Wine-ing Around Kelowna’s Vineyards

It’s a well-known rule that anyone who takes a trip to Kelowna has to visit at least 4 wineries before they’re allowed to leave. Since I had plans to move out to (spoiler alert:) Whistler, I was faced with the difficult task of choosing which of Kelowna’s 30 wineries I wanted to tour. Luckily, I made my decision by teaming up with HelloBC again to write an article about sustainable wineries, which led me to Kalala Organic Estate WineryTantalus Vineyards and Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

To match with the “sustainability” theme, I also decided that I would cycle to each of these locations.

 A decision I made before putting 2 and 2 together to realize that while mountain slopes are pretty, they also make for an intense workout

A decision I made before putting 2 and 2 together to realize that while mountain slopes are pretty, they also make for an intense workout

Panting my way up and down rolling hillsides only made views (and tastes) at each destination all the more sweet (or savoury, depending on the type of wine) though.

As the only LEED-certified winery building in the Okanagan, I didn’t want to dishonour Tantalus’ wine shop by showing up in a hummer or something crazy

As the only LEED-certified winery building in the Okanagan, I didn’t want to dishonour Tantalus’ wine shop by showing up in a hummer or something crazy

In addition to getting to taste some great wines, I also learned a thing or two about the stuff to help me pretend like I know what I’m talking about when wine comes up in conversation. Since I’m such a nice person, I’ll help you pretend you know all about sustainable Okanagan wine with these 3 quick facts:

1)    If grapes are grown organically, the soil around the vines will be covered with weeds (If they’re not organic and sprayed with pesticides, nothing will be able to grow there)


2)    Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir will typically be the best types of wines to order from the Okanagan

If that can help lower down the selection at all

If that can help lower down the selection at all

3)    Organic wines can only have 100 sulphur dioxide (SO2) parts per million, instead of 350, like in non-organic wines

Since that was a lot of learning, I decided I’d finish up with a nice tour and tasting at Quail’s Gate and lunch at the restaurant, Old Vines. Coming in, I was pretty sure the wine was going to be fantastic.

Which was confirmed by a taste-test

Which was confirmed by a taste-test

However, I was completely blown away by the food at Old Vines and decided to take photos of all of my party’s courses:

To start: Dungeness crab cakes, warm beets and buffalo mozzarella salad & green apple, orange and arugula salad

To start: Dungeness crab cakes, warm beets and buffalo mozzarella salad & green apple, orange and arugula salad

For mains: grilled wild BC salmon, prosciutto wrapped Maple hills chicken breast and Cache creek natural beef butchers’ cut

For mains: grilled wild BC salmon, prosciutto wrapped Maple hills chicken breast and Cache creek natural beef butchers’ cut

To finish off: salted caramel budino and chocolate crèmeux

To finish off: salted caramel budino and chocolate crèmeux


When Alpine Hipsters go Nordic: Adventure (Park) Time Part 3

As a skier and a hipster, I pride myself on the fact that I am not a snowboarder for several reasons (to keep things short and sweet, I’ve cut it down to just 6 for you – which is waaaaay less than “several”):

1)    2 legs –> 2 skis = sensible BUT 2 legs –> 1 board = nonsensical; my legs are (also) hipsters, they don’t like to conform to what the other one is doing

2)    Skiers are faster than snowboarders

  1. Fastest downhill ski speed = 156mph
  2. Fastest downhill snowboard speed = 126mph

3)    Skiers were bombing down hills way before boarders thought it was cool

4)    It doesn’t take me 5,000,000hours to clip into my skis every time I get to the top of a lift

5)    I don’t have to hop around like a crippled bunny every time I get to a flat section of the mountain (hooray poles)

6)    I get to lecture snowboarders about all of the above reasons whenever they take 5,000,000hours to clip into their board or stuck on a flat section of the hill

Basically, I really enjoy skiing and how far my ski-bility has come over the course of the season. This means that when I discovered Big White’s Adventure Park had a bunch of Nordic ski trails, I was ready to show off my skills**.

** I had never actually been cross-country skiing before, but it pretty much looked like a flatter and easier version of downhill skiing, so I decided not to bother with lessons or anything silly like that.

I marched up to the rental shop with my boarder buddy and tried to disguise my confusion as nonchalance when I was handed a pair of “boots” that were shorter and thinner than some of my shoes (high-top shoes, but shoes nonetheless)! The rental attendant then asked if I wanted instructions on how to clip the boots, but I gave him a big “pffffffffft, nah, I got this,” and marched onwards with (misplaced) confidence to the start of the trail and got ready to start this cross country adventure.

Unfortunately, the “official” start was delayed by about 10mins of hopelessly attempting to stomp my boots into the skis, but after that small hiccup, I was ready to go!

Mini boot wearing CHAMP!

Mini boot wearing CHAMP!

By “go”, I of course mean, “flip head over heels every couple of centimetres because balancing on super-skinny Nordic skis turns out to be a lot more difficult than balancing on fatty downhill powder skis”. Seriously, I felt like I was learning to skate for the first time wearing skates with blades that were a metre long! After my buddy and I (along with several small but very talented Nordic ski-children) laughed at some of the most spastics falls known to man, we finally started making progress along the trail…somehow.

It turns out that there’s a technique to Nordic skiing. Something that to this day, I do not fully understand. I tried to swish around like I would with regular skis on flat ground but eventually realized that moving with more of a skating motion seemed to make more sense.

With that, I ski-skated my way across a couple different routes, all of which seemed to lead to intersections where Lower Copper Kettle crossed with Lower Copper Kettle in 4 directions.

While it was a bit of a labyrinth, it was a very pretty labyrinth!

While it was a bit of a labyrinth, it was a very pretty labyrinth!

Altogether, Nordic skiing was definitely a fun experience, but still has nothing on its alpine cousin!

Don't worry mountains, you're still my number one!

Don’t worry mountains, you’re still my number one!

Ice Climbing a Tower in 8 Bit Increments: Adventure (Park) Time Part 2

IceClimberboxartnesI used to think that my excitement levels had reached a maximum when I learned that Big White had a place called the Adventure Park. While I don’t usually like being wrong, Adventure Park isn’t exactly a “usual” place. Soon after discovering the park, I found out that it was home to the biggest ice tower on the continent (the thing is a massive 60feet tall) and that it existed just so that normal ski bums could transform into the 8 bit Nintendo characters, Nana and Popo! (Okay, so you didn’t actually get pixelated before climbing the tower, but I was too excited to care.)

I signed up for a climb and strapped into a pair of boots with cleats that were so big, they made soccer shoes look like they should be used for bowling.

Dual point crampons for the win!

Dual point crampons for the win!

Stepping up to the wall, I was then handed a pair of ice picks and immediately went into full photo-shoot mode.

(Don't worry, I won't bombard you with too many pics)

(Don’t worry, I won’t bombard you with too many pics)

Once I had calmed down, my guide began explaining that ice climbing basically involved the same muscles and techniques as rock climbing, but since you had such badass cleats on your feet, you didn’t have to search for ledges and could basically dig your feet into any part of the wall you wanted.

Since I’d been rock climbing before, I was feeling pretty confident and decided to opt for the intermediate wall (which I later found out actually had a tougher rating than 90% of naturally occurring ice walls).

Why yes, I DO always think in photo collages!

Why yes, I DO always think in photo collages!

It took me a whole 30cm to realize that this was going to be more difficult than I had originally thought. Somehow, I had already gotten twisted around, scrunched up and put a ton of pressure on my wrists.

Killing it! (And by "it" I mean myself...)

Killing it! (And by “it” I mean myself…)

Luckily for me, as Nana the Ice Climber, I had more than one life and re-started my ascent with bigger strides. Soon enough, I had pounded my way up ¾ of the wall and while bordering on exhausting, was feeling pretty good about myself.

Killing it! (And by "it", I mean the wall this time)

Killing it! (And by “it”, I mean the wall this time)

However, it was at this point that the wall seemed to run out of places to dig my axe into and my guide started poking fun and telling me I climbed like a girl. I cursed him a bit under my breath before yelling down at him: “I’ll show YOU how girls climb!” From there, I somehow managed to hack my way to the summit and triumphantly ring the bell at the top of the wall. Despite being pathetically muffled and frozen, to me, it rang out like a triumphant symphony.



Because Mountain Exploits Aren’t Enough: Adventure (Park) Time Part 1

Like about 99% of the people who venture to Big White, all of my immediate thoughts were engulfed by the mountain itself, which, to be fair, is quite large, awesome and thought-worthy. However, with all my thoughts being concentrated on mountain life, it took an embarrassingly long time for me to discover that adventure was waiting beyond the slopes.

I was enjoying a delectable breakfast-for-dinner at the Happy Valley Day Lodge when (for some strange reason), I looked away from my food and out the window. It was then that I noticed a sign labelled “ADVENTURE PARK” (cue Adventure Time theme music)!

Adventure Time + Me = Travvel Sized Fiona

Adventure Time + Me = Travvel Sized Fiona

The mountain itself was enough of an adventure, and that didn’t even make any allusions to how exhilarating it was! This place was bound to be full of daring expeditions and I was immediately ready to begin my exploits! (Once I had finished my breakfast of course.)



Bounding across the icy plain, I had made it to the famous (as of 15 minutes ago) Adventure Park and was immediately face-to-face with the largest skating rink, longest tube park and highest ice-climbing tower on the continent! To top things off, there were even snowmobiling Santas and horse and carriage rides – basically, I was ready to sign up for everything!



Santa knows what's cool!

Santa knows what’s cool!

Unfortunately, it was still only 9am, and nothing in the park was open until the afternoon, so my conquests were unfortunately put on hold (for the time being).

Until next time, adorable horses!

Until next time, adorable horses!

Translating Meteorology into Slope Selection (Big White Weather Part 2)

In Part 1 of my (all too Canadian) Big White weather series, I mentioned that I learned that dressing for the weather was not as vitally important as I once thought. Not going to lie, it’s still important to know that booty shorts in the snow are inappropriate (except on Australia day, where “Aussie rules” apply like its football and it magically becomes warm enough to board in a bikini without instantly freezing). In Big White as a whole however, knowing how to dress for the weather pales in comparison to knowing how to ride for the weather.

In Big White, each area of the hill has a very particular type of terrain and a particular type of weather that suits each area best. Fortunately for all of you, I’ve evaluated Big White’s weather and runs well enough to be able to tell which type of slope you should attempt to conquer in each meteorological condition. I’ve divided everything up by lift, but in case you’re not familiar with the hill, here’s a map:

With numbers for easy labelling and everything!

With numbers for easy labelling and everything!

Here’s the breakdown:

 (1) Gem Lake Express and Falcon Chair: Ride through the snow: Gem Lake and Falcon are great on days when it’s actively snowing. Gem Lake has a huge selection of blues and blacks, which are great when you can spend long runs gliding over top of them when they’re covered in fresh powder. Unless you’re doing Kalina’s rainbow (which is a great introductory run to the area), everyone tends to disperse fairly quickly, so if it’s snowing, early tracks can quickly get covered, giving you a fresh route all day long.

(2) Powder Chair: Ride on cloudy powder days: the pistes down powder and fairly tight and flag pole, corkscrew and powder glades offer great riding when low-lying clouds white out most of the hill (the clouds can’t get between the trees – muwa haha).

Also, it just feels depressing to be on powder chair when there’s no powder snow. It’s like the hill is lying to me!

Trees > clouds

Trees > clouds

(3) Snow Ghost and Ridge Rocket Express: Ride on weekdays: these two lifts offer something for everyone, from cruise-y green runs and loose trees down Serwa’s to tight, steep moguls down the black piece of cake (along with a massive selection of blues). As a result of catering to everyone however, everyone wants to ride these lifts and although Big White is usually good at keeping lift lines down, these two are the most likely to keep you waiting, then have you weaving in and out of other riders on your way down.

With that, weekdays (other than during Christmas holidays) are always less busy and mornings especially will allow you to have some extra space.

(4) Alpine T – Bar and Bullet Express: Ride in high visibility and low winds: the runs around here are very open, so you’re literally skiing blind if you run into low-lying clouds. Seriously, I’ve had days where skiing through trees on black runs was less terrifying than the green Highway 33 (it’s hard to avoid crashing into newbie boarders if you can’t see them until you’re on top of them). The Bullet express lift itself is also infamous for freezing riders on the way up, since it’s got about 1/100 of the tree cover of any of the other lifts.

That being said, the Alpine T – Bar’s got other worldly views from the summit and Bullet Express is usually far less busy than Snow Ghost, Ridge Rocket and Black Forest Express.

I always feel a little bit like I've somehow ended up on Mars' north pole whenever I'm at the top of the Alpine T - Bar

I always feel a little bit like I’ve somehow ended up on Mars’ north pole whenever I’m at the top of the Alpine T – Bar

(5) Cliff Chair: Ride on a bluebird after a powder day: this chair is called “Cliff” for a reason. If you’re going down any of the double black diamonds, you have to start off by literally throwing yourself off the side of a vertical cliff, then proceed to traverse down a 89 degree slope. Like the (stupidly calm in comparison) Alpine T – Bar, the snow at the summit tends to freeze more often than the rest of the mountain and since the top section is an open bowl, you’re blind again in bad visibility.

Basically, ride in weather you’re prepared to die in; the runs at cliff are short, but intense.

The photo doesn't even begin to do it justice, it's a full run of nothing but screams (awesome, adrenaline filled screams, but STILL)!

The photo doesn’t even begin to do it justice, it’s a full run of nothing but screams (awesome, adrenaline filled screams, but STILL)!

(6) TELUS Park Chair: Ride at night: I’ve only been to the terrain park a couple times, but the point of the area seems to be to look cooler than everyone else there. So naturally, riding at night under the park lights ups your coolness by +10 automatically. Also, lots of the day-tripppers have taken off by this point, so it won’t be anywhere near as busy.

(7) Black Forest Express: Ride when the terrain’s icy: when covered in a layer of fluffy powder, Black Forest Express is the go-to lift for intermediate riders. However, since over half the runs are intermediate blues, there’s no point restricting yourself to Black Forest on these days.

If it’s been warm and less snowy however, the west side of the hill really suffers, but Black Forest comes into its prime. The runs are always well groomed, and on days where the snow is well packed, you can zip to the bottom at breakneck speeds.

The Art of Slope-Side Conversation (Big White Weather Part 1)

There are 2 very important things about meteorology I thought I learned throughout my travels:

1)    Canadians love to talk about the weather much more than everyone else (in Singapore, the only way a weather-themed conversation that can ever happen is: “its raining, lah.” “same-same as every day” “…yeah…”)

2)    Dressing for the weather is incredibly important

In Big White, I found out that both of these “facts” were complete and utter lies. As first off, Canadians may love to talk about the weather, but this follows a pretty routine cycle:

1)    Winter: “Wow! It’s really cold, look at that snow and how you can see my breath!”

2)    Spring: “Wow! It’s really wet, look at those flowers and the endless amount of slush everywhere!”

3)    Summer: “Wow! It’s really hot, look at how yellow the grass is and how much I’m sweating!”

4)    Autumn: “Wow! It’s really…mild… look at how the leaves were green and on the trees, but now are yellow and on the ground!”

"The leaves were one colour, now they are another colour! Let me discuss this at length because I'm Canadian!"

“The leaves were one colour, now they are another colour! Let me discuss this at length because I’m Canadian!”

Despite the predictability of these conversations, you’re not allowed to live in Canada unless you engage at least 12 people in these each season. Now, this might look like I’m proving my initial point I said I had disproven, but despite the importance of these seasonal conversations, they have nothing on how vital the weather is to anyone (if Australians) on ski hills!

As soon as you receive a season ski pass, you’re brain automatically gets programmed to wake you up shouting: “WHAT’S TODAY’S SNOW REPORT!?” At which time, you’re forced to jump to the nearest computer or data-enabled phone to examine the following in full detail:

1)    Current and expected daily temperature

2)    Cloud cover and visibility

3)    Wind speed and direction

4)    Snow fall in the past 12 and 24 hours

5)    Numbers 1 – 4 with surrounding mountains you don’t have passes to so

  1. You can laugh at them for having worse conditions that you
  2. You can tell everyone how much you hate them for having better conditions than you
Canadian: "Mighty chilly, eh!? Look at that snow!" Big Whitian: "3cm of fresh pow, perfect viz and no wind

Canadian: “Mighty chilly, eh!? Look at that snow!”
Big Whitian: “3cm of fresh pow, perfect viz and no wind, gotta get to the hill ASAP!”

Now, regardless of what you’ve found out, it’s time to hit to the hill!

If for some ungodly reason (like having to work, or having broke every bone in your body), you cannot hit the hill, you must then spend the entire day discussing the conditions either as:

1)    “The visibility is crap today, wouldn’t want to be on the hill anyways”

  1. AKA: denial

2)    “The one day we get perfect conditions, and I’m stuck at work, it’s torture!”

Because I am a weather-scientist and this makes me a hero!

Because I am a weather-scientist and this makes me a hero!

For me as someone who works at night (where condition 2 never happens – muwahaha) and is awake before everyone else, I told the sacred task of updating these sites and weather reports. This basically means I’m a meteorologist, which is pretty awesome on days when it snows because anyone who’s the first to let everyone know they’re in store for the best pow day of their life basically gets a parade in their honour for bringing so much joy to everyone’s life

In Summary: The 3 most important things about the weather are:

1)    If you are / want to be Canadian, look at the sky and tell everyone you know what your see on a semi-regular basis

2)    If you own a season ski pass, check your mountain snow report on a religious basis and give everyone you know you’re full analysis on the conditions

3)    Talking about the weather give me an un-ignorable urge to write lots of numbered lists

Travvelsized Timetravel

 First off, I have to admit that I won’t be handing out instructions on how to build a time machine in this post. I WILL however, let you in on how to time travel WITHOUT one!

When pretty much anyone on the entire planet travels (myself included), it’s assumed that the traveller is looking to cross space, not time. However, if you cross enough space, you tend to cross some time as well. So, if you’re looking to save money on your next time travelling vacation, check out these 3 tips:

1)    Skype someone in a different time zone. Guaranteed your conversation will not only start with the obligatory “Can you see me..? No, can you at least hear me..? No? I’ll just re-start Skype and see if that works…! Okay, now we’re on! So tell me, are you forward or backward in time from me?” (Just a hint, if you’re in British Columbia, Canada like me, you’re backward in time and in the past

  1. Cheat: this is especially awesome for New Year’s Eve, through the help of Skype, I celebrated the countdown 3 times in one year (so technically, I live in the future in 2016) by chiming into Australia, Ontario and my own New Year in BC

2)    Actually visit a different time zone. Spending an antire day on a plane is enough for me to lose track of time even if it was flowing at a normal rate, so I’ve found the best way to time travel like this is to move from Singapore to Malaysia or Indonesia. Singapore is an hour ahead of the rest of the time zone because it’s literally trying to keep up with Hong Kong, Taiwan and Beijing. This way, if you take a bus / boat off the island, you immediately go back in time by a whole hour!

3)    Work the night shift. This is part of my job at Big White, so I can tell you a bit about it before you interject with “but how do you stay awake all night all the time?” (The answer being: by sleeping during the day). As the most difficult (and effective) way to time travel, it takes some getting used to, but once mastered, you can live in a constant alternate reality which is half a day ahead of everyone else! With this, I get paid to make psychic snow predictions for the up coming day (which you can see online at

My sunrise is everyone else's sunset: I fight the urge to instagram this to death everyday #nofilter

My sunrise is everyone else’s sunset: I fight the urge to instagram this to death everyday #nofilter

  1. Cheat: working nights isn’t actually as hard as you may think! I’ve drawn up a nice table (because I just kind of love making tables) to show the pros and cons of the job:

Night Shift Pros

Night Shift Cons

Being able to make the hill for first lift (best time to ski because the snow is super fresh and everyone is still asleep) EVERYDAY without being tired Never being able to go night riding (worst time to ski because the runs are super tracked and only 5 are still open) at 5pm because you’re asleep
Watching the sunrise on the way back from work everyday Apparently there’s this thing called a “sunset”. (Everyone sees it, way too mainstream)
Watching people walk groggily to their “early morning” shift as you walk home Watching other people go to sleep as you get ready for work
Eating breakfast at midnight everyday because its your morning Midnight is your morning
Eating breakfast for dinner because its actual morning Morning is your evening
Basically just waffles, all day e’ry day! THERE ARE NO CONS TO WAFFLES
Hilarious encounters with intoxicated people at 3am Being awake but not intoxicated at 3am
When people ask “what time / day is it?” you don’t need to know the answer because “I work nights, time has no meaning” Time has no meaning
As an entry level ski resort job, you’re guaranteed 40h a week, even when the resort is empty and everyone else is lucky to get 1 shift You work at night
You always know you’re schedule in advance and never have to work split shifts The shifts you do work are at night
Never needing to know what time / day it is because you can rebuttal with “I work nights! I’m on a totally different schedule” Never knowing what time / day it is
This is actually what my face looks like in real life now

This is actually what my face looks like in real life now