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Banff Trip Review

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi Snowheads,

Just returned from a trip to Banff and thought it would be helpful to post a trip review. I had a lot of help in deciding where to go this year so wanted to give a little bit back. First time I have done this so here goes:

Day 1: Boxing day. Mid-morning flight to Chicago followed by a 6.5 hour (due to a cancellation just after booking) layover and a flight up to Calgary. Arrived in Calgary at around 11pm local time. This meant a travel time of around 21 hours. A long day for us especially as I had been on the backend of a winter bug. Unfortunately my wife picked this up and was unwell. To complete the most unideal start to the holiday my wife lost her purse with money/cards etc at Chicago and we had overpacked the ski bag (rookie error) which cost us £149. Stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn (airport) in Calgary to get some shut eye. Arrived there via taxi.

Day 2: Up fairly early (around 7 ish). I got a taxi to the local Budget Car Rental to pick up our hire car - a Ford Fusion (think Mondeo). Winter tyres, automatic, heated seats and plenty of space for both of us. I drove back to the hotel to pick my wife up. She had the beginnings of a viral chest infection and was not feeling her best. The cold was a real eye opener with temperatures around -25C. We made the drive up to Banff. This was really straight forward and an easy drive up the highway. Arrived in Banff at around 10 ish. We had prebooked our lift passes through Ski-Indepence and was able to pick these up from the local ski shop. Really easy to do and everything was waiting for us. Had a bit of breakfast and then made the drive up to Mount Norquay for the afternoon. We drove up in our thermals then finished getting changed in the car ready for an afternoon on the slopes. Really enjoyable afternoon with plenty of powder thanks to the recent snowfall over Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It did take a while to adjust to the cold so regular tea stops and taking it easy was the name of the game. Drove back down to Banff and we checked in to the High Country Inn, Banff Avenue. Lovely sizeable room with a large king size bed, bath tub and small lounge furniture. Wife still not very well (skiing maybe not the best idea). Got a takeaway pizza from Aardvark's. Lovely pizza and done the job.

Day 3: Today we decided to take the day off and not ski at all as my wife was not feeling well. With a bad cough and feeling rough, I decided to visit the doctor. We were seen quickly (within 30 mins) at a walk-in clinic but it did cost $300 + $50 for the medicine prescribed. It was recommended to take a day of rest and then see how it goes in to next week. We spent the day watching movies and sitcoms on the hotel TV to try and help my wife feel better. By evening the medicine had begun working and my wife felt well enough to get out of the hotel room. I dropped my snowboard off to snowtips and requested an edge and wax. We visited Earl's for an early dinner. The food was lovely, service with a smile and seemed a popular place. Early night and more rest tonight.

Day 4: Picked up my board after a quick turn around. My wife was feeling a little better today however still slightly under the weather. Decided to stick to Norquay again today as it was best to be closer to home incase we needed to go back for any reason. It is -25C today and has been snowing solidly since we arrived. My wife is struggling to keep her hands and feet warm in the conditions. I feel my feet every now and then but hands seem to be okay. We ate tonight at El Toro, a mexican/spanish venue. Again the food was good and service was fine.

Day 5: Mrs Hammy050 continues to get better meaning we can venture further afield. We drive up to Sunshine today. -27 so an exceptionally cold day but sunny. 14cm of fresh snow overnight. We are both excited for the day. We arrive in Sunshine and it is fairly quiet. We get the gondola up to the village. The gondola is a 15 min ride up the hill (you can get off earlier at Goat's Eye if you get bored). The cold really hits up in the gondola so we have a cup of tea (very british of us) and get warmth back in to the extremities. Bit of a hit and miss day for us. The conditions are brilliant with lots of tree runs but without local knowledge we get caught out by the flat sections here. Not too bad for the OH on skis but as a boarder not ideal. Feel we covered a lot but in hindsight we barely touched the sides of Sunshine. Kept food simple tonight and went to the food court in Cascade Mall for some Japanese Terriyaki.

Day 6: Lake Louise today and temperatures getting warmer (-19). Weather is beautiful sunshine. We decide to use the ski bus and really wish we had used it earlier. Picked us up right outside our hotel and takes you straight to the ski lodge at the base of Lake Louise. OH is still suffering with her hands more than anything. Speaking to some locals in the gondola on the way up we get some advice and purchase some alternative hand warmers - they seem to work a lot better. We purchase some new mittens for OH and she is happier. Lake Louise has the best scenary of anywhere I have skied/boarded. It is simply stunning. Terrain is really good and there seems to be a wide variety of runs. The lodge at the base offers a lunchtime special of 4/5 meals such as hotdog, fries and soft drink for $7. Went out for dinner at Boston Pizza - awesome sports bar, wide range of food, TV's and booze - perfect. Its new years eve and the temperatures are too cold for the street party - it has been moved indoors. After dinner we head home to relax. As we are staying on the third floor with views over Banff Avenue we have the perfect view of the fireworks which still went ahead at midnight - a lovely way to see in the new year (and in the warmth too).

Day 7: Second attempt at sunshine today and still the temperatures are getting warmer. We get the bus again and it meant that we were warmer for the start of the day which made the gondola ride easier. Today was by far the best day we have had so far. We found plenty of new runs, missed the flat spots and really enjoyed the terrain on offer. 4 terrain parks - 3 are pretty wild and 1 for beginners. There were plenty of natural jumps and I enjoyed the rails in the park. My OH is really enjoying using her twin tips as the conditions are still nice and fluffy. We decided to head back to Boston Pizza for dinner where I had the Jambalaya Fettuchini - a lovely concoction of chicken, shrimp and spicy italian sausage.

Day 8: A return to Lake Louise. Decided to drive today as we could then visit the village, the lake and see the surrounding areas. Temperatures now at -10 with bright sunshine - what could be better?!?! I decided to have a change of format today and skied for the first time in 8 years. Definitely a bit ropey to begin with and really appreciate the level the OH can ski at. Found some really good runs off the Larch Lift in the afternoon as the sun hits it then. Tree runs, varied terrain and ungroomed slopes in places. I rented my gear from snowtips in Banff for 34 dollars which included skis, boots and poles. The trip afterwards to Lake Louise village and the Fairmont Hotel was amazing. The views are out of this world and felt a bit surreal to be walking on a frozen lake. Got some brilliant pictures and memories. Returned to Banff and ate at Bamboo Garden, a chinese restaurant. Food was good with large portion sizes. Well priced too.

Day 9: Back to sunshine, back to getting the bus and back on my board. The resort seems to be getting busier in terms of skiers/boarders although still not that busy. Longest lift line we had was around 2 mins max. A high of -4 today means we are reducing the layers and really enjoying our time here. Similar day to day 7 as we found further runs. We went up Goats Eye today and loved it. The terrain is steep, views incredible and there are so many different ways to get down. Blue, black diamond or double black diamond.

Day 10: Last day of skiing today. We decide to stay at Sunshine as days 7 & 9 were just incredible. Felt busier on the slopes again today but we didnt feel inconvenienced or that it was overly busy. Very bearable. Used every lift today and skied/boarded most of the mountain. It was also our 5 year anniversary today so we had a swim/jacuzzi before going out to Ticino (restaurant on site). It is a swiss-italian place that specialises in fondue. The food was devine, service superb and was a perfect way to celebrate.

Day 11: The dreaded bug has returned and my OH is not feeling very well. We check out our hotel and head back towards Calgary. Before we leave the Banff area we head to Lake Minnewanka, a short drive from Banff. It is one of the largest lakes in Canada and absolutely stunning. Frozen solid meaning you can walk over it, it was great fun to take it all in and just enjoy the peace and quiet. We head back to Calgary and check in to the Hilton again. I drop the hire car off and Budget kindly drop me off back to the hotel. Had a couple of hours to relax then I headed in to Calgary to watch the Calgary Hitmen play the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Canadian Hockey League. OH was still unwell so made the trip on my own. I had front row tickets near the players for just $25 (much cheaper than a flames game). Attendance was still good. They lost 5-3 but it was brilliant fun.

Day 12: Fly back to London Heathrow via Newark.

Day 13: Arrive at LHR. 3 checked bags (ski's, snowboard, clothes) are left at Newark due to the weather yet OH ski boots arrive.

Other notes:

The canadian people were so welcoming. The hotel was brilliant, comfortable and had a pool & jacuzzi. overall we loved Canada and cannot wait to return.

If anyone has any questions please dont hesitate to ask.

Now for the jetlag to kick in.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Glad you enjoyed it, I love that place, as do a few here. Sorry to hear about MrsHammy and your wallet/bags but glad you managed something and overall seemed to be happy with the trip. Also pleased you liked High Country as I think that's where I've reserved for this time.

How was transiting through US? I've always avoided that, it strikes me as another immigration nightmare.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Um it wasnt too bad - probably took about 45 minutes or so through customs at Chicago. We then collected our luggage and dropped it off in teh designated drop off area and headed on our way to a different terminal. On the way back it was a breeze, less than 2 minutes but that may have been because we were coming from Canada and they had done some existing checks there. We arrived in to Newark at their "internal (USA/Canada) terminal so easier to do.
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Forgot to add - would definitely go back and cannot wait to explore more of Canada and its ski regions
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Great report, thanks for sharing. We are are considering a similar trip next year but not sure the cold will agree with the kids. Is minus 25 the norm or just freak weather?
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Well a few of the people we met on the lifts etc said it was unseasonably cold. From what I gather -5 to -15 is the normal range.
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For the weather, I think if you can stay more into March or even early April, it's much nicer for smaller children. I'm used to -20C and can wrap up, but I don't think it would be any fun for under 10s. I went one late Jan (20 years ago?) and skiied in -20C. Or go to Whistler which is just as nice a Canadian experience but being closer to the coast doesn't get so cold so often as I understand it.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Great report man. We ended up spending more at sunshine too, something about it. Didn't know about either lakes so will look I to it next time. Cheers
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Great report, and sounds very similar to my experience in Banff in 2005. We liked Sunshine the best as well, and agree about the views at Lake Louise, it's absolutely spectacular. We went in January and it was unseasonably warm, one day at LL all the snow turned to porridge!

I loved the Canadian people, they were all so friendly. We stayed at the Banff International hotel and got the ski bus every day, it was so convenient. Norquay was great fun and so quiet.

Sorry to hear you were both ill though, skiing in -25 probably not ideal!!
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@hammy050, thanks for the report.

Certainly sounds like a great trip. Coincidentally I was discussing a trip to Canada with a friend last night, although it won't be until 2019, but this will certainly come in handy.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
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Great trip report and looking forward to heading the Banff at Easter with family for a week in between a roadtrip to Vancouver with likely a couple more days skiing in Whistler. Cant wait and hope the snow holds up.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Temperatures: it was cold over new year across most of the province. I have experienced colder at this time of year, but not by much. As you probably worked out, the right gear is all you need.
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Thanks for the trip report, will be in Bannf end of Feb for a few days before driving to Panorama and Fernie. The food references are of particular interest as we are board only. Interesting that the bus was of preference to self drive, will have to look into that more.
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You know it makes sense.
I would recommended it all whole heartedly. Plenty of food options and no shortage of choice. We were going to have a day in Panorama however due to being unwell we took a day off early instead.

The reason we found the bus was preferred was pretty simple - we got on the bus with our snowboard/ski boots on so our feet were warm straight from the get go where as when we went via car our feet would take longer to get warm as the boots would be exposed to colder temperatures when in transit meaning they would be cold when we put them on. Sounds rather simple but my wife has poor circulation so every little helps.

We booked everything independently and we are already planning on going back whether to Banff or BC.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
I love the bus. It is a comfy coach, no need to concentrate on driving, can stare out of the window looking for moose, nurse a huge coffee, and slowly wake up. On the way back, especially the 45 minutes trip from LL, most people have 40 winks and are refreshed for the evening. Fantastic.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Fantastic trip report. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience.
I´m going to Banff/LL first week of March and looking forward to skiing Sunshine Village and Lake Louise.
I was just wondering how did you get winter tyres on your rental car ? Did your pay an extra? I was searching for rental companies that rents with winter tyres and couldn´t find any. I searched on a lot of foruns about it and everybody says its rare to find it.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I believed they were winter tyres - I could be wrong. By law you have to have them to go in to british columbia from what I can remember on the signs in the rental office. We didnt have any issues with grip on the car though as it was all wheel drive and all round driving conditions were good. The roads were covered in snow/ice (bar the highway) but if I am honest most are straight with slight bends - Norquay is different with a steeper approach and sharp bends.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Hmm. Interesting editorial in the latest edition of the Whistler local newspaper about the problems with car rental companies failure to guarantee winter tyres:

https://www.piquenewsmagazine.com/whistler/time-to-get-a-grip/Content?oid=6379836

May be not unconnected with a recent fatal RTC on the Sea-to-Sky.

Whenever I've been to Banff I've relied on the bus. A very stress-free way of getting around and as @Orange200 points out, very comfortable.
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When booking our car hire I've got it as a written guarantee that the car will be fitted with winter tyres. Only time will tell if it's worth the paper it's printed on!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
One needs to be very precise with tyres. There are threads here where old men come to blows over it. Nevertheless...

These are the BC regulations for winter tyres:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/traveller-information/seasonal/winter-driving/winter-tire-and-chain-up-routes

And here's the bit which defines winter tyres as including "M&S" tyres:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/traveller-information/seasonal/winter-driving/about-winter-tires

In BC they won't rent you anything without M&S tyres on. You are legal.

I mostly drive those M&S tyres and have never had a problem. Now and then they'll give me a vehicle which has the mountain tyres on it; I just drive less conservatively then as you can throw them about a bit more before the yellow light flashes.

Fatalities.... here are the statistics:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/road-safety-rules-and-consequences/publications-legislation-and-data/road-safety-data
They don't separate them out by tyre type, but I doubt there's a big difference in terms of safety or the law would be different. The last couple of serious crashes I saw were both "semi" trucks, which had chains on by law.
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I really enjoyed your trip report - it took me back to our 2016 Banff trip - Sunshine was our favourite too!!

Just a note for anyone with trips coming up who are using the buses - there is a Fairmont bus which runs from the slopes at Lake Louise to the Fairmont / Lake. Free to hop on so you can go and have a walk at the lake and a look round the hotel. In fact, our Fairmont bus driver actually gave us on a tour round the hotel and introduced us to the hotel dog that residents can book out for a walk (I kid you not!!). Plenty of places to eat in the Fairmont. When you're done a bus will drop you back at the slopes for the shuttle back to Banff - well worth a half day!
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@hammy050, Fantastic report thank you. Excuse my ignorance but what do you mean by alternative hand warmers? We will certainly need them. Going over 1st week in March too.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Quote:

@hammy050, Fantastic report thank you. Excuse my ignorance but what do you mean by alternative hand warmers? We will certainly need them. Going over 1st week in March too.


We had purchased some handwarmers that had an adhesive side to stick in the gloves - they would activate once exposed to air. These failed to work. Then we purchased the ones that crystalise on the click of a button - these were okay but only lasted a short time. In the shop they had hand warmers that you just opened and shook - they were brilliant.

They were these: http://www.halfords.com/camping-leisure/outdoor-clothing/outdoor-clothing/hot-hands-hand-warmers-twin-pack?cm_mmc=Google+PLA-_-Outdoor+Clothing-_-Outdoor+Clothing-_-655088&istCompanyId=b8708c57-7a02-4cf6-b2c0-dc36b54a327e&istItemId=xriqqramp&istBid=tztx&_$ja=tsid:94971|cid:865695754|agid:44766137225|tid:pla-369843036363|crid:214246621103|nw:g|rnd:17994588853855058519|dvc:c|adp:1o1|mt:|loc:1007080&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3-21iIbQ2AIVCrHtCh2FmQ_VEAQYASABEgKyBPD_BwE

Made such a difference although having said that it did start to get considerably warmer, as well as new mittens which may have helped.
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@hammy050, Brilliant! Thanks again.
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The liquid hand warmers that you Click to start are in aldi this week.
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