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THE ROADS FROM BANFF
Thursday February 23, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI's 4-week and 20 resort trip to USA and Canada continues. We have just spent 5 days in Banff blogging daily and below we reproduce the Canada leg of the trip in chronological order.

 

We have been in Utah:

See here for the resorts around Salt Lake City .

See here for the resorts around Ogden.

After Utah it was Colorado: Breckenridge, Keystone and the fabulous resort of Arapahoe Basin.

And then we headed north to Canada and now we have just waved bye, bye to Banff.

Saturday 18th February - Day 12

Denver in the USA to Banff in Canada is more than a thousand miles (1,126 to be precise). 

That's around 18 hours of hard driving, so I decided to fly.

As I set off from Breckenridge heading to Denver airport I felt like I was cheating. 

I love road trips and detest airports, air travel and pretty much everything to do with flying.

Ski road trip USASki road trip USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh well, needs must.

But I was going to miss this. Cry

Ski road trip, USASki road trip, USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The snow vanished on the way to the airport.

Ski road trip, USASki road trip, USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not surprisingly absolutely nothing of interest happened in the 2-hours+ at Denver airport.

Then there was a further two & a half hours in the air sitting next to a man twice the size of his seat.

He promptly fell asleep and snored for pretty much the whole flight. 

And with the wait to go through airport immigration, collect luggage, sort out a hire car, get lost coming out of the airport etc.... etc..... that was nearly 6 hours of my life wasted.

Next time I will drive and find another ski resort or two en route.

Memo to myself - a road trip should remain a road trip.

I was heading to Canada to pay a 5-day visit to see my 22-year old son, Alex, who lives in Banff year round.

Father and sonFather and son

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He works as a ski instructor in the winter at Sunshine Village.

I'm not entirely sure what he does in the summer but he loves it, has a fabulous Canadian girlfriend and has never asked me for money since he arrived 18-months ago.

I am very proud of him (and he has let me crash at his place as all the hotels are full).

I arrived after midnight and he'd given me instructions to his flat.

The only trouble is I'd lost the piece of paper with the details on.

I know Banff well so to begin with it was easy as a I drove down Banff Avenue and turned into his road.

Wolf Street - Tick.

Up the end on the road, last house on the right - Tick.

Front door on the left and down the stairs - Tick.

Flat at the bottom of the stairs, go through front door and there will be a mattress on the floor on the main room with some bedding, just sleep on that - Not Tick.

Er, there were two front doors at the bottom of the stairs.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recognised a pair of Alex's shoes on the right hand one and turned the handle.

It opened.

I was going to try the left hand one too, but if it has opened then I'd have had a dilemma on my hands.

I tip toed in and turned on the light.

There was indeed a mattress on the floor.

I was fairly confident I was going to sleep in the right flat, but not 100% and what would happen if I was wrong?

There was a nagging doubt in my mind as my eyelids closed all by themselves - it had been a long day.

The next thing I knew there was a shadowy figure bending over me.

"Hi Jimbo guess you found it OK.  Here's a code for the wifi", said the figure as it thrust a piece of paper at me. The figure knew my first requirement.

"The keys are on the table. It's 7AM and I'm teaching all day. Come and have a ski at lunchtime if you want."

The door closed quietly behind the silhouetted figure.

A few seconds later the door opened again.

"By the way great to see you," said the voice.

With that he was off and I rolled over & went back to sleep for another 2 hours.

It was the first time we had 'seen' each other for over 6 months.

Now if you want breakfast in Banff there is only one place to go - Tooloulou's.

The queue outside is ever-present each morning.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hadn't eaten a decent meal for 48-hours (long story) and I did want a decent breakfast before heading off to the ski slopes.

I was beyond hungry.

Though I could happily pass on the alligator.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I went for a choice from one its natural habitats - a New Orleans Breakfast Skiller.

Two eggs, two sausages, Canadian back bacon, grilled tomatoes, skillet potatoes, pancake + buttermilk biscuit. 

It was complemented by a strawberry, blackberry and slice of orange.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to eat it very slowly and savour every mouthful.

27 minutes later I had done the meal justice.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can safely say it was the best breakfast I have ever eaten or ever likely to.

I settled back to read PlanetSKI - I have handed over full editorial control to my wife, Kisia, and our chief reporter, Jane Peel. 

Our senior reporter, Katie Bamber, is also beavering away all the hours god sends.

For four weeks I am merely an interested reader - and rather good it looked too I thought.

Though I was disappointed not to be the lead story.

PlanetSKI - looking goodPlanetSKI - looking good

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still at least I had two stories in the features section Wink

Dominating the features ;-) Dominating the features ;-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was now just after 11AM and people were still queueing for breakfast.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An hour later I was still perusing the pages of PlanetSKI, reading all the news and feature articles that the team had been putting together in my absence.

The scene in Tooloulou's remained constant.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tooloulou's is my idea of what heaven should be like.

As I said: "I can safely say it was the best breakfast I have ever eaten or ever likely to."

I am not a fan of the endless tipping in North America - why don't they just pay people properly in the first place?

I had a rush of blood to the head and left $25.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now one of the great things about Banff is that there is a local hill called Mt Norquay. 

The main resorts of Sunshine Village and Lake Louise are 30-minutes and 45-minutes away respectively.

Mt Norquay is less than 10-minutes and a gem of a place.

Perfect for an afternoon.

Here's the town from the access road:

Views to BanffViews to Banff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt Norquay, Alberta, CanadaMt Norquay, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt Norquay, Alberta, CanadaMt Norquay, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt Norquay, Alberta, CanadaMt Norquay, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt Norquay, Alberta, CanadaMt Norquay, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's a great ski hill if you just want to do half a day.

But tomorrow will be a full day.

Do I go to Sunshine Village or Lake Louise?

More decisions...

#itsatoughlife

Sunday 19th February - Day 13

Today is The Sabbath.

Earlier on this trip I was fortunate enough not only to visit the Mormon state of Utah but also to explore one of its most informative and interesting museums, the Pioneer Memorial Museum - see here for further details as we visited on Friday February 10th.

Now it wasn't quite  a Road to Damascus moment, but I have been considering its beliefs and now think no work should be done on The Sabbath.

It should be observed as a Holy Day - a time of rest and reflection.

My new-found Mormon faith forbids me from working today, so I'm afraid that on religious grounds this daily blog will not be updated.

Sorry but I am following the way of the Lord.

It is also the 13th day of this road trip and us Mormons are a superstitious bunch.

I have seen The Light.

Bless you all.

Monday 20th February - Day 14

BACK ON THE ROAD

After flying the 1,250 miles from Denver to Calgary we’re pleased to be back on the road.

After a little rest for the Sabbath.

I'm afraid my post from yesterday was somewhat economical with the truth (ie, total b**locks).

I am as likely to become a Mormon, or indeed follow any other religion, as give up skiing to take up tiddlywinks for my thrills.

I am a practising atheist thanks to the very sound advice of my father.

"One might as well believe in the tooth fairies," he said to me.

Sound advice Dad.

The simple truth is that it was an excuse to get out of work and just ski.

Hard and fast.

This was my view for much of the day as I tried to keep up with my 22-year old son, Alex, who works as an instructor in Sunshine Village.

Slow downSlow down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait for meWait for me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just wanted to ski, ski, ski rather than write, write, write.

After skiing I would like to say I was too tired to get the lap top out and start tapping away.

But I wasn't.

I even had the energy to ski right back to the car at the end of the day - most people (including Alex) took the gondola lift down to the main car park.

Ski in, ski outSki in, ski out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there was the small matter of après ski.

Can an old git in his 50s keep up with young gun ski instructors?

The truthful answer is 'No'.

Neither on the slopes or in the bar, but it's still fun trying.

But one thing from my report on Sunday was true - I have seen The Light.

Or rather I can now see the light.

I got so fed up with these scratched old things...

Out with the oldOut with the old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...that I splashed out and spent $209 (£128) on these.

Top of the range Oakleys no less.

In with the newIn with the new

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They should have been $250 (£153) but I pretended to be Alex and used his season workers' discount card.

Priase the Lord, I can now see The Light and Sunshine Village was revealed to me:

Sunshine Village, Banff, CanadaSunshine Village, Banff, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previously it was just a scratched blur.

So, what about Monday?

I've been over to Lake Louise.

It's about half an hour from Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway.

It was worth going for the journey alone:

Banff to Lake LouiseBanff to Lake Louise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been to Canada many times.

I was in the country for seven weeks last winter and I have done multiple road trips.

In an RV vehicle for 12-days across British Columbia.

With my wife and kids last year as we took in resorts in Alberta and British Columbia.

And I have gone solo too.

I have tried to describe the scenery many times and in the end one word will do, and it's short.

Big.

The scenery in Canada is big.

And I mean big, really big.

Banff to Lake LouiseBanff to Lake Louise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banff to Lake LouiseBanff to Lake Louise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banff to Lake LouiseBanff to Lake Louise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as I approached Lake Louise I could see fresh snow on the trees - always a pleasant sight as one approaches a ski resort just for a single day.

Approaching Lake LouiseApproaching Lake Louise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was busy though.

The crowds are outThe crowds are out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is family day in the Canadian province of Alberta - the equivalent of a UK Bank Holiday.

Plus it is President's Day in the USA and most sane Americans seemed to have opted to escape their country for a while as President Trump does his stuff.

"The sooner he is impeached the better," said one to me on a chairlift.

"The CIA should take him out and save someone else the bother," said another.

Earlier on this trip while in Utah and Colorado I canvassed the opinion of people on the 45th US President.

Except for one person in Deer Valley (no surprise there given the clientele) all have been strongly opposed and many deeply apologetic.

I may even go into detail on what some of them have said in a later blog when I am back on US soil and able to speak to more people.

In the meantime many seem to be in Lake Louise and it is busy here.

Fortunately I know the resort reasonably well and was able to find the uncrowded slopes.

Lake Louise, CanadaMarmot, Lake Louise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Louise, CanadaPtarmigan Chutes, Lake Louise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Louise, CanadaParadise bowl, Lake Louise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Louise, CanadaParadise Cornice, Lake Louise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On one chairlift I glanced to my right and smiled to myself.

Over the ridge and between the peaks is the Skoki Lodge - I ski toured there a few years back and it took two attempts to get there as the weather closed in.

The route to SkokiThe route to Skoki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But enough of memories - I have a date tonight back in Banff.

I have been contacted on Facebook by someone I have never met (as far as I am aware). 

He is a PlanetSKI reader and is on holiday with other readers and has been following my North American adventures.

"How about an early beer at Banff Brewing co at approx 5.30ish with fellow Planetski readers? It's on the Mount Royal side of Banff avenue north towards the Banff springs (about 3-4 doors past McDonalds and upstairs) great beer and only $4.  Guess you'll be dressed in PlanetSKI ski gear."

$4 for a beer and the chance to meet some real PlanetSKI readers - now there's an opportunity not to be missed.

Tuesday 21st February - Day 15

BLIND DATE

It's been a while since I have been on a blind date, but I got a Facebook message from Adrian, who is an avid PlanetSKI reader.

"How about an early beer at Banff Brewing co at approx 5.30ish with fellow Planetski readers? It's on the Mount Royal side of Banff avenue north towards the Banff springs (about 3-4 doors past McDonalds and upstairs) great beer and only $4.  Guess you'll be dressed in PlanetSKI ski gear."

He spotted me before I had even taken my jacket off to reveal my PlanetSKI hoody.

"Hey James, come and have a beer at our table over here, this is Dave and Paul," he said as he gestured to two other guys sipping their beer.

They were in resort for 10 days and loving it.

"Banff is a great resort and with beer at $4 this is the place to be," said Adrian.

Like me they had skied Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Norquay.

They were considering a trip to Kicking Horse in British Columbia on Thursday.

I urged them to go as it is one of my favourite resorts in North America - see here for a visit last year when I was touring British Columbia in a motorhome.

It was great to chat about skiing and hear their view of PlanetSKI - very positive I'm pleased to report!

One topic of conversation dominated - is the skiing better in North America or Europe?

I am a huge fan of North America, I wouldn't be here for a month if not, but overall I prefer the Alps for its vertical descent, variety of terrain plus the resorts and size of ski areas.

Not to mention the après ski.

I was outnumbered 3-1.

"We have skied all over North America and the quality of the snow, the number of people on the slopes, the high level of accommodation, the behaviour in the lift lines, the travel experience and the fact that you can ski all over the mountain safely without having to stick to the pistes is what does it for us," said Adrian.

It was hard to argue against them and I am becoming increasingly fond of North America.

The inevitable question came up: "What is your favourite resort?"

For me it is Zermatt in Switzerland.

For Adrian, Dave and Paul it was Breckenridge in the USA or Whistler in Canada. They couldn't decide.

Later I shall be blogging on the 6 best things about skiing in the USA & Canada and the 6 worst things, so do look out for that.

It was an absolute pleasure to meet Adrian, Dave and Paul and we had a fabulous evening.

If there are any other readers out there I am in Vail, Aspen and Copper after I leave Canada on Wednesday and next week I'm heading to Jackson Hole, Sun Valley and then TBC.

Gimme a shout.

SPEEDY WARM UPS!

Now my favourite new toy is this - the time lapse facility on my iPhone 6S.

Here is the scene at the base of Sunshine Village as the ski school prepares for the day ahead.

And they should know a thing or two about warming up as the temperature drops to -30c at times in the winter.

My son Alex, who is in his second season with the ski school, is in there somewhere.

SPEEDY TURNS

After his morning session with the ski school he donned his civvy gear and we went for a little bit of a ski together..

Here is the Goat's Eye area by photograph.

Goat's EyeGoat's Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex took me down the run that leads to its base:

And here is Scapegoat - wide at the top and then it too cuts through the trees before opening out at the bottom:

Suffice to say we had a great father and son bonding session.

Bit of bondingBit of bonding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am back in Canada at the end of next month (Sun Peaks and Whistler) and we got talking about doing a little British Columbia road trip together.

Then we saw a sign at the top one of the chairlifts.

Now there's an idea...Now there's an idea...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACK TO BANFF - THE CHINESE ARE COMING

Now one thing that has struck me wandering around the town of Banff is the number of Asian tourists.

And Banff is busy preparing for more - this time from China.

We have detailed earlier on PlanetSKI how the European snowsports industry has its eyes set on China - see here as the Warren Smith Ski Academy is already out in China training ski instructors.

It hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics and skiing is booming.

Travel Alberta is organising workshops for hundreds of its hotel and restaurant staff across the province to be ready for the boom in Chinese wanting to visit ski resorts across the world.

"We're seeing an interest in because of the 2022 Olympics. Canada has a great opportunity because lots of Chinese students are coming here to learn how to be ski instructors and going back to China," said the hospitality trainer, Daniel Crain.

People from Asia are already much in evidence in Banff and the town is adjusting for them.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But quite why some need a mask is unclear.

There is some of the cleanest and purest air in the world here in the Banff National Park.

Banff, Alberta, CanadaBanff, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY?

And finally...

Today, Tuesday, is a cause for celebration and sadness.

I have reached the half-way point of the road trip.

I have visited Park City, Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird and Powder Mountain in Utah, USA.

Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, USA.

Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Norquay in Alberta, Canada.

I can safely say I am having the time of my life and have enjoyed every single second.

Tomorrow,  Wednesday, I am heading back in the USA to ski Vail, Aspen and Copper in Colorado.

Then it is up to Wyoming to ski Jackson Hole.

It is the resort I'm perhaps most looking forward to ski as I have heard so much about it yet never visited.

(Please, please don't disappoint me!)

Then it is up to Montana to ski Big Sky and Bridger's Bowl.

And I have a cunning plan for the end of the trip that I'm just trying to organise.

And the cause for sadness?

The end will come quickly.

I'm going to cram the time of my ski life into the next two weeks - bring it on!

Wednesday 22nd February - Day 16

BYE BYE BANFF

Today was another big travel day as I'm heading back to the USA .

But there was time for a final morning skiing in Sunshine Village.

I started off at speed as I had to depart at lunchtime.

And made a few final turns with this guy.

Like father, like sonLike father, like son

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex in actionAlex in action

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I leave I wonder why I like Sunshine Village - there are better resorts with more skiing, better terrain and easier to reach.

But it just does it for me.

See here for a full length feature I wrote last year on Sunshine Village.

And here as Alex and I went out with the avalanche patrol in the hope of skiing Delirium Dive.

The DiveThe Dive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a couple of final photos.

Storm clouds gatherStorm clouds gather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunshine Village, CanadaSunshine Village, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWO PAIRS WILL DO

I am travelling with my own skis and some have asked what is it like skiing powder on GS skis or hard-packed North American groomers on powder skis.

It's easy - I travel with both.

And I used them both on the final day too.

Two pairs pleaseTwo pairs please

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All too soon the Canada leg of my trip was over, which was a shame as another powder snow storm was rolling in:

I will miss Alex (obviously) and Banff but perhaps not my sleeping arrangements for the past 5 nights in Alex's apartment:

5 nights on this5 nights on this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next it was a 2-hour drive from Banff to Calgary followed by the usual hanging around at an airport before the 1,250 miles flight to Denver.

It took 2 hrs and 30 minutes and I slept most of the way.

Then there was a 2 hour + drive to Vail in Colorado.

I had come to collect some gardening gloves from my friend, Pat Barrett.

Pardon?

Oh, and ski with Martin Bell - perhaps the best ski racer ever to compete for Great Britain.

I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

 

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