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Interview with a Banff Worker

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Interview with a Banff Worker – Stephanie Young

Banff National Park, Alberta

By John McKiernan
Staff Writer

Where are you from Stephanie?

I’m from Kaikoura in New Zealand.

How long have you been in Banff?

Well I got here October 08’ but left for four months to travel UK, Ireland, home for a while and then the US. I’m back now for the winter season.

"Exaggerate your resume. Everyone does it!"

"Exaggerate your resume. Everyone does it!"

What brought you here?

Snowboarding basically, big mountains, just to do “a season”.

Do you like it?

I love it. That’s why I’m back!

How did you find getting employment?

Pretty easy actually. I got a job immediately through the work fair but I had to hang around for a month before it started on the slopes.

Where do you work now?

I’m working selling some of my favorite items in the Liquor Depot on Marten St. and also working as a waitress part time in The Keg.

How do you find the wages?

Really low compared to back home but if you get into the hospitality side of things, it can really be worthwhile. When you take tips into account, it is better paid overall to New Zealand.

What’s your favorite thing about Banff?

The people and also the size of the place. The size of the place really suits me.

What’s your least favorite thing about Banff?

Well, you can get the “Banff Blues”…It is so small here that you get to know everybody and it can sometimes get claustrophobic. It’s good to get out sometimes even if it is to Calgary!

Any Advice for Job Seekers now?

Yep. Lie, lie, lie. Everyone does it. If you don’t, you will get left behind! Also keep harassing them and you will succeed. Don’t tell my boss that I said that though!

Working in Banff – Where to Start

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Working in Banff – “Doing a Season”

Banff National Park, Alberta

by John McKiernan
Staff Writer

The Canadian Rockies and Banff, in particular, are usually considered holiday destinations for most people. However, as the tourists begin to arrive in their droves; someone has to be there to provide the necessary services for them. The feeling of anticipation for the winter season is already bubbling in Banff and job vacancies are popping up everywhere from town centre to ski hill. Below is some information to help you find your feet.

Follow your career path in Banff.

Follow your career path in Banff.

Job Resource Centre

In Banff town centre, there is an extremely helpful Job Resource Centre run by Michel Dufresne. If you are arriving in Banff and don’t know where to start looking for work, this is easily the best place to start. The staff are numerous, knowledgable and extremely helpful. Amongst other services, they provide resume and cover letter writing assistance, internet access, career coaching, local job postings and a resource library. There are also free fax and phone services to call potential employers . This service is free, available in French or English and open all week.

Banff Address: 314 Marten Street

Ph: 403 760 3311

Banff@jobresourcecentre.com

Canmore Address: 710 – 10th Street

Ph: 403 678 6601

canmore@jobresourcecentre.com

Moving to Banff

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Moving to Banff

Banff National Park, Alberta

By John McKiernan
Staff Writer

If you have arrived at this page, the photos you have seen should be enough for you to see why people move to Banff whether it be for seasonal work or for good. Surrounded by protective, stunning snow-capped mountains and with quaint little streets, Banff can’t help but make you feel healthy. However, keep in mind that buying and renting in this beautiful town  are two very different things.

Buying

Banff has a relatively controversial law that insists that anyone buying property in Banff must pass the “need to reside” clause before they can buy property. This is more or less exactly what it hints at. There are many stipulations such as proving that you will actually be working in the park to get through before you are permitted to buy that dream house (with costs as expensive as ever, it may well be a dream house!). Talk to a real estate agent about the intricacies of such a purchase or buy property in equally gorgeous Canmore only 20 minutes away.

Banff Avenue is beautiful all year round.

Banff Avenue is beautiful all year round.

Renting

Seasoned world travelers and renters are probably quite used to using Craigslist as a medium to find an apartment. Not so in Banff. Though there are a few (not so trustworthy) options posted on the site, there is little one can do before actually reaching Banff. Families are perhaps best to have a look at renting through one of the real estate agents around the town centre such as Alpine Realty and Bow Valley Realty.

However, those on more of a budget – get ready for some competition! First of all, take a walk around all the town’s notice boards (generally in the malls and internet cafes). This is where real bargains come and if you have arrived with very little in the savings department, there is more of a chance that you won’t have to pay that often crippling damage deposit fee (usually one month’s full rent).

Try to be the first to the local newspapers. The Banff Crag and Canyon is published every Tuesday and has a host of options to choose from primarily in Banff. The Rocky Mountain Outlook is published every Thursday and focuses more on Canmore renting. Both papers have very useful sections and are the main way that landlord and potential tenants communicate locally. There are literally dozens of people who look at these apartments so try to look at as many as possible in as quick time as possible before handing over that precious deposit.

Buying property in Banff is no walk in the park.

Buying property in Banff is no walk in the park.

What Sort of Prices Will I be Looking at?

Canmore is expensive and Banff even more so but there are good deals to be had if you have the patience. Obviously sharing a room cuts costs. Also don’t forget to ask the usual questions such as: are utilities included and how much the damage deposit will be. Here are some ideas of price to measure against.

Local Youth Hostel: Around $27 -$34 per night depending on the season. Paying weekly can reduce costs. Also ask if it is possible to work for your stay.

Room in shared house without lease: $500 to $600 per month

Room in shared house with lease: (6 months or a year): $400 to $700 per month

Apartment (1 – 2 bedrooms) with lease: $900 to $2000 per month

*It is possible to share a room for as little as $300 each through short term deals on the local notice boards around the restaurants and cafes of Banff.

Moving to Banff
By John McKiernan
Staff Writer for CanadianRockies.Net
If you have arrived at this page, the photos you have seen should be enough for you to see why people move to Banff whether it be for seasonal work or for good. Surrounded by protective, stunning snow-capped mountains and with quaint little streets, Banff can’t help but make you feel healthy. However, keep in mind that buying and renting in Banff are two very different things.
Buying
Banff has a relatively controversial law that insists that anyone buying property in Banff must pass the “need to reside” clause before they can buy property. This is more or less exactly what it hints at. There are many stipulations such as proving that you will actually be working in the park to get through before you are permitted to buy that dream house (with costs as expensive as ever, it may well be a dream house!). Talk to a real estate agent about the intricacies of such a purchase or buy property in equally gorgeous Canmore only 20 minutes away.
Renting
Seasoned world travelers and renters are probably quite used to using Craigslist as a medium to find an apartment. Not so in Banff. Though there are a few (not so trustworthy) options posted on the site, there is little one can do before actually reaching Banff. Families are perhaps best to have a look at renting through one of the real estate agents around the town centre such as Alpine Realty and Bow Valley Realty.
However, those on more of a budget  – get ready for some competition! First of all, take a walk around all the town’s notice boards (generally in the malls and internet cafes). This is where real bargains come and if you have arrived with very little in the savings department, there is more of a chance that you won’t have to pay that often crippling damage deposit fee (usually one month’s full rent).
Try to be the first to the local newspapers. The Banff Crag and Canyon is published every Tuesday and has a host of options to choose from primarily in Banff. The Rocky Mountain Outlook is published every Thursday and focuses more on Canmore renting. Both papers have very useful sections and are the main way that landlord and potential tenants communicate locally. There are literally dozens of people who look at these apartments so try to look at as many as possible in as quick time as possible before handing over that precious deposit.
What Sort of Prices Will I be Looking at?
Canmore is expensive and Banff even more so but there are good deals to be had if you have the patience. Obviously sharing a room cuts costs. Also don’t forget to ask the usual questions such as: are utilities included and how much the damage deposit will be. Here are some ideas of price to measure against.

Local Youth Hostel: Around $27 -$34 per night depending on the season. Paying weekly can reduce costs. Also ask if it is possible to work for your stay.
Room in shared house without lease: $500 to $600 per month
Room in shared house with lease: (6 months or a year): $400 to $700 per month
Apartment (1 – 2 bedrooms) with lease: $900 to $2000 per month
*It is possible to share a room for as little as $300 each through short term deals on the local notice boards.

Backpacking the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Five Days

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Banff National Park, Alberta

Banff National Park has some of the best backpacking the Canadian Rockies offer. Here is a sampling of what you can do with five or more days and a backpack in Banff National Park. Seasonal restrictions can apply to some of these trails, so click here to make sure yours is open.

Banff National Park offers some inspiring views for backpackers.

Banff National Park offers some inspiring views for backpackers.

Sawback Trail

This trail takes backpackers over three awesome mountain passes. It traverses a good portion of Banff National Park, linking the town sites of Banff and Lake Louise. Pickup the trail at Mt. Norquay ski area or the Fish Creek trailhead. Parts of the trail see traffic from guided horse trips, which is great if you like horses. There are several camping options here – including a possible 7-day trip.

Campsites: Mystic Junction – Night 1; Larry’s camp – Night 2; Johnston Creek or Luellen Lake Night 3; Badger Pass – Night 4; Wildflower Creek – Night 5; Baker Lake – Night 6.

Distance: 74 km

Elevation gain: 734 m

Banff and Mount Assiniboine Mystic Pass – Flint’s Park – Badger Pass

Give yourself seven days to fully enjoy this trip, a great loop that starts and ends at Johnston Canyon. Enjoy subalpine meadows on the way to Flint’s Park, and cross the remote Mystic and Badger Passes. Badger The passes can be blocked by a huge snow cornice even into the summer months. This trail also sees its share of guided horse trips.

Campsites: Larry’s Camp – Night 1; Mystic Valley – Night 2; Flint’s Park – Night 3; Block Lakes Junction – Night 4; Badger Pass Junction – Night 5; Johnston Creek Night 6; Larry’s Camp – Night 7.

Distance: 76.4 km

Elevation gain: 2175m

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures

For further information on guided tours in the Canadian Rockies, fill out the blue form on the right side of this page.

Backpacking the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Four Days

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Banff National Park, Alberta

Banff National Park has some of the best backpacking the Canadian Rockies offer. Here is a sampling of what you can do with four days and a backpack in Banff National Park. Seasonal restrictions can apply to some of these trails, so click here to make sure yours is open.

Backpacking Banff is hard to beat.

Backpacking Banff is hard to beat.

Assiniboine Loop

The beauty of doing a loop is that it begins and ends at the same place, saving you from having to shuttle, arrange for a pickup, hitchhike or find some other way to get back to your vehicle. The beginning and end for Assiniboine loop is the Mt. Shark trailhead in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, just ouside of Banff National Park. Travel through three contiguous protected areas and behold the beauty of Mt. Assiniboine, the sixth highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. Seasonal restrictions on Allenby Pass and Assiniboine Pass can apply during buffalo berry season.

Campsites: McBride’s Camp – Night 1; Lake Magog Campground or the BC Parks trail shelter, Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park – Nights 2 and 3 (separate BC Parks campground fees will be collected on-site); Marvel Lake, or stay at the Bryant Creek trail shelter – Night 4.

Distance: 55 km

Elevation gain: 545 m

Bryant Creek

This trip is unfortunately not a loop, and is therefore best suited to parties with ta second vehicle. It takes an alternate trail to Mt. Assiniboine starting from the Sunshine Village ski area and crossing the rambling alpine meadows of Citadel Pass. You can hike the Sunshine Village ski area maintenance road or ride White Mountain Adventures privately run shuttle up to the base village. The trip ends at the Mt. Shark trailhead in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, via the Bryant Creek trail. Again, there are seasonal restrictions on Allenby Pass and Assiniboine Pass during buffalo berry season.

Campsites: Porcupine Campground, Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park – Night 1; Lake Magog Campground, Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park – Night 2 or 3 (where separate BC Parks campground fees will be collected on-site); McBride’s Camp – Night 3 or 4.

Distance: 55.7 km

Elevation gain: 660 m

Banff and Mount Assiniboine Sunshine – Vista Lake

Access the series of high country trails that link the Sunshine Village ski area to the Vista Lake viewpoint on Highway 93 on foot or via a shuttle ride. Explore the Egypt Lake area en route. After climbing over Gibbon Pass, the trail meanders past a series of scenic lakes before the final descent to the highway.

Campsites: Egypt Lake – Night 1; Ball Pass Junction – Night 2 and 3; Twin Lakes – Night 3 or 4.

Distance: 40 km

Elevation gain: 1390 m

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures

For further information on guided tours in the Canadian Rockies, fill out the blue form on the right side of this page.

Accommodations in the Canadian Rockies that are Wheelchair Accesible

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Banff, Alberta

by John McKiernan
Staff Writer

Frustration can often ruin a holiday, even in a place as beautiful and fun as the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park, Lake Louise, and Jasper National Park.

If you find that the hotel you have chosen has no wheelchair ramp for example, things are already off to a bad start. The following is a list of hotels that say they are wheelchair accessible.

However, before booking, it is important to research forums on sites like TravelPod, TripAdvisor or CanadianRockies and see what fellow travelers thought of the facilities. One person’s idea of wheelchair accessible can be quite different from another’s!

Quality Resort Chateau Canmore
1718 Bow Valley Trail, Canmore, Alberta, T1W 2X3

Mount Royal Hotel138 Banff Avenue, P.O Box 550, Banff, Alberta T1L 1A7

Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets
Tunnel Mountain Road
P.O. Box 1228
Banff, Alberta T1L 1B2 Canada

Delta Lodge at Kananaskis
1 Centennial Drive, Kananaskis Village, Alberta, T0L 2H0

Activities for the Disabled, Lake Minnewanka Boat Tours, Banff

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Banff National Park, Alberta

by John McKiernan
Staff Writer

There are many ways to see the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park. However, due to its obvious mountainous terrain, some parts remain untouchable for the disabled. By no means should this stand as a restriction.

Disabled visitors to Banff will fine the Lake Minnewanka Boat Tour an excellent way to see the park.

Disabled visitors to Banff will find the Lake Minnewanka boat tour an excellent way to see the park.

One way or another, everyone can find a way to enjoy the beauty the Canadian Rockies and Banff have to offer. This is where Lake Minnewanka boat tours step in.

Lake Minnewanka lies in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park, a short 15-minute drive from the town site. Lake Minnewanka Boat Tours operates three 48-passenger tour boats on the lake, several times daily from mid May to mid October. The cruise consists of a 1.5 hour interpretive tour of Lake Minnewanka and the stunning surrounding area.

The friendly and experienced crew guide you through this rugged paradise richly steeped in history, native folklore and geology. The crew will happily help disabled passengers onto and around the boat, and provisions are made for those with wheelchairs. You will learn about the wildlife and vegetation that inhabit these mountains, the early explorers who named them, and the tremendous forces that created them.

Tour Boats
The 42-foot tour boats are comfortable, glass-enclosed crafts that can be heated in case of bad weather. These ships are Transport Canada certified and fully equipped with all the necessary safety equipment including life jackets, life rafts and fire extinguishing systems.

Prices:

2009 Regular Rates (inclusive of GST – not including gratuities):
Adults $44
Children (6-15 years) $19
Children (5 and under) Complimentary

Backpacking the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Three days

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Three day backpacking trips in Banff National Park

Banff National Park has some of the best hiking the Canadian Rockies offer, even if all you have is three days. Here is a sampling of what you can do with a long weekend and a backpack in Banff National Park.

Lake Minnewanka, one of several short backpacking trips in Banff.

Lake Minnewanka, one of several short backpacking trips in Banff.

Lake Minnewanka

A popular early or late season hike or bike along the lakeshore. The trail departs from the trailhead at the Lake Minnewanka day use area and returns by the same route. During the summer, Lake Minnewanka is a popular destination for motorboats. Stay an extra night and explore Aylmer Pass or Aylmer Lookout. Seasonal closures of Lm8 campground and Aylmer Pass area during buffalo berry season. Check trail report for current conditions.

Distance: 8 km one way

Elevation gain: nil

Glacier Lake

A popular early season hike that departs from a trailhead north of Saskatchewan Crossing on the Icefields Parkway and brings travellers to a campsite at one of the largest backcountry lakes in Banff National Park.

Distance: 8.9 km one way

Elevation gain: 210 m

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes can be reached by two trails. The first departs from the Vista Lake viewpoint on Highway 93 and continues over Arnica summit. The second begins at Altrude Creek just off the Trans Canada Highway and follows a less strenuous, and less scenic, route.

Distance: 8.7 km one way

Elevation gain: 605 m

Backpacking Banff National Park is an unforgetable experience.

Backpacking Banff National Park is an unforgetable experience.

Elk Lake Summit

Departing from the Mt. Norquay ski area, the first few km of the trail climbs through dense forest. The campsite is located in the open subalpine meadow of Elk Lake Pass, about 2km before Elk Lake. This area is frequented by commercially guided horse trips.

Distance: 11.5 km one way

Elevation gain: 610 m

Mosquito Creek/Molar Pass

This trail begins at the Mosquito Creek trailhead (along the Icefields Parkway). Stay at Mosquito Creek campsite as a base (approximately 6 km from trailhead) and make a side trip over Molar Pass through some of the most extensive alpine meadows in Banff National Park. Fires are not permitted.

Distance: 9.8 km one way

Elevation gain: 535 m

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures

For further information on guided tours in the Canadian Rockies, fill out the blue form on the right side of this page.

Ten things to do in Banff, Canadian Rockies

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A quick, 10-point guide to Banff’s Canadian Rockies

Get your vacation in Banff National Park and Canadian Rockies off to a running start with this easy guide. Astute readers may note that our 10-point guide actually has 11 points. Sorry. There’s just so much to do in Banff, it was hard to narrow it down.

Get a quick and beautiful view of your new surroundings from the Banff Gondola.

Get a quick and beautiful view of your new surroundings from the Banff Gondola.

1. Banff Gondola

Catch the eight-minute gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain and you’ll get an unsurpassed panoramic perspective of Banff. At an elevation of 2,285m (7,495 ft) high Sulphur Mountain provides 360° views of the surrounding peaks, Lake Minnewanka, the Town of Banff and the Bow Valley stretching from east to west. It’s easy to see why early inhabitants – carbon dating science has shown that to be more than 10,000 years ago – chose the valley bottom to travel through and establish summer camps. And the same goes for wildlife, which use the valley as a migration corridor to pass through Banff National Park.

2. The Castle

The discovery of natural hot springs in 1883 eventually led to the establishment of Banff National Park, a vast wilderness that now encompasses 6,641 sq kms (2,564 sq mi). The Banff Springs Hotel opened its doors in 1888 and wealthy European train travelers came for months at a time to “take the waters”. Designed in the Scottish baronial style, in a nod to the town’s namesake Banffshire, Scotland, the hotel was designated a National Historic Site in 1992. The best view of this landmark hotel is from “Surprise Corner” on Tunnel Mountain.

3. Canada Place

The view of Banff Avenue from the historic Cascade Gardens is probably one of the most recognized photographs of main street and Cascade Mountain, one of the most prominent peaks in the area at 2,998 m (9836 ft.) Canada Place, located in the building that has housed the Parks Canada administration office since 1963, is a free family-friendly attraction. It offers touch-screen technology to help visitors discover Canada, including a simulated birch bark canoe ride to shoot the rapids of the Bow Falls as well as displays which highlight Canadian inventors and artists. Test your knowledge of Canadian trivia with the “Canucklehead” computer game.

4. Sunshine Meadows

The Sunshine Meadows are known by many as the most stunning alpine setting in the Canadian Rockies. Situated at about 2220m (7,300′), the meadows straddle the Continental Divide and the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia. Some of the Canadian Rockies’ highest peaks, surround Sunshine, including Mt. Assiniboine, Banff National Park’s highest peak, known as “the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies.” Wildlife abound in the meadows, and the brilliance of the summer flowers and autumn larches guarantees spectacular scenery on every visit.

5. The Hoodoos

They are giant freestanding pillars several metres tall that are made of silt, gravel and rocks cemented together by dissolved limestone. Sculpted over time by wind and water erosion and protected by a solid cap of rock, the Hoodoos can be found standing guard along the top of Tunnel Mountain. It’s the smallest peak in the Rockies to be called a mountain, at 1,692 m (5551 ft) and originally it was known as “Sleeping Buffalo” among the local Stoney Indians, for its bulky contours. Tunnel Mountain almost had a hole blasted through its middle in 1882 when railroad surveyors were devising a route through the Rockies. Luckily it was easier to go around.

6. Vermillion Lakes

This is the perfect place for a picnic lunch on the dock, with stunning views of Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain. There are three lakes along this road, where ospreys and bald eagles nest in trees, Canada geese breed in the marshlands and tundra swans stop by during each spring and fall migration. A natural hot springs bubbles into the third lake. You’ll hear the mournful whistle of the Canadian Pacific Rail trains as they cross the tracks at the far side of the lakes, a sound which has echoed through the Bow Valley for more than 100 years. Tourism in Banff and Lake Louise was first spurred by the creation of the CPR’s coast to coast rail system in Canada and luxury hotels were built for their comfort.

Explore beautiful Lake Minnewanka with a interpretive boat tour.

Explore beautiful Lake Minnewanka with an interpretive boat tour.

7. Lake Minnewanka

It’s the largest lake in Banff National Park at 24 kms (15 mi) long and 142 m (466 ft.) deep. Only scuba divers can view the remnants of a small town called Minnewanka Landing, after a hydroelectric dam built in 1941 caused the lake level to rise by 30 m (98 ft.). But most visitors either walk along the lakeside trail or sign up for the interpretive boat tour to learn about the history, native folk lore and geology. On the road up stop at Bankhead, a once thriving mining community from 1903 to 1922 that produced coal to power Canadian Pacific Railway steam engines. An interpretive trail winds its way around the remains of the old mining site, old machinery and crumbling foundations of the town.

8. Norquay Look-Out

It’s only a few minutes drive up a series of mountain switchbacks, but delivers a view of Banff and the Rockies that will take your breath away. From here you can clearly see the Spray River Valley as it cuts a swath between Mount Rundle 2949 m (9676 ft.) and Sulphur Mountain. It’s a view that generations of skiers at Mount Norquay have been treated to since the 1920s when Banff ski club members used horses and teams to clear logs for ski runs. A little ski cabin was built in 1928, but the first rope tow didn’t arrive until 1941 and the first chairlift seven years later.

9. Lake Louise

The turquoise water draws its brilliant colour from the “rock flour,” fine particles of glacial sediment which are suspended in the water that reflect blue and green wavelengths of light because they are so small and uniform. Framed by Mount Victoria and Victoria Glacier, the water temperature only gets a few degrees above freezing in summer. The native’s called it “Ho-run-num-nay” or Lake of Little Fishes, long before they took outfitter and explorer Tom Wilson up for a peek in 1882, although he is credited with “discovering” the world-famous location. In 1890 a cabin was built on the shores of the lake, which is 2.4 km (1.5 mi) long, 500 m (1,649 ft.) wide and 90 m (295 ft.) deep and was later named for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and later the wife of the governor general of Canada. Lake Louise is considered the birthplace of mountaineering in Canada, after the railway imported Swiss mountain guides to prevent its well-heeled guests from falling off the nearby peaks.

10. Lake Louise Mountain Resort

It’s a short and lofty lift but it will transport you to another world. A 14-minute ride brings visitors to an elevation of 2,088 m (6,850 ft) on Whitehorn Mountain. Along the way you’ll cross over meadows of wildflowers and green ski slopes that grizzly bears love to graze on during the summer. There are excellent views of the pyramid-shaped Mount Temple, one of the largest mountains in Banff National Park at 3,543 m (11,621 ft). As you look at the top of Mount Victoria and Victoria Glacier, far across the valley above Lake Louise, you are looking at the Continental Divide. All water that flows east will eventually drain into the Atlantic Ocean and the water on the other side of the ridge flows west to the Pacific Ocean.

Find peace and quiet on Bow Lake.

Find peace and quiet on Bow Lake.

11. Bow Lake

North of Lake Louise on Highway 93 about 33kms (21 mi), you’ll see the tentacles of Crowfoot Glacier cascading down the mountains, and to the north you’ll glimpse the stunningly blue glacier-fed Bow Lake. The rustic and secluded lodge on the shore with the red roof is Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, which is the native word for pine marten, a small but ferocious animal that calls the Rocky Mountain wilderness home. The octagonal-shaped lodge was built in 1937 by trapper and guide Jimmy Simpson, whose rapid snowshoeing through deep snow earned him the native nickname “Nashan-esen” or “wolverine-go-quickly.”

Canadian Rockies heli-tours, Banff and Jasper National Park

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Flying high over the Canadian Rockies

Banff National Park, Alberta

by Paul Peters
Editor, CanadianRockies.net
The Canadian Rockies offer endless ways of seeing the parks through various activities. One of the most exhilarating and accessible activities is helicopter touring. Helicopter tours in and around Banff and Jasper National Parks offer an alternative view of the park. Tours are made to fit any person whether they are interested in heli-sking, heli-hiking or even heli-weddings and heli-yoga.

Get high above Banff and Jasper for some of the most spectacular views.

Get high above Banff and Jasper for some of the most spectacular views.

Yes, you read that last one right. Icefield Helicopter Tours, in conjuction with Martha’s Heli-hikes, offers a heli-yoga trip, which pretty much means all bases are covered for those interested in a heli-trip.

Ralph Sliger, owner of Icefields Helicopter Tours, talks about the unique opportunities heli-tours offer to people visiting the Canadian Rockies.
“You’re actually getting into the backcountry where there are no roads,” he says. “You’re seeing the actual wilderness. When you can see for 100 miles in all directions, it’s quite impressive. Gives you a sense for how big Canada actually is.”
You can probably guess from their name that Icefield Helicopter Tours features tours of the Columbia Icefields, one of the largest icefields in North America.

“When you’re out over the icefields,” he says, “as far as you can see there’s nothing but the icefields, peaks and glaciers. It’s a whole different world up there.”  While he says that the tours are exceptional, he notes that one of the most amazing things is actually getting out of the helicopter once it has flown you to a remote location. “When you get  out and experience the quiet of nature, well, you can’t get that anywhere else,” Sliger says. “That’s what we offer, it is an experience.”

Jo-anne Kobelt of Alpine Helicopters is equally enthusiastic about heli-hiking. Alpine, she says, typically takes customers out to Mount Charles Stewart. Normally, she says it would be an eight-hour hike, one-way, to get to Charles Stewart but the flight takes all of eight minutes. Despite the short flight, she says, “It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. This area is just pristine, there are no trails, it’s literally untouched. When we set down it looks like no one has ever been there.”

The views of the Rockies stretch for miles from a helicopter.

The views of the Rockies stretch for miles from a helicopter.

Alpine Helicopters helps keep that “middle of nowhere” feeling by only taking up groups of 15 or fewer, and making sure no one disturbs the natural features of the terrain. Gordon Stermann of White Mountain Adventures, the company that guides Alpine’s heli-hikes, says, “It’s an incredible experience for people to leave civilization completely behind in just a few minutes of helicopter flying. Once we land at the Charles Stewart site we are on our own. The world goes quiet, and you have time to slow down, look around you and … breathe!”  As far as the aerial tours Alpine offers, Kobelt says, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. You just can’t believe what you see, it’s like a National Geographic film.”
According to Kobelt – they generally get two reactions from people the first time they fly over the Canadian Rockies.
“People either get up there and they don’t stop talking because they’re so excited,  or they’re mouths are hanging open and their eyes are glued to the window.” Despite these two reactions, she says, “We’ve never had a customer that doesn’t have a look of astonishment.” Children ask “Can I go again?” It is no surprise that people want to go again to get the most unique views of Banff, Jasper and all the other gems of the park. It is something special up here!