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Friday, March 23, 2018

My Banff Dining and Drinking Guide - Budgets, Bars and the Best Meals of Banff

Budgets, Bars and the Best Meals of Banff 

If you are like me, one of your favorite parts of vacation is the food.  Not having to cook for a week and having all these options of new restaurants and places to try makes a vacation or trip that much better.  But the problem for me, is finding eateries and drinkeries worth my time, waistline, and budget.  Why waste a single dollar or calorie on food that just isn't that good?  

Food options are one of my most researched items pre-trip and I look for high quality, best dive, affordable, and the best splurge night option.  I am proud to say I did a lot of research for you while in Banff and the consensus of where to eat (where to skip) and the best place to watch the Olympics with a beer are in.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dogsledding in Banff with Kingmik

We all have that bucket list sitting somewhere in the back of our brains, or on that scrap of paper tucked into their desk. Mine is sort of a mixture of these, stored on a drafted blog post, written down on that piece of paper tucked into my desk drawer, and always growing in the back of my brain. On that list you'll see experiences like - dive the barrier reef- go on a hot air balloon ride - and - dogsled. I rang in my 30th birthday knocking one of those items off my list, dogsledding through a snowy white tundra. And if you are going to dogsled anywhere, you might as well do it in Canada, through Banff National Park. And heck, why not the day you turn 30. 

Once I had my heart set on sledding into 30, I didn't want to just go anywhere or with any company.   I wanted amazing scenery, history, and a company known for their reputation and care of their dogs.  I did a lot of research which led me to three main companies in the Banff area: Snowy Owl, Howling Dog, and Kingmik. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Johnston Canyon Winter Hike - Banff, Canada

Hiking in winter takes a little more prep and planning - but with the right gear and the right attitude, it is worth the extra layers and (in this case) sub zero temperatures.  Not only is this canyon worth the scenic drive, but you get to enjoy one of Banff's most famous hikes without the crowds of summer.  More gear, less people, and a whole different perspective of Canada - a winter hike to Johnston Canyon is a must do when visiting Banff. 

Johnston Canyon takes winter travelers down a snowy trail with iced canyon walls and frozen waterfalls.  A 20-minute walk (1/2 mile) will take you to the lower falls and if you have the time, another 25 minutes  (for a 45 minute total with a one way trek of 1.5 miles from the start) to the upper falls (elevation gain of 120 meters) one way.   The trail is well maintained and marked, and follows a steel catwalk and raised trail through the canyon.  There are several lookout areas, benches, and various signage along the trail with information about the canyon and this unique environment.  You will follow Johnston Canyon Creek which runs its course through the canyon, mostly frozen, and exposed in certain spots.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Winter Summit of Mount Moosilauke via Beaver Brook - New Hampshire (guest post)

I am almost done posting about Banff.  I have a few posts left including an ice walk through Johnston Canyon and my birthday dog sledding.  While I finish off those post, I have a special winter treat for all you lovely readers.  We are in the middle of March and the snow keeps coming.  So today's post is a guest post, inspiring you all to get out there to those snowy summits.  Today's guest post is someone who is out there tackling real winter hikes in New Hampshire's 4,000 footers.  Let's let Chris take it from here.  

My alarm went off at 3am. If this January morning were a Tuesday, and work was on the other end of getting out of bed and into the car, then the scenario would have been about 5-6 hits of the snooze button. But today was a Saturday, and an unchecked summit on my list of New Hampshire’s 4,000ft peaks was calling my name (eleven down). After a final gear check, reheat of the breakfast I pre-made the night before, and a pot of coffee brewed for the road, I was in the car by 3:45am and off. Four hours of driving later and I was at Beaver Brook Trailhead where I had chosen to start my hike up Mount Moosilauke. There was no overwhelming reason I landed on Moosilauke for that day other than it’s a single peak with no others around I would feel guilty not bagging, it’s not a technical peak to bag in winter, and on this day with wind predicted to be 55mph at elevation, it had less time exposed above treeline than others.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Winter on Lake Louise - Banff, Canada

Are you sick of me talking about Lake Louise yet?  You could say I am a little obsessed with this part of the world, tucked away in Alberta.  So far I've talked about Lake Louise Ski Resort and even a hike/snowshoe which starts at the Chateau and takes you above the lake to smaller Mirror Lake with the Big Beehive looming behind.   This post is just going to be a general overview of the lake because a) I am so smitten with this area and b) I have so many gorgeous pictures I want to share with you all.  

Lake Louise is located just off the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1).  You've probably seen this famous lake on your favorite travel channel or have seen the stunning photos of this turquoise lake on Instagram.  As amazing as these photos are, a trip to Lake Louise is something to experience for yourself.  It sort of stands alone in a secluded area, with the luxury hotel the only thing on the lake's shore.  The charm of Lake Louise in the winter time is hard to entirely capture as you need to see the detailed ice castle, figure skaters, open fires, ice bar, horse-drawn sleigh rides and snowshoe trails for yourself - all while the opera plays on the speakers heard across the lake of course.   Visit after Januarys Ice Magic Festival and you get to enjoy all the amazing ice carvings in front of the lake as well.  

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Snowshoe Lake Louise - Lake Agnes Trail to Mirror Lake - Banff, Canada

Frozen Mirror Lake with Big Beehive in the background

Want to snowshoe to a beautiful frozen lake with a beautiful beehive shaped mountain looming in the background?  Do you enjoy a quiet trail where you will see no one - just the sound of your snowshoes traversing through the snow, deep in the woods, on a well marked trail?   I know just the trail for you.  A winter hike to the Big Beehive and Mirror Lake will take you through the woods high above the lake, granting you a great workout, solitude, and in February in Banff, plenty of snow. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Skiing Norquay - Banff - Alberta, Canada

Remember all those wonderful things I said about skiing Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise Ski Resort?  Well, this isn't going to be like that...  

Let me start by saying, I wanted to Love Norquay - I mean I really wanted to love it.  I read it was a "locals favorite" full of "steeps" and "great snow".  I envisioned Norquay to be like Utah's Brighton, the smaller local mountain (which truly is a local favorite) known for its cheap tickets, good snow and fun terrain.   I didn't need anything fancy- the beautiful lodges are nice but I am happy to sacrifice the glitter for great terrain, a low key feel, and good snow.  This was just...... sucky. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Winter on Canada's Icefields Parkway - Snowshoe Bow Summit & Peyto Lake

Day 3 in Banff was all about famous scenic drives and snowshoes.  After two days straight on my skis, I was looking forward to some different footwear and a change of pace.  My third full day in Canada was all about the XM radio Billy Joel Station, the heat on full blast, cozy layers, lunch packed in the car, and a car full of the gear needed to explore a different spot of Alberta - the famous Icefields Parkway

Map from Parks Canada

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lake Louise Ski Resort - Banff/Alberta- Canada

Day 2 in the Birthday Banff week had my tired legs back in the car for another full day of skiing, this time at to Lake Louise Ski Resort.   Not only was I excited for another day of on the ski hill, but I was going to check out a new area of Banff and truth be told the area I was most excited to see - Lake Louise.  Lake Louise Ski Resort is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Banff, traveling northwest along the Trans Canada Highway.  While the farther trip required an early bed time and earlier alarm, the ski resort is located just a mere 3 km from the lake, meaning you can knock off two activities in one day.  You can skate in front of the Fairmont chateau on a frozen lake and ski the beautiful mountain and ski resort in the same day.  Winter dreams do come true.