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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Trip Report Rockies in Winter for a non skiier - review of accommodation and tours

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I have just spent a wonderful five nights in the Canadian Rockies (mid Dec). I visited in summer with my family and loved it so much I decided to come back in winter before heading back home to Australia. As a non-driver, I was relying on transfers and tours to see the Rockies and thought I would review them here for others interested in doing tours. I am not a skier or snowboarder, but love the outdoors and beautiful scenery, so my selection of tours reflected my interests.

Accommodation:

Thanks to a special deal, I spent one night at the Fairmont in Lake Louise. I wanted to visit the lake in winter, and staying at the Fairmont meant I didn’t have to worry about getting to the lake and was able to be one of the first people outside in the morning to appreciate the beauty of the area! In my opinion, the attraction of the Fairmont is its location. Whilst a nice hotel, the room I was in was modern and clean, the hotel itself isn’t a standout. I was able to rent ice skates from a rental equipment store in the hotel. It is a pretty special experience skating on the most beautiful natural ice skating rink in the world! Also walked to the end of the lake and back, appreciating the beautiful views, the snowfall and the frozen waterfall at the end of the lake.

I spent my remaining four nights at Holiday Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Banff. It is in an excellent location in the centre of town. It was good value for money with breakfast included, and muffins wrapped up for my lunch! Karen was an excellent host and makes a fantastic breakfast! I was in a room in the house (there are cabins in the back garden as well) which was clean and comfortable. I had my own private bathroom which I had to leave my room to get to (but it was only a 2 meter walk across the landing). Worked perfectly well for me!

Tours:

I organised transfers between accommodation and to and from the airport with Brewster. It was an easy experience which was relatively inexpensive. Their transfers only run a few times a day, so consider trying to time flights with times of bus transfers. Brewster only transfers to Lake Louise. For those wanting to go to Jasper; Sundog does transfers there.

I did three tours with Banff Adventure Tours. Johnston Canyon was a very beautiful walk along the canyon, taking photos and admiring the winter snow and frozen waterfalls. If one has transport and proper shoes, it can be walked easily enough on your own. We had ice cleats provided, though I did see people walking in hiking boots and winter boots. Also did a snowshoe hiking tour to Marble Canyon. We didn’t walk very far, but rather were able to play around walking in snow for about an hour, and then walked down to the Canyon. The canyon is accessible without snowshoes, as walkways are compacted snow. It was a very deep narrow canyon, but an interesting place to visit. Saw some ice climbers which was fascinating to watch them! My last tour was the Wildlife Tour. I wasn’t expecting to see any wildlife, but rather wanted to see some sights around Banff which the tour visits. We were fortunate enough to have an excellent sighting of a Mule Deer and Bighorn Sheep, a very skittish White Tailed Deer and drove past Elk at the side of the freeway. Tour guides were all good, though some more engaging and informative than others.

I had a fantastic experience of dog sledding. I did my tour with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours. The tours are done just outside of Canmore at a beautiful setting alongside a dam. A few different companies do tours up there, but I think they organise their tours to start at different times. I did the 9am tour, which meant we were the first people for the day. There were ten sleds in my tour, though they were spread out and we never saw more than one other sled on our tour. Some sleds are driven by guests, and others by guides (often tandem driving with a guest). The dogs were all extremely well looked after, and you could see their excitement and eagerness to start running. An amazing experience which I will never forget!

My last tour I organised was a snowshoe hike at Sunshine Village (ski resort) by White Mountain Adventures. This tour we took a closed cable car and open chair lift up to the top of the mountain. We then hiked down and around the mountain, across a frozen snow covered lake and back to the closed cable car for the ride down the mountain. It was approximately a four kilometre walk, which was a lot of fun. Despite it snowing, the area was beautiful and we all had fun laughing at ourselves falling over when attempting to walk down hills. Tobogganing on ones bottom became the default in some areas! Our guide was really friendly and knowledgeable. Snowshoe hiking was one of my favourite winter activities!

All up, a wonderful trip to the Rockies! There is plenty to see and do, even if you don’t ski or snowboard. People asked whether summer or winter is better, and my opinion is that they are different. Both are magical times of the year, but have different types of activities and sights to be appreciated and enjoyed!

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