It may be April, but our local Alps are still piled with snow. No foolin! The Canadian Rockies are less than an hour’s drive from Calgary. Home to several ski areas, Banff Alberta starts inspiring awe from the Trans-Canada Highway. Established in 1885, Banff National Park is the birthplace of Canada’s national park system. The name Banff comes from Banffshire, Scotland, birthplace of one of the big money boys who backed the Canadian Pacific Railway. CP Rail constructed fabulous, castle-like hotels in each major city across Canada. And in the occasional park.Built in 1888, the Banff Springs Hotel brought tourists to Canada’s Wild West. One of this country’s original luxury hotels, it is still a grand dame of glam.The Rundle Lounge may have incredible views, but settle into a divan away from the window’s glare and enjoy the gothic vibe of the ceiling’s stone arches — and the Worcestershired vodka of a Caesar, the drink invented in Alberta. As a courtesy translation for Americans, the menu also listed it as a Bloody Mary , but FYI it’s not quite the same. Up north we use a blend of clam and tomato juice instead of pure tomato juice. Motts actually sells it in stores: Motts Clamato. Sounds super gross but, just like escargot, it’s actually very yummy.Surrounded by nature on all sides, the hotel is a great starting point for fresh air exploration, in your most glamorous hiking outfit. Alongside the glacier-fed Bow River, it was almost too warm for my Italian fox fur hat, but it still seemed totally appropriate.By the way, this is the product I’m using this week to cover up the ever-evolving skin graft on my nose. The Lancome is very nice, but not made for super scar duty. However, it could be my application. I get better at blending with more practice (check the pics tomorrow) and the SPF is a plus for protecting my new epidermis patch.In the meantime, up river are the Bow Falls. Probably the most underwhelming view in Banff, but they were made famous by Marilyn Monroe in the River of No Return, so you gotta check ‘em out. When Ms. Monroe stayed at the Banff Springs (now owned by Fairmont) in 1953, it was the height of luxury. When I stayed there a few years ago, the room I was in seemed like it hadn’t been updated since Marilyn’s trip. Maybe they’ve made some changes. I don’t know, because I decided this time I would stay somewhere completely different. Stay tuned … Blue Besos is in Banff all week!
The sun gleams off Grand Teton, in, you guessed it, Grand Teton National Park. Just a short drive south of Yellowstone. After an afternoon spent hiking around Taggart Lake, with its incredible views of the Teton mountain range, yes, that’s frost in my hair.Back to the town square, with its ubiquitous elk antler presence. The town ski hill, always in the shade, looms in the background. Which, really, is all a hill can do if it faces north.Enough with those arches! Time to git me a drink!It’s called the Million Dollar Bar because of the currency inlaid in the countertops. And because a hot toddy after a cold hike makes you feel like a million bucks.
But this is the Dwell Magazine version of camping. Smoothly named Fireside Resort, these rustic yet modern cabins are actually plonked down in the middle of the ol’ Jackson Hole Campground, the local “premier” campground, complete with 30 and 50 amp hook-ups. The Fireside Resort website doesn’t reveal its humble roots until you click their map link. Then a little googling gives the game away: the resort is actually canny campground off-season strategy – Luxury Edition.
But a little more obssessive compulsive web surfing should help you come to the same conclusion I did… When there’s snow on the ground, nobody’s camping! And those hookups were under several feet of snow. But the RV aspect means the luxury cabins, each with their own fireplace, kitchen, living room, deck, barbecue and two flatscreens, are a deal. And much more fun to spend a week in than a 350 square foot hotel room.Just five minutes down the road from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Until I was drawn to this charming boutique on a sidestreet in downtown Jackson, I had never heard the word Cayuse. It refers to American Indian people of Washington State and Oregon. This store has amazing artifacts, antiques and jewelry. I even discovered some photos of First Nations people at the very first Calgary Stampede.In luxury lodging.
The Four Seasons is so into art they have a podcast tour, featuring their collection of Miros that stretch down the hallway to the Lobby Lounge.Just a few steps away in Teton Village you’ll find these incredible renderings on display in the lobby of Hotel Terra (btw I highly recommend the Buﬀalo Carpaccio at their Italian restaurant, Il Villaggio Osteria, although I’m not sure that is what the Wyoming state flag is suggesting).Take a moment to caffeine up at the charming Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters. If you skipped the most important meal of the day, they have a wonderful breakfast bagel here. Just like every other shop near the town square, the mountains always rise in the background.The art here is so prolific, when I stumble upon Ken Peloke’s works at RARE Gallery, they haven’t even had a chance to hang it yet.Must be something in the air. Or the antlers.
That’s my happy dance, after nailing the must-have fashion item for a beautiful week in Jackson Hole, with temperatures hovering at -20 C or -4 F for most of the week. This coat is one of the biggest rewards of my Time In Edmonton. In the city known as the Gateway to the North, in Edmonton, when they ask you if you have spent time up north, they mean even further north – like the Yukon or the Northwest Territories. Or Nunavut if you’re feeling post-1999, which I’m sure everybody is, whether they realize that was the year Nunavut officially separated from the Northwest Territories. In general, Canada is all about potential separation threats. Although after the second referendum regarding Quebec seceding to become a separate state (and almost certainly be gobbled up by the fresh water and maple syrup hungry country below the 49th parallel) any talk or action on separation this days is greeted by a national “Mehh” in the Great White North, and, as usual, a “Huh?” by anyone in any other country.
Where was I?
Oh, yes, the coat. I can’t tell you where you can find one – it was a gift. Perhaps if you go knocking on doors in the Northwest Territories – coats like this are hand-made. Someone who lived there once told me that the designs on the outside of the coat became an intrinsic part of your identity — since you need to wear a coat like this for at least 7 months a year. My coat keeps me warm even when it’s -37 C outside. I’d like you to know that is when Fahrenheit and Celsius are equivalent. After that, it just doesn’t matter – it is ridiculously cold. Square tires. Horizontal exhaust. White rabbits. Don’t get me started on all my “it’s so cold” punchlines.
But as I was saying. En route to Jackson Hole, I kept thinking, this pure wool coat is so heavy, why am I schlepping it through multiple airports (no direct flight from YVR) when I need the spare arm to check out the fragrance section in Duty Free? As soon as I landed in the hole in the Wyoming Rockies (as seen in Django Unchained: look for the ski resort in the background of the 1858 winter scenes) I knew I had chosen wisely.
Say you’ve just flown in from Vancouver, Canada (elevation: zero). After arriving in Jackson Hole, which is already 6000 feet above sea level, you decide to head to the top of the ski resort for a nice long first run, on the first day of your vacation. Perhaps you don’t consult the trail map. Or realize the possible effects of extreme changes in altitude.
I didn’t realize there was a baby step strategy to elevation. The tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort whisked me 6000 feet up to the summit in 9 minutes flat. My instant rocky mountain high was so overwhelming I forgot the photo op — the picture above is courtesy of JHMR.Halfway down the hill I was still short of breath. But check out my cool new ride! Yeah, that’s the super hot Gnu B-pro with the flying unicorns. I give its serrated edges full credit for getting me through Rendezvous Bowl.Next run I thought I’d try the Bridger Gondola. It looked more friendly… heck, there was a blue man group serenading the people in line even though it was -15 Celsius.But after the gondola delivered me to 9095 feet, once again the air seemed very thin. Suddenly lunch seemed like a great idea — and it was, because of the Couloir Restaurant.The incredible view from the table was matched by the food. In my gourmet naivetee, I thought American Beef and Kobe Beef were cattle with different passports. Not at Couloir! The SRF American Kobe Burger was possibly the most delicious burger I’ve ever had. And after I proteined up, I felt like I was absorbing more O2.With my JH Tapped app (not pictured here), not only did I live to tell about my day of snowboarding a mountain known for its large percentage of double blacks, my top speed, elevation and number of runs were recorded for posterity in my iPhone (relief pictured here).And bragging rights are best accompanied by a beer. Avoiding alcohol is recommended while acclimatizing to high altitudes, but it’s hard to resist cool sudsy refreshment when the Handle Bar is conveniently located at the end of several runs.Just another day in the mile high club, minus the airplane.
Two minutes before you make a left into the driveway of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, this is what you see on the road. Just a brief twelve mile drive from the town of Jackson, there are no big box stores here. No massive condo developments. No amusement parks. Just wide open horizontal as you prepare mentally for 4,139 feet of vertical. The Big Red tram takes you to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain, which just happens to be 10,450 feet high. Sick! Also… Altitude Sickness! Will I bomb with aplomb? Tune in tomorrow.
If you arrive in Jackson Hole by plane in the winter, make sure your mitts are on, because there’s no jetway – only bracing, fresh Wyoming air on an icy tarmac. Then, be prepared to roll your carry-on under an arch of elk antlers. Don’t worry, no animals were traumatized in the making of this arch – elks shed their antlers each year. Since Teton County is in a major wildlife migration corridor, the antlers are a recurring theme in local decor, as you’ll see in upcoming posts. It’s all part of the rugged, apres-ski-slash-cowboy style thing going on here. It’s Jackson Hole Week on Blue Besos!
A quick trip to my hometown of Vancouver uncovered so many new places. The restaurants! The bars! The shops! Not to mention the scenery!! Excuse the effusiveness, I just read Tom Wolfe’s Back To Blood and his style is contagious. I couldn’t check out 99% of the places I wanted to (that’s an official numeric value I just made up) but… the random sampling of places I did get to proved just how cool lotus land is. As if I didn’t know.
The name of a Willie Nelson song, and strangely satisfying art in front of the Vancouver Public Library.
Happy, shiny Tiffany. Look at the post-purchase glow I have after finding this boutique:
Loft 82 on Granville Street downtown. There’s a few of these super-chic little shops sprinkled in cities north of the 49th parallel, including one of my old stomping grounds — hint: the airport code is YEG! Anyhow, I couldn’t resist:
Who doesn’t need a little wishbone action in their lives? Then, moseying into the Bay on Georgia Street, which recently had a big luxury upgrade that I -ahem- didn’t really notice, I was distracted by this:
An entire area devoted to selling Nespresso. The coffee that Penelope Cruz is currently bringing sexy to on TV. I had to try it.
Those little individual espresso containers are an environmental disaster, but Dios mio! My instant Dulsao do Brasil was soooo good.
Everywhere I turned, I found a new store that had just opened. Nineteen Ten on Main street sold gorgeous home accessories…
Don’t set your heart on that owl bottle opener, because he went home with me.
Such a short trip! But I did manage to visit Horseshoe Bay. It’s a sleepy, small neighborhood – a nice little stop if you’re on the way up to Whistler or about to catch a ferry to Bowen, Nanaimo or the Sunshine Coast.