Kirkwood Mountain: Tahoe's Best Kept Secret

Love At First Sight

After traveling to some of the best North American ski locations last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kirkwood Mountain, but I was excited to discover what this mountain had to offer. Their Communications Manager and honorary mascot “Coop” talked a big game when we met in the early part of the season, but I was still waiting to see the terrain for myself.

I arrive at Kirkwood in the evening and begin to take it all in before the first day of my avalanche training starts. The ski day is over, and as I am walking back from the General Store, I realize it is quiet. Extremely quiet. It feels as though I could hear a pin drop from half a mile away. I take a deep breath in, a smile forms on my face, and I think to myself how much I already love it here. The peace and quiet and the mountain air is a nice vacation for my senses from the noisy polluted air of Los Angeles. There is something else special here, however, I can’t put my finger it on yet.

Coop showing me all Kirkwood's terrain has to offer

Coop showing me all Kirkwood's terrain has to offer

Doesn't Feel Like Vail

Kirkwood is the rebel of Vail Resorts, the pirate and the outlier within the pristine Vail brand. But that's exactly what is amazing about Vail Resorts, they have been able to incorporate and improve the ski resorts that they acquire into the Vail brand, while simultaneously letting the resorts be themselves. Each resort boasts its own personality, and Kirkwood is nothing other than a skiers resort.

Small Town Vibes

Kirkwood is a local’s mountain. It is small, unbelievably small. There is no shopping, no nightlife, not many places to eat, and no busy town like Heavenly or Breckenridge. There are a couple of restaurants/bars, a general store, and small section of condos that are literally a stones throw away from the lifts. The lack of distractions leaves room for the mountain to be the star of the show. Kirkwood is for skiing and riding, and that alone. This is what makes the skiers at Kirkwood some of the most talented I have seen. It is place that you visit to ski, not a resort where you come to ski and do 100 other mildly-related winter activities. This is just the beginning of why this place is a true gem.

To say that Kirkwood has been getting dumped on this season would be an understatement. The terrain is steep and the snow is deep. With all of that steep and deep, Kirkwood has the perfect avalanche safety training ground. This is why I chose Kirkwood Mountain specifically to advance my skiing skills by taking the AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) taught by Expedition Kirkwood.

Going Out of Bounds

As someone who has skied for 25 years, I felt that I had done it all. I was a ski racer in high school, I have booted my way up to the top of the Imperial lift at Breckenridge and skied the “expert terrain” of the Lake Chutes, and ten years ago I hit the back bowls at Vail on a powder day. As an adventurous traveler, and like most avid skiers, I am always asking myself “whats next”?

The answer is, The Backcountry.

Skiing is a personal sport, where you are always trying to push the next limit. Today’s skiers are looking for more. More adventure, more fresh pow, more vertical, more of a workout, more, more more. They are also looking for less. Less skiers to share the mountain with. This is why backcountry skiing has been growing exponentially over the last decade or more. I spoke with Geoff, my AIARE instructor at Kirkwood, about the growth of Backcountry skiing. He has seen growth at a rate of at least 25x since the late ‘70s when he became an avid backcountry skier. Just over the past several years, its popularity has really picked up speed.

If you are an adventurous skier, you know that backcountry skiing has been gaining popularity over the past several years. Just look at the adventure influencers that are all over social media outlets like Instagram. Influencers and bloggers have an influence on the decisions of their audiences' future travel plans. These influencers have helped increase the awareness of adventurous activities, specifically skiing in the backcountry. 

With all that fresh pow out of the ski resort’s bounds, Backcountry skiing is here to stay. The problem is most people that decided to start backcountry skiing are not properly trained. This can get them (and others around them) into a whole lot of trouble. Just because you are a great skier when you are at the resort does not mean you have a clue about the dangers of the backcountry. The backcountry is a whole different animal. This is why it is so important to be educated on the hazards of the backcountry, and why I chose to take the AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course.

What is AIARE?

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The AIARE Level 1 course teaches decision making, and teamwork. Our small group of 9 at Kirkwood worked together to ask questions and solve problems. We learned what causes an avalanche, and what to look for. Together, we learned to use receivers and practiced rescuing in an organized fashion. We communicated, we dug through snow packs to search for weak layers, and we challenged each other and our instructor with difficult questions. We skied around the mountain discussing slope angles and escape routes of avalanche terrain.

Kirkwood is the perfect place to take a course like this because the terrain that you are working with is avalanche terrain so you can see the different types of zones in real life as opposed to just in a classroom. This hands on approach will help understanding and improve confidence upon completion of the course.

With this course under my belt, I now feel confident in my abilities to make safe group decisions in the backcountry, as well as successfully carrying out a rescue should an avalanche ever occur.

Finding Avalanche Beacons during my AIARE class at Kirkwood

Finding Avalanche Beacons during my AIARE class at Kirkwood

Beyond The Backcountry 

Kirkwood isn’t just about the backcountry, the skiing and the avalanche prevention. Kirkwood is incredible because of the people who built the resort. The people who visit time and time again, and the close knit community that has just as much significance to Kirkwood as the mountain does. Kirkwood is a community, one that will welcome you with open arms. The terrain will challenge you, the people will teach you.

When you arrive at Kirkwood, you aren't just arriving at another ski mountain. You are arriving at a home. The locals will welcome you as apart of the family and not as a tourist. The mountain will greet you with sunshine and present some of the most exciting ski terrain for you. The classes at Expedition Kirkwood will teach you skills you will have for a lifetime. The Kirkwood family will tell you stories of how the trails earned their names, and speak of the ones who came before you to build this mountain, with nothing more than a love for the outdoors and a passion for skiing.

This Isn't Goodbye

Visiting Kirkwood isn't a one-time, notch in your ski bibs type of trip. Kirkwood is a place you will want to return to more than once. This place will leave marks on your soul that will force you to revisit again and again.

As the car taking me away from Kirkwood drove through the mazes of oversized snowbanks toward Lake Tahoe, I knew I would be back before I knew it!

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Manila's Hottest New Hotel

Traveling the world for work can certainly have it’s share of benefits. I have been fortunate to have stayed in some of the best rooms of the top hotels and resorts all over the world. There are properties all over the globe that I love, and I generally say that I can never pick a favorite, however I may have changed my mind about that. The one hotel that has stood above the rest in is the Shangri-La At The Fort in Manila.

This Shangri-La property is located in a newer part of Manila called Bonafacio Global City (or BGC for short). Bonafacio Global City has seemingly popped up out of nowhere. In the last several years, businesses have been leaving Makati for the up and coming BGC area. Recently, the Shangri-La has stepped into this new town with their newest property Shangri-La At The Fort. This property is the shining star of Manila, and truly something every luxury hotel should aim to become.

Shangri-La has spared no detail to ensure that this new Manila property is one of the most impressive and beautiful hotels. Upon stepping foot inside the Shangri-La At The Fort, you will immediately notice their signature gold and crystal chandelier and will be greeted by smiling faces welcoming you as you approach the front desk.

Bikes

There are many benefits to staying at the Shangri-La at the Fort. The location is incredible. It's in walking distance to High Street. It's also a great place to ride a bike. Bamboo bicycles are available as a courtesy to all guests at the Shangri-La. One of my favorite adventures during my visit was grabbing a bike and venturing around the High Street area.

Spa

The Spa offers both in-room and in-spa treatments. I opted for a deep tissue massage in my hotel room, which was a perfect way to relax right before bed. 

Food

No matter how picky or sophisticated your tastebuds may be, there are plenty of unique and innovative dining options for all palates both inside and outside of the hotel. My favorite dining option at the property was breakfast. Breakfast at any ShangriLa property is always a real treat.

I have never seen a breakfast as comprehensive as the Shangri-La’s High Street Cafe. The soft golden ensaymadas and charred bacon that was cooked on the grill were some of my favorite breakfast dishes. As with all Shangri-La properties that I have visited, both Asian and Western breakfast options are plentiful!

High Street

Manila's Bonafacio High Street is filled with a mix of upscale shops, dining and entertainment from all over the world. One of my favorite parts of BGC was the Mercato Centrale (Central Market). It is one of Manila's largest night markets, and a great place to fill up on local foods!

Kerry Sports

Kerry Sports is Manila’s most comprehensive indoor workout club, and the most impressive gym on a hotel property that I have ever seen. With 8,000 square meters and two floors, Kerry Sports has everything one would need or want to get in a complete workout. It boasts an NBA-grade indoor basketball court, two tennis courts, two squash courts, an outdoor lap pool and top of the line equipment. In addition there are studios for yoga, pilates, dance, spinning, kickboxing. The facility is also home to a wellness spa, a smoothie bar and Adventure Zone for kids. The smoothie bar, Kerry Sprouts is a great place to grab a quick to-go breakfast or lunch before heading out for the day, or before heading to the airport to catch a flight.

The Pool

The pool boasts some incredible city views and is a nice way to relax after a day full of activities and Manila traffic!

The Art

The property has some of the most beautiful art that I have seen in a hotel. It's definitely worth your time to take a walk around checking out all of the pieces of art and the incredible ballroom which was designed after a jewelery box.

Bonafacio Global City is truly where it’s at in Manila. I was told time and time again, that there is nothing to do in Manila. Not only did my visit to Manila prove that wasn’t true, but even if it were, the Shangri-La at The Fort would be reason enough for a visit!

30th Street corner 5th Avenue Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Philippines
T:(63 2) 820 0888

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Free AirBnb Coupon Code - Get $40 Off with This Discount Code (Even If It's Not Your First Booking)

Airbnb makes booking a place to stay quick, easy and usually makes for a good deal. There are a ton of benefits to using Airbnb over a hotel. Often they are nicer then a hotel and you can feel more like a local, rather then a tourist during your stay. They also can be a lot cheaper then a hotel and you can get a lot more "bang for your buck", as they say.

I have a $40 discount that I want to share with you all to help you save a little more on your travels!


How to Use the $40 Discount Code

Step 1:

Follow this Link to get $40 off your first booking with AirBnB.

The code will automatically be applied at checkout! There is no need to enter a code.


Step 2:

All you have to do is sign-up with your email, follow the prompts, and then your first stay must be $75 or more. That means the entire stay has to be $75 or more, it does not mean you must spend $75 a night. 

For Example:

This will work on a 3 night stay where each night is only $25.

Night 1 $25 + Night 2 $25 + Night 3 $25 = A total of $75 (Yes! Discount will work... yay!)

Or, a single night of $75 or more! Easy, right?


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Step 3

Find a place you want to stay, and book it with your credit card!

(Oooh, these places look nice!)


Step 4

*Don't forget to use this link for your $40 discount!*


What If You Already Have Stayed in an AirBnB?

Simple, you can sign up with a new email address. If you use gmail, you can create a new email for free. It's quick and easy! 

Once you have created a new email, AirBnB will recognize you as a new user, and you can use THIS LINK for $40 off your next stay.


Things to Remember:

The discount is automatically applied once you complete your booking. You will not need to enter a code, and a code will not be emailed to you. 

Use THIS LINK to receive your discount: www.airbnb.com/c/vwilson52


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10 Tips to Prevent Lost Luggage When Traveling

cambodia siem reap lost luggage travel swiss army suitcase

As mentioned in a previous post, not all luggage arrives safely to it's original owner. Losing luggage is an unfortunate and traumatic experience that will probably happen at some point in your life if you travel often enough. Below is my list of suggestions to help prevent the experience from happening or at least to help it be less traumatic.  

1.  Let's start with first things first. There are two types of luggage, carry-on and lost. At least that's what Peter Greenberg says, and I tend to agree. My number one suggestion is to carry-on instead of check. I bring only a carry-on and backpack almost every place I travel, all over the world. This includes all of my camera gear! If I can do it, so can you. (My number one exception to this rule is a ski trip due to all of the extra gear).

I would never check an expensive item, such as my cameras

I would never check an expensive item, such as my cameras

2.  If you can't handle losing an item because it's too expensive or too sentimental- don't bring it on a trip and pack your most precious and expensive items in your carry on.

3.  Get travel insurance! I recommend Travel Guard as I have always had excellent luck with them. I have talked about them previously in this post about my favorite travel essentials. Not only will Travel Guard help reimburse you for lost or stolen luggage, but if it's delayed you may also be entitled to compensation depending on your policy. 

4.  Use multiple, multiple, multiple luggage tags. Have so many tags on your bag that it would be impossible to ignore where it's supposed to be going. Also, make sure they are updated with all of your current contact info.

5.  Have a picture of your luggage or a really good description. The more descriptive you can be about your luggage, the easier it will be for the people searching for it to actually find your bag. Did you tie a red ribbon on it? Does it have a bright yellow luggage strap? What brand is it? All of those are things that you should be prepared to explain in great detail.

Wandering throughout the pagodas of Bagan wouldn't be as fun if my luggage was lost. Use these 10 tips and you shouldn't have a problem when you arrive!

Wandering throughout the pagodas of Bagan wouldn't be as fun if my luggage was lost. Use these 10 tips and you shouldn't have a problem when you arrive!

6.  This has less to do with lost luggage and more to do with theft: Use those crazy luggage plastic-wrap stations. It may cost $15, but if you lost your lock, forgot a zip-tie, or are traveling to an area with a lot of theft (think places like Mexico City and not places like Greenville, South Carolina) then take advantage of this service. When I was traveling through Mexico City on my way back from Cuba and didn't have anything to lock my bag, I sought out the luggage wrapping stations. Although highly unlikely, the last thing you want is to leave a sketchy city accidentally smuggling drugs across the border. Additionally, this will obviously prevent people from snatching your new Jimmy Choo's out of your bag. Wait!? Why are your new Jimmy Choo's in your checked bag? Didn't you read #2 of this list?

7.  Did you know that some airlines allow you track your bag by using their app to see where your bag was last scanned. This will not only help you have peace of mind, but it can also help you assist the baggage counter.

8.  They make GPS luggage trackers for the very paranoid traveler, and yes I have considered buying one. They only work where your bag would have cell reception, so they aren't completely fool-proof yet.

Although I love this fancy gold suitcase, it is probably a target for theft. I rarely check an expensive looking bag, and generally save the fancy luggage for carry-on's and road trips. 

Although I love this fancy gold suitcase, it is probably a target for theft. I rarely check an expensive looking bag, and generally save the fancy luggage for carry-on's and road trips. 

9.  Always, and I really do mean always check to make sure the ticketing agent has tagged your bag with the proper code for your destination. This would mean that you want to familiarize yourself with the three-letter airport code for your destination. (ie. Albany, NY = ALB ... Los Angeles = LAX ... Shanghai, China = PVG) I can not tell you how many times I have had to politely (okay, more like frantically) correct the ticketing agent who mixed my bag tag up with someone else's who was going to a completely different city or country. For a complete list of all airport codes, you can go here.

10.  If you use a skycap to check your bag at the curb and to avoid lines inside, be sure to be extra nice and to tip them. One time I actually saw a sign that said "This is a tipping service" at the skycap check in. It is a tipping service, and they have the ability to send your bag to Timbuktu if they want to, and yes that is an actual place- so be nice and tip!

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Staying in Style at Park Hyatt Siem Reap

When you think Angkor Wat you’re more likely to think jungle and overgrown ruins rather than urban sophistication, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Park Hyatt Siem Reap – with a nod to its Cambodian surroundings of course: its collection of rare Buddha statues, cultural performances at dinner in the courtyard and highly-acclaimed Khmer food served up by locally-born Executive Chef Pisith Theam.

Photo: Carol Perehudoff 

Photo: Carol Perehudoff 

Perhaps most evocative of all are the oversized black and white photographs of Angkor that line the hotel corridors, firmly linking this luxury hotel to its exotic locale near one of the most astonishing archaeological sights in the world.

Photo: Carol Perehudoff 

Photo: Carol Perehudoff 

Contemporary design

At the same time, you’ll never mistake the Park Hyatt for a hotel trapped in the past. Revamped by Bangkok-based interior designer Bill Bensley, the layout is drool-worthy sleek, with a dramatic black and white striped hallway leading in from the entranceway, contemporary Khmer art and plenty of cool Italian marble warmed up by fragrant flower arrangements.

Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Location, Location

The most convenient reason to choose the Park Hyatt is its location. Unlike most top-end hotels in Siem Reap, the Hyatt is smack in the centre of town, which makes wandering through the streets and night markets a breeze. That’s what my husband and I did on our first evening here. We strolled down popular Pub Street, grabbed a bite at a local restaurant then retreated to our 3rd-floor suite to watch the street action below.

Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Photo: Carol Perehudoff

A Hotel That’s Hard to Leave

The problem with staying in an urban resort that has everything is that it’s temping to stay on property during the heat of day – not recommended when the stunning site of Angkor awaits. Mark and I compromised, taking in the various temples, terraces, moats and causeways in stages. In the morning we visited the temples of Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm – the famous ‘Tomb Raider’ Temple – then headed back to the hotel for some much-needed pool time in the Hyatt’s urban garden setting, where an attendant immediately rushed over with glasses of ice water and sliced guava to cool us down. 

Leisure Love

There are two pools at the Hyatt, the chic garden pool (our favourite) and a salt water lap pool. There is also a fitness centre and a spa that focuses on locally-sourced florals and natural ingredients such as ginger and lemongrass.

Photo: Carol Perehudoff 

Photo: Carol Perehudoff 

The Living Room

Relaxing with a Coconut Scrub or a Herbal Compress Massage sounded tempting, but we skipped treatments in favour of having afternoon tea in the Living Room. Designed to make you feel at home (if your home happens to be a colonial-style mansion), the Living Room lounge and bar is a sumptuous mix of dark wood, dusky pink velvet and shelves lined with curios, books and artisanal crafts. It’s easy to sink into the plush chairs and linger, but in the late afternoon we headed off to tour the ancient city of Angkor Thom, once the capital of the vast Khmer Empire.

Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Cultural Programs

Touring this once-mighty city gave us a taste for all things Khmer, so the hotel’s Cultural Performance and Dinner in the centerpiece courtyard seemed like a good way to cap off the night. The hotel offers three cultural programs: a shadow puppet theatre, the Apsara (a type of Cambodian dance) and the Bokator (a martial arts performance). We watched a traditional shadow puppet show while diving into a multi-course meal of Khmer specialities that included grilled Eggplant Salad, a tangy Prawn Sour Soup and a traditional Seafood Amok.

Divine Dining

Photo: Park Hyatt Siem Reap

Photo: Park Hyatt Siem Reap

There are other dining options at the Hyatt: the French and Indochine-inspired cuisine at The Dining Room as well as the casual Glasshouse, a street side deli-patisserie that makes a good stop for salads, sandwiches and those all-important ice cream cravings triggered by touring in the sunshine.

A Home Away From Home

With 104 rooms including 13 luxe suites – four with private plunge pools – the hotel is larger than it seems. This is done on purpose. Various sections are separated in a way that makes them always seem intimate, a design element especially appreciated at our go-to lazing around spot, the shady deck chair nooks at the infinity-edged swimming pool. 

An Award Winning Hotel

With a host of awards and accolades under its belt, such as making the 2015 Condé Nast Traveler Gold List and Travel + Leisure’s list of the 500 World’s Best Hotels, the Park Hyatt is clearly one of the top choices at Siem Reap, especially if you want shops and restaurants at your fingertips, while having the temples of Angkor only a 15-minute drive away.

Photo: Park Hyatt Siem Reap

Photo: Park Hyatt Siem Reap

By staying at Park Hyatt Siem Reap we may have seen less of Angkor Wat than we should have - but isn’t that the sign of a good hotel, when you find it too hard to leave?

 

For more information on stays and reservations visit the Park Hyatt Siem Reap website. Hotel address: Sivutha Boulevard, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tel: +855 6321 1234


wandering carol trusted travel girl guest

This is a guest post by Carol Perehudoff of WanderingCarol.com. Carol was voted a Top 10 Luxury Travel Blogger by the readers of USA Today. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @WanderingCarol. 

 

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