What a prospect! I love skiing, so I was very excited to be invited to try the Canadian slopes.
We left from Gatwick, with Westjet. The no frills service in economy is ‘no frills’, but you can use your own tablet to access films and music via the Westjet App, for your inflight entertainment.
Their premium service however has frills. It includes fast track through the queues at security, an invitation to the No 1 lounge, a tablet for inflight entertainment, food and drinks, blankets and, most importantly, the seat is spacious and comfortable.
Arriving in Calgary in the late afternoon we went to the top of the Calgary Tower for great views of the city at sunset.
Calgary has a couple of interesting things to do, and so that evening we went out for a brewery tour and tasting with dinner at the ‘Last Best Brewery’. These microbreweries are the in-thing in Alberta – locals take their own containers to buy the latest or their favourite brew.
Next morning I was awake early and took a walk around the town – lovely shops and restaurants. Then, joining my group again, we went to the Calgary Farmers’ Market where we had a wonderful breakfast at J Webb – a wine merchant (and yes, with a small glass of wine to taste) and then a tour round the wonderful stalls.
We were then on our way to the Rockies, via Canmore, a quaint and pretty little town. There we were introduced to Canada’s number 1 passion: Ice Hockey. We were shown around the Pinnacle Hockey facilities by a professional player with the Canmore Eagles who explained the whole game and its ethic and aspirations.
From here we went to Banff and visited the famous Fairmont Banff Springs for dinner. A beautiful and impressive hotel, it felt like a small town itself with all its shops and restaurants and from outside it looks like a vast castle. The food was excellent. If you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary – this is the place to do it.
Not to be missed is the amazing view from the Banff Gondola of the Rocky Mountains. There’s a board walk to the Summit Ridge, a fascinating interactive museum and the Sky Bistro, serving great food behind glass walls and more incredible views of the mountains. A must to visit.
After a lovely lunch we went on an Ice Walk in the Johnston Canyon which was truly a ‘winter wonderland’ with various frozen waterfalls tumbling down its side before travelling back to ‘Heli Rockies Canada’ for a short helicopter ride into the mountains. It was very bumpy but the views again were amazing. Then, Lake Louise, how lucky to stay at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The setting is stunning, enhanced by their ice sculpture park.
After a wonderful night’s sleep – it was time for the real deal! The ski slopes! Great slopes, beautifully groomed, excellent facilities and stunning scenery make Lake Louise a first class skiing destination.
Not far from Lake Louise is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, the accommodation here is widely spread lodges in a park with a lake, and there’s a great pool/outdoor hot tub area.
Close to Jasper we had a taste of the wildlife tour and Maligne Canyon icewalk (we were given ice cleats to help us across). It was spectacular and our guide was very knowledgeable. Back in town we were given an insight into ice climbing with Rockaboo Mountain Adventures, had lunch at the Famoso Pizzeria and on that brilliantly sunny day, dogsledding at Pyramid Lake. This was great fun and was followed by hot chocolate round a fire pit and a snow shoe walking practice at dusk. Dinner was at the Jasper Brewing Co, another great beer drinking and eating place – well we’d certainly worked up our appetites and thirsts!
Edmonton – this town has lots to offer! Have you heard of the Ice on Whyte Festival? Amazing ice carvings to enjoy and a weekend of food, activities, ice slides, skating and dancing. The ice castles at Hawrelak Park, an acre sized winter wonderland crafted by hand, with a throne room, ice maze and so much more were absolutely stunning (and freezing!).
Our final night was at the Boutique Union Bank Inn right in the centre – just 34 luxury designer guestrooms – each with their own fireplace so we could thaw! We had dinner at ‘Kitchen by Brad’, run by Brad Smoliak, a famous chef who has cooked for the Queen. What an experience – we all wished we had more capacity to eat! That’s another Canadian passion! Food!
Alberta in the winter is a picture book of scenery. The atmosphere is upbeat and positive, people are out and about and there is so much to do and see and experience for all tastes, ages and skiing abilities …