A Travellerspoint blog

THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS ROAD TRIP

Banff

sunny -3 °C

We discovered Banff after leaving Lake Louise and driving along the Bow Valley Parkway. A scenic alternative to the Trans Canada highway, and a welcome relief from the many trucks on the highway. We did drive into a snow storm on our way to Banff which slowed the pace for a while and we were also on the lookout for the first grizzly bear of the season that had been spotted north of Banff (somewhere??).

Banff is a a very quaint and pretty town surrounded by mountains with lots of great little shops. A huge amount of accomodation choices however doing some research on Expedia before we left narrowed down our options and the first motel we pulled into was ours for the night. The Ptarmigan Inn was very central and no one felt like going out for dinnner after our big afternoon dessert so the hunter and gatherer of the crew braved the elements and trekked off down the main street returning with piping hot wood fired pizzas- yum.

We woke to glorious sunny skies which was a welcome change and the pull to hit the shops was overwhelming!!
I managed to find myself some gorgeous furlined snow boots which would have been really useful last week, (should have gone to Banff first) but will be awesome for the rest of the week then later when we are in Alaska.

As the skies were sooo blue we thought we should also take the opportunity to go up the Banff gondola at Sulphur Mountain. This wasn't on our must do list but the magic weather pushed it up the list.

The kids were amazed at the gondola. We had been taking the Big White gondola a couple of times a day but to ride this gondola so high was a real treat. We enjoyed looking at all the different animal tracks in the snow from above and trying to guess what they all were.

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Getting off the gondola we were very pleased to have worn all our ski jackets, gloves and scarves! It was windy and freezing cold! From the gondola building there is a decked path upto the summit of Sulphur Mountain. It was still mostly snow covered and such a picturesque path that we trekked off on the walk to the top where the original weather station building still stands. On arrival, with frozen fingers from taking photos and video we marvelled at the fact that for 43 years a meteorologist climbed Sulphur Mountain a couple of times a week and stayed overnight in the little bunkhouse just to report the weather. We took a couple more photos and retreated very quickly back to the warmth of the building.

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Posted by fiveofus 23:57 Archived in Canada Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS ROAD TRIP

Lake Louise

overcast -10 °C

Our road trip of the rockies began in Kelowna about an hour from Big White. Wayne picked up a Ford Explorer 2008 with all the good bits including a DVD player ( minus any DVD's). With the words " Short right, long left" imprinted into his brain and all of us chanting to him at every intersection we began our venture out into the country.

We took a brief stop to check out the beautiful Okanagan Lake which is 110km long and offers many wealthy Kelownians beautiful vantage spots to build their mansions. Kelowna is big on water sports in the summer and they tell us the lake does eventually warm up enough to be able to swim.

From Kelowna we headed off towards Lake Louise not really expecting to make the full 4 and a bit hour drive. Instead we stayed overnight in Golden, a small town famous for The Kicking Horse Ski Resort. We had not organised any accommodation ahead of schedule for this week as its not peak season and having a car gave us the flexibility to call into a motel as it suited. This decision ended up working a treat as if we had tried to plan where we were going to be it would have added pressure to our "lack of schedule". We were actually quite spontaneous in our plans each day and made daily decisions on where we would end up, sometimes only an hour before!

We left Golden and continued to Lake Louise. The driving distances are deceiving, a lot like driving NZ although roads are not as windy, the speed limits are often only 70kmh on open roads as you are driving through national parks and the speed limits are enforced to protect the wildlife and accidents. All roads were clear of snow and the only wildlife we saw on this patch were a few deer on an embankment.

A cold and cloudy day, we stepped out of the car at Lake Louise to a white wonderland. The chateau stood very dominant against all the white and we took refuge in its warm lobby and marvelled at the opulence. Considering the low season, the chateau seemed to be accommodating mainly skiers and snowboarders, obvioulsy wealthier than the average ones we have met. The chateau rooms beginning at over $500 for just 2 people, we thought we could spend our money better elsewhere. ( the kids probably wouldn't have been too happy sleeping in the car either!)

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We did brave the weather to walk out onto Lake Louise in its frozen condition and we even began to walk around the lake until we got about a quarter of the way and decided that we didn't need to say we had walked around Lake Louise in -10. Instead we chose to take a few mandatory photographs in front of the lake and chateau and then retreated inside to the Lakeview Restaurant to warm up.

The desserts on the menu appealed to everyone so we treated the kids to an impressive chocolate and fresh fruit fondue and Wayne and I had some vanilla profiteroles with chocolate, coffee sauce with yummy Mocha coffees. Very decadent and memorable view of a beautiful frozen lake with the sun trying to peak through the clouds.

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Posted by fiveofus 23:19 Archived in Canada Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

GOOD BYE TO BIG WHITE - for now.

semi-overcast 0 °C

Thankfully we didn't have to race around on Friday night in order to check out of our condo for 10am. We had booked our dog sled tours for Saturday afternoon and on checking with the managers of the condo where we could store our luggage until 5pm, the owners advised that they were coming in for the last week of the ski season so feel free to stay on until 5pm!! We were stoked!

We had quite a lot to cram into our last day. The kids had managed to get their skis for an extra day so hadn't returned their gear with Wayne and myself on the Friday. We tentatively let them do the Happy Valley run back from the village on their own while Wayne and I caught the gondola down.

Wayne and Denver were keen to take a snow mobile tour so booked that for 11.30am. The girls and I went off to the village to take a last look in the shops and select a momento of Big White.

Apparently the snow mobile was not quite what Denver had expected and after Wayne saw the gripping fear on his face, he had to curtail his testosterone a little and tone down the speed. I think Wayne will be booking a single tour next time without a passenger.

The resort also had mini snow mobiles which they called Mini z's. Denver and Jaimie both hired these and enjoyed the slower pace - but of course they were TOO slow - never happy!

The girls and I had our dog sled booked for 1pm, we ran over to where the dogs were, so excited. We had booked this back in Perth and managed to get the last 2 bookings for the season. Tim and his 18 dogs live on the resort only on the weekends and during the week he is back home north of Kamloops.

We were introduced to all his dogs, Alaskan racing dogs, and given lots of information about their personalities, what they are fed and what their needs are. We were surprised at how friendly they were and how excited they became once harnessed. They was a very special routine to follow and different dogs worked best in different positions.

Before all the dogs were harnessed, Tim showed us how to get in the sled and what we would need to do if he had to get off the sled for an emergency. We were warned we may come across a " situation" as he had seen 3 dogs run off into the woods with out leads and his team didn't like being "messed with" when they were working!!

Once the last lead dog was harnessed and Tim released the rope that was keeping the sled anchored, the dogs were off in a flash. It was one of the most amazing experiences ever. Whilst anchored, the dogs were barking and carrying on but as soon as the sled was off it became totally silent with only the swish of the sled along the snow. They were so fast and responsive to the different commands.

We didn't end up with any major situations , a couple of dogs on the trail however they were on lead and asked to move off the trail so we could pass. Trying to keep the dogs stopped for any length of time is difficult and any situations need to be fixed quickly because even with a person on the brake, the dogs could move the sled on if they really wanted.
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Wayne and Denver did their sled ride after us and found it equally exhilerating.

Our cab arrived at 5pm to take us back to Kelowna for the night. Sadly we loaded our cases into the cab and got one last photo at the entrance to Big White with a promise to each other that we are coming back to do it all again!
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Posted by fiveofus 18:22 Archived in Canada Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

HAPPY TIMES IN HAPPY VALLEY

semi-overcast 0 °C

There is always something to do here at Big White and we are only a few metres from the Happy Valley Lodge. Every night there are activities either at the Lodge or up in the village. Denver was keen to participate in the Wii night then the following night there was Big White Idol, lots of laughs and not a lot of talent. We tried hard to convince the kids to have a go but by the time Denver had summoned up the courage the list was full so he got out of it!
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Carnival night in the Village was a popular event with free "cotton candy" and popcorn, lots of games and a race down the main street between Loose Moose and the Big White Bear. After some rough and tumble Big White Bear came out the winner! Thursdays and Saturdays are also fireworks over the skating rink which were a nice way to finish the day.
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Over the Hedge was on for family movie night and once again the free popcorn proved popular.

Most nights we struggled to drag ourselves away from the comfort of the condo and the steaming hot tub but it was fun once we got there.

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Posted by fiveofus 18:05 Archived in Canada Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

SNOW GHOSTS

snow -3 °C

The kids finished their 2 afternoons of lessons with Ali and were well equipped to handle all the green runs we could throw at them. The mountain is so well designed for the family that there are green, or beginner runs from all the chairlifts with a total of 18% of runs being for the beginner. However, beginner they may be, but definitely challenging enough for us who wish to remain off crutches and out of plaster for the next 9 weeks.

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We were determined to accomplish as many of the runs as possible and to get to the top of the mountain to see the world famous "snow ghosts". The first time we went up there were blue skies and perfect conditions but we didn't have the camera. The snow ghosts are only found in a few places around the world and are actually the fir trees totally covered and weighted with snow. They form the most amazing shapes and the landscape looks like something from another planet. We wanted a photo of these so under extreme wind and about -9 temperature we battled our better judgement and returned on Friday just to be able to get the evidence.
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From the top of the mountain there was an awesome run that took you all the way down to the road into the resort called Gem lake. It was about 4.5 kms from top to bottom and fantastic to spend less time on chairlifts which got rather chilly and boring for the kids. It was great to be able to ski as a family and Mackenzie especially tackled even the steepest slopes with such control and panache that she amazed us all.

Posted by fiveofus 16:54 Archived in Canada Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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