British Columbia revelling in a winter wonderland ... Air Canada earns kudos
The folks out in British Columbia are having a glorious start to the winter tourism season.
Whistler-Blackcomb last week sent out a note to say they've already had more than 300 centimeters of snow and that a potential record season could be shaping up. Today I got a note from Revelstoke resort in the B.C. interior saying they've already surpassed FIVE HUNDRED centimeters!
"Closing out this past weekend, the resort had received 90cm of snow over the previous five days, and has now received 523cm of snowfall to date," officials said. "Starting today, more terrain opened with access all the way down to the Mid-Mountain Lodge.
"With cumulative snowfalls overnight throughout the past week, powder conditions can be found in the bowls and trees and on the sides of groomed trails while groomed trails are skiing like a dream with an excellent base of 166cm."
Meanwhile, things are just starting up in Ontario. According to the Ontario Snow Resorts Association, there a few scattered lifts open at Blue Mountain, Horseshoe and Mt. St. Louis-Moonstone. At least the cold temperatures the last couple days have given the snow-making folks a chance to do their thing.
The OSRA website's posting for today, Dec. 12 (and happy birthday to my oldest, by the way), "we have Blue Mountain open for the first time this year with one lift and two slopes in operation Horseshoe Resort, just north of Barrie will be open today with one lift and four slopes and Mount St. Louis Moonstone will be open as well moving up to two lifts and nine slopes in operation."
The resort association says none of Ontario's commercial cross country centres open in the province today. For the latest conditions on the slopes and trails for Alpine & Cross Country areas please call: 1 800 ONTARIO (668-2746).
KUDOS FOR AIR CANADA
Air Canada has been named best airline in North America by readers of several magazines. In annual readership surveys conducted in 2012 by U.S. travel magazines, Business Traveler, Global Traveler and Premier Traveler, readers named Air Canada as their favourite airline in North America overall, as well as tops for international travel and in-flight service.
Here are their mentions, according to Air Canada:
"Best Airline in North America" - Global Traveler magazine
"Best North American Airline for International Travel" and "Best North American Airline Inflight Experience" - Business Traveler magazine
"Best North American Airline for Business-Class Service," "Best North American Airline for International Travel" and "Best Flight Attendants in North America" - Premier Traveler magazine
Air Canada gets some knocks, and understandably so. But the entertainment system rocks and the service is always pretty good. I don't know if they've taken any kind of page from WestJet but the last couple AC flights I've been on have featured entertaining flight attendants who went above and beyond the usual, perfunctory "here you go" service.
Of course, AC's rivals have their own successes to brag about. Conde Nast Traveler, arguably a much more important or at least much more widely known publication than Business Traveler, Premier Traveler or Global Traveler, recently named Porter the second-best small airline in the world and the fourth best airline overall with a points total of 80.4. Conde Nast readers ranked WestJet as third-best small airline in the world, albeit a good deal behind Porter in the numerical rankings at 58.5...
NEW YORK HOTELS OUTGROW MANHATTAN
I've talked about this before, and Star Travel has profiled a few of them. But it looks like the growth of hotels in the "outer boroughs" of New York City continues.
According to a story in USA Today, 162 hotels have been built or renovated in New York City since 2008. That's added 28,150 rooms to the city's hotel supply.
More than a quarter of the new properties, 27 per cent, have been in boroughs outside Manhattan, which represents about 17 per cent of added rooms.
Queens got 15 per cent of the new properties, while Brooklyn got nine per cent. Those two boroughs are attractive to developers and travelers because a tall hotel in some of neighborhoods can offer something you often can't get in Manhattan: grand views of the Manhattan skyline.
I stayed at the Z hotel in Queens this summer (see photo). It's not an incredible neighourhood, at least not yet. And the food at dinner was just so-so. But the vibe was nice and the breakfast was good and there's a nice rooftop deck. And the views are simply STUNNING, as the hotel has giant windows facing the East River and the Manhattan skyline, not to mention the Queensborough bridge, are so close you can almost touch them.
The USA Today story says that, in the old days, "tourists wouldn't dare cross a bridge or drive through a tunnel to get off Manhattan Island and into the city's four other boroughs. But with land so expensive in Manhattan, hotel developers are turning to the outer boroughs for less expensive property. And tourists are following for the less expensive hotel rooms -- sometimes 30% less than what rooms cost in Manhattan.
During the holidays, when Manhattan hotel prices skyrocket, the outer borough hotels can be even more appealing. And if tourists such as Bark want to get to Manhattan, all they have to do is hop on the subway, in some cases for just one stop.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been heavily promoting the city's outer boroughs as tourist destinations, USA Today noted, and "the city has rezoned many neighborhoods where new hotels are sprouting, to encourage growth."
"Clearly, the economic development efforts taking place in all five boroughs ... that has been a driving force," says George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company, the City's official marketing and tourism organization.
I think Brooklyn, in particular, has become a hugely hip spot for New Yorkers. Long Island City in Queen's could be next on the list. There also are fine hotels over on the Jersey side these days, although not quite with the neighbourhood vibe of Manhattan or Brooklyn.