Monthly Archives: January 2012

Drink of the Week: The Great Hall Classic

This week has been all about Jasper, so why not end the week with a warm apres ski cocktail from the Emerald Lounge at the Jasper Park Lodge? I gratefully sipped this drink next to a roaring fire after a morning ski at Marmot Basin and an afternoon snowshoe at Pyramid Lake. It helped thaw my toes and fill my cheeks with that rosy apres glow. Here’s to more winter family adventures followed by warm sips next to a fireplace!

This warm apres ski cocktail will bring a rosy glow to your cheeks.

The Great Hall Classic

1-1/2 oz Captain Morgan Spiced Rum

1 oz espresso (or really strong coffee)

Steamed milk

Sugar, to taste

Build drink in a coffee mug and top with steamed milk. Add sugar to taste.

— Recipe courtesy Emerald Lounge at the Jasper Park Lodge

Family-friendly Jasper wows in winter

It had been 10 years since I’d travelled up the Icefields Parkway for a trip to Jasper, a drive I’d sworn I’d never again do in winter. But it’s weird how raising children can make formerly daunting tasks look easy-peasy, so I bundled our ski gear, the kids and my husband into the car and we hit the open road.

The reason for our trip? We’d been invited to Jasper for the Jasper in January media weekend, an annual event that showcases the town and nearby Marmot Basin ski area to writers and broadcasters in the hopes we’ll have a great time and spread the word. The weekend is also always held in advance of Jasper in January, a two week promotion that features discounted rates on hotel accommodations and ski passes. It runs this year from Jan. 13-29.

We lucked out with the accommodation lottery and scored an amazing room at the Jasper Park Lodge, one of my very favourite Fairmont properties. The service there is so amazing, one call to the concierge before arrival ensured a toaster awaited us in our room, and it also secured babysitting for Saturday night (more on that later). Now all we needed was a good night’s sleep to prepare for all of Jasper’s great family adventures.

Here are my Top 5 things to do in Jasper with kids:

1. Ski at Marmot Basin (or if the kids are too little, put them in the Little Rascals Nursery). Avery loved skiing Paradise, going off jumps in the terrain park and beating me down the hill (it’s official: my six-year-old can ski faster than me). Meanwhile, Bennett was one of the only children in the nursery who didn’t cry (So. Very. Proud). (Maybe if they called it something other than a nursery fewer children would cry?)

Avery catches air in the terrain park.

2. Go snowshoeing at Pyramid Lake. If you can walk, you can snowshoe, the saying goes. Really, the hardest part is putting them on, and we had help from Paula Beauchamp of Walks & Talks Jasper. I wish I could say the powder flew in every direction as we floated across the lake while the theme from Chariots of Fire played, but in reality the wind whistled fiercely and our snowshoes scraped over ice and crusty snow. It was still fresh air and good exercise and the scenery is beautiful, especially Pyramid Mountain with its red bands of gog quartzite exposed to the elements.

If you can walk, you can snowshoe, and then you can snowshoe a dog.

3. Leave the kids in the hotel room at least one night. The Jasper Park Lodge arranged a baysitter for us for $15 a night (three hour minimum), which I thought was quite reasonable as the going rate in Calgary starts at $10. We hit the Jasper Brewing Company where I enjoyed a Honey Bear ale and we contemplated the unusual hanging portrait of Mark Messier goosing Gary Coleman (seriously, you can’t make this shit up). 

4. Be Canadian — go ice skating on a lake. We got Bennett out on ice skates for the very first time at Mildred Lake at the Jasper Park Lodge, where there are benches, a small learning area and a maintained skating oval that goes around the entire lake. By the end he was finally getting it a little bit! Pyramid Lake is another scenic place to skate near town.

Bennett ice skates for the first time!

5. Try toboganning, either at Whistler Mountain Hostel, one of the most popular tobogganing spots in the area, or beside Lac Beauvert at the Jasper Park Lodge (sleds can be rented from the main lodge).

While it’s true you can do all of these things in Banff, or at other ski resorts, Jasper’s appeal is its remoteness and the calming effect the small, quaint townsite has on outsiders. Plus, the fact you drove through freshly-cleared avalanches on a snow-packed road that had been closed for two days, spotting glaciers the entire journey, adds another layer of magic to the destination. Being trapped in a small SUV for five hours with children also makes you crave the fresh air that awaits. Enjoy!

Surviving a long car ride with little kids

A year ago I never would have believed my children would become long car drive champs — it was all we could do to journey the three hours to Fernie without a tantrum or constant whines of “Are we there yet?” But this past summer we took them all the way to Vancouver, stopping mid-way in Salmon Arm, with nary a sniffle. So when we were invited up to Jasper and Marmot Basin ski area in Jasper National Park for a Jasper in January ski weekend, I didn’t blink at the five-hour drive. The secret to our road trip success? A portable DVD player.

A portable DVD player: Don't leave home without it.

While technology is indispensable, I try not to rely on it as a crutch. Instead, I employ many of the same techniques suggested in this pre-Christmas story about getting through holiday family road trips. My tips include:

1. Pack non-messy snacks. Things like apple slices, granola bars and nuts are great. Refrain from bringing items such as apple sauce, but then forgetting a spoon (you can see how this scenario might end badly if your apple sauce-obsessed four-year-old spots the circular tub). Also, try and keep the eats out of their reach, or your kids will be forever pulling food out of the box and eating constantly during the duration of the drive. This could result in a lot of smelly gas.

2. Bring their favourite music CDs. As you listen to the chorus of The Wiggles’ “Hot Potato” yet again, you may curse this suggestion. But on the plus side, you’ll soon be able to sing along with Murray and the gang, and you won’t feel guilty because they’re listening to music while taking in the jagged peaks of the Canadian Rockies and simultaneously spotting moose, instead of rotting their tiny brains with repeat viewings of The Rescuers. I also like the idea of bringing story CDs, a tip from Direct Travel Insurance.

3. Make time for pit stops. While it’s tempting to make your six-year-old squeeze into one of her little brother’s pull-ups and power straight through from Calgary to Jasper, this strategy is ill-advised. There’s something about long periods of sitting confined in a small car with a steady supply of processed snacks (hence the gas) and Barney videos that makes children go a bit wiggy. Try and find a place to use the bathroom, where kids can run around. We spent 30 minutes at the Lake Louise visitor info centre, which is like a small museum complete with a stuffed wolf, bear and caribou; faux rocks to climb on; and a video of grizzly bears. Avery and Bennett spent most of their time running through the dark theatre shrieking, “A monster’s gonna get you!” Better there than in the car.

4. Pack a few surprises. It’s amazing what a new colouring book or stickers can bring you: five minutes of silence during which you can read your People magazine.

5. Don’t forget new media. With still an hour to go on the Icefields Parkway, it’s wonderful to be able to pull out the LeapPad and Leapster Explorer and know you’ll complete the family road trip safely (though I can’t vouch for your sanity). 

Next post: family adventures in Jasper.

Drink of the Week: Rum Punch

While it’s true that rum punch is the go-to cocktail in Barbados — it’s refreshing and served on ice — it also makes a mean sipper on cold winter evenings. The dark rum is belly warming and the nutmeg adds a winter spice we usually associate with warm drinks such as eggnog. As our friend declared on New Year’s Day (after I mixed up a pitcher), “I could drink 10 of these!”

This cocktail is so good, I bet you could drink 10!

When I was in Barbados in 2010 I must have tried at least 10 different rum punches. What I found is every establishment and Bajan has their own variation on ingredients and exact ratio. In fact, in two stories I wrote for up! magazine, I included two different recipes, one from John Moore Bar and one from Chesterfield Browne, the Mount Gay rum global ambassador. I have played around with my own recipe, however, which I will share with you now — hope you like it as much as I do!

Rum Punch a la Calgary

2 oz dark rum

1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

1 oz simple syrup*

Dash Angostura bitters (or 1 or 2 more, to taste)

Sprinkle nutmeg

Shake all ingredients with ice then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

*To make simple syrup, combine equal parts water and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate up to one month. 

 

Fernie fun for the whole family

We just got back from our annual New Year’s family ski trip to Fernie, B.C. The snow wasn’t great this year but that didn’t stop us from making some turns.

A quick rest before the epic cruiser Falling Star.
 
Avery has now been skiing for three years, so she’s good enough to ski with us on greens and most blue runs. We enrolled her in two half day lessons through the Fernie Alpine Resort Telus Learn to Ski Camp. During the lesson she worked on her turns, tucking for speed on cat-tracks, and skating to propel herself forward on flat spots.
 
 

Avery joined her friend Alex for a ski lesson.

 
During the lesson Blake and I hunted for powder stashes in Currie, Lizard and Cedar bowls. It was slim pickings but we enjoyed the child-free time and beautiful sunny Fernie day with mountain views in every direction. After Avery’s ski lesson we ate lunch at Big Bang Bagels in the Snow Creek Lodge and treated Avery to a hot chocolate. Poor Bennett. No skiing for him this trip. He played at the Fernie Resort Kids Daycare and enjoyed a “snow hike” with me one day.
 

A walk along the Elk River is a lovely way to spend a winter morning in Fernie, B.C.

 
We were so busy eating mountains of food with friends at our condo, there was no time to visit our fave Fernie restaurants, like Yamagoya sushi and The Curry Bowl. Next time. Also, the new Polar Peak chair isn’t up and running yet but should be by mid-January, just in time for a return ski trip!
 

Here I am in Currie Bowl, with the new Polar Peak chair behind me. It's scheduled to open Jan. 14th.