Settling into Lake Louise

My arrival in Lake Louise started with a bit of a surprise. I’d been expecting to move into Lake Louise’s Charleston residence (know locally as the infamous Chuck Town) however on arrival I was told I would be housed somewhere called “GDL”. Confusion turned to dread as I was asked if I had a car, and upon saying no, being told that someone would “drive me out there”. I felt like I was being sent to a tiny isolated cabin in the middle of nowhere! This dread soon melted away as I arrived at the Great Divide Lodge, a small hotel that sits on the Trans-Canada Highway, just inside BC.

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The view from breakfast…

While the lodge is kind of isolated, it is exactly what I was looking for in accommodation: Not super loud, cosy, free laundry, free internet, and free tea! Lake Louise resort has completely taken over the hotel for staff accommodation, and I was also told on arrival that I’d lucked out and was one of few people in the place that was sharing a room with just 1 other person, as apposed to bunk rooms with up to 4 people in the same amount of space!

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Pretty standard for a ski resort…

I would be sharing my room with Phillipe, an experienced ski guide/instructor from Quebec, who has just started to become a heli-ski guide! (lucky bastard!). Hopefully we’re going to do some back country trips, and I’ll get at least 1 day of heli boarding in!

I’m working at Lake Louise as a Mountain Greeter. It’s not quite the ride break-fest that being a Lifty is, but there should be opportunities to ride during the day, and I get the chance to make a little extra money in the form of rewards for catching people trying to sneak into the resort on fake tickets!

By the fifth day of being in town I was positively itching to get on the mountain, and as soon as I had my pass I was out hitting the groomers a much as possible.

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Oh yeah and the view from the top is awesome!

 

The main difference I’ve noticed between here and Whistler so far are the temperatures. Lake Louise is much further inland than Whistler, making it colder and drier. The risk of frostbite when riding in -20 to -40 degree temps is very real and I got caught out a little around my goggles on the first couple of days. Good face coverage is a must here.

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If you take your hand out of your glove for pictures make it quick!!!

Cold temps mean lots of snow though, and that famous fluffy, light, interior snow is starting to pile up!

Exploring the bowls and the trees this morning in the powder. #lakelouise #treeruns #burton #adventure

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Banff and the road west..

Travelling through Calgary and Banff reminded me of the need to pack light wherever possible for these kinds of trips. Despite taking a ton of stuff home in September, I was still carrying close to 50kgs of stuff between my transport stops, and I’d already asked my parents to take home more stuff when they come to visit this month. I wasn’t walking too far with the stuff, but even 300m is a trek when its -20 outside!

I left Calgary in beautiful sunshine and soon the mountains began to grow on the horizon. There isn’t much in the way of foothills between Calgary and the rockies, so I spent a good hour staring out as they grew and grew like a big wall in front of me and began to dominate the view on either side of the bus.

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As we got close I felt like the bus and I were shrinking, and soon we would find a crack in the wall to slip through into the winter wonderland beyond. I’ve been on that road before, been up mountains, and spent 5 months in Whistler, but despite this the vistas you see on the way in never fail to take my breath away.

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Spectacular!

Banff is nestled among the peaks about 40 minutes from Lake Louise, so my main aim here was really to scope the place out and find the stuff I need to come back to on later visits; large grocery stores, the climbing wall, etc. Luckily I was able to do the few chores I need to do in the evening of my arrival which left a full day to do fun stuff!

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Banff high street has got a lot of places beat..

My first port of call was Banff Centre, which has the local climbing gym and a host of other resources. It’s a pretty awesome package when you go, the climbing wall is good enough for a couple of hours, but you also get a lock for your locker and towel for your $15. You’ll need these because you also get access to a pool, AND a hot tub, AND a steam room! Its’ worth a visit if you’ve run out of other attractions to do in town, or on a rainy day.

In the afternoon I went to Park Distillery, Banff’s local whisky distillery. Its a small operation that produces Rye, flavored Vodka and Gin.

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I’m quite interest in the process of making whisky and how it affects the flavor, so I was pretty cool to see a small operation where you could each part of the process quite clearly and get a good understanding of the steps. After the tour came the semi-obligatory tasting….

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Not again!

I slept very well that night, which was good because I had to be up at 7 for my bus to Lake Louise. I was a little nervous still, but the snow was piling up as I headed north and I was getting more and more keen to get riding! I’d have to settle into my new home first though!

2 days in Calgary

Winter hit me full in the face when I arrived in Calgary. Toronto had been a bit cold, but walking the short distance just to the bus from the airport terminal made me acutely aware of any thin layers that I was wearing, especially on my legs as the cold seeped through my trousers very quickly.

I did some general exploring of Calgary, and visited two of the major attractions in the the city; the Calgary Tower, and the Big Rock Brewery.

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Sure it’s tall, but can you lean off the side???

The main attraction on my first day (after running a few errands) was the Calgary tower. It’s pretty nice, especially when its out of season and you can enjoy it when it’s almost empty. It’s not the tallest building in the city anymore but it still provides a great view out over the area. I spent quite a bit of time looking west towards the setting sun, it was a bit hazy, but you could still see the dark looming shapes of the mountains along the horizon. Some of them rose up above the clouds. I tried to get a shot of them which kind of came out!

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They’re out there waiting for me….

I messed around with some timelapse footage as well.

For $18 it was pretty good. No glass elevator, but they had some big screens with nice drone footage that rose up sort of like it would look outside, and I like the way that the glass floor extends out from the tower giving a good 180 degrees of view around and an interesting view down.

The next day I braved the cold to head over to Big Rock Brewery.

It's never to cold for a beer! @bigrockbrewery #beer #calgary

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Big Rock is Canada’s largest independently owned brewery, and distributes its beer all over Canada, with a brewery in Vancouver and a new one in Toronto. Their signature Traditional beer was probably the first alcohol I ever tasted, years ago while on holiday with my parents as a teenager, so it was pretty cool to come out to see where its made. Its been really part of the Canadian experience for me from a young age. Our tour guide, Adam, was extremely knowledgeable and took us through the brewing process step by step; from the preparing of the mostly local Alberta grains (they import some for their specialty beers), to the boiling and washing of the mash, to the huge tanks where the beer is fermented and rested before bottling.

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Up to 1.6 million bottles per tank!!!

The whole tour was very interesting, I was keen to see where the process splits from that of distilling whisky, and Adam showed us a couple of interesting side projects that we got to taste later on! I stayed for a few samples after, of which there are many to try, and they’re quite generous! They also chuck in a free glass and I picked up a couple of nice little tasting glasses too, it was very good value.

What do I think of Calgary itself?

Well it’s hard to judge a city when you turn up in the middle of a cold snap, in November, on a weekday, but my impression was certainly of a quiet place. I think if you turned up in the summer during the stampede it would be pretty fun, but the rest of the time it seems pretty quiet. NICE, but quiet. The downtown area clears out almost immediately after 5pm, and I got caught out twice looking for food after 8pm, finding very little open. It was a big change coming from Toronto, where there’s always somewhere packed to drink, and you can go for groceries at 10pm if you so wish. It’s certainly very accessible by car and the mountains are short-ish drive away, but the transit system is limited to buses, with all the fun of those, and a very small light rail network. Waiting for either one of these when the temps hit -20 is not fun!

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This train had just finished Movember..

Luckily to avoid the walks in frigid temps they have the +15 a network of paths that run throughout the city, I spent a fair bit of time wandering around these and they cover the city quite well.

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Stetsons are mandatory for entry…

Heading west…

Leaving Toronto felt like the end of an era. I’d spent 18 months there, nearly as long as I’d lived in London or at university, it almost felt like leaving home all over again. My last few days were taken up with trying to see as many people as possible and tying up all my loose ends ready to go. My contract with my apartment was also finished, and so I moved in with Nyssa for a few days so I could get plenty of time with her before I headed out. We’ve grown very close over the last few months and I was really not looking forward to not seeing her for a while. We did lots of stuff together including a trip down to Toronto’s Christmas market.

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Very festive!

My mission to see everyone went very well, and across a couple of evenings I saw pretty much everyone who I wanted to see, and soon I was heading to the airport. Little pangs of excitement started to creep through though and soon after a tearful goodbye with Nyssa I was boarding my plane to Calgary. I was a little nervous as we descended to land, but Calgary put on it’s glad rags to greet me, and I arrived to a beautiful sunset.

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Little did I know, it was -17 degrees down there………..

Lazy November Days..

Things slowed down to a much more relaxed pace in November. The Edgewalk season was coming to a close, giving me plenty of time to enjoy lazy days without having to get up early, and just doing to occasional lesson at the climbing wall. I was still trying to make good use of my time though. During the days I spent much of my time rock climbing and getting in some little bits of tourism around the city. I was able to get to the climbing wall quite a bit during the week with my climbing friend Georgia, and it was great to get a bit of strength back and try harder things.

I also took the chance to spend a few hours in the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). I’m not enormously cultured but I’ll give it a go if its cheap, and the AGO certainly had some interesting stuff. My highlight was an exhibit featuring Gothic Boxwood Miniatures. These will fit in the palm of your hand and feature incredibly intricate carving. The creators of the exhibit had then placed these pods inside lazer/radar measuring equipment to create extremely detailed 3D images of the carving and give the viewer a much closer view of details as small as 2-3mm in size. It was really interesting. I also took in the Mythical Landscapes exhibit and saw my first original Van Gogh, and Monet paintings, it was pretty cool and made me think about what I could do with my photography and how I look at nature. Of course you can’t go to the AGO with out a run up the spiral staircase, that you can see all the way from the tower!

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It’s amaaaaazing!

The Edgewalk season also ended this month, with the finale being a big get together and lots of bowling and beers. It was a great evening with a huge turnout that ended at like 4am for me.

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Oh jeez…

The big highlight of the month was a little trip away to the countryside with Nyssa. We went up to a cottage in Barry’s Bay, which is in the heart of Ontario’s cottage country. It was a nice little cozy getaway, which revolved around doing lots of drinking in the cottages hot tub! It was really nice to get a little holiday within a working holiday, and relax for a couple of days, with out anything to worry about.

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Beautiful view…

I also had my first opportunity to drive a car in Canada, and thanks to being tempted by the rental company into a “blind” upgrade it was the full Canadian experience: An over-sized car, with the steering wheel on the left. It took some getting used to especially the fact that the bulk of the car was on the right hand side of me, which gave me this subconscious habit of staying a little more to the right than I needed to.

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It’s big…

November was also to be my last month in Toronto. Over the last few months I’d been looking at my options for the winter and I will now be heading to Lake Louise for one last winter season in the mountains. It’ll be extremely hard to leave Toronto, I’ve had a really wonderful time here. It turned out to be far more than I’d expected, but the winter seasons were always the primary reason for me to be here, and this will likely be the last chance I ever get to live in the mountains and live the dreams that I had before the trip, now nearly 3 years ago. Nevertheless, Monday’s trip to the airport will be tough….