The scenery here in the Canadian Rockies is so beautiful – but apres ski I really, really just want to see a beer. Or two. Today I delayed the hops gratification by taking the apres off the mountain, into downtown Banff. Conveniently located on the main drag, Banff Avenue, this brewpub makes their beer on site, with local glacial water and all the minerals that come with it. I’m sure there are vitamins in there too.Brew with a view. Banff Ave Blonde Ale brings me back to my roots. If only touching them up was as easy as drinking this mild kosch style ale, the first beer ever to be handcrafted in Banff. Mmmm. Hasta luego, Banff! I’ll be back.
Of the three ski resorts in Banff, Sunshine is my favorite. Although since I’ve only been to Lake Louise twice and I’ve never skied Norquay, I have to admit I’m not really qualified to make this statement. But isn’t that the beauty of having a blog? The gondola takes you from the parking lot to the base of three hills. But at the end of the day, there’s more than enough snow to ride Banff Ave trail back to your car. In fact, today’s a huge powder day.Even though the clouds are obscuring the mega magnificent view usually to be had up here, Cookie’s got me covered. In Alberta, the sun always comes out at some point.Mix it up at the top of Mount Standish Express high speed quad. Do a few turns in British Columbia.Here comes the sun – I see some semblance of a shadow. And a white gourd — no, wait, that’s my Helli Hansen ski jacket. I am not down with this non-svelte silhouette. I gotta get a new jacket. But I’ve been saying that for years. Just avert your eyes and look at the B-Pro instead. Mmm… Gnu… Or that view of the Rockies! Meanwhile, you might notice there’s not much of a downward grade on this particular stretch of snow. At Sunshine, it’s good to bring a skier along so you can catch a ride by hanging onto one of their poles when you hit a flat spot. There’s a few of them here.Here’s another view to look out for at Mad Trapper’s Saloon. Just don’t let it startle you as you tilt your head up to take a swig of that midday beer. Built in 1928 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, you have to stop by this log cabin for lunch. Trappers makes a mean burger and it’s old-school ski vibe all the way. On the final day of the season (May 20 this year), the balcony is the best place to watch the Slush Cup. I didn’t fall! I was taking a break… … to take this photo. I can’t get enough of these Skittle-colored gondies. Luckily there’s still a month and a half left in the season. Next up: apres ski.
The mountains bring out the carnivore in me. It starts with the clothes. Suede boots, made in Italy. I paid a lot of money for them at an intriguing little boutique in San Francisco, but I can’t even brag about them because they have no designer name… anywhere. Who does that? However, I remember the shop’s name. Paolo Shoes in Hayes Valley. Check it out next time you’re there. Suede handbag, Gucci. Dress, Max Studio. Coat, Armani Exchange. Shearling hat, A Vintage Affair in Calgary. Because a hat like this makes sense when you’re surrounded by snow. You can’t hear my grumbling tummy, but I’m smiling through the hunger pangs. Luckily downtown Banff has a number of incredible restaurants less than a five minute drive from the Juniper Hotel.So many places in Banff are all about using natural recovered local materials, like the Maple Leaf Grille. I dig this wall.More than that, I dig their Game Platter. With a selection of bison, elk, beef and duck sausage and charcuterie, it’s a carnivore’s cult list. There might have been some bunny in there too. With local cheeses and tomatoes thrown in, I was pretty much in edible heaven while eating this. Which is good, because tomorrow I’ll need the calories. Come back manana for a little boarding, Banff style.
Perched above Highway 1, the Juniper Hotel has one of the most incredible views in Banff.Tucked into the side of the hill at the base of Mount Norquay, it’s not an automatic association when the ski vacation thought bubble starts forming above my head. But it should be.The vista from Room 210. The second floor here is the top floor. Mount Rundle is mesmerizing in late afternoon, its color palette changing from moment to moment. However, if you manage to tear yourself away, there are lessons to be learned and libations to be had downstairs. The hotel has an extensive art collection, inspired by Banff history. Here, in the Heritage Hallway, is a first nations saddle circa 1880, made from leather, fur and rawhide. Even if you’re not the museum type, you still have an incentive to visit, because the hallway leads to the bar.Called the Timberline Hotel when it was built in 1955, the sleek low-rise structure is different from the typical gingerbread house chalet you find in ski towns. Modernist design mingles with materials native to the Bow Valley, like Rundle stone and recycled fir timbers. If you’re going to indulge in a guilty pleasure like drinking, it’s nice to offset it with the eco-design of the Juniper Bistro Lounge.Normally I’m a wine drinker. Maybe it’s the name of the hotel, maybe it’s the Mad-Men-meets-apres-ski vibe, but there’s something about this lounge that inspires a martini. Perfectly chilled with my favorite and hard-to-find Victoria Gin, it hit the spot. Then so did another.During the second martini I stopped caring about my hat-head and allowed the paparazzi a moment full access, even though momentarily I did not have access to a brush. Luckily they lost interest before I hit the hot tub. No photographic evidence. But one of the best jacuzzi views of all time. Umm… not of me. The mountains!
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.