2010 Canadian Road Trip (7th - 27th March)
We have been travelling to Canada regularly for many years and quite often include trips down into Montana,
Washington and Idaho to visit some of the areas down there. For our 3 year old Son this was his third trip across the Atlantic
but with a new addition who was just 4 months old it was always going to be a tough assignment.
used Frontier travel to make most of the arrangements for us this time. Flights, car hire and some accomodation were booked
with them as they seem to get decent early booking prices with Air Canada.
We had the usual Glasgow
to Heathrow shuttle (BMI) in the morning and the change of terminal to contend with before the flight to Calgary started.
I must admit that Heathrow airport always turns out to be less traumatic than expected and compared with other places it seems
to run very smoothly.
The flight to Calgary was fine and we had 4 seats in the row behind the
washrooms where we had a bassinet fitted so that the baby could rest. The flight was only around 70% full so there was plenty
On arrival at Calgary airport we were last off the aircraft and as usual it was a long
wait to get through immigration/customs. We were the only flight that had just arrived yet they only had 3 staff on duty and
it took an hour to get through to baggage reclaim. Our luggage was already there so we then moved across the road to the car-hire
desks. We had a booking with Thrifty and I was seen right away. Once the paperwork was done I was given the keys to a Jeep
Cherokee and as my Wife fed the baby I took my 3 year old son to start loading the vehicle. We eventually found it parked
in a dark corner and began the task of loading it up. There was not much room as we had to put 2 large snowboard bags inside
with one of the rear seats folded down and the boot was full. With 2 childrens car seats in the back a minivan would be a
better option and we will think about that for the next trip. Once we arrived at Revelstoke later in the trip I bought some
utility straps with ratchets and the board bags were then secured onto the roof bars for the rest of the trip.
Got out of the airport and headed for the Trans-Canada Highway and Lake Louise. It was overcast and cool in Calgary
but as we drove past Olympic Park on the outskirts of the City the snow began to fall and it was soon blowing a blizzard making
driving conditions difficult. As darkness fell the road was pretty quiet and towards Canmore it was difficult to see the sides
of the carriageway, there were then vehicles that had slid off the road before we came to a standstill with trucks that were
jack-knived. Eventually got through and arrived at Lake Louise where the snow on the road was about 8 inches deep. The transfer
bus from the airport to Lake Louise only got as far as Banff and did not resume its journey until early the next morning.
On most of our previous Canadian trips we have stayed in Calgary on arrival and started our drives the next morning fresh,
usually because we have been driving much further.
We were married at Lake Louise 10 years ago
but our main reason for making it our first stop on this years road trip was kindercare. Very few resorts take children from
such a young age. Im sure they take them from a few weeks old. Craig was booked into the kinder ski programme which incorporated
daycare, lunch and a lesson. The cost per day for both children was C$165 or C$189 when our Son had a morning and an afternoon
lesson (which he had on 4 of the 6 days). He had been for an indoor lesson in the UK and had played around at home in the
snow with his small plastic skis but this was his first proper ski lessons. He was in a small group most days with a max of
4 other kids but on 2 or 3 occasions he was the only one with the instructor. There are pros and cons of having a 1 to 1 lesson
at that age and on the first day his two other friends wanted to pack in early and therefore Craig wanted to do the same but
the lessons were packed with playtime in the snow and he really enjoyed it. The instructors at Lake Louise on the whole seemed
fine although some did not seem over enthusiastic with the children and compared with Red Mountain they were 2nd
division ( more later).
We had been married at Deer Lodge, Lake Louise but had decided to stay
at the quality Post Hotel in Lake Louise village on this trip. This Hotel is beautifully furnished and decorated and the staff
were excellent, friendly, attentive and very helpful and to go there as a couple would be so relaxing but with two young children
it is not a good choice. The standard rooms are comfortable and well furnished but a little on the small side by Noth American
standards and by the time we had the babys Playpen/Cot set up there was not much room. The main issue we had was that there
was no kettle or fridge in the room so we had to ask the reception to supply us with freshly boiled water to make up her milk.
This was no problem to them but was something that we had not though about before leaving home. You can here the trains but
they are slow moving and it is just a background noise and not really a problem. The Hotel also had a good reliable WiFi internet
connection in the room which was free ( as all Hotels should be).A small bottle of beer in the Post Hotel cost C$7.83.
In the mornings we would drive up to the ski hill quite early and get a good parking place just in front of the main
lodges. The first two mornings we went to the self service cafeteria in the Lodge of the Ten Peaks for breakfast and it did
not work out too expensive but for the rest of the stay we would breakfast in the World Cup dinning room in the Whiskyjack
Lodge, here it was only C$11.95 per adult for the buffet breakfast where there was a choice of both hot and cold food as well
as tea/coffee etc. It was really good value, was always very quiet and was a lovely setting with fine views.
The snow was excellent during our stay and we had 3 fresh powder days, on one day we were among the first people
to get over into Boomerang Bowl when it opened up and runs like Hikers Paradise and Brown Shirt were spot on with knee deep
powder and fresh tracks. One of our favourite areas at LL is the Larch area, over here you seem to be miles away from everywhere
and there are fantastic views towards the Chateau and the Lake from the Larch Express Quad. The Rock Garden can be great fun
when there is enough snow and the blue runs back to the lift are always fast and cruisy mt favourites being Bobcat and Wolverine.
Temple Lodge is always a nice place for a mid morning coffee break or for lunch where the BBQ is up and running on
the deck. Generally like to sit outside but on cold or overcast days it can get a bit busy inside and can be difficult to
get a seat at peak times.
We would go out to a different restaurant each night to eat. We had
no problems taking the children to eat anywhere in Lake Louise and they were always made welcome.
had dinner in the Outback Pub which is adjoining the Post Hotel, this is a cosy little place but does not have a very extensive
menu and is fairly expensive. A cheeseburger and fries (C$15.50), C$19 for a pizza, a Veal Bratwurst (C$18.50) and C$7.20
for a pint of Grasshopper Ale.
Dinner at the Chateau Lake Louise was in the Glacier Saloon and
was really good. Excellent service and good food at a reasonable price. A pint of Kokanee did cost C$8.75 but soft drinks
for under fives were free with their meal and were also free refills in a lovely cup that they could take away with them.
I had the sea chowder (C$10.95) then Bison Pie (C$21) which was excellent. The kids hot dog was free and my wife had a Chicken
Club sandwich (C$16.95) and her Sister had a Beef dip (C$17.95) . Total bill for 3 adults and one child was a reasonable C$92.
Dinner at the Lake Louise Inn was also pretty good. Kids Pizza (C$9.50), Fettucine Alfredo (C$13.50), Lasagne (C$16.95),
12in Canadian Pizza with Shrimps (C$22). Pint of Kokanee Gold (C$6.80) plus free kids ice cream.
also ate at the Mountain restaurant at the edge of the village (next to the fuel station) which closes at around 7pm. It was
good value in here and a nice place to take the children. A pint of Kokanee or Canadian was C$5 and a large Orange Juice was
I had a Thai Shrimp curry (C$14), and the others had a Mountain Burger with all the
trimmings (C$11) and a 6oz Steak Sandwich (C$13). Our son had a huge plate of Poutine for C$8.
at the Village restaurant is above the shops and there were no other customers in when we arrived. Had a AAA Alberta steak
with Prawns which was really good and the bill for 3 adults and my son with drinks came to under C$100.
A beer at the Kokanee Cabin at the base area at LL was C$5.67 and it was a nice place to finish the days snowboarding
before picking up the children from Kindercare.
Kindercare at LL is really well run and all the
staff were excellent, we were given a bleeper and they said they would bleep us if we were needed and they also arranged ski/boot
hire and lessons for the children. The kids also had a good choice of healthy meals and snacks at lunchtime and throughout
On the first Saturday evening my brother in law flew out to join us for the rest of the
trip so after a quick hello we went to bed and arranged to meet up the next morning for breakfast at the World Cup dining
room for the buffet breakfast. He had picked up a 4x4 and we were going to put some of our luggage in there to free up some
space in our vehicle for the rest of the trip…..this did not happen as after a great morning cruising around he had
a collision with a skier. They had both come from different directions onto one run and collided, I was behind and it was
an almighty crash that left my brother in law with a broken tib and fib on his lower right leg, the skier shook himself down
and was fine. We administered first aid and the ski patrol were soon on the scene with the stretcher and got him down to the
first aid post. They dealt with the situation very well but although they have a comfortable and well maintained room and
they do have Entonox (gas and air) for pain relief nobody there was trained to administer this. The ambulance had to come
up from Banff and it was around an hour later when it arrived and he was taken to the Mineral Springs Hospital in Banff. Once
at the Hospital he was very quickly taken to theatre and operated on. An excellent Hospital and when we drove down there later
in the evening we were kept well informed of what they had done. He spent over a week in there and the bill came to over C$41,000.
It proves just how vital it is to have proper travel insurance. He managed to join us later on in the trip when we were at
Fairmont Hot Springs.
The day after the accident we drove west to Revelstoke while my wifes sister
went back to Banff to stay with her husband. We filled the Jeep up with petrol at Lake Louise where it was costing C$1.08/litre.
The price of fuel on this road trip was much more expensive than last year and on previous trips. It was a mild and bright
day as we set out towards Golden and then over the Rogers pass where we stopped at the Glacier Lodge Hotel for lunch. It was
+4c up here and when we got down to Revelstoke it was +8c. The drive was a comfortable 140 miles. It had been a nice drive
and we soon found the Hillcrest Hotel on the edge of town. Check-in was quick and the staff were friendly. Our room at the
Hillcrest was much better equipped than at the Post Hotel. It had a decent sized bedroom and bathroom and a small desk area
as well as a fridge and coffee making facilities. Craig loved the fact that Selkirk-Tangiers Heli ski operation had the helicopters
parked out at the front of the Hotel. The Hotel is in a quiet area outside the town but a 5 min drive gets you down to the
centre. We took the kids to the excellent Aquatic centre where a family ticket was just C$12. The pools are really warm and
there are adjoining hot-tubs.
We went to Emos Greek and Italian restaurant in the town centre
for dinner, they have really nice staff and we had another nice dinner. Seafood Linguine (C$16.95), Sirloin Steak (C$17.95),
Kids Fish and French Fries (C$5.95), Pint of local beer (C$3.99) and a large soft drink for C$2.69. Good value and service.
The next morning we drove the few kms round to Revelstoke Mountain Resort, this place was formerly known as Powder
Springs or Mt.Mackenzie when it was a locals ski hill. Now it is being touted as the next big thing in North America. The
stats are impressive and it includes having the Continents highest lift served vertical descent and markets itself on being
the worlds only resort that has lift, cat, heli and back-country access all from the one base. On arrival the base area is
not much more than a building site with the large Nelsen Lodge being the only completed ski-in, ski-out accomodation at the
base area. There is a lot of building work going on and during our visit there was no snow down at the base. This is quite
common and its not until you reach the top of the gondola that the resort comes into a league of its own. The gondola has
a mid-mountain stop where there is a restaurant and a magic carpet lift for access back to the gondola. If they are to utilise
the claim of having the greatest vertical in North America then a good idea would be to have snow-making on the lower runs
which are all easy beginner terrain.
I went inside the Lodge to get a lift ticket. It cost C$72.45
for an adult day ticket but my wife and the kids got free tickets to use the gondola. We all set out and went up to the top
of the gondola which sits on a small plateau. There is a small café with a nice outdoor deck known as the Mackenzie
Outpost as well as a first aid post and sheds for the piste groomers. On the trail map it shows toilets but they only have
a couple of portaloos at present. From here the real mountain begins. The Stoke quad chair opens up a huge area of terrain
on the front face of Mount Mackenzie, at the top its fairly open and there are stunning views down to the town and to the
Upper Arrow Lake in the valley below. You then have plenty of choice on mostly single black diamond trails through the trees
back to the bottom of the chair. From top of the Stoke chair you can take a short hike to drop down into the North Bowl area
and then down to the Ripper quad chair. It was very quiet on our visit and I felt I had the place virtually to myself. I could
see in my short time here just how good this place is and it’s a certainty that we will keep returning here but will
give it a year or two until the infrastructure is improved at the base area.
The Mackenzie outpost
is a great place to stop for a coffee and a warm up.
I decided to see how far I could ride down
towards the base but it turned into a mixture of mud ,grass, rocks and snow but I eventually winded my way to the mid mountain
gondola station and took it back to the base.
I met up with the family in the Rockford wok/bar/grill.
This modern eatery at the far end of the Nelsen Lodge building was excellent. Its spacious, has excellent staff and a really
good choice of food on its menu. There is also unusual tables and chairs to sit outside on a nice day but this season probably
was not used very much unless you are interested in watching the work going on in the building site. In the Rockford we paid
C$2.50 for a large Coke, Childrens meal (C$7), A pint of Pale Ale cost C$5.50, Tomato Soup (C$6), Soy Beef Noodles (C$13),
Caesar salad with Salmon (C$14)….Excellent.
There is also a small retail shop next door
to the restaurant with the usual stuff and we bought a few things before walking back across the mud to the car.
I put petrol in the Jeep at Revelstoke and it was costing C$1.069/litre.
The drive down
from Revelstoke to Rossland was via the Upper Arrow Lake ferry from Shelter bay across to Galena bay, the ferry runs regularly
and is free as it is part of the Canadian highways network and takes around 20 minutes. It was a lovely spring day as we headed
south to Nakusp. We stopped at the sleepy little town of Silverton for lunch in the quirky “ Cup and Saucer “
tea room. It’s a stunning drive down the Slocan valley and onto Castlegar where it was 10c but as we got nearer to Rossland
the temperature dropped and we ran into a few snow flurries.
We were booked into the Red Robs
condos at the base area and after checking in at the central reservations office we were soon unloading the car from the underground
carpark and getting our luggage up to the unit. We had a 2 bedroom unit with a huge bathroom upstairs and a large open plan
living /dinning area downstairs with a full kitchen and a private hot tub on the huge deck. These are quite expensive units
but well worth it and its great to have our son get his own bedroom which consisted of bunk beds plus a queen size bed and
lots of storage space. Directly below us was the “Gypsy at Red” Restaurant.
first night we got Pizza from “Misty Mountain Pizza” down in Rossland. As usual they were excellent and there
was leftovers for breakfast. Our Son Craig was really looking forward to going to kindercare at Red again, this would be his
3rd time and Jenny Nash who runs the kindercare hut always remembers you and makes you most welcome. She is situated
just a few feet away from the daylodge and the magic carpet and the beginners ski area is just behind the hut. Kindercare
at Red is licenced for taking children from 18 months old and upwards so we had asked Jenny a few months earlier if she knew
of anyone who was a private nanny and would be able to look after our Daughter Anya for a few days allowing Jill and I time
out on the hill together. Fortunately she did and we met up with Kelsey and she was brilliant and we had her take care of
Anya for 5 days. We only had 1 fresh powder day on this trip and we made the most of it and with only a handful of people
on the hill it was easy to find untracked powder. We have been coming here for over 10 years now and although we know the
area really well we are always finding new lines and new places to explore. This is one of the friendliest hills in the world
and the locals are all great to chat with. Over in the Paradise Bowl there is the Paradise Lodge where great food and coffees
are served and you can sit in front of the wood burning stove on cold snowy days or out on the deck when the sun is shining
and enjoy a legendary Paradise Lodge Deck Burger (C$10), a Hot Dog (C$5.50), Chilli and a Bun (C$6.50) among many other things.
The Kinderski program at Red is excellent and very similar to what is on offer at Lake Louise but the instructors
here were so much more enthusiastic and made it such fun for the kids, I was well impressed as we would mostly watch Craigs
lessons from the deck outside Rafters Bar at the daylodge. His 6 days kindercare plus his 1.5 hours a day ski lesson and lunch
came to a total of C$644 plus a tip for Jenny. We paid Kelsey C$300 for looking after Anya and it was money well spent.
The town of Rossland is known as Canada’s Alpine City and has some amazing shops as well as places to have
a coffee and a bite to eat. Some of the little gift shops are so quaint and its easy to pass a morning walking around them
and becoming engaged in chat with the owners. RossVegas board shop is only a small place but is really well stocked with everything
snowboard related as well as a really nice range of clothes. Butch Boutry Ski shop is another fine establishment in town and
as it was the end of season there were plenty of bargains to be had. We had a really nice dinner one evening in the “Garage
restaurant on Columbia Avenue , this place is really family friendly with good prices. Kids menu for C$4.95, 8oz New York
Steak (C$22.95), Stuffed Chicken (C$18.95) and Beer at C$4.75 a pint.
One place we always head
to for dinner while staying in Rossland is the Collander restaurant down in Trail. This Italian ,family diner is a bit of
an institution in the area and is such good value and quality I could probably eat here every night if it was closer to the
hill. Trail also has an excellent aquatic centre right beside the Columbia river and it has preferential entrance prices for
The base area at Red is going to see some big changes this spring with the
expansion and re-development of the daylodge. It is to be extended to provide conference facilities and the upstairs “Rafters”
bar is also to be enlarged. The kindercare hut is also being moved. Future development on the ski hill is in a 10 year plan
and includes expansion of the skiable terrain with new lifts including access to nearby Grey Mountain. All this is dependant
on the new accomodation at the base area selling and getting more visitors to come and ski and board.
usual we were sad to leave Red but we always know we will be coming back which makes it easier to bear. We called in at Trail
to say goodbye to the relatives then headed via Salmo over the Kootenay pass to Creston for a bite of lunch. Many a time we
hacve been delayed on this mountain pass waiting for the road to be cleared but today with a temp of +6c at the summit we
had no problems. We drove on to Cranbrook and eventually to Fairmont Hot Springs. It was a 220 mile journey but on quiet roads
it is an easy trip.
We had been to FHS the last two years on our way back to Calgary and it makes
an excellent stopover for a couple of nights before the flight home to the UK. We had a unit with 2 queen beds, a kitchen
and plenty of storage space. These units cost C$200 per night. There is a private hot pool for residents and its only about
a 50m walk to the main hot pools which are free anyone who is staying at the resort as well as being open to the public. The
pools range in temp from 30c up to 39c and are lovely and relaxing. There are two options for eating, either in the Mountain
Flowers dining room or in the Bear’s Paw lounge. A jug of Honey Brown Lager was C$14.50, a chicken Panini (C$14.95)
and a large glass of juice was C$2.95.
The ski hill is only a 10 minute drive and is in a sheltered
position. There is a fairly large lodge with a cafeteria and a lounge bar and the ski hire building is separate down near
the Sundance Triple Chair. The hill also has a short Poma drag lift and a magic carpet in front of the deck at the daylodge
which is excellent for first timers and beginners. A full day lift ticket costs C$44 which gives you access to around 10 runs
from the top, most are blues and greens but relatively steep for their grading. Last March it was -25c and knee deep powder
and we had the hill virtually to ourselves, this year it was +10c and we still had the hill to ourselves. I took my son (3.5
years old) out on his new skis and we had a great few hours doing laps from the chair before having lunch in the lodge then
heading back down to the hot pools.
The next morning we got up, had breakfast then went for an
hour to the hot pools before setting out for Calgary and the evening flight home. We stopped at Canmore for lunch then we
were running low on fuel getting into the City so I stopped and put another C$10 in the tank to see us through. The 195 mile
journey from Fairmont Hot Springs took us an easy 5 hours including a nice lunch stop. Got vehicle back to car hire and handed
it over then made our way to the check in with our luggage. It was quite busy and the check-in progress at the Air Canada
desks was painfully slow. Eventually it was our turn and I was told I would have to pay an excess baggage charge of C$150.…they
wanted this for the two snowboard bags and for the Babys car seat. I explained to the girl that we had booked these flights
the previous April when board carriage was free and that the new policy was only for bookings made after 19th Dec
2009. I also stated as per AC carriage rules and regulations that it states that infants car seats and pushchairs are carried
free of charge. She was not going to give in so I asked for the duty Manager who never appeared and the unhelpful girl also
just walked away and was never seen again.. Eventually another desk further down became available and I moved down there,
told the girl the facts and that we had contacted Air Canada prior to coming over and had been told things were fine. She
just smiled and said that’s ok and took our bags, the only thing was that one bag was 2kg overweight but she just said
that I could quickly transfer a few things to one of our other bags, which I did. It just proved to me how some staff read
and understand the rules while others don’t care and have not got the courtesy to get it sorted in a pleasant manner.
We went to the Montana cookhouse at the airport and as usual had a good dinner with good quick service. A sirloin
steak with Shrimps (C$27.59) and we were ready for the flight home.
This was by far our most expensive
Canadian road trip but was also a memorable one. Travelling with two young children is hard work but with plenty of planning
and knowing that you will always get quality kindercare in the resorts it is not too daunting an undertaking. We will be looking
at other options on flights for our next trip. Canadian Affair flying direct from Manchester is an option but you loose some
of the flexibility of Air Canada’s daily flights as they only fly Sat and Wed but for us it would mean not having to
take the shuttle up and down from Glasgow.