DIRECT TO THE ACTION
THE good news for Australian snow seekers heading to Canada this season is daily nonstop Sydney-Vancouver flights are being introduced on December 14. The move by Air Canada will cut three hours off the journey, which previously entailed a stop in Honolulu. It will also avoid the hassle of going through US Customs, not an easy experience in these days of constant terror alert. Another plus is that from February 1, Air Canada plans to use its new 777s, which feature lie-flat beds in executive first (business) class. In June, Air New Zealand brought in direct AucklandVancouver flights year-round (three times a week in peak periods), a move airline officials said was in response to strong consumer demand. There’s still time to capitalise on early bird discounts at Canada’s snow resorts. Here’s a run-down of just a few of the deals flooding the market:
The big news on Whistler Blackcomb is there are plans to link the two mountains by a gondola for the 2008 season, setting world records for length and height. For this year, Travel Plan has seven nights’ studio accommodation in Whistler, six-day lift pass, transfers and taxes from $3398 a person ex Sydney based on February 1 departure.
Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine, 90 minutes from Calgary, offers three areas on one lift pass along with some awesome scenery. The Snow Travel Company offers seven nights at the Inns of Banff and lift pass from $2299 ex Sydney for early February departures (taxes extra). Must be booked by July 29.
Sun Peaks, British Columbia’s second largest winter resort (after Whistler), gets my prize for the prettiest village in this part of the world: think Hansel-and-Gretel cute. Travel Plan has seven nights’ studio accommodation, lift pass, transfers and taxes from $3217 ex Sydney.
Silver Star, with its Victorian architecture based on a 19th-century mining town, is another contender for the cutest village prize. Alpine World has seven nights here from $3018 a person, including taxes, lift pass and flights ex Sydney. Stay 10 nights and get two free nights.
Big White, like Sun Peaks and Silver Star, sits in the Okanagan Valley wine country and is a 45-minute drive from Kelowna airport, a 30-minute flight from Vancouver. Ski Max Qantas has a seven-night Big White deal from $2609 a person plus taxes, which includes Sydney-Kelowna flights, transfers, ski in, ski out accommodation and lift pass.
The same company offers seven nights at Kicking Horse staying at Mountaineer Lodge in a hotel-style room from $3290, with flights to Calgary and lift pass. Travel Max also has seven nights at Fernie from $3069 a person staying at the family friendly Wolf’s Den Mountain Lodge, 50m from the base of the lifts, with lift pass and flights ex Sydney. All these Travel Max deals must be booked and paid for by August 31 and are based on early February departures. Barry Oliver
Travel Plan: 1300 130 754; www.travelplan.com.au. The Snow Travel Company: 1300 660 690; www.snowtravel.com.au. Travel Max Qantas: 1300 136 997; www.skimax.com.au. Alpine World: 1300 138 311; www.alpineworld.com.au.