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By Emily Nixon

Early morning rays slice through my bedroom drapes and gently rouse me from sleep. As any avid skier would know, being woken by the sun can only mean one thing, a bluebird day. The view from my bedside window adds to the temptation. Perfectly framed, is Strathcona Provincial Park and Mount Washington's winter-white peak.

Although this alpine resort on Vancouver Island has several slope-side lodgings, my partner and I have chosen to stay at a boutique-style hotel in the city of Courtney, just thirty minutes away. The Old House Village Suites provides lots of additional perks, and though it's hard to pull ourselves away from beneath our comfy duvet, those powder slopes are calling our names!

Rising nearly sixteen hundred meters, Mount Washington offers us sixty runs that range from seriously steep to gentle groomers. "For a real workout, you can try snowshoeing," we're informed by the pony-tailed clerk, when inquiring about alternatives to the downhill route. "And there's awesome cross country," she adds, after handing us a mountain map. The expansive trail system weaves into parts of Strathcona Provincial Park, and provides hours of peaceful exploration. For adrenaline junkies, like ourselves, Mount Washington is outfitted with a half pipe, tubing, and luge track, all of which will get our hearts racing.

We're rewarded with a 360-degree panorama from the top of every high-speed lift and spend our day descending the twelve hundred acres of cat tracks, mogul mounds, and tree-hugging trails.

Just before our final decent, we take a moment to check out the view. From our mile high platform we can see Vancouver's Lower Mainland, as well as landmarks like the Sunshine Coast and Mount Baker. We are awed by the expanse of ocean -and those waves, that will soon be part of our next adventure.

After departing Courtenay the next morning, we cruise the curves of Highway 4, where we're treated to four hours of scenic beauty while en route to Tofino.

Although this destination is popular for summer beachcombers, we're drawn to its wintertime high rollers and after transecting the Island, we swap our skis for surfboards.

Walls of white-water attack us head-on, and as we make our way beyond the breakers, salty sprays erupt around us like active geysers. We're robbed of both breath and confidence. Can we challenge Mother Nature as she unleashes her raging temper?

"Either we ride or glide," I yell to my boyfriend over the surf's thunderous roar. He looks just as uncertain while clinging to his board, but replies, "Let's go for it!"

It's as if the ocean god, Poseidon, has heard us, for immediately the perfect wave begins to take shape. Before we know it, we're going with the flow on a big one that churns, then rolls and barrels, all the way to a driftwood-clad shore. The ride is downright exhilarating. We're immediately hooked and, with bellies to our boards, we paddle out for another ride.

The west coast waves are powerfully alluring and so is our resort. The 45-acre Pacific Sands Beach Resort overlooks the sandy strip of Cox Bay and is backed by wind-swept evergreens. Cozy cottages and romantic ocean suites unite with eco-friendly villas that are geo-thermally energized. We settle in to enjoy a fully equipped kitchen, a soothing soaker tub and our ocean view. The Pettingers, who have owned and operated the resort since 1973, know how to please their guests, whether it's a family of five or a couple of enthusiastic surfers.

On our final morning, we stroll out to Sunset Point. It's a perfect place to view the untamed waves and rugged beauty. While being kissed by the ocean mist, we think about our past few days. From slopes to surf, we've had a blast during this winter visit to Vancouver Island. Who knows what will be in store for the last leg of our adventure -on the scenic BC Ferry ride that will take us back home.


Pacific Sands Beach Resort
PO Box 237
Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0
Reservations 800 565 BEACH (2322)
Tel:(250) 725-3322

Old House Village Suites
1800 Riverside Lane
Courtenay BC V9N 8C7
Toll Free: 1-888-703-0202
Fax: 250-703-0209

Live to Surf
1180 Pacific Rim Hwy.
Tofino BC V0R 2Z0
Tel: 250-725-4464

BC Ferries
1-888-BC FERRY (1-888-223-3779) from anywhere in North America

Photos by Bob Merger and Jeff Dicken

1. Another bluebird day on Mount Washington (photo by Jeff Dicken)
2. Lure of the West Coast waves (photo by Bob Merger)
3. Going with the flow (photo by Bob Merger)

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