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Banff, Canada

Date: Feb 2-9 2012
Trip Leader: John Kelly
Trip Assistant: Bogdan Ungureanu

 

Banff was a great trip and one of our largest groups with 61 people. Most of us met very early on Sat morning, Feb 2nd, in the Ericsson parking lot (former Telcordia). As everyone was on time, we quickly loaded the bus and got to Newark airport according to plan. The boarding was a little bit of a hassle as Air Canada was very slow, and our group created a significant line, but in a happy end everybody made it into the airplane all right. The flight was good and offered great view as  we approached Calgary.


 

Once landed in Calgary airport, due to the large size of the group, we had a number of people leaving with the first bus while a few of us remained in the airport to wait for the people arriving from San Francisco and from Seattle. About 45 min later the second bus was on its way to Banff. The mountains were now getting closer.

After the short 1.5 hours bus ride we arrived at the impressive Fairmont Banff Springs hotel People scattered to settle down into their rooms, then used the afternoon to go into the little yet nice and quaint “downtown Banff”, a brief 20 min walk from the hotel. The weather was great and the views from some of the rooms were filling us with anticipation for the great days of skiing ahead. At 5:30 we had welcome reception with representatives from the hotel and from the ski areas.  It was a really nice meet and greet and everyone was happy to receive their lift tickets and the $40 refund that the club was able to share with the trip members as a result of the discounts achieved for the larger group in the trip.

From the next day, Sun Feb 3rd, through Fri Feb 8th, people enjoyed great skiing at the three different locations listed below, offering a combined total of almost 8,000 acres  of skiable terrain. The “big 3” were available via a free shuttle (with the tri-area lift tickets) that stopped right at the hotel.


 


Sunshine Village

Straddling both Alberta and British Columbia provinces and the Continental Divide, Sunshine is Canada’s highest elevated resort. From the shuttle bus stop we took an eight person gondola to get to the mountain base area. We were lucky to get some fresh snow in several of the six full days of skiing we had available.

The Great Divide Express quad was a very popular option for all ability levels and offered some of the best large bowl skiing.

 

The Mount Standish express and the Wawa quad offered access to great blues. Several of the experienced people in the group had some excellent descents on the funny named double blacks (“Think Again”, “Far Side”, “Wild Side”) and blacks (“Mother in Law”, “Cleavage”) accessible via the Goat’s Eye Express quad.

 

On Wed Feb 6th four thrill seekers went on to try the famous Delirium Dive. It was a great experience that I will never forget. A very determined member in our trip signed up for a private advanced instructor/guide from Sunshine Village’s ski-school program. Since this allowed for up to 5 skiers in the group, three of us met at 1 PM in front of the Old Sunshine Lodge and joined in the adventure. After testing our abilities in two rides on the regular chairlifts and slopes our guide took us up to the Dive gate. As we were all given radio transponders, the electronic gate opened the way to the short ascent on foot to the dive’s “launch point”. We were lucky to have nice weather and good snow that afternoon and we succeeded to get two descents.

FYI, Travel and Leisure rates Delirium Dive as No. 2 in the World's Scariest Ski Slopes: “The topography of this off-piste free-ride zone (it starts with a horizontal rock band that funnels into a tight channel) paired with its ludicrous pitch (much of it around 50 degrees) makes it extremely avalanche-prone. So much so, in fact, that only skiers outfitted with a radio transponder (which, of course, helps rescuers find you in an avalanche) are allowed through a special gate that accesses it.”

 


Lake Louise

When we went to the Lake Louise ski area, the shuttle dropped us off right behind the Lodge of the Ten Peaks, an impressive log building.

This is a 4,200 acres ski area spread across four mountain faces and offering some of the most spectacular bowls and high alpine terrain one can find in the Rockies. The views from the different top points were indeed something we won’t forget soon.

The Front Side / South face has 1,100 skiable acres and you get to the top in one shot via the Grizzly Express Gondola, or by riding The Glacier Express quad for the first part of the ascent and then taking the Top of The World 6-Pack Express for the second part of the way.  This later chair lift is the way to get to the Saddleback Ridge. There are rides for all levels, so everyone had a great time

 

A select attraction on the Upper Front Side is the Summit Platter, a single person lift that whenever it was working, it was definitely a special treat, for the deep snow on the Outer Limits, Motown and Headwall expert trails.

 

 


Also, from the saddleback Ridge, one can “fall back” into the 2,500 skiable acres of the “Back Bowls”, an area with a lot of “blacks and double blacks". We had some really great fresh snow and cut some awesome first tracks in the Boomerang Bowl, The Whitehorn 1 and 2, The Saddleback Bowl, The Paradise Bowl, and the Eagle Ridge 1-3. The Paradise triple chair is the only lift for these wide yet steep bowls

The Larch area offers another 600 skiable acres accessible via the quad with the same name, on the opposite side of the Paradise triple chair, from the bottom of the collector valley for all the bowls. This is a well distributed area, with trails for all levels.
 


Mt. Norquay

The smallest yet closest, just minutes from the town of Banff, Mt. Norquay offers outstanding conditions for  skiers and riders of every ability. It has snow tubbing and the only night skiing in the area, including a fully lit terrain park. Yet with so much available during the day and with the numerous places to go for dinner in town, we didn’t have much interest for night skiing in our group.

It was another great trip for the club, and we were happy to have extended it to accommodate as many of the people who were interested to come. In the end, it turned out to be a great experience. Besides the great skiing, we had some awesome dinners in the nice town of Banff, where lots of restaurants and pubs are ready to satisfy anyone’s taste. The two I liked were Grizzly House Restaurant, The Elk and Oarsman Restaurant and Pub. I heard that The Bison Restaurant, The Maple Leaf, Earls and Tony Roma’s Famous Ribs were also excellent.

The flight back home went without any incidents and we landed in Newark on time. Although New Jersey got quite a good amount of snow while we were away, cleaning our cars once we were back in the Ericsson parking lot was easier than expected.

 John and Bogdan would like to thank everyone for being such a great group and making it a memorable trip for all. 

 

Trip report written by Bogdan Ungureanu.

 

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