Ski Week in Whistler and Vancouver

We’ve been dealing with drought off and on the past several years and have thus chosen to travel for the kids’ ski week vs. going to Tahoe (although last year was epic). After the debacle in Beaver Creek before the holidays, I kept a close eye on the snow report across the various ski resorts. It seemed that Whistler was the only resort having a “normal” winter in terms of snow fall.

After we made our plans, it seemed like Utah and Colorado caught up a bit, but we were still happy to be able to try a new mountain. We actually had traveled to Vancouver before for our Alaskan cruise with the Parks several years ago. Lucas was only 2, so he wouldn’t have remembered anything and even Olivia probably didn’t recall much.

Our flight to Vancouver was delayed a few hours, so we decided to eat in the city before heading up to Whistler. I made plans for us to go to an early dinner at Market by Jean-Georges. We ended up having a later dinner there instead. Lucas declared it one of his best meals ever. Although it was too dark to see the stunning drive Whistler, the roads were at least empty, which made it go by fast.

We skied Monday to Thursday together. We’re not really a first chair kind of family and somehow each day we got on the gondola later and later. On our last run on Tuesday, we went into the terrain park and I realized the day before we had gone through the “M” of S, M and L and lived to tell about it. I didn’t think too much of it the second time except I did scrub some speed off the first big jump and landed it fine right in front of Olivia. Feeling confident, I went for the second big jump and somehow did NOT make the landing.

In a split-second, I hit the top of the jump hard, double-ejected and face planted after falling forward about 135 degrees down the ramp. It would have been bad enough, but I was wearing my camera around my neck and basically body-slammed it into my ribcage. I could not breath, and when Olivia came down, she could not stop laughing. I was so wrecked. After I verified that I was still alive, Lucas came down and was trying to push my skis down to me when someone came and gave us an assist. He asked if I was okay because he saw the whole thing. I really wish there was video of it because it was so epic. I haven’t crashed like that in … well, ever.

On Wednesday, we met up with my POPSUGAR buddy, Chris. We got in one run together at the end of the day. Even though I said I retired from the terrain park, the kids made me go in there again to face my fears. I stuck to the “S” route and made it down safely. It wasn’t until Thursday that I really started to feel injured. I went to the top of Blackcomb by myself for the last run of the day and limped down the mountain as I had trouble breathing on my right side.

On Friday, I did pretty much get on the first gondola and went straight up and over to Blackcomb (“Do you guys want to go with me? No? Okay, see you later”). I got lucky as when I arrived at the Peak-to-Peak gondola, the glass-bottom car had just arrived. It was cool and terrifying at the same time. Unfortunately, the lift to the top was closed due to the weather, so I did a few laps until it finally opened. I took one last run from the top of 7th Heaven before we packed up and headed out.

We had planned to spend one night in Vancouver to check it out. We had a great dinner at Lupo near our hotel. On Saturday, Grace bought us tickets for some attraction at the same port where we got on the Disney cruise ship. It was “Fly Over Canada,” which was basically a light version of that Disney Avatar ride that wrecked me over Thanksgiving. I was destroyed, so Liv and I went back to the hotel while Lucas and Grace went to the park and Science Center.

We ate our last two meals in the hotel at Honey Salt, which was excellent. There’s one in Vegas, so we’ll have to check it out there. We had a late flight home, which was delayed a bit. After someone took one of our our ski bags by accident, we didn’t get home until about 1am. Everyone was very happy to be home, mostly to see Luna!

We’re definitely going to keep Whistler in the rotation for ski week if climate change continues to conspire against us in Tahoe.

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Disney Cruise to Alaska (or Watching iPads on a Boat)

Grace’s mom turned 70 this year and her wish was for a family vacation. It was decided that we would all go on a cruise to Alaska. Disney started sailing to Alaska this year, so it made our decision easier given all the kids going.

The group included all of the Park kids and families as well as Charles’ parents, and his brother Arnie’s family and in-laws. We flew to Vancouver on Monday, June 27th. In normal fashion, Lucas and Olivia’s passports were issued on June 24th. We spent the afternoon exploring the harbor-side. We planned on meeting the Park clan for dinner (at a Korean restaurant, of course). We ended up walking, which turned out to be a bit of a hike.

We didn’t plan to board the ship until the afternoon on Tuesday, so we spent the day exploring Vancouver (i.e., walking to various malls and food courts). Once on the ship, we got settled in and readied ourselves for our daily rituals of eating and eating.

I’ll be perfectly honest and say that I have no idea where or how far we went on this trip. There was a day at sea. The first stop was up a channel to Tracy Arm, where we saw a huge glacier and where I saw my only whale on the trip. It was rainy and windy on deck.

The next stop was Skagway, which is a town of about 800 people. We didn’t opt in for the excursions because the kids are a little young. We took a horse and buggy ride around the town (which didn’t take long). We managed to get to the post office (after their lunch break) and also went to the public library.

Our second port was Juneau, the capital. We managed to find the one Korean-owned Chinese/Japanese restaurant for lunch. We took a bus to see the Mendenhall glacier. Apparently there are some bears in the area, which Olivia really wanted to see. I wasn’t seeking such a close encounter.

Our final port was in Ketchikan, which seemed the largest city. It was raining, so we just ventured into town for a lunch of local seafood and found a bakery for dessert. Then it was back on the boat for another day and a half cruise back to Vancouver.

On the boat were various activities for the kids including movies and live shows. Lucas was too young to be in the Club or the Lab, so he spent a few afternoons in the nursery (and was never happy about it – boo). Grace got in a couple spa sessions.

My recreation was at night with the guys after everyone went to bed. Given the demographic, there wasn’t really much going on at night, but we made our own fun. Some nights we went to the bar. Charles threw down some U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers at karaoke and Dave rocked the house with Vanilla Ice. It was probably a good thing there wasn’t a casino on this ship. Instead, we spent time in the arcade. I quickly got over being the oldest only person in there. I faced my old nemesis, Galaga, and achieved my personal high score.

We enjoyed a couple nights in the adult-only restaurant and arranged a private room one evening for everyone in our party. We celebrated Charles’ and Grace’s moms’ birthdays a couple times during the trip.

The kids hadn’t been too exposed to Disney (by design), but their influence is hard to avoid. Lucas has been obsessed with his Buzz Lightyear pajamas and Olivia is only mildly afflicted with princessitis. She enjoyed meeting all the princesses, especially Belle and Ariel. The cutest moment on the ship for me was when we had just come from peeking in on Lucas in the nursery and when we exited, Minnie mouse popped out of an unmarked door in the hallway. Olivia and Minnie were face to face and Olivia spontaneously outstretched her arms for a hug, which she warmly received. It was awesome.

At the beginning of the trip, I anticipated a long week and by the end of the trip, it had flown by. It was a great family vacation.

Several people have asked about the Disney cruise, so these are my observations/recommendations:

  • If you want to see Alaska, I can’t think of a better way to do it
  • If you like going on cruises, the Disney line can’t be beat for kids
  • If your kids are into Disney, they’ll be in heaven
  • Do yourself a favor and get a room with a verandah; we didn’t spend much time in the room, but I can imagine I would have seen many more sights if I could just sit on my own deck and take it in.
  • Frankly, our kids were a little too young for this trip. Lucas was sad to be in the nursery and there weren’t many other kids in there his age. Kids have to be 3 and potty trained to play in the Club or the Lab, which are both great. Even Olivia didn’t want to be in there too long by herself. If she had a companion her age, I think she would have been much better. Older pre-schoolers and elementary school kids can be left largely unattended for most of the day and there are other areas of the ship specifically for tweens and teens. Younger kids wear electronic wristbands and security checking them in and out is pretty tight.
  • Don’t expect too much sun on an Alaskan cruise. Also, even if the pools are 88 degrees, it’s often too cold and rainy to enjoy them.
  • The food overall was excellent and the service was even better. Everyone goes out of their way to make sure you’re having an excellent experience. I would either ingest a tapeworm or pre-order P90X to offset the gluttony.
  • We don’t see ourselves going on another cruise anytime soon, but if we did, I would opt for the newest ship possible. They do their best to keep them clean, but with 2,500 people passing through each week, things get beat-up. The Disney Dream and Fantasy (starts sailing next March) look amazing and appear to be upgraded in every way (40% larger than the Wonder and Magic). These ships sail in the Bahamas and Caribbean.

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