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TR Banff Easter 2018 - quite longish

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
So this was our third visit as a family to Banff. It worked for a first family ski holiday so we just keep going back! It was our 7yr sons third ski trip (plus some stuff at Castleford) and its hard to say who was more excited - him or me (MrsJ far too cool for all that)

Booking - after briefly comparing TO options went for the whole DIY approach. It gave us more flexibility and more options at the hotels etc. After looking at it each time and saying 'wouldn't it be nice one day' we decided to stay at few days at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge on the slopes. A very brief comparison seemed to show that DIY was much cheaper - and of course there's no language barrier when emailing or phoning places directly

Flights - It seems that you cannot travel from anywhere in the North to Canada direct! I had assumed there were no direct flights to Calgary but was expecting Manchester to Toronto or Montreal. But the only options were BA or Air Canada from LHR or transfer with KLM via AMS. We went for Air Canada as we had the time to drive the day before to LHR and it seemed better to break the journey up that way rather than 4hr in AMS! Air Canada times were better than BA (who arrive very late in Calgary). So drove down the day before, stopping in Windsor for dinner then overnight at the Premier Inn. Bargain at £38 for a clean comfortable family room I thought. Flight next day wasn't till lunch time so we had a leisurely breakfast before slowly making our way to the Meet and Greet Parking. Much prefer this option as no transferring luggage/child to bus and so on - just walk straight into departures. Terminal 2 was its usual chaos - all 'automated' check in desks with confusing options and no staff to help. What does 'how many additional bags do you wish to check in' mean? Additional to what? Our hand luggage or the three bags we've already booked?!!? Then another queue for bag drop, but lots of queues and people milling around all merging into one! And why the booster seat has to go through another queue for outsized luggage when its smaller than most hand luggage I don't know!
But we made it through there and the usual rigmarole of security. Quite a lot of places to sit and eat in departures and a good soft play centre to tire the boy out. They called our flight an hour before departure and by the time we'd got to the gate (Air Canada use a satellite gate a way off) boarding was already underway.
There's not a lot I can say about the flight, 8hrs is always dull and the food is always terrible but the drinks flowed and 'The Darkest Hour' is very good and 'Paddington' very funny

Transfers
Previous years I've booked a car but I've never enjoyed the car hire process or driving a strange car on the wrong side after a long flight. And the bus service in town and to the slopes is good and reliable So we booked a transfer. Turned out for three of us a private taxi wasn't a lot more than the bus, so we did that and a nice chatty Canadian met us in arrivals and took our bags straight to his car. And talked non stop on the drive about the skiing (great at present), hockey (why the Maple Leafs are hard done by), Brexit (against), Trudeau (like Blair but less substance), Quebec Independence (against), bilingualism (in favour) and the Royal Family (very pro. which surprised me). I am now an expert of the constitution and history of Canadian politics

Accommodation
We split this with 8 nights in Banff in the Rundlestone Lodge, and 3 up on the mountain. Chose Rundlestone because it had suite rooms with a small kitchen and a separate loft bedroom for our son. Very comfortable and friendly, nice bar and restaurant on site. Also a nice pool and hot tub. A bit of a walk (20min into town), but only a problem when there was a blizzard! Condos and self catering is hard to find in Banff, something to do with the National Park and restrictions on sub letting. The three nights up at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge were the highlight though! Very comfortable and amazing to be up there in the evening and early morning. Good resturants and bar and nice family evening entertainment. I would go crazy up there for the whole holiday but for a few nights it was superb. We checked in at the gondola station at the bottom and they transport your luggage so its in your room when you arrive after 4pm. They even had changing rooms at the bottom so you could get your ski gear on ready to go.

Skiing
Well that's what we came for and it didn't disappoint! It had been snowing for days before we arrived and snowed all week we were there. Not many bluebird moments. But the snow was amazing, soft, with powder still to be found. We skied all three resorts and loved them. Long runs at Lake Louise, and shorter steeper ones at Sunshine. Open slopes and tight runs through the trees and good parks for beginners. Although its a bit of a bind having to check the bus timetable they are clean, prompt and reliable, and proper coaches, not European style buses. So each day we were on the slopes before 9:30. Highlights for me was the ungroomed safe 'off piste' but in bounds terrain, especially some of the easier back bowls at Lake Louise. The summit drag is the longest steepest drag I've been on (there's a rope alongside to grab if you fall off) but the dark blue run 'Boomerang' was worth several trips. And at Sunshine some of the bowls on Lookout mountain provided great sport. Our son was in lessons and on two occasions he had a whole day lesson to himself. Each day he came out beaming and each day he progressed so much.

Was it worth the extra cost and travel time (and jet lag)? For us the answer is definitely yes. I haven't found anywhere that ticks all the boxes - friendly Canadian locals, cheap and cheerful food and drink (great local beers!), good children's ski school, a mix of slopes and terrain, safe inbounds 'off piste' and great snow. Its not all perfect. Apres is very quiet. I don't want a wild night but a beer or two in a lively bar at the bottom would be good. And whilst improving the mountain restaurants are still really catering for the quick refuel market
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Thanks for the report.

What are the timings on the children’s ski school?

Would you mind divulging the costs of the flights, transfer, hotel, lift passes and lessons?

Many thanks
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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?
I'll try an answer the questions, although I'm just totting up (ignoring) some of the bills at present!

Childrens lessons were 10:30-15:30 for full day. You could collect them for lunch or they had supervised lunch with ski school. We usually skied a few runs with our son first before ski school.

Costs - not cheap obviously but not as much more as Europe and I think much better value
Flights, approx. £1800 for the three of us, Air Canada London to Calgary
Transfer cost £150 each way, we splashed out on a private transfer. Car hire for the 11 days worked out at over £300 + fuel etc. The airport bus would have been about £180 return for the three of us
Hotel - Rundlestone lodge cost approx. £1000 for the 8 nights, for a 2 bedroom loft kitchenette suite. So downstairs had bathroom, small kitchen (fridge, sink, hob and microwave) king sized bed and a sofa. Upstairs had toilet and queen bed. The Rundlestone isn't luxury like the Banff Springs but is definitely at the upper end of the market, you could easily find cheaper rooms in Banff Sunshine Lodge was a bit more but worth every penny for a special stay!
Lift passes are much more expensive than Europe - but the advantage of course is that everything in bounds is patrolled and controlled. An adult 6 out of 8 day pass (which we got) is approx. £340.
Kids lessons were £60 a day, plus lunch, with discounts if you booked more than one day

Hope this helps, I'll write a bit more about the skiing itself when home
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@TommyJ, thanks very much - sounds better than I feared.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Banff is rammed in summer and winter is actually low season so good value accommodation is easy to find. Food and drink can also be pretty cheap. But of course the flights are much more so it makes sense to go for 10-14 days if you can
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@TommyJ, nice report and sorry our paths didn't cross this time! I just stuck a video on the end of my trip report, see if you recognise bits!

We go for High Country / Red Carpet / Irwins who offer a suite with kitchenette so we can close the door on the children and self cater, but can still easily walk into town. It's cheap but basic and acceptable for us, we only really stay there at night.

@NickyJ, not sure what or how @TommyJ paid (hang on - two Js - are you two related?!) but my experience is that there is a maelstrom of discounts through the local providers according to how early you book and whether you take accommodation or lift passes or rentals or all of them. I need to be an actuary to understand which is the better value, and I'm not Sad

Easter is very late next year so I decided Banff was out. Until I found that half term would be early March... Twisted Evil
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Not related that I know of.....

Agreed there are a lot of confusing discounts. For example one British family we met were skiing only LL as they’d brought a spring season pass for less than a 10 day tri area pass. Personally I think it would be a shame to go that far and just ski one area but there are definitely lots of offers out there. Also always worth booking in advance - we booked tickets through the SkiHub and saved 15% by prebooking. It’s the on the day walk up proves that are particularly pricy.

Luckily for us our local authority always fixes Easter holidays as the first two weeks of April. So we may return...
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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!
TommyJ wrote:
one British family we met were skiing only LL as they’d brought a spring season pass for less than a 10 day tri area pass...


I assume they had connections of some sort? I thought those passes were only available to western Canada residents only?
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