World Ski & Snowboard Festival with CLIF Bar

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The World Ski & Snowboard Festival is now in full swing at Whistler Blackcomb. For the next ten days, some of the best skiers and snowboarders from around the world will be in town for some epic shredding, concerts and special events.

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CLIF Bar invited a small group of media up to their Basecamp this past weekend for an adventure packed VIP weekend at the mountain.

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The basecamp was located just a few minutes from the slopes. It had everything a rider could need including a hot tub, sauna, steam room, fire place, movie screening room and deluxe rooms. The basecamp’s bright red kitchen was also very on-brand, a total coincidence they assured us.

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In addition to the small group of media, CLIF Bar had also invited some of their ambassadors to come join us. Our host for the weekend was CLIF Bar ambassador, pro-snowboarder, environmentalist and founder of the organization Beyond BoardingTamo Campos. Spending the weekend with him was so incredibly inspiring!

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We kicked off the weekend with a private dinner at Stonesedge Whistler, a local favourite that serves delicious dishes made from local and organic ingredients.  We spent the first night at the launch of the State of the ART, a beautiful exhibit of local artistic talent at the Whistler Conference Centre.

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The next morning started off with a fun build-a-bar workshop with CLIF’s registered dietician Tara Dellolacono Thies, who is also an ultra runner and amazing athlete. We got to create our own custom bars, which I can’t wait to receive! We also got to try out some of CLIF Bar‘s latest products, including my new favorite bar, the organic Nut Butter Filled organic peanut butter bar, yum!

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We then hit the slopes with local mountain guides. We got to spend the entire day riding outdoors before enjoying a VIP après-ski at GLC, on their heated outdoor patio while listening to Walk Off The Earth sing one hit song after another on WSSF’s main stage. Like if that wasn’t enough, we also got to enjoy a professional massage at the Basecamp before chowing down on some delicious healthy eats and watching some of Tamo’s films, which included a very powerful doc he recently released that I highly recommend checking out called A Last Stand for Lelu.

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On Sunday, we got up at the crack of dawn to enjoy an energizing yoga session led by one of the media guests, who also happens to be a yoga teacher. Then it was back to the Whistler Village to go up the mountain to then take the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola all the way to Christine’s restaurant on the top of Blackcomb. The panoramic views from the restaurant were absolutely mind-blowing, it cleared up just in time for our 3-course lunch. The food served at Christine’s is topnotch, the perfect setting for a five-star snack.

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One of the best parts of the entire weekend was attending MULTIPLICITY, a TEDTalk-like event, which featured some of the most inspiring personalities in the mountain world. The sold-out event left me so incredibly inspired by everyone’s stories. Some of the speakers included professional Freeride MTB Hall of Famer Brett Tippie, National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey and his son Haweye Huey and our Basecamp host Tamo Campos, just to name a few.

The weekend spent at the WSSF with CLIF Bar was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. The entire CLIF Bar team was so incredibly kind and really made this adventure-packed weekend, one to remember.

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For more information on how to #FeedYourAdventure with CLIF Bar, go here.

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.

5 Questions With: Larisa Yurkiw

Team Larisa

From Canadian World Cup alpine ski racer to motivator and public speaker, Larisa Yurkiw is a force to be reckoned with. The 28-year-old athlete from Ontario has accomplished a lot in her lifetime already, from partaking in the 2014 Sochi Olympics to also being on four World Cup podiums. She recently announced her retirement from professional skiing after her most successful year of competition. I had the chance to chat with her about her career thus far and also what’s next for her.

1) What first got you interested in downhill skiing and when did you realize that this was something you could pursue more seriously?

I have two older brothers I chased around the ski hill from a young age.  The norm gets thrown out the window  so I was fairly fearless.  I did my first race was I was 4 and the passion grew with the intensity.
 

2) 2016 has been a great competing year for you but you recently announced your retirement after 10 years in the competitive circuit. Why was this the right time for you to hang up your skis?

Health has the final say.  I had my 5th knee surgery in May and I felt it was a decision between racing 20 more international races or skiing with my kids one day.  I was becoming more successful and finished my career ranked 3rd in the world so I no longer had unfinished business.  It was that hunger that drove me for so long so I knew it was time to find the same drive in a different direction.

3) How has the transition from athlete to being an entrepreneur been going? What are some of your career goals moving forward?

I love this new life.  I have found a career that gives me a bit of an adrenaline rush still, motivational speaking, and I continue to find challenges for myself.  I took time off initially but realized quickly that I’m meant to have both a structure and a serious set of goals.
 

4) Can you talk to us about Team Larisa and if you will be continuing to pursue this in the future?

Team Larisa was the name of my team.  I was skiing for Canada independently but, by the end, the Team was made up of thousands of Canadians and Europeans, both skiers and non-skiers.  I will continue to promote bravery and share the power of vulnerability and resilience with the story of Team Larisa wherever I can.  It became so much more than ski racing for me so if I can use it as a vehicle to help young and old alike to just get a bit more comfortable with being uncomfortable, then Team Larisa has successfully lived on.
 
5) What is the best advice you’ve ever been given and how has it helped you as an athlete and in life today? 

Advice came from so many but most consistently, to keep on keeping on.  The setbacks were the most consistent event throughout my journey so learning to fight on and get creative with my resilience allowed me to ultimately be world class in my sport.  Without a constant fight and high self-belief, the very first obstacle would’ve bounced me in a completely different direction.  “They tried to bury us.  They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Mexican Proverb.

Ski Big 3

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The ski season may be winding down for most of us but there is still plenty of snow to ride on in the Canadian Rockies. Plus spring is my absolute favorite time of year to hit the mountain!

Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Calgary for a special snowboard getaway. This was my first time riding in the Canadian Rockies. Though I grew up skiing every weekend, I mostly skied in Eastern Canada, going to mountains across Quebec and also in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York.

I was thrilled to find out that some of the biggest and best mountains for skiing and snowboarding are located just an hour or so away from the Calgary airport. Calgary being a short flight from Toronto (approximately 3.5hrs), made it for an ideal weekend getaway!

Ski Big 3, is the association of Mt Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, three top-quality ski resorts located in the Banff and Lake Louise area. What is so amazing about these three fantastic resorts is that they are all located less than 45 mins away from each other. Additionally, they offer complimentary shuttle service to those wanting to ski the tri-area.

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The drive from Calgary to Banff and Lake Louise was stunning. It really made me appreciate the beautiful natural landscape that we so often forget when living in the city. Plus, living in Toronto, you never see such majestic mountains.

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FullSizeRender (88)I spent most of my weekend exploring the runs at the beautiful Lake Louise Ski Resort. I can honestly say that it was some of the best riding days of my entire life. Why you ask? The conditions were absolute perfection! It was around 0 degrees celsius out, there was a layer of fresh powder on the mountain and the sun was out for most of the weekend. Additionally, the atmosphere at the ski resort was great. Everyone was friendly, laid-back and super helpful. You never have to wait too long in line for a chairlift (unlike Ontario!), the runs are also incredibly well groomed and large enough to allow everyone to ski without interfering with one another. You get a real sense of freedom you get when you ride the Rockies. The mountain and nature views combined with the fresh air and chill vibe, it’s truly magical!

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I think another highlight of my riding weekend was having the opportunity to eat lunch outdoors at the super cute wooden WhiskyJack Lodge. I never experienced that growing up, skiing in the freezing cold, eating outside was never a possibility. I loved being able to relax and watch other riders enjoy the mountain before going back out myself.

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I debated for a long time whether to bring my skis or my snowboard and decided to bring my snowboard with me. I had so much fun trying new tricks and perfecting my riding technique on these pristine slopes.

As I write this in Toronto, where the snow is now gone but the weather is still freezing, I can’t help but want to go back and explore more of the Ski Big 3 area!

For more information on Ski Big 3 lift tickets, spring passes, lodging and vacation packages, visit their website: http://www.skibig3.com/.

France, je t’aime! pt 1

This blog post was long overdue! I can’t believe that Offner and I have been back from Friday for almost two months now. It seems like just yesterday I was getting ready for this three week long adventure.

My trip was a little different this year. Since we had more time, we decided to explore more places than we had last December. On the itinerary: Paris, Bretagne, Lyon, Les 2 Alpes & St-Etienne. Here’s a little resume of our amazing adventure as well as tips for any of you going to France soon!

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Getting there

Because we were able to book our flights almost four months in advance we were able to find a super cheap deal with Orbitz for multi-destination trip with Air France. I really enjoy using Orbitz as a search engine when booking flights as they always have good selection for Europe, you can easily compare prices with other airlines and they’re booking is hassle-free, no hidden fee bullshit! We flew from Toronto -> Paris direct and on the way home we did Lyon -> Paris -> Montreal (It’s impossible to get a direct flight from Lyon to Toronto/Montreal). I was really excited to fly with Air France again since I hadn’t flown with them since I was a kid. I know the airline has made great strides in improving the quality of their service in the last couple of years, especially since that unfortunate crash in 2009. I was able to organize everything before my flight easily on their website. I was able to chose our seats, my vegetarian meal as well as get our boarding passes all sorted out before even arriving at the airport. The in-flight service was top notch! I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of my vegetarian meal as well as Offner’s fish selection. I appreciated the fact they gave us quality wine and champagne as well a balanced meal. Air France also had a great selection of movies and entertainment options available that made the 7hr overnight flight a lot more bearable. Leg room was decent, the only negative comment I’d have was that the seats were really hard, they could have been a little more cushiony.

Traveling while in France

We opted for different modes of transportation to get to the different areas we were traveling to. We took the TGV from Paris to get to Rennes, where we spent two days with my family. I highly recommend using this mode of transportation for quick, painless travels across the country. I had booked the tickets online in November and they were 29 Euros per person for the one-way. They also have complimentary wifi on the train and at the train station while you wait. Instead of taking us 4hrs to get to Rennes by car, it choped the travel time in half.

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One thing you need to remember is that if you’re renting a car, most places will be closed on Sundays, so since we were arriving on a Sunday in Rennes, we had to find a car at the airport. It was a 20 Euro cab ride from the train station to the airport in Rennes and the car rental place only opened at 1:30pm (more like 1:45pm France time :p) and was open for 4hrs. That said, we had tried to get a car through a website where individuals rent their personal vehicles (a cheaper option and worth looking into!) but unfortunately that fell through.

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We then flew from Rennes to Lyon. It was a 1hr flight. Though Rennes doesn’t have a very big airport, they have a few flights every day going to different areas in France and even to other countries in Europe. We took Air France’s regional jet HOP!, not only was the flight cheaper than the TGV but it also reduced our traveling time from 8hrs to 1hr. It was really a no-brainer for us.

While we were in Lyon and Paris, we also used the subway system a lot. It is super efficient and cheap. Also, you can use Uber taxi in Paris if you’re looking to get somewhere rather quickly but be prepared to dish out quite a lot of cash for cabs in Paris!

Where to stay

Offner and I are really lucky because we get to stay with family and friends while we’re in France. That said, we didn’t want to spend the entire three weeks crashing on people’s couches so we opted for our favorite type lodging: Airbnb. We spent one night in a Campanile, which is a big chain of environmentally friendly hotels that you can find across France. They’re a cheap alternative if you’re on a budget and hotels are more your thing. Though we could have stayed in a handful of different hotels, we opted to stay at cute little lofts/apartments in the neighbourhoods that we really liked. In Paris, we opted for Le Marais and in Lyon, La Croix Rousse. Both are safe and beautiful areas with lot’s to do and amazing food to eat!

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Some must-see spots from my trip

Paris

Le pont des amoureux

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Le Marais

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La Place des Vosges

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Le Louvre

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L’Île St-Louis

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Notre-Dame de Paris, the Eiffel Tower (duh!), les Champs Élysées, Place, Sainte-Catherine, etc.

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Lyon

Vieux Lyon

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Place Bellecour

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L’Opéra de Lyon

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Place des Terreaux, presqu’île de Lyon, Croix Rousse, Confluences, etc.

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La Bretagne – I may have a little bias towards this region of France because it’s where my mom’s family is from but it’s a beautiful small region that has much to offer. If you’re going to make the trek up there, I recommend you visit the following places: Dinard, Dinan and St-Malo. All three historic towns with beautiful scenery. While you’re there, you gotta eat “galette de sarrasin” the best salty crêpes on the planet as well as a bowl of traditional cider and my favorite dessert: le flan Breton! Also, if you like butter, you’re in for a treat! They put butter on EVERYTHING! Make sure you bring an umbrella with you, as it tends to drizzle (they call it “crachat breton”) quite a bit there.

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Les 2 Alpes – everything about this ski village and station is amazing! Unlike most Intrawest or big ski stations, Les 2 Alpes has kept the old school small village feel. It’s not too loud and too touristy. Though there are people that ski there from all over Europe, the people it attracts are a little older or families. That said, there are really cool bars in the small town, local wine and cheese producers, markets, a small cinema, amazing restaurants and all the ski equipment your heart desires! The daily lift ticket is 42 Euros and includes insurance in case you get hurt or something happens, which is incredibly cheap for such a huge resort as compared to lift tickets here.  Recommendation: Stay an extra day to go hiking in the mountains beside the village, it’s breathtaking. Also, you can ski at Les 2 Alpes almost all-year-round. In the summer, you can ski on top of the glacier and then go golfing or swimming in the nearby lake. Sounds dreamy!

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Stay tuned for Pt 2 of my France travel blog featuring some of my favorite places to eat and shop in France. Coming soon!!

 

 

Stowe

Last month I had the opportunity to return to one of my favorite little towns in the north eastern United States: Stowe, Vermont.

As a kid, I loved going to Stowe because it was where the Von Trapps (oh yes, from the classic movie The Sound Of Music) had ended up when they immigrated to the United States. Also, it was magical because we used to stay at the Sun & Ski Motor Inn (now renamed the Sun & Ski Suites) and they had a beautiful reading room with a fireplace, a bunch of teddy bears and board games that my sister and I would always spend our nights playing. We’d go probably go to Stowe once a season because it was just two hours away from where I grew up!

What’s amazing about this quaint little area is that it’s beautiful all year round. Being in Stowe is all about being outdoors, enjoying nature, the mountains, the lake and relaxing. I was therefore really excited to be back for another visit.

Stowe is easy to get to! From Toronto, you can take a 1hr direct flight with Porter Airlines to Burlington. Once you get to Burlington, you can either drive 30mins or get a shuttle from one of the resorts to pick you up. If you’re coming from Montreal, it’s also only a 2h30 drive.

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Here are some of my favorite things about Stowe:

Mount Mansfield: The highest mountain in Vermont (4,393 ft or 1,339 m) located at 10 minutes by car from the Stowe Village. It’s not only a beautiful mountain by amazing ski resort. It’s decked out with the latest lift and ticketing technology, has several rad snowparks, great skiing conditions and an amazing view from the top!

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Black Cap Coffee: Located in the Stowe Village, this coffee shop is relatively new in town and it seems to be where everyone now comes to get their coffees. What I loved about this place is not only did it serve great drinks (they have super creative versions of of hot apple cider, Snickers Bar lattes, etc.) but they’re also a place where people can make crafts and by crafts I mean jewellery and pottery. They also serve some in-house snacks and sell a few local products at the front. Everyone there is also super friendly and laid back!

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Depot Street Malt Shop: A Stowe classic. It’s been around ever since I can remember. Though my mom never really let us eat junk food at home, she was definitely  fan of this 50s Elvis-inspired diner. I would always have their sandwiches with pickles and chips or some of their amazing sundaes or milkshakes. They play lot’s of Elvis music and the decor is super cute and authentic.

Recreational Path: It’s an internationally renown 5.5 mile paved greenway where people walk, jog, bike, cross-country ski, snowshoe, etc. all year. It runs along little rivers and has spots where you can even go for a swim. It’s the perfect spot to pinic, relax, bounce rocks, take photos and even take naps. Everyone on the path always says hello and always seems to be in a good mood. I’ve taken the path countless times and always find it so beautiful!

Free shuttle service! That’s right, there’s a few shuttle that goes around the Stowe village, to all the hotels, bed & breakfasts, to the main streets and also all the way to the mountain

Cold Hollow Cider Mill: A classic as you’re driving into Stowe from Waterbury. It’s where you’ll find a ton of local products: jams, mustards, spices, hot sauces, all the maple syrup products and of course apple products. What’s amazing about this shop is that you can taste everything they’re selling and you can also see at the back where they make their fresh apple cider. They also have the best apple cider donuts! They are to die for!

TopNotch Resort: They just spent the past couple of months completely renovating this beautiful hotel and resort. They’ve got amazing tennis courts, beautiful outdoor pools, jacuzzis, new fire pits and brand new state of the art and relaxing spa, two new restaurants, new condo units, etc. I had never stayed at the resort before but was really surprised with not only all the great facilities but also their proximity to the mountain, the good food and overall relaxing atmosphere. If you’re to book a night there, you must use their spa facilities, they’re fantastic!

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Other good lodging options are:

Golden Eagle Resort if you’re looking for something a little less fancy or the Sun & Ski Suites

Stowe Mountain Lodge is the most beautiful mountain resort I’ve seen in a while. The lobby is so beautifully decorated. They’ve got an amazing outdoor pool and spa open all-year-round, are right by the mountain and have great restaurants! I really hope to be able to stay there at some point longer than just a few hours!

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Von Trapp Family Lodge for the super duper traditional Stowe experience. They’ve got great wine tasting activities, sports and the Von Trapps still make all the baked goods apparently!

Other things you can do while in Stowe: visit the Ben & Jerry‘s ice cream factory, rent rollerblades from AJ’s ski & sports (I used to do that every summer as a kid!), go swimming at The Water Hole, check out a show or film at the new Spruce Peak Performing Arts Centre, go canoeing at the reservoir lake, etc.

Also, if you’re driving to and from Stowe, it’s always a good idea to stop in Burlington on your way there or back home. It’s a beautiful typical New England town located right on the Lake Champlain. As a kid we’d take a ferry over to New York from Burlington. It’s got great restaurants and bars, a lovely waterfront bike path and some cool museums.

So happy to have gone back to Stowe! Can’t wait for my next visit!

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Holiday Adventure

Today is the day I leave for my month long adventure with @offner! So grateful to be traveling with him again! Excited to be visiting three different countries during this upcoming trip. We’ll be spending the first two and a half weeks in France, followed by a few days back in Canada then off to the US for some snowboarding!

I will be taking a little blogging break during my trip but will post as many updates as a can while on the road. I will also have a full recap with some of my favorite hot spots when I get back, so stay tuned!

Wishing you all a wonderful start to your holidays!!

xo

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Coups de coeur – France

Happy New Year everyone!! Wishing you a magical 2013! Today, I decided to do a little blog post of some of my favorite things from my recent trip to France.

1 – Le Marais, Paris.

Le Marais is a great area located in the 3rd and 4th districts in Paris. It’s an area filled with lot’s of little shops, local designers (The Kooples, American Retro, etc.) cool cafés, bistros and restaurants. I spent lot’s of my time in Paris walking around and hanging out in Le Marais.  I definitely recommend it for all of those who are looking for a cool and hip area to spend time in.

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2 – Springsioux

Springsioux is a Paris-based jewelry, clothing and accessory brand run by two rad young entrepreneurs. I love Springsioux for its perfect blend between rock n’ roll and elegant pieces. Nikki Sixx, Bradley Soileau and other celebrities have been spotted with some Springsioux swag.  I’m the lucky owner of a Lady Muerte ring from their most recent collection. I absolutely love it! I know this is just the beginning for Springsioux!

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3 – L’Épicerie, Lyon

I spent a few days in Lyon while I was a France. For those who don’t know, Lyon is renown around the world for their culinary excellence. I definitely didn’t go hungry in that city! My favorite little restaurant is a little bistro recommended by @offneraurelien in the Bellecour area called L’Épicerie. The concept of the bistro – to serve tartines, which is basically toast with toppings on it. It may sound plain but I assure you that the restaurant was anything but plain. Their food is cheap, tasty and creative. They also have delicious homemade desserts.

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4 – Le Cellier, Les 2 Alpes

I was lucky enough to have the chance to go skiing in the Alps during my stay in France. While at Les 2 Alpes, I was also introduced to a delicious raclette restaurant called Le Cellier.  I love the little chalet-style decorations, wood stove and delicious comfort food. For those who don’t know what raclette is, it’s a Swiss dish based on heating the cheese and scraping off (racler) the melted part onto either meat or veggies.

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These were just some of my “coups de coeur” from my recent France trip. I sincerely hope you will also have the chance to visit France one day or return if you’ve been there before.  Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. I love learning about other cultures, meeting new people and opening myself up to the rest of the world. It’s through traveling that I’ve met some of my best friends and made some of my longest lasting memories.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2013 filled with tons of travels!

Much love,

Mel xo