Fortunately we have been here before. Last year we spent a long weekend, for our anniversary, at the Canmore Worldmark, and on one of the days we drove up to Banff to play tourist. We walked along the Bow River all the way down to the Falls, then headed back uphill to the Banff Springs Hotel and finished with a walk around town, and a late lunch in a pub. Therefore, no need to re-visit any of those places.
The 2 places that were of interest are Mt Norquay and Lake Louise, so that’s the plan. Saturday morning was clear, so we elected to do Mt Norquay that day and Lake Louise on Sunday.
The day started quietly, with Judi catching up on some lost sleep. By the time Andy had taken the dogs for their morning hike and Judi finished breakfast it was almost Noon. Therefore, it was early afternoon before we headed out and set course for the mountain.
Mt Norquay installed their first chairlift in 1948, which is renowned as being the first in Canada. The initial chairlift has subsequently grown to 5 and they service 28 runs, which range from expert to bunny slopes. For times when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, they have snow making equipment covering about 85% coverage of the ski runs.
The base station is about 6 miles North of Banff, which is a short, fairly steep 10 minute drive up numerous switchbacks, to reach the base station parking lot. When driving up to the base station we passed a small herd of mountain goats, which were difficult to see against the rocks, due to their natural camouflage. We stopped, along with several other vehicles to watch and take photographs. While obviously wild animals, they are surprisingly comfortable around people and vehicles, as they are not spooked by cars driving past them slowly.
On reaching the base station, we parked in the parking lot, which is really only a levelled clearing in the trees, with numerous potholes and ruts. With the truck, no problem, but if we came up last year with the Mustang, we would probably have pulled a 180 and headed back down the mountain. From the parking lot, it is a fairly short, but steep walk up to the base station. Note – they do have a drop off area at the base station for those unable to walk up hill, but no signage is provided in the parking lot.
The base station comprises a pleasant cafeteria, washrooms and balcony, which has magnificent views of the mountain and chairlift. Purchase chairlift tickets, which cost about $30 each, from the cashier in the cafeteria. Then, armed with a ticket you head down to the chairlift, at your convenience. As their wasn’t a queue we headed directly to the chairlift. On arrival, the attendant gives you a briefing of how to enter the chair and lower the safety bar. No worries, even Judi wasn’t too nervous at this time, or even on the journey up hill, which was nice, but definitely not the spectacular that I anticipate going downhill. Close to the top we spotted a good sized herd of mountain goats, with a mixture of adults and youngsters. On the journey uphill we experienced a number of stops when the attendants just grab a chair to assist those having difficulty entering or exiting the chairlift. Could be rather disconcerting for anyone nervous or apprehensive of the ride up or down.
Approaching the top station, at an elevation of about 7,000 feet, the attendant requests you raise the safety bar when over the safety net and provides instruction on how egress from the chair. The lift moves rather slowly, so it’s easy to get your feet on the ground, step out of the chair and with a couple of steps you are clear.
Wow !!! the views were worth the admission price and chairlift uphill. Although a little cloudy, it is a fairly clear day, which affords spectacular views over Banff and the Bow River Valley. I believe we can almost see all the way down the Bow River Valley to Canmore, which hosted the Nordic events at the Calgary Olympics.
The top station has a restaurant and paths leading to various observation areas/platforms. For the more adventurous they also have trails further up the mountain – rock climbing!
If going up the chairlift was good, coming down was simply spectacular. Andy was like a kid in a sweetie shop, looking all around with the camera in action, but Judi was a tad nervous. Heading down we passed a young couple going up and the young lady obviously wasn’t comfortable. She was sitting rigid in the chair with a death grip on the safety bar. Andy mentioned it isn’t that bad, to which she responded, “Yes it is.” I can only hope she enjoyed the view going down.
Once we reached the base station it was back to the truck and we took a spin around the lodge parking lot, where we found the herd of mountain goats we saw up the mountain. Similar to the ones we saw coming uphill they are very comfortable around people and vehicles. A number of vehicles stopped to take photographs. At no time was the herd spooked, in fact when we left they were still wandering around the parking lot.
A few additional photographs from our few hours atop Mt Norquay.
This was meant to be our day to Lake Louise and the Columbia Ice Fields.
The morning started with a beautiful sunrise and clear sky, but about 45 min before departure a serious storm rolled into Banff. Really angry looking low, black clouds with significant thunder, lightning and heavy rain. In fact, it was so dark during the storm that the street lights came back on. After a continuous hour of storm we re-evaluated our plans and decided that Lake Louise was off the agenda.
Spent a quiet morning staying dry inside the coach and in the afternoon took a quick drive down to Canmore for shopping.