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March car trip: Vancouver-Calgary & back'n 10 days

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Dec 30th, 2017, 07:31 AM
  #1
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March car trip: Vancouver-Calgary & back'n 10 days

Hi everyone.Just booked my flight for Vancouver ifor the beginning of march and I am looking to get some advice on how to best make a great trip out of it. I am renting a car in Vancouver and I am thinking of driving a loop Vancouver- Kelowna-Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Whistler-Vancouver. I have about 10 days in Canada and I would love to receive some insight into driving this time of the year. I am rather sensitive in terms of finances so the fairer the price, the better. I am interested in any info: driving tips, overnights, tips of other nature. Anything is welcome. Thanks a million!
Caliniada is offline  
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Dec 30th, 2017, 08:04 AM
  #2
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If you are not experienced in winter driving in the mountains, you should consider public means of transport such as bus and train. Via Rail provides service three times a week between Vancouver and Jasper.

The weather can be very changeable and driving in snowy or icy conditions can be hazardous, especially through high mountain passes such as the Coquihalla and Rogers. Rogers Pass is frequently closed, sometimes for days, due to avalanches.

The Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper is open but all facilities including fuel are closed between November and April. Brewster provides daily bus service in the winter between Banff/Lake Louise and Jasper.

There is frequent bus service between Vancouver and Whistler and also between Vancouver and Calgary with points in between.

With 10 days, I would concentrate on visiting Vancouver and Whistler, with perhaps a few days in Victoria. If you want to see the Rockies, take the train to Jasper, stay a few days, then the shuttle to Banff for a few days and return to Vancouver by bus (Greyhound), a 13 hour trip during the day (overnight is longer).
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Jan 3rd, 2018, 12:14 PM
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Agreed

10 days is about the bare minimum for a Vancouver - Rockies - Vancouver round-trip in the summer. Even then, you'd have no real time in Vancouver, and little time to actually see the Rockies.

In the winter it's not a drive anyone would do without plenty of time, flexibility, winter driving experience and a real need to actually be driving that route. March is still very, very much winter in the mountains, and you can easily encounter major snowstorms, road closures/delays and scary driving conditions. Parts of the drive are through relatively remote areas - i.e. long distances between stores/gas stations, patchy or no cell reception and few or sometime no options for alternate routes if the highway(s) is shut.

I would also strongly suggest against driving between Lake Louise and Jasper in the winter unless you have substantial winter driving experience. It's not maintained like other highways (graded, not plowed), there is no cell reception, no hotels/stores/gas stations and closures are not uncommon. As mentioned, if you really want to see Jasper, the best bet is to take the SunDogs shuttle (SunDogs does winter operations for Brewsters).

Note that to drive inland BC, you must have at least M+S tires - those cost extra. Full winter (snowflake) tires are required on the Icefields Parkway.

I would agree that your best bet is to look for alternate transport. And ensure that you are back in Vancouver at least the day before your return flight, if not two days before. You don't want to miss an international flight because you got delayed getting back across BC (whether by flying, bus, train or car - trains can easily be many hours late, bus/car hours to days late and planes can be delayed).

1) Spend a few days in Vancouver, then fly to Calgary. From there rent a car or take a shuttle to Banff. Spend 3-4 days in the Banff/Lake Louise area. Then fly back to Vancouver.

2) Take the train to Jasper, shuttle to Banff, then fly back to Vancouver.

3) Option 2, but bus to and/or from the Rockies. Personally, I would tend to avoid Greyhound, especially in the winter because they have terrible customer service, poor reliability and are subject to the same road issues as via car.
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Jan 7th, 2018, 04:33 PM
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March is spring in many areas. … HOWEVER ... in BC and Alberta it is still WINTER, especially early March.

I fully agree with the above posts.

In Vancouver and Victoria (and Seattle) March is *very early* spring – you can luck out with some glorious sunny (but coolish) days, but are more likely to find rain. The early flowers (crocuses and flowering plum trees and a few early rhododendrons) will likely be blooming, but there is also a VERY slight chance of snow there too.

In the mountains between Vancouver and Alberta, and in Alberta, it will still be full-on winter with plenty of snow. In Whistler it will still be full-on ski season. If you’re not experienced in driving in snow, don’t attempt it … it can be dangerous for you and others. (I’m not intimidated about driving in snow, but I’ve done so for over half a century and am still extremely respectful of it.) Use commercial transport, for sure (The ViaRail train “The Canadian” runs from Vancouver through Kamloops and Jasper to Edmonton all year (only 4 days a week in March). http://www.viarail.ca/en/plan-your-t...train-schedule). Unfortunately, the very expensive “Rocky Mountaineer” tourist train from Vancouver to Banff and Calgary doesn’t operate in winter.

But Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle are delightful places that time of year if you are prepared for a bit of chilly rain. And there is good bus service to Whistler, which can be a delightful place to spend a couple of nights even if you don’t ski.

For weather averages go to https://weatherspark.com/ - it has great charts showing average temperatures and other weather conditions by day instead of by month.
For Vancouver: https://weatherspark.com/y/476/Avera...ada-Year-Round
For Kamloops: https://weatherspark.com/y/1421/Aver...ada-Year-Round
For Banff: https://weatherspark.com/y/3592/Aver...ada-Year-Round

I’m in the process of writing a road trip report for a midwinter driving trip this last Christmas from Seattle to Alberta and back and hope to be done and post it shortly.
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