Canada Road Trip Feb/March 2005

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For this Canada trip we decided to fly in and out of Calgary with a circular road trip taking us firstly up to Kicking Horse then down to Big White before returning to Red Mountain and Whitewater before completing our circular tour with a few days in Calgary....and a visit to Cowboys nightclub !!

Our 2005 Canada road trip started with the drive from Dumfries up to Glasgow. We have used the Dean Park Hotel in Renfrew a few times as it provides good value accomodation along with car parking and a lift to and from the airport. This year it cost 55.62 for the both of us.
We were up early on the 21st Feb and got taken to the airport where we were able to check-in our baggage all the way through to Calgary.As usual the BMI flight to London was over booked and there was a delay. We got to Heathrow and made our way over to the Terminal for the AC flight.This flight was only slightly late but after take off we had a smoothe journey and 8 hours later we landed in Calgary. Its a nice clean airport but there is always a delay when coming off the plane to get through customs.It was over 1.5 hours till we had picked up our luggage and headed over to the car hire desk. We picked up a Grand Jeep Cherokee from Thrifty and got on our way. It was rush hour as we made our way out of the City and onto the Trans Canada highway heading West towards Canmore and Banff and then up over the pass to Golden. The journey took us around 3.5 hours and we were pretty shattered when we checked into the Ramada Golden Hotel. It was now time for a quick dinner, a couple of beers and bed !

Dean Park Hotel - Renfrew

Ramada Hotel Golden

Easy way to Crystal bowl.

Jill @ Kicking Horse,Golden,BC.

After a great nights sleep we were up bright and early. Had breakfast in the Hotel then checked out and headed up to Kicking Horse. Its only a short 15 min drive from town, thats if a train is not coming and you have to wait till it passes. These things can be a mile long and travel at about 10mph!!
It was a cold,clear morning when we drove into the carpark and it certainly was not busy. We bought our lift passes and headed to the gondola for the trip to the top.The Golden Eagle Express takes you up to 7700ft from where you can access three world class bowls in Crystal bowl,Feuz bowl and Bowl over. The snow was brilliant with a light covering of fresh powder on the surface. We headed down to the Stairway to Heaven chair just as it was opening and went up to the highest point in the area at 8033ft.
We had a great morning covering as much terrain as possible. My favourite runs are dropping down into Bowl over from CPR ridge and the nice cruising blue runs back to the bottom. We had lunch at the base station before packing our kit away and setting out on another long journey down to Big White. It is a fabulous drive over the magnificent Rogers Pass to Revelstoke where we stopped to pick up some provisions. I would love to return and spend more time here,especially once the local Mackenzie Ski area expands. There is also some World class Cat skiing operations around here. We then continued on our journey towards Sicamous and then turned South towards Vernon and the huge Okanagan Lake. We arrived in Kelowna at around 5pm when the roads were quite busy. It was then a short drive up to Big White where we arrived just as it was getting dark. Unloaded the car at the Inn and then parked it in the underground carpark. Todays journey had taken around 4 hours (inc stops).

Kicking Horse Resort

After a fine nights sleep we were ready to explore the delights of Big White. This area is famous for its "Snow Ghosts", these are trees which are heavilly covered with snow and look eerie when you Ski or Board through them. But this week they were green and had not seen a significant snowfall for some time. It was also very warm and Springlike,more like April than late Feb. The snowcover on the slopes was still good though and the grooming here is excellent.So instead of riding in knee deep powder we had a great chance to improve our carving on the near deserted slopes, and get a good suntan !

Resort boundary at Big White.

Jill enjoying quiet slopes at Big White.

We spent 5 nights at the Inn at Big White and every evening we would go out for dinner. Franks Chinese Laundery done good food at a reasonable price where almost all the staff were Aussies or Kiwis. Snowshoe Sams was probably our favourite place at night. It had good food,a good selection of Beers and entertainment and sometimes with live bands from as far away as Vancouver.
Down the gondola at the Happy Valley area there was the Kettle Valley steakhouse which was a nice place to relax with a beer and eat.
The resort has plenty of other things to do in the evenings. If you still had the energy there was night boarding and skiing or you could go Tubing. This was a great laugh and it was possible to get some pretty fast and bumpy runs down the quite steep track.Then there were the snowmobile tours. We went on a late afternoon,sunset tour into the back country around Big White. This was great fun and we stopped at a clearance in the woods where we were given half an hour to do what we wanted with the powerful machines (within reason).We got back in the dark when it was getting really cold so it was into the pub to warm up and recall the highlights of our new found passion !

Big White Snowmobiles. Great fun.

Big White resort behind us.

Evening at Big White.

Before coming out on this trip we had planned to take the Heli shuttle for a days riding at Silver Star,this is Big Whites sister resort a short distance to the North. It turned out to be far more expensive this Winter so we gave it a miss. We had enough terrain here to keep as happy for 5 days. The Telus Park was impressive and is served with its own chair. They also have a Boardercross track and a parallel slalom course where you could really belt down racing each other. Some of our fav spots were when we would head over to take the Powder and Falcon chairs and make our way down to the Gem Lake area and the very cosy and welcoming Westridge Warming Hut for a snack and a delicious flavoured coffee. At the other side of the resort there are some decent cruisy blue runs from the Black Forest Express quad chair and for some more challenging sport there was the area around the Cliff chair. If there had been fresh snowfall during our stay we would have found 5 days too short but in the current conditions we felt it was time to move on.

Big White Resort

Our plan had been to leave Big White early and call in at the resort of Crystal Mountain near Westbank for a few hours riding before heading onto Red but we had been told by some of the locals that the conditions were not too great and that it would be better to give it a miss this time ! Well there will hopefully be other chances to visit in future years. We were on our way South following the West Kettle river down to Beaverdell and on towards the US border near Midway. We decided to call in and check out Phoenix Mountain. This is a small locals hill between Greenwood and Grand Forks. You cut off the main highway and drive up through forest tracks for around 20 minutes until you come out of the trees and arrive at the base area car park where there were a few trucks parked up. There is a small base lodge which serves food and drinks and a patio deck from where you can sit out and watch he action on the slopes in front of you. They have 2 lifts here. A small beginners rope tow and a long,steep T-bar going all the way to the top of he area from where there are some quite steep runs down to the right and to the left of the lift. It was very quiet with only a few skiers and boarders enjoying the fine conditions. This place holds the snow well with North facing slopes. We will be back.
We were then on our way and into Nancy Greene Provincial Park and down towards Rossland. It was great to be back at the Rams Head Inn again and we were soon settled into our luxurious room. This place is so peaceful and relaxing. I cant think of a place in the world that I like better.

Crystal Mountain Resort

Phoenix Mountain.

Phoenix Mountain.

It is now tradition that on our first night back at Red we head down to Trail to meet up with Jills relations in the Collander Restaurant. This place is an amazing old Italian family restaurant where you get tons of great food. Brilliant Spaghetti and meatballs (yum). It was great to meet up again and catch up with all the news.
It had been a long day for Jill and I as we drove back up to Red where we called in at the Rock Cut pub for a nightcap before bed. I always look forward to going to bed at the Rams Head Inn as the beds and pillows are so comfortable and I always have a great nights sleep here. Went to bed dreaming about being out on Granite Mountain again in the morning.

A muddy car park at the base of Red.

It was great to get back out onto the hill after a great nights sleep and a hearty breakfast. It is a short walk from the Rams Head Inn , through the wood and across the car park to the base area.We were soon on our way up the Silverlode then Motherlode chairs on Granite Mountain. There had not been any snowfall for quite some time, so the off-piste routes were all well tracked out. I was pleased to see that the groomed runs were in perfect shape and with few people about it was brilliant carving at speed down runs such as Southern Belle and Gambler. The weather was clear and sunny and the views across to Mt.Roberts were impressive.Paradise lodge is where to stop for a coffee and a warm up and for a burger from the BBQ at lunchtime where friendly birds will come and eat out of your hand.
At the end of the day I gave highmountaintours a call and we booked a day later in the week to go snowmobiling (2nd time on this trip.It is addictive!!)

Over the next few days we had graet fun exploring and finding new trails all over Granite Mountain. From the top you can drop down in virtually any direction through some brilliant gladed terrain.It is an area which takes a long time to understand the layout of the trails and I could imagine riding here for the next 10 years and still being surprised to find runs I did not know existed.
As conditions were not good to the South in Washington state we gave our planned trip down to 49'North a miss. It is somewhere we will try to get to next Winter.
The Snowmobile tour we went on was great fun and we were away almost all day.Out into the wilderness. I would recommend anyone to go and do this. It was a lovely day and the scenery was magnificent.

Ready for another snowmobile day.

Old railway tunnel.

The above two pictures show a small part of the Lower Arrow Lake. This is part of a chain of Lakes which go from North to South all the way from near Revelstoke.
This tour was in the Christina Range which is part of the famous Monashee Mountain chain.

High Mountain Adventures

One of our favourite places to board is Whitewater. Its only around an hours drive from Red. So after another great breakfast at the Rams Head Inn we threw the kit into the jeep and set of down to Trail and on through the small communities of Montrose and Fruitvale,Past Salmo and up towards Nelson. The turn off for Whitewater is a few miles South of Nelson and is a long,quite rough track up through the trees to the car park. It is a lovely setting. This year the snow was in good condition but it had been a while since there had been a fresh dump so the off-piste was well tracked out. We love it here. There are two main chairs going up opposite sides of the area. The Summit chair at one side and the Silverking chair at the other. From the top of the Summit chair the options are endless as you traverse along the ridge and either come down some nice long sweeping slopes like Joker,Motherlode,Bonanza and Paydirt or traverse further along in either direction and choose any amount of serious Black Diamond and Double Black Diamond runs back to the base.
The daylodge here is excellent and is a great place for a bite to eat.


The trip was passing far too quickly for my liking and after another couple of days at Red it was time to move on. We left Rossland and drove over to Cranbrook then onto Fernie where we stopped for lunch. It was then on over the Crowsnest Pass. Its a great drive with magnificent scenery and although we were sad to leave Red we were looking forward to staying in Calgary and the tunes on the radio from KBS kept us smiling. We got fuel at Pincher Creek then headed up the 22 towards the Chain Lakes Provincial Park and onto Black Diamond. This road is so straight and long. On one side  you looked over to the magnificent Rocky Mountains and the other side was the vast Alberta plains with gas and oil rig installations on the landscape. We were soon in the outskirts of Calgary,passing the famous Spruce Meadows Showjumping arena. It was quite busy as we drove towards the skyscrapers in the centre of the City. We found the car park for the Fairmont Palliser Hotel and were soon checking into our suite. It was a huge room with views towards the Mountains and over the Calgary Saddledome.
We got freshened up and changed and headed out for a night on the town. We had our dinner in Earls which was really nice before we went to an Irish bar(Ceilis). We had a few drinks and watched the Australian Grand Prix on the screens. We then went round the corner to the famous Cowboys nightclub. I was really keen to go here as I had heard a lot about the stunning,scantilly clad bar staff and I wanted a look for myself. I was not dissapointed. It is an amazing place and great for a night out. It had been a long day so once we were back at the Hotel we fell asleep right away.

The next day we were up early and went out to explore the City. It was quite a mild day but very windy and between the tall buildings it sometimes felt like you would be blown away. We went down to the Bow river and then spent some time checking out the shops. Got back to the Hotel and went down to the Spa for a swim. We were now refreshed and got changed and ready to drive across town to have Dinner with Gordon and Leslie. Had a little difficulty finding the place so we stopped at a fuel station and bought a Calgary street map and we were soon sorted.They stay in a lovely part in the suburbs of Calgary. We had a nice meal and a good chat before it was time to head back to the Hotel.
The next morning we decided to go and do a final bit of shopping. Jill wanted to get a real pair of Cowboy boots and I decided to get a Stetson. Gordon told us to go to the Calgary Boot Company. We found it and were amazed with the great choice and quality of boots and hats. Jill and I both got what we had set out for. We went to the Unicorn Pub for lunch then decided to visit the Glenbow Museum before heading for the airport. The museum was excellent and there was just far too much for us to see in a few short hours. It is a place we will have to return to in the future. We then had that sad feeling as we drove out to the airport and handed the jeep back. It was a nice clear night as we took off and headed back across the Atlantic to Heathrow. We landed safely then we had the wait before getting the BMI shuttle back to Glasgow. Got back to the car and drove back to Dumfries. Arrived home by 7pm feeling shattered.
It had been a great trip and within a few days I was busy planning next years Canada road trip.

Cowboys Niteclub

Glenbow Museum




The Bow River,Calgary.


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Relaxing at the Rams Head Inn

Jill riding at Red.

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