December 24 2009 by Bryson Forbes
Last Thursday, my Dad and I started our "rock star" tour of Western Canada with three stops in three nights - Kelowna, Whistler and Vancouver. Minutes after landing in Kelowna, we were immediately struck by the remarkable landscape. From the Okanagan mountain range to the shores of Okanagan Lake, this place was truly breathtaking.
For a relatively small Canadian city (population of about 115,000), the region has lots to offer. It's truly become a four-season vacation hotspot. In the winter, the main attraction (as we highlighted in last week's blog) is the skiing and snowboarding, with Big White only minutes away and the snow affectionately called "champagne powder".
The region is very dry, with less than twelve inches of rain accumulating each year. This makes conditions ideal for another one of Kelowna's big industries - wine-making. The Okanagan Valley produces award-winning wines in many varieties including ice wines. We spent a couple of hours later in the day at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, a truly remarkable and unique place. With more than 80 acres of organic vineyards, Summerhill takes on the character and personality its proprietor, Stephen Cipes. Every wine spends time in the pyramid, a replica of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, allowing the energy of this unique cellar to enhance each bottle. They offer wine tours and tastings, and have a bistro with one of the best views out over the lake you'll ever see.
Although a little cold for this trip and a little short on time, my Dad and I will go back to golf in Kelowna. With 16 courses in the area, fabulous weather and scenery, this is a golfer's paradise. Great wine and great golf - we're hooked!
We stayed the night at the Best Western Kelowna Inn which is undoubtedly the most progressive hotel I've ever had the pleasure of checking into. Bought by its current owners in 1964, the property has grown from 40 to 154 rooms. The amenities are fabulous and include a fitness centre, wellness spa, business centre, indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub! If this isn't enough, a real focus has been placed on sustainability - not as a marketing angle, but because the owners philosophically believe it is the right thing to do. This Best Western Kelowna Inn has invested a whack of dough to mount solar panels on the property's roof, as well as installing ways to reduce water consumption which includes updating all the toilets to low-flow. They have a fantastic recycling program and, to top it off, construction is underway to implement geothermal heating!! The hotel is first class without all these initiatives, but with them is truly a worldwide leader. You will feel great staying at this property.
Too soon, our stay in Kelowna ended and we packed up for Whistler. But my Dad and I both agreed, we'd be back, we'd bring the whole family and we'd stay a lot longer!
Is Kelowna on your must-see list?