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What to do with an "extra" day in Banff/Lake Louise

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I will be heading out to Lake Louise for the first weekend in March. The area has been at the top of my must-get-to list for years but I'm finally making it happen this year. We're staying up near Lake Louise itself and have already bought 5-day "Big 3" tickets, though we'll be there for 6 days. I am inclined to ski 3 days at Lake Louise and 2 at Sunshine (no offense to Norquay, we just feel like our time will be better spent with the other two, plus Norquay will be the furthest from us).


So, what to do with that extra day? Options can either be skiing or non-skiing related. On the table so far...


- Drive the Icefields Parkway (if open)

- Spend the day in Banff. We'll get down there for dinners and wandering around a couple of the evening for sure, but won't have a full day there.

- Ski a 6th day at one of the local resorts (could be you, Norquay)

- Ski Kicking Horse

- Ski Revelstoke. I just learned it was only ~3 hours away which is about my day trip limit

- Anything I am missing?


I managed to ski most major places I have wanted to in North America including repeats of several favorites. Our thinking is that if we like Banff, and we fully expect to, we will have no issues coming back so I don't have to see everything on this trip. I'm told the Icefields Parkway is worth the trip and I am intrigued, but I do like to ski on my ski vacations. No doubt I could spend all six days at the Big 3 and still not experience it all, but damn, to be that close to Revelstoke and not experience it... hmm.


Please, share your thoughts!

post #2 of 19

Uhh is this a trick question??  Ski one of the above is the answer of course.....


There are no "extra" days when the mountain is open and you are there

post #3 of 19

The undeniable logic of UGASkiDawg's notwithstanding, definitely Icefields Parkway.

post #4 of 19

no question




- Ski Kicking Horse


about 80-90 minute drive, if roads are good

well worth the drive.

post #5 of 19

You're missing a lot of stuff.  There are many interesting winter tours/activities there. Who you're going with will impact suggestions. Refer to the Banff/LL tourism site for more ideas.

post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
It's looking like the answer is "all of the above". Thanks all of you - it's all good input
JoeUT - I'm going with my wife and 6 year old son. That sounds like it would lend itself to a non-skiing day but when we tried to have one of those last year on a trip to Utah, or son chose a 7th day of skiing over the air museum in Ogden. He and I are with you on the skiing, UGASkiDawg. The wife is intrigued by the proximity of the other areas if we want to see something different. All that said, a trip up the Icefields Parkway has been the most suggested option and I would love to see it. 
I'm leaning towards a strategy of Icefields or Kicking Horse, and calling it when we are there based on conditions, weather and mood. Kicking Horse seems like an easier option than hauling all the way out to Revelstoke which we can save for a future trip and just relocate over there mid-visit. I'm still interested in hearing other thoughts if anyone has them. Better to have too many options than not enough.
Thanks again all. 
post #7 of 19
I think you've goth good plan, but you could also consider snowshoeing or XC skiing. Some of the most amazing trails I have ever seen leave from the Banff and Lake Louise townsites.
post #8 of 19

If the visibility is decent, then I would most definitely do the Icefields Parkway.  It is a lifetime experience.

post #9 of 19

The short drive to Kicking Horse takes you thru Yoho which is also spectacular. In winter you miss the colours of the glacier fed lakes and a lot of the short walks will be closed so well it's worth a repeat trip in summer. If you like to view wildlife try Banff townsite, park at Bow falls and walk out to the golf course there is usually a herd of wapiti that hangs out there. Sitting in the Upper Hot Spring and taking in the view is always nice on a rest day.    

post #10 of 19

No reason you can't have your cake and eat it, too. Drive the Icefields Parkway up to Jasper and ski Marmot Basin. 


Another thing that'd probably make a scenic drive more fun for the son is hitting the Columbia Icefields on a big glacier rover: http://www.explorerockies.com/columbia-icefield/

post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 

Giant glacier trucks could be a great draw for the little guy, but then that's what I thought about the air museum in Utah - the kid just wanted to ski (I am a very proud dad). Still, he's a bit mercurial at this age so it's good to keep in mind. Also good to know the drive out Kicking Horse is scenic as well.


I can easily see this being a destination we will have to repeat.

post #12 of 19
Originally Posted by Spinning Wheel View Post


I can easily see this being a destination we will have to repeat.

Of course. Even if you get to Kicking Horse, you will have barely touched British Columbia. There's a reason there are so many helicopter and cat operations here.


One caveat about Kicking Horse: It needs a lot of snow to ski well. Check conditions before you go.

post #13 of 19

We did the Johnston Canyon tour one day when we were there last year as we needed a break. We enjoyed it and then did the hot spring in the afternoon. Made for a good recovery day.

post #14 of 19

Will you post an update when you return?  I've been watching the responses as I too will be heading out to Banff &  LL for a week in April with DH.  Would love to know restaurants that are worthwhile, daytrips too.  The reviews on tripadvisor.com for the hot springs are mixed.  

post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
 Will you post an update when you return?


You bet. I've been watching the tread for other updates. Good advice above on monitoring Kicking Horse's conditions as well as Marmot Basin as an alternative. Will give us something to talk about on the plane. If we are having fun we might just wimp out and ski local.


Right now all of my free post-work time has been around organizing and packing for the trip. Traveling with a young kid adds a layer of complexity to everything, especially when you are bringing all of your own gear (and multiple days worth too). Plus, traveling across the border means figuring out the best cell phone option.


Doesn't look like much fresh snow in the forecast but the conditions look decent and the temps are staying down so that's good. It will be cold as hell when we arrive on Saturday but will warm steadily throughout the week. Fingers crossed.

post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
 Will you post an update when you return?


We're back, and the winner was... Kicking Horse. Weather played a big part in the decision. We arrived in Calgary on Saturday March 1 to an insanely cold -17F, which had dropped to about -21F on Sunday as we headed to Lake Louise. Given the dryness of the air and nearly complete lack of wind, we were surprisingly able to ski that day as long as everything was covered up and we had the right insulation. Mercifully it warmed up that night and the rest of the week was varied from the teens to about 30F, with our final day on Friday reaching 40F. The "issue" if you can call it that was the near constant snow which brought with it clouds and poor visibility. We did get breaks in the weather which allowed us to enjoy the famous scenery, but not enough to risk devoting an entire day to a scenic drive. The snow forecast looked good so we set out for Kicking Horse on Wednesday.


With all the snow, the drive was doable but required a some care, particularly the first and last 5-10 miles. We arrived in Golden but couldn't see the mountain because the snow was still coming down. In fact, we never really saw the mountain except for a brief glimpse as we were loading the car at the end of the day. What a mountain it is! I didn't do a ton of research on this place, I know it largely by it's glowing reputation and quick looks at the trail map online. My wife and son decided to take it easy so I boarded the gondola alone and headed up. And up. And up. All I can say is wow. I totally missed the fact that the place had as much vertical as it does, and while I knew it had a reputation for challenging terrain I didn't know how much steepness you could find almost all the way down. It had been snowing constantly for 4-5 days and it was nearly impossible to find a run WITHOUT knee-deep (or more) champagne powder, much to the challenge of my 42 lbs 5-year-old son. Being mid-week, lift lines were nearly non existent. OK, I will stop rubbing it in now.


Amazing day, fantastic place. I get jhcooley's point about making sure there is good snow, it would be a brutal place with lousy conditions. I will definitely find my way back there in the near future, perhaps as part of a guys trip rather than a family ski vacation. I will also make sure not to slack off at the gym so much and be in better shape when I go back. I went big that day and I felt it the next. They are missing a marketing opportunity by not using "Ass-Kicking Horse" as a t-shirt slogan.


 Would love to know restaurants that are worthwhile, daytrips too.


The combination of weather, full ski schedule and general exhaustion didn't leave us much time for side activities. We drove up to the Chateau Lake Louise to look around but didn't get out of the car (it was our first, bitter cold day). We drove around Banff a couple of times and did walk through the Banff Springs Hotel which is cool. As for meals, I can recommend -



At Lake Louise - charming restaurant in the original Lake Lousie train station which was beautiful.



A bit of the beaten path but could be on your drive between LL and Banff if the roads are in good shape. This is where we stayed and we loved it. The restaurant there was surprisingly, really good. I don't intend to be mean by saying "surprisingly", but when you realize this is a resort of log cabins completely isolated in the middle of a 15-mile stretch of side road, you don't expect the restaurant to be as good as it was, and it was great. No phones or TVs in the rooms/cabins and very limited wifi, but I can't recommend this place highly enough as a place to stay. It was a wonderful part of our trip experience.



Very nice restaurant in Banff right on Banff Avenue. Great food, excellent wine list.



The only brewpub in Banff, pretty much your standard brewpub so it's good for a casual evening and a nice reprieve from the GOD AWFUL selection of beer you find in most restaurants. Sorry to end on a bad note, I had to say it. I love Canada, my dad was Canadian, the country has so much going for it but it's the 21st century and if you want to have a good bar you need more than 4 industrial beers on tap and you need something darker than Kokanee Gold! I am a wine snob too and I had some excellent Canadian wines, but come on guys, do something about the beer. Sorry, end of rant.

post #17 of 19

Good to hear you timed it well at Kicking Horse - easily my favorite.

Complaining about bad Beer? Now that's come full circle from when our poorest was said to be better than most American. You really should have gotten to a better bar and tried out the craft beers. There are plenty of good ones. The mass produced beer here is just as bad as what you get mass produced south of the border, mostly the same companies just different labels.   

post #18 of 19

Thank you for your trip report!  Sounds like you had a great time and that a return trip will be in the works.  I am trying to do my annual conferences/CE credits where I can ski, and low and behold, a conference in Banff.  I will look into the restaurant recommendations too.  I am going to give my April workouts a boost for the trip.  With only a week to ski, I really want to make the most of it.  Glad it warmed up a bit for you too and that the whole family enjoyed it.  We just decided that our kids were still not ready for a ski trip involving flying. However, for DH and myself, totally justified.   

post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 

Oh I agree with you on all counts. I remember when Labatt, Molson and Moosehead where premium beers down her - can't recall the last time I saw any of them. Everywhere I ended up be it the mountain bars or restaurants seemed to have no more than four taps, all of which were occupied by Bud Light, Coors Light or Kokanee. It's as if the producers are able to keep the little guys out. Most places in the US these days will have 8-10 taps with a wide variety of styles ranging from the big industrial names to the local microbrewery offerings, and I love getting to try new things when I get to a new area (Ironically, Utah is awesome for this these days). Based on Unibroue alone I know there is good stuff in Canada, I am just surprised it more widely available.

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