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Lake Louise and Sunshine - April 1-3

post #1 of 6
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Day 1: April 1 - Lake Louise


It has been a really warm winter in Alberta. This has meant for comfortable city living, and good skiing in the mountains with moderate temperatures. While our winter hasn't been particularly snowy (at least after new years), coverage has been consistently good. Winds were high, but at least we weren't freezing our asses off!


Unfortunately the warm trend has continued in the spring. While our average temperatures in winter months are well below zero, giving us a significant buffer against warming, spring temperatures are not. It has been warm out there since the beginning of March, and now things are feeling hot. Our spring conditions are 3 or 4 weeks ahead of schedule. Instead of our usual wintery April, it's hot out there! Daytime highs are in the mid teens (Celsius) at the base and low single digits up top. We are still getting overnight freezes, so everything that doesn't face North is hard in morning. Follow the sun as it softens the crud and move onto the next aspect before it turns to mush. Or stay on high north facing aspects all day.


Although I try to get out at least once a weekend, the GF and I had some celebrating to do, so we made it a 3 day getaway (on a budget).


Day One:


We have spring passes to Sunshine this year, so we have been skiing there almost exclusively for the last couple of weeks. We decided it was time for a change, and headed for Lake Louise. I learned to ski at Lake Louise, from 92-97, before relocating to flatter lands. I know the Lake, and although I haven't skied it as much since returning to Alberta in 2006, I really like the terrain.


Feeling that things might be a bit crunchy in the early AM, we took our time getting to the resort. Slept in a bit, and had breakfast at the Rocky Mountain Bagel Company in Canmore. Great Coffee and fresh bagel sandwiches, and it's right off the highway. Recommended for a quick bite!




My GF really likes Summit Cafe in Canmore for breakfast stops. I haven't been there in a while, but it's another good option for anybody on the go.




We arrived at Lake Louise a little after 10, got our tickets (discounted to $70 with the Louise Plus Card) and made our way to the backside. Glacier Chiar to Top of the World and over the top to the goods. We warmed up by taking saddle back to the catch the bottom of the Whitehorn 1 run. The snow was quite good, and a big contrast to what we saw on the front side. Next up was Paradise Bowl from the cornice. The snow here (sometime after 11) had just started to get softer and skied really well. At this point, we needed to de-coffee so we headed to Temple Lodge for a washroom and drink break.


Next up were the Glades between the Ptarmigan Chair and Old Ptarmigan run. These fall line runs were in good shape, despite the occasional exposed stump, but things were getting a bit mushy. We made our way back to the Paradise Chair and Skied ER 6 (Fallen Angel). This steep, rocky slope was still holding winter chock. The sluff under the choke was nice and soft. Best run of the day!


Afterwards we decided that we would focus on the the backside of the summit platter. Whitehorn 1 and 2 had similar snow conditions. Fast, but your edge held nicely. Boomerang/Shoulder Roll had seen too much sun and were pretty mushy. Brownshirt and beyond was closed by the time we got there.


Once the backside closed for the day, we took a final run from the Summit. The snow was super sticky at this point, and it was difficult to keep momentum going even on steeper terrain. The views were nice though! The Lower mountain was very slow going, not helped by the closure of Men's Downhill for club racing. We mostly tried to ski in the shadows. 


Some photos for the day:


Looking across the backbowls. Whitehorn 2 area are the chutes in the foreground. ER 6 is the shaded area in the back.




GF posing along the boundary on the boomerang traverse. Mount Hector is the big peak (11,000er) in the background.




I'm playing around the bottom of one of the Whitehorm 2 chutes.




And just a bit further down




GF on the frontside. Several 11,000ers here, including Mount Temple on the far left. Lake Louise (the Lake) is just right of center.




I'm trying to negotiate the sticky snow on the frontside.




We drove back to Banff at the end of the day and stayed at the Banff HI-Alpine Center hostel. We got a private room with a washroom en-suite. Like the Lake Louise Hostel, the HI in Banff is clean, comfortable, and less of a party scene than the other hostel options. You get a good night's rest here, for a low cost. It is located in the Tunnel Mountian Region of Banff, so it is a bit of a walk to get to downtown, but the area is more scenic. Dinner was unremarkable. 

post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 

Day 2: April 2, Sunshine Village


I have always been curious about the staying at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. I have always recommended that tourists stay in Banff, as the Lodge can be really isolating (no roads in or out, so you are "stuck' once the gondola shuts down), but it is still intriguing. We have stayed in back country Lodges before, but this hotel way up in a ski resort would be a new experience. 


We decided to commit to the Sunshine experience and opted for breakfast on the hill at the Java Lift (inside the lodge, serves starbucks). Breakfast was reasonably priced, but not great. Probably won't repeat.


Check in for the hotel was easy. You drive right up to the Creekside Building, and hand-off your luggage, keeping your ski equipment and anything you might need for the ski day. Staff loads your luggage onto the Gondola and it will be waiting for you in your room at the end of the day. They also give you a priority parking pass. Really painless. 


As mentioned before we have skied sunshine a lot in the last month. As expected, early morning conditions consisted of mostly refrozen junk. Fortunately, the Dive (high, faces north) has been opening earlier these days. We were one of the earlier groups in. The dive was skiing fast up top, and the exit was refrozen crunch, but skiing was still enjoyable.


The exit of the Dive puts you at Goat's Eye. We had hoped that it had soften up after our first lap of the dive (much of the interesting terrain faces south, but our first run was crunchy. We took a coffee break and tried again, hoping to catch some corn. Once were reasonably confident in the conditions we would head to the SouthSide Chutes. The crust was more manageable after run 2, but not ideal. Run 3 was better still, and we were ready to give the chutes a try, but patrol had just closed them in anticipation of further warming.


Back to the dive, we found improved conditions. It skied really nice in the early afternoon, but unfortunately closed at 2. 




After 2 goat's eye was barely ski-able mush. Top of Divide was better. We lapped that until close, with one run into the Tee-Pee Town Chutes. These are almost impassible now with exposed rock.


I'm enjoying an afternoon dive lap here.



From below


post #3 of 6

Nice report and pics! Thanks. I'm heading out in ~ a few weeks........... sounds like I'll need shorts and hiking shoes rather than skis!!! LOL

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

Day 2 (Night)


We ended the day and went to the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Ski equipment is stored in a locker room (locks provided). Our room was on the 5th floor, above the hot tub and Standish Chair. We had a balcony. Everything was pretty comfortable. The room was nicely furnished and had been somewhat recently renovated. We opted for the second least expensive room, so it was a bit small, but more than enough room for the two of us. 


After a nice trip to the hot tub, we went to the "Chimney Corner" restaurant to eat. Food was good, and on par with Banff prices. They have a second dining room, "The Eagle's Nest", which focuses more on fine dining, and has the matching price tag, but I am pretty sure both spots share the same kitchen. The biggest downside of the stay was inattentive service at the restaurant. Drinks stayed empty for a long time, and it took ages to get the bill, and our server said she would be right back with the debit/credit machine, but disappeared.. After 20 minutes or so,  I needed to flag another waitress so we could pay and leave. Didn't see our server again...


I was looking forward to seeing Trappers (the on hill pub, and a good lunch spot) at night, but I crashed as soon as I got back to my room. After a day of skiing, a couple beers and a good dinner is most partying I can handle, it seems.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Day 3 - Sunshine Village


We had an easy morning. Breakfast was at Chinmey Corner, where the service was much better. And the breakfast was pretty good and reasonably priced. Recommended.


Checking out was as easy as checking in. Just pack your bags and call for the concierge. Your bags will be waiting for you at the gondola base at the end of the ski day.


Like the day before, the morning was pretty crunchy. Fortunately we had an inch or two of dust to freshen things up a bit (though they reported no snow for some reason). The Dive was the place to be, and we skied it until it closed at 2. Afterwards, we finished our day at Goat's Eye. Sunday was cooler, and the top was closer to corn than slush, but things sort of fell apart at the bottom. Southside chutes and a number of other runs were closed due to heat concerns. Coverage on the steeper sections of lower Goat's Eye wasn't great. Rock and dirt dodging though isolated bands. I wonder how much longer they can keep this part of the hill going? Hopefully we'll get snow soon.


The ski out skied surprisingly well. It was a bit sticky, but better than the bottom of Louise on Friday. The very bottom of the ski out was starting to look very thin though.


Early morning in the dive. Dust on crust. Surprisingly fun!



Me enjoying some blown in snow




Closer view




The dust on crust on our last lap





So overall it was a good weekend. Late spring isn't my favorite time of year, and it's a shame that we have gotten her so early, but there is still really fun skiing to be had.


Unless we have some significant snow, I will be less enthusiastic about cooler days, especially if you don't want to focus on the steeper, north facing terrain. The groomers are doing a pretty good job breaking up the crust, but most probably don't want to be limited to groomers.


Overall, I enjoyed my night on the mountain. I think it is worth checking out, and I would  do it again.


Hopefully with clear skies for stargazing. 


If you are new to Banff though, stay in town. There is so much to see in the town and park, and you are really isolated when staying at Sunshine.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Yo Momma View Post

Nice report and pics! Thanks. I'm heading out in ~ a few weeks........... sounds like I'll need shorts and hiking shoes rather than skis!!! LOL



Thanks! The skiing is still fun, but more snow is needed. Let's hope for the best. April is often a snowy month in the Rockies!

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