New Brunswick, ATLANTIC CANADA, December 6, 2006 – It’s too late this year to channel your inner Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, but you can still cheer on one of the 120 teams that will compete in the fifth annual World Pond Hockey Championship in Plaster Rock, February 8 to 11. This is hockey in its purest form and, while its origins have been discussed passionately, some say it originated in nearby Nova Scotia, another Maritime Province, around 1810. Last year would-be hockey stars from 12 countries – including 26 states and 12 Canadian provinces – competed in front of 6,000 frenzied fans for a wooden replica of the Stanley Cup. Not interested in spectator sports? How about snowmobiling, skiing or snowshoeing with native Mi’kmaq guides? The snowiest of the Maritimes with annual snow falls of up to 13 feet in the northwestern part of the province, New Brunswick is sure to please the most demanding winter sports aficionado.
This is snowmobile country and New Brunswickers are fanatics about getting out in their white open spaces. After all, they’ve been at it for over 80 years – ever since fellow Canadian Joseph-Armand Bombardier invented the first one in 1922 out of an old Model T Ford. Since then, snowmobiling has become a $9 billion a year industry in the U.S. and Canada alone – and there’s no better place to whiz through snow-covered woods then over some of the 4,400 miles of well-maintained trails around towns like Miramichi, Bathurst, Campbellton and Edmundston. Permits can be purchased for as little as $75 a week. After a long day on the trails, snowmobilers can relax by a crackling fire at one of O´Donnell´s Cottages, which is offering a six-night “Sled ‘n Snooze” package in a cozy two-bedroom cottage with daily breakfast and dinner, plus five days snowmobile rental (up to 120 free miles per day), gas, insurance, helmets, snowmobile passes and trail maps for only $925 per person based on two people sharing one cottage and one snowmobile; $1355 per person using two snowmobiles, and $810 per person based on four people sharing one cottage and two snowmobiles, plus taxes. www.odonnellscottages.com At the Atlantic Host Hotel in Bathurst, the “Snowmobiling Capital of Atlantic Canada,” the five-night “Powder Runs Deep” package includes daily breakfast, three dinners, three days snowmobile rental (108 miles daily), gas, insurance, snowsuit, boots, helmet, pass, maps and indoor sled parking for about $1160 per person, double occupancy, including taxes. www.atlantichost.com
Crabbe Mountain, New Brunswick’s highest vertical at 853 feet, offers challenging terrain for intermediates and black diamond skiers as well as easy slopes for snow bunnies and beginners. A quad chairlift, the only one in the Maritimes, takes skiers up the mountain quicker so they can zoom down the 18 alpine runs. Snowboarders will enjoy the terrain park complete with tabletops, hips, spines and rails. Crabbe sits in the middle of a 12-mile cross country trail system and at the end of the day, these skiers can catch the lift back to the base free of charge. With daily lift tickets costing between $22 and $35 – about half what they are in Vermont or Maine – and rentals combined with lift tickets going for $33 to $40, dedicated, cost-conscious skiers are sure to discover one of North America’s best kept winter secrets. www.crabbemountain.com Larsen’s Log Lodge has a five-night package for two in a suite complete with private outdoor hot tub, full breakfast, three dinners, a picnic lunch, lift tickets and ski rentals for three days, a snowman building kit and use of snowshoes for $1,180, not including taxes and service. www.loglodgenb.ca
More than 3,000 years ago, the Mi’kmaq, a First Nations people, settled on the banks of the Miramichi at Metepenagiag. Here at New Brunswick’s oldest village, visitors staying at the Metepenagiag Outdoor Adventure Lodge in Red Bank can see rabbits and porcupines as a Mi’kmaq guide leads them on a snowshoe “safari.” At the charming cedar lodge, guests can stay in one of the ten rooms decorated with aboriginal art and enjoy traditional specialties such as Atlantic lobster, snow crab and fiddlehead chowder. A five-night package for two including breakfasts, suppers and use of snowshoes and toboggans is $550. Guides are available for an additional charge of $22 per hour.
For cross-country skiers, the Heron´s Nest in Charlo near Campbellton offers a five-night package in a country cottage including daily breakfasts and one supper at Restaurant La Source with a bottle of wine, and five days of ski rentals and passes for $311 plus tax, per person, double occupancy. www.heronsnestcottages.com
Diehard fishermen who don’t want to leave the family at home, can book the “Chalet, Fish ‘em & Fry ‘em” package at Tabusintac Chalets. From January 1 to March 30, a family of four can learn how to pull in smelt nets and then cozy up at the end of the day in a fishing shanty to enjoy their catch at a smelt fry. This five-night package costs $403 plus taxes and includes accommodations in a fully-equipped two-bedroom chalet on the banks of the Tabusintac. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating and sleigh rides can be arranged. www.tabusintacchalets.com
In the meantime, make your reservations soon for the 2007 World Pond Hockey Championship in February. Why not bring your significant other for a romantic getaway? Sitting on 200 wooded acres overlooking the St. John River, the charming Castle Inn in Perth-Andover has six antique-filled suites with Jacuzzis and fireplaces that range from $105 to $255 per night and include full breakfast. The restaurant serves gourmet meals and a traditional afternoon tea. www.castleinn.ca And then next year you won’t feel guilty when you and your buddies take off for a “guys-only” weekend and join one of the teams battling it out for the sixth annual 2008 Pond Hockey Championship. www.plasterrock.com/hockey1.html
The province of New Brunswick is part of the Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership (ACTP), a nine member pan-Atlantic partnership comprised of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the four Atlantic Canada Tourism Industry Associations, and the four departments responsible for tourism for the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. For further information about New Brunswick, go to www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca and for further information about the other three provinces, go to www.newfoundlandandlabradortourism.com; www.novascotia.com and for Prince Edward Island, go to www.gentleisland.com.