Banff National Park and The Canadian Rockies, Canada

To celebrate mine and Nadine’s 30th Birthdays we booked a long haul, activity packed trip to Banff National Park, Alberta. The trip would centre around visiting the world famous ski resorts in the area and be supplemented with a range of other outdoor winter activities. The resorts of Lake Louise and Sunshine Village have the advantage of upholding high quality snow well into the spring months so it was an obvious choice for me to snowboard during the Easter school holidays – Sunshine Village boasts high volumes of snow due to its position along the continental divide, perfect for cutting through powder during early morning runs (or for falling into – apparently!)

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All the gear, no idea.

Poor Nadine struggled with skiing and probably would have benefitted from a couple of lessons with someone with more patience than myself. But by day 3 she had built confidence and was slowly but reliably making her way down the mountain. I was allowed to abandon her to enjoy some of the more challenging routes in the resort while she recovered from the morning’s frustrations.

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The mountains really are my favourite place to be thanks to the fresh air, the incomprehensible scale of the scenery and the slight aspect of danger of being just steps away from steep falls make them special to me. Oh and the snow as well. Everyone loves snow.

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Following our 3 Days of skiing / snowboarding we travelled about 60km west along Highway 1 to Lake Louise. Continuing the theme of winter sports we hired ice skates and made our way to the cleared ice areas on the lake. It was a bit less smooth than the Guildford spectrum but I proved that I still had the skills I had honed back in the day at the Friday night ice disco!

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The frozen lake was overlooked by the imposing Lake Louise Fairmont Chateau Hotel – a bit out of our accommodation budget but we did have a decent meal there before walking across the frozen lake. These photos, due to the overcast day and abundance of snow, show the scenery in almost monochrome. Both Nadine and I have agreed that we must come back in the summer when the Banff national park comes alive with colour and wildlife are out of hibernation.

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Fairmont Chateau, Lake Louise

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The Banff National Park sets the benchmark for wildlife conservation and other national parks for its preservation of habitats and protection of wildlife. On our trip around the lake we came across some confident winter grey jays. The park has strict rules on feeding wildlife. I managed to find some thawed berries on a bush in the snow and fooled this bird into thinking it was something more exciting…

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The bird whisperer

Driving through the national park along Highway 1, it is easy to become distracted by the amazing scenery and to get transfixed on the tree line looking for wildlife. One such spot had a pull in for us to stop and grab some snaps.

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Understandably, I took hundreds of landscape photos – none of them seem to capture the awesome scale of the Banff National Park.

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Bow Falls

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Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

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Wild elk

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One of the highlights of the trip for both Nadine and I has to be husky sledding in the mountains and across a frozen lake nearby our accommodation in Canmore. As someone who has never owned a dog, I for some reason have developed a peculiar obsession with them in recent years – Maybe I was a dog in a past life. They’re happy, loyal creatures who appear to just love the simple things in life such as walking! The dogs at the Snowy Owl Dog Sled Tours were no exception. I was initially skeptical about dog sledding and whether the animals were being exploited and treated fairly for the pleasure of humans but the TripAdvisor reviews and meeting the tour leaders and dogs quickly eleviated any preconceptions I had.

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Prior to setting off on the hour long sledding ride, the dogs were absolutely buzzing to get going. Their handlers knew each dog by name and personality and the animals were clearly well looked after and happy. The dogs were howling in anticipation of going on the run and hopping up at guests as they petted them. Some dogs had different coloured bandanas on to signify their personalities (green ties for those who could be slightly boisterous and over confident and blue bandanas for the more shy dogs.)

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Guides taught us how to encourage and slow the dogs with set commands – When entering uphill sections of the route the two rear dogs who are the main powerhouses of the team would look back to ‘ask’ for a bit of help in the form of jogging/pushing the sled – very cute.

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So many good boys!

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This guy was from a pack named after heavy metal bands – ‘Metallica’ brother of ‘Megadeath’!

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Nadine is not as keen on dogs as I am and kept a wide berth before the run. Afterwards however, when the dogs were suitably knackered and calm she plucked up the courage to pet ‘Remington’ – Who also appeared to enjoy the stroking!

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Nadine touched a dog! I had to get a photo.

Vermillion lakes are just outside the town of Banff and are a hotspot for wildlife during dusk and dawn, we saw some elk but no bears or wolves at this location.

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Vermillion lakes thawing more by the day.

More landscapes… These were taken along the famous ‘Icefields Parkway’. I had initially been concerned about travelling down this smaller route in the Rockies as the road conditions are said to be unpredictable and susceptible to avalanches at this time of year. Being a bargain hunter, I had also opted out of the winter tyre package for our car hire. So we ventured onto the parkway with the view of getting as far as we could and if it got a bit dodgy, I would turn back. The roads however, were clear and dry and the scenery – simply epic! We were lucky to get some excellent sunny weather for the road trip too.

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I walked into the silent woods alone to grab some photos. I couldn’t help but feel slightly concerned that there may be a grizzly coming out of hibernation nearby.

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Bear country

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The following day we hired some crampon spikes to hike along a river in the Grotto Canyon. The area was deserted and completely silent. This hike would have been impossible to complete without spikes as we were walking along the frozen river.

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At the end of a 30minute trek atop the creek we were met by a set of frozen waterfalls.

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Canada made for a memorable trip and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I visit – perhaps next time in the summer when camping, mountain biking and hiking will be on the cards.

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