Tag Archives: Canada

Things I Wish I’d Known For A Canadian Rockies Family Adventure – Top Tips

The kids are back at school and holidays may seem a distant memory. Maybe thoughts are turning towards the winter, or perhaps you are hanging onto the summer. Often we return home, reminiscing about recent travels or thinking about our next getaway. So below, are some reflections from our recent family holiday to the Canadian Rockies including things I wish we had known before we set-off.

Too many people at Peyto Lake

Crowds: the summer season in The Rockies is short – July and August – so there’s only 8 weeks for all the tourists who prefer to visit during the warmer weather. This is also perfect timing for people with children as it coincides with the summer holidays. Some top tips are:

  • If you can travel outside the peak season, and you don’t mind the cooler temperatures, do so.
  • Visit places like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake either before 6am (yes, really) or after 8.30/9pm. The crowds thin out and parking is easier. At Moraine Lake, we queued at 8.30pm to get into the parking lot.
  • Walk further away from parking areas and main trails to escape people. Most tour buses have limited time at each place, so the crowds tend to stay close to parked vehicles. Walking just one kilometre can make all the difference; we had a view of Lake Louise all to ourselves after walking for 30-40 minutes on a steep trail away from Fairmont Chateau.
  • Visit less well-known places.
  • Stay in Yoho or Glacier National Parks There is still magnificent, mountain scenery but less people.

Fact: Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest created in 1885 and has 3 million visitors each year.

Bears: avoiding an encounter is the best possible way to stay safe. You need to become ‘Bear Aware’ – what to do if you come across one – and carry bear spray ($40 CAD). Lots of places carry leaflets explaining what to do. If you do get out of your car, don’t wander too far from the vehicle. And leave at least 50 meters between yourself and the bear. Keep small children nearby – do not let them run off. Bears can come remarkably close to populated areas. We saw 4 bears in total, one of which was less than 100 meters out of Lake Louise Village. The possibility of viewing a bear when hiking added an extra dimension to the day; we sung, clapped hands and talked in loud voices, particularly when close to running water or dense vegetation.

Fact: Until 2017 it was legal to trophy hunt bears in British Columbia!

Mosquitos: these were a real nuisance, as were the horseflies, and they would bite all day long. Despite having insect repellent they still managed to bite us, even piercing my jodhpurs when horse riding. The wind will disperse the pesky devils, but get some industrial strength mozzie repellent.

Canmore

Cost: this was the most expensive holiday, ever. The pound is weak at the moment but demand for accommodation is high and supply is low. The National Parks have strict rules about building and do not encourage Airbnb. However, some top tips:

  • Avoid the tourist traps such as Lake Louise Village and Banff.
  • Stay outside the Parks to avoid the Park fees. We stayed in Canmore rather than Banff. It had a really authentic feel and some great hiking.
  • Stay in condos and use the cooking facilities and supermarkets to eat breakfast (most accommodation doesn’t include the first meal of the day). And eat-in rather than splash out in a restaurant.
  • Book early to make use of hostels rather than hotels. We didn’t book until April (3 months before travelling) and there was no availability. Booking early will also help you get better deals and more choice.
  • Take a cooler bag and re-usable water bottles for picnics.
  • Remember, in Canada, tax is added at the till, so the price listed isn’t what you pay.

Variability in weather: we had hail, thunder, rain, sun and temperatures varied between 3 degrees and 28 degrees. You’ll need to take a varied wardrobe from coats to cut-offs, and wet weather gear is a must-pack item. Don’t forget your swimmers, either – there are lots of fresh water lakes for fun and cooling off.

Bow Lake, Icefield Parkway

Camping: wild camping is not permitted in the National Parks. You can only stay in designated campsites.

The Icefield Parkway: a must-see route and one of the most scenic drives in the world with mountains, lakes, the Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier. One of the highlights of the trip.

 

Athabasca Glacier

Fact: The Athabasca Glacier is the largest glacier, in North America, outside Alaska. It is so big that it creates its own weather system producing katabatic winds.

If you love the winter mountains, chances are you’ll love them in the summer, and The Canadian Rockies is a fabulous destination for a memorable family holiday; activities abound including white-water rafting, horse riding, kayaking, hiking, SUP, to name but a few, as well as world-famous sights such as Lake Louise. You can view wildlife, take guided tours and relax in natural hot springs. Putting in the effort now, to plan for next year’s holiday, is well worth the time and energy. Wherever, you decide to travel, bon voyage!

Ta ta for now,

Credit: REO Rafting

Kate.

What’s it like to have children who ski and snowboard in one family?

Silver Star, Canada

Silver Star, Canada

It is now becoming more common to see children on snowboards, but how does it work when you have children who ski and snowboard in one family? Are there differences in how you cope and how you work as a family? As a snowboarder it would be great if my daughter shared my passion for one plank, but do I encourage her to snowboard or just be content that she likes time on the snow? My cousin, Annick, lives in Canada and has two boys, Ethan aged ten and Koen aged eight. Ethan skis and Koen snowboards, so what are her experiences and what advice does she have for parents?

Where do you take your family skiing and snowboarding and what made you choose this destination?

Annick: Mom, skier, wife, friend and cousin

Annick: Mom, skier, wife, friend and cousin

We take our family to Silver Star Mountain every year. Silver Star is just 30 minutes from Vernon in British Columbia and is about a six hour drive east over the Rocky mountains from Vancouver. We choose Silver Star because of the type of snow, the family atmosphere and the variety of runs. There is something for everyone from beginner to expert level. It is a great place for families and has a small town feel with beautiful, colourful chalets. Other amenities such as a Tube Town, which is like toboganning with inner tubes, is included with your ski pass. There is an outdoor ice rink for skating and playing ice hockey which is always very popular in Canada. You can also snowshoe and cross-country ski. For more information on Silver Star Mountain checkout their website. www.skisilverstar.com.

How did your youngest child start to snowboard?

Koen started snowboarding last winter when he turned eight years old. He started as a skier when he was four and was getting bored. He had his first snowboarding lesson when the mountain was quiet, so he received one on one instruction. The first day was on the ‘bunny’ hill with the magic carpet. The second day, he went on the ski lifts; every time he bailed at the top and had to have the lift stop so he could get safely out of the way. 

What are the challenges of being a parent of a snowboarding child?

The challenges would be the same for that as a skier, but I am not able to help him learn how to snowboard as I ski. Also, getting off the ski lifts, you really have to be mindful of which side you are on, so you give the snowboarder more room to unload. Needless to say, my first ride up the lift with Koen, I ended up tangled in his snowboard and fell backwards and got stuck: Koen just rolled over with his board and was fine!  Another challenge is that we are limited to the runs we can take, so my husband and I take turns staying with Koen on the smaller runs so he can practice.

Are they different from those of a child who skis?

I don’t think child snowboarders are too much different from a child who skis except that if a snowboarder gets stuck on a flat stretch of snow, they have to take their board off and walk or usually get a skier to pull them with their poles.

What are the best things about having both a skiing and snowboarding child in the family?

Diversity and personality! I think it is wonderful to have differences in a family so when Koen decided to snowboard, outside of our skiing family, we supported him wholeheartedly in his decision.  I love to see Ethan and Koen’s personality come through their skiing and snowboarding.

“What advice do you have for parents who have a child who wants to snowboard?”

Do your research first. Every child learns differently. It is not easy for a child to re-learn another sport, but if a child is determined and willing and has the patience then, as a parent, you commit yourself 100% for whatever comes your way. For Koen, I had to ask him and remind him that if you want to learn to snowboard, you will have to be patient with yourself. As a parent, you also have to be patient with the emotional side of learning a new sport. You can tell if they pick up the sport very quickly: for Koen, he already knew how to ski and has a skateboard and scooter at home and is quite good at those sports. As a parent, I knew that Koen was up for the challenge to learn to snowboard. Even after the first day of falling most of the time Koen, with an exhausted smile, was still eager to learn the next day. That told me right there that his mind was already made up.

A huge thank you Annick for your insight into having both a skiing and snowboarding child: a special mummysnowboarder t-shirt will be winging its way across the Pond to you as soon as the manufacturing process is complete! For myself, as a parent of a skiing child who has shown some interest in snowboarding, I think I had better be happy that she shares the slopes with me. At the moment she does not have that burning desire that Koen has shown. However, if that spark of interest burns more brightly I shall be there waiting to help and guide her reminding myself of the patience which is needed by parent and child.

TTFN

Kate.

North America vs Europe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you prefer fries or pommes frites, a condo or a chalet? Is it worth travelling further afield to the USA or Canada, or do you prefer to stick closer to home?

For those of us who live in the UK we know we have to travel for hard-core snow-time. We are prepared to travel one or two hours on a plane to the Alps but how many of us are prepared to fly a minimum of seven hours and possibly upto eleven hours? According to The World Snowboard Guide the top spot to snowboard in North America is Whistler/ Blackcomb, Canada. So what have resorts the other side of the ‘Pond’ got to tempt us to travel, particularly with kids in tow?

Good things about North America

Quiet slopes & orderly queues: there is generally more space and queuing systems operate which mean there is no free-for-all that exists in Europe. Those who misbehave ‘state-side’ can have their lift pass confiscated. Quiet slopes and orderly queues can make it easier with kids and parental stress levels will be lower. This last season I saw a young teenage boy almost faint in an Italian cable car queue, and I was pleased my daughter was not with us.

English-speaking and good service as standard: as anyone who has visited France knows the French love a ‘Gallic-shrug’ when you try the local lingo, but if you have not experienced your Franglais being ignored chances are you will have suffered a scowl as your lunch was thrown at you! Fortunately in North America service standards are high and you can send the kids off to order drinks and food without fear of them returning with the unexpected. Plus snowboarding and skiing lessons are easier as there is no heavily accented instructor to interpret.

Better value food on and off the slopes: the cost of food in Europe can make your purse or wallet shudder, but in North America costs are more reasonable. The downside is you are more likely to find fast-food as the staple fare. You may not be too happy about the hamburgers and chips, yet again, but the kids will probably love ‘em!

Lots of extra-curricular activities: with little ‘uns in tow it can be good to have other activities on offer to keep interest high. Resorts such as Smugglers Notch, Tremblant and Big White have indoor play areas, ice rinks, tubing, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and programmes of activities suitable for the entire family. This is a big advantage when trying to keep the kids (and parents) occupied off the slopes.

Of interest to the adults: we should not forget the grown-ups and one of the main factors which draws Europeans to North America is the propensity for tonnes of powder snow. This coupled with more accessible heli-boarding, which is limited in Europe, makes for a powerful attraction.

Good things about Europe

Close to home: faced with the prospect of a two hour plane journey or one of at least seven hours most of us will take the former, particularly with children. Travel to European destinations means there is no jetlag to contend with either; who needs kids who will not go to bed even after a hard day’s skiing because body clocks need to adjust?

Cute villages at lower altitude: let’s face it a Tyrolean village wins hands down when you conjure up the ‘chocolate box’ image of a snow resort. For eye-pleasing architecture head to Europe but avoid the 1960’s concrete monstrosities of Tignes and Flaine. This is unlikely to be an important element of a holiday with kids but the elevation of a resort will be. Some North American resorts are at high enough altitude to cause problems such as breathlessness, nausea, dizziness and inability to sleep. Breckenridge in Colorado is nearly 3000 meters whilst the highest resort in Europe is Val Thorens at 2300 meters. Many European resorts are considerably lower.

Extensive areas to ski: Europe has some vast ski terrain such as the Portes du Soleil which straddles the Swiss/ French border (650km), Les Trois Vallées in France (600km) and the Sella Ronda in the Dolomites (420km). Whistler, Canada and Vail, Colorado are 252km and 222km respectively but are the larger resorts in North America. This may not be of such importance with younger children but for those with ‘mile hungry’ intermediate teenagers it is worth considering.

Walk to the lifts with no car needed: many resorts in North America are located away from accommodation. It is expected that you drive to the slopes which is an added complication with kids. At least in European resorts you can walk to the lifts albeit as a packhorse carrying all the little ones’ equipment.

Of interest to the adults: Aprés may not be as important with kids in tow, but if you are looking for a cheeky schnapps or two Europe is the place to be. The Europeans practically invented après particularly in Austria! And if you are a foodie then dining in a mountain restaurant is de rigueur.

 

For child-friendly resorts checkout a previous post, but whatever you decide to do make sure you do your research and consider your own needs as well as those of the kids. You want to make sure everyone is happy whether you stick to Europe or stray further afield.

“Take it easy dude” or should I say “Au revoir”

Kate.