Driving in a Canadian Rockies Snowstorm

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Banff National Park, Alberta

Generally outside the warmest summer months of the year in Banff, Jasper and really all around the Canadian Rockies, you have to be prepared for literally any kind of freakish weather. As Banff Insider this really should go double. However, you may have noticed that I spent an inordinate amount of time reviewing the nightlife of Banff (for you, of course) meaning that when it comes to organizing, I am perhaps a little behind time. Icy roads and snow tires had still not made an appearance on my questionably roadworthy car. Well they do say that the best way to learn is through your mistakes so let me share with you exactly what it is like to be caught in a freak snowstorm in the Rockies.

Keep your highbeams off in a heavy snowstorm.

Keep your highbeams off in a heavy snowstorm.

Perhaps it was overconfidence after making the return trip to Calgary Airport so many times without any trouble… if you don’t count getting lost. Much like a new spouse, once you have signed the contract to buy a car, you begin to realize the problems. The weather was crisp at worst as we drifted off Banff Avenue and past Canmore towards the Big Smoke. It being a Saturday, tons of Calgary locals drove the opposite way towards the warmth and comfort of Banff.

The return trip was quiet because it was a friend dropped off rather than picked up but mostly because the car radio had long being ripped out. All went smooth at top speed 88km/h. Soon enough 88km/h seemed like a suicidal speed to drive as the snow that was dancing lightly on the screen soon began to trounce the car like asteroids from hell (hyperbole accepted here). Though there weren’t many cars on the road, it soon became obvious that it wasn’t cars we had to worry about. Rather, it was man versus nature. Slowing down to 30km/h helped but it was genuinely impossible to see the sides of the road or lines in the centre of the road. This is when I made my first major mistake. The headlights went on full blast. I discovered after that this is a big No No. All it does is make you see more snow and get more confused.

It would have been equally dangerous to pull over on the side of the road as to other cars; I was invisible just like I am to women in real life. Also as mentioned snow tires were not yet purchased so it was more like driving a boat than a car. In all the panic, I forgot to put on my windscreen wipers, which was essentially just stupid. Eventually we crawled all the way until we saw the sign for Canmore where I knew the roads better and could predict the curves. Finally just as the snow abated, we could see the shadow of a mountain as the Welcome to Banff sign really did welcome us home. Must buy new car after next nightclub review!

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