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mountains

Our Canmore Shopping List

April 25, 2016
By Afton Aikens, Ashley Materi & Jen Groundwater

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Blast from the Past
Five reasons we love the original antique postcards at Sunny Raven Gallery:

  • Cultural History: Images of tent camps, Swiss guides and railway cars give a glimpse into early 1900s life in the Canadian Rockies.
  • Labour of Love: Card makers hand coloured black and white images to bring scenes to life.
  • Environmental Insight: “I’ve had scientists and biologists buy early cards that show forest cover, and benchmark glacier recession,” says gallery owner Meg Nicks.
  • Communication Trends: Messages on early 1900s cards were written in small spaces on the front; only the address went on the back.
  • Creative Presentation: Nicks sells framed and unframed cards; choose how you want to display your piece of Canadian Rockies history.

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Cross-Country Skiing the Goat Creek Trail: Great For Beginners & Families

Feb. 12, 2016
By Morgan Kwan

Winter always seems to pass by faster when you’re busy with activities. Don’t let the season get you down; there are plenty of winter activities to warm up to in the Canadian Rockies. Cross-country skiing is a great low impact sport that the whole family can do. If you’re looking for something a little different, I highly recommend the Goat Creek Trail that runs from Canmore to Banff through the Spray Valley.

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A popular summer mountain biking trail, Goat Creek also makes a fantastic cross-country ski trail, even for beginners. Track set for the full 18 km, you pop out at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel where you can take advantage of the scrumptious Sunday brunch or go for a dip at the nearby Banff Upper Hot Springs before heading back to Canmore. (See my note about transportation at the end of this article). (more…)

Big Mountain Adventure

Local pros suggest exhilarating winter excursions

Dec. 7, 2015
By Afton Aikens

Eisenhower Tower on Castle Mountain, John Price, Travel Alberta

Eisenhower Tower on Castle Mountain, John Price, Travel Alberta

Massive. Rugged. Incredible. Whatever your interpretation, there’s no denying that the Canadian Rockies leave an impression.

In winter, peaks and valleys draped in snow and ice create a magical outdoor playground that entices adventurers into its wilderness.

For professional climber, paraglider and kayaker Will Gadd, growing up here shaped his identity and sparked a lifetime of legendary exploits.

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Jasper’s Stunning Sights

Photo: Courtesy of SunDog Tours

Photo: Courtesy of SunDog Tours

By Afton Aikens & Jack Newton

Mountain Connector

SunDog Tours’ daily winter bus (to May) offers hassle-free travel to and from Jasper National Park. The Edmonton service accesses West Edmonton Mall or the International Airport. The Calgary/Banff/Lake Louise service cruises the famous Icefields Parkway, which offers spectacular views. Some highlights of this world renowned drive include:

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Grimface Mountain—Cathedral Provincial Park, British Columbia

Submit your photo to our Flickr Group to see your favourite travel shot as part of our Photo Friday feature on Where.ca! We’ll credit you and link to your photo.

Why We Chose It

Part of the Cascade mountain range, Grimface, in southern B.C., is an impressive sight no matter the time of day. But when the sun goes down, its grey facade is transformed to brilliant fiery orange and the result is magical. All it needs is a patient photographer to capture it at just the right moment.

Photo: Drew Brayshaw

Canada’s National Parks

Photo by ShutterRunner

Canada’s National Parks show the beautiful variety in our country’s topography—from British Columbia’s turquoise-tinged glaciers and Alberta’s jagged mountains to the coasts of Ontario’s lakes and seaside in the Maritimes. Among them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites recognized for their unique natural beauty, and while some are easy to access others are located in remote corners of our untamed nation. A full list of all 42 National Parks of Canada, which was the world’s first national park service, can be found at www.pc.gc.ca. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada, and to celebrate there are special events and celebrations—don’t think just because summer is over the fun is done, many parks are at there most stunning when the snow falls—check out a list of upcoming events here. (more…)

Road Trip: Calgary to Cranbrook on the Crowsnest Highway

A view of the Kootenays near Cranbook. Photo by That Angela

By Waheeda Harris

Modern day explorers still lust to explore the unknown – and for those wanting to point their car towards unchartered territories, the Crowsnest Highway from Alberta to British Columbia provides eye-catching views of the Rocky Mountains, historic places of interest and small town hospitality.

Modes of Transport

Highway 22 from Calgary is the way to get to the Crowsnest Highway via Turner Valley, which originates in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Although easily done by with four wheels, this old train route can be used by cyclists who will appreciate the wide highway shoulders through the mountains. Approximate driving time from Calgary to Cranbrook is four hours, 46 min and a distance of 379 km one way.

Roadside Attractions

It’s been 100 years since this rock slide happened, but the Frank Slide is still the main attraction of wee Frank, Alberta, located east of the Crowsnest Pass. When 82 million tonnes of limestone moved almost two kilometres in less than two minutes, the immense fields of rock are worth a stop to walk through the pathways (free admission).  For those wanting an up close and personal experience of the Rocky Mountains, Fernie, British Columbia offers several trails for hiking and mountain biking.  Adrenaline junkies will appreciate the wild ride of the Al Matador trail, (free access) which ascends 1200m in elevation as you navigate the single track. Make sure to point your camera lens at the Three Sisters, aka Mt. Trinity, a popular mountain of three peaks.

An hour west of Fernie, stop in historic Fort Steele, a former gold mining town that will transport you back to the 19th century. A ride on the steam train locomotive or a wagon ride will be a welcome late afternoon distraction from the road.  Once you reach Cranbrook, spend time at the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel, featuring antique rail cars, train memorabilia and the restored Royal Alexandra Hall from the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Royal Alexandra Hotel, which had been located in Winnipeg.

Eats

Start your roadtrip with a hearty breakfast at the The Chuckwagon Café on Highway 22, part of the Cowboy Trail and less than an hour from Calgary in the rolling hills of Turner Valley. Located in a barn, the café serves up traditional eggs and pancakes that will make you feel like you can take on a day on the range.  In Cranbrook, take advantage of the weekly Farmer’s Market held every Saturday morning for locally grown and made edibles and for a fine dining experience, make a reservation at Heidi’s, a favourite of the area. Their secret? The owners trained at the International Institute for Tourism and Management in Austria.

Sleep

If you’re lured to stay in the heart of the Rockies in Fernie, the Mt. Fernie Timberlodge ($385-449 per night) accommodates up to 10 travellers in an Alpine-style chalet. Weary from all that outdoor activity – guests can amble up a spiral staircase leading to the chalet’s treehouse with a hot tub with views of Mt. Fernie and Mt. Proctor.  For the final rest stop in Cranbrook, forget the highway motel strip and kick it up a notch with a stay at the luxe Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort. Ask for the John Huber Express ($599.95 per night), choosing from the Naughton or Newcastle staterooms, with décor and amenities inspired by luxury railway travel of the past.

Read

The perfect accompaniment for the Crowsnest Highway, which lies along a former Canadian train route, would be the classic writing of mystery maven Agatha Christie. Three novels feature a train theme, and can be easily found in paperback or audio book: Miss Marple in 4-50 From Paddington, and Hercule Poirot in The Mystery of the Blue Train and Murder on the Orient Express.

Fleeting Glimpses

Wildlife in Yukon Territory proves elusive

By Andrew Findlay

Autumn comes early in the Tombstones, painting the tundra in jewel colours. Photo by Robert Postma, courtesy Government of Yukon

Mist rolls across a landscape turned crimson by the chill of approaching autumn. It’s the middle of August; fall arrives early in the north. For most of the morning a friend and I have followed a small but elusive herd of woodland caribou through the alpine tundra of Tombstone Territorial Park, about a 90-minute drive north of Dawson City.

The mountains around us, black and brooding obelisks, live up to their ominous name—the Tombstones. Underfoot, there is a thick spongy carpet of mosses and lichens, delicate sieve-cup lichen and fluorescent reindeer lichen. For caribou, lichen is often breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We pause behind a ridge, lowering our bodies close to the ground, and watch. The swish of air through thickets of willow tricks my eye into perceiving the movement. Are those legs or the spindly stalks of willow shrubs?

I came north to see wildlife beneath the expansive skies and the virtually people-less landscape of the Yukon. At 186,272 square miles (482,443 square kilometers) the territory is almost twice the size of the United Kingdom, yet has a population of just 40,000, most in the capital Whitehorse. A similar number of people would be crammed into a single London borough. That’s why the Yukon has a special magnetism for people fatigued by the frantic trappings of modern life, a place to be humbled by landscape so vast that technology and the other distractions of civilization seem inconsequential in comparison.

Up here in the wild Tombstones, life for now has indeed been reduced to a few simple essentials—staying warm and scanning the horizon for animals. The mist rises, lowers, then rises again and suddenly they appear, a half-dozen caribou, black snouts aimed in our direction, their grazing interrupted by the scent of humans carried on the breeze. That is life as prey, constantly alert to clues and signals in the environment; survival depends upon it. Then just as quickly as they appear, the caribou vanish like the ultimate illusionists into the swirling mists of the temperamental mountain weather.

A week earlier I had gone in search of Fannin’s sheep, a Yukon wildlife anomaly, in the Anvil Range above the town of Faro that sits smack in the centre of Yukon. For thousands of years before lead and zinc put this region on the map, Fannin’s sheep ranged the adjacent mountains.

The story of their origins is infinitely complex. Initially scientists considered them to be a distinct sub-species of wild sheep, along with others found in North America—Stone’s and Dall’s, or thinhorn sheep, and the Rocky Mountain, California and desert bighorn sheep. Research has shown that Fannin’s are genetically Dall’s sheep, but with unique dark-colored flanks and mottled white neck that came about through the effects of interbreeding and isolation, before and during the last ice age that ended some 10,000 years ago.

Today more than 2,000 Fannin’s sheep spend their summers in the Anvil Range north of Faro and winters in the lightly snow-covered forests near the Pelly River.
Though I managed to spot a few Fannin’s sheep high on a windy ridge in the Anvil Range, the glimpse was fleeting. Wild sheep are loath to grant predators the advantage of height and I was no match for these creatures of the mountains.

I have more luck with the woodland caribou. The sky has lifted and for the first time I see the razor-cut tops of the Tombstones. As we descend toward the valley bottom we cross a patch of old snow, dimpled with caribou tracks, and then we see them again briefly gathering on a hillock, wary as always. And that is the last trace we see of those animals, swallowed like us by the vastness of the Yukon sky and landscape.