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.

5 Things to do in Long Beach

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Located less than an hour drive from Los Angeles, Long Beach has become one of the hottest travel and living areas for millennials and young families. With rent still being pretty affordable, the city has really transformed a lot in the last couple of years. Long Beach is renown for its great cultural activities, food and outdoor activities just to name a few. Here are just a few recommendations for your next trip in the area.

1) Grab coffee at Portofolio. Located on East 4th St in Long Beach, Portofolio Coffeehouse has been a local favorite for years. It’s a great place to grab breakfast, coffee on the go, vegan treats and also a fun spot to spend the day working remotely. The coffee house also puts on a series of community events in their back room. It’s the perfect spot to meet locals and people watch.

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2) Go vintage shopping on Retro Row. If you’re on the hunt for new vinyls, cool books or unique threads, Retro Row is your go-to spot. Also located on 4th St., this super cute walkable strip of stores has become one of the city’s most coveted shopping area. Whether you’re on the lookout for antiques, you’re in the mood for thrifting, looking for records or wanting a bite to eat, you can find it all. The 4th Street Long Beach Association also puts on a handful of special events throughout the year.

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3) Eat lunch at Ahimsa vegan café. Praised as one of the city’s best vegan spots, Ahimsa vegan café is a restaurant that prides itself in using only the freshest and best local ingredients to craft delicious vegan plates. All of their food is made from scratch and all bursting with flavour. Their bowls and burgers are definite must-haves as well as their freshly made cold-pressed juices and desserts.

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4) Find local street art. Long Beach is renown for its beautiful street art. Their street art festival POW! WOW! Long Beach is one of the most popular street art festivals in the United States, bringing in artists from all over. Searching for local street art around the city is a great activity to do while in Long Beach as it will make you discover many different neighborhoods in the city. Plus, they have some of the most beautiful art to see.

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5) Satisfy your sweet tooth at Scratch Bakedgoods. This cute little bakery is the perfect place to stop at after a busy day of walking around and exploring in Long Beach. Scratch Bakedgoods makes some of the most delicious homemade baked goods from scratch daily. Whether you’re looking for cookies, a slice of cake, brownies, tarts, gallettes, brioches, bars, etc. they’ve got you covered. Everything in the shop is to die for.

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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.

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.

5 Things to do in San Luis Obispo

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One of my new favorite areas in California is SLO County. Located in this beautiful county is the historical town of San Luis Obispo, which almost halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. There are lots of great things to see and do in the area, so here are five travel recommendations for your next trip.

1) Get your morning caffeine fix at Scout Coffee. Owned and operated by husband and wife Jon & Sara Peterson, Scout Coffee is a super cute coffee shop and the hotspot for pastries and coffee. It’s a great place to meet locals, enjoy a relaxing beverage or bring your computer to work. Their two locations are incredibly charming and offer some of the most delicious treats.

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2) Hike at Montaña de Oro State Park. Located just 20 minutes from San Luis Obispo, the Montaña de Oro State Park is a stunning park where you can go for a walk, hike, bike ride or even camp overnight. The park’s rugged cliffs, canyons, plains and beautiful beaches make it the perfect place to visit all-year-round. There is also a lot of local wildlife and beautiful flora to see while you explore.

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3) Grab an açaí bowl at SEEDS. Though it may also be a juice shop, SEEDS makes some of the most delicious açaí bowls I have ever tasted. Their selection of fresh fruits, nuts and seeds added to their delicious custom bases make them the best mid-day snack or healthy breakfast option.

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4) Spend the afternoon at Avila Beach. You will find the cutest little oceanside community called Avila Beach just a few miles from downtown SLO. This small waterfront community (now part of the greater SLO County) is a great place to spend an afternoon. Whether you’re interested in surfing, relaxing on the beach, shopping, eating or just walking around on the boardwalk, it’s a great place to spend a few hours.

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5) Go wine tasting at Wolff Vineyards. Located in SLO County’s Edna Valley, Wolff Wineyards is a family-run winery that produces a wide variety of wines including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and more. They have super friendly and knowledgeable staff on-site for wine tastings. You can walk around their property or even just set up for a picnic on their outdoor patio.

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New CIBC Air Canada Multicurrency Prepaid Card Perfect for Frequent Travellers

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Store up to 10 currencies and travel worry-free with the new CIBC Air Canada Conversion Prepaid Visa

If you’re a frequent flyer like myself, you know that one of the hassles of travelling to the United States or Europe on a recurring basis is having to exchange currencies every time you leave on a trip. I used to run around Toronto to try and get different currencies before my trips, or would get to the airport earlier just to ensure I have time to go to a currency exchange bureau before my flight. But I now no longer have to, thanks to my new CIBC Air Canada Conversion Prepaid Visa .

The new CIBC Air Canada Conversion Prepaid Visa , the first-of-its-kind in Canada, allows you to purchase foreign currency whenever you need and manage it simply via a mobile app on your smartphone 24/7 from anywhere around the world. This reloadable prepaid card allows you to store up to 10 currencies at once on just one card. What’s great is that your exchange rates will automatically be locked in so you won’t have to worry about fluctuating exchange rates and carrying large amounts of cash in multiple currencies on you all the time.

The card is equipped with chip and pin security as well as tap and pay for fast and easy payment. You also get one free ATM withdrawal per country each month, which is key when you travel from country to country frequently. The card also provides a payment method that is not linked directly to your primary bank account, providing a little extra peace of mind on the road.

As a cardholder, you are not charged any additional fees while using the card (excluding ATM fees), so you can keep track of your balance easily. The card can be used anywhere that Visa is accepted around the world, and it offers an Emergency Card Replacement Service and an Emergency Cash Service Protection, for worry-free travels.  

This fall has been filled with a lot of international back-to-back trips, starting in Hawaii, then France and Portugal followed by California before I head back up to Canada in the new year. The CIBC Air Canada Conversion Prepaid Visa , has been a game-changer for me, allowing me to travel in peace knowing that I am not carrying foreign cash in my wallet all the time. I have used it not only on-site but also to reserve some of my hotels and activities in advance online and over the phone.

The card is free of purchase and can currently be used in 45 countries, but CIBC will add more currencies in the future. Current currencies available are: US Dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Australian Dollars, Japanese Yen, Hong Kong Dollars, Turkish Lira, Swiss Franc, Mexican Pesos and Canadian Dollars. Each currency has a limit of $3,000 CAD per load with a total currency capacity for the card at $20,000 CAD, thus making it the go-to travel companion!  

For more information or to apply online for the card visit: acconversion.cibc.com.

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

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.