A March 2002 trip
to Banff by Foxboro Marmot
Quote: Spring skiing in the Canadian Rockies can be memorable - especially if each day starts with the temperature around minus 20 Celsius and warms up to minus 10 or minus 5. Still, there's a Norwegian saying "There's no bad weather, only the wrong clothing!"
Lake Louise is essentially a highway interchange with a humongous ski area on one side and a huge resort hotel on the other.
Jasper is a weekend destination for folks from Edmonton.
Hotel | "Marmot Inn"
The room was basic motel quality, with decorating touches that tried to link it to the Canadian Rockies in choice of colors and designs. What I found unique were three captioned photo montages on the walls dealing with Jasper Nation Park and its early history that seemed to be taken from displays at the Jasper visitor center.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 27, 2002
86 Connaught Drive
Banff, Alberta Canada T0E 1E0
The hotel is made up of a new section attached almost seamlessly to the older, original structure. We've stayed in both the old and the new sections and, frankly, there's no way to tell which is which from inside the rooms - although the new room had an odd, elongated shape with a support pillar between the beds and the television. Neat, comfortable, and spacious standard rooms at $90CDN.
Befitting its name, the hotel seemed popular with international travellers. A number of groups (Hello St. Louis Ski Club!) used it as their base of operations as well.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 3, 2002
Banff International Hotel
333 BANFF AVENUE
Banff, Alberta T0L0C0
Deer Lodge is a rambling, labyrinthine structure with piece after piece added on around the original 1920 vintage tea house. In the shadow of the more expensive, better known Chateau Lake Louise, Deer Lodge is an old fashioned hotel - there are no televisions and no telephones in the rooms - but there is an internet access kiosk near the game room! The rooms are small by today's standards, decorated in a rustic style that may not be to everyone's taste.
Clearly, you aren't expected to spend much time in your room, so explore the maze of corridors. Find the game room with its pool table and the lodge's one television set! Find the Caribou Lounge and count how many different species have their heads on the walls! Find the hot tub and soak! Find the Mt. Fairview dining room and have dinner! Find the exit door and take a walk over to Chateau Lake Louise and explore THAT hotel! By the way, that's not a stray dog you see on the walk over to Lake Louise, that's a coyote. Yikes!
Unfortunately Deer Lodge isn't much of a place to stay in winter after a day of skiing if you don't want to hang out at the lounge and restaurant. We found ourselves hopping into the car and driving into Banff for more choices of apres ski activity. It is, however, a great place to stay a night or two especially if you plan to ski Lake Louise.
Room for two $110 CDN.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 12, 2002
109 Lake Louise Drive
Restaurant | "Bruno's Bar and Grill"
Bruno's serves breakfast from 7am until 5 pm, a convenience to time-zone-addled international visitors who often return later in their stay for dinner. Dinner possibilities range from "bar food", like chicken fingers and pizza (excellent crust!), to more ambitious "grill food", including attractively presented salmon dishes. As the evening wears on, the focus shifts from restaurant to bar, again with that comfortable neighborhood feel. Bruno's closes at 1 am.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 28, 2002
Bruno's Cafe and Grill
304 Caribou St
Banff, Alberta T0L 0C0
+1 403 762 8115
Restaurant | "Coyote Deli and Grill"
The menu is inspired by the US southwest, but by no means should be considered Mexican or Tex-Mex. A bread basket shows up while you study the menu. Those oddly textured, oddly colored squares are blue corn bread... or perhaps blue cornbread. Delicious, with corn kernels mixed into the batter. The free range chicken with orange salsa was a good choice - again only hinting at the southwestern influence, not overpowering with it.
Reservations are recommended. We were lucky to stop in on a Tuesday night without reservations and be seated immediately. We noticed we were the last allowed in without reservations and the hostess did not take reservations for the remainder of the evening. But, you know what? Even with a reservation, this deli won't be serving you corned beef on rye with a side of cole slaw!
Coyote's Deli and Grill
206 Caribou St
Banff, Alberta T0L 0C0
+1 403 762 3963
Restaurant | "Soft Rock Cafe"
Home baked muffins and buns compete with omlettes and bagels as breakfast possibilities, but the best thing is after you've got your food. Take it down the narrow corridor to the back, where 8 computers are available. Check in with Igougo to get some new suggestions of things to do in Jasper. Surf free for 10 minutes with an $8 CDN food order... then it's only $1 CDN for each additional 10 minutes. With the high speed internet connection, it won't take long to check your email and send off a few messages to make the folks back home envy you.
The folks running the cafe are French-Canadian, which explains the Montreal Canadian logo on the wall and croque on the menu. While breakfast is the specialty, soups and sandwiches are available for those desiring more traditional lunch fare.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2002
Soft Rock International Cafe
632 Connaught Drive
A number of different outfitters run this 3 hour tour (sorry, but I can't type that without the hearing voices in my head sing "A three hour tour!"). We went with Jasper Adventure Center on Connaught Drive but it seems that everyone takes the same route, supplies the same equipment and charges the same price.
First step was to check in at the Adventure Center where we got felt lined rubber boots to keep our feet warm and dry during the walk. Next came steel grippers, sort of low grade crampons that attached over the boots like Teva sport sandals and we were ready to go.
Our guide loaded us into a van for the 10 minute ride to the canyon parking lot. We unloaded, crossed a small swaying suspension bridge over the unfrozen river and started to hike. We quickly gained elevation walking single track along the beaten snow path and our guide, sensitive to the possibility that we might not be up to moving rapidly at elevation, stopped regularly to point out something we'd otherwise have missed. None of us would have missed the big horn sheep, though - three of them, grazing among the trees forty feet off the trail.
Soon we were at the edge of the canyon looking down. Unlike most, the Maligne Canyon is narrower at the top than at the bottom so it's a bit of a surprise to come upon it. From here there was a clear view of frozen waterfalls into the canyon and lines set by ice climbers below.
Next step was to get down into the canyon itself. A short downhill and we were walking on the ice of the frozen river twisting deeper and deeper into the canyon. Now we looked up at the waterfalls. The grippers came in handy as we maneuvered up and over ice-covered obstacles while gawking at the canyon walls; the boots came in handy as we splashed through puddles our guide assured us were simply unfrozen surface pools atop foot-thick ice. After a few stops for photos we turned around. The walk back to the van was along the river bank. A mule deer looked at us unconcerned as we passed within 20 feet.
All in all, the icewalk was a good outdoors alternative when we needed a change from skiing.
Open roughly November through April. Walk covers 4 km of uneven snow covered terrain.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy a little outdoor adventure. More adventurous types should look into ice climbing the canyon, not just walking it.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 27, 2002
Maligne Canyon Icewalk
Jasper National Park
Attraction | "Lake Louise"
Lake Louise covers 4200 skiable acres. An advertisement I saw claimed that even on the busiest days, there was more than one acre per skier. Well in March we must have had 5 or 6 acres each. Lift lines were minimal, with only a few minutes wait loading at the base. Everywhere else was pretty much ski right onto the lift.
Because of its size, Lake Louise reminded me of Squaw Valley. It may take some time exploring before you find trails or an area you like. But keep looking, because there's something for every skier somewhere on the mountain.
Scenery at Lake Louise is spectacular, but was only visible for a day and a half out of our five days. Take your camera on a good day and snap your pictures early because low clouds can move in quickly! Because of the size of the area, there can be low visibility on on side of the mountain and clear views on the other.
We found the best ski area food in western Canada at Lake Louise's Lodge of the Ten Peaks. There's a stand where they'll make a huge fresh submarine sandwich with your choice of breads and fillings with a side of potato salad for only $7.45 CDN... add a bowl of soup for 50 cents more. Fresh fast and filling!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 2, 2002
Lake Louise Ski Area
Junction of TransCanada Highway and Highway 93
Banff National Park, Alberta T0L 0C0
+1 403 522 3555
Sunshine suffers by having a single lift, an 8 person gondola, to take people away from the base - which can mean lines early in the day. The base is protected, down in a valley with plenty of trees, but 25 minutes later, unloading at the top, things can be considerably different. Most of the lift system takes you from the top of the gondola up into a big un-treed bowl. This must be great in the spring, but on a cloudy day, there's no visual clue to the terrain. Add in some snow and you may not be able to tell which end is up.
Two lifts below the gondola unloading station serve tree bounded, weather protected runs ideal for beginners and low intermediates. Also below gondola unloading, Goats Eye and Teepee Town lifts serve high intermediate to expert terrain. Trails here start above tree line but become protected half way down. With wind scour above tree line, the snow can turn into bullet-proof hard pack quickly.
There's also a downside at the end of the day. The one trail down involves some trudging, poling and walking, especially if there's been any new snow. It's a beginner trail, which leads to uncomfortable situations a good skiers, flying at top speed to minimize poling, conflict with beginners, cruising from side to side hoping to make it down without falling. There are some side loops marked intermediate, but these generally involve one steeper pitch followed by a long flat run out. Best thing to do is just ride the gondola down!
This must be a glorious place to spring ski up in the bowl on a sunny day. Someday, maybe we'll be lucky enough to hit Sunshine on a sunny day.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 2, 2002
Located just 15 km west of Banff