Category: Vancouver Island

5 Places Locals Are Loving to Cross Country Ski in BC This Week

British Columbia has more than 50 cross-country skiing areas and countless more options in provincial and national parks. Here are five photos showing where locals are making the most of the great, early-season conditions.

1. Sovereign Lake Nordic Club near Vernon

2. Fernie

3. Tetrahedron Provincial Park on the Sunshine Coast


Luxury living in the Tetrahedron. #sunshinecoastbc #exploreBC

A photo posted by Dolf Vermeulen Photography (@dolfvermeulen) on

4. Pemberton

5. Larch Hills Ski Area near Salmon Arm


Snowland #photooftheday #day976

A photo posted by Evan Buhler (@evanbuhler) on

Additional Links: 
Cross-country skiing in BC

Don’t forget to tag your photos with #exploreBC for your chance to be featured in one of our upcoming blog posts.

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How to Storm Watch in BC: Enjoying Winter Weather at a Cosy Retreat

The waves  at Tofino's Wickaninnish Inn, Vancouver Island.

The waves are a major draw at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn. Image: Sander Jain

The concept of celebrating winter storms, rather than avoiding them, was the brainchild of Charles McDiarmid of Tofino’s oceanfront Wickaninnish Inn. He grew up loving wild weather and figured others, too, would revel in braving the Pacific gales that send giant breakers thundering onto Vancouver Island’s long, west coast beaches.

He was right. That’s why the Wick Inn supplies slickers and gumboots that dehydrate in a special drying space outside their Driftwood Café while guests relax by a crackling wood fire, red-cheeked and cosy, savouring a special in-the-moment bliss that Danish people have a word for—hygge (“heu-gah”).

Coastal storm watching launched in the mid-’90s and has since gone viral. Enthusiasts pack up rain gear, warm blankets, and books, stock up on goodies, and settle into oceanfront B&Bs, lodges, and cabins. Surfers ride winter waves on exposed beaches, from Sombrio on the island’s southern tip all the way north to Haida Gwaii, where winds regularly hit more than 40 kilometres per hour November through January.

Northern BC's Cassiar Cannery.

Northern BC’s Cassiar Cannery. Image: Justine Crawford

Winter tempests in BC come in all sizes, shapes, and forms. The Cassiar Cannery, on the coast 25 minutes from Prince Rupert in Northern BC, is a unique spot to watch cold dry air from the province’s Interior blast 600 kilometres (373 miles) down the Skeena River smack into warm, moist Pacific air. The collision makes for a dramatic display of billowing clouds and fog punctured by shafts of vivid, low-angled sunshine.

When you’re huddled up at the sheltered river mouth in a waterfront guest house—restored from one of the region’s historic, century-old salmon-cannery towns—storm watching is an ethereal and sometimes surreal experience. Seven-metre (24-foot) tides move right up to your house-on-stilts. Peak storm month is November. Tip: Expect rain and extraordinary light, so bring something to keep you and your camera dry.

The Logden Lodge in BC's snowy Kootenay Rockies.

The Logden Lodge in BC’s snowy Kootenay Rockies. Image: Logden Lodge

Inland, there are snow storms to savour. In southeastern BC’s Kootenay Rockies, Logden Lodge is set at the foot of the Selkirk Mountains near Nelson, a stone’s throw from Whitewater Ski Resort. Four secluded cabins on 17 hectares (42 acres) of private wilderness make it easy to disconnect. Gather around a blazing bonfire and watch powder drift from the sky, or enjoy the blizzard from your own private covered verandah, bundled in a blanket sipping hot apple cider or Glühwein—another hygge moment. Then go play in the snow, strapping on snowshoes and hitting the trails outside the door or, if you’re a skier, heading for the mountain.

Not far away, Snowwater Heli Ski is exclusive, all-inclusive mountain chic, with six luxe suites in two alpine guest lodges suited for small-group heli-skiing. End the day with a gourmet meal created by Jeremy Tucker, the stellar summertime chef at CedarCreek Estate Winery. Should a storm ground the choppers, a standby Snowcat tractor means that instead of watching the storm from indoors, you can still make powdery turns on virgin territory. On your last night, the sky explodes with fireworks.

The Eagle's Eye Suites at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

The Eagle’s Eye Suites at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Image: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies

Finally, an exceptional winter-storm-watching spot awaits at the 2,347-metre (7,700-foot) Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden. Two Eagle’s Eye Suites in the chalet offer luxury lodgings, complete with your own butler and private chef. After the gondola shuts down, the peak lodge is all yours—enjoy the fully stocked bar and grand rock fireplace, and the solitude of being the only people on the mountain. Wrap yourself in a blanket and step out onto the deck to embrace the elements as Mother Nature lays down the powder that will guarantee you a pristine, fresh-tracks first run in the morning.

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Your top places to experience the ocean in BC

Where is your favourite place to experience the ocean in BC?

BC is blessed with 25,725 kilometres (15,984 miles) of stunning coastline, from soft sandy beaches to dramatic, rainforest-draped cliffs descending straight into the ocean. Our oceans offer outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing, with whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and otters in abundance. The fishing off the coast of BC is the stuff anglers’ dreams are made of, and our waters are a mecca for cold-water divers. Kayaking and boating in remote areas full of waterfalls and coastal hot springs makes for an unforgettable experience. We recently asked our Facebook fans for their favourite place to experience the magic of BC’s oceans, and here are their top five:

5. Victoria

Ocean waves hitting the rocky shore at Dallas Road in Victoria with the Olympic Mountains in the background.

Dallas Road, Victoria. Photo: Stewart Butterfield via Flickr

In the number five spot are the many local beaches in and around BC’s capital city. Victoria beaches run the gamut from sandy coves to rocky bluffs, and all offer a scenic escape from the city. In addition to its many beaches, this gorgeous oceanfront city offers many ways to get out on the water: join a whale watching tour right from the bustling Inner Harbour, take a stroll along iconic Dallas Road, kayak in Victoria’s calm, sheltered waters, or take a guided sightseeing trip on a harbour ferry for a unique tour of the city.

4. Vancouver

A close up view of runners, bikers and walkers enjoying the Stanley Park Seawall along Vancouver's coast on a sunny, blue skied day.

Stanley Park Seawall, Vancouver. Photo: InSapphoWeTrust via Flickr

Next on the list: Vancouver. Like Victoria, Vancouver offers a ton of ways to take advantage of the city’s stunning coastal location, from whale watching excursions to kayaking to harbour tours. Vancouver’s kilometres of sandy beaches become a way of life in the summer, and it is not uncommon to see people commuting to work via harbour ferry. One popular Vancouver spot to enjoy the ocean mentioned in our Facebook poll is from the magnificent Stanley Park Seawall.

3. Johnstone Strait

Two kayakers in a double kayak experiencing a very close encounter with a whale on the surface of the water.

Kayakers having a close encounter with a whale in Johnstone Strait. Photo: Winky via Flickr

Our fans’ number three choice, this well known spot off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island is renowned as one of the top places on the planet to view Orcas. Commercial whale watching tours leaving from Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill and Alert Bay take you straight to the action, and many have on-board naturalists to enhance your trip. Our fans mentioned the incredible experience of kayaking with the Orcas as one of the area’s major draws.

 2. Haida Gwaii

A person standing on a rock looking out into the vast ocean at Haida Gwaii with a cloudy sky above.

Haida Gwaii. Photo by Destination BC

In at number two is Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off the coast of Northern BC known for its pristine natural environment and the ancient culture of the Haida First Nation. The waters surrounding these revered islands are teeming with marine life. Visitors to the islands experience incredible fishing, unforgettable kayaking along a coastline covered in lush rainforest, and strolling along beautiful beaches that go on forever.

1. Tofino/Ucluelet

A person's silhouette standing on the smooth beach in Tofino with the ocean waves crashing in the foreground and sunshine reflecting off of the wet sand.

Tofino. Photo by Bernard McManus via Flickr.

Our fans’ number one choice is the always popular Tofino and its close neighbour Ucluelet, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The area comes alive in the summer with people enjoying the ocean in a variety of ways: surfing, whale watching (this is a great place to see thousands of grey whales migrating), kayaking, fishing and beach combing. Long Beach, located between the two communities, was noted by Facebook fans as a place not to be missed. In the winter, these same picturesque beaches are a popular storm-watching destination.

Did we miss one of your favourites? Share in the comments below!

Related links:
Water Activities in British Columbia

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People of the Wild: Mike Willie

People of the Wild is a blog series profiling residents of British Columbia who have one thing in common: their love for exploring the BC wild. This week we’re featuring Mike Willie, a member of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation who resides in Kingcome Inlet, in the Great Bear Rainforest. Mike works in cultural tourism and is a passionate speaker and educator involved in aboriginal language and cultural revitalization.

Where do you live in BC?

My name is Mike Willie and my First Nations name is T’ɬalis. My Mom is First Nations and I grew up with her in Kingcome Inlet, in the Great Bear Rainforest. Kingcome is a really remote place. It’s about sixty-five nautical miles from the nearest town by water and the population is about eighty people. It was an awesome place to grow up and call home. As kids we were allowed to play outside in the forest or down by the beach. We did a lot of hunting and fishing for sustenance, which you can still do there to this day. We had a school that went up until grade seven and then you had to move out for high school.

I have my own aboriginal tourism and water taxi business called Sea Wolf Adventures. It is based on reconnecting to our land and language through the work of culture revitalization. The foundation of who we are is the territory and land that we come from. Our language comes from the land and is only a reflection of our surroundings, so the inspiration for my company was to get out there into the natural surroundings.

Photo: Mike Willie

Why do you call BC home?

That’s a funny question. I’ve been here my whole life and my ancestors have been here forever, or for thousands of years at least. The number keeps creeping back as archaeology keeps discovering or uncovering new findings. And our origin stories bring us back to the Kingcome Glacier.

I call BC home because of my First Nations ancestry and also because I love the nature. We have supernatural things within our own First Nations culture, but I believe BC is supernatural in itself. We have the life and energies of the forest and water. My culture and my love of nature are two aspects that are blended for me because First Nations culture is really based on all of that. When we have our ceremonies, it’s all linked and tied in to the energies from the forest and land.

Our culture is entrenched in nature and is a reflection of our surroundings. I recently had my first potlatch, so I’m now a hereditary chief from my nation. We dramatized all of our stories and we sang a lot of our songs. The best way to explain it is that all of our songs are a record of past events that happened thousands of years ago. The beauty of oral tradition is to be able to remember that way and to pass on knowledge through stories, songs, and dances.

Potlatch Ceremony. Photo: John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail via Mike Willie

The potlatch went really well. Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Canada were there as well and we rekindled a relationship that was started in the 70s with them between our hereditary chiefs of the Kwakwaka’wakw. It kind of died out for a while so we just wanted to re-spark it and have that relationship.

How does being out in nature make you feel?

It touches on all aspects. There’s an essence of cleansing and of being cleansed when you’re out in the forest and the fresh air. After a nice rainy day in the Great Bear Rainforest, once the rain stops everything becomes crystal clear to me. You see clearly and very plainly. We actually have a native word for that – we call it “awal”.

We also have a practice of going into the forest if you want to find direction in your life, or if you’re having a hard time or you need some kind of answer. We go out into the forest and fast for four days without food and very minimal water. That’s where you collect your thoughts because you’re by yourself and you are free from distractions. The animal life around, the birds and wolves and sometimes bears, becomes a challenge and becomes part of it. But you come out of the forest knowing a direction and knowing there’s an answer for your questions. That was developed over thousands of years with our people and it worked for me – I’ve been three times now.

Grizzly Bears. Photo: Mike Willie

On your typical day out, in the BC wild, what do you normally bring with you?

When I’m in the forest I bring some rope, a fold up hacksaw, and a headlamp. I like my Icebreaker merino wool, so I pack a spare shirt. I also have my Canon G16 camera and if we’re going for a long walk then I bring a CamelBak and hydration bags. It’s pretty much the same thing if I’m out on the boat. It’s always safety first so I bring lots of food and water as well as life gear, safety gear, and floaters.

Describe your perfect day in BC.

My answer to this is intertwined with my answer for how nature makes me feel. A perfect day for me has those moments after it rains and it clears. That’s one part. Another example is if I’m on the water in my boat and I come across some humpback whales. It’s hard for me to explain but the only words that come to mind to describe that experience are family, closeness, and connection. My name that I gave you, T’ɬalis, is actually a whale name. We have a story that goes back thousands of years about our encounter with the whales.

Another aspect of a perfect day is being in the forest. The air is different once you’re in the forest among the greenery. I’m an educator now, and from a research point they say that it’s actually great for development to get out there in the forest. I believe that’s why people find that serenity and the pulling and calling from the forest. We all seem to have that response to nature in common.

Photo: Mike Willie

The ability to reconnect by getting back to nature is a simple concept if you think about it. Our people developed these systems and processes for our people to really clear their minds and become stronger. Bathing in ice-cold water was another strengthening and revitalizing technique. It’s interesting to see sports teams do that now when we’ve done that for thousands of years and it’s reflected in our stories. It’s pretty amazing how things are starting to come up through science and research but they’re simply from nature and we’ve had them all along.

What are three things that you would suggest that a new traveller to BC not miss this year?

I would definitely recommend they check out Kingcome Inlet where I grew up. The way of living up there blows people away. When you are there you experience a unique solitude and it almost seems like you are going back in time. Last year was the first year of bringing travellers there. To get there you head up on a bigger boat like a water taxi, but then you’ve got to get in a little boat and head about seven miles (11km) up the Kingcome River to get to our village. When I was younger, that little boat was a dugout canoe with a outboard motor on it. When you get to our village it is surrounded by towering mountains, so it’s quite the breathtaking site.

Secondly, I would say go visit Gilford Island. It’s our sister village and there’s lots of history there. They have the oldest standing ceremonial longhouse in Canada. It was put up in 1887, and it’s quite significant and still in use. My Uncle Don just renovated it and reinforced the structure last year. So if people want history, there is a lot of history in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Lastly, I would definitely get out on the water. Anywhere works, but an accessible example might be from the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It’s amazing and easy to connect with the marine life. You can also go to Port McNeill or Telegraph Cove, or Alert Bay to head out on day trips.

What would you consider to be BC’s best-kept secret?

Kingcome Inlet! In Kingcome we have the second oldest longhouse. It is almost a hundred years old.

Any last words of advice to someone thinking about travelling to BC?

Be prepared. Be prepared for supernatural British Columbia. And don’t forget to look up. That’s what I tell all my family and friends. If you’re in and around mountainous areas, don’t forget to look up. In our ways the mountains are protectors, so pay tribute just by looking up. And don’t forget to put your feet in our rivers. I’m all about washing away negativity and our rivers are the way to do it.

People of the Wild: Mike Willie

Follow along with Mike’s adventures here.

Discover more of BC’s People of the Wild here and here.

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Explore BC’s Wildlife with @johnemarriott

Discover BC through the eyes of its locals! Each week we #exploreBC through a different Instagrammer who share their favourite local spots and experiences.

This week, we’re featuring @johnemarriott, one of Canada’s premier wildlife photographers. This week, he will be sharing some of his favourite wildlife shots from throughout the province.

The silhouette of a wood bison against a gray sky in Northern British Columbia by @johnemarriott.

“It’s always a thrill to travel the roads in Northern British Columbia and watch for these big behemoths along the right-of-ways. Despite the fact I grew up in Salmon Arm in the interior of BC, I had no idea that our province had wild bison until my first trip up the Alaska Highway in 2002. Watch for this guys around Liard Hot Springs, in particular.”

A white-coated Kermode bear walking across a creek in the Great Bear Rainforest, with mossy rocks and trees surrounding him.

“There are few experiences quite like watching one of the world’s rarest mammals, the kermode bear (a black bear with a double recessive gene that makes 1 in 10 white), fish for salmon in the lush Great Bear Rainforest south of Prince Rupert. There are fewer than 400 kermode bears in the world, all found only in British Columbia, so I feel privileged that I’ve gotten to spend time photographing them every year since 2008.”

A Grizzly bear looking curious amongst the grass at Mussel Inlet in the Great Bear Rainforest.

“I was leading a photo tour into a remote inlet in coastal British Columbia in late October 2013 and we hadn’t had much luck finding grizzly bears. On our final day, in the pouring rain, we came across this gorgeous bear that sat and posed for us just meters in front of our zodiac. It was a magical experience with a beautiful animal that I won’t soon forget.”

Mountain goat sleeping on a mountain cliff under one sole tree near Golden

“I was driving the Trans-Canada Highway near Golden, British Columbia last spring when I suddenly noticed this guy laying on a cliff up above the highway to my right. From a photographer’s perspective, it was a stunning scene, with the one lone tree providing company (and contrast) to this big billy goat taking a break from a life of wandering these harrowing mountainsides.”

Bull moose with big antlers poking is head through the shrubs with skinny trees in the background in Kootenay National Park's Marble Canyon by @johnemarriott

Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies is one of Canada’s most scenic national parks, but it also comes with a healthy population of wildlife. I spent a week following this big bull and a buddy of his through the regenerating forests near Marble Canyon, which where burnt to a crisp during a massive forest fire in 2003. While the fire temporarily created a stark barren landscape, today its lush new growth attracts all sorts of animals, big and small.”

Humpback whale breaching with water spraying off its body, mountains in the background and blue sky above near Bella Bella

“You’ve got to be kidding me! I think I must have said those words a hundred times off the north coast of Vancouver Island on the glorious sunny day that my photo group came across this playful humpback whale, which thundered in and out of the water over and over and over again for almost two hours one summer afternoon. We never did figure out what it was doing (showing off for the photographers?), but we were definitely grateful for the experience.”

A close up of a wild gray wolf and its piercing yellow eyes near Prince George

“Few animals in British Columbia are harder to photograph than wild wolves. I’ve spent years tracking and following certain packs in Alberta and British Columbia and every once in a while run in to incredible situations with wolves that defy all stereotypes. This particular wolf near Prince George early one spring morning (4:55 am!) was incredibly inquisitive and nosed all around me, but wandered off when a pack mate howled in the distance.”

About @johnemarriott 

John E. Marriott grew up in British Columbia and credits long summer days fishing the creeks of the Shuswap with his Dad for giving him a passion for the outdoors that has led to a 20-year career as one of Canada’s premier wildlife photographers. You will have seen his images on the covers of Canadian Geographic, Canadian Wildlife, and British Columbia Magazine. For more of John’s wildlife photography, visit his website.

Looking for more BC experiences and destinations? Follow us on Instagram at @hellobc.  

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