Bear claws? Big cats? Wintersports just got interesting

Canada wintersportsI had vowed to one day ski in the wilds of Canada and now I have, I’m wondering why I left it so long.

Yes it’s a journey and a half from the UK, and yes it can get frickin’ freezing but it’s so, so worth it.

With beautiful powder, well-groomed pistes, stunning scenery, and best of all empty slopes and no lift queues – it just doesn’t get much better than this.

And the dangerous creatures? Well, that just adds to the buzz, non?

Three of the world’s best ski areas can be found in Banff National Park – all conveniently covered by one Tri-Area lift pass – and I skied two of them.

A 25-minute drive from the wild west town of Banff, Sunshine Village sits 7,200 feet above sea level and once a snowflake falls in November it stays put until May, leaving bambi-legged beginners with vast swathes of pistes on which to learn and gung-ho GPS-tracked charlies the opportunity to pelt down the likes of powder-filled Delirium Dive, oft voted one of the world’s scariest ski runs.


Lovely Inghams rep Lisa Tyrrel and moi off snowshoeing

Away from Sunshine’s slopes you can make like a local by walking in an innuit’s snowshoes, a slightly more laid-back way to appreciate the natural beauty, breaking the silence of a still, wooded glade with the crunch of snow underfoot.

At night, live music pulsates through the town, but for me it’s time to bed down at the luxurious Fairmont Banff, a dramatic imposing five-star hotel.

Fairmont Lake Louise Canada

Fairmont Lake Louise resides next to a stunning natural ice rink

The second of the national parks’ ski areas and Canada’s second largest ski area at over 4,000 acres, Lake Louise combines a plethora of mountains, lakes, forests and glaciers.

Skating around the frozen lake at the spectacular Fairmont Lake Louise becomes a blur of mountain, forests and snow as you pile round the uneven ice.

Pistes are suitable for all abilities but are famed for their vertical challenges some of which require a further hike even after you’ve reached the top of the highest chairlift.

With runs names such as ‘elevator shaft’ it doesn’t require the ski guides to tell you that “once you fall here, you stay fallen” but they do anyway.

Beginner’s might want to avoid the snowboard/ski park with vertical jumps and slides.

Skiing in Canada

Barely a skiier to be seen – very different to the Alps in February

Assuming you’ve survived the day skiing, you can try dog sledding.

Six surprisingly lean dogs drag you along a snowy path through woods, revealing glimpses of the open lake and mountainous terrain to come.

Whether seated in the sled solo or with a partner or having a go at ‘mushing’ (with the guiding hand of the proper musher standing rather snugly behind you) hairing through the breathtaking views is thrilling.

Dog sledding in Canada

So gonna get me some dogs to commute with when I’m back in London

So you’ve covered Sunshine Village and Lake Louise ski areas – now you need to head to Jasper, and the infamous Marmot Basin or you’ll be missing out.

Yes it’s another 291km further north but to get there you go down one of the most stunning road routes in the world, the Icefield Parkway, surrounded on all sides by jagged mountain peaks which jut out of the forest like a mouthful of teeth. The journeys almost worth it alone.

A slightly nervy Annie from heading off for her first lesson

There are so many runs from the top of each lift that it’s easy to be able to ski off in different directions from your party, depending on your skiing level and meet them at the end of the run.

A snow park at the bottom enables beginners to hire a guide to give them some pointers on the best way to launch yourself stylishly into the air, or, perhaps more importantly, landing at the end.

Stunning scenery on a canyon walk at Maligne Canyon

Away from the slopes and a fish eye view of a river bed is an unnerving way to spend a few hours.

A few months later and the Maligne Canyon will be filled with water from the mountain’s melted snow and would be roaring through the very canyon we’re walking through, forming the marble-smooth walls.

In February, however, glistening waterfalls are frozen in mid-splash revealing icy nooks, cascading frozen waterwalls and the bluest ice you’ve ever seen.

That hole we’re looking at? Just don’t fall in – you’d get swept under the ice to Kingdom come

One of my favourite trips. Ever.

Oh, and the bear claws and cat paws thing? See video below.

Author: Jo Gunston

Roving blogging superfan shares behind the scenes stories of her sports life and the best of those from like-minded souls.

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