Banff, Alberta in the winter

  • 86 km travelled
  • 4 unforgettable sunsets seen
  • 1 skateless ice hockey tournament played

Our five days in Banff flew by. We mastered every person-propelled snow travel method available: snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking and sledding our way through beautiful Banff. We ate enough baked beans to feed a scout troop and prevailed in the face of disaster when Rich lost the can opener. We eye spied deer, elk and snow owls more than a few times and watched northern sunsets light up the sky night after night. Skateless ice hockey games, tree strung snow swings and sub zero campouts made our Rocky Mountain exploration one for the books.

Day 1
Mountain March to Moose Street
The sun rose early and so did we. Like true explorers, we strapped on our boots, zipped up our goose down and stopped at a café for breakfast. After drowning our weariness in caffeine and toast, we embarked on an alpine ascent to our cabin in Banff National Park. Snow-capped Rocky Mountains and myriad visits from wildlife (even a deer!) turned our snow hike into a mountaineering adventure. Although Matt’s cartography “skills” lead us to a few dead ends, by late afternoon we had arrived at our cabin on Moose Street (hope to see its namesake) in time to cook an early supper, curl up in front of the fire and watch the snow fall.
Day 2
Snowshoes and moose facts
After a quick breakfast we decided to hike the hills again, but this time with tennis rackets strapped to our feet! We left our little cabin in the woods to meet our tour guide and geared up for a day of snowshoeing at Lake Louise. I was confident snowshoeing would be a breeze but soon learned that fresh fluffy powder isn’t as light as it looks — this was a winter workout in the best way possible! We trekked up and, in Matt’s case, slid down every slope in sight and learned quite a bit about the local wildlife from our guide (who knew a female moose is called a cow?). On our way back, we passed a spring that was completely iced over while Aleisha was advised by the guide to cease all temptation to “skate” on it. We arrived at our cabin at dusk, filled our stomachs and curled up by the fire with a couple glasses of red wine (after all, our hearts worked hard today).
Day 3
Cross country, down hill
We kicked off the day with bagels and local coffee ready to hit the slopes again, but this time on cross country skis. After a quick orientation from our guide, we kick turned, side stepped and telemarked our way through Banff’s beautiful snow covered valleys. By late afternoon we’d worked up an appetite and after a couple peanut butter sandwiches (note to self: remove gloves next time) we headed back to base camp to trade our skis for sleds. It was great to sit down for the first time in hours albeit as we flew down a hill! Our sledding excursion took us well into the last shred of daylight when we finally called it quits and headed back to the cabin for hot chocolate and a well-deserved stretch.
Day 4
Backcountry camping and car key can openers
We spent the morning packing our gear and tents for a campout in Banff’s backcountry. After mastering a way to fit two days’ worth of meals, four sleeping bags, two tents and a bunch of extra socks into our backpacks, we were off on a snow hike through the wilderness. By early afternoon we’d made it to our campsite where we pitched our tents, unloaded our bags and checked out the shores of beautiful Lake Louise. Aleisha’s portable stove proved valuable but the can opener more so, when we embarked on our first backcountry bean brunch and realized Rich had lost the can opener. From a little ingenuity with some car keys, we managed to have our beans and eat them too! Stomachs full, we headed for the hills and hiked the mountains near our campsite. After several hours, we headed back to camp where we watched the day end in sunset from the comfort of our surprisingly warm tents.
Day 5
Swinging sticks to swinging in trees
It’s hard to believe our Banff adventure has come to an end. We’ll miss the sunsets, the hiking trips and most importantly, the snow — which explains why we spent the entire day playing in it! While we ate our breakfast around a morning campfire, Aleisha spied a swing hanging on the branches of a nearby tree. Within minutes we were lined up like school kids to take our turn swinging through the air. After lunch, Rich grabbed the hockey sticks and we headed to a frozen lake for a much anticipated girls against guys hockey game (which turned into a best of three after we girls beat the guys in the first round). By late evening we’d packed up our gear and readied ourselves to bid farewell to beautiful Banff.