Days 13 to 18, of our Alaskan and Canadian Adventure.
Date : Tuesday 13th to Sunday 18th, 2007
Places visited : From Vancouver on to Banff and into the snow again.
Distance travelled : 427 air miles (pity we weren't collecting the points) then a couple of hours by road.
Weather : Banff was snowy and cool to start, but it turned mild and gave us some lovely sunshine.
Flying into Calgary over vast mid-west prairie snowfields.
The Canadian Pacific don't run their passenger trains through the Rockies in the winter conditions so today we had to fly from Vancouver to Calgary.
We crossed the Rockies then flew over vast flat, prairie lands covered in snow.
Then we were driven in the Banff Shuttle back up the Canadian Pacific Highway towards our destination of Banff.
Ann as we venture into town for the first time.
St Paul's Presbyterian Church on Banff Avenue. (It's even got it's own web site)
Banff is a tourist resort town, and has been since the railway was built..
At this time of year it is dedicated to winter sports and serious shopping.
Wonderful snow conditions and evening street lamps as we wonder back to our B&B accommodation after dining out Greek style.
Cascade, like Mount Rundle, dominates the town and looked superb in it's winter mantle of snow.
Bow River Falls -
The river was frozen over so the normally wide flowing falls were restricted to a small section at the right hand side.
A morning tour meant we were often the first to tread the new snow.
Next stop was Lake Minnewanka, which has boat trips in the summer.
Today it was frozen solid and looked delightful in the morning sunshine. There were no boats to be seen.
A brief pause to avoid and then admire a Big Horn Sheep.
The Caves and Basins Centre.
Banff Springs became a tourist destination after hot mineral springs were discovered. Arguments as to who found them and who could profit commercially led to the government purchasing the site and then declaring the whole area a national park, the first in Canada.
The bathhouse was developed for the tourists to come and "take the waters".
When the third outside pool was found to be leaking, the bathing was moved elsewhere, and the centre turned into a museum and visitor's centre.
Since the importance and rarity of the snail was appreciated, the area is now protected as a national nature reserve.
The Canadian Pacific Railway
Banff Station and the railway was built following the creation of the Canadian State, in order to provide a trade link across the new nation.
It was also the CPR that built the major hotels like Banff Springs and Lake Louise in order to encourage tourism and so increase revenue for the railway.
Chateau Lake Louise overlooking the lake of the same name.
Ann, myself and a frozen Louise.
In the summer months the lake is a brilliant aquamarine blue - daughter's been there - sent us the photos.
What she didn't see however was the winter ice sculptures - this one an interpretation of the hotel built out on the lake.
There was a display of about a dozen sculptures in front of the hotel.
Hotel amenities included its own natural skating rink . . .
. . . and sleigh rides in the snow.
Onward now up the Bow River Valley, climbing as we went until we reached Bow Lake
We had left the dual carriageway and were on the Icefields Parkway (the road going north towards Jasper)
We had a brief stop to see what we could of Bow Lake and Mount Jimmy Simpson
( I think she got the better view on the day !)
As well as the major hotels, the region also has a whole series of classic mountain lodges where you can book in and stay, or just stop for refreshments.
Inside was a series of wonderful log cabin rooms, built on a grand scale. This was the sports room.
The hot chocolate drink that we were served there was a real delight on the cold winter day.
To complete the tour we returned to Banff, crossing to the other side of the valley to return on the old road south.
It was the start of a busy holiday weekend so there were plenty of people about. However the resort was well organised and there were no delays at any of the lifts. The routes were well marked too, so there was in fact plenty of room for everyone.
I met up with an exiled Welsh Australian on the coach up, and after a few ski runs, he and I took advantage of the free "Ski Host" service.
Ski Hosts are unpaid volunteers offer to guide skiers around the resort in return for staff privileges for themselves. It's great for them because they get cheap skiing, and great for us. Paul (in blue) could match our aptitude with the correct standard of the runs and as a bonus he did the navigating and we didn't have to keep getting the piste map out of an inner pocket whilst wearing our thick gloves.
Part way through we adjourned for a cup of hot chocolate, then it was back out into the snow for a few more great runs.
Gaz, Geoff and myself enjoying Sunshine (note: Sunshine Resort not enjoying 'the' sunshine).
Gaz, on the snow board, joined us for the Ski Host trips.
After a good days skiing, and with the weather gradually closing in, we skied down the final run back to the bus.
A great day out.
Moose in Moose Meadow.
Today's trail took us up the side valley to the Upper Falls.
Our guide Brian (a Scotsman living in Banff for the last 3 years) was most informative about the valley geology, how it was modified by the river water, the wildlife and scenery and guided us up and back pointing out the highlights along the way.
The gorge was full of fresh snow and was a real delight. Back at the coach we had time to view the local mountains across the valley.
What next to do we asked ourselves - ah yes - Sulphur Mountain and the Gondola.
In the afternoon it was fine and bright so we thought we would walk to the Gondola.
Unfortunately the forest trails were shut and we had to walk the main road, the town map showed the route but said 'not to scale' and we had received conflicting reports as to the distance and time. Suffice to say that it would have been better to catch the bus !
We gratefully accepted a very kind lift from one of the Rimrock Hotel staff who was passing, who took us the last half mile to the road end.
Cascade Mountain, Banff township and Banff Springs Hotel (on the edge of the sunshine) from the Gondola.
Hold your cursor over the picture to see the summer view (It's behind Jenna !)
Once on the top we were in a different world.
We then crossed the snow covered walkway to the summit observatory - the view this direction is of the main Bow River Valley.
Out of the cool breeze we enjoyed a small refreshment, with a view down to the streets of Banff.
This couple were on holiday from Blackpool in Lancashire ! Not a million mile from us here in the Lakes.
Our last day we took the opportunity to visit a few of the museums, this one the Whyte Museum tells the story,
through pictures and artifacts, of the Whyte Family, who lived in Banff and explores the Rockies as well as travelling worldwide in the early 1920's
What was interesting here was that the museum was built early in the life of the town, and like the Banff Springs Hotel, was built to encourage the tourists to visit.
Norman Sanson, its curator for many years, was also responsible for weekly observations on Sulphur Mountain.
The museum has changed little and so the building is now a bit of museum in itself.
As the lower Cave and Springs complex is closed, the upper springs, which also receives hot mineral waters from the mountain, has been developed so that tourists can bath and 'take the water'. I just had to have a go - pity it was the Saturday afternoon of the busy holiday weekend !
A little crowded, but the water was rather nice and warm.
And so ended this stage of our holiday.
A bus ride back into town, and a short river walk past Bow Falls back to our guest house, and it was time to pack our bags again.
We were off to Toronto tomorrow . . .
- - - o o o - - -
Technical note: Pictures taken with a Canon G7 Digital camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built using Dreamweaver.
This site best viewed with . . . a towel, bathers and a bit of space for a swim in the hot pool.