Saturday, December 28, 2013



New Year's Eve In Verbier St-Bernard - © VERBIER St-Bernard
My earlier New Year’s ski memories stem from Verbier in Switzerland which in the 80s and 90s was the place to be for savvy skiers on Dec. 31. After riotous skiing followed by après appetizers around town, the party really started around 10 pm in the main square outside the Hotel de Verbier.

Cabane Mont Fort, Verbier, Switzerland

Serendipitously, this was the hotel my husband (then boyfriend) and I always stayed in. We could eat our eight-course decadent dinner safe in the knowledge that our balcony was prime position for the al fresco celebrations. Less fortunate revellers had to hang around the freezing square hours in advance to bag their sought-after spots.

Fergus Hudson in Verbier

Despite the cold, someone always felt the need to strip and shin up a lamp post to herald in the New Year, amid all the lamentably low fireworks and vigorous champagne chugging. Everyone would brandish bubbly, much would be expensively spilt, chalets around the mountains would compete with the most outrageous firework displays and when the last fire-cracker died out, the party would relocate at the extortionate night clubs where line-ups rivalled holiday lift queues.

As a slightly more responsible parent, my next New Year’s nostalgia focused on Canmore and the Party on the Pond. When my kids were very young we joined in the old-fashioned charm of a skating party complete with music, clowns, hot chocolate and fireworks.

Canmore Party on the Pond by Craig Douce
Some years it was absolutely freezing requiring energetic skating and ad hoc ice hockey games to keep warm; other years - like this year - it was warm enough to stand around, chat and mingle with all the locals and tourists who turn up in their thousands over the evening. We combined this event with a house party of friends who brought in the New Year with Auld Lang’s Syne and, of course, champagne.

Now my kids are grown up, I am always on the look out for more dynamic ways to mark Dec 31 together. This year Lake Louise has scheduled one of its Torchlight Descent parties for NYE – perfect! This has been a regular soirée on the Lake Louise events calendar for the past few years. For those who’ve never tried it, the format starts with everyone congregating at mid-mountain Whitehorn Lodge, in ski gear, for riotous après ski hors d’oeuvres, drinks, dancing, entertainers and limbo contests. 

Limbo contest at Lake Louise Torchlight Party & Ski
Dancing to Suds band at Whitehorn Lodge, Lake Louise
Just like the Alpine equivalents, a large proportion of the audience is British although many other nationalities are represented among the tourists and Lake Louise staff who join in the fun. When darkness descends, ski instructors equip everyone with head-lights and lead small groups in wobbly, snakelike processions down the immaculately groomed pistes. It’s an entirely different experience than skiing in daylight and something that everyone should include at some point on their skiing agenda. For part two of the party, many professional partygoers stash a change of clothes in Lake Louise’s Lodge of the Ten Peaks, but others somehow manage the line dancing in their ski boots. Dinner in the Sitzmark Lounge is a bountiful buffet followed by more dancing – using every surface, often including tables and rafters.

Wherever you choose to celebrate year’s end, the mountains are a great place to combine the partying with some sporty skiing to work off all those Christmas calories. New Year’s Day on the slopes can be eerily quiet especially if you get up for first tracks – you feel like the only survivors of a New Year’s explosion. Then, by lunchtime, a few dedicated skiers turn up, some sporting fancy dress, all bearing hangovers evidenced by their subdued demeanours and precarious skiing. Fresh air, followed by a hearty lunch usually gets them over that after-party torpor and the afternoon resumes its jolly holiday atmosphere with lift lines usually noticeably short. 


1)   Ski more – say yes to all trips, make life fit around skiing - after all we have a long shoulder season to catch up on everything else.
2)   Cross country ski regularly as a fitness and stamina booster, plus a way to connect with friends both within the city and in the mountains.
3)   Do more yoga and Pilates for flexibility.
4)   Improve technique – take ski clinics to eradicate bad habits.
5)   Stretch before and after skiing to reduce chance of injury which could curtail your ski season.
6)   Find or design and patent a hat/helmet that doesn’t bring on bad hair days.
7)   Encourage a non-skier to take up the sport.
8)   Tune skis more often.
9)   Teach your kids to ski or snowboard or encourage any kids you know into the sport – it’s a lifelong legacy of fun and healthy outdoor activity which can wean them away from couch potato TV and video games. With skier numbers dwindling, the sport needs regeneration from youth.
10)   Push your skiing on – girls, try women’s only groups for instruction and social networking; men and women, try catskiing or heliskiing, challenge your comfort zone; or just form ad hoc groups with friends for a regular commitment to the sport.
11)  Try a new ski hill.
12)  Experience First Tracks programs and get the mountain to yourself for the first hour.
13) Enjoy some après ski – don’t just ski and run.
14) Take a three or four day getaway rather than the usual hurried day’s skiing.
15)  If you’re a boarder, try skiing; if you’re a skier, try boarding.
16)  Chat to the people sharing your gondola or chairlift – it’s amazing what fun conversations you can have.
17)  Help someone on the piste who’s fallen or lost a ski – you never know when it could be you needing assistance.

Big White

18)  Try and ski more days than ever before.
19)  Build your stamina so you can rip a run from top to bottom with a smile rather than a grimace.
20)  Get in the powder to justify buying those new fat skis.


Monday, December 23, 2013


There’s no better way to celebrate Christmas than in the mountains. With glistening snow-flecked fir trees all around and star-speckled clear skies, you barely need to decorate.

Van Haren Family at Mt Norquay, by Louise Hudson
It’s not just the skiing that makes a mountain Christmas so perfect, it’s the atmosphere with visitors, locals and workers all in the party mood. Ski resorts all over North America celebrate in style with carol singers, skiing Santas, sleigh rides, reindeer appearances, parades, skating parties, gorgeous lights and dazzling decorations.

Breckenridge by Go-Breck
The skiing component of a mountain Christmas is also an effective antidote to all the overeating and boozing. And the outdoor activity gives a Vitamin D boost to add to the endorphin rush of  downhill delirium – all helping to ward off the cold and flu bugs that circulate during the holidays.

Buying Christmas gifts in cute little one-off shops in snow-cloaked ski towns is way preferable to the manic mall experience where frustrated families engage in turf wars over parking spaces or the latest gullible gadget.

Big White
Instead of couch potato sluggishness and senseless squabbles, ski families get parallel playtime, resulting in energized bonding between parents and offspring.

Skiing Christmas Day is the ultimate way to justify the overindulgence. With a bit of pre-planning you can ski the morning and still get back in time to have the turkey and all the trimmings ready for early evening dinner. We’ll be in Canmore, Alberta over the holidays, skiing lovely Lake Louise and also Mt Norquay, our usual Christmas morning haunt. 

And come Boxing Day, I’d rather be queuing for chairlifts than standing in line for sales. 
Happy Christmas Skiing!

I asked resorts to send me Christmas ski shots and got hundreds! Here are a selection of some of the best: 
Whistler Blackcomb


Canyons by Justin Olsen

Castle Mountain - Sam Schofield

Arapahoe Basin




Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort


Aspen Snowmass

Chocolate Village at Keystone



If you have always dreamt about owning a ski chalet, check out my ski hill property article in the Calgary Herald this weekend:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

With winds ranging from 50-70 km per hour, we decided to ski Mt Norquay today. Just a hunch but thought that it might be more sheltered from the gales. We were right! Had a fabulous day, starting on the grippy groomers, then trying out first Ka-Poof, where we found really soft, tightly spaced bumps, and next the "Big Chair".

Lone Pine Run at Mt Norquay
The Lone Pine was surprisingly good for the time of year and we managed a couple of exhilarating, thigh-toning descents before retiring to the lovely lodge for lunch.

Louise Hudson in new Rossignol JCC Jacket 
 (left) with Ken Read (right)
That's where we bumped into Mt Norquay's part-owner, Ken Read who was there for a morning's ski while his younger son trained with the Banff Alpine Racers. Ken, one of the legendary Crazy Canucks, is a multiple gold medal winner in both Olympic and World downhill racing. His older son, Erik Read is the reigning Canadian slalom champion and a strong contender for the 2014 Sochi squad. "Norquay's the place to ski on Christmas Day and Boxing Day," said Ken, who had just got back from World Cup action at Beaver Creek, Colorado. "It's always fantastic skiing at Norquay and the busy season doesn't start until after that."Anyone who arrives dressed as Santa (or Mrs Claus) gets a free ticket on Dec 25. It makes for a jolly seasonal atmosphere on the hill and a great way to offset the turkey-toll over the holidays.

View of Mt Norquay's Tube Park from the Lone Pine run
For more Mt Norquay info please go to:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

MARMOT BASIN, Alberta, Canada
Simon leading the way at Marmot Basin  

After a wonderful World Cup weekend at Lake Louise, I’m now skiing with my husband, Simon, at magnificent Marmot Basin right in the heart of Jasper National Park, in the wintry wilds of Alberta, Canada.

Here you’re more likely to bump into a herd of elk than a bus full of tourists. On the four hour journey from Canmore we let the only two cars on our side of the road overtake us so they could track out the snow-heaped highway. Just like hiking into backcountry after a big dump, it was easier to let someone else cut the tracks. En route on the Icefields Parkway, we passed weeping waterfalls frozen in mid-torrent, glacier-fed lakes and the colossal Columbia Icefields where toothpaste-blue ice makes even the snow look warm. This has to be one of the most dramatic drives in the world.

Rocky Mountain Sheep always have the right of way
Arriving at Marmot Basin at noon, we launched into an afternoon of skiing over expansive early season slopes: a soft base, few people and a feeling of the beginning of a long winter of outdoor pleasure in the pristine Park setting.

Preferring to ski with a guide at unfamiliar resorts, we were lucky to nab instructor, Dave Morphy for a tour of the mountain first day. Morphy, who lives in Ontario during summer, chose Marmot as his winter wonderland for its community charm, above treeline terrain and incredibly soft, powdery snow. “My wife and I have been coming here every winter for five years since we retired,” he told us. “We love it because it’s a real community, not just a resort.”

He’s right. Jasper is what authentic skiing’s all about – the sport, the snow, the majestic mountains and the time-honoured mountain lifestyle. Everyone is chatty, from the lifties to the shopkeepers to restaurant staff. You feel as though just by seeking out the remote resort you are automatically inducted into their special clique, privy to the secret of Marmot’s glades and bowls, natural environment and teeming wildlife. 

Renowned for its snowmaking, the hill has invested in state-of-the-art equipment, ensuring exceptionally smooth lower runs in all conditions. Together with terrain park and chairlift expansions, Marmot has spent nearly $30 million on upgrades over the past decade and is listed in Condé Nast magazine’s Top 20 places to ski in North America.

The terrain is varied from gentle groomers to steep chutes with 86 runs of which 30% are novice, 30% intermediate, 20% advanced and 20% expert. The wide, white expanse of Charlie’s Bowl above the treeline off the Knob Chair is perfect for powder hounds after fresh snowfalls. And I really enjoyed the soft snowy bumps in the glades above the mid mountain lodge. Doing Jenn’s Run was fun on my first day, especially after interviewing its namesake, freestyle moguls-champ Jennifer Heil for an article recently. She grew up here, nurturing the skills to win Olympic Gold and Silver medals and five World Cup Champion titles.

And, at the end of an exhilarating day, where to stay? There are lots of charismatic choices in the tiny town centre - which is first/last station on the romantic Rocky Mountaineer route - but the bucket list option is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge - a UNESCO World Heritage Site which literally takes your breath away. With its spectacular setting on Lac Beauvert, it’s the height of low-key luxury Canadian-style.

Cabins at Jasper Park Lodge

Picture snow-clad cabins (once frequented by Marilyn Monroe as well as British Royalty), overlooking the ice-covered lake in the heart of the Canadian wilderness. The snow-drenched setting is straight out of Narnia with a five-star rustic vibe. This is where we're staying this week, recuperating from each day’s downhill delirium by basking in the al fresco hot pool overlooking Lac Beauvert and getting marvelous massages in the decadent spa. 
Jasper Park Lodge
In order to get to the main lodge from the cute and cozy cabins, we’ve had to negotiate elk and deer foraging for scraps of grass under the snow. It’s a bit like staying in a safari compound where you watch out for hyenas on the way to breakfast. And last night, after hearing some nocturnal nibblings, we discovered a cheeky, chubby rodent foraging in our waste bin. Chasing it around our cabin I came face to face with it on the mantelpiece only to discover that it really had more ownership rights than us – it was a marmot, I deduced. There’s a capture-and-release trap in our cabin right now but with its impenetrable hidey-hole behind the mantel I feel it is too savvy to be caught. Needless to say, we were moved to another gorgeous lakeside cabin but I must admit I do miss our marmot with the munchies!

This is just the beginning of our adventures in Jasper – look out for more stories in the near future. As I write this, we're just off to sample the bountiful breakfast buffet in the magnificent main lodge overlooking the lake and Whistler's Mountain, followed by another day of serene skiing in the soft snow of Marmot Basin.
Mike Gere trying out drone photography at Marmot Basin 
Great beer and nachos at Jasper Brew Company