Dorie’s Cookies’ Vanilla-Brown Butter Madeleines: A Two-Bite Cupcake

There’s something about madeleines that seems so wonderfully precious to me. Maybe it’s because they share a name with the little French private school character. Maybe it’s because they require their own special pan for baking. Maybe it’s because they’re just so gosh darned dainty and cute that it’s a wonder they haven’t blossomed into macaron-territory popularity. (Mark my words: madeleines will be the on-trend dessert of 2019 or 2020).

vanilla-bean-madeleines-11

My own history with madeleines is somewhat hazy. Until Christmas morning, I didn’t own madeleine pans, so I never got the chance to try to bake my own. Until now, my exposure had been limited to some store bought ones I tried when I was around 10. I can’t remember especially liking them – but I also can’t remember not liking them.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-4

Nonetheless, I was eager to put my new pans to work and decided to test them out with the most simple and classic of madeleine flavours: vanilla-brown butter, from my Dorie’s Cookies cookbook.

Here’s the thing with madeleines: Dorie stresses that they should be consumed as shortly after being baked as possible. I was preparing these for an evening book club meeting, so I started to bake them just as the sun was going down. This means that the pictures get progressively worse – sorry for that. Is anyone else counting down eagerly until the days get long again?

Step one is to prepare the special madeleine pans by greasing them and flouring them. Check and check. Next, you whisk the dry goods together: all-purpose flour and baking powder. So far so good.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-5

Now, the butter. The butter gets melted and swirled on the stove top for a little while – after all, this recipe is called vanilla brown butter. When the butter is amber-esque and smells nutty and delicious, it gets pulled off the heat.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-6

Meanwhile, you mix white sugar with eggs, vanilla, salt, and honey – the wets.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-7

For those keeping track, we now have three bowls going on: the butter, the dry, and the wet. It is now time to unite them as one: you gently stir the wet with the dry, then fold the butter, bit by bit. Finally, you add a bonus ingredient. The bonus ingredient is a tablespoon of either Scotch, bourbon, dark rum, or milk (… one of these things is not like the other…). I had some bourbon left over from the sticky toffee pudding I made somewhat recently, so I threw it in there – and you know what? The boozy kick was pretty noticeable, considering it was only a tablespoon! I’d like to see how the taste differs if I use milk instead.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-8

The batter then gets poured into the mad-pan. The recipe says it yields 12 madeleines, but mine made 20 (bonus!!). They bake at a high-ish temperature (400 degrees) for a short-ish amount of time (12 minutes), then you have to tap them out of their shells right away.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-2

Aaaaand this is about where the sun had totally gone down and the pictures really suck.

(I’m not sure why it’s so urgent, but the recipe told me so. Maybe because they would keep baking and they’d dry out quickly? Who knows.)

vanilla-bean-madeleines-3

I decided to kick my madeleines up one final notch by dipping them ever so slightly in some melted dark chocolate. This was not part of the recipe directions, but it was the right call – otherwise the madeleines may have been just a bit too plain.

vanilla-bean-madeleines-10

The last step: a dusting of icing sugar (this step was called for by the recipe).

vanilla-bean-madeleines-9

I tried to get an inside shot so you can get a sense of the texture. Kind of springy, kind of bouncy – very tasty.

Now, I don’t know exactly what madeleines are supposed to taste like, but I’ll do my best to sum it up and someone can let me know if I made them correctly. They kind of taste like a mini two-bite cupcake – they’re light, and they have a nice springy texture. They’re not overly sweet, but they’re not terribly exciting either. Or maybe that’s just because I picked a boring flavour. The good news is that I’ve got some more exciting varieties to try both in this cookbook and another. Stay tuned – exciting madeleines coming your way soon.

Advertisements

Woods Explorer Stories: Northwest Territories, Part 3 and the Conclusion

NWT-Pt3-7

Umm… yeah. More on this shortly.

Do you know what I just realized?

I never finished writing about my summer spent camping, hiking, paddling, and otherwise making my way across Canada as a Woods Explorer!

In fact, I just left the stories about our trip down (up, technically – we were going north) the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories totally unfinished. YIKES!

These trips happened two and a half years ago, and I won’t lie – the memories aren’t all that fresh. However, I originally wanted to write them down so that I could revisit them down the road and remember all the good times (and a few of the not-so-good ones). So here we go.

If you missed it (or need a recap, because the last time I posted about this was more than half a year ago):

  • In Part 1, we delayed our canoe trip on the Mackenzie River due to winds and made some friends in Fort Providence.
  • In Part 2, we hit the river for many relentless days in the most wild country I’ve ever been exposed to.

Reading Part 2 with fresh eyes, I realize I made paddling the Mackenzie sound kind of unpleasant. The truth is that it was Type 2 fun: somewhat miserable while it happened, but pretty incredible looking back.

NWT-Pt3-5

These are the types of photos we didn’t share on social media originally. But this is what it was like day in day out: cold, flat, sparse, and grey (this is actually pretty bright grey for the trip!)

There is something unnerving about being so totally alone in nature. Cedric and I saw a ferry going upriver one of the first days of our trip, but that’s it – that was the only sign of active human life that we saw. The trees were so, so dense on either side of the river that it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. I guess we kind of were.

But as long as the days were, as cold as the nights were, and as muddy as everything I owned was, it was still pretty magical. Case in point:

NWT-Pt3-6

The Northern Lights, ladies and gentlemen.

We were in the NWT in late August, which is not prime Northern Lights time – that would be mid-winter – but man, what a spectacle.

Despite the heavy cloud cover that plagued our entire trip, we lucked out with two nights of Northern Lights.

These Northern Lights were unreal. Both times we saw them, I had awoken in the night to go for a middle-of-the-night bathroom break – and even without my glasses or contacts, I could tell that something amazing was happening in the sky. Indeed, once I popped my glasses on, I saw the sky dance with green. That’s the best way I can describe it – dance. The sky was fluid and the lights were constantly moving and changing shapes.

It was cold as heck standing outside watching it all go down, but man – what a show. And to enjoy it by ourselves in the middle of the Dehcho was something I will never forget.

NWT-Pt3-1

Our second to last morning, we woke up to dark grey skies – again. As we took off to paddle, I could see a teeny, tiny opening of clouds way up on the horizon. It was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and I paddled like crazy all day hoping that the clouds would break and all would be well.

NWT-Pt3-3

We spotted this bad boy (the antler, not Cedric – heheh) on the side of the river towards the end of our trip

This day was monumental because we were approaching Jean Marie River, a small town of about 200 people. This was a potential exit point – if we weren’t able to make it all the way to Fort Simpson, the Canoe North people could pick us up here. At one point, we stopped for a snack and checked our map – and it looked like Jean Marie River was still a long, long way away.

Even though the weather was starting to clear up a little and – best of all – the river was starting to narrow and the current was helping propel us along, I felt totally, utterly defeated. I had kept up my spirits for most of the trip, but for some reason, I broke that afternoon.

The funny part is that we’d actually underestimated how far we were (this NEVER happened – we always thought we’d come further than we actually had), and we pulled into Jean Marie River less than an hour later.

We had planned on phoning Canoe North when we landed in Jean Marie River to give them a sense of whether we needed a pick up there (for instance, if we’d had an extra day of weather delay) or if we would make it to Fort Simpson. I won’t lie – part of me wanted to call it quits and have them pick us up the very next morning. But we didn’t quit. We phoned them on the satellite phone, told them we were right on schedule, and arranged for a pick up two days later in Fort Simpson.

We had kind of hoped that Jean Marie River would have some kind of store where we could buy hot food or a cold drink, but nope – it’s just a few houses with people! We ended up camping a little way down the river (this was the second night we got Northern Lights).

NWT-Pt3-2

Finally, we woke up for our last official day of paddling. We’d read that the distance between Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson was a solid day or two of paddling, but it took us less than a full day, thanks to the flowing current that helped push us forward. On a rare sunny day, we pulled onto a beach in Fort Simpson and caught a ride to the local campground. We’d made it!

Fort Simpson is small by our standards, but is considered a large-ish community in the NWT (according to the lady at the post office, anyway). We gobbled burgers at the only restaurant in town, visited the information centre, and enjoyed a solid snooze at the campground.

The next day, our ride from Canoe North arrived. It was a long, bumpy ride (and we saw a bear – despite not having seen one on our entire canoe trip!) and we made it back to Hay River just as it was getting dark. I enjoyed a glorious shower and we had another burger – this one was way better than the one in Fort Simpson. And the next morning, we flew out of Hay River and out of the Northwest Territories altogether.

Just like that – the biggest leg of the trip was done.

This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of adventure. Traveling up North isn’t cheap, and frankly, there are so many places in the world to discover that it’s hard to repeat places you’ve already been. I don’t know if I will ever make it back to the Northwest Territories, but I do know that my short time there changed me profoundly.

Life in the territories is considerably different than anywhere else I’ve seen so far in Canada. Communities are small and distances are incredibly vast. It’s hard to wrap your head around without experiencing it – and I know I’ve only experienced a very small part of the territory. If you ever get the chance to visit, do it. Do it, do it, do it.

Our next leg took us to Banff, Alberta – for a very different experience than the one we’d just had. Hopefully, it won’t take me another year to write a blog post about it!

Bread Illustrated’s Pan-Grilled Flatbread

flatbread-5

I swear I’ve made Bread Illustrated’s Pan-Grilled Flatbread recipe before, but I can’t seem to find a blog post about it. If I didn’t blog about it, does it even count? Probably not.

The flatbreads popped into my mind when I was invited to a friend’s house for a curry dinner. What goes better than naan and curry? Nothing – because it is the best.

flatbread-12

Technically, this is a recipe for flatbread, not naan specifically. But as the opening write up for the recipe says, flatbreads are eaten all over the world and they pair deliciously with stews and curries of all kinds. So they were definitely well-suited for the occasion.

Although the flatbreads are pretty easy and quick to make (you can make them in an afternoon and have them ready for dinner), I find anything that you have to make multiples of – rather than one big loaf – can be a little labour intensive. This recipe claims to yield four 9-inch flatbreads, but I made eight 6-inch(ish) ones.

flatbread-6

The Bread Illustrated flatbreads are made with a combination of bread flour and whole-wheat flour, as well as some of the usual suspects (yeast, salt, water) and some non-so-usual suspects (olive oil, sugar, and yogurt). You’re supposed to use plain whole-milk yogurt. I had 5% (I think) on hand, so I used that, but the recipe warned they may be a little tough if I sacrificed the whole-milk aspect. Mine were a little chewy, but still delicious.

flatbread-8

Step one is to mix the dough in the mixer for a total of 10 minutes. Then you knead by hand for 30 seconds or so and let the dough rest in a bowl for a couple of hours. So far, it’s the same process for your typical dough.

flatbread-9

Before…

flatbread-10

And 2 hours later!

After dough has had some time to rise, it’s ready for action. You split the dough into quarters (or, in my case, eighths) and roll each one into a ball. The book shows a technique of pulling it around your thumb and pinching the seams – it works pretty well. The balls of dough rest – meanwhile, you can heat up a skillet on the stove.

flatbread-2

flatbread-3

The recipe calls for a cast-iron skillet. I do not own such a thing, but my sturdy Le Creuset dutch oven can hold heat pretty well, so it made do in this recipe.

flatbread-4

One by one, the pieces of dough get stretched and rolled out. You stab each flatbread with a fork, oil the skillet, mist both sides of the dough with water (this keeps them soft, not crusty), then let it sizzle away for 2-4 minutes per side (I stuck with 2 per side). I set up stations so that while one flatbread was cooking, I’d roll out the next piece of dough to have it ready to go.

Side note: since making this recipe, I haveĀ  received a tortilla press (merci Lise!) It would have come in handy for this one… stay tuned for future tortilla press action.

flatbread-11

After both sides have cooked, you brush the pieces with melted butter and sprinkle it with sea salt. I do not recommend missing this step – it makes it soooo delicious. I kept my finished flatbreads in aluminum foil and prior to serving, we tossed the foil packet in the oven for a few minutes to heat it up.

flatbread-13

I don’t have a picture of the breads with the curry, but they paired fabulously, of course. Yes, it’s more effort to make these than it is to pick up a packet at the grocery story – but it’s infinitely better.

For the Love of the Adventure: “Snowshoeing” at “Garibaldi Lake”

garibaldi-lake-winter-3

I am not what one would call a “peak bagger”.

Rather, I am a firm believer in the old cliche that the journey is the destination. In other words, if I have to amend or abort an adventure due to weather, injuries, time crunches, or other variables that are generally out of my control, I’m not really bothered.

I’m not concerned with reaching a summit; I’m more focused on getting outside and having a really nice time. So while a recent snowshoe trip to Garibaldi Lake ended up involving neither snowshoes nor lake, I still deem it a success. I got to play outside, enjoyed a rare and glorious sunny winter day to its fullest, spent some solid QT with friends, and capped my day off with (root) beer and snacks at Backcountry Brewing – by all objective measures, the adventure was a perfect one.

If you’ve ever done the Garibaldi Lake/Black Tusk/Panorama Ridge hike in the non-snowy season, you know that the first part of the hike involves a seemingly never ending series of switchbacks through the forest. However, in the snowy season, the hike starts one step earlier.

garibaldi-lake-winter-6

The paved road to the trail head is not quite as easy to maneuver in the winter, when it is covered in snow, as it is in the summer, when it is not. Our first clue should have been the dozens of cars parked on the shoulder just past the turnoff. However, there were a few tough guy cars who had laid down some tracks along the road, and our Fearless Adventure Leader’s truck seemed as capable as any, so we happily bumped our way down the road to see how far we could get.

We got a decent way up, but the three point turn required to orient the vehicle properly for a smooth exit was a little trickier than anticipated. Luckily, our Fearless Adventure Leader had a sturdy avy shovel in his sturdy truck, so the rest of us got to feel useful as we dug and pushed it to a comfortable position on the shoulder of the road, out of the way of any other tough guy cars who dared make the trek.

Then, we were off. Though there was snow on the ground, it was fairly well packed and more easily tramped by foot than by snowshoe. We debated leaving our snowshoes in the car, but we ultimately decided to take them with us in case things got deeper and softer. Spoiler alert: we did not end up using them, though I am glad we took them because – as another hiker we bumped into with snowshoes strapped to her pack said – we got to take them out for a lovely walk. Snowshoes need fresh air and exercise too, right?

garibaldi-lake-winter-5

Notably missing: snowshoes.

We lucked out on gorgeous, sunny weather, though under the canopy of trees in the switchbacks, we weren’t in much danger of getting a sunburn. The snow was a little sparse towards the bottom, but it covered most of the trail pretty solidly. I anticipate after some recent snowfall that the trails are even snowier – perhaps even requiring snowshoes?

garibaldi-lake-winter-1

Cell phone cameras: taking poor quality selfies since the 2000s!

My biggest challenge with outdoor activities in the winter is temperature control. I have the attractive habit of sweating aggressively when doing any moderately strenuous activity (including hiking up switchbacks for hours). If I stop, say for lunch, the sweat cools instantly, chilling me to the bone. I’m usually able to reheat my core and my legs once I start moving again, but my extremities go yellow and lose circulation. (Google Raynaud’s if you want to gross yourself out a little.) I lose feeling, especially in my hands, and it is very uncomfortable and hard to regain feeling until I’m somewhere sheltered and warm and wearing something dry.

So, when we stopped around our pre-determined turnaround time to determine whether we wanted to keep going or call it a day – despite having not reached Garibaldi Lake – I was totally fine when we opted for the latter, knowing it meant I would regain feeling in my hands that much sooner.

garibaldi-lake-winter-4

We came, we saw (some pretty trees, mostly), and although we didn’t conquer much, we had a great time, proving that one does not actually need snowshoes for an enjoyable snowshoe trip!

 

 

Dorie’s Cookies “My Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies” Recipe Review

chocolate-chip-cookie-1

A picky comment – the photography in Dorie’s Cookies is not my favourite. But as I continue to bake (and photograph) my own cookies, I’m realizing it is kind of hard to photograph cookies in exciting, unconventional ways. Respect to food stylists!

It is no secret that Cedric is a fan of chocolate chip cookies.

As I have previously explained, in our household, we like to make a batch of cookie dough and freeze individually portioned cookies so that when the need for something sweet hits, we simply have to throw a few cookie pucks in the oven and voila: instant fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.

chocolate-chip-cookie-5

Recently, our freezer stash dwindled down to dangerously low supply levels and I decided it was time to make a new batch. Naturally, I knew I had to try a chocolate chip cookie recipe from my new Dorie’s Cookies cookbook – but which one?

I should have known that a cookbook devoted entirely to cookies would contain more than one chocolate chip cookie recipe – it is, after all, a classic. Here were my options:

  • Kerrin’s Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • My Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • My Classic Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Two-Bite One-Chip Cookies

I opted for “My Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies” – Dorie’s latest remix of her original “My Classic Best Chocolate Chip Cookies” recipe.

chocolate-chip-cookie-2

So what’s different about this recipe? Most chocolate chip cookie recipes vary only very slightly – but even the smallest change in sugar/butter/flour ratio, type of sugar used, cooking temperature, and cooking time can have radical effects. (Yes, chocolate chip cookies can be radical.) This particular recipe features a blend of all-purpose and whole-wheat flour and white and brown sugar for optimal chewiness. It uses baking soda, not baking powder, and it calls for a couple of unconventional spices (for chocolate chip cookies at least): nutmeg and coriander.

chocolate-chip-cookie-3

I didn’t have any coriander on hand (isn’t coriander cilantro? do I really want that it my cookie?), but Dorie says that we can use our discretion when it comes to including or omitting the spices. I kept the nutmeg but left out the coriander.

chocolate-chip-cookie-7

This recipe is as quick to make as any chocolate chip recipe is, though it calls for at least an hour in the fridge before baking. I rolled up most of my dough into individual cookies to freeze for later, but I did bake a few so that I could give this recipe the review it deserves.

chocolate-chip-cookie-8

The recipe says to bake for 9 to 11 minutes. I left mine in for 10, and they looked perfect coming out: pale in the middle (chewiness galore!), brown on the edges. The pictures in the cookbook look a little darker than mine, but after I let mine sit for a few minutes, they were the perfect texture. If I had let them get darker, I think they would have been too crispy for my liking.

chocolate-chip-cookie-6

Right out of the oven

The greatest challenge with chocolate chip cookies is knowing that they taste even better if you let them sit for a little while and cool fully – but also knowing that there is nothing better than a still-hot cookie with chocolate that oozes. I compromised: I ate my cookie straight out of the oven, and I left two cookies to cool fully for Cedric to sample when he got home.

chocolate-chip-cookie-4

We both really liked this cookie. I’ll have to try a few more of the freezer ones before I make a final judgment call, and I’m definitely looking forward to trying some of the other chocolate chip cookie recipes in this book (the Kerrin’s recipe includes buckwheat flour and kasha – I don’t even know what kasha is!)

One final note on chocolate chip cookies: some people wonder if there is really such thing as a bad chocolate chip cookie. Oh, but there is – and for some reason, cafes and bakeries often serve substandard versions. As a kid, I loved the Tim Horton’s and Subway ones, but now the texture bothers me and so does the crystalized sugar taste. One local cafe (I won’t name names) serve puck-like chocolate chip cookies that are too hard and crumbly; another is disappointingly bland and low on actual chocolate.

So yes, it is possible to botch the chocolate chip cookie. And no, that is not a concern with this recipe – thankfully.

Flour Water Salt Yeast’s Same-Day Straight Pizza Dough Focaccia Pizza

focaccia-pizza-6

I was so very excited to receive my very own copy of the infamous Flour Water Salt Yeast cookbook for Christmas.

I have heard about this book for a long time – it is the cookbook of all cookbooks when it comes to artisan bread.

For the past year, I have been baking bread from my beloved (and currently extremely tattered) Bread Illustrated cookbook. I love Bread Illustrated for its simplicity, its excellent use of photographs to clearly illustrate each step, and the sheer variety of types of breads it covers. I fully plan to continue to bake from it because it goes beyond the typical rustic sourdough thing that seems to be popular right now. (Popular in bread circles, anyway. Sometimes I forgot that most people don’t spend a lot of time in bread circles.)

Flour Water Salt Yeast (which I shall call FWSY going forward) has a much narrower range of breadly recipes, but it goes much more in depth than Bread Illustrated. It’s basically like a college textbook of all things bread. It really, really goes into detail about various techniques and examines each and every variable that goes into baking bread, including temperature and time (and how to adjust each of these based on your own circumstances). It’s user-friendly, but it’s advanced.

I’m not going to lie – I find it a little intimidating. I feel like I need to read it cover-to-cover before I give it a serious go. But I did crack and try a recipe the other week – and it was fantastic.

You see, I wanted to make a pizza for dinner. I mentioned that I wanted to pick up some dough while I was in Whistler (Pasta Lupino sells its delicious dough dirt cheap!), and a girl in my book club said, “I thought you baked bread?!”. She was right – why on earth was I planning on buying pizza dough when I knew very well I could make it myself?

focaccia-pizza-13

Since rustic breads and pizza are the focal point of FWSY, I flipped open to the pizza section, which includes 15 pages on pizza and focaccia methodology before presenting four recipes: same-day straight pizza dough, overnight straight pizza dough, overnight pizza dough with levain, and overnight pizza dough with poolish. As I was somewhat short on time, I decided to try the same-day straight pizza dough.

focaccia-pizza-11

The ingredients – you’ll be shocked to know – are flour, water, salt, and yeast. One recipe yields a MASSIVE amount of pizza dough – enough for five pizzas. As the devoted pupil that I am, I read the methodology section before starting this recipe and realized that I could make two huge focaccia pizzas with the same amount of dough, so that’s what I did.

(We had pizza for days – and if you know Cedric’s appetite for pizza, you’ll know this is quite unusual.)

The recipe is super detailed when it comes to temperatures, which is awesome for making sure your dough turns out as perfectly as possible. It is on the cool side here, given that it is mid-winter, so I have created a proofing room of sorts in one of our bathrooms. It is small and windowless and easy to heat up without destroying our utility bill, and it served perfectly for growing my dough at just the right temperature.

focaccia-pizza-10

Here’s another intimidating thing about FWSY: it doesn’t use a stand mixer. You just use – gasp – your hands! Secretly, this is a good thing – I sometimes wonder if my weekly sourdoughs and other breads are too harsh on my KitchenAid’s engine. It will be good to give it a bit of a break, I think.

focaccia-pizza-9

Mid-pince

Of course, this means that rather than relying on a hook to do the bulk of the kneading in mixing, I have to use my own digits. The book outlines folding and pincing techniques (lobster claws, activate!) and it was actually kind of fun to squish the dough around to ensure all the ingredients got incorporated. I have a feeling this is the kind of thing that I will get better at over time.

focaccia-pizza-1

Daaaang look at those bubbles!

I also learned a new technique for creating smooth balls of dough. While Bread Illustrated talks about cupping the balls and making small little circles with it against the counter, FWSY uses a cup and drag technique, which I like a lot better.

focaccia-pizza-2

So, I made two massive balls of dough, which became two large baking pan-sized focaccia pizzas.

focaccia-pizza-3

I skipped the tomato sauce and topped them with bocconcini, caramelized red onions, proscuitto, and (post oven) arugula and Nonna Pia’s balsamic reduction.

focaccia-pizza-4

The pizza was delicious. The dough was easy to maneuver before baking and after baking, it was light and flavourful and completely delicious.

focaccia-pizza-7

The thicker focaccia meant we really got to sink our teeth into it and taste it, but I think it would be wonderful as regular pizza, too.

focaccia-pizza-8

If the same-day dough is this good, I can only imagine how tasty the other three pizza recipes in this book are.

More FWSY to come.

Cross-Country Skiing in the Callaghan

I am a BIG fan of the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan.

xc-ski-4

Home to such Olympic events as the biathlon and the ski jump (and such non-Olympic events as the Red Bull 400 – seriously, check it out), the Whistler Olympic Park also has some pretty incredible – and impeccably groomed – cross country ski trails.

xc-ski-6

I am a casual classic XC skier. I go often enough (i.e., a few times per year) to feel comfortable on the trails and I own my own pair of skis, but steeper downhills – especially ones that curve – still make me a little nervous and leave me laughing manically as I flail down them at Mach 50 (that’s what it feels like, at least). I find the trails at the Whistler Olympic Park to be the perfect mix of fun and challenging.

Callaghan-XC-Ski-4

Regular admission is not cheap, at $26.75 per person. However, they offer special deals on Wednesday evenings from 3 PM onward for only $7 per person (it used to be $5 – times, they are a-changing). As a bonus, rentals are also only $7 on Wednesday evenings.

There are pros and cons to going on Wednesday evenings. The trails are a little busy, but they’re not too bad – especially compared to any regular high-season day on Whistler Blackcomb. Watching the sky fade from day to night is pretty magical, especially when paired with a fresh dusting of snow falling from the sky (as was the case when I was there recently). Some of the main trails are lit, and other nearby trails are bright enough to see more-or-less clearly, though a headlamp is definitely a good idea.

Callaghan-XC-Ski-2

The network of XC trails is quite expansive, though on the Wednesday night specials, I usually stick close to the lit trails near the lodge.

Callaghan-XC-Ski-3

Recently, they’ve had a pretty good Friday night special deal going on – $10 admission (and $10 rentals, for those so inclined). I went with a friend when it was still light out, and we ventured beyond the usual loops by the lodge. There are soooo many trails to explore and I seriously need to head out in proper daylight hours to get a solid day of skiing in.

xc-ski-5

I like the Olympic Park because it’s not just about the skiing – it’s about the whole experience. I usually like to grab a dinner in the cozy lodge. The food is catered by Whistler Cooks and is better than your usual cafeteria fare. It’s also priced more reasonably than Whistler Blackcomb mountain food – think $8 for a bowl of chili with some baguette.

xc-ski-2

The even have this cute little fire pit igloo zone set up. So very magical, am I right?

xc-ski-3

It feels strange to admit this – especially since January was an EPIC month of snow – but I haven’t touched bmy snowboard since December. I definitely plan to head up soon, but I’ve been having such a nice time on my Nordic skis and snowshoes. Hooray for snow sports of all kinds!