After my trip to Banff last May, I decided it was time to see it as a winter wonderland.
Unlike last time when I flew in and out of Calgary, I decided to get a Greyhound bus from Vancouver to Banff (16 hour trip). I thought it would be good to see the interior of British Columbia like Kelowna and The Okanagan. Although the trip was long and slightly uncomfortable, it was great to see all the fantastic scenery, I also made a friend along the way, who was also traveling to Banff.
Angela, who was travelling from Victoria to Banff to start a new job at The Fairmont in Banff as a Massage Therapist was fantastic company along the way and I didnt feel too worried about the drunken idiots who usually travel on Greyhounds.
Arriving in Banff at just after 5pm, my friend Nick picked myself and Angela up as she didn’t know anyone or how to get to the hotel. After helping Angela to find her accomodation, we exchanged numbers with and said it would be good to meet up before I left Banff.
After a few glasses of wine at Nick’s place, I felt the need to go to bed.
The next day I was up early and after a quick trip to Tim Hortons for a coffee and a granola yoghurt, it was time to hike up Tunnel Mountain.
Tunnel Mountain is 1600 metres high and looks over Banff. I found the hike quite easy compared to Sulphur Mountain last year and enjoyed the incline upwards along the switchbacks. It also helped I had proper hiking shoes on and some ice grips that I borrowed from Nick as well as some good tunes on my iPod.
The acsent to the top took me 50 minutes and was well worth the views as I enjoyed a Timmys Maple cream donut. 🙂
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking along the Bow River, which was frozen and at some of the many look out points.
The next day was my snowboarding trip to Sunshine Village, the ski resort in Banff. After driving ‘Louise’ (Nick’s car) up to the base level and getting my lift ticket I took the Gondola up to the first mountain, Goats Eye Mountain. The view from the top was incredible:
As Goat Mountain only had one blue run, it was time to get the gondola to the village.
By the village, there are two Mountains. I first went up Lookout Mountain and tried a few runs. I struggled a little on the flats and generally I am not keen on these. At the top of the Great Divide Express lift, I attempted a black run (North Divide) with moguls (little bumps). As my carving isn’t fantastic on bumpy terrain, I just boarded in the direction towards the nearest blue run.
I got to try the Teepee Town chairlift, which is the first of its kind in Canada with heated seats and bright orange bubble covers to keep out the cold.
After a 30 minute coffee break at the lodge, I proceeded to Mount Standish where the runs are more divided by trees rather than the open runs on Lookout.
At 3pm, it was time to call it a day as I didn’t want to get too tired and end up with an injury. As I took the Gondola back down, I noticed you can ski/board back down to the base car park – fantastic for people that like flats but not great for me.
Back in Banff, I waited for Nick to finish work and then we drove up to Lake Louise. I noticed that the elevation was much higher then in Banff and of course much colder. We stayed the night at the HI hostel in Lake Louise, which was very quiet. After trying to find a place to eat (unsuccessfully – everything seems to close early) we ate at the hostel bistro and hung out in the TV room drinking beers until bedtime.
In the morning, we both decided to check out the buffet breakfast at the Fairmont Lake Louise, it did not disappoint. $30 got you tea/coffee and a selection of cold meats, cheese, continental, hot meat, pastries, crepes, pancakes and fresh ommelettes – the selection was endless. After two platefuls I was stuffed and we decided to put off going ice skating on the lake and drove to Lake Peyto, named after the explorer, Bill Peyto.
After the trip to the lake, we headed back to Lake Louise, where I hired skates and went out onto the frozen ice. I was a bit rusty at first (it has been around 15 years since I skated) but I soon got the hang of it. I have never skated on a frozen lake before so it felt fantastic. The ice sculptures were also pretty amazing to see.
We decided to return to Banff after Lake Louise as there wasn’t much else to do for another day. I was planning on going up to Lake Louise resort to snowboard but the weather wasn’t great so I decided against it.
On return to Banff we decided to go out for the evening and have a few drinks. As it was Australia day the date before it was quite dead in town.
The next morning or in actual fact around lunch time, I started to feel human again after a very bad hangover (I never learn). Much of my day was spent packing my stuff up ready for my bus back to Vancouver. In the evening, I met up with Angela at the Waldhaus pub (part of the Fairmont). Nick and some of his friends also came along as the pub do $9 chicken wings on a Wednesday evening. It was a great last night for me and I enjoyed catching up with Angela.
At around 9pm, it was time to head back to Nick’s place and to get my stuff. As Louise (Nick’s car) was making a funny when driving back from Lake Louise, he borrowed his friends SUV.
We said goodbye at the station as I knew he had work early the next day. I can’t say the bus journey back was that pleasent, especially at Kamloops when a drunken woman boarded and proceeded to be loud and drink more. The situation got so bad that she was asked to get off the bus and when she threatened with the race card and became violent, the police were called. Not the best ending to a fantastic vacation.
I loved seeing The Rockies in the winter but comparing my trip now and the one last May, I believe it is much better to see in the summer. There are also more hikes and other outdoor activities available. The skating on the lake was definately the highlight and one that I won’t forget in a hurry! 🙂