Trip Report Gez & Bern go to Banff

Bpoos

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So seeing that we have had the benefit of others' experiences, we thought we might put up some notes including hits and misses for our trip to Banff.

We decided on two nights in Vancouver to see an ice hockey game, followed by 11 nights in Banff to ski and siteSee (mainly ski though!).
  • We decided to book through a travel agent - he handled co-ordination of flights , and also suggested the Elk in Banff - although the package price wasn't any cheaper than what we could book ourselves online we were happy to let him have some commission for his trouble in providing a quote and airfare ideas.
  • Miss: The travel agent suggested Air Canada, and we preferred Qantas - well, because we like Qantas! (even though they don't fly direct and have a changeover in LAX including booking in luggage again through customs) Big mistake, because whilst the travel agent thought a 2 1/2 hour changeover would be plenty for us to make the connecting flight, LAX was a mess (we spent at least 2 hours in the queue to get through customs), and missed our connecting flight. When re-booking our missed flights, we were were initially dismayed to be looking at arriving in Vancouver at 10:45pm night instead of the originally scheduled 11:30am :( Luckily the booking desk went above and beyond for us, securing a flight with another airline that would arrive around 5pm instead, but that went via Seattle, requiring another flight change to get to Vancouver. We were a bit worried about how our luggage would go though because we only had 45 minutes to make the flight - a really really long walk from where we were, and had oversized luggage to go in as well. Lo and behold, it all arrived on our rescheduled flight!
  • Hit: The views around Seattle airport of the Rocky Mountains are beautiful, and they have some pretty cool looking shops at the airport
  • Lesson learned: Next time fly direct - saves having to go through customs twice (if everything had gone to plan), and negates the risk of missing a connecting flight.
  • So for our first two nights we are staying at the Pinnacle Harbourfront with beautiful mountain views, and we had our first dinner at The Keg, a steakhouse which comes highly recommended for a nice night out from a Canadian friend of ours. The baked brie with pesto and chilli jam was delicious, as was the steak and salmon that we ordered:) Really nice surroundings, great food and service.
Tomorrow we have a full day in Vancouver including seeing the local Canucks play an ice hockey game before heading off to Bannf the following Thursday.
 

Bpoos

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Vancouver reminds me a bit of Queenstown!
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Pink

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The views around Seattle airport of the Rocky Mountains are beautiful, and they have some pretty cool looking shops at the airport
Geography nerd correction, the mountains surrounding Seattle are the Cascades to the east and Olympic Mountains to the west. The Rockies are further inland. It is a beautiful part of the world. Nice trip report. Enjoy!
 
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Bpoos

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Geography nerd correction, the mountains surrounding Seattle are the Cascades to the east and Olympic Mountains to the west. The Rockies are further inland. It is a beautiful part of the world. Nice trip report. Enjoy!
Haha thanks! I just assumed that all the mountains around there are the Rockys!!
 
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Summit

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We looked as it seemed nice but a little too $$
Yeah, would have been the most exe meal I had on my trip. Nice atmospheric bar area, too. Seemed quite a few Steakhouses to choose from in Banff...Alberta !
 
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Bpoos

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Def worth checking out the ice hockey - Plenty of atmosphere! We had row 5 near the goals, so very close to the front but i reckon it would be just as good sitting back a bit in the middle where you would get a good view of all of the arena. Plenty of high pitched 'whooooooos' from the crowd, and a lot of biff! Game pace is very fast with plenty of crowd interaction - think upscaled 20-20 cricket game. Its great to see how the players skillfully change over by jumping over the fence. Loved the organ - very retro! Plenty of cheesy food to eat at much more reasonable prices to AFL games in Melbourne! None of that stinky cigarette smell when you're walking home at game end cos they mainly smoke other stuff over here!
 

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Bpoos

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Big hit: We were able to store our skis and 2 large suitcases at the airport for 2 days for CAD62 to save lugging them around. We were then able to travel with just an overnight bag to Vancouver using the Canada Line on the Skytrain from the airport.

Train fares were only AUD$12 each ex-airport and AUD6.50 returning to the airport. (The return trip is cheaper because the ex-airport travel has an extra CAD5 tax added).

The train was a great clean service, we didn't need to purchase a train ticket, we were just able to tap paypass our debit card when entering and leaving the train station. We didn't need to wait more than a couple of minutes for a train at any time - our stop was the last stop, Waterfront, 12 stations.

We have been using our Citibank debit card for most our transactions as recommended by Barefoot a couple of years ago (although I think he recently changed his recommendation to ING).
 

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Legs Akimbo

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Big hit: We were able to store our skis and 2 large suitcases at the airport for 2 days for CAD62 to save lugging them around. We were then able to travel with just an overnight bag to Vancouver using the Canada Line on the Skytrain from the airport.

Train fares were only AUD$12 each ex-airport and AUD6.50 returning to the airport. (The return trip is cheaper because the ex-airport travel has an extra CAD5 tax added).

The train was a great clean service, we didn't need to purchase a train ticket, we were just able to tap paypass our debit card when entering and leaving the train station. We didn't need to wait more than a couple of minutes for a train at any time - our stop was the last stop, Waterfront, 12 stations.

We have been using our Citibank debit card for most our transactions as recommended by Barefoot a couple of years ago (although I think he recently changed his recommendation to ING).
CDS were (probably still are) agents for FedEx and Greyhound. You can dump stuff there and have it sent on to wherever you might be going.
 

Chalkie

A Local
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Def worth checking out the ice hockey - Plenty of atmosphere! We had row 5 near the goals, so very close to the front but i reckon it would be just as good sitting back a bit in the middle where you would get a good view of all of the arena. Plenty of high pitched 'whooooooos' from the crowd, and a lot of biff! Game pace is very fast with plenty of crowd interaction - think upscaled 20-20 cricket game. Its great to see how the players skillfully change over by jumping over the fence. Loved the organ - very retro! Plenty of cheesy food to eat at much more reasonable prices to AFL games in Melbourne! None of that stinky cigarette smell when you're walking home at game end cos they mainly smoke other stuff over here!

I agree. Saw my first ice hockey match in Jan. Loved it. I described it as water polo on ice skates with a much smaller ball.
 
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Shoey

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So seeing that we have had the benefit of others' experiences, we thought we might put up some notes including hits and misses for our trip to Banff.

  • Miss: The travel agent suggested Air Canada, and we preferred Qantas - well, because we like Qantas! (even though they don't fly direct and have a changeover in LAX including booking in luggage again through customs) Big mistake, because whilst the travel agent thought a 2 1/2 hour changeover would be plenty for us to make the connecting flight,
Lot's of great info there! I am kinda doing the reverse - currently in Vancouver till end of Feb for work, then will be going to Banff for first week of March.

Totally agree with you that LAX was a trap. I also preferred Qantas (for the points), and I even made a bigger mistake of not having applied for an US ESTA because I thought it was a 'transit' even though I had a Canadian ETA. Resulted in 2 days delay (couldn't check in, and applying on the spot takes 2-3hrs) and people at the office looking at me wondering why I was still in Sydney. As you said, the LAX queues were horrendous.

Thx for the tip on YVR luggage store. I arranged my flights so that I am flying out of YVR on that week's Monday to Calgary and then back on Fri for my home return leg. its probably better than storing at the hotel which would be a roundtrip back to town.

btw for Skytrain, probably not relevant for short stayers but buying a Compass card (deposit refundable) is cheaper than tapping using contactless, for single trips its $1CAD less each trip, and for longer stay a monthly Compass zone 1-2 is just $130CAD! Getting to Grouse Mountain is just around $2.50 each way and they open till 9pm

Ice Hockey game is a great suggestion - definitely have to try squeeze one in.

Here's my view from the office. Whether it is an inspiration or a distraction the opinion is split.
vanoffice.jpg
 
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Bpoos

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Mar 17, 2018
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Lot's of great info there! I am kinda doing the reverse - currently in Vancouver till end of Feb for work, then will be going to Banff for first week of March.

Totally agree with you that LAX was a trap. I also preferred Qantas (for the points), and I even made a bigger mistake of not having applied for an US ESTA because I thought it was a 'transit' even though I had a Canadian ETA. Resulted in 2 days delay (couldn't check in, and applying on the spot takes 2-3hrs) and people at the office looking at me wondering why I was still in Sydney. As you said, the LAX queues were horrendous.

Thx for the tip on YVR luggage store. I arranged my flights so that I am flying out of YVR on that week's Monday to Calgary and then back on Fri for my home return leg. its probably better than storing at the hotel which would be a roundtrip back to town.

btw for Skytrain, probably not relevant for short stayers but buying a Compass card (deposit refundable) is cheaper than tapping using contactless, for single trips its $1CAD less each trip, and for longer stay a monthly Compass zone 1-2 is just $130CAD! Getting to Grouse Mountain is just around $2.50 each way and they open till 9pm

Ice Hockey game is a great suggestion - definitely have to try squeeze one in.

Here's my view from the office. Whether it is an inspiration or a distraction the opinion is split.
Hey Shoey, Your office view is not showing on my pc:( Have fun in Banff!!


5b0Zr6l5JX3-13gE-G0vYUkEVdBttlZsTxew3V9gij7oSN0m5iMEXE1HjQS7ONKkgJS4zoUUMX744Mh6GJFQBDkVBbfxE1w6LzvZD6lRP1ZpnPOmLU76KcQB0aml3J5bHM1rDrBfywAvF1-v9CHOI7rQWrxrD9-tM3o6vLnI75RPjFIpTcwFcurqYzPmDi6m6kDrCMKTEuzliRE1YM3leZGNr6h44IgfuA3rYc3OXSpDtNQG71m9YGXam2QeG1Tut2JUGuRLNgszCgaXjFfs8NCRVzv0Ny49oCvCQRsxfoFLBNY02KH9Z9TYvEKW8qhY9YLntVoItE43odxnvvlg-LtU1dqSsyUc5gAKIrzVPZnAz-zd6Sa-uzi0_PFhaHjiA3dEorXTi7AZjkXx8exgidST6b29coQU4jIUOtY0iC6HefUXL-Gpy6uNRByFv5k3bUnL3lXEYIRjOAJLep-5Un7g4YHMvxMyMBQ5v_o4U6oMmBO8jSE0O8iQa-jt6gNehsff2Wo54-kCHL6V8R2ndS5SUooA6y0uIweBK1eUeHmfKFGeAxlrxh4LAWgBWMYQCHryLmpSZoehFkdmwgbUEDABo5ppDKsw2jR4Uz2Kjs4145Mem7yDSuQ9-yAcqjFfxN8_Y0HiNxhHYaE2tBLHPDxAeXTF_o2X0S4b1ucVkyu_3R6aheSNzwg=w1534-h1532-no
 

Bpoos

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So we just spent a day in Lake Louise yesterday and were lucky enough to score a blue sky day! Views were astounding! Skiing was good, although a little 'dust on crust' in some areas, although we could find some good spots that were not so exposed. Plenty of moguls - the great big pointy ones with crevices, but plenty of long, long, runs also. Stopped in at the Whitehorn at lunchtime, but were warned there was a 50 minute wait, so we went back just after 2. Pretty fancy place - more a restaurant than the usual cafes on ski mountains. Had some cheese fondue for two that would easily have served 4.
We arrived at the bus stop outside our hotel just 5 minutes before departure, were a bit worried about the queue, but a second bus arrived about 2 minutes later, so no waiting for the bus up! Getting home was the same - we got to the pickup point about 5 minutes early, and were straight onto the bus.
 

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Bpoos

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Skied Sunshine today and it is our new favourite. Snowed steadily for most of today, so plenty of lovely fresh powder around for us:) but oretty cold! Such a variety of runs and areas to explore here, and the lower areas were quite sheltered, but still had great quality snow.
Loved the fancy chairlift with the bubble and heated seat!
We made our way over to an area called Goat's Eye and loved the plentiful amount of runs to choose from - sheltered skiing by the trees.
Had a laugh at the bra tree (mine's the biggest pink one);)
Once the sun came out with about an hour of skiing left, the magnificent backdrop was revealed!
We will def be going back to Sunshine to explore some more - an amazing place with so much variety!

Only one complaint - nearly all of the runs a both Sunshine and Lake Louise seem to close at 4pm. Wouldn't have minded an extra half hour or so!

Ps all photos taken no gloves! #thrillseeker
 

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Shoey

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fixed - I think I done this a few times, I used Copy & Paste from my Google Photos and it always just pastes the link which I can see but nobody else can..

Checking out your updates. Are you staying in Banff and then bus'ing each day to Sunshine & Lake Louise? I briefly looked at some schedules but was worried the wait times might be long?
 
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Charlie

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Tried Masala tonight - I agree, best Indian I've ever had too! Wonderful place:)
Hey Bern, enable 'private messages' on your profile
Click on your name (top right corner of this page)
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QED
 

Bpoos

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fixed - I think I done this a few times, I used Copy & Paste from my Google Photos and it always just pastes the link which I can see but nobody else can..

Checking out your updates. Are you staying in Banff and then bus'ing each day to Sunshine & Lake Louise? I briefly looked at some schedules but was worried the wait times might be long?
So far we've only been twice- a Friday and Saturday (schedule attached). We haven't had any issues with waiting although we did leave later than we normally would - 8.55 lake louise and 9.15 sunshine. We'll be trying one of the earlier buses tomorrow though. Re coming back home both times we skied till most lifts closed at 4 and easily made the 4.30 return trip without any problems.
Ps - nice view!
 

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Bpoos

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Bugga! Gez out of action today and at least tomorrow - had a nasty accident in the lobby, slipped on a wet patch with his ski boots on and landed on his back and on top of his bindings (It's been snowing a fair bit in banff and water gets walked inside) Expensive trip to hospital for xrays and got a stack of painkillers! (Lucky we got travel insurance!). Xray ok but very sore. We might try and see if we can do a snowmobiling tour for tomorrow instead. Hopefully he's up and about soon cos there's sure to be fresh snow about
 

Charlie

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Bugga! Gez out of action today and at least tomorrow - had a nasty accident in the lobby, slipped on a wet patch with his ski boots on and landed on his back and on top of his bindings (It's been snowing a fair bit in banff and water gets walked inside) Expensive trip to hospital for xrays and got a stack of painkillers! (Lucky we got travel insurance!). Xray ok but very sore. We might try and see if we can do a snowmobiling tour for tomorrow instead. Hopefully he's up and about soon cos there's sure to be fresh snow about
Lawyer up!
 

Bpoos

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Snowmobiling is not smooth. Depending on the trail there can be a lot of bouncing around. Not something I would try with a dodgy back.
Whoops! (he reckons he'll be alright - hopefully he's right, its more a nasty bruise from the bindings poking him than muscular or spinal, been walking around today ok).

Took this picture on mobile looking down the main street back out of Banff the other day:)

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Charlie

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Bugga! Gez out of action today and at least tomorrow - had a nasty accident in the lobby, slipped on a wet patch with his ski boots on and landed on his back and on top of his bindings (It's been snowing a fair bit in banff and water gets walked inside) Expensive trip to hospital for xrays and got a stack of painkillers! (Lucky we got travel insurance!). Xray ok but very sore. We might try and see if we can do a snowmobiling tour for tomorrow instead. Hopefully he's up and about soon cos there's sure to be fresh snow about
Just thinking, landing with his back on the bindings shows a fair bit of flexibility!
 

japower

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Skied Sunshine today and it is our new favourite.
Your favourite of the Big3? We'll be headed to Banff for the first time next month. With only 4 days to ski, I was planning 3 days in LL and 1 day in Norquay. I left out Sunshine because I read that one had to first ride a gondola to get from the base to the village, from which to then access the mountain. It just seems like a waste of precious time that I'd rather spend on skiing. And LL is supposed to be huge with amazing scenery, hence the 3 days. Norquay because it's the closest to Banff (again, to maximize ski time) But seeing your statement above, I'm having second thoughts.
 

Skichic2

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Your favourite of the Big3? We'll be headed to Banff for the first time next month. With only 4 days to ski, I was planning 3 days in LL and 1 day in Norquay. I left out Sunshine because I read that one had to first ride a gondola to get from the base to the village, from which to then access the mountain. It just seems like a waste of precious time that I'd rather spend on skiing. And LL is supposed to be huge with amazing scenery, hence the 3 days. Norquay because it's the closest to Banff (again, to maximize ski time) But seeing your statement above, I'm having second thoughts.
Sunshine definitely worth a visit. I wouldn’t bother with Norquay. Yes there’s an initial gondola ride but then everything is up top. Nice ski down to the bottom on cat tracks at the end of the day.

Lake Louise was my favourite by far. Do one of each and then decide.
 
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TOFF

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Your favourite of the Big3? We'll be headed to Banff for the first time next month. With only 4 days to ski, I was planning 3 days in LL and 1 day in Norquay. I left out Sunshine because I read that one had to first ride a gondola to get from the base to the village, from which to then access the mountain. It just seems like a waste of precious time that I'd rather spend on skiing. And LL is supposed to be huge with amazing scenery, hence the 3 days. Norquay because it's the closest to Banff (again, to maximize ski time) But seeing your statement above, I'm having second thoughts.
Having just returned I would definitely visit sunshine. The gondola ride is lovely and take you up a long way. If you want you can ski straight from the gondola all the way back down. Or jump on lift up the other 3 mountains.
Lake Louise is great and you will love it.
Norquay is worth a day.
 
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brett gordon

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at the moment SS is the pick. it's been getting more snow, more regularly and the snow is holding up well. good off piste skiing far left boundary off great divide chair. LL needs a top up to freshen the surface though still some nice skiing off the backside from top off of the world chair.
 
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scottski

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Skiing lake Louise from this Sunday for eight days. We finish Heliskiing with CMH on Saturday.
Just letting you know this is epic. Absolutely the best skiing I have ever done. Endless powder runs to exhaustion and then you climb on the bus and do it again, and again, and again.
Absolutely recommend you do this once in your skiing life.
 
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Skiing lake Louise from this Sunday for eight days. We finish Heliskiing with CMH on Saturday.
Just letting you know this is epic. Absolutely the best skiing I have ever done. Endless powder runs to exhaustion and then you climb on the bus and do it again, and again, and again.
Absolutely recommend you do this once in your skiing life.

Now you need to go to Points North in Cordova, AK and then I reckon you could die a happy man ;)
 

Bpoos

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Your favourite of the Big3? We'll be headed to Banff for the first time next month. With only 4 days to ski, I was planning 3 days in LL and 1 day in Norquay. I left out Sunshine because I read that one had to first ride a gondola to get from the base to the village, from which to then access the mountain. It just seems like a waste of precious time that I'd rather spend on skiing. And LL is supposed to be huge with amazing scenery, hence the 3 days. Norquay because it's the closest to Banff (again, to maximize ski time) But seeing your statement above, I'm having second thoughts.
We visited Sunshine again today. We caught the 8.35 bus from our hotel and were at the top of the gondola by 9:25. The shuttle bus queue looks messy but seems to be processed quickly - 2 buses came one after the other. (We have noticed that just because you're first in line, def doesn't mean your first on the bus - the drivers seem to direct where the start of the queue is fairly randomly. This is unimportant thought, because it seems if your not on the first bus, you'll be on the next). Coming home, we got onto the Goat's Eye lift at at 3:50 and we were on the bus home by 4:27. (its a long ski run to the bottom).

We saw that both Sunshine and LL offer free tours around the mountain run by volunteers. Lake Louise groups participants by ski ability.

It snowed nearly all day again today - from talking to others, Sunshine seems to get more snow than Lake Louise. We also found the quality of the snow is fresher and powderier. It was very cold today though - around -9 to -11ish at times at the top but i heard someone say 'feels like' was around -15. Wind was light, but enough for us to seek out some hand and toe warmers! Toe warmers were no good for me - it felt like you had two blobs sitting under your foot in the boot and they weren't even that warm so they came out fairly quickly. Hand warmers weren't too bad, but for us the best was to find some warmth for a half hour or so and then back into it!

Both Sunshine and Lake Louise have facilities where you can stuff your luggage (at your own risk) (I suspect the lockers fill up). Sunshine has a spot called 'The Picnic Area' where you can leave your bags and also provides access to microwave/hot water. Not sure if Lake Louise has the same - prob does!

We are off to Lake Louise again tomorrow and will be able to compare the snow cover. Lake Louise does have beautiful long runs. We are not going to visit Norquay, because we are hearing that it's not that good compared to the others.

We are thinking whether we might have a day at Kicking Horse. The local tour operator provides transport to/from hotel at Banff, and a lift ticket for total of about CAD$114 for an 11 hour round trip! I hear it has great views, but just a bit worried it may be a bit mogully or steep for us - especially if we don't know our way around!
 
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Bpoos

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Did the Johnston canyon walk the other day and it was quite spectacular. Yesterday we went snowmobilling at 'Golden' for the day whilst Gez recovered from his bruised back and it was great fun! We got heaps of ride time, and went up into the forests where there were some beautiful views. BBQ at lunch went down well too! Both tours were very well run and purchased via 'Discover Banff Tours' - would recommend both of these for those who have the time. Bookings are no hassle - we booked the afternoon Johnston Canyon walk on the Sunday morning, and the snowmobile tour the night before.
 

TOFF

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We are thinking whether we might have a day at Kicking Horse. The local tour operator provides transport to/from hotel at Banff, and a lift ticket for total of about CAD$114 for an 11 hour round trip! I hear it has great views, but just a bit worried it may be a bit mogully or steep for us - especially if we don't know our way around!

If you can be bothered with the long day, KH is worth a day but only 1 imo.
It is similar in length and steepness as Lake Louise so if you go around that ok, you will be fine at KH.
Enjoy
 
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japower

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Thanks for the in-depth report, Bpoos! Do you leave your gear at the resort overnight? I read that there are lockers. Part of the reason I plan to visit a single resort on consecutive days is so that we don't have to haul our gear every day. We did that in Hakuba, Japan, and it was not fun.
 

Lady Penelope

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Johnston Canyon is certainly well worth the visit. We hired some spiky things to attach to our shoes for extra grip from an adventure store in Banff (can’t remember the name now, sorry!). Lake Louise was absolutely spectacular and we utilised the services of the ‘Friends of Lake Louise’ (local guides consisting predominantly of retired locals, it seemed) to show us around. Free and very informative. I preferred LL to Sunshine, personally. If you get a chance, visit Lake Louise (the place, not the ski resort) and rent ice skates from the adjacent Fairmont Chateau. It’s wonderful skating on the frozen lake, and taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride alongside the lake afterwards is also pretty special. Enjoy, and keep up the TR!
 
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Bpoos

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Johnston Canyon is certainly well worth the visit. We hired some spiky things to attach to our shoes for extra grip from an adventure store in Banff (can’t remember the name now, sorry!). Lake Louise was absolutely spectacular and we utilised the services of the ‘Friends of Lake Louise’ (local guides consisting predominantly of retired locals, it seemed) to show us around. Free and very informative. I preferred LL to Sunshine, personally. If you get a chance, visit Lake Louise (the place, not the ski resort) and rent ice skates from the adjacent Fairmont Chateau. It’s wonderful skating on the frozen lake, and taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride alongside the lake afterwards is also pretty special. Enjoy, and keep up the TR!
We tried out the guides at Lake Louise today and thought they were great - wish we had taken it up on our first day! The volunteers have been around a long time and provided some interesting facts and history. Meet up times available were 10:00 and 1:15.
Much nicer snow today - they had a bit of a top up over the last 24 hours. Had a great day - beautiful long runs, and not so crusty!
We might take the public bus up to Lake Louise to see the lake over the weekend. Apparently it's only $8 each way. And might take up your suggestion of some ice skating if it's on:)
 

Bpoos

Hard Yards
Mar 17, 2018
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Thanks for the in-depth report, Bpoos! Do you leave your gear at the resort overnight? I read that there are lockers. Part of the reason I plan to visit a single resort on consecutive days is so that we don't have to haul our gear every day. We did that in Hakuba, Japan, and it was not fun.
I couldn't see anyone leaving their gear at the resort overnight, so not sure whether you can or not, although there are definitely lockers. Wasn't so bad taking it on the bus, you store the skis underneath. For one of our trips to Sunshine we had to hold onto our skis inside the bus though. We did Hakuba too a couple of years back, and if I recall, the buses were quite small? These buses are the great big ones, except the ones that go to Norquay.
 
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