Friday we headed to Kicking Horse Ski Field, as I was feeling well enough, and there had been a bit of fresh snow the day before. We had been holding off going to Kicking Horse, as we were being fussy, and wanted fresh powder. The weather is being fickle with us though, and providing us only with foggy days, or clear sky days, and pretty much no fresh snow. The first world problems!
Kicking Horse is mostly intermediate and advanced terrain, and it was a bit of a challenge for us, with very little new snow, and lots of large moguls. It was also very cold – hard to feel how to steer, when the front half of each foot is numb! We both had sore feet problems, on top of the cold. They have a gondola that goes all the way to the top of the field, which is pretty cool, but it is a long ride, I think it was just under 15 minutes.
We overall had a good day, but occasionally wished we had certain crazy skiiers with us to take us crazy places! As we would often take the easier path, as it was.. easier! Sore feet makes you pick the easier path too >< We did do some challenging terrain, found some freshies, and zoomed through some more trees.
The ski area is home to a rescued bear, who in Summer, roams over much of the mountain, and in Winter, sleeps in an enclosure in the middle of the field. The bear area is fenced off, but you can zoom past the Winter enclosure, even if you can’t see the little bear. Unfortunately I was going too fast to stop and take pics of his house. From the gondola you can see down into his territory. They can’t release him back into the wild, so they keep him as an ambassador for his species.
We stopped in Golden on the way home, and bought some new headlights, which we shall try out next time we go out at night, and perhaps we will be able to see the road without having to put high beams on! We can dream.
We worked Tuesday and Wednesday, but I woke in the early hours of Wednesday wanting to barf, and that continued the day, with me feeling lethargic, nauseous and weak. I mostly sat on the couch and watched media, while Dale did the work. Luckily there wasn’t too much to do.
I was feeling much better on Thursday, but still wasn’t 100%, so we took it easy, and went on a driving day trip past Banff.
We stopped in Canmore for lunch, in a lovely bagel bakery. Delishuz. Picked up some cheap previous-day bagels to put in the freezer for later.
We wanted to see if we could easily find the edge of the Rockies, and we definitely did…the mountains just kinda wind down to flat, then you come out from between two mountain ranges, and there is just flat ahead of you. It was a lovely day, so this clear winter blue sky just stretched out ahead of us. There was some forest, but a lot of farmland too, even though it was covered in a layer of snow. Not as much snow as in the rockies though, the piles at the side of the road were little, and you could still see the fenceposts, and there were horses grazing in some of the paddocks. I guess they get less rainfall there?
Once out in the open, the speed limit turned out to be 110km/h, and there were signs saying “Aircraft Patrolled”. Dale was amused, as was I, as he had thought they were signs only in movies, not irl (in real life), so it was interesting to see. We didn’t test out their resolve, however, and we stayed within the speed limit. There were also many signs warning of wildlife on the roads. I guess it is not like NZ, where the biggest thing you might hit is a wallaby. Elk probably make a slightly bigger dent in your car.
There are places along the highway between Field and Banff, that have large bridges across the road, and I couldn’t figure out what they were for for ages, I thought perhaps they had put in overpasses in case they needed them in the future.. but they have trees on them, and are quite wide, and I think they are bridges for the wildlife to cross, so they don’t get squished, and it’s not so stressful for them.
We eventually turned back and headed back to Banff, saving the visit of Calgary for another day. In Banff, we stopped at the Cascade Waterfall, which was frozen solid, in majestic spray over the edge of the rock. There is a walk to the base of the waterfall, but we didn’t bother, as it would have been hard to distinguish between waterfall and snowbanks. We did help dig out an aussie, who had got her car stuck in the snow at the side of the road…I think she didn’t realise she would sink into it when she drove on the edge.. Not much snow in Melbourne to base her experience on!
We headed into Banff, it was a lovely clear day, with epic mountains all around. We drove through town, past the ice rink, and the cute little shops, and the ice wall that had been put up in town, and drove to Surprise corner, where we had a bit of a view from the top of Bow Waterfall. We wandered a bit, nearly slid off small ledges that had sheet ice under the snow, and generally decided it was too cold to do much, as it was about -15. Chilly. Face started freezing.
We drove back around to the other side of the river to view the falls from the bottom, and guess what? Mostly frozen!! It may seem boring to read about all these frozen lakes and waterfalls, but I love it. Water that was flowing, is mostly stopped, or at least diverted. I love seeing all the ice hanging from rocks, waterfalls literally frozen in time. All pretty and deep aqua and blue.
At this particular waterfall, I think a fair amount of water was still flowing under, and one point over the far side it hadn’t totally iced over, and there was a bit of a crack, with mist/water vapour rising from it. I am unsure why it does this, and couldn’t find anything on the internet, perhaps cause I don’t know what the process is called. It can’t be melting, as it was freezing out, and not getting any warmer. I know mist rises above the river on some days, my best guess is that the flowing water reacts to the cooler temp of the air or the ice around it? I know sublimation is when ice changes straight from solid to gas, without being a liquid, so perhaps it is something to do with that? If someone could explain it for me, that would be great!
Anyway, after checking out the frozen waterfall, pretty river, and trying to read the signs in French, we hopped back in the car, headed into town to do our groceries, then zipped off to home. The thermostat in the car hit -22 degrees c, and home was the best place to be.
Monday we decided to go and snowshoe up to the Yoho Pass, as we had done a days practice on the flat, so we would be awsum! We were late leaving, as Dale had a phone call at 10am, then we were just plain slack in getting going.
We rugged up super warm, as it was.. cold out. Which is not new. I had a thin and thick icebreaker, my foofy (which is my name for my feather down jacket), and my new windbreaker. Plus a couple of layers on the bottom, a balaclava, hat and scarf, gloves, snow pants, snowboard boots. We drove up to the lake, and strapped everything on, including our snowboards to our packs, and then we started off (if we were walking up a hill, the very best way to get back down, is snowboarding!).
It was warm and pleasant on the lake, with the sun shining down. We took a route along a trail, where the topo map said there was a bridge, but it took ages and was uphill, and we didn’t find it, and decided we were heading too far up the wrong hill, so we walked/slid down the side of the valley, and trekked across the snow till we found the x country ski trails, and followed those for a bit. We found tracks of some animal.. at the time we thought perhaps a coyote, but in hindsight I think perhaps a bobcat? But I’m not entirely sure.
We found a cute river, and eventually reached the end of the lake, then started the long slow uphill. It was interesting, but hard work: you have to lift your feet up high, as you sink into the snow slightly, and you also have to lift your feet as you are climbing a hill. You can’t walk straight up a slope, as you mostly just slide down again, so you have to zig zag. Steep slopes are hard, and you have to make sure you don’t stand on your own snowshoes, because if you do, you will trip yourself up, fall over, and then end up crawling over the last little bit of ledge, as it is easier than trying to get your snowshoes under you to stand (I only did that twice).
It was fun though, and the day was sunny. We practiced picking routes out of avalanche danger; the avalanche danger was low, it hadn’t snowed in a week and a half. We picked our way up, and ended up eating lunch about 3pm on top of an outcropping of rocks. We hadn’t made it to the pass, but we had chosen that as the furtherset point we were going to go, as we still had to get down (which would be quick, re boarding), and walk back across the lake before it got too dark.
It was, literally, the prettiest place I have ever eaten lunch. We were on a bluff, blanketed softly in a poofy cloud of rainbow sparkled snow, and the snow was marred only by squirrel prints (for a while, then I had a run around). We were surrounded on all sides by jagged mountains and cliffs, some with snow, some with bare rock, and the lower slopes all lined with velvety green trees. Behind us was a frozen waterfall, and in front of us was the perfect flat of the frozen Emerald Lake. It was warm and sunny (as it could be). It was quiet and wonderful, and the sky was big and blue overhead.
Lunch was egg sandwiches, and hot noodles, then after lunch was running around, chasing squirrel prints, and ruining all the perfectly smooth snow. No one had been where we were, for at least a few weeks. It was great. Lots of people cross country ski around the lake, and the flat bits around the lake, but not many venture up into the hills.
We strapped our boards on, and got some amazing back country freshies, and the zoom down took maybe 5 minutes (compared to the up, which must have been 2 hours), but it was the best, and a ridiculous improvement on walking down the hill.
We reached the bottom, and made it to the lake as the sun was going down. Dusk is neat with snow everywhere; snow reflected the light left in the sky, and the whole place kinda glowed, and we walked back over the lake to the cars in the the clear dusk light, and it was amazing.
Our feet were very sore by the time we got back to the car, but we were happy tired, and headed home to the warm.
The Yoho Blow Daze was on this weekend, and is a yearly Winter celebration in Field, which is located in the Yoho National Park. It is a real community gathering; they have ice hockey tournaments, pot luck dinner, downhill ski comp, Bocce comp (similar to petanque), human bowling, fun inside games and competitions, and even a band!
The Yoho Blow is the term for a particular storm that can come howling through the valley, with masses of snow, and winds of over 10okm an hour, and very negative temperatures.
We worked Thursday till Sunday, but only Sunday was particularly busy, with people checking out, and a fair bit of cleaning. The other crazy job was scraping the ice off the carpark, which, honestly, I enjoyed for the first half hour, as we made progress, and it was satisfying. All the time after that, though, I didn’t enjoy, as arms were tired, and it was cold. It took two sessions, but we eventually got it clear.
Friday night was nibbles, and “Minute-to-win-it” games, where you had to do a certain task within a minute. The were fun, some were hard, but everyone seemed to have a good time. Ended with a Christmas tree bonfire.
Saturday they had Bocce tournaments, where they have a small ball, and big balls in two colours, and groups of 2 teams of four people. I think the team to get the most balls close to the small one wins. They played this all through the streets of town. They had a scavenger hunt, and sculpture building for kids.
We took part in the relay, which was a trivia question (which Dale already knew the answer to), sawing a log, running and climbing over snowbanks in snowshoes, throwing axes, cooking eggs, and towing a sled, ending with a shot.
It was very fun, and I reckon the hardest bit was sawing the damn log. Saturday night had Willhorse, a local band, playing. Thoroughly enjoyed it; we managed to be in town for one of the social nights in Field!
Sunday was more hockey, downhill skiing, human ten pin bowling, and then a lovely pot luck dinner. A thoroughly enjoyable weekend, and it was cool to see the social side, and everyone in town joining in.
No new snow, but it was mid week, so there were very few people, and a severe lack of lift lines, which was great. I got sore feet, which is not great. But we did a few kms over the course of the day, and I got a top speed on 59km, and a maintained speed of 51kmh, which is pretty awsum for me. It was almost sunny, with clouds and sunshine patches coming and going. We could see the mountains around, with massive ice packs at the top. Not much else to say about the day, just a few pics!
The next day Dale was doing some more study, and I relaxed with crochet and tv. I like the Nat Geo Wild channel, it has a vet show which is interesting, and there are lots of animals! Just what I need.
We headed over to Banff about 4pm-ish, to a lovely sunset over the mountains, and then did some grocery shopping. The Safeway in Banff only had baskets (apparently you had to pay for a trolley, wut?), so we lugged around heavy baskets while we bought everything we needed. We end up buying lots at once, as we only go to the store once a week or so, as it is a bit of a trip.
After shopping, we headed over to the Banff Brewing Co again, for another screening of the Banff Movie festival thing. Had lovely dinner, and delishuz poutine, and amazing videos.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned Poutine, but it is definitely a thing here. It is a dish, with fries, covered in cheese curds and gravy. Different places do variations on that, and some is definitely better than others. Our first poutine was from a fast food place (mistake!) and was mostly just soggy and salty. Our second try at poutine was at the Banff Brewing Co., and it was amazing. We had it with all the usual, and sour cream. Delishuz. I am surprised I didn’t take a picture of it!
At the raffle, Dale won a hot pools pass, and then the people at tables around us left, and they gave us their tickets. One of them won me a Patagonia windbreaker, which was pretty awsum, the right size and everything.
Today we borrowed some snow shoes from Craig, and drove to Emerald Lake, only a few mins from Field. We had to de ice the car, and it was cold enough that ice crystals had grown along the inside of the windscreen. Cold, but very pretty.
We stopped at a place called Natural Bridge, where the river has carved out a path under the rock, leaving a bridge of rock above it. I think more impressive in summer, now it was just covered in lovely foofy snow.
The lovely colour of the lake could have been anything, as it was frozen solid, and covered in snow. Flat, white and smooth. The whole place was ridiculously pretty. A lake, ringed by mountains, and the lower slopes covered in mostly coniferous type trees, with dark green needles, and everything dusted in snow.
We rugged up pretty well, and awkwardly put our snow shoes on near the car. Good thing we had rugged up, coz man, it was cold. I think that was the coldest I have been since we got here. The car temperature gauge said -18…. I don’t know if it was quite that bad, but my fingers were painful, my toes were numb, and I had to cover my face.
Once we got walking and warmed up a bit, and got out into the sunshine it was better though. It was definitely more chilly between the trees, and the ones that didn’t have sun had ice growing all over them, and draping of the ends of the branches and moss. We walked around the edge of the lake, on the lake, for the first part of the journey, then took a side path off into the trees and drifts, then got onto the snow shoe path. It was very pretty, if a bit cold.
A bit awkward to walk with snowshoes on, you kinda have to walk like a duck, waddling like, so you don’t stand on your own snow shoe and trip yourself up. Coz that is not a good look.
We found a place where a small stream entered the lake, and there were free flowing bits. Near places where the ice wasn’t covered with snow, and around other peoples tracks, ice crystals were growing all over the place. Some were like tiny little bushes of crystals, others were long and thin… they were all super pretty and delicate and sparkly. The snow made a clinky tinkly sound as you stepped on it in the colder parts, where ice crystals had grown over everything. The snow that got sun was more swooshy.
We made it all the way to the end of the lake, where we went off the track, and just wandered through the lightly forested area, with small trees, and lots of drifting snow. Only fell over once, and that is where my feet kinda slid into a hole and got stuck where the branches caught my snow shoes. It is hard to walk backwards, turn sharply, or pull your feet up with them on: to get out I had to roll around a bit. To go backwards requires probably more skill than I have, and to turn, you have to make a bit of a circle.
It was fun though, traipsing across the top of deep snow, where no one else had been, with nothing but trees and snow drifts around you. Dale found us a nice fallen tree trunk, and we cooked some soup and ate sandwiches. It was delishuz, as food often is when you’ve worked for it.
After lunch was more traipsing, and finding the poor trees that had a massive buildup of snow on them, and rescuing them, while trying not to let the snow hat fall on you. I may have had one fall on me, as I couldn’t move backwards! Silly Becca.
We found the track, and made our way back to the start of the lake. We were walking in to the sun, and the snow, that had continuously slightly melted and then refrozen in crystals, was the most amazing glittery rainbow in the world. Screw diamonds, this was so much prettier. Rainbow flecks everywhere. I couldn’t get a picture of it, but I had nail polish when I was younger, it was clear, but had rainbow glitter in it, and the different colours would change in the light. It as like that, but prettier, and so very, very sparkly.
It was a lovely clear day, there were mountains all around, and we didn’t freeze 🙂 Driving back home was lovely, blue skies, with a view of the town, as huge as it is.
I made a delishuz banana sour cream cake, and we ate it for dessert. Might have to go for another walk tomorrow.
Finally stopped snowing yesterday, and now we have a sunny day today. A balmy 1 degree c!!! The roads are all clear, and some are even dry.
After working for a couple of days, we have a couple off, so today we went back to Lake Louise Skifield, as it is so close.
We both had sore feet for a start, and for half the morning I forgot how to snowboard, but by the afternoon we were both zooming around. We got to ride the gondola, which was warm, but a little crazy, as you put your board in a little pocket on the outside, and it looks like they will fall out… but of course they never do.
My favourite run was from Ptarmigan lift, pretty much straight down beside the lift, through the trees. They have selectively cleared the trees, so you are definitely zooming between the trees, but at least they’re not all squished together. It requires a bit of concentration, and leg work, but makes for a fun afternoon, swooshing one way then the other, grabbing branches when needed, and finding hidden pockets of powder.
On the other side of the valley, down from Larch Lift, there is another area, a bit more closely wooded, with a relatively flat traverse through the trees. This was a bit crazier, and there was more powder that was untouched at the bottom. The downside to this was that if you went off the track a bit, or took a wrong turn, you ended up thigh deep in powder, and usually floundering around, unable to get up. It was funny, but very hard work. Hopefully we have some good videos of zipping through the trees, and Dale will put them up later! One good thing about falling over is that you lie there, and if you’re lucky, you get to see a super cute little squirrel running around a tree above you!! That’s a good thing about trees, there are squirrels.
After last ride up at 4, we zoomed down to the car, and headed home to change. We then drove over to Banff, where they are having a film festival evening on Wednesday evenings, at a local pub. Go, get food, watch cool movies. The moon was coming up as we were driving, huge and round, and lighting up the snow on the surrounding mountains. It was very pretty.
Our car has cruise control, which I never saw the use for before the americas, and the massive long, pretty straight highways. I drove for 40 minutes before I needed to change my speed at all.
We are living in Field for the next four weeks. We are working a few days a week in return for accommodation, at a little hostel called Fireweed. It is cute and tidy, and we get our own house to live in while here. It is great, nice and tidy, and super warm – as in we can sit around in t-shirts, while it is snowing outside. Much better than any of the hostels we have stayed in so far.
Field is a good location, right in the middle of the rockies, 20mins drive to Lake Louise Skifield, and between 1-2hrs drive to get to like four other skifields. We are surrounded by steep mountains, trees, and a lot of snow (and squirrels, and elk!). Field is just near the border of British Columbia and Alberta. An hours drive will get us to Banff. The roads are good for being covered in snow most of the time, the road by Field is the main Highway that heads east, so it is quite big, and they clear it regularly. Occasionally gets closed for avalanche control.
Sunday we woke very late, nice to have a permanent place to stay, and getting a decent sleep in. We were a bit sore from boarding, but I went for a run anyway. Met the elk again, they were wandering along the back road out of town. There was sun around, so the whole thing was lovely and pretty, and I could see mountains everywhere.
After breakfasting (at lunchtime), and getting sorted, we headed back to Lake Louise, this time to look at he actual lake. It is quite pretty. It is mostly frozen over this time of year, and covered in a layer of snow. They had brushed the snow of the closest part of the lake, and had set up a free ice rink, complete with Ice Castle. That was very pretty!
There is a massive hotel, the Fairmont Lake Louise Chateau, probably quite fancy, sitting at the end of the lake. We walked up to the other end, stepping off the path occasionally for the horse and sleigh that went past occasionally.
There were also people cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. At the end of the easy track was a waterfall, all frozen and solid, and a deep icy blue colour.
Monday was work day, and the hostel work is pretty easy. Shovelling 20+ cm of snow is not fun. We have to keep our place clear, the hostel, carpark, and then 6-7 other places around town – just walkways and footpaths. A little bit is easy and quick. A lot is not. Especially if all 30cm of snow from the roof has slid off and landed on the path. A good workout though.
Today we awoke early, and and got ready to head up to Lake Louise skiifield. Craig, the owner of the hostel, had offered to take us skiing, and show us around the mountain.
The Snow report told us that there had been 17cm new snow overnight, which was very exciting! We packed up our gear, and stepped out the door. Silly me, didn’t even think that 17cm on the field meant we would likely have snow too, and there’s a chance it was over 17cm! I stepped out of the house, and was exceptionally surprised that there was Snow all over the cars, snow all over the steps and snow everywhere!
We piled into the van, and zoomed off over the snow covered roads to Lake Louise skifield, only 20 minutes drive away! Talk about convenient. There was snow everywhere, and we sorted ourselves out and managed to get on the lifts before 9am. It snowed most of the day.
The runs were ridiculous, it was everything I had dreamed of, boarding in Canada. There was powder, there were trees, and we got to go swoosh swoosh through them, with powder flying everywhere. There were times it was so deep, you just floundered around if you fell over, and one time I almost got sucked in by a tree – a depression forms around the trunk, but the snow keeps getting higher, and if you fall down by the trunk it can be very hard to get out, especially if you go headfirst! I got stuck near a tree, but luckily only a small one. Only crashed into one other tree that I remember, so that’s good.
My app told me we boarded over 21km today, quite a distance! And I didn’t even track all the runs. I’m sure we’re gonna have sore everything tomorrow, but it was epic and amazing.
As if that wasn’t enough for the day, Craig texted me just after dark, to let me know there was a herd of elk wandering through the snow near the house. I could see them out the window. We threw our snow gear back on, and crept around the snow piles to look at them. They wander around town at night some times, apparently. The are quite large, but wander relatively easily through quite deep snow. In some places, you couldn’t see their legs, just their body, as the snow is so deep. They were scraping the snow away to get at the grass below, and delicately nibbling the trees. Some had pawed away an amount of snow in a circle, and then sat down in the hole they had made, so only their heads were visible above the snow. Perhaps this is warm for them!
It was very hard to get any photos, as it was dark.