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.