Sorry for my lack of news during April… the Rockies were doing the snow thing one day, and the sun thing the next! So depressing to be back to winter when you’ve had your shorts on for a day or two! And, actually the family and I escaped to Oregon for the first two weeks… for some sunny rock climbing near Bend. It was awesome! Not far from where Bootsnall.com reverberate!
It’s spring in the “Valley”. Golfing, bike riding, hiking and skiing….. all in the same day! Let’s report on the winter activities still happening and then get down to valley bottom activities. There are two ski resorts still open:
Lake Louise and
Sunshine has events and great spring skiing until the holiday weekend of May 22nd, called Victoria Day (a big Canadian holiday). The “Shine” has some fun stuff coming up:
May 6: Labatt’s Beach Party
May 7: Live on Mountain Concert – ‘54.40’
May 13: Kokanee Dummy Downhill
May 22: Slush Cup!!! (where the lucky participants take a good run downhill and try to jump a puddle of slushy (COLD) water!).
The Canmore Nordic Centre (home of the 1988 Olympic Nordic Ski Events) offers cross country skiing on 60 km of groomed trails…..for just a minimal time now. And then after the snow melts, the trails become home to some of the most gnarly mountain biking terrain in North America! In July there are two big events:
You can rent or buy biking equipment from Trail Sports.
The hiking trails in the valley bottoms of eastern Banff National Park, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and Kananaskis Country are opening up. The shaded trails out of the valleys hold snow into July! Check the trail reports before heading out. Backcountry, high altitude skiing can be done on our extensive glaciers and icefields. Spring avalanches are a regular occurence, and can be big enough to close major highways temporarily during the next month, so check out the avalanche bulletins for K Country and Banff.
For all trips in the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies, prepare yourself properly. This includes: making sure your vehicle is secured (you haven’t left your lights on!); carrying adequate clothing, equipment, food and liquids; and, arming yourself with good knowledge of trail conditions (links above) and the weather forecast. Also, let someone know your plans, including: the trailhead you are parked at, your intended route and when you will be back. You can also sign out with the national or provincial park visitor centres. Yes, there are people to call if you get in trouble, but cell phones are not reliable or are completely useless in the mountains in Western Canada (especially with frozen batteries).
Getting help usually involves one of your party going out to the road for assistance. Therefore, in the Rockies we have four little words of wisdom: DON’T GET IN TROUBLE!
For a less physical, but equally Canadian experience visit the Banff Upper Hot Springs or take a ride on the Sulphur Mountain gondola.
After you’ve had your fill of outdoor adventures, mountain scenery and vigorous living, get your dancing shoes on and come into town. The Bow Valley is extremely fortunate to have cosmopolitan entertainment, dining and shopping ammenities minus the big city hassles.
The Banff Centre for Arts brings world-class talent in all mediums of the arts for performances, study and teaching. The “Centre” offers everything from informal recitals to world class performances. Because it’s situated in the little mountain town of Banff there is no dress code and ticket prices are affordable. Call or email for tickets, 762-6301, or 1-800-413-8368, or order on-line.
May is going to be JAZZ month, and there are so many pay-what-you-can concerts coming up:
May 9-13: Vocal Jazz – Kicking off the Banff Arts Festival 2000 is the Vocal Jazz nightly club sessions. Always packed to capacity in The Club, audience members enjoy the intimate cabaret setting while listening to 40-50 singers perform jazz standards and improvisations.
May 13: Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan and Canadian vocalist, Vivianne Cardinal.
May 16-June 3: International JazzNow in its 27th year, the Banff International Jass Workshop continues to set the standard for jazz excellence. It attracts more than 70 professional and emerging jazz musicians from around the world who come to Banff to work with an incredible array of guest artists.
Also look for yellow, no sleep at night by Jake Moore with curator Melanie Townsend until May 21. This site-specific installation critiques the history of Banff and the surrounding National Park and explores the dichotomy of Banff as a utopic Canadian vacation destination and site for political intrigue.
Banff has the only cinema in the Bow Valley. The Lux Cinema Centre is found at 229 Banff Avenue, has four theatres with the new releases running a couple of weeks behind the big cities. Tuesday is cheap night, and matinees for the kids are offered on weekends and holidays. Call for features of the week and playing times: 403-762-8595.
Many of the area’s restaurants, bars and nightclubs have live music and special events on a regular basis. Check out all the happenings in a free publication called The Wild Life or pick up a copy of the Canmore Leader and the Banff Crag ‘n Canyon, our award winning local newspapers.
The Bow Valley generously and tastefully shares it’s human and natural history. In Banff, visit the
Banff Park Museum National Historic Site,
the Cave and Basin National Historic Site,
the Luxton Museum of the Plains Indian,
the Natural History Museum and
the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.
Also visit the Centennial Museum of Canmore (behind the old coal cars).
Both the provincial and national park visitor centres are huge sources maps and brochures, as well as educational and entertaining. Be sure to visit the Lake Louise Visitor’s Centre in the Samson Mall, the Banff Visitor’s Centre in downtown Banff, and the Barrier Lake Visitor Centre just inside Kanananaskis Country on Highway 40 South. Travel Alberta Information Centre is located in Canmore at the west end of the Bow Valley Trail.
More than 20 art galleries, Canadian in theme, can be found in the three town centres and within the large hotels (particularly the CP Hotels). Local artisans and photographers display and sell their work, as well as generously contribute their talents to the local school and community art programs. Canmore is known for distinctive craft shops, which can be found on the main downtown street (8th Street). If you want to try your hand at painting pottery yourself, visit Great Bowls A Fire (403-678-9507).
Shop ’til you drop!
You’ll see what I mean. Despite the overwhelming array of T-shirt and trinket shops, there are stores for the people that actually live here, owned and operated by people that live here too. The more technical shops (bikes, ski/snowboard gear, outdoor gear, etc) make it worth your while to shop locally (rather than run into Calgary).
Check out the Bow Valley Survival Guide for more info.
Copyright 2000 Wendy Rockafellow. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited. Photographs property of The M.W. Guide’s Office Ltd collection.
Welcome to the Bow Valley nestled within the beautiful Canadian Rockies, on the western edge of Alberta. Our most well-known landmark is Banff, and in particular, Banff National Park.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, this part of the Canadian Rockies is unparalleled in it’s wilderness appeal and stunning scenery.
If you ask the locals, we’d say that we have one season: the snowy one. But there’s a lot more to it than just snow…
Whether it’s by air or via the world’s longest paved highway, the Trans-Canada, there’s a way to get here. Just be careful on the roads.
Once you’re here, it helps to have your own vehicle, but public transport has gotten a lot better in the last few years.
There’s an amazing choice of international cuisine for all palettes, complete with award-winning chefs to prepare it for you.
No matter what your budget, the Bow Valley has something you can afford or splurge on.
About the Author
I grew up in ranching country of southern Alberta, and moved to the mountains when I was 21.
An Alberta pioneer by genetics, I was one of a very few women to work as a Park Warden (Banff), Park Ranger (Kananaskis) and professional Ski Patroller (Jasper) in the 80’s.
A keen climber since the age of 16, I met my husband on-the-job when I started mountain guiding in 1986. We have climbed and skiied, worked and holidayed in many other mountain areas of the world, and always come back to the Bow Valley.
We live in Canmore with our three young children, and enjoy every mountain activity and blue-sky day the Bow Valley has to offer.