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  1. On our third day of skiing in Banff, we headed to Lake Louise for what was likely my favourite day of the trip. The previous night, we welcomed our 4th and final trip member, who would be joining us for the last two days of skiing. We woke up to a cold, but bluebird day in Banff, and boarded our 8am SkiBig3 shuttle to Lake Louise, a 45 minute ride. The trail map is listed below for reference: For the first time on the trip, the skies were fully clear, allowing us to finally see the mountaintops unobstructed by the fog and clouds. The majestic Castle Mountain at sunrise: Unfortunately for us, temperatures had changed to be colder than forecasted, with the early morning hours coming in at a brisk -31 (without the wind chill). Thus, the mountain once again offered discounted tickets and free hot drinks, in expectation of lift delays. We arrived at the mountain just before 9am, and with no lifts lated to open before 10, we enjoyed some breakfast, visited the gift shop to buy souvenirs, and waited for the sun to fully rise and warm the resort! By 10 am, the Glacier chair had started to spin. Unfortunately, since that was the only chair spinning, we had to wait in a 10 minute (our entire trip's longest) lift line. Nevertheless, the rising sun meant that temperatures would keep increasing, making the below image a temporary phenomenon! After an incredibly scenic lift ride, we took in the views from the mid-mountain observation deck, before heading back down towards the lodge. Mount Temple, as well as Mount Victoria (Lake Louise), could both be seen, in addition to many other peaks in the distance. The groomed runs skiied amazing, with us four east-coast amazed at how little ice (out west, 'ice' is hard-pack snow) was present! This allowed us to carve and speed with confidence! Though it took a few more runs on the Glacier chair before the other lifts would open (at 12pm), we were ready to explore the backside, so we boarded the Grizzly express gondola and headed to the summit. Upon disembarking the lift, we were greeted to the same breathtaking view as the previous day, only now with a bright blue sky, making it an incredible sight to behold. After skiing down some backside cruisers to reach the bottom, we boarded the Larch chairlift to ski one of the most unique runs at the resort: Rock Garden. The views off this chairlift were some of the best of the entire trip, with the infamous Moraine Lake in the distance an added bonus: We enjoyed skiing the rock garden for two runs, and while it did look imposing on camera, it’s blue rating meant that it was no more challenging than an intermediate mogul run, with tons of paths/lines around steeper bits, in addition to deep snow cover in most spots. I did notice that the conditions here had slightly deteriorated from the previous day, with my skis scraping rock more than I’d like to admit! Due to our slower start with the lift delays that morning, we made an extremely quick stop for lunch at 1:30 at the Temple (backside) lodge, before heading out to explore the rest of the mountain, as we had a lot of terrain left to cover. By this point temperatures had warmed up to around -20, but thanks to the sun and lack of wind, it felt tropical to us! We boarded the steep Ptarmigan lift, in order to be able to ski down to Paradise, giving us the ability to access the frontside of the mountain. On the slightly terrifying Paradise lift, where skiers dangle up to 70 feet off the ground, we noticed a large amount of snow blowing off the summit, in addition to the beautiful scenery around us. The center of the below photo shows the lower portion of the backside bowl where we had skied down the previous day (read the previous trip report for a description and images of said area). As we got higher up the lift, the wind started to increase, with the top-most minute involving a cold and brutal gust of wind! Almost immediately after disembarking the lift, we were greeted by one of the strongest winds I have ever experienced, easily reaching 80km/h, making us head off the summit to some more protected areas! The short summit chairlift (see attached trail map) was the only lift that never opened that day, but we had yet to ski the Top of the World express, so we headed there. The last 1.5 hours of skiing turned out to be some of the best of my life. The wind was much less brutal in the sub-alpine area beneath the summit chair and adjacent to the TOTW chair, so we all decided to further explore this area for our last few runs. This area was simply magical, with amazing snow, views, and terrain. We lapped the TOTW chair, and weaved in and out of the trees alongside the blue cruiser Charlie’s Choice (on left of below image) For our final two runs, we made a cut to access the summit bowl, traversing the black run Headwall and accessing the same terrain from a higher point: At this point, my friend gave me his GoPro to take some pictures and videos of myself skiing above tree line, and I think it is safe to say they were my favourite from the trip! I had previously spoken to the people skiing below me in the photo, who were coincidentally from Ottawa as well, in addition to skiing at the same home mountain, Camp Fortune. From this incredible alpine area, we headed down further to skiers right, discovering a steep area perfect for taking some photos. This area can be seen in the center of the above panoramic image: Everything about this moment was simply magical, and I can say with confidence that this was one my best memories in recent years! Though the day had a slower start than the previous (due to the lift delays), the afternoon portion easily made up for it! By this point, the time was nearing 4pm, so we all enjoyed one last lap on the long groomed runs to head back to the main lodge: At 4:30pm, we boarded the shuttle back to Banff, enjoying the beautiful scenery: Back at the village, we enjoyed a much-needed meal, in addition to an evening stroll down Banff Ave: One more day of skiing to come!
  2. On our second day in Banff, we planned to head to Lake Louise, which boasts 3250 vertical feet, 9 lifts, and Canada’s second-largest area! While temperatures that day would be similar to the (brutal) previous day, it was worth noting the effect caused by elevation. Lake Louise’s upper mountain is at a similar elevation to Sunshine Village’s base area! This meant that the base area would be 5-10 degrees warmer than the summit. Nevertheless, a cold warning was still in effect, with the mountain offering discounted tickets, and free hot drinks, to accommodate for the lift delays. At 8am, we boarded the Lake Louise Shuttle, and enjoyed some amazing views on our 45 minute ride there! We arrive a little before 9am, and since the lifts did not plan on opening until 10am, we decided to give our skis a much-needed wax (due to the extreme cold causing the snow to be less slippery), and grabbed a delicious breakfast at the base area. Prices were much more reasonable at Lake Louise, in comparison to Sunshine Village. It is without a doubt that this ski area has the nicest log cabin and ski lodge I have ever seen: By 9:30am, the lower mountain gondola and chairlift were spinning, and by 10, nearly every lift on the mountain had started to spin. Despite the weather ranging from -30 to -20 throughout the day, there weren’t any significant gusts of wind, which slightly masked the cold’s effect. We headed out, boarding the gondola, taking skiers all the way to the right summit (see the above trail map for clarity). Upon disembarking the gondola, I was shocked to see the view: Since the previous day had been so cold, windy, and foggy, there was no view to be seen, hence this was one of my first summit views from a ski hill this trip! Words and pictures cannot even begin to describe the sheer size of these mountains! Since we were all eager to ski the backside bowls, in addition to the Grizzly Gully run, we headed down a short intermediate cruiser (amazed by the feeling of no ice!) to connect to the Top of the World 6 Express, which I can now say is my favourite lift of the trip. The observation deck next to the lift: From the lift, we were able to see the one of the resort’s more popular runs, the intermediate grizzly gully, which takes the shape of a natural half-pipe: This lift is truly a scenic wonder, as it transports skiers and riders up the final half of the mountain, leading to a summit on lookers left, where the back bowl cruisers, steeps, and the summit chair, can all be accessed. Nearly the entire lift services sub-alpine and alpine terrain! At the top of the lift, we decided to ski the gully for our first proper run, before heading to the backside. The gully was fairly skiied-out, meaning that the snow was on the harder/icier side, and while I had become accustomed to moguls while night skiing at my home hill (Camp Fortune), this run was long, not super steep, and extremely mogulled the entire length! This combination led to an exhausting and leg-burning run, which took me more time to descend than I had initially thought 😂. Still, it was an amazing experience, with some amazing views. We then headed up the Top of the World Chair once more, this time with the goal of skiing the backside. We would be taking a green cruiser, saddleback, to weave its way down the backside, in addition to some moderate off-trail sections where ungroomed and chopped powder conditions were to be found. The back side was simply incredible. While the lower portion was a fairly flat groomed run, the upper portion would it’s way down the back bowls, leaving us in awe as we (east-coasters) skied a high alpine, unfamiliar landscape! The run led to the Paradise chair, which a friend who had visited the resort a few months prior had claimed to be the “sketchiest chairlift ride of his life”. The Paradise chair is a triple chair that is known for servicing some extreme single and double black, mogulled, steep, and cliff/chute terrain on the resort’s backside. In one section, this chair passes over 70 feet off the ground, in a large and frankly terrifying span! That being said, I was too mesmerized by the views, and didn’t find the chairlift to be crazy fear-inducing. At the chair, my one friend decided that he wanted to do a black diamond run known as Corridor, and my other friend unknowingly followed. I had looked at the trail map, and saw that the run in question was a steep, narrow, and mogulled connection run between the summit of this lift, to the gondola chair summit area. Oh, did I mention that there are cliffs or double black runs on either side! The following is taken from his GoPro footage: The friend who blindly followed was terrified, and I think it’s safe to say that I’m glad I didn’t follow them! I took the same backside cruiser as earlier, and continued further on to meet them at the bottom of the Larch chairlift. The Larch express quad is the far-side lift at Lake Louise, servicing glades terrain, groomed runs, and most famously, the rock garden. This intermediate run is another of the resort’s signature runs, and with the recent snowfall, conditions would be in their peak. While the feeling of skiing through and around large boulders was unique and took some adjustment, the run itself wasn’t much more difficult than a mogulled run out east, having many paths through the rocks. The second photo is from the following day: Taken from the Larch summit, the rest of the resort is visible on the left of the image: After the rock garden, as well as an intermediate cruiser lap on the Larch Chair, we headed to the beautiful Temple (backside) lodge, to take a break from the elements and have some lunch. At this beautiful log cabin, prices were even cheaper than the main lodge! We then returned to the frontside, taking the Ptarmigan chair, which services steep, mogulled, and gladed terrain (once again, the photo is from the following day): We then headed back down to the main lodge, where we took another break. Sticking the frontside for the remaining few hours of skiing, we took the Glacier express chair up the start of TOTW. While on the TOTW, we noticed that the summit chair, a small, fixed grip chair servicing some front and backside side-country terrain (of which most was too advanced and closed for our visit), was open. This lift transports skiers and riders to the highest point at the resort. On our first run, we skied a narrow intermediate run with large wind blown powder stashes, and my friend and I both took a tumble in the same spot when our thin carving skis poked right through a snowdrift! It was honestly hillarious! We then made several top to bottom runs of the resort, weaving in and out of the sub-alpine trees, as well as enjoying some nice cruiser laps. We even took the Men’s World Cup Downhill run, a black run equivalent to a double black out east, though the amazing snow conditions did not make it too intimidating. We finished the day at 4pm, boarding the 4:30 shuttle to head back to Banff. After a miserable first day, this day was a significant improvement, as the temps were cold but still bearable with breaks, goggles functioned and did not freeze, and snow conditions were amazing! Sitting on the left side of the shuttle home, we enjoyed an amazing view of Castle Mountain! We then spent a relaxing evening in Banff, and greeted our 4th and final member, who arrived that night. Two more ski reports to come!
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