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Canada's Banff National Park (BNP) open for business

  
  
  

In a message today from Banff Lake Louise Tourism in response to the recent flooding in western Alberta, the local tourism bureau assures travellers with plans to visit the National Park that they can expect 'business as usual' in Banff and Lake Louise.

Banff AvenueThe release states that "Banff National Park, the Town of Banff and the hamlet of Lake Louise were fortunate to have escaped many of the direct impacts of last week’s storm. Spirits are up and Banff is OPEN for business.

"The recent severe weather triggered flooding in many communities across southern Alberta, cutting off key transportation routes, disrupting power and water supplies, and interrupting communication channels.

The coordinated efforts of the Town of Banff, Parks Canada, and the RCMP, ensured public safety at all times. The Town of Banff’s water supply was never compromised and continuity of essential services was maintained. 

Today, the majority of the national park’s highways have been cleared for travel. Our park information centres are busy welcoming visitors.  And our businesses, from lodging to restaurants, retail to attractions, are welcoming guests."

Access to Banff and Lake Louise is available from all points west and north and most local area attractions are open. 

The release goes on to state "Intensely proud of its heritage as Canada’s first national park, businesses this past week were steadfastly responsive to visitor needs, while the local volunteer community stepped up efforts to help visitors and residents alike. Banff National Park looks forward to hosting visitors and extending a world-class welcome throughout the entire exciting summer season." 

CMH Summer Adventures is preparing to welcome the first visitors of the season on July 5 in the Bobbie Burns.  The Bobbie Burns and Bugaboo Lodges, located in British Columbia, almost 2.5 hrs west of Banff National Park were unaffected by the recent weather events.

For more information, please visit www.BanffLakeLouise.com.

 

 

 

Banff activity "check list"

  
  
  

Summertime has finally arrived in the Rockies. The season is short so we must cease the blue sky days and enjoy the sunshine. Banff is a unique place as a small town surrounded by a gigantic playground with endless outdoor escapes. Stumped on what activities you’d like to tackle this summer? Here’s a bucket list of ideas for around Banff to accompany the adrenaline seeker to the bird-watcher.

Fun things to do in Banff National Park

- Rent a canoe and paddle the Bow River.

- Bike the Banff/Canmore legacy trail.

- Hike Sulphur Mountain, and experience the same views without the gondola cost.

- Explore the “Gateway to the Rockies” exhibition and others at the Whyte Museum.

- Play a round of golf at the Banff Springs golf course.

- View western Canada’s oldest natural history museum at the Banff Park Museum.

- Take a picnic out and start a fire at the Cascade Ponds or Johnson’s Lake.

If you’ve been busy sweating through the up- and down-hills, experiencing spectacular mountain views and encountering wildlife, it's time to rest and put your feet up. Here's a list of patios where you can relax in sunshine, unwind over a pint of beer or refresh with a glass of white wine:

  1. Timber’s patio
  2. Banff Brewing Company
  3. The Juniper bistro & lounge
  4. The Saltlik
  5. Elk and Oarsman patio

Having fun in Banff National Park

If you’re feeling good and energy levels are high, Banff also has a great night life scene - any day of the week.

Monday: Chuck Rose at the Rose and Crown www.roseandcrown.ca

Tuesday:  Greek night at the Balkan restaurant www.banffbalkan.ca/greek-night

Wednesday: Open mic night at Bruno’s; country line dancing lessons at Wild Bills www.wbsaloon.com

Thursday: Live music at Melissa’s bar upstairs www.melssteak.com

Friday: Fish bowl Friday’s at Hoodoo Lounge, with featured dj www.hoodoolounge.com

Saturday: Dancing Sasquatch www.banffsasquatch.com

Sunday: Considered Banff’s “locals” night check out Aurora nightclub www.aurorabanff.com/

From the outdoors to the night life, Banff hosts something for everyone. Time to get out there and enjoy friends, family and whichever activity you decide to do. Cheers to a memorable summer 2012!

The Wildest New Adventure in North America

  
  
  

Five years ago, the CMH Bobbie Burns guides changed the face of adventure travel in North America by installing the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata (featured here in the Los Angeles Times). This year, they have established a new adventure that defies categorization and promises to rock the adventure travel world

ice bridge adventure hike

For a little insight, I fired a few questions at Bruce Howatt, the manager of CMH Bobbie Burns:

TD: You guys were visionary in putting in the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata, but your new adventure is seems to be not really a via ferrata and not really a traditional hike.  Perhaps an "adrenaline hike" or something is a better description of it.  Can you briefly describe the adventure?

BH: You're right.  It isn't a via ferrata nor is it anywhere close to a traditional hike.  The trip is hiking, navigating wild canyons using bridges and rungs, ascending colourful rock slabs right next to waterfalls, zipline crossings, traversing rock walls next to a glacier and, coming soon, more climbing, waterfalls and hopefully some crevasse crossings.  All this is mixed into some of the most scenic, mind-blowing, wild mountain hiking you can imagine.  Blue glaciers, dark orange rock and bright green ponds are everywhere.

TD: What inspired you guys to start working on it?

BH: Two things inspired us.  The first was seeing how impactful the Via Ferrata was to many of our guests.  For many people the Via Ferrata was a far more meaningful experience than just a fun trip.   The other inspiration was that we wanted another adrenaline-ish adventure to fill our three-day trips with outlandish adventures.  We felt this needed to be in the wildest and most scenic place imaginable.  Doing something in the heart of the Conrad Icefield was the obvious choice.

If you observe a casual visitor to Banff National Park in most cases they would peer over the edges of Johnston Canyon, getting as close as they could.  They would walk up on the Athabasca Glacier as far as they felt safe, even peering over the edge of a small crevasse.  I think it is in our DNA as humans to explore.  It shows in how popular slot canyons, waterfalls and wild settings are becoming.  So it seemed natural, since we have access to such a crazy wild place, to go right into the heart of it.

climbing big waterfalls

TD:  How athletic do you need to be to do it?

BH: Right now a guest should have about the same fitness as for the Via Ferrata - physically fairly easy but quite exciting. Our idea is that we will have the option to go around some of the wilder sections.  Ultimately we would like to have the ability to take a wide range of guests and have alternate routes and different helicopter pickups.

TD:  Is there anything else in the world like this new adventure?

BH: I'm not sure, but I haven't heard of anything quite like this.  I don't know of any place on Earth where one could find a trip like this combined with North America’s fullest Via Ferrata, a two level ropes course, a zipline canyon and wild and beautiful hiking all from one lodge.  What I think is most unique is that there is something for almost everyone.  I love that a family or group can arrive and each person can find something that gives them exhilaration.  Guests don't need climbing experience prior to coming and although people who have climbed before have a great experience, it is all designed for anyone with an adventurous spirit.

bridge waterfall splash

TD:  How close do you get to those big waterfalls?  To the glacier?

BH: One gets pretty darn close :).  In fact at times you are pretty much in the waterfalls.  The water levels change radically with temperatures and amount of snow melt.  When the water is high we are right up close and personal and although we aren't in the waterfalls we are in the spray.  We have also made some alternate routes for those wanting to avoid this, although if this summer's guests are an example, everyone eagerly went the high adventure route.

We also get very close, (within a few meters) of the glaciers.  In the next stage we are hoping to also include a section of actual crevasse navigation like a safe version of the Khumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest.

lake glacier helicopter

TD: How is this a natural progression for exploring the rugged terrain in the Columbia Mountains?

BH: We have many guests who like the spice of adrenaline and like to challenge themselves and in combination with the Via Ferrata, the ropes course, the zipline canyon and the hiking we can provide an adrenaline-filled adventure for a full three day trip. 

Any readers out there who know of any adventure on planet earth even remotely like this one?

Photos of the new CMH adventure by CMH Bobbie Burns guides.  For a behind the scenes look at the building of this new adventure, check out this video from the Bobbie Burns.

Banff National Park Signature Experiences

  
  
  

Two weeks ago the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) announced a collection of Signature Experiences that are quintessentially Canadian and included CMH's High Flying Adventure in the list.

Many other exceptional Banff experiences were selected for the Signature Experiences Collection and are worthy of consideration for anyone planning some vacation time in Banff before, after or independent of, their CMH Summer Adventure:

Plain of the Six Glaciers Tea House Ride by Brewster Adventures

If you've ever wanted to journey by horseback in the mountains, this is a fantastic introduction.  The Brewster Family has been guiding guests in Banff National Park since 1892 and this half day journey to the base of the Victoria Glacier on the shores of Lake Louise to a backcountry tea house is one of their more exceptional rides.

Journey Atop a River of Ice by Brewster Travel Canada

Banff Signature Experiences   IcefieldTourTake an 80 minute journey on board a Brewster Ice Explorer 'Snocoach' onto the Columbia Icefield.  Walk safely atop the six kilometre by one kilometre 10,000 year old Athabasca Glacier.

 

 

Fondue with a View: Chocolate Mountain High by Great Divide Nature Interpretation

Get your mountain legs in gear before your heli-hiking trip and join professional hiking guides for a day hike to a historic fire lookout site and enjoy a chocolate fondue with expansive mountain views.

Canadian Rockies Highlights with Rocky Mountaineer

Many CMH guests enjoy the Rocky Mountaineer's 2-day daylight railway trip between Vancouver and Banff or Jasper.  The Rockies Highlights is a 7 day/6 night journey incorporating all the highlights of Banff National Park and is a perfect introduction to the mountains before being whisked away by helicopter to the Bugaboos or Bobbie Burns.

Historic Railway Hotels with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts

Banff Signature Experiences   Banff Springs HotelAn image synonomous with Banff National Park is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, but visitors to the area may also want to include a stop or an overnight stay at the Chateau Lake Louise or Jasper Park Lodge.

 

 

 

Many years ago someone once wrote a book called "Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies".  I've not read it, as I'm here for the long-haul, but I sure hope he included these five experiences, along with our Bobbie Burns High Flying Adventure.

What favourite Banff National Park experiences would you add to the list?  Share them with us here!

Where to go Hiking in Banff National Park

  
  
  

Many CMH Summer Adventures guests spend a few days in and around Banff National Park before travelling up to our remote mountain lodges for a few days of wilderness exploration and heli-hiking.

If you're planning to do this, and want to make the best use of your time in Banff, here's a list of hikes favoured by many of the locals:

1. Edith and Corey Pass - The trailhead for this full-day hike is just a short drive from the town of Banff.  This epic hike is a great circle route through forest and up high above the alpine.  Gargoyle pass is a great place to enjoy your lunch before descending back to the parking lot through the forest.  Wonderful views and great geological formations. Pack for dramatic changes in the weather and prepare for almost 1000 metres in elevation gain over the 13 km circuit.

Hiking in Banff at Rock Isle Lake, Sunshine Meadows2. Sunshine Meadows - In the wintertime Sunshine Village is a busy place filled with skiers of all ability.  Summertime brings fields full of wildflowers and a well-maintained series of trails that can be enjoyed with our without a guide.  With a collection of longer and shorter trails, you're sure to find something to satisfy you whether you have a half day or full day to spare.  A local company, White Mountain Adventures, runs the shuttle bus from the base of the hill to the village where the hiking begins and offer guide service to those who are interested.

3. Johnson's Canyon to the Upper Falls or the Paint Pots - No doubt the trail to the lower falls can be very, very busy with busloads of tourists but stick with it.  Beyond the lower falls the real magic begins as you head up to the Upper Falls and if you have a little more than a half day, right up to the Paint Pots.  It's about 12 km round trip.  Best to get an early start, before the masses arrive and be sure to stop in at the café at the trailhead for pie as reward for the journey.  Say hi to Stella and Bill who run the resort and café for us.

4. Tunnel Mountain - This 'local fave' is great for a lunch break or even an after-dinner stroll.  The trailhead itself is just a short walk from downtown Banff and the well-worn trail is about 1.5 hrs round-trip.  Great to stretch your legs, especially if you only have one night in Banff.  Great views of the town and surrounding peaks from the summit.

5. Cascade Amphitheatre - Towering over the town of Banff sits Cascade Mountain - one of the five main peaks surrounding the town.  This 13.5 km hike begins at the Banff Mt Norquay ski hill and meanders through forests, across streams and through bear country and opens to a meadow filled with wildflowers and dozens of marmots, pikas and white-tailed ptarmigans.

6. C-Level Cirque - This nice half day hike rewards walkers with great views of Lake Minnewanka on the outskirts of Banff. A bit of a living history museum, hikers pass abandoned cabins once used by coal miners in the early 1900's when the Bankhead Mines were in operation. Only 8 km round-trip you can easily do this in the morning and easily enjoy the rest of the day at the spa!

7. Helen Lake - Dolomite Pass - A journey up the Icefield Parkway beyond Lake Louise, but not quite as far as Bow Summit, takes you to the trailhead for this full-day hike.  Ascend through forest to wide open meadows beneath towering peaks for a wonderful Banff National Park experience. 18 km round trip and well worth the effort.

Before you head out on any of the local hiking trails be sure to check with Parks Canada for trail conditions and wildlife closures, pack for any and all weather and let someone know where you're going!

What about you?  What are your favourite hikes in Banff National Park?

Photo: Rock Isle Lake in Banff National Park by Medeline Huot

Banff Rated #1 Destination in Canada!

  
  
  

Recently TripAdvisor released it Travelers' Choice Awards for 2011 and it was no surprise to see Banff, which is the starting point for our CMH Summer Adventures, at the top of the list.

Banff rated number one Canadian destination by TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor says "Flanked on all sides by the Rockies, Banff offers and irresistible combination of perfect powder, luxury lodges, fine dining and lively nightlife.  A thriving arts scene and proximity to Lake Louise and Kananaskis Country add to its allure.  Don't miss the hoodoos, intriguing rock spires, in Banff National Park."

Many guests that join CMH Summer Adventures for a heli-hiking vacation spend a few nights in Banff prior to their stay at the Bobbie Burns or Bugaboo Lodges. Because our heli-hiking trips begin in Banff, it is the logical choice to spend at least one night before heading up into the high alpine.

CMH's Vacation Planners are destination experts and assist hundreds of guest each year as they plan their summer vacation to Banff National Park and beyond.

Our vacation planners work closely with a number of hotels, attractions and outfitters here to craft the perfect vacation.  Whether your interest is golf, hiking, spas, bike rental or horseback riding Banff offers many exciting activities that you can combine together to make your heli-hiking excursion into a fully-inclusive, multi-sport summer vacation.

If you were planning on only setting aside 4 days for your CMH Summer Adventure, we strongly suggest you add on a few more to explore this world-class destination and all that it has to offer.

To learn more about Banff, visit www.banfflakelouise.com.  To speak with a CMH Vacation Planner about extending your stay in the Canadian Rockies, call us at 1.800.661.0252.

Where are the Women in Adventure Films?

  
  
  

A recent thread on the Banff Mountain Centre's Facebook page asks the question: Where are the women in adventure films?   We all know there are artistic, visionary women out there who could produce award-winning documentaries as well as women who are visionary athletes who also have colourful, inspiring lives that would be great subjects of adventure films.  elcapitan girls adventure

Take Heidi Wirtz and Vera Schulte-Pelkum for example.  (Shown here after breaking the women’s speed record on the Nose of El Capitan.)  Heidi runs Girls Ed International, a non-profit that supports educational opportunities for young women in remote and undeveloped regions of the world.  Vera is a seismologist who studies the interior structure of the earth through the massive data provided by earthquakes.  Climbing is what they do for fun, and they prefer it to be fun rather than dangerous.  Unfortunately, for now, nobody is making adventure films about fun.  

A couple of years ago Heidi and Vera travelled to Germany and the Czech Republic to make a film about the unusual climbing culture in that part of the world.  The resulting film, The Sharp End, featured Heidi and Vera as distant sideshows, but the meat of the film was about men pushing their limits in the danger zone.  The Sharp End is a thrilling, award-winning, edge-of-your seat viewer experience.  Nobody complained.  But nobody could relate.

Majka Burhardt is a modern-day explorer with experience as a producer, athlete, and promoter of adventure.  She produced the film Waypoint Namibia about a climbing adventure in Africa in 2009 and had this to say about women and filmmaking:

“Responsibility (for lack of a better word) manifests in a different risk tolerance -- for some. So to in turn create films that take a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of a gamble, that is massive risk. Add to that that many of the films in the true adventure section (or what film festivals deems as "true adventure," another conversation entirely) are films that depict people doing increasingly radical things.”

That’s the problem.  Contemporary adventure media is really good at producing exciting footage with excellent camera work.  It’s not so good at tapping into everyman’s (or woman’s) experience.  Right now the biggest hits in adventure film are all about the most outrageous, dangerous experiences the planet has to offer.

In the thread, Liz Howell gives kudos to Warren Miller for featuring women in every segment of Wintervention, and a lot of films do involve women at all levels - but most adventure films productions are still dominated by men filming men doing things that no responsible person would ever do.  My take on it is that men are just better at doing dangerous things, and right now adventure media rewards those who film people doing dangerous things.  Do you think any woman would consider starring in Jackass?

Majka adds, “On the bright side -- this might change more and more with the process for filming-- the short, on-the-spot, of-the-moment film projects are taking off, allowing creativity and perspective to replace some of the death-defying stunt factor. I'll be curious to see what effect this trend has on who produces the films.”

Just as with any media, people get used to the norm and then crave something different.  Sooner or later, people will get tired of watching men doing more complicated tricks with big risk, and they’ll want to see films that dig into the power of adventure and why it is so appealing to the human spirit.

Until then, enjoy the thrills of modern adventure media, go on your own dream adventures; and you women out there with a talent for storytelling and film production, know that we're all waiting for your take on the world of adventure.

Photo by Topher Donahue

4 Reasons to visit Banff National Park

  
  
  

Still working on summer vacation plans?  Consider a vacation to Banff National Park this year.  Add to this a heli-hiking trip with CMH Summer Adventures and you've got the perfect outdoor and adventure vacation!

Bow Falls, Banff National ParkHere are my top 4 reasons to visit Banff National Park:

4. Banff National Park is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Scenic splendor, illustrations of glacial geological processes and important fossil sites are among the reasons the UN has defined this site.

3. The great shopping.  Many people think of Banff as having many souvenier shops and things of that ilk.  While it's true, we do have our share of them, we also have wonderful art galleries such as Canada House, Wilclock and Sax and great clothing stores like Lulu Lemon and a range of shops that offer unique gifts and items for your home.

2. Fabulous restaurants.  From the 5-star Eden at the Rimrock Resort Hotel to The Bison Restaurant and Lounge and Banff Avenue Brew Pub, Banff also has something for every traveller's tastebuds.

1. One of the Top 10 Outdoor and Adventure Destinations in the world, according to TripAdvisor.  "Banff National Park, one of Canada's largest parks, has something for every adventurer."

What is your number one reason to visit Banff this year?  Share it with others in the comments section below.

To learn more about Banff visit BanffLakeLouise.com or TripAdvisor.  Alternatively, ask one of CMH's Vacation Planners to assist you in crafting the perfect Canadian Rockies Vacation.

Image: Bow Falls, Banff National Park via Flickr

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