Winter in Canada
Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Our trip to Canada was predominantly a skiing holiday. Previously we've taken trips to Europe to ski together, but wanted to try something a little different. George has been skiing about as long as he can walk, I however have taken up the 'sport' (it is definitely not a sport the way I do it) as an adult. Learning to ski as an adult is no mean feat, I don't want to discourage anyone whose thinking about it because it is super fun, but only once you've got past the 'I never want to do this again' phase, which for me lasted two entire ski holidays in Europe. So you can imagine my trepidation when G suggested another attempt. I think he knew I'd be wary so tempted me with pictures of the Canadian Rockies and beautiful snowy scenes. After some research I found that skiing in Canada is meant to be great for beginners due to the wide slopes and great snow quality, so I agreed to give it another shot (although previous wipe out scenes were still replaying in the back of my mind).
My advice if you are thinking about skiing in Canada is do it! It is so fab, I really enjoyed myself 99% of the time (the first few runs were like Bambi on ice, and seeing as I'm almost six foot you can imagine the amusement I provide for onlookers). Anyway, Bambi legs under control and I seriously got the hang off it this time around, enough to manage some trickier slopes whilst still being able to relax and enjoy the true stunning views.
A large part of the reason we chose Canada is because we've been desperate to explore Banff National Park. You've likely seen photos of the aqua blue lakes in this part of the world, but there's something special about seeing them all frozen over and the ice waterfalls leading to them too. Lake Louise is a tourist hotspot in warmer months (we were told people queue down the highway in peak season), so seeing it in the off months is highly recommended for a quieter experience. We stopped in on our way back from skiing one day, its really close to the Lake Louise ski resort in Banff National Park. They hold an ice sculpture festival here every January, and we were amazed to still find them intact at the beginning of March, shows how cold it is here! There was a fully fledged 'Frozen' style ice castle which I couldn't get enough off.
The lake is completely frozen and you can walk straight out onto it, or even pop your ice skates on and go for a spin. Once you're feeling cold enough (which doesn't take long around here!) there's all sorts of food and hot drinks at the famous Fairmont Chateau which stands at the edge of the lake. We decided to skip this and drive home to our lodge to get warmed up by the open fire instead.
Another site on our hitlist was Johnston Canyon, it's on all the itineraries for winter activities in Banff and it's well worth a stop. Most websites advise you wear ice cleats to do this hike and I strongly agree (note my previous reference to Bambi on ice). You can easily rent these from lots of the outdoor stores in Banff Town for about $15. Most of the hike is fine and can be achieved at most fitness levels, but theres a few icey patches where you really need the grip. The frozen waterfalls and pools at the end of this route are just stunning and if you're lucky you'll see a couple of ice climbers making their way up the side (they crazy).
Whilst driving the Bow Valley Parkway to and from Johnston Canyon it's definitely worth keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife. We spotted some Elks, but there's also sightings of coyotes, moose and even the odd cougar. We saw some coyote on our trip, but closer to the Calgary area.
I'll write a second post about everything else we did in Canada soon, including hopping over into British Columbia, dog sledding and a trip to the ice hockey.