Banff Journals

Holiday to Alberta, Winter 2004

A March 2004 trip to Banff by harryharrison1956

Quote: This is my report of the holiday taken in Alberta in the winter of 2004. My accommodation was at Charlton Cedar Court in Banff. I skied Big 3, Nakiska, and Kicking Horse.

Sunshine Village

Attraction

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The middle of the national park is so very underdeveloped. Massive ski areas are linked by buses, but a car is handy for visiting other areas. The exchange rate made it very cheap for Europeans.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 9, 2004

Sunshine Village
Located just 15 km west of Banff
Banff, Alberta

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We flew from Aberdeen to Heathrow–the flight was excellent, but 2 hours late due to landing slot restrictions imposed at LHR by ATC due to weather conditions (low clouds and high winds).We transferred to terminal 3 on foot, which seemed a long way, as we were now late to check-in for the Air Canada flight to Calgary. We went to the Servisair executive lounge–a good value at £17.50 each for a maximum of 3 hours. We -booked through the BAA website. Unfortunately, because we were late, it was not the good value we expected, as we were only in there for about 35 minsutes. We boarded the Air Canada Airbus A330 for a 9 hour and 30 minute flight to Calgary. We were impressed by the generous seat pitch o...Read More
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21 March We awoke at about 4am the next morning, as we were still jet-lagged, but dozed until about 7am, when we got up and wasted a few hours until 10:30am, when we ordered a taxi (not expensive -- C$7) to take us to the Banff Springs Hotel. Friends had recommended the ‘Sunday brunch’ in the ‘Grill restaurant’. We had reserved a table via e-mail from the UK. Reservations are necessary, as even in the winter off-season, it is always full. As we arrived early, we had a wander around the grounds and the hotel; it is simply fantastic, and the views from the rear of the hotel down the Bow River valley are stunning. In the restaurant, the food was just awesome; full breakfasts, a salad bar wit...Read More
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We awoke at about 4am the next morning, as we were still jet lagged, but dozed until about 7am, when we got up and wasted a few hours until 10:30am, when we ordered a taxi (not expensive at C$7) to take us to the Banff Springs Hotel. Friends had recommended the Sunday brunch in the ‘Grill restaurant’. We had reserved a table via email from the UK. Reservations are necessary, as even in the winter off-season it is always full. As we had arrived early, we had a wander around the grounds and the hotel. It is simply fantastic-the views from the rear of the hotel down the Bow River Valley are stunning. In the restaurant the food was just awesome: full breakfasts, a salad bar with cold meat and se...Read More
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The next morning we set off in the sunshine to Lake Louise, which was approximately 45 minutes away by car. We could have taken the free shuttle bus that was included on the lift pass, but we didn’t fancy waiting around until one came along.Unfortunately, as we approached Lake Louise, the weather turned for the worse, with snow flurries, low clouds, and a strong wind. This was not in the weather forecast. Canada has a 24-hour TV channel called the Weather Channel, but it was amazing how inaccurate their weather forecasting can be! We had not taken any of our really warm winter clothing, just fleeces and a light shell jacket, so we just turned and drove back to Banff to collect goggles, hats, and s...Read More
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Banff at 08:30am for the alleged 2-hour drive to Kicking Horse. Well, it isn’t a 2-hour drive from Banff. It may be a 2-hour drive from Lake Louise to Golden if you keep driving at the maximum speed limit all the way, but we found it to be a very scenic route along the Kicking Horse river and pass, so we chose not to rush past it all. So by adding the 45-minute drive to Lake Louise, the over 2-hour drive to Golden, the 15-minute delay while the road crew closed the road for "bridge repairs" near to Golden, and then the 20- to 25-minute drive up the very winding access road to the ski area (wouldn’t fancy that in snow/ice conditions), by the time we parked and walked to the ticket office, we arrived...Read More
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26 March We had never visited the city before and were very unsure of the route into the centre; however, we made it into the heart of the business district near the Calgary Tower and managed to easily find somewhere to park. The driving was helped enormously by the high level of tolerance shown at all times by the Canadians, something we were constantly pleasantly surprised by. This tolerance was everywhere, not just on the roads. The parking was helped by the expensive prices charged by the car parks, something we found expensive, and the Canadians must find exorbitant. They do, however,, appear to have a very efficient tram system, providing public transportation as an alternat...Read More
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On the Saturday morning at the start of our second week, we drove up to Sunshine Village in great expectation of an excellent day of skiing. The previous 24 hours had seen 6 inches of fresh snow, and there were no clouds in sight. On arrival, we were astounded at how much busier it was than on our previous visit. We had to park the car nearly half a mile from the gondola base, and luckily, Sunshine Village had the great idea of organizing a shuttle service using a tractor and some specially designed trailers. Otherwise it would have been a very tiring walk, slightly uphill all the way. To board the gondola, we had to queue for nearly 5 minutes, the nearest we came to a European-style wait all holid...Read More
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28 March On Sunday, in yet another highlight of the holiday, we decided to drive to Jasper and back. There were a few factors in this decision, the main one being that, as Saturday had been so busy, we thought that Sunday would be too. Also, the weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday was wall-to-wall sunshine, and Sunday’s was slightly cloudy, and we love skiing in the sunshine. We set off early, as either nobody obeys the speed limits in Canada, or everybody knows of unmapped shortcuts between points of interest, because we had never managed to get within 25% of the alleged driving time alluded to in the tourist guides and leaflets. When planning the holiday, we conside...Read More
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For dinner we tried Giorgio’s Italian trattoria. We were quickly shown to our table, given menus, and then . . . nothing. Nobody came near us for around 10 minutes, which is very unusual in Canada. Normally you wait to be seated by a host who shows you your table and hands you a menu and then about 30 seconds later your server arrives with glasses of ice water, explains the daily specials, makes a few recommendations, and takes a drink order or gives you a couple of minutes to read through the wine list. This attention is constant throughout the meal and is why the staff expects a 15% tip. We can only assume that our server on this occasion had taken our arrival as their sign to resign. Howe...Read More
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As promised, Monday morning dawned with not a cloud in sight and a strong sun beating into our room. What was very unusual, though, was that the temperature that day was due to rise to 20°C in Banff because of a kink in the jet stream, which flooded hot air into Alberta from the south. In previous years we had been in the Alps during March and April, so we knew exactly what to do-we grabbed a fleece and sunglasses and jumped in the car. This weather must have been so unusual because the Canadians thought we were barmy since they were all dressed in layers, looking like they expected a blizzard. For a change we decided to take the scenic route from Banff to Lake Louise. Just before the tur...Read More
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In a completely unprecedented event, the Weather Channel had managed to accurately forecast the weather for two consecutive days-Tuesday also dawned clear and sunny. As usual, though, I had made use of the Internet access in the hotel lobby to check Snow-Forecast.com, which is always much more accurate. We set off early to Sunshine, which was promising to live up to its name, to try and get a parking spot within walking distance of the gondola station. We arrived at the car park at about 9:10am and found a huge difference from when we arrived at 10:00am. We were up to the village and skiing by 9:30am, straight onto the Wawa chair for the morning sun, with excellent runs just using this chair, the S...Read More
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On Wednesday it had been our intention to drive down to Panorama to investigate the facilities there. However, we had to postpone that trip for another year as we had booked and paid for a half-day trip on a Husky Dogsled on a tour organized by Howling Dog Tours. This was originally planned for the 30th, but the hot temperatures (it reached 25.4°C in Calgary) meant that the trip was postponed, as the dogs cannot work in that heat.Astoundingly, the jet stream had disappeared to its usual place overnight, and we awoke to heavy snowfall outside. We had decided that we were just going to do some shopping in the morning, so it wasn’t too inconvenient. There are lots of shops in Banff if you want souveni...Read More
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We drove up to Sunshine the next morning. We found it much busier than it had been the previous week, but the snow was still lovely, and we managed to grab a table for lunch in the sunshine on the balcony of the Mad Trappers Pub, which has excellent (naturally) service and food. We had a couple of beers and a wonderful view of the pistes (trails). That afternoon we eventually tried the runs off Goats Eye Mountain. We had never quite managed to find the time on our previous visits. The snow was superb and the trails were mainly deserted. The easiest run is marked as a blue, but as the trails are so wide and empty, we thought this was much easier skiing than some of the green narrow, crowded trac...Read More
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Our flight was due to depart that evening at 8pm, so theoretically we could have got in another half day of skiing, but we had to check out of our room by 11:00am, so the logistics of packing and storing baggage prevented this. As we still had to return the hire car, we drove into town and decided to have a leisurely last day. We had coffee in Starbuck’s and a walked to Bow Falls. For lunch we were going to try somewhere in the center of town, but as the weather was mild and sunny, we decided to walk back up to the Keg for lunch, as we had noticed that it had an outdoor terrace and patio area, so we blew the froth off a few beers and had a pleasant lunch for 3 hours in the sunshine.At 2pm we were c...Read More