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Travel: Ride the snow groomer to the mountaintop to eat and drink

The Paradise Camp Snowcat Dinner Tour shuttles hungry and thirsty tourists from the village at SilverStar Mountain Resort just outside of Vernon to Paradise Camp.

We climb aboard the candy-apple-red PistenBully 400 snow groomer not to actually smooth out the white stuff, but to take an epic ride to the mountaintop for a gourmet wine-paired dinner.

You see, this specially retrofitted snow groomer is called 'Paradise Express' and is used to do something you can only do at a handful of ski resorts in the world. (There's a similar experience in Whistler).

The Paradise Camp Snowcat Dinner Tour shuttles hungry and thirsty tourists from the village at SilverStar Mountain Resort just outside of Vernon to Paradise Camp -- a distance of eight kilometres and a vertical gain of 760 metres.

Paradise Camp, at the top of Powder Gulch, is SilverStar's breakfast and lunch spot by day and a candle-lit snowcat dinner restaurant by night.

"This tour is unique and that's why people clamour to get on it," says Paradise Express driver Dean McAreavy.

"It's amazing that you can take a snowcat ride through this landscape to the top of a mountain to have dinner."

Yes, the landscape.

It's pitch black when my wife, Kerry, and I climb into the 15-passenger cab that's been added to the top of the rig especially for the snowcat dinner tours.

Excitement is building, the music is pumping over the sound system and a party-like atmosphere develops amongst the group.

The moonlight and Paradise Express' spotlights illuminate a scene of wide swaths of ski runs, snow-flocked evergreens and leafless poplars for a beautiful and otherworldly half-hour journey.

We then pile into woodstove-warmed Paradise Camp to devour our pre-ordered meals.

For Kerry and I that means shrimp cocktail with crisp Howling Bluff Pinot Gris from the Naramata Bench and slow-braised beef paired with big-and-bold Kettle Valley Syrah, also from the Naramata Bench, and decadent chocolate brownie a la mode for dessert.

Sated, the ride down is equally scenic and relaxing.

At the bottom, we disembark, say our goodbyes and head off into the night to our weekend accommodation -- Snowbird Lodge, right in the village centre.

Truly a one-of-a-kind alpine experience that also happens to incorporate Okanagan wines -- the perfect win-win scenario.

The Paradise Camp Snowcat Dinner Tour is $112 per person, plus the cost of wine.

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While SilverStar is a spectacular ski resort with seven metres of powder snow annually and 3,282 skiable acres serviced by 12 lifts, Kerry and I don't actually ski while we're there this weekend.

To work up an appetite for the Paradise Camp Snowcat Dinner, earlier in the day we snowshoed six kilometres on the Chakra Trail through hushed and surreal Douglas fir forest.

The second day at the resort is all indulgence -- breakfast of avocado toast at the Star's newest eatery, Chute 5; relaxing in our room at Snowbird Lodge; shopping in the village; lunch of Montreal poutine (with a glass of 50th Parallel Riesling) at The Den restaurant; couples massage at Elevate Spa; happy hour of 'Apres All Day' cocktails and glasses of Nichol Vineyard Pinot Gris from the Naramata Bench at Black Pine Social; and then dinner at new Italian resto D'Argento for gnocchi in arrabbiata sauce paired beautifully with a bottle of LaStella Fortissimo red wine.


Who knew wining and dining and pampering could be so tiring, but satisfying.