Whoever decided to put Valentine’s Day in February, pairing western society’s hottest holiday with its coldest month, was on to something. Some say the tradition of roses, chocolate and cupids originated with Lupercalia, the mid-winter fertility festival of ancient Rome. Others credit the Catholic church, which Christianized the pagan festival with a saintly Valentine-the-romantic-martyr makeover. Whatever the origin, any opportunity to celebrate fiery passion during frozen February is welcome.
Romans kicked off festivities by gently slapping women with strips of hide from sacrificial goats, but we have some better ideas for igniting – or rekindling – romance. Why settle for just one day devoted to love when you can create a getaway weekend and really warm up winter? Whether you’re starry-eyed romantics or long-time lovers, here are three ways to turn up the heat as you eat, play and love this February.
Now there’s more to love about a Jasper weekend – a new 10,000-square-foot luxury spa in the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The spa, the first full-service facility in the region, offers signature treatments like a maple sugar body treat. For real togetherness, choose from four “couple experiences,” including side-by-side massages.
Alicia Chelsom, manager of public relations, says romance comes naturally at the lodge, thanks to its mountain-and-lakeside setting. Guests enjoy cozying up to wood-burning fireplaces, skating on the lake or taking night walks under the stars. She recommends lakefront suites overlooking Lac Beauvert or the ultra-private Athabasca Cabin as extra romantic, with large soaker tubs, fireplaces and “beds you just sink into and don’t want to get out of.” Dining highlights include candlelit dinners in the Moose’s Nook with gourmet Canadian cuisine; a lingering meal at Cavell’s, taking in picture-window views of the Whistler Mountain range; or the intimate Oka Sushi bar, with fresh fish flown in daily from Japan and Vancouver.
Stimulate your appetite by renting snowshoes or cross-country skis for trails near the lodge. Or you can venture further for downhill skiing at Marmot Basin or back-country powder skiing on a Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing tour. For unique adventures, add a Maligne Canyon ice walk, dogsledding or Icefield Helicopter Tours’ snowy champagne picnic-for-two on Cline Glacier – all easily arranged by concierges.
Bonus: Book JPL’s Romance Package February 11 to 17 and receive the third night’s stay free. It includes wine and chocolate truffles on arrival, dinner, breakfasts, two spa treatments and other extras. Rate: $499 a night. (800-257-7544, fairmont.com/jasper)
The Prairie Creek Inn proves you don’t have to sacrifice comfort and luxury to get away from it all. Just 10 minutes from Rocky Mountain House, the four-and-a-half-star country inn offers peace and pampering, with options nearby for outdoor activities like dogsledding or skijoring with Klondike Ventures. “It’s definitely not roughing it,” says owner and operator Terri Cameron. “Each room is individually decorated, with romantic touches like double soaker tubs, four-poster beds and fireplaces.”
Cameron says most guests are content to roam the grounds by the creek, maybe strap on some snowshoes, but mostly just relax. “It’s closer than Jasper or Banff and away from the commercialization of major centres. The inn experience is unique, and I’ve been surprised how popular it is with the 25-to-35-year-old set. They love the luxury of the rooms and the solitude and really don’t want to go anywhere else.”
Pricing includes a three-course gourmet breakfast delivered to your room or enjoyed in the great room. The inn also has an intimate new restaurant specializing in local produce and game and wine-pairing dinners. “It’s a winter wonderland in a secluded mini-hotel surrounded by snow-capped pine trees,” says Cameron. “The star-gazing is amazing, and if you’re lucky you’ll see the northern lights.” Rates: $160 to $285 a night, including breakfast. (403-844-2672, theprairie creekinn.com)
Why should out-of-towners have all the fun? Be a tourist in your hometown and set your imagination free with an over-the-top weekend at West Edmonton Mall’s Fantasyland Hotel. Rhoda Lemay, director of sales for the famed theme rooms, is jazzed about the recent addition of 10 Hollywood Nights rooms. “They’re for adults only – very seductive with a sophisticated decor. You can explore your wild side on the dance pole under multi-coloured lights or try some creative position on the tantric furniture.” Lemay says the Roman Room is also very popular with romantics. Nero would feel at home in its decadence – a round royal bed, a steamy Jacuzzi, marble pillars and velvet curtains.
To really set the mood, add a Fantasy Package to your stay. “Petals and Passion” strews rose petals in your room and offers a sensual gift basket of bath oils, candles and other “appetizers;” the spa package includes massage and other relaxing treatments in WEM’s Rain Salon and Spa. For diversions beyond your room but still inside the mall, the entertainment package offers tickets to Jubilations Dinner Theatre or the Comic Strip Comedy Club. You can also set your pulses racing with a Wet & Wild Adventure package that includes riding Galaxyland’s roller coaster and splashing in the waves at the waterpark.
Amidst the excitement, fuel your passion in the hotel’s L2 Grill and unwind over cocktails in its chic new L1 Lounge. And if, despite all this, you find yourself bored, we hear the shopping’s great in the mall. (780-737-3783, fantasylandhotel.com)