Amazing Shots From a Helicopter Tour

Peaks of Canadian RockiesPhoto: Desiree Anstey

Back on solid ground

The next day, we decided to hike along Johnston Canyon, which is nestled in the heart of the Bow Valley Parkway. (Check out 10 more great Canadian hikes.) Our boots crunched through the snow as we walked along the steel catwalks suspended above the canyon floor, pausing briefly to catch our breath and soak in the turquoise-coloured ice sculptures every few metres. At the end of the canyon trail, there was a frozen waterfall where climbers, on a belay with boot crampons and picks, scaled the curtains of ice while tackling the overhangs and vertical sections with grace and precision. We continued on our hike in the shadow of the mountain, through the valley covered in fresh powdery snow, and to the “Ink Pots,” where we could hear the soothing trickle of water under the ice. (Don’t miss these inspired ideas to upgrade your Western Canada vacation.)

On Wednesday morning—our original day planned for flying—we happened to get 
a phone call to say all flights had been cancelled because of the poor visibility, so it was just as well we had rescheduled that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! We’d hired a car for our trip, so we wound our way through the scenic, snow-capped mountains on either side of the road to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. On arrival, it felt as though we had stepped into the pages of a fairy tale. Silhouettes of people contrasted against the glittering white snow spread like a blanket over the lake. The sun poked through the surrounding mountains, warming the air and highlighting the ice sculptures that lined the front of the chateau. Terry and I hiked around the lake, while a horse and sleigh carried a handful of people through the pine forest.

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Desiree and her husband TerryPhoto: Desiree Anstey

Skiing and snowboarding on Mount Norquay

On Thursday, we went skiing and snowboarding at Mount Norquay, which lies northwest of the town of Banff. This is one of the smaller ski and snowboard resorts in the area, making it less crowded and a local hotspot. It was my first time skiing, so I took a two-hour lesson to learn the basics. Terry knows how to snowboard, so we parted ways as he caught the chairlift up to the steep peak.

At first, I was extremely nervous about what to expect. I remember thinking, why on earth am I doing this? But my ski instructor was excellent. She was Australian, and knew exactly how to put a beginner at ease, teaching all the basics before progressing from there.

After my lesson, I was confident enough to ski on my own, and went slowly down the slope, zigzagging my way to a stop. I did this a few times, before we wrapped up for the day. Skiing is something I will definitely do again.

Think you know your Canadian Rockies? Take our challenge and see how many of these Rocky Mountain peaks you can name!

Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff, Canadian RockiesPhoto: Desiree Anstey

Exploring Banff

We stayed at the Hidden Ridge Resort (above) in Banff for the extent of our trip. This beautiful resort is perched high on the edge of a mountain overlooking the small tourist town. Each condo had a fireplace, ideal on those cold, wintry nights. (Psst—these are Banff’s best-kept secrets!)

The town of Banff is a beautiful touristy place, small enough to walk around and browse the shops, cafés and restaurants. (Here are more of Banff’s top attractions.) One of my favourite places to eat was Tooloulou’s for breakfast. I enjoyed vanilla bean crepes drenched in fresh fruit, cream and jam; then, there were the fluffy waffles—the menu had a wealth of options and I was never disappointed. This place got so busy for breakfast that we learned quickly to either come very early or later on in the day. Terry’s favourite restaurant was the Saltlik Banff, an upscale place where we dined by candlelight one evening.

Although this was our first visit to the Canadian Rockies, it was such an incredible experience that we’d both like to return to this scenic destination in the future.

Check out our countdown of the best things to do in Banff.

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