British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, spans nearly a million square kilometres (364,764 square miles) of mountains, forests and beaches, cosmopolitan cities and friendly little towns. Set between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and home to 4.5 million people, BC’s diverse landscapes encompass more than 13 world-class ski resorts, thriving wine regions, thousands of miles of coastline and dozens of championship golf courses, all offering unbeatable opportunities for outdoor adventure and urban experiences.
Heliskiing’s 50th Anniversary:
Fifty years after heliskiing was founded in British Columbia by Canadian Mountain Holidays, over 40 heli- and cat-ski operators have planted their flags on BC’s slopes, showcasing diversity within the sport that boasts few equals. Many operations offer multi-day excursions that set up camp at remote lodges, complete with perks that include cosy accommodation and hearty menus to fuel the fire. Purcell Heliskiing and Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing are two that have been in operations for many decades. Resort-based options include Whistler Heli-Skiing at Whistler Blackcomb, rk heliski at Panorama Mountain Resort, and Selkirk Tangiers Helicopter Skiing at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. For those interested in snow-cat operations, check out Mustang Powder near Revelstoke, where it’s all about fresh tracks in the Monashee Mountains. Fernie-based Island Lake Catskiing offers no less, thanks to guided exploration through the private bowls and gladed forest of the Lizard Range.
First Nations Experiences:
With the highest diversity of distinct First Nations in Canada, British Columbia is rich in Aboriginal culture, from ancient village sites to sophisticated interpretive centres, museums and tours. Visitors are encouraged to unravel the culture of these people, whose presence and influence in the province — seen everywhere in their artwork, carvings and totem poles — is impossible to miss. Where to start? Dip your paddle for a Traditional West Coast Canoe Tour of Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm with Takaya Tours, explore the private beaches (and overnight in everything from rustic yurts to timber frame beach lodges) at Vancouver Island’s Wya Point & Resort or travel farther afield to view the new Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole in Northern BC, a 13-metre (42-foot) monumental pole that was the first to be raised in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in 130 years.
Craft Beer & Spirits:
In the past year alone, there have been nine new breweries that have opened across the province, from Wheelhouse Brewing Company as far north as Prince Rupert to The Heid Out Restaurant and Brewhouse as far east as Cranbrook, with the greatest concentration opening in Vancouver, including Brassneck Brewery, 33 Acres Brewing Company, Four Winds Brewing, Bridge Brewing Company and Green Leaf Brewing Company, among others. That’s just a small sampling though, with even more breweries scheduled to open in 2014. Not to be left out, spirits are also making their presence known, with Vancouver’s Odd Society Spirits, The Liberty Distillery and Long Table Distillery joining already established Victoria Spirits, Island Spirits Distillery, Shelter Point Distillery and Pemberton Distillery in the Vancouver Island and Vancouver, Coast & Mountains regions respectively. Expect to find everything from smooth, sipping vodka made with malted barley grown in Prince George to flavourful gin infused with juniper berries and blackcurrants picked in the Comox Valley.
While British Columbia’s urban centres offer cosmopolitan experiences, a defining feature of our cities is their proximity to nature. On the doorstep of mountains, oceans, forests, beach, trails and more, cities here offer access to amazing outdoor adventure — most within a 30-minute drive of downtown cores. In Vancouver, you can bike, golf, sail and ski (sometimes all in one day), just beyond the city lights. It’s little wonder then that BC offers a host of outdoor adventures sure to get the blood pumping. There’s singletrack for mountain bikers in Whistler, North Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Williams Lake and Nelson. You can take to the sky with Whistler’s Superfly Ziplines, a thrilling mountaintop adventure with two ziplines that have the distinction of being Canada’s longest. Or, for a change of pace, trade mountains for the beach, and paddle big waves off Tofino or Masset.
Okanagan Valley Wines:
Think wine tours are solely for summer? Not so at these year-round Okanagan Valley vintners. In West Kelowna, Quails’ Gate was founded in 1956, ingenious intuition that has paid off with winning reds and whites. The winery features rare varietals, including Old Vines Foch and Chenin Blanc. Set in Summerland, Sumac Ridge excels in red and white production in equal measures, but it is the burgundy-hued blends, with grapes grown on the Black Sage Bench, that are cause for pause. Further south in Penticton, Poplar Grove Winery holds the distinction as one of five original wineries to set up shop along the province’s Naramata Bench, and for nearly 20 years, this ground-breaking team has never wavered in its dedication to crafting premium wines that deliciously reflect the Okanagan Valley’s distinctive terroir. Oliver’s Hester Creek boasts some impressive views, and along with producing wine also offers Terrafina restaurant and overnight Villa accommodations.For a final stop, head to Nk’Mip Cellars, Canada’s first Aboriginal-owned-and-operated winery, further south in Osoyoos. Here, ripe reds like Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon all benefit from the intense heat in Canada’s only pocket desert.