After a horrific 12 hour flight delay in what can only be described as the shittest airport in the world (LAX) we finally arrived in Calgary and hired a car for the hour long drive into Banff National Park. Sadly it was dark so we missed the towering mountains that were surrounding us on the way in, I will admit however, there is something particularly special about the looming presence of mountains at night; big dark shadows blocking out chunks of sky.
We arrived in Banff at around 8 and oh my god I was in love. I had been dreaming of this place since I was 7 when my grandparents went there and I saw photos and I can safely confirm it lived up to every single one of my expectations. It is absolutely beautiful. The town itself is rustic and a fair bit bigger than I expected, with one main street that channels through the sprawling streets surrounding. The best part is that every direction you turn is mountains mountains mountains, my favorite being Mt Cascade that lies right at the foot of the main street (kinda). All the shop fronts are made of wood and stone exactly how you would imagine a ski village to look. All the shops are open till 10 because they get very little business during the day while everyone is on the slopes!
One afternoon on our way home from Lake Louise we stumbled across two chairs looking out over an amazing view of Banff on the road leading up to Norqay. If we had been more prepared this would have been the perfect spot for a picnic.
Lake Louise is the typical postcard sent from Canada although when we visited the turquoise green spectacle was completely frozen over and naturally we decided to walk across it. Unnervingly the ice was incredibly thin in patches and we opted to take the path around the outside on the way back. It was breathtaking with huge, looming mountains surrounding the lake and people ice skating across the frozen ice in front of the Fairmont Chateau. The drive to Lake Louise from Banff along the ice fields parkway road was spectacular and I felt super lucky to be able to drive along it 4 times on my trip.
We went to the hot springs on our first night to warm up after a long day hiking in the snow around Lake Louise (and drinking hot chocolates). Despite the term 'springs' this place was actually a man made swimming pool perched high up on a mountain that had been filled with the naturally 40 degree heated water that flows from nearby springs. We spent at least 2 hours here, chatting to other people who had been up on the mountain that day and watching the sun set over the snow covered town. With prune fingers and a little bit warmer than I'd bargained for we headed back into town for sushi with some people we met. Entry to the springs was $6 per person and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Banff, especially as it is the perfect way to recover after a long day of skiing.
We hired our boards and skis in town and drove to Sunshine resort and Lake Louise resort on alternate days. The temperature here gets down to minus 35 so you need to have your thermals ready. I made the mistake of wearing the same snow gear I wore in New Zealand in late August on the first day up Sunshine and I won't lie I was crying I was so cold and my tears froze and my eyes got stuck together and oh my god please just wear the correct clothes!!! My snowboarding skills improved drastically in my time here. On my last day boarding in Banff I met this super nice guy called Desi who was living in Lake Louise for the season and we rode the mountain together for a few hours. This was probably my best afternoon on the slopes of the whole trip because the weather was perfect and it had snowed 19cm the night before. Out of both resorts I think Lake Louise was my favourite but I couldn't tell you why; I just liked it, although it was considerably further away from Banff than Sunshine was.