How do you spend your Winter? Do you look forward to the cool temps, snowy beauty and short days or do you prefer to hibernate inside with a blanket and a mug of cocoa until the sun decides to shine it’s warm rays down upon us once again?
Here in the PNW the winters can be long and wet, and it can have a real impact on your mood if you’re not finding ways to get out and enjoy some fresh air despite the slightly unforgiving conditions. This year I challenge you to get out and enjoy the winter weather! Life is all about your mental outlook, and if you can overcome the desire to be warm and cozy inside, you can have some very rewarding adventures that only the winter can provide. I want to take some time to tell you about one of my own recent winter adventures and offer some tips to help you maximize whatever cold weather outing you decide to make your own!
For Christmas this year my boyfriend and I decided to forego presents to each other and plan a weekend ski trip instead. Initially I wanted to really splurge and book us a nice hotel in Whistler Village, but after a little research and realizing how much it would actually cost for a hotel room, lift tickets and expensive food I decided to get off the beaten path a little bit and head further north to Pemberton for a quieter weekend ski touring out Duffey Lake Road.
We headed up on a Friday after work. Luckily we have the advantage of being a short thirty minute drive from the Canadian border, and we timed it right to get across the border with ease. On the way north our first stop was in Squamish where we had dinner at The Shady Tree. I am always amazed at Canadian hospitality, the waiter there was very attentive despite it being a busy Friday night and we got our delicious food quickly. I had a chicken burger with salad, the ingredients were fresh and the vinaigrette was impeccable. Squamish is about an hour out of Pemberton and my excitement increased as I watched the snow pile up higher and higher the further north we headed. It was nice to get through the hustle and bustle of traffic surrounding Whistler and enter a quiet, snowy paradise on the road up to Pemberton.
We stayed at Pemberton Valley Lodge - WOW! I highly recommend. I have a feeling this will be a go-to getaway for us during both winter and summer. The service was fast, friendly and the lodge was beautiful and conveniently located. It’s a suite style lodge so every room was equipped with a fully stocked kitchenette which was unique and extremely useful. The gas fireplace and live plants they included gave the room a homey, cozy vibe. Having worked as a housekeeper I’m particularly picky about the types of rooms I stay in, and I couldn’t find one complaint with the style or cleanliness of this room. There were mountain views out our window and an outdoor hot tub with a heated pool, I can’t say life gets much better than that. We were excited for a weekend full of skiing and exhausted from the drive so we went to sleep with the promise of a snowy adventure ahead.
We woke up Saturday to a warm mountain forecast with a snow/ rain mix. This wasn’t the worst news in the world as it gave us time to sleep in, recharge and drink coffee by the fireplace. I highly recommend bringing a yoga mat and foam roller (if you have one) on any ski trip for an easy yoga/stretch session to keep your muscles loose and ready for the workout ahead. I rolled out my mat on this slow morning and spent extra time foam rolling as my back had been extremely tight the days leading up to the trip. If you want to perform your best on any mountain adventure self care is very important. After stretching and enjoying an omelet for breakfast the temps were starting to drop so we made the quick 45 minute drive up Duffey Lake Road to check out the Joffre Shoulder!
The Joffre Shoulder is about a 2.5 mile tour up the shoulder of Joffre Peak. This is a particularly good tour to do when avalanche danger is high in the alpine as the slopes are fairly low angle near the top and most of the run is heavily treed, however we picked this route because it looked fun and was easily accessible in the time we had. The skin track (the route used to tour uphill with skins attached to skis) was a bit icy on the way up which made the multiple steep, tight kick turns on the bottom of the mountain a little difficult. Once we reached the second half of the climb the touring became much easier through spread out trees on a mellow slope. After we exited the heavily treed hillside and saw the meadow and pillow playground that awaited we knew all the hard work on the way up had been worth it! By this time a bit of a storm had rolled in so we hiked the remainder of the way in snow, and we ran into a few other groups just getting to the top of the shoulder as well. The meadow lived up to it’s dreamy presence, but the route we took through the trees was a bit of a beat down. It was dust on crust for the top half, and then we popped out on top of a large gully which meant a lot of traversing for the second half of the run. By the time my jelly legs got to the bottom I was ready for the hot tub. We chatted with a few other groups just getting down from their own pillow poppin’, leg burnin’ runs and then headed back to the hotel.
As we relaxed in the large outdoor hot tub gazing out upon the massive Mt. Currie we talked to a few other groups of skiers that had been to Whistler resort that day. Due to the holiday weekend they said it was extremely busy and conditions were windy. Hearing that reassured us that opting for ski touring rather than battling the resort crowd was a great choice. Getting out and hiking isn’t always the easiest way to get turns in but it’s definitely the most rewarding.
After our day hiking in the snow and soaking in the hot tub we were ravenous so we headed to The Pony for dinner. The food was amazing! The portions were perfect and the food was locally sourced and high quality. I had chicken breast with roasted beets (why don’t people cook with beets more often in the states?!) local morel mushrooms, peas, and fingerling potatoes. It was the perfect mix of protein and veggies to fuel me for our trek up the mountain on Sunday. There was virtually no line and the service was prompt and, in true Canada style, friendly!
Sunday was an early morning, we were up before dawn and excited about a bit of fresh snow that had fallen the night before and sun in the forecast! We got all of our things packed up and loaded into the truck and grabbed a coffee and Breakfast Cookie for the road. My favorite thing about the Breakfast Cookie is the convenience of having a nutrient dense, on-the-go breakfast that saves me plenty of time in the morning when I want to get going rather than cooking and doing dishes. We wanted to get an early start to take advantage of the fresh snow and to get back home across the border before it got too late.
It was a little cloudy and rainy while leaving Pemberton but luckily once we got to higher elevations the sun was shining and the snow was powdery. The tour was much easier today due to the fact that we were familiar with the route and were the first people on the skin track which meant less ice and more powder. We enjoyed the 360o views from the top of the shoulder and then began the exhilarating ski down the powdery pillowy meadow.
This time we decided on a different route through the trees and It. Was. Fantastic. Fresh snow and powder instead of dust on crust. The entire forest was scattered with pillows, drops, and little cliffs so it was a playground of a ride. We got to ride fall line the entire time instead of popping out on top of a gulley and spending time traversing. When we got to the bottom it was smiles all the way! The hike up and ski down had been much cleaner and smoother than the previous day and it felt wonderful to get to explore this little slice of heaven just a few hours over the Canadian border.
We were back in the truck and down to Squamish by mid-afternoon where we stopped again for some lunch at Howe Sound Brewing. We were able to fuel up after the long weekend and watch some of the exciting NFL playoffs as well. We got back to the border for one of the smoothest and quickest border crossings I’ve ever experienced. Pro Tip: if you go to Canada over a long weekend, come back one day early and no one will be at the border. We waited for one car and were on our way home.
A weekend winter getaway like this can be just the thing you need to refresh yourself from the daily grind and revitalize you to take on the weeks ahead. You don’t necessarily have to plan weeks in advance, pay tons of money and book a flight to get out, have fun and enjoy the crisp, cool winter air. Here are some tips to make the most of the winter season:
- Pick somewhere within a 1-4 hour drive that you haven’t explored but have been interested in checking out.
- Do research on different places to stay via Google, AirBnB or VRBO. Think outside the box if you’re tight on cash. Snow camping can be a fun adventure, or pick somewhere that you have friends to stay with. Decide what will work best for your needs. If you’ll be skiing, hiking or outside getting wet, keep in mind you’ll want a way to warm up and dry your gear after a long day adventuring.
- Do a little pre-planning to maximize your time! We bought a map of the Pemberton Backcountry to research before we decided where to ski. Lots of people do write-ups and blogs of their winter adventures which are super helpful if you’re ready to get after it somewhere you’ve never been.
- Bring things to make you comfy! As I mentioned, a yoga mat and/or foam roller are a great way to stretch and unwind after a taxing day on your body. Winter is cold so I also love to bring my down booties and various beanies to keep me toasty warm. Lots of layers and changes of clothes are a great call if you’ll be out in the weather multiple days in a row.
- Do some research on food options and pack nutritional food that will keep you fueled if you can’t get to a warm sit down meal. Breakfast Cookies are a great staple to throw in your suitcase or backpack to quell hunger cravings and give you energy in a pinch. Try to order simple meals when you're eating out. Fuel your body for the adventure ahead with protein and veggies instead of something like french fries that will weigh you down.
- Don’t be afraid to explore! It can be intimidating to step into unfamiliar territory, but the memories and growth are unbeatable. Don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone (within reason of course, I don’t want anybody getting hurt 😊).
- Make sure your vehicle is capable. If you’re going to be adventuring in the snow or mountains you want to make sure you have a reliable vehicle, preferably with 4 wheel drive. Pack chains, jumper cables, flashlights, tow ropes, blankets and snacks so you can feel ready for any unforeseen situations.
- Typical spring & summer activities like hiking, car camping and biking can be fun in the winter also. Just make sure you have the right gear and lots of layers.
And most importantly… Have Fun! Where will your winter adventures take you?
Customer Service Manager | Erin Baker's