The Tour Divide mountain bike race is underway

The Tour Divide mountain bike race got underway last week in Banff, Alberta, Canada, where nearly 50 hardcore fat tire enthusiasts set off on the longest off road biking trail in the world. They’ll now ride the entire length of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, a distance of 2745 miles, before reaching the finish line along the U.S.-Mexico border, in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

The trail ranges from practically non-existent all the way up to jeep trails, with just about everything in between. The entire route is unmarked, so the riders have to navigate their way along the GDMBR on their own. They’ll also have to go completely unsupported, carrying all of their gear and supplies with them along the way. Aside from that, there isn’t much in the way of rules. The race clock runs non-stop, there are no checkpoints, and it is up to the rider to decide how far they’ll ride each day, and when they’ll stop to take breaks.

The full route winds it’s way through Alberta and British Columbia, before crossing the border into the U.S. and continuing south through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and finally New Mexico. The riders will gain more than 200,000 feet of altitude along the way, as they ride through some of the most stunning scenery that the U.S. and Canada has to offer. The mountain passes will challenge their legs and leave them breathless for sure.

To give you an idea of what kind of athletes ride in the Tour Divide, last year’s winner, Matthew Lee, finished the ride in just 18 days, which works out to more than 152 miles per day across some very unforgiving terrain.

[Photo credit: Tour Divide Mountain Bike Race]

Wine or golf? Either works on Rocky Mountaineer

Why not make it a foursome? While most travel deals these days tack on extra nights, the latest from Rocky Mountaineer lets you add people! To celebrate it twentieth anniversary, the luxury rail service in Canada, is offering a unique program for its GoldLeaf trips. Whether you take the golf or winery tour excursion, you can pay for three and get one free. So, you’ll have eight days to hit the links or sip some wine, effectively at a 25 percent discount.

The golf and wine trips will take you between Banff, Alberta and Vancouver, British Columbia. Wine-paired meals are the norm for both excursions. Golfers will enjoy the Predator Ridge Golf Resort, Harvest Golf Club and Fairmont Springs Golf Club. Winery guests will visit Gray Monk Estate Winery, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and Nk’Mip Winery.

“Rocky Mountaineer is committed to providing the most unforgettable travel experiences in the world,” says Hubert Wat, Vice President, Marketing of Rocky Mountaineer. “We are excited to offer our guests an opportunity to take advantage of a first-class experience that highlights some of the most beautiful and recognized areas of Canada, known for their superb wineries and golf courses.”

Rates start at $7,499 a person, with the wine trips leaving on June 17, 2010 and September 9, 2010. The golf trip departs on June 24, 2010.

Five steps to a better Valentine’s Day from Fairmont

After the toll that 2009 took on your spirit and your body, it’s time for you to commit to a relaxed and steady 2010. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts in on board with this and is kicking in some amazing deals through its Willow Stream spa brand, which is available around the world. So, if you’re planning to hit Monte Carlo, Miami or the Mayan Riviera, you’ll have a top-shelf treatment ready and waiting for you. Check out the “Follow Your Heart” spa experiences on tap at 11 Fairmont hotels this Valentine’s Day.

One Heart: This is a Red Ribbon Lips facial upgrade and includes a complimentary Jane Iredale Organic Sugar Lip Scrub treatment that will soften and soothe your lips. Worried about dry, cracked lip kissing? That won’t be a problem after this treatment.

Two Heart: Willow Stream’s Sending You Kisses offer includes a Willow Stream Lip Kit and Lip Definer pencil, which will make softened lips eye-catching — translation: you’ll more likely have the chance to use them.

Three Heart: Enjoy a Heartfelt 90-minute spa experience, an hour of which is side-by-side for couples, with a 30-minute dip in the spa’s oversized whirlpool tubs … complete with champagne.

Four Heart: The Love Me package makes you the center of attention. The solo day at the spa includes a 90-minute experience before noon and a Willow Stream spa bento box lunch.

Five Heart: Willow stream will Love You Forever. On the first day of the month, guests will enjoy enjoy either a 60-minute or 90-minute spa treatment … for an entire year!

Participating resorts include: Fairmont Turnberry Isle (Miami), Fairmont Singapore, Fairmont Scottsdale, Fairmont Le Montreux Place (Switzerland), Fairmont Mayakoba (Mexico), Fairmont Acapulco Princess, Fairmont Banff Springs (Alberta), Fairmont Dubai, Fairmont Southampton (Bermuda), Fairmont Monte Carlo, Fairmont Empress (Victoria, British Columbia).

The 10 most-affordable ski spots in North America

Skiing, like polo and yachting, is a rich man’s(or woman’s) sport. The equipment is expensive, and in order to participate, you need to go to a specific place. In the case of skiing, this means paying ski lift fees and traveling to a pricey ski resort. The costs can add up and make it prohibitively expensive for less affluent ski enthusiasts.

But there are some less expensive ski resorts. has put together a list of the top ten affordable ski spots in North America.

Keystone, near Denver, makes the list because of the many extras it offers, such as night skiing included with a lift ticket on the day of arrival, plus access to nearby resorts like Vail and Breckenridge. Steamboat in Colorado is on the list thanks to affordable ski-in/ski-out lodging and convenient shuttle services. And Winter Park, also in Colorado, is praised as catering to a “moderate demographic, no luxury properties.”

Whistler-Blackcomb, near Vancouver, is normally a very pricey destination. But in an attempt to lure visitors before the Olympics, it is offering some fantastic deals right now. Airfare to Vancouver can be expensive, depending on where you fly from, but you can save money by flying into Seattle and taking a train to Vancouver.

Jackson Hole (Wyoming), Banff(Alberta, Canada), and Lake Tahoe round out the western top ten with plentiful deals, discounts, and special offers that help keep prices low. On the east coast, Stowe(Vermont) and Lake Placid in New York offer excellent mid-week prices.

Spend a Day–At Least–Immersed in the Rockies

There are few destinations as breathtaking as the Rocky Mountains. I’ve lived near them all my life, and while there are many things about my home city that I loathe, the Rockies always make coming home exciting. No summer of mine is complete without a few days spent in the mountains, breathing in the pine-y air and taking in the amazing views.

If you’re headed to the Alberta Rockies area and you’re moderately in shape, a hike in the Rockies is a must. We’re not talking 10-day back country excursions — a day hike on a popular trail will allow you to immerse yourself in nature without having to worry about bears. Need some suggestions? Here’s a list of some popular hiking trails in Alberta’s Rockies that you can conquer in a few hours. My personal favourite is Johnston Canyon. Bring a picnic, some comfy shoes and your camera — You won’t regret it.