Banff National Park, Alberta
I will never get used to driving in the winter up here in the Canadian Rockies. I remember when I started driving as a 17 year maniac. My granny would sit beside me fearful for her own life and that of everybody around our car – and that was just when we were in park. The weather was perfect and my eyesight was a hell of a lot better than it is now. Now I am driving between admittedly beautiful towns like Lake Louise and Jasper and I am beginning to realize that if you can learn to drive in these kinds of situations in winter, then you can drive anywhere. Maybe my granny would even come along.
Legally in Banff and Jasper, it is required that you carry snow tires or chains while driving anywhere except for the main trans-Canada Hwy 1. It really helps if you know how to fit them as well. It isn’t the most pleasant thing in the world stepping out into a snowstorm to put chains on a tire but as the old saying doesn’t go – it’s better to be cold than dead! I’m the kind of person who normally shuns the idea of first aid kits even when hiking but up here, every little helps. Always have anti freeze, blankets, water, flashlight, snow shovel, matches and emergency food (especially beans – they’re delicious).
Funnily enough, when you can see the ice on the road, you aren’t doing too badly. It is actually the invisible spots of ice that are tricky. This goes doubly if you find yourself driving at night after the temperatures have dropped. Use your gears to slow down instead of the brakes or if you are driving an automatic, click into the lower (L) gear. Though this is all technical advice, I would also suggest always having a friend by your side when possible. It stops you being too nervy and it is always useful to have a second set of eyes to help. The prize of the towns of the Canadian Rockies waits for you once you arrive safely so take your time.