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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trip Planning -- B a n f f

The amount of planning that goes into a trip is hard to really get across.  Once I pick a destination, the real work starts.  The best flights, airport parking, rental cars, hotels, restaurants, bars, planning excursions, museum times and fees, weather, what to pack... is your head spinning yet?  It is a lot of work.  And if you want to do it on the more affordable route, it takes even more planning, comparing prices, watching flights, and doing a whole lot of research to find out where quality and price come together.   An example I tend to use is my Iceland post.  If you could see my 15-page master sheet (or the bible as Amanda and I called it) you would be shell-shocked.  I figured I would share my planning notes for my upcoming trip - spending 1 week in Banff/Alberta area celebrating my 30th birthday 

Here is what planning for a week (and turning 30!) in Banff/Alberta Canada looks like. 

Round trip Hartford, Connecticut to Calgary, Canada 

2/13 to 2/20  
Air Canada
7301, 136
BDL  2:30
Layover YUL 3:00
9:39 YYC
9h 09m
YYC 8:00
Layover  YYZ  2:46
6:07 BDL   
8h 05m

Rental Car
Pick-up:  Tuesday  Feb 13, 2018 - 10:00 PM  Drop-off: Tuesday Feb 20, 2018 - 7:00 AM
Hours:  Open until 2 am 
Cost:  CAD 359.52  ($286.94)
Rental location:  Budget Rent a Car at Calgary Intl Airport (YYC)  
2000 Airport Road Northeast, Calgary, CA T2E 6W5  
**Jeep Grand Cherokee or similar


Lift Tickets
SkiBig3 Pass
Pick up tickets at the Adventure Hub 119 - Banf Ave.  8AM – 9PM 
Total CAD $637.24  US: $508.21 for two tickets
--Daily Ski Shuttles to resorts included with ticket
--Exclusive Food & Beverage specials for SkiBig3 guests only
--Tubing & Night Skiing at Mt. Norquay
--Free Hot Springs pass with 3+ days of skiing
--Free admission to the Whyte Museum with 3+ days

Banff vs. Canmore- where to stay and fun facts
  • Banff and Canmore are both situated fairly close to one another, with Banff being only a 15-20 minute drive north of Canmore. 
  • The biggest difference between these two towns is the fact that Banff is situated within the national park whereas Canmore is located outside the boundaries of the park. 
  • There’s also a regional bus service that runs between Banff and Canmore all day long, which takes 30 minutes and only costs $2 each way. 
  • Banff (altitude, 4,537 feet; population, about 8,300) Cascade Mountain (9,836 feet)
  • Banff- Created in 1885 third oldest National Park. Eastern side of the Canadian Rockies . Unesco World Heritage Site 1984. 
  • Small town that lures 2-5 million visitors each year 
  • Candian Rockies big five: Deer, elk moose, wolf, bear 
  • One day park entry: $9.80/490 good until 4pm next day 
  • Banff- Canada’s first park - developed as a service center for the park created in the late 1800s with tourism. Railway arrives then the cave and basin hot springs were discovered. 1911 road reached the town. Town IN the National Park- new development ceased, the federal government owns all the land. 
  • Canmore- former coal mining town 26 km from Banff
Lodging Options 
  • BOOKED The Banff Rocky Mountain Resort  Link 2 miles downtown pools hot tub          CAD: 1,337.50  US: $1,051  1029 BANFF AVE , BANFF, AB T1L1H8  855-516-1090
  • 1 block from main street downtown, Banff $777 7 nights Link
  • Condo quick access to Banff (10 minutes drive) or Canmore downtown (5 minutes drive) $822 7 nights  small hot tub Link
  • Hot tub heated pool deck views in Canmore, 20-30 min from Banff   $924 Link
  • Grande Rockies Resort Link Canmore 11 mi outside BANFF $818 
  • Canmore $867 mountain view king bed Link
  • Canmore $983 heated outdoor pool Link
  • Canmore 2 BR $788 Less than 5 mins from Canmore downtown and 15-20 mins from Banff. Link
  • Banff park lodge $892 city center hotel Link
  • Red carpet inn city center $789 Link
  • Spruce Grove Inn (SkiBig3 Quote) $982.62
  • High Country Inn (downtown city center Banff) 1 room $876

Ski Resorts
  • Sunshine Village features a higher elevation than its two sister resorts, thus it typically receives the deepest and fluffiest powder
  • Lake Louise  (45 mins/60 km from BANFF) 3km east of Lake Louise village.  Four separate mountains - european skiing  Larger than sunshine village but gets less snow Largest ski resort in the Banff area- Powder back bowls of The Lake.  Sushi at Kuma Yama, located in the Lodge of the Ten Peaks at Lake Louise.  Deck Burger at Temple Lodge 
  • Mount Norquay (smallest).  A long-time local’s favorite, Mt. Norquay is the site of where skiing began in the Canadian Rockies (in 1926). 74 trails—many of which are considered to be some of the steepest in North America.

Day 1 (2/13, Tues): Fly in- arrive Tuesday Night
Day 2 (2/14, Wed):  Banff Visitors Center (9-5) Ski Day 1 
Day 3 (2/15, Thurs): Around Banff (snowshoe, hot springs, bow river, historic site, museum)
Day 4 (2/16, Fri): Ski Day 2 Lake Louise (sushi Kuma Yama Lodge of the Ten Peaks at Lake Louise, Deck Burger at Temple Lodge)
Day 5 (2/17, Sat):  Icefield Parkway * weather permitting * snowshoe Bow and Peyto
Day 6 (2/18, Sun): JC Icewalk, Dog Sled, Fairmont, Dinner 
Day 7 (2/19, Mon): Ski Day 3 
Day 8 (2/20 Tues): Fly Out 

Attractions:  Banff   Trail Conditions
  • Banff Visitor Centre (Open 9am – 5pm),
  • Walk Banff Avenue (main street)
  • Banff Park Museum (10am-6pm) $3.95/1.95 in an old wooden Canadian Pacific railway building
  • Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies Suggested donation $5, (10am - 5pm) 111 Bear street
  • Cave & Basin National Historic Site $3.90/1.90 10am - 5pm May to Oct, 12-4pm Oct to May.  National park system born at these springs
  • Banff Upper Hot Springs. (9am to 11 pm) $7.30/$6.30 The steamy mineral water view of the surrounding valley and Mount Rundle.  Two miles outside of downtown Banff, which stays open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.  Parking lot past the hotel and join the Spray River Trailhead which leads to the Upper Hot Springs. The trail is about 1.8 km and takes roughly 50-60 minutes. but you can soak in Upper Hot Springs Pool.
  • Snowshoe - walk to the Bow River Bridge and follow the Bow Falls Trail to the famous castle in the Rockies, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The trail takes you along the south shore of the Bow River and will take about 25 minutes.
  • Bow Falls viewpoint near Banff Springs Hotel (the grander of the two old railroad hotels
  • Snowshoe Lake Minnewanka: famous blue Banff lake for pictures.  The main road north, past Upper and Lower Bankhead is closed to traffic between November 15 and April 15 to protect an important winter wildlife corridor.  The 4.5 KM (2⅞ mile) closed section of road is available for cross-country skiing.  Snowshoe along the incredibly scenic shore of Lake Minnewanka which can be accessed by the alternate and very scenic route past Two Jack Lake.  You can still drive part of it by heading right (east) after passing the Cascade Ponds. Head to Lake Minnewanka and then return back the same way. Keep a lookout for Bighorn sheep and elk.
  • Banff Gondola, which climbs to a viewpoint high on Sulphur Mountain.
  • Parks Canada Administration Office  for a fantastic panoramic view down Banff Avenue towards Cascade Mountain
  • Vermilion Lakes
  • Snowshoe- Townsite Loop Route, a combination of trails and roadsides for a complete circle around the town site. The lower loop is flat, easy walking and the 5.4 km takes about 1.5 hours to complete. MAP
Attractions- Lake Louise
  • Lake Louise Gondola $28.75/14.25 
  • The Johnston Canyon Icewalk- en route to LL. Johnston Canyon Icewalk traverses a series of steel catwalks that provides a spectacular vantage point of Johnston Canyon below. This 3.2-mile tour winds through a natural cave feature, past the lower falls and eventually to the breathtaking upper icefalls.
    • It’s located only half an hour drive from the town of Banff. shortly after leaving Banff, at the beginning of the Bow Valley Parkway, there are usually mountain goats feeding of the remaining grass.  
    • The trail starts from behind Johnston Canyon Lodge
    • Lower Falls – 1,2 km one way, 30m elevation gain
      Upper Falls – 2,7 km one way, 120m elevation gain
      Inkpots – 6 km one way, 335 elevation gain
  • Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Grab a pair of ice-skate rentals at the Chateau and go for a spin on the frozen lake. Afterwards, warm up inside with afternoon tea and pastries. If you’re feeling romantic or just plain idyllic, and you probably will, sign up for an evening sleigh ride around the lake.
  • Icefield Parkway The Icefields Parkway connects Lake Louise and Jasper, parallelling the Continental Divide through some of the wildest and remote parts of Banff and Jasper national parks. Explore two highlights below or learn more about the area.
    • Peyto Lake, Weeping Wall, Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier 
    • Icefield Center 9-6pm May to October 
    • Bow Lake lookout where you can get an excellent shot of the historic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge across the sparkling turquoise lake.
    • Bow Summit and Peyto Lake
    • Peyto Lake,(SNOWSHOE/SKI) few minutes north of Lake Louise. A short hike from the parking lot brings you to an outlook with picturesque views of the lake and mountains. unique shape and the mountains that surround it drop off sharply into the lake. 
    • In the winter the trail is not accessible, but you can make your way up the snow-covered bus route.  At the far end of the lower parking lot there is a sign marking the trailhead and a wooden washroom facility. Walk up past the washrooms for a short distance until you come out to the snow covered road area. Head to your right up the road until you reach the open area of the upper bus parking lot. It will take approximately 20 minutes to reach this area, longer if have to be making your own tracks.

Dog Sledding Options 
  • Option 1: Kingmik- BOOKED Dog sled in Banff- 1 km away from the Chateau. The Great Divide Tour is our most popular tour. It travels a full 10 miles, from Banff National Park to Yoho National Park thru the Kicking Horse Pass at the Continental Divide. There will be plenty of time to take photos while traveling through such striking mountain landscape. On the return journey, your guide will teach you the basics and encourage you to mush your team home. Duration:1½- 2 hours  
    • Cost: Busy season (CAD 415) US $358
    • Starts 2:00 PM Sunday, February 18, 2018 - arrive 15 minutes early 
    • Bring goggles.  canceled if "real" cold weather (-30 C/ -22 F) or below
    • Gratuity not included 
    • We are at the halfway point between the village of Lake Louise and the Chateau Lake Louise. As you drive up the hill towards the Chateau Lake Louise, we are on the right hand side at the Great Divide parking lot. There is plenty of parking here. 
  • Option 2: Snowy owl tours - pickup in BANFF Powder hound express: 2 Person, Instructor Driven: $380.00, 2 Person, Self Driven: $380.00  -30 minute introduction and instruction - safely learn how to drive a dog team -  1 exhilarating hour of dog sledding fun -30 minute campfire at the end of the tour to enjoy hot beverages and scrumptious pastries
  • Option 3: Howling Dog Tours hotel pickup Adult $179 (low season) / $185 (high season)  tour 10, 12, 2, 4  Two hours  All tours include the option to help harness the dogs, hook up the team, and drive the team
Snow Shoe
Check out: Great Divide Nature Tours, Sunshine Village, The Lake Louise Ski Resort, Discover Banff Tours, Chateau Lake Louise, Mt Norquay, White Mountain Adventures and Banff Adventures. 

  • See the Milky Way in Jasper National Park
  • Surprise corner: overlook stop, view of chateau and valley: 
  • Parker Ridge hike: big views of valley and glacier, 6? Mile round trip, 6500 ft incline: Would need micro spikes?
    • Also has a 1 mile hike to a vista??  The trailhead to Parker Ridge is on the Icefield Parkway between Banff and Jasper. Just right before the Athabasca Glacier Parking Area.

  • Banff Arts Centre (4.5)  $26-40 breakfast lunch or dinner. go for a buffet lunch with stunning 360 views of the mountains
  • Sushi at Kuma Yama, (4.0) located in the Lodge of the Ten Peaks at Lake Louise- apres ski and live music on the weekends 
  • Saltlik (4.0) $$-$$$ Steakhouse with a variety  *Reservation 2/18 8:15 
  • Melissa’s Missteak
  • Maple Leaf Grill (3.9) $$$ in downtown Banff for a very Canadian gastronomic experience 
  • The Bison (4.4): ~30$ plate, “seasonal canadian cuisine”, not too fancy:  Reservation 8:30 Friday Night 
  • Balkan: ~15$ doner / gyro, greek, greek fries: (next to dancing sasquatch)
  • Block Kitchen and Bar (4.5): very small, funky american food
  • Eddie’s Burger Bar (4.4): local burger restaurant, “poutine bar”, 19$ burgers? 
  • Indian Curry House (4.5) good ratings and affordable 
  • Nourish Bistro (4.3): funky mix of food (mostly american?), cool looking bar vegetarian, best rated nachos, fair price 
  • Barpa Bill’s (4.3): quick, cheap greek 
  • Grizzly House (3.9): $$$ “80s style restaurant”, fondue
  • Juniper Bistro (4.6): $$$$ in hotel, 30-40$ plate 
  • Chimney Corner (3.0) (Sunshine Village)

Lonely Planet Food Guide
  • Evelyns CofeBar $ 
  • Wild Flour - Cafe $
  • Cows Ice cream $
  • Brunos Cafe and Grill (brkfst burges) $
  • Coyote Deli & Grill fusion $$
  • Eddie Buger & Bar- burger $$
  • Melissa’s Restaurant steakhouse $$
  • Giorgios Trattoria Italian $$
  • Saltlik Steakhouse $$ 
  • Magpie & Stump Mexican $$ 
  • Bison Restaurant & Terrace ** Candian, fusion $$$ 
  • Maple Leaf Grille Canaadian $$$
  • Le Beaujolais French $$$
Lonely Planet Drinking and Nightlife
  • Banff Ave Brewing Co ** pub 
  • St James Gate Olde Irish Pub
  • Tommys Neighbourhood Pub 
  • Wild Bills Legendary Saloon - western line dancing 
  • Elk & Oarsman- summer rooftop bar
  • Hoodoo club- nightclubbing 

  • The Dancing Sasquatch 
    • Show your Big3 lift ticket to skip the line and cover before 10:30 p.m. (only on Friday).
  • Caribou Lounge in THE DEER LODGE Lake Louise 
  • Wild Bill’s Saloon
  • High Rollers in Banff.
  • Park Distillery (Banff) 
  • Banff Tea Co. in downtown Banff and sip an afternoon cup or load up on a couple bags of your favorite blends.
Sneak in:  Whyte Museum, Cave & Basin National Historic Site, Upper Hot Springs
Others if time: Wolfdog Sanctuary, Banff Gondola, Fat bike tour 

Winter Driving 
The Canadian Rockies’ roads are well-maintained and passable all year round. Yes, there is the occasional bad snow storm, but it’s a small price to pay for world-class scenery and recreation.

Summer Only Activities
  • Moraine Lake The road is closed between mid-October and mid-June.
  • Canoe the lakes- lake louise 
  • Tower of Babel- winter gate closure 
  • Legacy Trail, a 40 kilometer pathway which links Banff and Canmore. 2010 paved multiuse trail  - you can pick up the Canmore Trail which crosses the highway to reach Canmore.  Bike n Hike shuttles 
  • Banff and Canmore linked by 2 additional trails- Rundle Riverside Trail off road cyclists and easier Goat Creek Trail Park Cana website for current status
  • Cycle the Icefields Parkway - 230 km long ow Summit 2088m Sunwapta Pass 2035m North to South Jasper to Lake Louise 
  • Tower of Babel Hike/Scramble
  • White Water Rafting- Kicking Horse River in Yoho National Park, BC. Grade IV rapids. Lesser rapids Kananaskis River and Horseshoe Canyon of Bow River.  
  • Bow River- mellow flow trips 
  • Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival Late October to November 
  • Other summer bike rides: 
    • Sundance 7.4 km RT
    • Spray River Loop 12.5 km
    • Spray River and Goat Ceek 19km one way A to B
    • Rundle Riverside 14km one way  A to B
    • Highway 1 Banff and Lake Louis (serious cyclers)
    • Rent- Snowtips/Bactrax 
  • Summer Hiking - Lake Louise  (Lake agnes teahouse Jun to Oct) 
    • From Chateau Lake Louise- hike to the alpine style tea house- Short and harder- 3.4 km past Mirror Lake up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse 1.6 km further and higher to the Big Beehive lookout and gazebo.  Continue on down to the Highline Trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers
    • 5.6 km one way from chateau to Plain of Six Glaciers- views of victorian glacier another tea house on this oute 
    • From Moraine Lake- walk to Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley strenuous
    • 6km out and back consolation lakes trail ** bear activity Morrain Lake area-  minimum group size of  of four June to September (berry season) 

Pack List
Skis, ski poles, boots
Googles and helmet
Mittens and gloves
Ski socks 
Neck Gaitor/scarf
Hiking Boots
First Aid Kid
GPS and charger
GoPro and chargers
Camera, lens, and chargers
Phone and charger
Laptop and charger
Nonsnow clothing (jeans, tops, etc)
Winter Boots

To Do (week of) 
Travel Authorization on Cards
Verify baggage policies (length does not matter, must be less than 50#)
Figure out parking (Hartford, BDL) 
Confirm Bookings (dog sledding, hotel, car)
Print all necessary travel documents 
Pack dogs bag (charger, login, etc)
Make sure all electronics are fully charged
check the weather

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