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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

From ski to green

With the snow gone, mountain bikers, golfers and hikers are taking over the trails of Canada's winter resorts
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
DAWN WALTON

The snow has melted, but that doesn't mean Canadian ski resorts have shut down for a summer siesta. Across the country, carloads of extreme athletes, hikers, golfers and families are heading to resorts with their mountain bikes, clubs and backpacks. With interest soaring in cross-country and downhill mountain biking, this is the time of year when adrenaline junkies on wheels take over. But it's not all about extreme sports. Many ski resorts have transformed themselves into "four-season" destinations, having long offered golf, hiking, festivals and other events and activities. Here's what's going on at five Canadian resorts that are just as active in summer as when the snow flies:

Blue Mountain, Ont.
On July 1, this Intrawest resort about two hours north of Toronto will introduce open-air gondola cars on its Silver Bullet Lift, giving bikers and hikers access to 220 vertical metres and 10 kilometres of trails on the Niagara Escarpment. A day pass for the gondola costs $9 or $85 for the summer season. "Mountain biking is a brisk business here," says Paul Pinchbeck, director of marketing at Blue. "[It's] absolutely one of the most popular things to do in the area." Vacation packages for the resort's 15-year-old Monterra Golf course, which is open until Oct. 31, are available, and there is also entertainment in the resort village. The Ben & Jerry's "movies under the stars" series runs Friday nights in June and Wednesdays and Fridays in July and August. Artisans put their talents on display during "Artist Walk" weekends June 19-20, July 17-18 and Aug. 21-22.
For more information, call (705) 445-0231 or visit bluemountain.ca.

Fernie Alpine Resort, B.C.
About six years ago, Fernie's winter staff starting talking about staying in the southeastern B.C. town for the off-season. They just needed a reason. That's when resort-operator Resorts of the Canadian Rockies stepped in and started building an extensive mountain bike trail system. Like other hills, Fernie brought in an expert to handle the art of setting trails and building jumps for stunts on mountainsides. In advance of this summer's biking season, Fernie has undergone a major expansion, including the additions of more jumps, ramps and berms (banked corners), and now has lift access to 850 vertical metres and 32 trails. The trail system links to terrain in the valley below, giving riders about 112 kilometres of paths to traverse. Trail difficulty ranges from beginner to expert. Fernie offers clinics for varying skill levels, including camps specifically for women and children. On July 1, the lifts open for bikes and close Sept. 6. Full-day passes are $29 for adults, $27 for seniors, $14.50 for children and $72.50 for families.
For more information, visit http://www.skifernie.com or call 1-877-333-2339.

Lake Louise, Alta.
Federal regulations prevent a lot of development in national parks. As a result, Lake Louise focuses on environmental education in Banff during the summer. A 14-minute gondola ride to an elevation of 2,088 metres provides one of the best views in the Rockies, and the chance to catch a safe glimpse of wildlife. "It's one of the best opportunities to view a grizzly in Canada," says Matt Mosteller, senior director of business development at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which operates the resort. Nobody has an accurate count of grizzlies in the province, but there are thought to be three to seven grizzlies that pass through the Lake Louise area. The bears are particularly active during spring and early summer. The gondola runs from May 15 to Sept. 30. Prices are $21 for adults, $19 for students and seniors and $9.95 for children. For a few dollars more, visitors can also receive breakfast, lunch or guided walks and hikes. Visitors can take the 45-minute "trail of the great bear" walk for $3, the two-hour "wonder of water" hike that begins at the top of the lift for $5, or the two-hour sub-alpine hike for $5.
For more information, visit http://www.skilouise.com or call 1-877-253-6888.

Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que.
Mont-Sainte-Anne offers about 100 kilometres of cross-country mountain bike trails and six single-track downhill trails that cover about 30 kilometres. As well, there are 12 obstacles in its North Shore bike park. All that may explain why year after year, competitors from around the world flock to this resort about 40 kilometres east of Quebec City. The International Cycling Union's Mountain Bike World Cup is being held here this week. The Tim Hortons Canadian Championships in downhill and cross-country are set for July 16-18. Unlimited daily use of the gondola, which runs until Oct. 3, costs $22.60 for adults and $19.10 for youths. For visitors looking to improve their golf game, Mont-Sainte-Anne also offers golf packages at its Le Grand Vallon course.
For more information, visit http://www.mont-sainte-anne.com or call (418) 827-5281 or 1-800-463-1568.

Whistler-Blackcomb, B.C.
Canada's premier ski and snowboard resort also prides itself as a summertime playground. There are five golf courses in the area, as well as guided trail rides on horseback, fishing tours and all-terrain vehicle excursions. There's even the Canadian National BBQ competition July 30-31. But a visit here is really about tearing up the mountains. For the diehards there is summer skiing and riding on Blackcomb at the Horstman Glacier, which opened for the season June 7. Lift tickets are $22 for children, $36 for youth and seniors and $45 for adults. But there's also stuff to do on foot or by bike. Starting Saturday, visitors can ride the Whistler gondola to a 1,830-metre lookout and access 48 kilometres of hiking trails. Lift tickets are $25 for adults, $7 for children and $20 for youths or seniors. Whistler is also open for mountain biking with camps and competitions throughout the summer. The massive "Garbanzo" bike park has more than doubled its descent to 1,400 vertical metres. Daily mountain bike park trail passes are $39 for adults and $19 for children.

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