Happy New Year! Blue Besos is starting the year with a travel blast. Future posts will feature dining out in Vancouver, a Seattle girls’ trip and snowboarding in Revelstoke, but first let’s partake in some tropical thunder. Maui is one of the most beautiful places on earth. If your vacation brain has enough juice to plan a few day trips in between those pineapple-soaked cocktail umbrellas, you’ll have the holiday of a lifetime. If you can drag yourself out of bed early enough (perhaps you’re a morning person and this isn’t an issue for you, but a deep love of sleep is my nemesis) a lava hike is a lovely way to start the day. Drive til the end of the road in South Maui. At La Perouse Bay, known for great snorkelling, there’s a lava field that stretches for miles, from the last eruption on Maui. Haleakala Volcano blew her top back in 1490, or 1790, depending on who you talk to. Walking through it is like taking a walk on the moon, except with gravity. Or maybe Saturn. The loose lava rocks on the path are potential ankle busters, so you have to keep an eye on your feet, which is a challenge, because at this time of year the whales are going crazy, jumping out of the water and in general just trying to distract you. Also, be on the lookout for the random goat that crossed my path.Jawz food truck is perfectly positioned for your lava-induced appetite just ten minutes up Makena Alanui Road. A dude from North Idaho, who’s been known to snowboard in Alberta when he’s not hanging loose, serves up fish and shrimp tacos. To be clear, he wasn’t hanging loose over the taco fixings. They weren’t the best tacos in the world, but with some BYO Coronas to wash ‘em down, they’re like a mirage come true.Conveniently located right across the road from the taco truck is my favorite beach on Maui. So far. A long, treed path separates Big Beach from the well-maintained free parking lot. It’s also one of the few beaches I’ve seen with lifeguards, who occasionally make ominous announcements via loudspeakers about the spinal injury potential of body surfing.Besides the super-soft sand and the snorkeling along the edges of this cove, the lovely thing about this beach is that it is in a state park, which means no hotels or condos along the shore. The only thing looming behind you is a cliff dotted with trees.But if the absence of beach bars makes you miss the party, there’s one in the cove next door! Accessible by scrambling over a narrow cliff path, Little Beach is a favorite with the clothing-optional crowd…… and the drum circle on Sundays.Back on Big Beach, which empties out quickly at the end of the day, the sun sets over Kaho’olawe, a truly uninhabited island.Next, stroll through the zen front entrance of the newest luxury hotel on the beachfront boardwalk, Maui Andaz, a short drive north in Wailea. Worth walking through just to appreciate the Miami-meets-onsen design aesthetic…… it’s even better if your final destination includes Chef Morimoto’s most recent restaurant in his current world takeover (watch out, Wolfgang). Set poolside between the hotel and the beach, Morimoto Andaz opened in Fall, 2013. Behind that locally sourced tuna and softshell crab rolls is a sake tasting. Oyshi.If the sake gives you a thirst for dramatically lit photo shoots, pause to ponder the infinity pool’s lava rock wall. And check back for mmmore of my favorite Mmmaui days.
A trip to Whitefish, Montana wouldn’t be complete without a cowboy connection.But longtime Whitefish ranch builder Scott Ping is no ordinary cowboy. And Kona is no ordinary horse. They’re both hooked on Ski Joring. “It’s an extreme sport, for sure,” says Scott. “I broke my neck doing it. And eight ribs. And twelve fractures.”What is Ski Joring, you ask? Stemming from winter travel in Scandinavia, a horse and rider pull a skier through gates and jumps in the least amount of time possible. Watch the video for a taste, in case you didn’t catch it as a demonstration sport in the 1928 Winter Olympics.Kona’s a champ, with the breastplate to prove it, from the 2006 championships in Jackson Hole.Despite his litany of injuries, Scott’s still smiling. Probably because he won the North American Championships last year.This year’s season is just getting started, but Scott is puts his 12-year-old Appendix through his paces in the round pen to make sure his legs are sound. There will be $20,000 in prize money at stake January 25th, 2014 during Whitefish Winter Carnival. It’s the largest Ski Joring event in North America. Last year 75 teams competed. Everyone is welcome to give it a try, whether you’ve Ski Jored or not. However, before pulling any skiers this year, these Ski Jorers have some chores to do. When I left them, Scott and Kona were heading off into the forest to find a Christmas tree, chop it down and drag it home through the snow. Something tells me Whitefish always has a white Christmas.And so ends the Blue Besos sojourn to this charming mountain town in Northern Montana. Merry Christmas, Whitefish! Until we meet again.
Google tells me the exact coordinates for Whitefish, Montana are 48.4117° N, 114.3400° W, but this bistro rounded down to the nearest non-fractional number. As someone who only vaguely knows that I reside somewhere above the 49th parallel, this name seems specific enough.Venture inside and you’ll see that everyone else in town managed to find Latitude 48 just fine without the four decimal points. Packed on a Friday night, the smiling hostess still found room for our walk-in appetites. Compliment her on the decadent feather earrings she’s wearing and you’ll learn she designed them herself. Because her dad is into flyfishing. I love Whitefish!If you still have room for another drink after your excellent meal (I had tagliatelle with fire roasted chicken, wild mushrooms and truffle essence: extra-delectable due to the pasta made in-house) there’s a lounge option that means you don’t have to put your coat back on to get to. In fact, you can bring the rest of your wine. Just follow the red arrow… … down to the Red Room. We were lucky enough to catch Kelly West & Crew in the middle of a set. Packaged in a tough-looking tank top and crewcut, she has the most ethereal voice. She plays again on December 20th. If you’re in Whitefish, you have to go see her.
The crowning jewels of Whitefish Montana are the ski resort and the lake. If you can tear yourself away from the view… … and turn to the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, you’ll see another. On the far right. Middle floor.Occupying a generous southwest corner (I admit I didn’t fact-check that geographic designation, I’m just going on the sunsets witnessed from these windows) Room 236 has to be one of the best rooms at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.Not that I saw any other rooms. This vista left me totally biased. I kept meaning to try the hot tub, peaking through the slats in this pic, but the giant oval tub in the bathroom was just as inviting.After feasting my eyes on the scenery, the full-size kitchen had every appliance necessary for a stomach-stuffing feast. Including that dual-temperature-zone wine fridge. I left some dishes in the sink, purely to prove that this isn’t a promo pic. Nothing to do with my slide toward the slovenly.Room 236 is about three times the size of my old apartment in New York. It’s a little dark in the photo, but the fireplace on the far wall brought the temperature to toasty even faster than the thermostat.Did I mention that this is just one of the balconies?The other one is off the bedroom. That’s right, Room 236 is a full-size apartment.And just in case you’re feeling lonely, a teddy bear is provided along with the fresh linens.
Still to come: the restaurant and lounge combo that can’t be missed.
Arriving for opening day at Whitefish Mountain Resort in style. Even though Saturday, December 7 ended up being so unusually cold that officials were threatening to close the main chair to the summit for safety reasons, ski bunnies and boarders came out in droves. And when the Lodge at Whitefish Lake’s complimentary chauffeur whisks you door to door, it takes the sting out of a wind chill warning.Turns out Chair 1, aka the Big Mountain Express, was open for business. That’s Chair 5, frozen in time. But those cold temps made for a bluebird day!Whitefish Mountain Resort used to be Big Mountain. But in 2007, the CEO got tired of a generic name for a hill that wasn’t easily associated with its location and decided to copy the name of the historic railroad town just 15 minutes away. Even before the resort was founded in 1947, its name was a moving target. After the first cabin was built by Whitefish volunteers in 1935 in the headwaters of Hell Roaring Creek, Whitefish skiers with a thirst for speed formed The Hell Roaring Ski Club. A moniker with moxie — but they changed it to the Whitefish Lake Ski Club to placate townspeople who weren’t fans of Hell. And let’s not even mention Haskill Mountain.At the Summit House (elevation 6817 feet) suds-sipping snowboarders enjoy a crystal clear view of Glacier National Park.I wasn’t tired at all on my first day riding this season — I was merely pausing to appreciate the view of Whitefish Lake. As a fierce proponent of fairweather riding, it was my first time ever wearing a face mask. I bought a cute black and pink one from Stumptown Snowboards on Central Avenue so I can wear it into a 7 Eleven. Kidding! In Alberta you can wear a face mask at any gas station and no one thinks a robbery is in progress. Because it is often that cold. But I digress. You may have noticed,I had the courtesy to pull down my mask to expose my teeth for the photo. But only the top row.Apres the day on the mountain, the lobby at the Lodge led straight to…… the Boat Club Lounge. Where, Canadians will be pleased to learn, they make a mean Caesar. That, my American friends, is similar to a Bloody Mary, except it’s made with Clamato juice. I know, sounds gross, but it’s soooo good.If you want to take your Apres outside, the hot tub provides a wonderful view of Whitefish Mountain Resort for the war stories.Up next: the best room at the Lodge and another fantastic night in the Fish. Do they call it that? Umm, actually, no… I don’t think so. I rescind that statement. But check back soon — Blue Besos is in Whitefish all week!
The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is full of photo opportunities. Including this spot on the second floor, giving you a wonderful view of the main lobby. If I wasn’t so obsessed about getting the right shot of this shirt from Forever 21 (with Victoria Secret’s leopard print peeking through) I’d probably take a sneak peek at that moose smiling on the wall downstairs.If you’re worried that I won’t survive the record-breaking frigid temperatures in a sequin mini skirt, fishnets and a see-through shirt, don’t. (Mom, I’m talking to you.) These Michael Kors boots come with detachable sheepskin. Very sensible for this weather.And with the Lodge’s valet keeping my car warm by a roaring fire, the temperature just isn’t an issue…… although after admiring the Christmas decorations for, oh, 30 seconds or so, I was ready to hustle inside to dinner. I’m told that -2 Fahrenheit (-19 Celsius) is unusual for Whitefish, but it couldn’t freeze the charm of the lights overhead, which are nothing compared to what they’ll be on December 13, when the cars clear out of Central Avenue for the annual Christmas Stroll and tree lighting ceremony.Inside Tupelo Grille, the art almost distracted me from my rumbling tummy. Call me a populist, but I love me some Blue Dog. I first discovered George Rodrigue’s cute canine in a Carmel, California gallery and have been hooked ever since. The Cajun connection (George is from Louisiana) makes sense at a restaurant known for its New Orleans cuisine.The room itself has nooks and crannies character, including a back booth you have to shimmy along the bench to get to the end. And oh — the food was fab. The shrimp and crawfish cakes were my fave delish dish of the night. And fyi, if you want skinny fries to be part of your steak frites experience, the waiter will make it happen.Finally, if you still have an ounce (have I ever mentioned how anti-metric I am?) of strength left after Day 1 on your Whitefish Winter Weekend that includes a multi-national road trip to get here, make a stop at the Ultimate Safeway. I wish they had a Safeway this deluxe in Calgary. Just a few blocks south of Montana’s vintage village on US 93, this gourmet haven is open 24/7. More importantly, it has a wonderful vino selection to stock that duo-temperature-zone wine cellar back in your room at the Lodge.
Next up: opening day at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Driving into Whitefish, Montana in December is like driving into a ski town postcard from the Seventies, as long as you substitute cowboy hats for toques and save the melted fromage for cheeseburgers instead of fondue.Nestled in the Northern Montana Rockies just 25 miles from Glacier National Park, Whitefish is a destination that keeps adrenalin junkies sated year-round. But even if you don’t come to Whitefish for an Official Activity, you could happily while away the hours in the town center, brimming with independently owned shops, untouched by McDonalds, Starbucks or Walmart. This particular weekend, the weather is more winter than wonderland, so window-shopping isn’t the most comfortable option……unless you have a natural fur coat, like this guy loitering on Central Avenue in front of Montana Coffee Traders. He’s onto something, though, because a mocha stop here will help you power through any weather. And the warmth of Whitefish residents melts away any remaining frosty residue.The view is a constant reminder of why we drove six hours from Calgary to be here (the winter roads added an hour to the travel time, but the border was a breeze). Look at those untouched runs on Big Mountain. Tomorrow is the opening day of the season at Whitefish Mountain Resort.Even from the less scenic side, the Lodge at Whitefish Lake looks good. And so does the hotel’s white Suburban, which comes in handy for chauffeur-driven 3-minute jaunts to town and 10-minute drives to the hill.Inside, the lobby of the Lodge is like Christmas morning — if your Christmas morning includes a 99 room waterfront mansion. Still, it feels homey… probably because the Lodge is owned and operated by a fourth generation Montana family, the Averills.Sculptures and paintings don’t detract from the cozy feel, even though there’s enough to fill a small museum. All are discreetly for sale.The Averills take their art so seriously that even the main floor ATM blends into the aesthetic. As someone who is obsessed with aesthetic, I fully support this attention to detail. Next up: details on Whitefish at night!
My blog posts this summer have been the Most Sporadic Ever. I can only offer excuses, excuses, excuses. So I’ll skip them and move on to my most recent nature break in Windermere, BC. Being from British Columbia myself, you’d think I would have heard of this place, but it took moving to Calgary to put it on my radar.The lake retreat on the western side of the Rockies is only a quick 3-hour zip from Calgary, which takes you through Banff and its famous animal overpasses. I took this photo while driving — please ignore the bugs on my windshield. Or don’t. Those are Rocky-sized bugs.Back to the beauty. Turns out the lake isn’t really a lake, it’s actually a wide part of the Columbia River. It’s also part of the Columbia River Wetlands, one of the longest undisturbed wetland ecosystems found in North America, stretching over 180 km. Sorry, my American friends (I say in that passive-aggressive Canadian way) you’ll have to do the conversion yourself. I’m feeling especially bad at math tonight.
Meanwhile, the rugged, natural beauty shines beyond metrics. I saw a few developers’ signs claiming ownership, but so far the hills are forested and “community” free.There are no schedules in Windermere. Nor any hotels that I could recommend. It’s the type of place where, if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a friend’s cottage, you go. And if a thunderstorm scares the butterflies away for a while, there’s always a good board game to keep you busy.The Hoodoo Hike on the west side of the lake was my favorite. Thanks to the Nature Trust of British Columbia, this conservation property provides a vital migration corridor for all kinds of critters, including grizzlies, badgers and woodpeckers. I didn’t see any of them, but I did spot the most gigantic juniper trees. Until this hike I thought my gin martinis came from bushes, not trees.But even at the foot of the Purcell Mountains, it’s not all nature all the time. In the nearby town of Invermere (no one could tell me why all the towns end in mere here) the stacks at the Book Bar are wonderful to stock up on dock and deck reading.Your BBQ will never go wrong. German settlers in the area still make an impact with the incredible quality of their grillable items.And tucked in behind the tall grasses and trees, it’s the Kicking Horse coffee factory.The fair trade organic roast is so popular with the locals, they don’t waste any time getting in line. Pausing to remove your bike helmet could delay your extra-bold cup of Kick Ass.Hopefully my one-woman movement to bring the bandana back from burglary chic to boho style won’t be successful. I’m going to have to imbue more passion for fashion into my sunblock statement. Shirt, Michael Stars. Shorts, Mossimo Supply Co. Hat, Calgary Polo Club.Miss you already, Windermere!
Think you have to go to South Beach to enjoy a poolside mojito with piped-in DJ sounds of summer? Don’t book that flight to Miami just yet. Here in Calgary, Hotel Arts is the destination for bikini-clad bevvie-sipping hotties looking to cool off.Now that most post-flood cleanup scenes like this are in the past and the crowds from Stampede have corralled elsewhere…… the pool at Hotel Arts is one of the verrry attractive reasons to party in Calgary. One of the first boutique hotels to hit Cowtown, it did an Ace Hotel-worthy conversion of the Holiday Inn in 2005. Look beyond the exposed skin and you’ll notice a camera crew shooting video and still shots.It’s part an Tourism Calgary campaign currently running nationwide: We’re Open! The subtext being that the water is in the pool, not on the streets anymore. Welcome tourists! Of course Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is the star of the campaign. This photo, taken by Chris Bolin (who was enjoying the sunshine after covering the floods for the Globe and Mail) was snapped right after I interviewed the mayor on the hottest, sweatiest day of the year so far… 37 degrees Celsius. Watch the finished video here. Meanwhile, as the sun bakes into our backs, I feel like I can speak for the both of us here: we’d rather be in the pool with the We’re Open guy.
The festivities associated with the world’s largest rodeo aren’t limited to the Stampede grounds. Everywhere you turn in Calgary, someone’s throwing a party. And chances are it will be in a parking lot.Throw down a hay bale and some cowboy tchotchkes and you’re ready for a roundup.The Calgary Home + Design Show isn’t until September 19th, but that’s no reason not to have a Stampede party. The way Show Manager Jill Kivett and Amanda Haines of Reformation PR rock their daisy dukes and boots, it makes you think this is not their first rodeo.Before Stampede I had lofty plans of wearing a different cowboy hat for every blog post, but as the days on the dusty road start to blur together, I’m leaning on the ol’ wild rose lid a lot. At this point, I’m more concerned with pacing myself. Early in the day, with those cowprint balloons above my head, I’m exuding a respectable healthiness. Kinda like that yogurt commercial.The smartest strategy to maintain a semblance of sobriety is to eat a big meal. With Gaucho Brazillian BBQ providing the best grub of the week, it wasn’t hard to do.It’s hard to leave when the western wear is this good, but another parking lot was calling my name. My Stampede name. Which I haven’t thought of yet, but I’m sure I’ll come up with a great one next week, once the chucks champs have packed up their wagons. Ran into this purple pardner on the way to Jim Pattison’s party. A brief bicep battle was the only appropriate reaction.Inside, more cowboy accoutrements than I could sling a gun at. Stampede is kind of like Halloween, except everyone is wearing the same costume. Except for that dude in the red plaid shirt who photobombed with aplomb.This cowgirl kindly allowed me to take a picture of her booty.And, in the Wearing a Ten Gallon Hat Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Play Bagpipes category, Calgary’s finest showed up for a little pipe and drums. Highland dancing officers proved there’s more ways to bust a move than the two-step.Bye bye, Amber Big Plume, from Tsuu T’ina Nation, the 2013 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess. Gotta git to the next!This sake glass is where it started to get sloppy. Maybe it was because I took a break from the parking lots to get some sushi at Zen8. But more likely it was because the sushi corralled me toward the VIP suites at the biggest parking lot party of them all. Giddyup!Happy Stampede indeed. During this marathon 10-day event that turns all Calgarians into cattle drivers, rodeo champions or barrel-racing princesses, all chutes seem to lead to the Cowboys Tent. Which led me to Outrider Steve Sirianni, who, being from Vegas, moonlights as Executive Director of Slots at the Monte Carlo Casino. I’m feeling lucky!