a bird’s nest at first. Stefan painstakingly makes sure that lines are straight and not crossed.

Rocks and barnacles are never too far from the sand of Davis Bay and a sudden gust of wind could potentially drag and damage the kite or cross the lines. That could spell calamity if equipment malfunctions half a mile offshore. Wind can also up-end a kiteboarder before they’ve even made it into the ocean.

Stefan recalls the first time he saw kiteboarding. “It was 1997 and I was in Maui, Ho’okipa Beach, and windsurfing was at its height. On the beach is this guy. He has a surfboard in one hand and two handles and a kite in the air. He is being dragged down the beach by the wind, there was so much force.”

Stefan rushed to assist. “I held him, we walked to the edge of the water and he put his feet in the suit-board straps and off he goes. Soon he’s flying, jumping, up and down. And I go, ‘what the heck is that?’”

Stefan had helped Marcus ‘Flash’ Austin, a pioneer of the sport, later to become its world champion for many years. “I used to windsurf, snowboard, wakeboard, anything to do with boards. When I saw kiteboarding, I thought ‘this is the sport, I want to get into.’ I used to paraglide. It’s the same idea of flying and hanging off the strings and controlling the wind and the kite and being able to lift. It was a perfect combination for me to get into it.”

With his lines straight and his final check over, Stefan is almost ready to launch. He’s keen to emphasize to anyone considering the sport, take lessons. Kiteboarders the world over always help each other, he says, but starting off with proper instruction is essential. (Several schools run out of Squamish.)  

“There are so many things that can go wrong in a split second,” he says. “A sudden gust can shatter your confidence; it can rip the kite out of your hands or you’re being dragged by the kite, out of control, face first, hurting yourself, or someone else. Learn how to fly a kite and get the sense of balance, counter-balance, the pull and learn what not to do with a kite. If it flies out of control, there’s no way back.”

Mastering the art though can reap rich rewards and not just speed and big air. “A few years ago, here I was kiteboarding feet away from a pod of orcas. Last Fall, I was in the mouth of Wilson Creek and a salmon jumps and hits me in the thigh. Really!”

“Are there any conditions you’d refuse to go out in?” I ask. After a brief pause, Stefan answers: “No wind.” We laugh and with that, he edges into the waves, the slack in the nylon lines soon stiffening as the kite extends overhead.

Seconds later, he’s skimming the whitecaps heading west, before tacking into the wind and returning towards the mouth of Chapman Creek. Reclining at a 45-degree angle, edging into the waves and gaining speed, Stefan finally takes flight, and is suspended in mid-air. Seven seconds later, he descends.

I’m almost certain he’s smiling.

Written by nevjudd

February 22, 2022 at 7:41 pm

Cold comfort

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Cold-water plunges too good to limit to New Year’s Day

It’s a raw, rainy November afternoon when I join Sherryl, Donna, Maggie, Tara and Meaghan at Porpoise Bay. Some dog-walkers are around but it’s safe to say, we’re the only people wearing bathing suits.

At the water’s edge, Donna Shugar confides: “My husband Ken thinks he should be here; just in case I don’t return.”

“How come he’s not doing this?” I ask.

“He’s from California,” Donna replies. “He says he hasn’t been warm since he moved to Canada.”

It’s true, cold-water exposure is not for everyone. There’s nothing inviting about today’s leaden skies and grey ocean. But seconds later, in fading light, we’re in, submerged, swimming, floating and talking. I stifle the urge to pant.

Donna Shugar, Maggie Guzzi, Sherryl Latimer, Meaghan O’Brien Spithoff and Tara Swann are undeterred by the cold rain falling at Porpoise Bay.

“There’s always a shock but I don’t really think about it anymore, I just do it,” says Sherryl Latimer. “I do a deep-breathing exercise for the first 30 seconds and then I am submerged, and it feels great.”

Like most of the others, Sherryl is a cold-water convert. She organized today’s swim and hopes it will become a regular event for like-minded enthusiasts. Sherryl invited Tara Swann and Meaghan O’Brien Spithoff, who swim with a group that meets multiple times a week at Henderson Beach in Roberts Creek.

For reasons as varied as the growing number of people who practice it, cold-water immersion is no longer just for New Year’s Day.

Meaghan is inspired by the contrasts between “the powerful ocean and the vulnerable human that enters it”.

“It’s breathtaking,” she says. “It feels like an internal strength develops inside you the more you swim and yet the ocean soothes you at the same time.”

Her friend Tara craves the connections made in the ocean – and not just human connections.

“I felt a little like I cheated the social isolation in the last year,” says Tara. “We come alone and meet up together. We’re distanced. Anyone is welcome and it quenches a social need while you compete only with yourself.

“Every day the water’s different, the sky is different, your body feels different. I dip my head like a daily baptism. It’s like how I imagine church to feel for others – replenishing.”

“Rejuvenating” is how Sherryl describes it. “After swimming in the cold, it feels like you’ve had a massage inside and outside your body. I have underlying heart and lung issues, and I live with depression. This just makes me feel so good. It lifts my mood and spirit. During Covid, I found the periods of depression came more often and for longer. When I swim more, the depression spells lessen.”

Sherryl keeps a detailed log of all her swims, recording weather conditions, tides and time spent in the water. Her attempts to form a weekly group are now making headway and she draws inspiration from a group in Powell River.

“I went up last spring and swam with them. It’s mostly women and 10 or 12 who swim every day. Right away you feel a camaraderie because it’s a special kind of person who does this. Now with the few women who have joined at Porpoise Bay, you have this thing in common, it’s out of the ordinary and there’s a sense of adventure.

“The overall benefit is of feeling wonderful afterwards and sharing that feeling with others.”

Storms, wind, rain and snow are no deterrent to the women, who are not about to let the weather come between them and their cold-water fix.

Tammie Lumsden and George Vourtsis relish a rare sunny Fall swim at Georgia Beach in Gibsons.

The stormier the better for George Vourtsis, who started a group pre-pandemic as an extension of the Gibsons-based boxing club. The group meets Sunday mornings off Franklin Road.

“Storms! That’s the best time to come out,” says George. “When it’s nasty and the wind’s blowing and the swells are up and you know you’re going in, you get a rush – it’s a good feeling.”

Another regular, Tammie Lumsden, can vouch for George’s enthusiasm. “One Sunday was super stormy, and I was standing at the edge, saying ‘I just can’t do this, there’s just no way’. And George said, ‘yes you can, you can do it’. I just got in and it was totally fine.”

Ironically, it’s a cold, calm, crystal-clear Sunday when I join the group. (Two humpback whales even make an appearance!) More than one person remarks that the weather’s actually too good. Most of the group remain immersed for at least two minutes, although one or two prefer to quickly run in and out.

When I ask why swim, I hear familiar feel-good responses of camaraderie, connection and health benefits, including better circulation, stronger immune systems and improved mental health. That word “rejuvenating” comes up again.

Simplicity also strikes a chord for Tammie.

“It’s free! You live on the Coast! I grew up next to water my whole life. Why wouldn’t you?”

Almost all the people I speak to are familiar with Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete and so-called Ice Man, who has popularized specialized breathing techniques and cold therapy in books and videos. Less known to us now is Vincenz Priessnitz, who extolled the virtues of hydrotherapy more than 150 years ago. Hippocrates, considered the founder of medicine, was prescribing cold water as a curative circa 400 BC.

Science would seem to validate some of those shared but subjective feelings of exhilaration. A 2000 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology (“Human physiological responses to immersion in cold water of different temperatures”) found that the increase in dopamine from cold water exposure is comparable to levels recorded after taking cocaine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that in sufficiently high levels can lead to feelings of bliss, euphoria, greater motivation and concentration. The dopamine release triggered by cold water, unlike cocaine, is sustained, continuing to rise for up to three hours, long after exiting the water.

New year’s day swimming in Roberts Creek. It’s always a little faster getting out that going in.

I’m beginning to understand why a free, legal, non-addictive, long-lasting high might be so appealing!

For all its potent stimulus though, swimming here at this time of year is not to be undertaken lightly for first-timers. Sherryl heeded her doctor’s advice of “take it slow and listen to your body” before becoming a full cold-water convert. “It’s at your own risk, learn about what you’re getting into and have someone spot for you if you’re swimming by yourself,” she adds.

I’d add that neoprene booties and gloves are pretty skookum, too!

For now, Sherryl is hopeful more people will join the group, which currently meets at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park one to two times a week. (Search “Sechelt Cold Water Swimmers” to find the group on Facebook.)

“Perhaps we’ll be doing this every day,” she says.

Written by nevjudd

February 5, 2022 at 1:30 pm

Slow train to Winnipeg

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There is no fast train to Winnipeg. VIA Rail’s meandering service from Vancouver to Winnipeg fits a country that’s meant to be savoured. Yes, you could fly in under three hours, but if you’re looking for a more immersive experience and can spare three days, take the train. It’s not meant to be fast.

Leah and I checked in at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver on a sunny, Friday morning in late July. The forest fires that shrouded most of western Canada were still two weeks away and clear skies beckoned. Friends had been surprised to learn of a rail connection. Almost as surprised as by our destination. True, Winnipeg’s not the first place you think of for a summer holiday, but we live on the Sunshine Coast. A break from tourists would be good for the soul.

Our noon departure left 15 minutes late, but few passengers seemed to notice. Most people were busy exploring their new home for the next two nights; four nights for Toronto-bound passengers.

Private sleeping quarters in Prestige class come with your own concierge.

A large American tour party, each traveller wearing a name badge, patrolled the corridors for the first hour, marvelling at the cleverly concealed shower closets, the premium-class cabins and the viewing cars. With 72 hours ahead of us, we decided to pace ourselves, watching East Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster pass us by before venturing from our seats.

VIA Rail trains come in three classes and various carriage designations. The best views are to be had in the Skyline cars with their scenic dome sections, and the Panorama car, which features windows to the ceiling. The Park car in the caboose is an elegant throwback to bygone lounge luxury and is limited to the train’s Prestige passengers at certain times of the day.

Prestige is the priciest of VIA’s three travelling classes, offering private sleeping quarters and a personal concierge. We travelled in Sleeper Plus, which saw our seats being transformed by a carriage attendant at night into comfy bunk beds shrouded behind a thick curtain. (The attendant reverses the process in the morning while you’re at breakfast.) For Economy Class, picture your seat becoming a La-Z-Boy with pillow and blanket. All meals are included in the price for Prestige and Sleeper Plus.

An excellent three-course lunch, including a sautéed prawn and scallop salad, set the tone for our meals ahead. Duck, rack of lamb, and beef wellington were among the hot, fresh dinners somehow served from a tiny kitchen, which also offered vegetarian options for every dining course. Canadian wines and craft beer choices from Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, were a nice surprise too. We soon got to know our Winnipeg-based crew, who were proud of their hometown and quick with recommendations.

Seats by day transform into bunk beds by night in Sleeper Plus.

Meal times presented a chance to meet fellow passengers – mostly American visitors, including one woman from San Francisco who had been suffering Trump-induced anxiety attacks. “Two days with no news has done me the world of good,” she confided.

There were other little surprises along the way. Complimentary mimosas went down well on Saturday morning while stuck for an hour outside of Jasper. Informal wine tasting with one of the crew in the dome car eased us through the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border. Lounge car patrons were entertained by a classical guitarist in an afternoon performance.

The real star of the show though was the view, otherwise known as Canada. First criss-crossing the Fraser River and then the Thompson, the train follows a route largely uncharted by the highway. At dinner on Friday night, heads swivelled to see a series of attractions appearing on or by the Thompson: a solitary eagle, a herd of elk, an abandoned church and a forgotten Chevy truck, circa 1960, all punctuated the dry beige canvas of thirsty cottonwoods and parched underbrush.

Dinner-time distractions as we skirt the Thompson River near Kamloops, BC.

Sun set to be replaced by a full, blood moon. It cast its spell on us as we settled into our bunks and watched it rise, glowing red and irresistible over Kamloops Lake. I fell asleep realizing that after almost 12 hours on the train, I had yet to crack a book or suggest a game of Yahtzee with Leah.

VIA Rail’s not quiet. There were times during the night that I thought a crash was imminent, such was the screeching on the rails. “You’ve got all day to nap,” I told myself as I opened the blind to see daybreak in the Rockies. Our attendant told us we’d made good time overnight, getting up to 80 kilometres an hour, which might have explained the noise.

After a night on the train it was good to stretch our legs in Jasper on the Discovery Trail.

The American tour party alighted at Jasper where the remaining passengers had a couple of hours to explore. In minutes we were walking Jasper’s Discovery Trail, heading towards Old Fort Point. At the first viewpoint overlooking the city, a menacing gang of Bighorn Sheep blocked our path. We hesitated for 10 minutes, taking photos from a distance. The sheep looked less menacing when a jogger breezed right by them.

Bighorn Sheep – not so menacing in hindsight.

It took all day to reach Edmonton. Numerous stops for freight traffic, (which have priority) including a two-hour standstill, put us in at 7 p.m., a few hours behind schedule. We disembarked to skip rope a while on the platform (three solid meals a day and a sedentary lifestyle take their toll) and take photos of the City of Champions in the distance. By 8 a.m. the next morning after a better night’s sleep, we’d caught up an hour or two and were in Saskatoon for another 20-minute stroll on the platform.

Our final day of gazing out of the window introduced us to place names that seemed to herald a story: Punnichy, Ituna, Spy Hill and Atwater – population 30. Potash mines are the only hills on the Prairies, looming on the horizon occasionally like elongated pyramids. The old, wooden grain silos, so iconic to this region, seemed harder to find. Kelliher, Saskatchewan produced a nice one though.

Our last stop before Winnipeg was Melville, Sask., home of the Melville Millionaires junior hockey team and named after Grand Trunk Railway president, Charles Melville Hays, who died on the Titanic. We rolled into Winnipeg at 8.40 p.m., 90 minutes late but still warm and sunny outside.

We never did play Yahtzee!

 

 

 

 

Get up, stand up!

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With ocean and an abundance of lakes and tidal rapids, stand-up paddleboarders are spoiled for choice on the Sunshine Coast. Photo by Alpha Adventures

One evening last year, Jamie Mani was driving home late after coaching at Chatelech Secondary, where he teaches. Awed by the beautiful sunset at Davis Bay, he instinctively pulled over to inflate his stand-up paddleboard. A few minutes later, he was plying the calm ocean with just the setting sun and a rising full moon for company: alone, or so he thought.

“This whale appears,” recalls Mani. “So, it was just me, a whale, the sunset and a full moon!”

Whether on an inflatable or a hard version, a stand-up paddleboard, or SUP as it’s commonly known, offers a variety of escapes depending on your location. On the Sunshine Coast that could mean a peaceful, flatwater glide on Trout Lake; a touring adventure up Sechelt inlet on boards equipped with dry-bags full of gear under deck-line bungees; or an ocean jaunt to Keats Island or Pasley Island off Gibsons. For experienced SUP boarders, there’s world-class surfing at the Skookumchuk near Egmont.

“We’re so lucky on the Sunshine Coast, we have access to so many styles and bodies of water – coves, lakes, inlets, open strait, wave, no-wave,” says Mani. “And on any given day, if you’re willing to travel, you’re probably going to find calm water.”

Even old people can standup paddleboard! Hitomi Makino photo

Mani runs the Wilson Creek-based outdoor adventure store, Alpha Adventures, and was among the first group of instructors to be certified to teach SUP by Paddle Canada. He introduced SUP to the Sunshine Coast through Alpha shortly after trying it while on vacation in Hawaii.

“It was early to mid 2000s and in Hawaii, SUP was already taking off. I rented a board and loved the experience. Having been a kayak guide for decades, I do love paddling. But paddle-boarding is a completely different interaction with the water. I could go surfing on it. But I could also just look down at a reef, see turtles, see fish, check out the sunset. There the visibility is so good, it was almost like I was snorkelling, but standing up.”

An avid old-school surfer, Mani quickly realized another SUP advantage.

“I’d always liked surfing so when I saw those other surfers on SUPs, I thought: ‘It looks so easy because they’re out of the water, and they are able to catch waves, and they are always back out in the lineup way faster than any of us.

“That was kind of my second epiphany; this is amazing and I’m getting older, so this is easier, so it was a natural. Whether or not it was going to work for the business, we knew it was going to be part of our lives. We were hooked.”

During the mid-2000s, as the boards began to appear in adventure stores like Alpha, many viewed SUP as a craze, sure to be short-lived.

“One of our customers, who’s actually a teaching colleague, said to me: ‘Is this going to be the Crocs of watersports?’ I can almost remember the day he came in seven years later, and he said: “I was wrong. I’d like to know more about buying a board.

“We’ve always had a strong instructional component in our business, our foundation is on teaching and lessons. We really worked hard at getting people out on the water and realizing, we don’t live in a high surf area, so you can paddle in flat water conditions, sheltered coves, lots of lakes, calm days in open water like Davis Bay.

Alpha Adventures rents and sells boards, runs lessons, and hosts Summer SUP nights. Alpha Adventures photo

“It took a little while for people to realize, I can find a use for this where I live here on the Sunshine Coast.”

Board designs have changed a lot from the 12-foot behemoths that launched the sport. For surfing, SUPs are becoming shorter with more rocker (a more dramatic curve in the board upward from nose to tail) allowing quicker turns. Hybrid SUPs are good for calm, sunset paddles or small waves at the beach. Boards are increasingly tailored to weight and body size, says Mani, with children a growing demographic. There are even highly stable SUPs for anglers!

For the extra-adventurous, there’s foil boarding, which incorporates a hydrofoil beneath the board to elevate it and create the experience of levitating across the waves. “It’s just jazzy, you’re flying!” says Mani, who is bringing a foil board to the store.

What hasn’t changed about SUP is the benefit of instruction and the need for safety.

“I see people out paddleboarding, and there’s no personal flotation device (PFD) on their vessel or on their body. They don’t have a leash, and they’re definitely not prepared to fall in the water.”

Alpha’s SUP lessons spend about 20 minutes on land discussing the board, stance, style, and safety.

“The lesson philosophy is that it’s a whole paddling experience. It’s not just ‘hey, this is a board, here’s how to paddle.’ We look at safety considerations, the weather, immersion gear.”

That way, everyone is prepared, says Mani. Perhaps for a whale, even!

Alpha Adventures photo

Going downhill. Fast!

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“Tobogganing, which has sprung into such sudden popularity, is only a form of coasting. There is no more exciting and exhilarating sport for ladies and gentlemen than this on a clear, cold winter evening.”

  • Modern Manners and Social Forms: A Manual of the Manners and Customs of the Best Modern Society, James Bethuel Smiley, 1890

On the eastern slopes of Dakota Ridge, Emma Judd prepares for takeoff!

 

Even down at sea level and despite its name, the Sunshine Coast is no stranger to snow. Anyone who has grown up here can attest to cold snaps and snow days. Despite claiming to be 29, my mum-in-law Mary Vandeberg recalls the winter of 1954 vividly.

“We spent a lot time tobogganing down Davis Bay hill that winter,” says Mary. “We had spotters, but there really wasn’t much traffic to speak of in those days. And if there was, it wasn’t getting up that hill.”

Trouble with a capital T, Mary Vandeberg with her sister Gail somewhere on a road near Davis Bay, circa 1954.

For Mary’s daughter, my wife Leah, tobogganing the road down from Chatelech Secondary, was the ultimate way to celebrate a snow day.

Even in the snowiest winters of recent years, it’s difficult to image tobogganing Highway 101 from Selma Park down to Davis Bay, as Mary describes. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other popular places to slide.

Located 14-km up the forest service road at the end of Field Road in Wilson Creek, Dakota Ridge is one of the few, if not the only sanctioned sliding area on the Sunshine Coast. Created in 2013, the sliding area has become a popular addition to the winter recreation venue, accounting for 30 percent of total traffic, according to the Sunshine Coast Regional District.

Especially popular with young families, the groomed hill is right behind a Quonset warming hut, which is equipped with a wood stove and picnic tables. If you’re craving some off-piste thrills, there’s a long, gentle clearing off Balsam Loop on Dakota Ridge’s eastern slope that’s perfect for building bumps and jumps.

We have liftoff! Ariana Harder takes to the skies above Dakota Ridge.

Local Cavin Crawford, who’s helped plow access roads to Dakota Ridge and the Tetrahedron for years, recommends a 200-metre slope at the eight-kilometre mark of the forestry road, near the turnoff for Dakota Bowl.

“You can drive up around the corner, let the kids out and drive down and pick them up,” says Cavin. “But please, do not toboggan on the road.”

Winter tires and chains are essential, if you’re planning to drive to Dakota Ridge; or catch the scheduled shuttle with Wilson Creek-based Alpha Adventures.

Closer to sea level, school fields are popular with the younger crowd. “The slope behind Gibsons elementary is good for younger kids and pretty good for building jumps,” says 12-year-old Kaishan Nonacowie. There’s also a gentle slope behind Elphinstone Secondary.

Flume Beach Park at the junction of Flume Road and Beach Avenue in Roberts Creek might be the closest you’ll get to sledding on the shoreline. It was a favourite spot when my kids were growing up and offers the added advantage of a scenic picnic area, plus the option of building a beach fire to warm up by.

In their element, Ariana Harder and Emma Judd on Dakota Ridge.

A poll of friends and family on Facebook elicited numerous favourite spots and a theme quickly developed: roads seem to be where it’s at. Some short, some steep, and most dead-ends. (My son suggested School Road in Gibsons, which might have been feasible in 1917-18, but not 2017-18.) While there’s room for discretion on secluded roads in particularly heavy snowfalls, as a rule, cars and toboggans don’t mix, especially for emergency services, highway maintenance contractors, and stranded residents.

Back in the 1970s, it was a different story, according to life-long Coast resident, Warren Hansen.

“My favourite hill was Benner Road, in Selma Park,” recalls Warren. “Back then, there was no such things as immediate plowing. People had to park on the highway in Selma Park and walk up to their homes. For at least a couple of days, kids could slide down Benner Road, or the top of Snodgrass and Chartwell, or the top of Radcliffe Road. Every kid from miles around would converge on this location.

“I remember a bunch of us piled on a toboggan racing other toboggans down the hill. We knew that once we passed a certain driveway it was time to bail otherwise we would blow the corner and get hurt. And most kids did get hurt from getting run into, going into the ditch, or bailing off the sled sliding at breakneck speeds.”

Mary Vandeberg and her sister Gail in the snowy Sunshine Coast winter of 1954.

Hansen acknowledges those days are over, but has mixed feelings.

“The plows, climate change and over-sensitive parents ruined the great sliding opportunities on Benner Road, which hasn’t been the same since those days. Then again, it could be because I grew up and know now that I would never let my kids slide on Benner Road.”

Wherever you end up sliding this winter, keep a few precautions in mind. BC Children’s Hospital recommends that young ones wear a ski, hockey, or bike helmet for tobogganing. Make sure your kids know how to control their speed and stop properly. Choose a slope away from roads and free from obstacles, such as rocks, trees, and fences. Never ride on a sled that is being pulled by anything motorized.

Bundle up, stay safe, and enjoy the snow!

 

The one that didn’t get away

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Ryan Judd consoles himself with the thought that it’s a dry cold, as he patiently waits for a bite.

Brad Knowles doesn’t care much for bananas. Not when he’s fishing, at least.

“Did you bring bananas?” he asks from the driver’s seat.

I check with my son Ryan, sitting across from me in the back of Brad’s truck. No, we didn’t bring bananas. We check our packed lunch. No bananas, although the hot chocolate seems to have spilled.

Bananas will jinx fishing every time,” says Brad, who double checks that his assistant guide, Matt, has not brought bananas. Matt, a bass fisherman from Mississauga – where he’s known to some as “The Bassassassin” – knows better than to bring bananas.

We’re on our way to Blackwater Lake, about an hour out of Whistler, east of Pemberton. From mid-November to late-March, give or take, the 6.5-kilometre lake near D’Arcy is ice fishing country.

6.5-kilometre Blackwater Lake, about an hour out of Whistler, east of Pemberton.

At this time of year, Brad’s company, Pemberton Fish Finder, runs ice fishing tours. “It’s for people who want to escape the Whistler bubble and experience the lakes, wildlife, catch some fish and listen to some stories,” says Brad.

Brad has lots of stories. He grew up in Pemberton and is something of a local celebrity, starring in his own fishing show on Whistler Cable for a while. Together with running a fishing store, Pemberton Fish Finder keeps him busy year round.

My only adult fishing story involves a crab trap and a capsized canoe. I had always assumed ice fishing would involve a flight to Prince George or Edmonton.

Brad Knowles, owner-operator of Pemberton Fish Finder.

Blackwater Lake is idyllic. Serrated peaks loom all around us and under blue sky, the ice is blinding. The air temperature is just below freezing, there’s no wind, and the sun is flirting with the clouds. But for a creek in the distance, the only thing I can hear is my heart beating.

“Australians lose their marbles when they see this,” says Brad. “They ask me, ‘You’re sure we can stand on this?’ I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m 300 pounds, you can stand on this.’”

Brad sets about cutting holes in the ice with a gas-powered auger. He and Matt set us up with rods and we bait the hooks with freshwater shrimp, which are native to the lake. Everyone gets an upturned bright orange bucket and a thermal pad to sit on.

And that’s it, we’re ice fishing.

We immediately get bites. Brad and Matt coach us on setting the hook, otherwise known as the hook-set – a quick upward thrust of the rod before reeling in. One by one though, we lose the bites and rue our bad luck.

“Well there’s a reason it’s called fishing and not catching,” says Brad.

After about an hour, Brad carves out new holes and we spread out. Under his guidance, I switch bait from shrimp to trout roe. Ryan and Matt are several hundred yards away but the air is so still, it’s easy to talk without raising our voices.

A lone whisky jack keeps us company, occasionally stealing a shrimp from the bait bucket, and otherwise mocking us.

A lone whisky jack steals bait and taunts us.

Brad’s been fishing in this region for about 35 years, chasing all five salmon species, plus pike minnows, steelhead, cutthroat, bull, brook, lake and rainbow trout. Together with his dad, Ivan, and his brother, Sheridan, Brad has carved out a living here and now employs his wife in the guiding business while raising three kids.

“There’s not a day I don’t wake up and look at the mountains, excited to go to work,” he says. I can see why. Fish or no fish, Blackwater Lake is quite an office. There’s a small forestry campground nearby with a dozen sites and in summer, lily pads and extensive weed beds flourish here. And somewhere beneath our boots and buckets today are rainbow trout ranging from 10 to 25 inches and weighing as much as six pounds.

Just as I’m beginning to think the shrimp bait looks tasty we decide that it’s lunchtime.

Brad carves pairs of holes a few inches apart and sets up a shelter in seconds. We’re not cold but from inside the shelter the water appears even clearer through holes that take on a luminous quality. “Sometimes you can see the fish before you catch them,” says Brad. For now, we watch our bait descend beyond sight and remain ever hopeful.

No bites but the sandwiches help.

As 2 o’clock nears, Brad suggests we concentrate on a shaded corner of the lake. We exit the shelter and set up one last time, trying to ignore the creeping cold. I start to wonder whether one of us is actually carrying a concealed banana. Then I think back to growing up in the UK. As a schoolboy, I used to accompany friends on night-fishing trips in the Kent countryside. In two years of those fishing trips, I never caught anything but a cider hangover. It occurs to me that not only have I never caught a fish, I’ve never actually seen anyone else catch a fish.

Perhaps I’m cursed?

One rainbow trout, about 10 inches long and just in time for dinner!

I decide not to share this thought with Ryan, and instead concentrate on the hole, which I realize is freezing before my very eyes. Then I’m shaken from my thoughts.

“YEAH!” shouts Brad. I turn just in time to see the rod bend for a moment and a plump rainbow trout flop into Brad’s palm. “No way we were going before we got one,” says Brad as we celebrate the catch. It’s closer to the 10-inch end of the scale and a beautiful looking fish.

Hopeful of more to come we continue fishing for another half an hour, but to no avail. “That’s fishing,” says Brad philosophically as he drops us back in Whistler. Ryan and I both warm up while a friend cooks our catch. It’s more than worth the wait: fresh, flavorful and not even a hint of banana.

nevjudd.com

If you go

For more information about guided ice fishing trips with Pemberton Fish Finder, visit pembertonfishfinder.com.

Do not bring bananas.

Trail and tribulation in Powell River

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Make it to the top of Tin Hat Mountain and you will be rewarded with 360-degree views of more than two-dozen lakes. Plus you’re half way to finishing the trail! Photos courtesy Eagle Walz

Connecting Sarah Point, near Lund, to the ferry terminal at Saltery Bay, the 180-kilometre Sunshine Coast Trail now ranks among the greatest hiking trails in the world, according to Explore Magazine’s Top-50 list. Not only is it more than twice the length of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, it’s Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail, and it’s free!

The trail’s mix of old growth forest, mountain peaks and sandy shoreline, attract thousands of visitors from around the world each year. Fifteen beautifully constructed huts en route provide overnight accommodation on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“It’s beginning to be seen as an economic driver in Powell River,” says Eagle Walz. “It’s the biggest recreational tourism resource we have.”

Walz is a trailblazer, one of a handful of outdoor enthusiasts who in 1992 realized that accessible old growth on the Upper Sunshine Coast was fast disappearing. They formed the Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society (PRPAWS), a non-profit committed to setting aside protected areas on a trail sufficiently unique to lure locals and tourists alike.

Eagle Walz in his element, hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail. Walz is a co-founder of the Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society, the non-profit behind the trail’s creation and upkeep.

PRPAWS mobilized volunteer work parties and began connecting the bushwhacked paths, deactivated roads, and disused railway grades left behind by a century of logging. In some places that meant constructing bridges – some 120 feet long – to ford creeks and rivers. They found enduring allies in a group of bloody old men, otherwise known as the BOMB (Bloody Old Men’s Brigade) squad. Comprising mostly retirees, many of whom practiced their trades at Powell River’s paper mill, the BOMB squad helped build bridges and huts, and are still counted upon for help in the trail’s never-ending maintenance.

The first time I interviewed Eagle for a story back in 2000, he was fending off criticism from a variety of sources over liability issues and the environmental concerns about sensitive wildlife areas. Walz and his cohorts had run into a host of jurisdictional challenges, too. Crown forest land, private land owned by logging companies, and Tla’amin Nation land are among the eight jurisdictions through which the trail crosses.

Seventeen years ago, he addressed those questions with a question of his own: “Would the trail have been built if we’d settled all these issues first?”

When I caught up with Eagle earlier this year, that question at least, appeared to have been answered. “You couldn’t start this trail now and try and make this happen,” says Eagle. “But that doesn’t mean the logging companies won’t stop logging. Western Forest Products, with their tree farm licence, they are the biggest interest. We manage to work together and eke out considerations. I only wish it would be a bigger buffer along the trail than we get most of the time.”

That buffer can be from 10 to 30 metres, sometimes more. Occasionally, the trail must be relocated in places. Overall, says Eagle, compromise and varying levels of protection ensure the trail’s viability.

“Our vision is that in 100 years, we’ll have no more logging near the trail,” he says. “It will be designated an old growth trail to be enjoyed by future generations. It needs someone to be the champion for it. We’re hopeful the younger generation will take over and certainly a lot of younger people are using it. People of all ages.”

Perhaps more challenging to PRPAWS is pressure on the trail from non-hikers.

“Mountain biking is very popular here, as it is everywhere else. The pressure is always to turn something into something else. But a multi-use trail wouldn’t have the same appeal as a single-use trail. We’re struggling to remain a hiking trail only because that’s what’s given us the edge in the market place. That’s what is bringing people by the thousands from all over the world to Powell River.”

In the meantime, trail maintenance keeps Eagle busier than ever. Ten years retired as a teacher, Eagle says he has time to enjoy the trail, but it’s usually when he’s part of a work party. The day I call him, he’s about to leave on just such a mission – a five-night trip to Confederation Lake, a steep section of the trail in Inland Lake Park, north of Powell River.

Eagle Walz takes in the view from the hut atop Tin Hat Mountain.

It’s a favourite spot, he says, before adding: “I think usually where I’m working, I like that part the best.” Eagle’s other cherished locations include Tin Hat Mountain with its 360-degree views of more than two-dozen lakes; and Mount Troubridge, popular for its magnificent stands of Douglas fir and yellow-cedar old growth.

When Eagle’s not on the trail, he’s writing about it – though not in the way he might have envisaged in 1972, when he moved to Powell River to write poetry: “I write hundreds and hundreds of emails,” he says in a deadpan voice. “That’s basically the extent of my writing.”

  • Visit http://sunshinecoast-trail.com/ for everything you need to know about planning a trip, including the definitive guide to the trail, written by – who else? – Eagle Walz.

Sip and cycle in Osoyoos

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Silver Sage Pearle is a port-style wine made from blackcurrant and blackberry. The tasting notes tell me it’s good with cheese cake, vanilla ice cream, or mixed with vodka, or with champagne.

There are a couple of other things it’s good with, according to Silver Sage sales manager, Elena Dudlettes. “It’s good with a Cuban cigar,” she says. “Or just with a Cuban. Carlos, Ramon, Enrique … take your pick!” she adds with a wink.

“Your team loses in the last minute and you need a drink,” she says, introducing the next wine for us to taste. “There’s nothing wrong with a glass of this with bacon and eggs for breakfast,” she says of the Silver Sage Gewürztraminer. “Hey, you don’t do bad things, you have nothing to talk about,” she says about … I can’t recall what that was about.

Elena had me at hello.

Dark blue and ripening fast, these grapes soon became Merlot at Hester Creek, the first winery on a tour of the Golden Mile Bench near Osoyoos.

Dark blue and ripening fast, these grapes soon became Merlot at Hester Creek, the first winery on a tour of the Golden Mile Bench near Osoyoos.

Silver Sage is the last of seven wineries on a Sip and Cycle Tour through Okanagan wine country last October. Several hours earlier, five of us had set off with Richard Cooper, owner of Heatstroke Cycle and Sport. Cooper was born and raised in Osoyoos and operates Heatstroke from the Watermark Beach Resort on Osoyoos Lake.

I’d been expecting pedal bikes. After over-indulging in goat cheese lamb meatballs, pan-seared scallops and flank steak in the Watermark’s tapas bar the night before, I’d been hoping for pedal bikes. If I was to visit seven wineries, I reasoned that I’d have to earn every sip. The sight of bright orange Pedego electric bikes leaves me mildly disappointed.

Until I try one.

In seconds, I speed up Hester Creek’s driveway just by easing back on the throttle, mounted on the handlebars. I coast back to the bottom and do it again for fun.

Hester Creek, the first stop on the Golden Mile Bench – three verdant terraces and a series of alluvial fans on the slopes of Mount Kobau between Osoyoos and Oliver.

Hester Creek, the first stop on the Golden Mile Bench – three verdant terraces and a series of alluvial fans on the slopes of Mount Kobau between Osoyoos and Oliver.

“I told you it was like riding a bike,” says Cooper, who’s used to guests falling in love with his bikes. “There’s no way we could keep to our schedule on ordinary bikes. And let’s be honest, who wants to pedal uphill on a wine-tasting tour?”

He’s got a point.

Hester Creek is our first stop on the Golden Mile Bench – three verdant terraces and a series of alluvial fans on the slopes of Mount Kobau between Osoyoos and Oliver. As well as an opportunity to taste a multitude of great wines, the Sip and Cycle Tour is a lesson in geography, chemistry and history, key ingredients in the area’s wine production.

Luke Whittall greets us Hester Creek and first pours a taste of the Character White, which includes a blend of the Okanagan’s only Trebbiano. The award-winning Trebbiano is made from some of the oldest vines on Hester’s Mediterranean-style estate, but sadly, it has “Elvised,” says Whittall. “Left the building, sold out,” he adds by way of explanation. Like the Okanagan Valley itself, the Golden Mile terroir and its blend of gravel, silt, clay and sand, was formed as glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago, says Whittall.

Just above the valley floor, the Golden Mile is better protected from severe frost. In fact, knowing that a single degree Celsius can make a huge difference to wine quality, vineyards use wind machines to blow away cold air.

Only on a wine-tasting tour can you really appreciate what a 48-volt, 10-amp electric engine can do. The Pedego is one sweet ride!

Only on a wine-tasting tour can you really appreciate what a 48-volt, 10-amp electric engine can do. The Pedego is one sweet ride!

“We’re left with amazing soil composition around different creeks,” says Whittall, who gives us a 101 class in how local geology can affect grapes and the wines they produce. Whittall has worked in most aspects of the wine industry, from crushing grapes under foot (“the Stairmaster from hell!”) to the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance), the regulatory body guaranteeing quality and authenticity of origins for Canadian wines.

We try Hester’s Reserve Merlot, Late Harvest Pinot Blanc (similar to an ice wine, but not) and my favourite, The Judge – a hugely fruity red that smells of pepper and caramel, and makes me want to order a steak immediately.

Next-door to Hester Creek at Gehringer Brothers, Bob Park gives us several of the vineyard’s 22 wines to taste and a pocket history of the region. “Walter and Gordon Gehringer bought the property in 1981 when there were only four estate wineries in B.C.,” says Park. “They were taking a bit of a gamble. Back then, the few wineries were protected from foreign competition and made cheap wine for local markets.

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“NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1991] changed that. Knowing they couldn’t compete with California wine producers, the government paid B.C. wine producers to rip up their inferior hybrid vines and replace them with premium European grapes and promote a shift to higher value wines.”

Today there are more than 200 wineries in B.C. and 60 varieties. “Last summer, wine was the number one best seller, according to the Liquor Distribution Board,” points out Park. “It used to trail behind beer and spirits.”

I thank Park for the history lesson and buy a bottle of Gehringer’s Auxerrois. We’re back on the bikes and waving at passing motorists who look bewildered at how easily we speed along the Okanagan Highway. Just down the highway at Inniskillin, Audrey Silbernagel leads us directly to the main event – Inniskillin’s Tempranillo Icewine. The sweetness seems to last forever and at under 10 percent alcohol, I’m not about to leave anything at the bottom of the glass. It might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever tasted. On impulse, I tell Silbernagel I’d like a bottle and hesitate only for a moment when I discover it’s a $100. (My budget blown, I passed on the $35 Riedel icewine glass.)

Bruce Fuller, the larger-than-life owner of Rustico Farm and Cellars.

Bruce Fuller, the larger-than-life owner of Rustico Farm and Cellars.

Tastes of Mamma Mia Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato, Syrah, Quattro and Maximus follow at Cassini Cellars, poured by owner Adrian Cassini himself. “How involved are you in the daily business?” one of our group asks Cassini.

“Today is Sunday and I’m here,” says Cassini with a tired smile. “So are my wife and daughter.” Cassini used to run fitness clubs in Vancouver. “Then I had a mid-life crisis and decided to build a vineyard,” he says.

Someone else obviously putting his heart soul into the business is Bruce Fuller, the larger-than-life owner of Rustico Farm and Cellars. Fuller’s in cowboy gear when he greets us and he stays in cowboy character as he tells jokes almost as quickly as he pours Rustico wines into whiskey tumblers. Fuller’s tribute to the Okanagan’s mining and ranching history is behind names like Bonanza Zinfandel, Mother Lode Merlot and Isabella’s Poke, a Pinot Gris with a saucy story.

At Black Hills Estate Winery, a dedicated 'wine evangelist' pours a bottle of 2011 Nota Bene, a Bordeaux-style red wine.

At Black Hills Estate Winery, a dedicated ‘wine evangelist’ pours a bottle of 2011 Nota Bene, a Bordeaux-style red wine.

We turn off the Okanagan Highway and throttle up to the Black Hills Estate Winery. With its manicured lawns, swimming pool, cabana and sleek tasting room, Black Hills is the antithesis of Rustico. A ‘Wine Evangelist’ already has a table set with numerous glasses ready for tasting. Lunch is served and we taste our way through several vintages, including a Carmenere, unique in that Black Hills is the only winery in Canada producing this varietal on its own. I forget the budget I’d broken three wineries ago and buy a bottle of Black Hills Chardonnay. At Silver Sage Winery, I’m powerless to resist the smooth-talking Elena and buy a bottle of Sage Grand Reserve because Elena says it complements turkey and Thanksgiving is only a week away. (For the record, Elena was right.)

Coasting along Black Sage Road, with seven wineries behind us and pedaling just for show, I truly appreciate what a 48-volt, 10-amp electric engine can do. At $2,400, the Pedego is a sweet ride. Looking back, I’m just relieved I didn’t try and buy the bike as well.

If you go:

The Sip and Cycle Tour plus one-night’s stay at The Watermark Beach Resort is $169. Call 1 855 270-76991 855 270-7699 or visit watermarkcycling.ca and heatstrokecycle.com for more details.

 

Breaking bad never felt so good

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It’s not easy admitting your bad habits, but Sean Parrinder wants to know.

Sean is my personal trainer and confidante for the day at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. He bears a passing resemblance to Justin Timberlake and I like that he doesn’t appear to be judging me.

“My body’s a temple,” I want to say. “A temple subjected to repeated bouts of vandalism at the hands of microbrewers and artisan bakeries.”

Instead I tell Sean: “Every year it’s the same. January rolls around and I follow my wife to the gym with extra pounds and good intentions. Trouble is I just meander from machine to machine, avoiding eye contact and wondering what the levers and pulleys do.”

Sean nods. “And then what do you do?”

“I walk the treadmill until it’s time to go.”

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Sean applies his kinesiology degree and love of sport to helping kids and adults achieve fitness goals. At this time of year, his services are in demand as part of the Fairmont’s Breaking Bad Habits Whistler Getaway, a new year’s kickstart for that age-old resolution of getting fit.

Among other treats, the package includes an ‘energizer breakfast’ of strawberry and banana smoothie with dates, bee pollen, honey and orange juice, along with a toasted bagel with cream cheese. And there’s a Detox Body Wrap at the Vida Spa. But now is the hard part.

We’re in the discovery process of Sean asking me about my fitness goals and the habits I aim to break. I tell him that I need process, not procrastination; method, not mediocrity. Sean understands. He tells me to leave cardio till last and begin with tougher compound exercises, designed to work out multiple major muscle groups. We’ll focus on a lower range of repetitions – from five to eight – but increase the weight each time. Finally, we’ll monitor our rest periods and focus on breathing.

I warm up on the rowing machine and try to ignore Matt Damon staring at me from the cover of Men’s Fitness. We move on to the seated leg press – a machine I actually know how to use. You just sit down with your knees to your chest and straighten your legs by pushing away a weighted plate. The most I’ve ever pressed is 140 pounds, yet Sean starts me on eight reps of 180, eventually rising to eight at 200.

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During the course of an hour, through lunges, squats, back extensions, and bar curls, Sean pushes me harder than I ever would have ever pushed myself. True, there are times when I want to punch him, but we high-five as I complete my final exercise; three sets of dips – gripping parallel bars, lowering my body so my arms are at 90 degrees before pushing my body up again. I learn which of my muscles are benefitted by each machine and feel better prepared for my next visit to the gym. But my excitement at completing the circuit is tinged with embarrassment. I realize I’ve been a bit of a wuss until now.

Ninety minutes later I’m acutely aware of the muscles I’ve worked. They’re aching, but I couldn’t be in a better place. Vida Spa claims to restore energy and promote well-being via a range of therapies, facials, wraps and exfoliations. The Breaking Bad Habits package includes an hour of the latter. As I’m rubbed down with course sea salt I can’t help thinking of an old soccer coach who used to recommend a meat pie and a pint as the best post-exercise routine.

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After a quick shower I’m back on the massage table for a full-body application of shea butter and a scalp massage. My body has almost forgotten this morning’s workout. I feel like a basted turkey. Blissed out, I’m reluctant to leave the table but I’m instructed to take another quick shower. I return for a classic massage. Face down and somewhere near nirvana, I realize my body almost does feel like a temple!

I cap my afternoon’s decadence in the Fairmont’s Health Club, alternating between the sauna, steam room, hot tub and pools. I ponder how jealous my wife will be when I tell her about the shea butter, the scalp massage …

Sean spots me and recommends that I take a cold shower after each session in the sauna and steam room. “Always finish cool,” he says.

I decide to tell my wife about the cold showers.

  • The Fairmont’s Breaking Bad Habits Whistler Getaway costs $569 per person and is available all year. It includes two nights’ accommodation, a Morning Energizer breakfast, a two-course Lifestyle Cuisine dinner, a 60-minute Detox Body Wrap at Vida Spa, Fairmont fit gear, and the choice of one of the following Fairmont Chateau Whistler Health Club activities: Aquafit, yoga, personal training session, resistance stretching or a one-hour personal running session per adult. Visit www.fairmont.com/whistler/ and click on ‘special packages’ or call 1 800 606 82441 800 606 8244.

Written by nevjudd

March 31, 2014 at 8:45 pm