Archive for March, 2015|Monthly archive page

The Mountain Collective, Banff

I bought one of the Mountain Collective passes, which gives two days each at a variety of West Coast and Rocky Mountain resorts, plus a couple of days in South America, if you can make it there. For $369, it’s reasonably priced, you get an email with a barcode, and exchange it for the tickets at the season pass office. So the resorts are Alta / Snowbird, Alpine / Squaw, Mammoth, Whistler / Blackcomb, Aspen, Jackson Hole, and Sunshine Village / Lake Louise. Sun Valley joins the group in 2016. And if you’re staying longer than two days, extra days are 50 % off.

I managed (so far) to go snowboarding at three of the locations. It’s been a mixed bag conditions-wise, as the western US has generally had a dry winter. So given that, the California resorts were in awful condition, and the plane tickets to actually get to the resorts are not cheap. Still, I bought a plane ticket to Calgary and headed there in mid-February.

My travels started in Calgary, Canada, in unusually warm weather for February, where I caught an evening bus ride to Banff after clearing customs and grabbing my bags. I last visited many years ago, during a chilly, overcast August. It’s a roughly 90 minute ride on mostly freeway, through the national park gate, and then into the town of Banff. I stayed at the fancy-schmancy Banff Springs Hotel, a rather sprawling property that occupies a very prime location uphill, about a half mile from downtown. I could see why after waking up the next morning, it’s a million dollar view, and the facilities and amenities in the hotel are pretty good.

Mount Temple (11627', 3544 m) seen from Lake Louise

Mount Temple (11627′, 3544 m) seen from Lake Louise

The snowboarding was not that great, lots of rocks, rather thin cover for mid-winter, and warm temps. Lake Louise appeared to a magnet for park riders, with a section on the backside full of steep stuff, and more rocks. Of course the views were amazing, it’s kind of a magnified version of the Elks or San Juans, muscular, burly peaks. But it was a mix of ice and spring conditions, more towards the icy stuff at the end of the day.

Bow Range, Canadian Rockies

Bow Range, Canadian Rockies

Sunshine Village, which is much closer to Banff, lies on the Alberta / British Columbia border, and is accessed by this gondola that curls around a mountainside. It leads to this mini-mid-mountain village, with a hotel and a smattering of lodges and restaurants. One lift leads to the ridge that separates the provinces. Another lift crosses the border a couple of times, so that was definitely a novelty. As for conditions, it was a mix. I met a fellow local rider Geoff, who knew where to go, and the place was pretty fun, with lots of side hits and still a bit of powder hidden away. He kindly gave me a ride back to Calgary at the end of the day after some dinner.

Above Sunshine Village, in a wonderland of snowboard-eating rocks

Above Sunshine Village, in a wonderland of snowboard-eating rocks

Geoff, taking in the scenery

Geoff, taking in the scenery

A final word about crossing the ‘border’ at YYC, it’s atrocious, with the combined effect of a holiday and a Monday morning. It was easily 90 minutes of hauling bags and security and immigration lines. Surely this process can be better?