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kkclub Apr 13th, 2006 11:22 PM

What to do in April?
Dear local experts, we made a spontaneous decision and will be in Banff the last weeknd of this month (yes 2 weeks later!). We have been doing some research but couldn't find a lot of information for this time of the season (I know we will see snow, *grin. We will ski). I wonder what's the general weather condition this year? And I just learnt that the snocoach for the Athabasca glacier is closed for winter! Not sure it will be opened by the time we visit. Is there a phone number I can call? Thanks soooo much for your advice!

Judy_in_Calgary Apr 14th, 2006 07:18 AM

The Snocoach ride onto the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields operates from April 15 to october 15, weather permitting.

Brewster operates the Snocoach. Here is their website:

We are having mild spring weather at the moment, but there still is snow in the mountains. You can look up skiing conditions in the Alberta Rockies here:

The ski slopes that are located in Banff National Park are Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise. If conditions at all three ski resorts warrant it when you're here, you might consider purchasing a Tri-Area Lift Ticket.

Marmot Basin is in Jasper National Park.

Fortress Mountain and Nakiska are in Kananaskis Country, to the southeast of Banff.

kkclub Apr 15th, 2006 11:49 PM

Thanks Judy! That's really good to know that we are able to take the snocoach, cos we plan to ski only 1 day (+ 1 more morning, may be), so more varieties of other activities will be nice. You know, too much to do and see, too little time, as usual. lol.
We found more suggestions and wonder what you guys think about them:
- a guided ice walk in Maligne Canyon
- skating in front of Chateau Lake Louise
- sleigh ride along Bow River

And what about snowshoeing?
O, normally what's the driving condition on icefield parkway? Need snow chain?

lunabug Apr 19th, 2006 07:49 PM

You won't be able to do the ice walk or the skating activities. Spring is arriving in the lower altitudes. You might encounter snow conditions on the Icefield Parkway but are more likely not to. There will be snow still in the higher elevations and the Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefields are above the tree line. It will likely be wintery up there but in Banff - Jasper - Lake Louise you can expect daytime temperatures from 10 to maybe 20 degrees celsius.

You won't need snow chains on the highways. Now I will be proved wrong if you encounter a 'freak' spring snowstorm!

kkclub Apr 21st, 2006 12:04 AM

Great to know about the good driving condition. Thanks lunabug!
Yep, we also learnt from the hiking companies that icewalk tours close in first half of April. Sounds like an embarrassing time to visit (??). Well, hopefully weather permits us to do some hiking in Johnston Canyon and ski in Lake Louise (just read the snow report).

Which resort is good for snowboard beginners? For sightseeing only, which gondola is better, Banff or Sunshine? The pix of the Sunshine gondola ride are beautiful(!!) while the Banff gondola to Sulphur Mountain is more famous.


kkclub Jun 21st, 2006 12:40 PM

I normally don't write trip report, but I really want to share my pleasant experience in Banff, in case other travellers plan to go there in early Spring, which is not the most popular time to visit there.

Well, not true.
We had a good time enjoying a variety of activities without the crowd!

Day 1: Arriving at Calgary in late afternoon. Got our rental car and had a nice dinner in Calgary before heading out to Canmore for our first night. We wanted to enter Banff during the day time.

Day 2: Drove along Icefields Parkway and visited Columbia Icefield, skipping Lake Louise on purpose.
-- Gathered all the required info at the Visitor Center in Banff and took off. Wooed and Wowed at the scenery on 93. Arriving at Columbia Icefield Center ~2pm and no line waiting for the Snocoach. Took the tour to Athabasca Glacier. More glacier and snow at this time of the year providing stunning view under the bright sunny sky. Downside is the exhibit is closed. Scenery is less colorful with the frozen lakes along 93 and lots of view points are still closed. Stayed in Banff.

Day 3: Snowboarding at Sunshine Village.
-- Got up early to catch the first ski shuttle to Sunshine Village (opened till late May). Gorgeous view riding up the Gondola. Still great snow condition and no lines at the lifts. Warm (even though it says -3C) and heavenly up there. Cool and friendly people from all around the world. Spending the rest of the day in Banff downtown, in shorts and sandals as if we were in Hawaii!

Day 4: Bow Falls, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, Wildlife searching
-- Stopped by Bow Falls before going to Johnston Canyon. Earlier we were told at the information center that cleats were required to hike in the canyon. Luckily a local guy went there a few days back and encouraged us to go. The weather was warm and sunny and we hiked all the way to the upper falls. No icy path. Water already flowing nicely and massive ice (with blue hues) still clinging onto the canyon wall. Refreshing.
Drove leisurely to Lake Louise and the weather turned grey, chilly and drizzled. Splendid view of the lake and Victoria glacier in this quiet(!!) ambience. Perfect tea time by the window inside the lounge of Chateau Lake Louise. Moraine Lake is still closed.
Drove very slowly back to Banff on 1A to spot wildlife during dusk. We saw elk and deers.

Day 5: Upper Hot Springs, massage and brunch at Fairmont Springs
-- Checked out from our hotel and went to Banff Upper Hot Spring in Banff. Today was even colder. It was drizzling at the foothill and by the time we were soaking in the hot springs, it was snowing! (well, tiny flakes, but still, how fortunate!) Crowds started to get in when we left ~11am. Went to Pleiades located in the same building for a massage. Brunch at the nearby Fairmont Springs hotel. On the way to Calgary airport, we also stopped by the Olympic Park.

Planning to go back, hopefully right after the first snow which seems to be the perfect time to enjoy the nature colors.
Thanks everybody here again for sharing the useful information!

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