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Banff and Lake Louise


We spent the last week in Banff in Alberta, Canada to celebrate Greg’s 60th birthday as well as Mrs. V’s 30th.  We split our time between skiing at Sunshine Village in Banff and Lake Louise, dog-sledding in Canmore, hiking to icefalls in Johnston Canyon and a little shopping here and there too.  (Mouse-over each image for a description.)


Map picture

We found our house in Banff on Vacation Rentals By Owner. choosing VRBO.com after the fantastic experience we had when we visited Sedona last year.  We weren’t disappointed this time: our abode for the week was a four-bedroom house three blocks from the center of downtown Banff, on the corner of Caribou and Otter Streets.  We couldn’t have asked for a better location, minutes on foot from all the ski shops, bakeries, clothing stores and souvenir nooks.  Canadians sure have it sorted when it comes to food: bakeries with meat pies and sausage rolls, as well as gravy on French fries!  We ended up eating in quite a bit, but did experience the local fare a little, enjoying elk burgers one night at Wild Bill’s Saloon on Banff Avenue as well as the famous Grizzly House.

136D Otter Street136D Otter Street 136D Otter Street136D Otter Street Crammed into the F-150 on the way to the ski hill one morningDowntown Banff at the intersection of Banff Avenue and Caribou Street Downtown Banff at the intersection of Banff Avenue and Caribou StreetOn the way to Lake Louise one morning The Trans-Canada Highway as it makes its way through BanffGreg with the girls on our front porchMe with the girls on our front porch Everyone dressed up for our murder mystery eveningEveryone dressed up for our murder mystery evening

The kids skied for four of the six full days we spent in the Canadian Rockies.  For the birthday celebrations on our final evening in Banff we ate at the famous Grizzly House on Banff Avenue.  The Grizzly House gives a distinctly Canadian spin on fondue: our group ordered three servings of the local Alberta Fondue, which consisted of choice cuts of musk ox, beef, buffalo, elk and venison.  Given the choice of oil or hot rocks on which to cook our food, we all opted for hot rocks and enjoyed cooking our meat on sizzling slabs of granite located in the middle of our table.  A great time, even Hunter Luke was impressed with the quality of meat delivered for our dinner.

On the way to dinner at the Grizzly HouseDinner at the Grizzly HouseCheryl about to start cookingCheryl cooking on her granite slabLuke getting into his fondue Dinner at the Grizzly HouseLuke and Katrina cooking away Greg enjoying his portionBen and Jerry's birthday cakeA turquoise box!

Sunshine Village

Sunshine Village trail map Banff has a small mountain, Mount Norquay, within a few minutes of downtown.  The largest resort close to Banff, however, is about 20 minutes drive from downtown and is called Sunshine Village.  We spent a couple of days skiing at Sunshine, and while the snow wasn’t the waist-deep powder the locals told us they’re usually blessed with at this time of year, we had a great time exploring the slopes.  We were lucky to score a few centimeters of fresh snow the first day we skied Sunshine and managed to put in around 21,000 vertical feet on each of the days we skied at Sunshine.

Sunshine Village upper lodgeOn the chairlift with Cheryl at Sunshine VillageMoguls under the Continental Divide Express chairlift at Sunshine Village

The Continental Divide Express chairlift, pictured here to the left, runs right along the ridge of the Continental Divide.  It happens that the chair also coincides with the border between British Columbia and Alberta; there’s signs on certain chairlift poles stating “Welcome to Alberta” and “Welcome to British Columbia” as the chair snakes across the border between the neighboring states.  The views from the top of Continental Divide Express chair were absolutely breathtaking.  We spent most of our time at Sunshine split between Continental Divide Express and Goat’s Eye Express on opposite sides of the resort.  While there wasn’t quite enough snow to have the super steep areas of the resort open when we were there (Silver City and Delirium Dive), you could see the entrance to both from the top of the Continental Divide Express chairlift.  It is the only in-bounds area of a ski resort I’ve ever seen that actually requires skiers to carry an avalanche transceiver beacon to ski the double blacks contained therein!

Lake Louise

Panorama of the Bow River Valley with Lake Louise in the center, taken from the top of Lake Louise ski resort's gondola

Lake Louise Front SideEver since I was a little tacker I’ve wanted to ski at Lake Louise, the mountain has always been up on a pedestal for me, so it was awesome to be able to ski a couple of days at Lake Louise during our stay in the Rockies.  Lake Louise ski resort is about 45 minutes from Banff along the Trans-Canada Highway.  The resort is on the opposite side of the Bow River Valley from the lake itself (which you can see tucked into the mountains in the center of the photo above).  I thought the views from the top of Sunshine Village were breathtaking, but those from the top of Lake Louise were just something else.  The only other awe-inspiring landscapes that even come close are those in Yosemite National Park and the Chamonix Valley.

Lake Louise Back BowlsPrior to arriving at Lake Louise we had been warned that due to the lack of snow Lake Louise’s front side was very icy.  We thus spent most of our time at Louise in the back bowls.  The snow in the Paradise Bowl was definitely the best we found during our time in the Rockies, great steeps and a lot of fun moguls.  At one point Katrina decided the steeps of the Paradise Bowl weren’t quite challenging enough for us so took Luke and I down an extremely hairy double black called Exit Only located in an area of the mountain called The Ultimate Steeps.  Yes, I was a little worried that a slip of an edge and I’d be bouncing my way to the bottom over an array of boulders!

At the top of Lake Louise's Grizzly Express GondolaWith Cheryl on the Ptarmigan Quad Chair Old PtarmiganLuke on Old Ptarmigan Old PtarmiganLuke and Katrina on the Paradise Triple ChairThe Paradisw Bowl from the Paradise Triple ChairThe Bow River Valley with Lake Louise in the center, taken from the top of Lake Louise ski resort's gondola The Bow River Valley with Lake Louise in the center, taken from the top of Lake Louise ski resort's gondolaLuke and Katrina on the Paradise Bowl Triple Chair The Slate RangeKatrina tearing it up down Exit Only Katrina tearing it up down Exit OnlyThe Slate Range A frozen Lake Louise and the FairmontSunset over Lake Louise The girls with Lake Louise in the backgroundThe girls in the ice castle in front of the Fairmont Lake LouiseLake Louise Lake LouiseLake Louise


Map picture

On one of our days off from skiing we took a trip down the Trans-Canada Highway to the next town in the valley, Canmore.  Canmore is just outside the Banff National Park boundary and thus represents more of a regular mountain town rather than the resort-centric Banff.  Our initial motivation for making the trip was to spend the afternoon dog-sledding, but we also discovered an amazing coffee shop in town called The Coffee Mine as well as a fantastic pub, The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company.   I think Luke could have drunk the espresso-infused stout at The Grizzly Paw until he turned into an espresso bean!  If you’re reading this and thinking of visiting Canmore, make sure you visit one or both of these establishments.

Snowy Owl dog-sled tours Luke, Katrina and I decided to explore the local surrounds whilst the rest of our group spent the afternoon with Snowy Owl dog-sled tours.  We ventured Snowy Owl dog-sled toursup the mountains toward Spray Lakes, in-between the Kananaskas Range and Goat Range.  We hiked out along the western side of Spray Lakes Reservoir, which happened to be the same path Snowy Owl tours used for their afternoon dog-sled runs, so managed to snap some good shots of our crew sledding.  The groups of six dogs pulled a sled carrying two to three people each, everyone enjoyed the 10 kilometer tour immensely, especially getting to pilot their own sleds.  The girls fell in love with their lead dog Excalibur, pictured below, and Greg was pretty stoked about getting to fulfill his childhood dream of taking a dog-sled ride.

Cheryl meeting her sled crewCarol and Greg getting organizedSnowy Owl dog-sled tours Cheryl pilots the sled after Carol and Greg'sThe dog-sledders Snowy Owl dog-sled toursExcaliburSnowy Owl dog-sled toursSnowy Owl dog-sled toursSnowy Owl dog-sled toursSnowy Owl dog-sled tours Snowy Owl dog-sled toursSpray Lakes Reservoir Carol being driven by Greg (middle) and Cheryl piloting the birthday girl (right)Cheryl piloting the birthday girl Cheryl piloting the birthday girlCheryl driving with the Kananaskas Range in the backgroundSnowy Owl dog-sled tours Snowy Owl dog-sled toursSnowy Owl dog-sled tours

Snowy Owl dog-sled toursWhile the rest of our group was getting whisked around Spray Lakes on dog-sleds Luke, Katrina and I hiked down into Banff National Park alongside Goat Creek.  The trail we were on makes its way from the Spray Lakes road all the way down to Banff, meandering its way over 18 kilometers between the Goat Range and Sundance Range.  Would be a fun mountain bike ride during summer!  We also stopped off at the Canmore Nordic Center on the way back to town, where we caught an afternoon cross-country ski race.  No wonder Canada produces so many successful Olympic athletes, with activities like those pictured below for kids to participate in after school.

Goat Creek with the Kananaskas Range in the backgroundGoat CreekGoat Creek with the Sunshine Range in the background Canmore Nordic Center cross-country ski racingCanmore Nordic Center cross-country ski racingCanmore Nordic Center cross-country ski racingCanmore Nordic Center cross-country ski racing Canmore Nordic Center cross-country ski racingCanmore Nordic Center cross-country ski racingCanmore Nordic Center cross-country ski racing Canmore Nordic Center cross-country ski racingCanmore Nordic Center cross-country ski racing

Canmore Eagles hockey gameTo finish up our day in Canmore, Luke and Katrina discovered that the Canmore hockey team was playing a game at the local recreation center.  We all went along and were treated to great game (unfortunately the home team lost) with not one, not two, but three hockey brawls to boot.  And the final melee resulted in one of the opposing team being knocked out cold, how fun!  We discovered that all the British seasonal workers in the area for the ski season frequent the Eagles’ home games to act as an unofficial cheering squad.  It was an excellent reminder of the motivation for countries like Australia and Canada distancing themselves from the power of Her Majesty.

Canmore Eagles hockey gameCanmore Eagles hockey game Cheryl with the Canmoe Eagles' mascotCanmore Eagles hockey game

Luke and Katrina at the Canmore Eagles hockey game

Johnston Canyon

On our other day off from skiing Carol took us down the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon.  The canyon boasts some famous icefalls which were really a sight to see, we walked the 3.6 mile roundtrip in hiking crampons.  Emerald-colored water and window-like ice made the falls just an amazing experience, the photos don’t do Johnston Canyon justice.  Unfortunately Carol had a tooth abscess giving her a lot of trouble for a couple of days during our stay, but she powered through the pain to make sure she got to experience the icefalls.

Johnston CanyonJohnston CanyonJohnston Canyon Johnston CanyonJohnston CanyonJohnston Canyon Johnston CanyonJohnston CanyonJohnston Canyon Me in Johnston CanyonJohnston CanyonJohnston Canyon


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  1. KB says:

    Looks like a great trip, I’m jealous!!! Amazing photos.

  2. Luke says:

    Great photos.

  3. Your Montana Family says:

    What a FANTASTIC celebration!!! Turning 30 and 60 can be a WONDERFUL experience, as you Valtenbergs and Youngs readily demonstrated. Our hearts sing for you!


  4. Katrina says:

    I’m sitting at work looking through these pictures and wishing I was still there! Thanks for taking and posting the pictures. They are fabulous. Good times.

  5. The Wife says:

    What a fantastic trip! I will never forget that dog-sled ride, if you ever have the opportunity and love the outdoors, go for it!
    Thank you to all for spoiling me on my 30th!

  6. Randy & Gail says:

    Great pics!!! What a wonderful 30/60 BD celebration. Especially enjoyed Johnston Canyon since we just did that hike in September. Looks a bit different on your excursion!!! Thanks for sharing again!

  7. Zona says:

    Pics look great! I want to go back!!

  8. Mel Rudloff says:

    My goodness you guys are adventurous. I all of a sudden feel very boring and lazy. Thanks for posting the pics and keeping us Aussies in the loop. XO

  9. Peggy says:

    Fantastic!, thanks, and happy birthdays Mrs. V and Greg. Really making me miss the snow this year.

  10. Cathy Hudson says:

    Thanks. Congratulations Mrs. V on turning 30 and Happy Birthday to Greg too. What a wonderful double celebration. I loved the dog sledding. It looked like a lot of fun. What breed of dogs were they? They almost look like wolves! A good cool feeling viewing these from the heat of the tropics!

  11. Wendy Rosen says:

    You guys sure know how to live. Girls I love the hats – the vacation looked awesome.

  12. Wendy Rosen says:

    And HAPPY 30 and 60!

  13. Sue Newby says:

    Hi, just got around to looking at the trip pics… Fantastic as usual… Sorry we missed the two big birthdays.

  14. The Melting Pot | The Pink Lemon

  15. Greg says:

    A most fantastic holiday. Thank you for your excellent work in compiling the memories!

  16. Chris says:

    Man there are some amazing photos, looks like a great spot. The scenery is just awesome. I gotta get back there.