No Leaf Unturned: Drive 1


Stay tuned to the RCI blog for all four drives that show off the best views of Berkshires fall foliage.

Leaves are not the only autumn attraction in the Berkshires, of course. Hiking trails and highways follow routes first walked by Native Americans. Towns look, not coincidentally, as if they were the settings for paintings by Norman Rockwell . And travelers find sustenance at the tables of some of the most elegant country inns in America. Yet trumping all the man-made entertainments is the beauty of the landscape, a rolling terrain of wooded hills and valleys ablaze with vivid shades of yellow, orange, red and brown.

Regular visitors to the Berkshires, which are only a few hours’ drive from either Boston or New York City, will already have their favorite highways and backroads. But for first-timers we’ve mapped out four routes that show off many of the area’s natural attractions.

Drive 1; Distance 47 miles

Great Barrington — South Egremont — Bash Bish Falls — New York Rte. 22 North — West Stockbridge

Bash Bish Falls, in the extreme southwest corner of Massachusetts, is the state’s highest waterfall, and the walk to it is a leaf-carpeted stroll. But the real point of this loop is to witness the contrast between Berkshires past and present. A hundred years ago, much of the forest here was farmland, which regenerated itself as farmers either went to work in the nearby factories (now themselves abandoned) or moved to the Midwest, which has more easily tilled soil. You can see how sharp the contrast is during the drive north on Route 22, in New York State, through open farm country, the Berkshires visible just to the east.

Route: From Great Barrington, 4 mi. on Rte. 41 S to Mt. Washington Rd., on right, just past split with Rte. 23. Follow signs 10 mi. to trailhead at Bash Bish Falls. From Bash Bish Falls, Rte. 344 2 mi. west to Rte. 22 N, in Copake Falls, NY; 18 mi. to Rte. 102 E; 3 mi. on Rte. 102 E to Rte. 41 S; 10 mi. to Great Barrington.

 

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Berkshires Art and Soul


The hills of western Massachusetts are alive with music, cutting-edge art, theater and dance.

As you drive the winding roads through a dappled landscape of maple, red oak, beech and birch trees, past quintessential New England villages, you might not realize that this corner of western Massachusetts is home to more than 65 cultural institutions. Yet, tucked among the green hills are preeminent museums, galleries and theaters whose exhibitions and performances will satisfy any lover of the arts, serious or casual.

MUSIC AMONG THE TREES

The hills are literally alive with music at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Located between Stockbridge township and Lenox, the estate’s 500-plus acres of lawns and gardens provide a perfect backdrop for classical music, as well as occasional pop and jazz concerts. Most performances take place either at the Koussevitzky Music Shed, an open auditorium that seats 5,000, or at the 1,200-seat Seiji Ozawa Hall. The seats sell out quickly, so it’s best to reserve in advance. For a more spur-of-the-moment outing, bring folding chairs (you can rent some there, too) or just a blanket, and picnic on the lawn outside either hall—tickets are almost always available. The air smells of fresh-cut grass, and as the sun sets in the hills and the music swells, there’s nothing more magical.

ART ON THE EDGE

For something more contemporary and experimental, head up the road about 30 miles to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the country. Housed in the former Sprague Electric Co. plant in North Adams, the 13-acre MASS MoCA “campus” (as it’s called) includes enormous galleries with changing art exhibitions, a bookstore, shops and restaurants.MASS MoCA’s performing arts schedule includes music, theater, dance, film and cabaret.

Since MASS MoCA opened its doors in the late 1980s, Boston and New York artists have flocked to North Adams, setting up studios and lofts in nearby industrial buildings. Hudsons displays artworks along with antiques, Persian rugs and collectibles. A weekend gallery at the Eclipse Mill, a former textile mill that’s home to potters, painters, musicians and other artists, shows works by residents.

WILLIAMSTOWN TRIO

Williamstown, 5 miles west of North Adams, is always abuzz with creative activity. This small town near the border of Vermont and New York is home to Williams College, and has a world-class theater festival and two influential art institutions. The Williams College Museum of Art holds a collection of more than 13,000 works that span the history of art. Theater lovers shouldn’t miss the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which presents new plays and reinterprets the classics, as well as hosting late-night cabarets and other special programs and events.

CURTAIN UP

If you just can’t get enough live theater, you’ll find that the Berkshires are brimming with other superb performances. Shakespeare & Co. has been showcasing the Bard in Lenox for 33 seasons. In Stockbridge, ditch your car and walk to a show at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. One of the country’s oldest professional regional theaters, it offers a mix of revivals, classics and premieres. The Main Stage was originally designed as a casino by Stanford White in 1888; the Unicorn Theatre sits in the Mellon family’s former barn.

Close to the center of Stockbridge, stone pillars mark the entrance to the 36-acre estate of the Norman Rockwell Museum. A New Yorker by birth, the famed illustrator is most often associated with this corner of the Berkshires. It’s here that he spent his last 25 years, mining the local populace as models for his depictions of small-town American life. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Rockwell’s art, presented in changing exhibits that offer something new each visit.

JUST DANCE

Dance lovers flock to Becket for Jacob’s Pillow, America’s longest-running dance festival. There are ticketed shows and many more free performances available, plus talks, rehearsal observations, tours and events. During the free Inside/Out series, emerging dance companies perform on an outdoor stage, set among the trees. The performances, only 35 minutes each, are held Wednesday through Saturday at 6:15 p.m.—and all are welcome. In fact, that’s true of almost every event in the Berkshires. On July 4, Jacob’s Pillow offers a free day of performances, art and music. Experienced dancers can even join a master class (registration required).

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Dune & Bayside Bar


Bayside Bar
St. Lucia 
In 2012, the former Jalousie Plantation emerged from a multimillion-dollar facelift as the Viceroy chain’s swanky Sugar Beach. Much had changed, but the view of the Pitons from the resort’s Bayside Bar remained blissfully the same. Adirondack-style chairs occupy a deck shaded by almond trees on Anse des Pitons, the only white-sand beach on St. Lucia’s southwest side (full disclosure: the sand was imported to replace the black sand for aesthetics). Enjoy the view while you linger over the bar's Caribbean Sorrel cocktail (below) and make a toast to the good life, distilled.  
Val des Pitons, Soufrière; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com 

Dune
Paradise Island, Bahamas 
Ditch the crowds at the sprawling Atlantis resort for something classier. Dune, at the nearby One & Only Ocean Club, sits atop a dune beside Cabbage Beach, which is one of the nicest in Nassau. While the French-Asian menu is amazing (no surprise; the chef is Jean-Georges Vongerichten), you can feast almost as well on the view from your table on the deck. “The setting is so magnificent that everything else pales in comparison,” says Mark Jordan, a photographer from Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Take it in while sipping a Dune Cocktail—a riff on Nassau’s famous Sky Juice, made with gin, Cointreau, curaçao and coconut milk. 
1 Casino Dr., Paradise Island, Nassau; oneandonlyresorts.com

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Best Caribbean Dishes


Try these delicacies next time you’re in the islands

Bold spices, fresh seafood, rice and tropical fruits are common ingredients throughout this balmy region. Each country has its own particular specialties—often a fusion of French, African and Spanish culinary styles. Here are a few of the best Caribbean treats and national dishes to sample on your next trip.

BAHAMAS: Cracked conch

Conch (pronounced konk) is a Bahamian staple. This firm shellfish is prepared in a variety of ways, from raw sushi-style to fritters to rich chowder. But seek out cracked conch—the meat is scored, marinated in lime juice, dipped in beaten egg, rolled in flour seasoned with fresh thyme and pepper, and then fried till it’s golden. You can find this crispy delight at beachside stands as well as upscale restaurants in Nassau—it’s a dish that knows no boundaries.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Mofongo

This garlicky mixture is one of the most popular dishes in the D.R. Of African origin by way of Puerto Rico, mofongo sometimes includes crab and shrimp, but the main ingredients are mashed fried green plantains, chicharrón (fried pork rind) and bacon. Just don’t confuse mofongo with mondongo—a local stew—unless you’re in the mood to sample tripe (stomach lining).

GUADELOUPE: Pork Colombo

In the Caribbean, “Colombo” is often used to describe curried meat or seafood; the name comes from the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka. The curry powder, made of toasted cumin, cloves, fenugreek and mustard seeds, dates back to the Sri Lankans who were brought here in the 16th century to work the sugarcane plantations. Today, this tasty curry made from easily found ingredients—tender pork, zucchini, potatoes, green mango and garlic—is eaten all over Guadeloupe.

JAMAICA: Ackee and codfish

It seems most everyone loves jerk chicken, but there’s a lesser-known breakfast dish found here that many tourists never try. Ackee and codfish features Jamaica’s national fruit, a relative of the lychee. Boiled ackee fruit is combined with tomatoes and onions and served as a sauce over sautéed fresh cod. Light and nutritious, this dish is a great way to kick off a relaxing beach day or adventures in Montego Bay.

PUERTO RICO: Pernil and arroz con gandules

From the Cayman Islands to Trinidad, you’ll find the Caribbean standby of pigeon peas and rice. It’s especially good in Puerto Rico, where it’s seasoned with smoked ham and sofrito (an aromatic purée of cilantro, peppers, tomatoes and garlic) and paired with pernil (pork shoulder, roasted till it’s falling off the bone).

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Kiteboarding in the Dominican Republic


When you visit Cabarete Beach, you can’t miss the kiteboarders. You could join them … or not!

Kiteboarding could be described as an extreme water sport. Its disasters tend to be so spectacular—say, being yanked from the surf by a gust of wind and deposited on top of a thatch-roofed beach bar—that participants have coined a term: kitemares. But the potential for serious mishap hasn’t kept it from becoming a popular sport in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Steady winds that blow at a perfect angle to the beach make the place one of the best kiteboarding locations in the world. (The same conditions also suit kiteboarding’s slightly less adrenaline-laced cousin, windsurfing.) As a result, Cabarete’s beaches are often mobbed with people whose acrobatic athleticism can easily make you feel older than you already are.

THE SUNNY SIDE

But for you laid-back visitors, Cabarete has a secret. Even in the best months for kiteboarding and windsurfing—which means all months except May and October through December—those winds seldom kick in until early afternoon. Kiteboarders and windsurfers tend to be a party-late crowd, so when there’s no incentive to be on the water, they sleep in. That leaves morning beach time to a less athletic set.

MORNING ITINERARY

To get the most out of your ante meridiem time on the beach, step onto the sand near Kahuna, Onno’s or one of the many other bars along Cabarete Beach proper. In the morning light, the bedraggled scene in the bars will probably resemble those partiers from the previous evening. But someone will already be there on the beach, trying to rent you a lounge chair, sell you a souvenir hat or braid your hair. The beach is wide here, the sand white and the swimming good. But if you feel like getting some kinks out, walk west about 25 minutes, along Bozo Beach, where you may want to pause for a pickup volleyball game with some early players, and down to Kite Beach. By 10 a.m. the Kite Club Café can serve you the hearty Calin’s breakfast (scrambled eggs, fruit, yogurt, toast and salsa) or get you started on fish tacos.

NOW YOU TRY IT

Later in the day, the breezes will pick up and you can watch the kiteboarders dart like dragonflies across the sparkling water. If that isn’t enough excitement, try kiteboarding yourself. Two good places to learn are Kite Club Cabarete, right on Kite Beach (3-day beginner course, $535*; kiteclubcabarete.com), and Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding, about halfway down Bozo Beach (2-hour lesson, $132; laureleastman.com). Just remember, they’re called kitemares for a reason.

*Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.

 

 

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Wreck Bar & Grill and Iggies Beach Bar & Grill


Iggies Beach Bar & Grill
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Let the kids play beach volleyball or snorkel in the shallows while you kick back with cocktails at this classic spot at the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, an all-inclusive near the capital, Charlotte Amalie. Cruise passengers often throng the place during the day, but don’t let that keep you away. There’s live music and a local vibe every night, plus hammocks on the beach and VooDoo Juice (a rum concoction) served in buckets. Go on a Wednesday for Carnival Night: steel drums, West Indian food at the buffet, and fire-walkers performing on a stage in the sand.
7150 Bolongo; iggiesbeachbar.com 

Wreck Bar & Grill
Grand Cayman 
The favorite road trip on Grand Cayman must be the drive to Rum Point, a remote spit of beach across the sound from George Town. The name probably came from the rum barrels that washed ashore here during buccaneer times. Today Wreck Bar is the heart of the action, and the thing to drink is the Mudslide—a frozen blend of vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlúa. Sip one while you relax at a colorful picnic table on the sand, or get horizontal in a hammock slung under the casuarina trees. Sunday afternoons bring the biggest crowds, including a flotilla of party boats anchored offshore. 
Rum Point Dr.; rumpointclub.com

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Learning Your ABCs: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao


These three islands may be culturally related, but in the Lesser Antilles they couldn’t be more different.

You may not have even noticed, but the Dutch islands group formerly known as the Netherland Antilles is no more. These once included Saba, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius in the Leeward Islands, as well as three outcroppings just off the coast of Venezuela—Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, known as the ABC islands. Aruba went first, declaring independence in 1986. And as recently as 2011, the remaining islands made their decisions: whether to stay in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or secede and be independent. Curaçao and St. Maarten went their own way, while Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire stayed tied to the motherland.

Any time is a good time to check out the Lesser Antilles. The weather stays in the upper 80s most of the year, with trade winds providing welcome breezes. And each island offers something different, whether you’re in search of beaches, diving and snorkeling, or a little culture in a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A IS FOR AMAZING BEACHES

Aruba is known the world over for its sugary sand, and rightly so. The island is ringed with it. The resort area on the northwest shore has beautiful strands, but they’re often crowded. Just to the south lies Eagle Beach, a pristine stretch with far fewer people. For dinner, try Marina Pirata, a seafood restaurant near the south end, with tables out over the water. Beneath your feet, hundreds of fish swirl in the lights of the dock.

B IS FOR BEST DIVING

Aruba’s little sister, Bonaire, is just a puddle-jumper flight away, but you’ll feel as if you’ve entered another world—a much quieter one, with far fewer crowds. You might notice that the rental cars available at the airport are mostly small pickups, perfect for lugging scuba gear. Divers come from all over the world to explore the protected waters off Bonaire. An ideal spot is 1,000 Steps, a sliver of a beach just yards from amazing coral reefs that teem with fish. Afterwards, watch the sun set at Karel’s Beach Bar, a sweet little spot where Dutch expats and locals gather, on the main drag in the tiny capital, Kralendijk.

C IS FOR CULTURE

The cosmopolitan city of Willemstad, in Curaçao, is yet another world away. Here you can explore 17th-century cobblestone streets that wind up from the harbor in the Otrobanda neighborhood. The classic view of Willemstad is from Queen Emma, a pedestrian bridge that connects Otrobanda with Punda, across the harbor. Right by the water in Punda is the famous Handelskade, a waterfront row of shops that looks straight out of Holland, except for the cheery pastel hues. Speaking of cheery hues, Curaçao is famous for its blue (and green and orange) liqueur of the same name. Take a free tour of the factory where the spirits are crafted at Chobolobo Mansion. You’ll be surprised to find that the main ingredient is an unappetizing-looking brown-skinned citrus fruit. A bottle of Curaçao makes a great souvenir—a little bit of island color you can enjoy back home.

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Beautiful Puerto Rico!


Puerto Rico

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Bomba's Shack & Da Conch Shack


Bomba’s Shack
British Virgin Islands
The shack first appeared in the 1970s, assembled from driftwood, corrugated iron and other flotsam and jetsam. Bomba himself still hangs out with visitors, and his shack, on Tortola’s West End, still looks like “a crazy fort someone built on the beach,” says Julie Johnson of Enumclaw, WA. The décor is dominated by a steady stream of guest-donated underthings, and the full-moon parties are legendary. During the day, watch the surfers in Cappoons Bay while you nurse a rum punch.   
Cappoons Bay, West End, Tortola; 284-495-4148; no website

Da Conch Shack
Turks & Caicos 
The sound track at this shack on Blue Hills Beach is pop tunes set to a reggae beat with a backup of hammers hitting conch shells. The snail-like creatures are harvested just offshore and served here as salad, fritters, chowder and curry. Locals might try to talk you into eating a “conch worm,” which they swear is a fertility-booster (it’s actually the noodle-like spine; don’t believe it when they say it’s something else). The best way to get it down is with a Conch Knocker, a rum drink with a “secret ingredient.”  Blue Hills Rd., Providenciales; daconchshack.com

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Undiscovered Aruba


In a single day, you can sail a tall ship, pet a donkey and sip an eight-ingredient cocktail on this Caribbean island

Some of the most majestic islands in the Caribbean were summarily dismissed by European colonizers. Consider the Dutch trio of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The 16th-century Spanish conquistadors dubbed them Islas Inútiles, or “Useless Islands,” because they lacked gold or silver. But these days, Aruba happens to be an affordable gem for travelers.

A mere 15 miles off the coast of tropical Venezuela, Aruba isn’t your typical Caribbean island. It’s outside the hurricane belt, which means there’s a lower risk of storms. And while this arid island may not have lush vegetation, it makes up for that with soft sand beaches, cheap flights and all-inclusive discount deals.

BEACH GUIDE

The best beaches lie on the south and west coasts, where the water is great for swimming and snorkeling. Instead of touristy Palm Beach, head for tranquil, low-key Arashi Beach (to the north) or Eagle Beach (to the south). The water off the south end of the island at Baby Beach is shallow enough for wade-right-in snorkeling. And locals dig Rodger’s Beach in nearby San Nicolas—its reef-protected waters are relatively unknown to tourists. On the east coast is Dos Playas, where experienced surfers go to find the island’s “juiciest” waves. (In late afternoon, the winds are calmer and the swells rise 4 feet high.) For a taste of Aruba’s famous shipwreck diving, take a 5-hour trip aboard the 80-foot wooden sailboat Mi Dushi. You’ll cruise the coastline and stop to snorkel over shallow reefs and through the wreck of the MS Antilla, a German ship that sank off Arashi Reef during World War II.

GET OUT THERE

Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad, is a busy cruise port with glitzy casinos, colossal hotels and upscale malls. (The island is excellent for shoppers: Price tags can run 30% lower than in the United States and the sales tax is a mere 1.5%.) But you don’t want to be stuck indoors the whole time, buying slightly more affordable Louis Vuitton and Gucci. The island’s petite size—just 20 miles long and 6 miles wide—makes it perfect for day trips. Pay a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba, 5 miles east of Oranjestad, to feed and play with rescued donkeys; not native to Aruba, donkeys were originally brought here as part of the island’s 500-year-old transportation system. Or stop by the Aloe Museum & Factory for some after-burn care and education. If you drive up north, you’ll see rugged rock formations and graceful, windswept divi-divi trees. And in the center of the island, you can climb 541-foot Mt. Hooiberg and see Venezuela on a clear day. Aruba even holds an international film festival every June, with events scheduled all around the island.

EAT LIKE A LOCAL

For an authentic taste of the island, leave the resort area and head south to San Nicolas and Charlie’s Bar, one of Aruba’s oldest institutions. The walls are hung with random posters, license plates and fishing gear; the signature drink is the Aruba Ariba cocktail, a delicious mix of vodka, rum, Grand Marnier, crème de banana and coecoei (a local agave liqueur), plus pineapple, cranberry and orange juice. If you’re staying for dinner, order mahi mahi, shrimp scampi or steak. Or head to nearby Savaneta, where you can sit with your feet in the sand at Old Man and the Sea. There’s more beachfront dining at Flying Fishbone. Feast on skewered shrimp or grilled Caribbean lobster tail while you watch the sun set over the water.

 

 

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Pelican Bar & Mr. X's Shiggidy Shack


Mr. X’s Shiggidy Shack
St. Kitts 
Just say the name a few times. Are you shaking your groove thing already? Settle in at a picnic table on the sand for killer barbecued ribs and grilled Caribbean lobster. Then go inside to dance and watch the fire dancers shimmy under flaming limbo poles. On Thursday nights and at the full moon, a giant bonfire roars on the beach until late. “It truly is a shack,” says Robert Cole of Menomonee Falls, WI, “but the food is great and the drinks are reasonable.” After a glass or two of the bar’s signature drink, the potent Shiggidy Jig, you might start feeling a little shiggidy yourself. Frigate Bay;mrxshiggidyshack.com 

Pelican Bar
Jamaica 
There’s no chance you’ll stumble upon this bar-on-stilts, since it’s nearly a mile off Jamaica’s south coast. Boat owners in Black River and Treasure Beach offer 20-minute rides to the bar, essentially a jumble of driftwood with a nearby sandbar where pelicans congregate. A stereo run by a solar-powered car battery cranks out reggae; dreadlocked islanders play dominoes; and tourists snorkel (the water’s only a few feet deep at low tide) and chill on the rickety boardwalk with Red Stripes or Appleton rum drinks. Call 876-354-4218 to reserve a lobster for lunch, and bring cash: As you might expect, credit cards aren’t accepted.  
Calabash Bay, Treasure Beach; jakeshotel.com

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Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill and Rick's Cafe


Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill
Aruba 
It’s a pleasant stroll along the sand from the high-rise hotels on Palm Beach to this thatched-roof bar on a pier where no shoes and no shirt hardly mean no service. During the day, vacationers—mostly from the United States, Holland and Canada—arrive in swim trunks and bikinis, salty and sunburned, to relish the shade and the views with a cold Balashi beer. The 5–6 p.m. happy hour is when the party really kicks off; live music, free Latin dance lessons or karaoke, depending on the night. 
Palm Pier, 79 J.E. Irausquin Blvd.; bugaloe.com 

Rick’s Café
Negril, Jamaica 
This iconic beach bar opened on the cliffs in 1974 when Negril was little more than a fishing village with no electricity. Get there before sunset to watch the main event: Ripped-bodied divers hang from 35-foot-high platforms before spiraling from the cliffs and piercing the sea below with Greg Louganis–like finesse. If that doesn’t take your breath away, the molten sunsets will. Courageous tourists get in on the action, too, albeit from lower ledges. “After my brave jump, I watched the sunset and thought, This is what travel is all about,” recalls Erica James of Nashville. Planter’s Punch and Red Stripe are the go-to drinks, but if you’re feeling bold, try the Front End Lifter (aka Jamaican Viagra): a fortifying blend of stout beer, white rum, oatmeal, cream and an egg. 
West End Rd.; rickscafejamaica.com

 

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Wish you were here?


Aruba

Winter has arrived for many of us, but we wish we were here, how about you?

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Vancouver and Whistler


Best of Both Worlds in British Columbia

A hip city and a cool resort with world-class skiing make for a perfect getaway.

Vancouver waterfront

The Vancouver waterfront skyline.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

About 80 miles apart, Vancouver and Whistler are connected by the aptly named, and quite scenic, Sea-to-Sky Highway, a route that gets ambitious visitors from city to slope in less than 2 hours. It’s the best of both worlds—you can ski powder runs at the largest resort in North America by day and make it back in time for a farm-to-table dinner.

ENDLESS POWDER

When the Whistler and Blackcomb ski areas merged, in 1997, they formed a massive resort that gets more than 38 feet of snow a year and has 8,000 skiable acres, including 16 alpine bowls, more than 200 marked runs and 3 glaciers. The breathtaking views from the Peak-2-Peak gondola alone are worth the price of admission. Once you get out on the mountain, 37 lifts accommodate every level of skier, from beginner to black-diamond thrill seeker. Sequestered in British Columbia’s rugged Coast Mountains, the area is a haven for heli-skiers, too. Book a 3-to-6-run package through Whistler Heli-Skiing, which includes lunch in the backcountry at 7,500 feet.   

DON’T GO HUNGRY

Whistler has become quite the food town, thanks to several new outposts opened by notable Vancouver chefs. If you’re sticking around to dabble in the après-ski scene, sign up for a restaurant crawl with Whistler Tasting Tours, which leads junkets to the village’s more heralded spots as well as under-the-radar haunts.

If you’d rather get back to sea level, the Rocky Mountaineer train chugs along a picturesque route through Howe Sound and Cheakamus Canyon. Make your way to the historic Gastown neighborhood, which has become the ZIP code of choice for foodies. Grab a communal-table seat at the Alibi Room, across the railroad tracks near Vancouver Harbor, and order free-range chicken wings, locally sourced pork-belly sandwiches and a pint of one of the 50 beers on tap. Down the street, master barman Shaun Layton experiments with fresh fruits and vegetables at trendy L’Abattoir, housed in the city’s first jail. Try the avocado gimlet with rosemary-infused gin at the bar, then head to the exposed-brick dining room for chef Lee Cooper’s French-influenced dishes (barbecued octopus, pan-fried veal sweetbreads, wild mushroom fricassee with poached egg). For something easier on the wallet, Chinatown’s Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie has been a hit with locals since it opened. Those who brave the queue spilling out the front door are rewarded with a profusion of inventive Asian small plates. Don’t miss the prawn-and-chive dumplings and sticky-rice cakes.  

The Details

Whistler Blackcomb: 1.604.967.8950; whistlerblackcomb.com

Whistler Heli-Skiing: 1.888.435.4754; whistlerheliskiing.com

Whistler Tasting Tours: 1.604.902.8687; whistlertastingtours.com

Rocky Mountaineer: 1.877.460.3200; rockymountaineer.com

Alibi Room: 157 Alexander St.; 1.604.623.3383; alibi.ca

L’Abattoir: 217 Carrall St.; 1.604.568.1701; labattoir.ca

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie: 163 Keefer St.; 1.604.688.0876; bao-bei.ca

* Information is subject to change and RCI is not responsible for any inaccuracies or for updating any changes to information provided.

 

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“Mountain Lake”


Mountain Lake

“Mountain Lake” – Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Montana.

-Nancy S. from Las Vegas, Nevada

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Slope Smarts


The safety rules every winter sports enthusiast should know.

The good news is that more American skiers and snowboarders are wearing helmets than ever before (67 percent, according to the National Ski Areas Association – up 10% from just 3 years ago). The bad news? A helmet can’t save you from everything. Witness pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered severe brain trauma in late 2009 even while wearing the proper gear. Play it safe by following these measures recommended by Jonathan Finnoff, co-chair of the Sports Concussion Program at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic.

KEEP A CLEAR HEAD

“A lot of people start out at sea level, go on vacation at a high altitude and drink a bunch of beer at lunch,” cautions Finnoff. This can result in dehydration, disinhibition and slow reaction times.

STAY TUNED

Finnoff recommends having your bindings checked at a ski shop once a season. “If they’re too loose, they could pop off and hit someone or cause you to crash, and if they’re too tight, you might tear a knee ligament.”

EXERCISE CONTROL

Skiing or snowboarding out of control at high speeds often leads to multiple traumas, according to Finnoff. “Those are the people who get injured,” he says—even when they’re wearing a helmet.

LEARN THE CODE

The National Ski Areas Association’s 7-point “responsibility code” (nsaa.org) lists the important rules of the slopes, such as where (and where not) to stop, and who gets the right-of-way (everyone in front of you).

Helmet Stats

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Skiing Lake Tahoe


Two states, 15 ski areas and endless entertainment ring American’s favorite Alpine Lake.

In the 1950s, alpine skiing in America was a fringe, foreign sport and Squaw Valley an unknown rocky seam in the Sierras, high above Lake Tahoe. Then Squaw founder Alex Cushing implausibly launched—and even more implausibly won—a bid to host the 1960 Winter Olympics, a move he later admitted was little more than a marketing stunt for his fledgling ski area. Those Winter Games became the Sierras’ coming-out party, showing the world that America could more than rival the Alps. Skiers discovered that the saw-toothed range ringing Lake Tahoe ponies up more altitude than Innsbruck and way more snow than Chamonix.

BIG, BOLD SQUAW

Squaw Valley USA never looked back after those 1960 Olympics. It’s one of the nation’s leading ski areas, with 4,000 acres of steep bowls and granite knobs just 6 miles from Tahoe’s northwestern shore. Its precipitous runs have appeared in so many ski movies that the region has earned the nickname Squallywood.

But really, Squaw has everything. A network of more than 30 lifts leads to loads of sunny cruisers and intermediate tree skiing, too. You can glide to a mid-mountain ice rink at lunch, and at day’s end practically ski right into a steaming hot tub (if you happen to be a guest at the Resort at Squaw Creek). Then nab a table at the Six Peaks Grille, where chef Chad Shrewsbury uses molecular gastronomy techniques similar to those pioneered in Europe’s top kitchens. Luckily, you don’t need to understand his craft to enjoy it.

UNHERALDED ALPINE MEADOWS

Just 2 miles south of Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows sits in its big sister’s proverbial shadow, with fewer lift lines and plenty of elbow room. This is the locals’ favorite ski area, and it seems content to stay out of the spotlight: Its day lodge is utilitarian, and its biggest stars are the ski patrol dogs that are trained for avalanche rescue. They’ve become such popular icons that patrollers hand out baseball cards with canine stats: Bridger, a 62-pound golden retriever, “likes powder, practicing my search-and-rescue techniques and rolling in the snow.”

Alpine Meadows skis big, with short traverses leading to huge expanses of terrain that you didn’t even notice on the trail map. There’s also plenty of inbound terrain that’s accessible via short hikes along the ridge. “What’s really great about Alpine is that only about the middle third of it is lift-served,” says local Paul Ehreewil as he glides off the Summit chairlift. “Don’t be afraid to just get out and explore.”

NORTHSTAR PUTS ON THE RITZ

Tahoe never had the ultra-luxe lodging of, say, Aspen or Vail. But that all changed when Northstar-at-Tahoe opened the mid-mountain Ritz-Carlton Highlands. Nestled in a grove of ponderosa pines, the surprisingly unobtrusive hotel is patterned after grand mountain lodges like Yosemite’s Ahwahnee, with a soaring central “living room” that fuses beams, stone and natural light. Sunny patios are just steps from Northstar’s slopes, which offer everything from wide groomers to hard-charging bumps.

The Ritz-Carlton also includes a gondola to shuttle guests from the hotel to a recently built pedestrian village at Northstar’s base. The village is a perfect fit for this pleasantly mellow ski area: an idyllic family gathering spot with casual restaurants, shops and gas “bonfires” clustered around a skating rink.

THE SOUTH'S HEAVENLY VIEWS

Skiers and snowboarders line up like slalom poles along Heavenly’s California Trail to pose for snapshots. Perched 3,500 feet above the south shore, this run delivers the most glorious view: glittering blue Lake Tahoe, laid out in its entirety before you. Put simply, Heavenly Mountain Resort is huge. Its 4,800 acres of terrain stretch across Nevada and California and offer base areas in both states (when’s the last time you saw a “Welcome to California” sign tacked to a slope-side tree trunk?). Most folks seem content with Heavenly’s ample cruisers (meticulously groomed to wide-wale corduroy), which leaves areas like Milky Way Bowl—with its perfectly spaced pines and chalky snow days after a storm—blissfully empty even on a busy afternoon. Save some time in your ski day to check out the mid-mountain tubing park, one of the speediest and friendliest in the West.

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How to Rock the Rockies


Rockies

A wintery Lake Louise, in Banff National Park near Canmore.

The Canadian Rockies are such a majestic sight that even the most jaded traveler will turn into the one who takes photographs from the airplane. There are 5 national parks in this part of the Rockies, and the peaks are a must-see destination for outdoors enthusiasts.

CANMORE, ALBERTA

Just an hour’s drive from Calgary, Canmore is considered a commercial hub in these parts, with more than 70 restaurants and unique shops. One of these is the Ammonite Factory, which specializes in jewelry made of ammolite, also known as Alberta’s official gemstone. The unusual menu at Crazyweed restaurant includes Vietnamese meatballs, spicy Indian noodles, and Moroccan roast chicken. The Trough, an intimate spot downtown, serves rack of lamb and Alberta beef tenderloin. An equally tasty but more reasonably priced meal can be found at Mountain Mercato, a specialty food market with a café that dishes up soups, salads, and paninis.

All that food is fuel for the real star of the area—the skiing. Canmore underwent a much-needed rebirth to prepare for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Three top ski spots are nearby: Nakiska (the setting for the Olympic alpine events), Lake Louise and Mount Norquay—the only one with night skiing. Lake Louise and Norquay, both in Banff National Park, have recently added winter tube parks, where speed freaks can zip down the mountain on rubber tubes (then use the lift to go back up).

PANORAMA, British Columbia

Panorama, 2 hours southwest of Banff, has one of the largest vertical drops in North America (4,000 feet). Skiers and snowboarders fly down the slopes by day and night. Those who prefer lower-altitude activity should check out the Panorama Nordic Centre, at the base of the mountain. After exploring the miles of cross-country trails, skiers visit the Hale Hut, known for its hot chocolate.

For a proper drink, stop by Greys Restaurant at the Earl Grey Lodge, and stay for dishes such as rainbow trout and flank steak tacos as well as a lovely selection of wines (many Canadian). T Bar & Grill, in the Pine Inn, is the spot for slope-side casual dining.

FAIRMONT HOT SPRINGS, British Columbia

Fairmont Hot Springs has what may be one of the best locations an active person can ask for—it’s situated in the Columbia Valley, between the Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges and Columbia and Windermere Lakes. Those hot springs are found at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, where an outdoor pool, open year-round, is fed by mineral-rich waters. A dip in thermal waters is sure to soothe sore muscles after a day on the slopes. Panorama’s 14 trails all funnel to this resort, and your ski pass gets you into the pools for free.

Options for après-ski dining abound. The latest is From Scratch, which has become a favorite for its gourmet pizzas, pork ribs, and Thai curry. Hoodoo Lounge & Grill holds several all-you-can-eat nights (crab on Tuesday, ribs on Friday); accompany your meal with the locally brewed Arrowhead beer. For a more upscale experience complete with killer views of Mount Nelson, head 20 minutes north to Elements Grill at the Copper Point Resort, in Invermere. If the weather cooperates, you can dine outdoors on the patio or even enjoy a poolside cocktail.

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Photo Tips: Let it Snow


On a blustery day, don’t pack your camera away.

By Bob Krist

For most casual photographers, a drop in temperature is usually accompanied by a drop in motivation. But as my old city editor used to bark at us photographers hanging out in the newsroom during a snowstorm, “It’s a … winter wonderland out there! What are you doing in here?” He knew, of course, that cold weather can make for hot pictures. Here are some tips for shooting in winter.

DECENT EXPOSURE

In bright, snowy conditions, it can be a challenge to get the proper exposure. That’s because the camera meter is calibrated for subjects of average reflectance, so when it measures something that’s much brighter than average, like a snow covered field, it still thinks it’s an average scene and underexposes. As a result, your snow scenes may appear distinctly gray instead of white. To avoid that, you can override the meter by using the exposure-compensation button (usually indicated by a “+-” sign) to program a +1 compensation. This will help render the whites as white instead of gray.

To be sure you’re not overdoing it, check some of the images you’ve just shot: If portions of a picture are “blinking” in the playback, that means those areas are overexposed. Ease back on the exposure and check again to make sure the “blinkies” have disappeared. And once you’re indoors, don’t forget to reprogram your exposure compensation to its normal setting.

IT'S A BLIZZARD OUT THERE

Nothing adds drama to a landscape like shooting it through a snowstorm. To ensure good results, first protect your camera and lens from falling snowflakes. Many camera manufacturers make waterproof housings that let you use your digital point-and-shoot underwater. If you don’t have one of these, a Ziploc freezer bag will also offer good protection. Use a quart-size bag for a smaller camera, with a hole punched in the bottom to expose the lens. Then, put your hand through the open zipper to handle the camera and its controls.

Don’t worry if the sun isn’t out when you’re shooting your snow scenes. An overcast sky actually gives better results, because the soft light meshes well with your digital camera’s limited ability to record a wide range of tones (for example, white snow under bright sunlight).

GET THE BLUES

If you want to emphasize the shades of blue that appear in a snow scene in the late afternoon or at twilight, try setting your camera’s white balance to “tungsten,” normally used when shooting under warm, incandescent light bulbs. Most cameras—even simple point-and-shoots—offer you the option of customizing white balance instead of relying on “auto.” Because the scene is already a gray or blue tone, the tungsten white balance will further emphasize those twilight blues, giving you rich, moody color. Again, don’t forget to return your white balance to “auto” when you’re finished.

BACK INSIDE

After you’ve spent a few hours shooting outdoors in the cold, don’t let your camera fog up and become covered with harmful condensation once you return to the warm indoors. Just keep your camera sealed in the camera bag, a plastic bag or even your coat pocket until it heats up to room temperature. That way, the moisture will accumulate on the outside of the bag rather than on or inside the camera. And you’ll be ready to head out and capture that winter wonderland again at a moment’s notice.

 

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Hear Lingaraju’s hopes and dreams


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