48 Hours in Victoria

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In need of a little island vacation? Make Victoria, BC your next holiday destination!

Located just 30 minutes by seaplane from Vancouver, this wonderful city has so much to offer. From the little coffee shops, to cute boutiques, to the great nature landscapes and outdoor adventures, you can’t go wrong with an escapade in this buzzing town.

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Access to the island was made easy thanks to Harbour Air. It has always been my dream to fly in a seaplane, so I finally got to cross that off the bucket list last week. Harbour Air is North America’s largest seaplane airline and the first fully carbon neutral airline. It also showcases Canadian-made aircrafts and has over 35 daily departures between downtown Vancouver and Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Check-in and boarding is hassle-free plus they have a lovely lounge with complimentary tea, coffee and wifi that allows you to relax before your flight. The sights while flying are absolutely majestic and you get to downtown Victoria in just over 30 mins.

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Once in Victoria, there are many accommodations to choose from. On this particular trip, we had the opportunity to stay at a beautiful boutique hotel called Hotel Rialto, located right in the heart of downtown. Opened in 2009 and renovated again in 2012, this restored 1912 heritage building features 52 beautifully decorated guest rooms that include topnotch amenities. In addition to its central location, another plus is the Café Veneto, the bistro located in their lobby. It is the perfect location for your morning breakfast. They also have the Veneto Tapa Lounge, located adjacent to the lobby, which offers guests a complimentary cheese platter upon arrival and great dinning options.

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There are so many things occupy your time with while in Victoria. If you’re a nature lover, check out one of The Natural Connection‘s guided hikes. Led by Ryan LeBlanc, the company’s owner, you get to discover some of the most beautiful local hikes and point of views. He comes equipped with a gourmet lunch and supplies for your hike. He is a super knowledgeable guide, who invites you to use all five senses when exploring the area. It’s a great way to discover all of the stunning scenery just next to the city.

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If shopping is more up your alley, head on over to the colourful Johnson St. right in downtown to shop at some of the best local retailers, while sipping on a coffee or tea from Hey Happy. Another coffee hotspot that you’ll want to visit is Habit Coffee located on Pandora St. They offer delicious vegan treats and a wide-selection of drinks to choose from.

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Want to stay active while in Victoria, check out the newly opened SpinCo spin studio, also situated on Pandora St. in downtown. The city also has a handful of beautiful running trails located such as the waterfront trail on Dallas Rd or the circuit in Beacon Hill Park.

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Museums and art galleries are also a plenty in the area. The Royal BC Museum is a great way to spend a few hours going through all of the permanent and rotating exhibits. Their current exhibit called Our Living Languages: First Peoples’ Voices in British Columbia is a major eye-opener. They will also be showcasing a new exhibit featuring Terry Fox come April.

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While in Victoria, you can enjoy some of the best vegan and vegetarian food the country has to offer. My absolute favourite on this trip was Nourish Kitchen & Cafe, located in a beautifully restored colourful heritage house in the James Bay neighbourhood. They serve up fresh, seasonal produce and some of the most delicious vegan food I’ve ever had in my life. Note that though they aren’t fully vegan, they sure know how to make some tasty and healthy plant-based meals. You can even just stop by for a quick coffee or use their upstairs rooms The Study and The Parlour to work for the day.

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Other vegan and healthy stops in the city include Rebar – a funky vegetarian hotspot that serves up everything from fresh juices to vegetarian Reuben sandwiches and homemade berry crumble, Jusu – the best mylks, cold-pressed juices as well as vegan salads and bowls, Café Bliss – a cute breakfast and café perfect to satisfy an afternoon craving and Be Love – serves up raw, vegan and vegetarian-friendly creative dishes using organic, seasonal and fresh Vancouver Island products up to 95% of the time.

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Oh and there’s also Jam. It may not be the healthiest option but one cannot visit Victoria and not pay Jam a visit. It’s well worth the wait, their homemade scones and breakfasts are to die for!

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If all of the aforementioned info isn’t reason enough to visit Victoria, I made a little recap video for you to enjoy!

A big thank you to Tourism Victoria for their help with this wonderful trip!

Video shot with: Huawei Nova Plus.

Explore Whistler on a Snowmobile with TAG

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Headed to Whistler and looking for some winter thrills that do not include skiing or snowboarding? Make sure you check out The Adventure Group‘s snowmobile tour.

The Whistler-based adventure group organizes several excursions a day that allow you to explore Whistler’s beautiful backcountry on Cougar Mountain. Whether it’s your first time out or you’re a seasoned pro, TAG has a tour for you! Their expeditions last on average 2.5 hours and allow you to explore everything from great local trails to fresh powder or even wide-open areas with breathtaking views of the forest and mountains.

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Their snowmobiles are fully equipped with seat and hand warmers that will keep you toasty throughout. They also have helmets, goggles as well as gloves and hats for those who may have forgotten some of their gear.

TAG tour guides are super friendly and take the time to make sure everyone is comfortable before, during and after the ride. Plus, the company keeps the tours to a maximum of 5 guests per guide, allowing for a super pleasant experience.

They also provides a complimentary shuttle for guests from the Whistler Village, Fairmont Chateau and the Four Seasons Hotel. The company strives to make sure that their Whistler tours and activities are 100% carbon neutral.

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I had only been on a snowmobile once before but it was a huge thrill to ride out with TAG!

If zipping around on ski-doos isn’t your thing, TAG also offers a wide variety of additional tours ranging from snowshoeing to heli sightseeing and more. For more information, go here.

Scandinave Spa Whistler

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One of the best things about Whistler is the brilliant 25,000 sq ft outdoor spa located just a few minutes away from the slopes. The Scandinave Spa Whistler is the perfect place to unwind after a day of skiing, hiking or outdoor adventure in the area.

Situated right in the heart of nature, this Nordic-inspired spa enables guests to decompress and enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating escapade.  The mountain views and fresh air transport you into an oasis of wellbeing.

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One thing the Scandinave Spa is renown for is its topnotch amenities. Their baths, wood burning Finnish Sauna, eucalyptus steam room and waterfalls come together to create the most luxurious experience. This past year, they inaugurated a brand new building at the spa that features a state of the art sauna, observatory deck, lounge as well an additional eucalyptus steam room. You can also book a massage with one of their highly qualified therapists to prolong your Scandinavian bath session.

There are many health benefits associated with Scandinavian baths, also known as hydrotherapy. In addition to it being relaxing and energizing, the baths also help cleanse the body as well as stimulate blood circulation and the release of endorphins.

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The spa’s eco-friendly and sustainable building allows them to truly be in harmony with their natural surroundings. They pride themselves in their “green” roof as well as the use of sustainable fibers and stainless steel water bottles. They also make sure to work with as many local suppliers as possible.

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The Scandinave Cafe is a real treat, no pun intended. Their delicious and healthy locally-made snacks are the perfect pick me up after a few hours spent unwinding at the spa.

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Get a 360 tour of the spa’s facilities below with the Samsung Gear 360. For more information on Scandinave Spa Whistler, go here.

Sea to Sky Gondola

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Squamish has become one of the country’s most popular locations for outdoor sports and adventures. One of the latest and greatest activity to come to the area is the Sea to Sky Gondola, located just a few minutes from the city centre.

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Right off the 99 Highway, the gondola allows guests to get a panoramic view of the area while heading up the mountain. Once at the top, they offer a wide variety of activities to choose from. Whether you’re into snowshoeing, a casual walk, tubbing or ski touring, the Sea to Sky Gondola has got you covered.

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We opted for a snowshoeing excursion, which last 1.5 hours, with a super friendly and knowledgeable guide who has been residing in the area for 10+ years. Our guide brought us on some of the most scenic trails that tower the snow capped peaks of the mountain. They have trails for all levels and even have some light up trails and offer special themed activities depending on the time of year. The trails for snowshoeing and walking come at no extra cost once you are up at the top of the mountain.

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In addition to the trails, you can also walk over the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge or get some breathtaking views of Squamish at the Summit Lodge Deck.

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Following our snowshoeing excursion, we tried out their winter tube park, for some old-fashioned tubing. Situated just a few steps away from the Gondola, you get to slide down one of their four designated lanes as many times as you want for just an extra $5.

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Once you’re done your activities, you can either sit fireside or grab a snack while warming up in their cozy in their mountaintop lodge.

Can’t make it this winter? Not to worry. They have just as many activities to do in the summer time. In the summer, you can also hike up the Sea to Summit Trail (and can bring your dog along with you!), go rock climbing, do mountain top yoga, etc.

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If you’re headed up to Whistler or looking for a great day excursion, head over to the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish!

For more information on the Sea to Sky Gondola, go here.

5 Questions With: Craig Slagel of RunGo App

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I love combining technology with running. Over the past two years, running apps have been key in documenting my progress as a runner and also keeping tabs on the runs that I have done when I travel. I recently heard of the running app RunGo, which was developed by Vacouverite Craig Slagel. Since I’ve been spending time running around Vancouver, I thought it would be interesting to find out more about this local startup.

1) What is the inspiration behind the RunGo app?

RunGo was inspired by Dynasty, my retired guide dog who I adopted in 2012 just after starting the company. As a runner and frequent traveler, I often had the issue not knowing where to run or getting lost when I tried to explore. When I adopted Dynasty, my friends joked I should use her to guide me and that sparked the idea of RunGo.

2) What separates this app from other running apps currently on the market?

RunGo works like other running apps but also offers voice guided turn-by-turn directions for your runs. With a library of over 50,000 routes worldwide, including running tours and runs curated by local running communities, RunGo is great for traveling and allows you to re-discover your own cities by trying different routes. RunGo also provides all the usual statistics such as distance, pace, calories burned and provides a logbook to store your results. The app navigates you offline, and only requires data or wifi when you add runs to your library. After that, you can use RunGo to guide you, without any data or wifi.

3) You had the opportunity to present your app on Dragon’s Den, why are shows like that and Shark Tank important for startups?

Apps can be very hard to market, especially since there are some really big players in the market who have very big budgets. As a startup we have limited resources and are constantly looking for creative ways to expose ourselves. Dragons’ Den has over 1 million views so being on the show can be a great way to promote your startup as long as you have a good idea and don’t embarrass yourself. It was also great for us as a company – as we prepped our pitch, we really went back to make sure we understood our business, brand, and numbers. It was a great experience and you can see our pitch on February 15th on CBC.

4) Where is your favourite place to run in the world and why?

That’s a tough one – I’ve run in so many amazing places around the world! I love trail running and we are lucky to have amazing trails in Vancouver, BC. But if I had to pick, I think my favourite place would be Marin headlands in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is where I started running so it feels like my running home. The Headlands Run that took you from Crissy Field, over the Golden Gate bridge and up into the Headlands onto a peak with a panoramic view (on a clear day) was probably my most memorable run when I lived in the city.

5) What would you like to accomplish with the app in the next five years?

There is so much I’d love to accomplish in the next five years on top of being one of the leading running apps by then. It’s often said that the best way to explore a city is by foot and our ultimate goal is to give as many runners worldwide as possible, the freedom and confidence to discover all the amazing running routes around them. I was in Dublin just over a year ago and was able to explore the city by running a different route every day. The feeling of completely immersing myself in the city was amazing as I explored routes created by a local running store. It was a completely different experience from when I used to travel for business years ago and was usually recommended to run up and down the river bank by the hotel.

For more information on the RunGo app, go here.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

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If you are on the hunt for the perfect vehicle for living in British Columbia and also want to help out the environment, then you may want to consider giving the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid a test drive. This compact crossover is the ideal car for all of your BC lifestyle needs. Whether you’re an adventurous couple, a traveling single or a young family looking to explore all that BC has to offer, the RAV4 Hybrid should be your number one pick.

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With fuel prices continuing to soar, the sale of Hybrid vehicles across Canada has increased 45.2% since 2015, thus allowing consumers to save money and also help out the environment at the same time. Hybrid drivers use about 30% less fuel than regular cars, thus reducing their carbon footprint.  The switch to Hybrid is a no-brainer because it does not affect or change one’s lifestyle or habits, other than allowing them to frequent the gas station less often.

The RAV4 Hybrid is an incredibly versatile car that features some of the best innovative technology, comfort and safety features currently on the market. Some of my favourite features that come with the car are the Toyota Safety Sense P – including the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, which are very helpful for driving around busy downtown Vancouver. The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control also allows for maximum safety when going on some longer trips. The heated front seats and heated steering wheel also allows for utmost comfort while traveling in the winter time.

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The RAV4 Hybrid also has a ton of room for passengers both in the front and the back and with up to 73 cubic feet of cargo capacity, you can comfortably take your friends with you on your next sporting expedition out of the city.

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The RAV4 Hybrid offers 194 net system horsepower Hybrid Synergy Drive, built around a 2.5L four-cylinder, Atkinson Cycle engine. Some additional standout characteristics are the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control System (TRAC), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and the All Wheel Drive with Intelligence (AWD-i), which is essential when driving on wintery Canadian roads.

Moreover, you know your friends and family are safe when traveling in the RAV4 Hybrid thanks to Toyota’s excellent safety standard, which include eight airbags, a back-up camera, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and the Vehicle Proximity Notification System, just to name a few.

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The RAV4 Hybrid‘s vibrant Electric Storm Blue colour, 18″ Aluminum Alloy Wheels, sleek black interior and sporty features allows you to ride in style all around British Columbia and wherever your adventures take you.

For more information on the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, visit https://www.toyota.ca.

Winter Getaway at Whistler Blackcomb

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For years now, I had been dreaming of riding in Whistler but I was never able to get the time off or travel to the area during the ski season. So I made sure that this year would be different and made it a point to include Whistler Blackcomb in my #wintergetaway destinations.

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If you haven’t been to Whistler yet, then you have been missing out! Since the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Whistler Blackcomb has become North America’s most popular ski resort. And there are many reasons why it has become the top winter riding destination.

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The first being the incredible skiing and riding you can do at the mountain. With over 200 trails, 37 chairlifts, 5 parks and over 8,171 acres of skiable terrain, even on their busiest days, you have so many options to choose from that it never feels crowded. What’s amazing is that no matter your level or riding preferences, there’s something for everyone. The resort is renown for its freeskiing and powder-filled bowls as well as gladed trees and also dedicated family-friendly zones. The views while riding are absolutely breathtaking. The infinite chain of mountain around you make you feel at one with nature.

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Also, it’s slope-side pedestrian village offers some of the best accommodations, top restaurants, hip shopping and fun activities one could want either pre or post-ski or for those who would rather just spend the day walking around.

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With reference to accommodations, I had the pleasure of staying at the Aava Whistler, a hotel located right in the Whistler Village thanks to the hotels.com mobile app. Whether you’re going on a budget or looking for luxurious après-ski digs, the app has it all.

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The energy at the mountain and in the village is electrifying. Everyone that comes to Whistler Blackcomb know they are about to have one of their best ski experience of their lives. It is understandable that this resort has become world-class over the years. With it being less than two hours away from Vancouver, it is definitely worth the visit!

For more information on Whistler Blackcomb, go here. To find accommodations in the area, go to Hotels.com or download their mobile app. Photos shot with the Samsung Galaxy S7, 360 video shot with the Samsung Gear 360.

Winter Getaway at Sun Peaks

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Did you know that Sun Peaks was Canada’s second largest ski area? This beautiful resort located just under an hour away from Kamloops, British Columbia offers some of the most beautiful skiable terrain in the country.

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Whether you fancy wide open slopes or a steep thrilling ride, fresh powder or beautiful glades to ride through, with its 4,270 acres of skiable terrain, Sun Peaks has something for everyone!

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In addition to the pristine riding you can do at the resort, they have a cute European-style ski-through village where you can find shops, cafes, restaurants as well as quality accommodations. I was once again able to book my stay via Hotels.com‘s mobile app, making it a quick and painless reservation process. Having my hotel be right at the bottom of the mountain, made it super convenient.

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In addition to riding, Sun Peaks also offers a variety of winter activities you can do while in the area. Their latest and greatest activity is ice fishing, run by a super knowledgeable and friendly young guide called Campbell from Elevated Fishing Adventures. This 3-hour excursion will bring you to Heffley Lake, where you will be able to fish for some wild local species. Not only do you learn a lot about the area, the local fauna and flore but also get to stay warm while you chat and fish thanks to a portable hut and some complimentary hot chocolate.

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I took the Samsung Gear 360 camera and Galaxy S7 phone with me again in order to document my adventures at Sun Peaks. I hope you will enjoy my recap below.

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For more information on Sun Peaks, go here. To find accommodations in the area, go to Hotels.com or download their mobile app. Photos shot with the Samsung Galaxy S7, 360 video shot with the Samsung Gear 360.

Winter Getaway at Big White

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One of my favorite things about winter is being able to head to the mountain and go riding. Since this is my first winter in British Columbia, I thought what better way to get to know the area than to book a winter getaway to visit some of the best ski resorts in the area! My first destination: Big White!

So I booked my travels via the Hotels.com mobile app (you can too! check out how here!), took with me Samsung‘s latest gear – the Galaxy S7 phone plus the Gear 360 camera and hit the mountain. 

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Located just 45 minutes from downtown Kelowna, Big White is a stunning resort that spans 7,355 acres and its summit reaches 2,319m in altitude. Big White is also western Canada’s largest night skiing area with 38 acres of night skiing trails. There are 15 lifts on the mountain and 118 designated trails. The longest run spans 7.2 km.  They also have a state of the art boarder/skier-cross course, the TELUS Park as well as 25 km of nordic and wilderness trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

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Big White also offers all the amenities and services you can imagine needing when going on a winter getaway to the mountain. The resort has 3 hotels, 25 condo/town home complexes, over 200 vacation home and luxury cabin rentals as well as a youth hostel. There are also plenty of shops and restaurants, their latest addition, the Clocktower Coffee Co serves up delicious baked goods for breakfast and hearty sandwiches at lunch.

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You can also find a ski and board school, a daycare service for the little ones as well as a multitude of other activities for the entire family such as ice climbing, a tube park, snowmobile tours, ice skating, snowshoeing, dog sledding and the list goes on. Oh yea and did I mention, free wifi throughout the resort?

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Since we were only in the area for 2 days, we wanted to maximize our time on the slopes so we stuck with snowboarding. Though a bit cold, the bluebird skies and fresh powder made for pristine riding conditions. Our super convenient electronic lift passes made it easy for us to access all of the lifts and shred through the fresh snow. The snow-covered evergreen trees and stunning views of the Okanagan Valley made for the most beautiful backdrop. A great plus was also the fact that the resort wasn’t overcrowded, which allowed for a relaxing snowboarding session.

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I highly recommend making the trek to Big White, for some epic riding! If you’re staying in Kelowna, check out the Manteo Resort, which is right on the waterfront of the Okanagan Lake.

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For more information on Big White, go here. To find accommodations in the area, go to Hotels.com or download their mobile app. Photos shot with the Samsung Galaxy S7, 360 video shot with the Samsung Gear 360.

Book your Winter Getaway with the Hotels.com App

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This winter, book your skiing and snowboarding getaway in minutes with the Hotels.com app.

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The mobile app, which is available for Android and Apple smartphones allows you to book your dream après-ski hotel fast and securely, using in-depth sort and filter options. With the app, you can book not only in advance but also last minute while having access to some exclusive “Deals for tonight“, so you can prolong the fun on the slopes. You also have the option to securely store your payment details for even faster bookings in the future.

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With this being the first winter I am spending in British Columbia, I wanted to explore some of the province’s best winter resorts and some of the area’s top skiing and snowboarding destinations. Using the Hotels.com app allowed me to find a great range of hotels in the different areas I wanted to explore. On my list of must-visit destinations for this winter: Big White in Kelowna, Sun Peaks in Kamloops and Whistler Blackcomb. I found some exciting lodging options with all the amenities I wanted (hot tub, free wifi, free parking, etc.!) in order to relax after a long day at the mountain.

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One of the reasons why I picked the Hotels.com mobile app for my bookings is because of their great loyalty program, which allows you to obtain 1 free night after 10 nights booked. They also offer “Secret Prices” that allow you to save up to 50 per cent on your stay. Their rewards program offers adherents a greater selection of competitive hotel deals as well as thousands of specially negotiated rates and subscriber-only offers on hotels located in some of the most popular areas around the world.

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With two-thirds of Canadians admitting their mobile phone is their favourite travel accessory and nearly 30 per cent of Canadians choosing to book their hotel stays via a mobile device (according to the Hotels.com Mobile Tracker), it’s no doubt the Hotels.com mobile app will be the ideal companion for your upcoming winter getaway.

See you all on the slopes this winter!

This post was written in collaboration with Hotels.com but all opinions are my own.