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!