Banff, February 5-12, 2017 Recap
The sun was low in the sky as the MadCity Ski Club’s chartered coach bus made the 1.5 hour trip north and west from Calgary to Banff. Out of the side windows, the landscape was flat, treeless, windswept, forbidding. Occasionally, a few cattle huddled against the winter’s cold. Then, almost out of nowhere, the Canadian Rockies showed their spectacular faces. No foothills; just the mountains pushing skyward from the plains. We entered the valley of the Bow River, where we would spend the next week in a skier’s paradise. There was a noticeable chill in the air as we got off the bus at the Caribou Lodge. We unpacked, dined and settled in for the night.
We awoke Monday to experience the first of the Lodge’s fabulous skier-friendly buffet breakfasts. Heaping bowls of fresh fruits; breads, pastries, french toast, pancakes, and cereals; potatoes, eggs (scrambled and benedict), sausage, and bacon. Every day! It was minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit that morning. It seemed imprudent to venture out on an unfamiliar mountain in those temperatures, so no one in the group skied that day. The obvious solution? More bacon, and we took in the tourist sites around town (including the spectacular Banff Springs Hotel).
Tuesday was warmer, so out we went; most of us to Lake Louise (via coach bus). The Trans-Canada Highway from Banff to Lake Louise follows the Bow River and its broad valley flanked by naked vertical peaks. Fresh snow had fallen overnight—indeed, it would snow every day or night during our stay. The highway was protected by moose-proof fencing held up by sturdy posts every 15-20 feet. Each of the thousands of fenceposts on the 37 mile route wore a helmet-shaped cap of snow—nature’s signal that a great ski day lay ahead of us.
Lake Louise is built on two mountains with a bowl on the back side of the larger one. Lots of long groomed blue and green cruisers on the front sides, and what appeared to this contributor to be terrifying black and double-black chutes and massive bump runs on the back side. We stuck to the “easier” runs, had great fun, and caught one of the coach buses back to town. After our 12,500 vertical feet, we soaked our tired and chilly legs in the Lodge’s warm and spacious hot tub, and readied ourselves for the first of the Club’s three parties. This contributor’s group returned to Lake Louise twice more during our trip.
On Wednesday, we took the coach bus to Sunshine Village resort. Unlike most ski areas, the base village is about 2/3 up the mountain—a 20 minute gondola ride. The runs go up from there; many of them starting above the tree line and ending in broad basins. The weather was windy and chilly on top, with alternating sun and clouds and snow. This contributor’s gung-ho group skied about 15,000 vertical feet that day and each subsequent day of the trip. Niftiest novelty: a covered high-speed quad lift with heated (!) seats. Oddest observation: wifi hotspots at the top of every lift. This contributor’s group returned to Sunshine once more during the trip.
Sunshine Village and the scenic gondola ride up to the base.
The Club found our Canadian hosts to be friendly, helpful, and cosmopolitan. In town and at the resorts, we saw faces, languages and accents from around the world. On our last day, as our coach bus threaded its way east toward Calgary, the sun was just rising, sending a rosy glow to the sky ahead and the mountain peaks that we were leaving, but will never forget.
March 2017 by Bruce O. (Contributor)