Part 5.

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.


Down on the ground you travel slower,

but it does mean you get closer to the day-to-day world

of real people.

What was very noticeable was the fact the the traffic,

in all it's shapes and forms, kept moving despite the weather.

They're more used to the conditions than in the Uk.



Two hours later we are in Banff . . .
and looking out on a real winter picture postcard scene.

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 Mountain through a gap in the trees . . .
. . . and again from the Bow River Bridge.

Cascade, like Mount Rundle, dominates the town and looked superb in it's winter mantle of snow.

As it was our first visit to the area

we booked ourselves on a Discover Banff Tour Bus

which introduced us to all the local attractions,

and allowed us to quickly understand a lot more about the area.


Crystal, our excellent driver on this mornings trip.

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.

Surprise view - across to the Banff Springs Hotel
Mount Rundle from the Hoodoo look out point.

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".

A walkway up the hillside to the hot springs
and a protected cave entrance with steam issuing forth.


Inside is the original pool, with light from that hole above.
It was accessed by the underground cave system.


Outside a second pool was built for bathing
It's only swimmers now are the Banff Snail


This diminutive snail is only found in the sulphur pools of Banff
The third, and more modern outside pool.

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.


Having enjoyed the morning exploration, we opted for an afternoon drive to Lake Louise so see more of the Rockies.


The Canadian Pacific Highway now runs through the area, but due to the heavy death toll on wildlife crossing the road the authorities have fenced either side.


This one of the dedicated wildlife crossing points, either bridges or underpasses, that have been constructed specifically to allow the continued free and safe passage of wildlife across the area.



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.

An aquamarine Lake Louise
A denim daughter Jenna - 2006


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.

This one called "Liquid Gold Rush"
and another called " Levitation "

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

A misty Bow Lake in mid winter . . .
and Jenna's summer shot with the Bow Glacier behind

( 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.

Jimmy Simpson's original private lodge
and the welcoming new lodge entrance.

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.

On Thursday Ann had a day off

and I booked myself in for a day's skiing at Sunshine Village.

The resort was only about six miles from Banff but it was high in the Rockies. As a result the snow conditions were excellent, which is more than could be said for the weather.

It was like the skiing - started reasonably then went down hill !

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.

The Park is about wildlife as well as scenery, and so on our Discover Banff Tour next day we kept an eye out for signs of wildlife never thinking that there would in fact be . . . . Moose in Moose Meadow.


There are considerably less than a hundred wild Moose in the Park so these were a significant percentage of the total population.


Unfortunately they kept their heads down and we didn't get a descent close up shot.

Moose Meadow was on the valley road just before Johnson Canyon.


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 board walk, where the valley path enters the gorge.
Looking down on the lower falls.


The Upper Falls viewing platform
2 climbers on the ice formations opposite.


The dramatic Upper Falls, barely flowing with water.
Back down the boardwalk on the way back

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.

Castle Mountain from the car park of Johnson Canyon
Pilot Mountain across the valley - a real pyramid shape summit.

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.

Cheesy picture of us in the Gondola.

The Sulphur Mountain Gondola rises steeply directly up onto the mountain that overlooks Banff township.

A few minutes ride achieved what would have taken 2-3 hours in the summer.

In winter the trails are closed so this is the only way up.

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.

Mount Louise at 8799 ft
Which way home? The flags point the way.

We then crossed the snow covered walkway to the summit observatory - the view this direction is of the main Bow River Valley.

The Observatory on Sulphur Mountain
Inside it is furnished as it would have been when in use.

Click here or on the photo for a larger annotated panorama

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

Heritage homes, part of the Whyte Museum collection.
Dave Whyte's Outfitters store as it is today. (name-changed later)

The National Park Authority also has it's own Museum.

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.

Inside the Park Museum
The Hot Springs buildings today

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.

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