Chill and Chilly Trip to Banff

Long weekend trips with friends are some of my favorite! This past weekend my husband and I joined our friends in Banff for a little ski, snowshoe and relaxation.

Each day had a rhythm: get caffeinated, get active, aprés ski and end with a big group dinner. This format worked so well for a big group, where there were different interest areas and schedules. Our group loved skiing at Sunshine and Lake Louise (don’t miss Boomerang!), snowshoeing (my favorite!) and seeing all the frozen waterfalls at Johnston Canyon. Below you’ll also find our favorite bites and sips of the trip.

Grab your mitts! // Banff, Canada, February 2017

All in all I was so thoroughly in love with the trip, and can’t wait to come back in the summer or fall! Check out my recommendations and insider tips below, and add your favorite spots in the comments section below.

ADVENTUREAPPEAL’S
BANFF WINTER GETWAY GUIDE:

♦ Know Before you go
♦ Savor
♦ Get Active
♦ View From Above
♦ Shopping
♦ Other Hot Spots
♦ Lodging
♦ How to Get There

 

 

 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Explore 3 day ski packages to save money and time buying lift tickets.
  • Activities where there aren’t a lot of operators (like dog sledding) fill up quickly, so be sure to book in advance.
  • Temperatures in Banff are no joke. Bring lots of layers and glove liners so that you can operate your phone and camera without exposing your digits to negative digit temps.
  • If you have a big group, consider booking reservations 3-6 weeks in advance. The restaurants tend to be smaller and if you hate waiting in line this advice will be key.
  • Standing room in bars doesn’t really exist, as establishments are required to have a seat for every person.
  • Don’t forget your swim suit! Most hotels have indoor and outdoor swimming facilities and there are a few fancy spas you may want to check out too.
  • In the winter, renting a car isn’t necessary or smart if you aren’t used to icy conditions. Opt for using the Airporter, Banff bus routes, shuttles to the ski lifts and private taxis / cars. If your hotel is in town, there are plenty of walkable options for shopping, dinner and drinks.
  • Weekends (especially Saturdays) are busiest, so try to tack on a couple of weekdays to your stay if you can.

GET ACTIVE

There are tons of options to stay active while on your winter vacation to Banff, the most obvious choices being skiing and snowboarding. Other favorites from our group were snowshoeing, taking hikes and signing up for group workout classes at the Fairmont (drop in fees are available for classes if you’re staying elsewhere in town).

Johnston Canyon Ice Walk 

We loved strapping on spikes / crampons and traversing along the Johnston Canyon with Discovery Banff’s guided half-day adventure.

Ready for all of the frozen waterfalls at Johnston Canyon // Banff National Park, Canada, February 2017

Through this Ice Walk Hike we got up close an personal with multiple frozen waterfalls, noshed on hot cocoa and cookies and watched the adventurous ice climbers (an activity for next time!).

Our group had the best tour guide, Saul, and we clocked in 3.6 miles along a railed pathway leading to the Upper and Lower Falls. These massive structures look like moments frozen in time. Pun intended!

Frozen Waterfalls at Johnston Canyon // Banff National Park, February 2017
Hot Cocoa Cheers! // Banff, Canada February 2017

Snowshoeing at the Continental Divide

About 45 minutes from Banff, we spent the morning snowshoeing through the trees at Kootenay Park.

Let’s do this! // Snowshoeing with the gals in Canada, February 2017

Snowshoeing is the BEST way to stay warm! It was -10 C, and we all shed layers as we shuffled through the powder along the Continental Divide. A couple of tips for new snowshoers: take small steps and try to stay on top of the snow; don’t worry if you fall, it’s fun making snow angels; and lastly stretch afterwards as you’ll be using stability muscles you might not normally workout.

All smiles amongst the snow covered trees // Snowshoeing in Canada, February 2017
Pacific vs Atlantic // The Continental Divide, Canada, February 2017

SAVOR

  • The Bison Restaurant and Terrace // Upscale feel without being pretentious. Our group rated this the best Bison burger in town and we paired it with Caymus’ sister wine the Conundrum Red. My husband loved the escargot bone marrow appetizer too.
  • Rundle Lounge at the Fairmont Banff Springs // Seats are first come first serve, so be sure to snag a spot by the windows. Luckily, there are a few rooms and you can either stay for drinks (coffee, tea, cocktails, etc) or a meal.
  • Park Distillery // This establishment is just 2 years old, and makes all of their spirits using glacier water. Try a custom cocktail (they also have mocktails), a spirit sampler tray or just go for the food and distillery tour.
  • Whitebark Cafe // My favorite spot for morning almond milk lattes, cheddar chive bacon scones and homemade granola bars.
  • Wild Flour Bakery // Indulge on super sized breakfast sandwiches with homemade focaccia bread and add peanut butter to the yogurt parfait for a little extra protein and the most PBJ-tastic experience.
Lattes and lovely starts to the day // Whitebark Cafe, Banff, February 2017

VIEW FROM ABOVE

Everywhere you turn in Banff is another gorgeous mountain view. Besides at the top of the slopes, some of the best places to take in the views are via the Banff Gondola and the view from the Fairmont Banff Springs, specifically outside the Rundle Lounge.

Perspective is a beautiful thing // Fairmont Banff Springs, February 2017

LOGDING

We loved taking over the suites at the new Moose Hotel! Everything at the hotel was new and clean, and the heated pools, hot tubs and fire pit all had great views of the mountains. Insider Tip: the pictures on the Moose Hotel’s website don’t do this property justice!

Waking up in winter wonderland //Moose Hotel, Banff, Canada February 2017

Looking for a family friendly hotel? Opt for the Fairmont Banff Springs, where there are lots of options for kids and adults alike, several restaurants on property, and a collegiate / historic feel. Plus, the views are pretty phenomenal!

Classy, classic and all about the viewpoints // Fairmont Banff Springs, February 2017

SHOPPING

  • Don’t live in Canada? Hit up Roots for soft sweats, sweaters, scarfs and  Canada branded merch. I loved their current collaboration with Pendelton.
  • Like any good ski town, Banff has endless options of ski stores if you forget anything.
  • Park Distillery has the best gift shop! Plus everything looks better after a spirit sampler.
Let’s get one of everything! // Park Distillery in Banff, Canada, February 2017

HOW TO GET THERE (& BACK!)

Banff is located in Alberta, Canada, and easily accessed via a 90 minute shuttle from the Calgary airport. Reserve your spot on the Airporter because of its new buses, friendly staff and complementary water.

Our group landed in shifts so we all met at the Yakima Social Kitchen + Bar (Marriott’s downstairs lounge restaurant) for bites and craft cocktails while we waited for the shuttle van.  It sounds odd, but this airport terminal gem is not to be missed.

OTHER HOT SPOTS

Banff really has endless activities: dog sledding, sleigh rides, hot springs, ice skating on Lake Louise, cross country skiing and more!

I hope you enjoy every second of your trip and be sure to comment below with your favorite not to miss wintertime adventures in Banff!

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Travel Guide: Winter in Breckenridge

Breckenridge is the perfect combination of charming town and epic skiing and I really can’t recommend it more!

Welcome to Breckenridge!

My husband, dog and I piled all our gear in the truck and headed to Colorado from San Diego. It was a long drive, but completely worth it. I also loved seeing the landscape change and the snow on the ground increase as we drove each mile.

We were missing our friends from back east so we rented a big house and had guests come in and out, keeping us laughing and exploring nonstop. Our house was close to the gondola that was walkable to bites, bars and boutiques which satisfied everyone who stayed with us.

Can you find me skiing?

The skiing and town of Breckenridge was heaps of fun, but another perk of making your home base there is that it is within quick driving distance of a bunch of other mountains including Vail and Keystone. This makes adventure always on the horizon and no one gets cabin fever.

Below are my highlights, I hope they lead you to fun times at Breck:

NOT TO MISS

The skiing and snowboarding can’t be beat. There are runs for every ski level and classes for newbies and advanced alike. Our group was mixed levels, so we started together in the morning and then split up after our mid-mountain chili break.

Bluebird day for my first Colorado Black Diamond

Après ski is often my favorite part of a ski trip, where the whole crew unwinds and shares stories from their days. Whatever you’re indulging in — beer, hot toddies or hot cocoa — be sure to partake in the fun!

There are also plenty of activities for times when you aren’t on the mountain. Check out my Top 7 Non-Ski Activities here.

SAVOR

Breckenridge does not disappoint in the restaurant and bar department. We ate through the whole town and these were our top picks:

LODGING

We rented a big house in Breckenridge complete with rooms to spare, a fireplace and hot tub — the perfect retreat. It was made all the better by the location, just two blocks from the gondola and one street over from main. Using VRBO we were able to secure a deal and hope to return to this same house next year.

Insider tip: keep location and activities in mind when booking a place in Breckenridge. Our location allowed guests to ski or play in town without having to worry about cars and transportation in the snow.

All lit up! Our pup sure loved the snow

SHOPPING

Like all great ski towns, Breckenridge has no shortage of stores specializing in souvenirs, ski gear and leather goods.  Check out my top 5 stores here.

MORE HOT SPOTS / INSIDER TIPS

  • Book out activities and restaurants around Christmas and New Years well in advance as things book up.
  • Look into an Epic Pass versus individual ski days if you plan to stay 3 days or more.
  • If you have non-skiers in your group, have them take the gondola one day to meet you for lunch in the lodge. It will include them more and
  • Half day classes are perfect for those skiers that need to brush up on skills. Be sure to encourage people in your group so they get the most out of the trip!
  • Every January / February there is a giant snow sculpture competition located at Riverwalk Center at 150 West Adams Avenue, Breckenridge, CO 80424.
  • Check out dogsledding and snowshoeing for more mountain fun. Our favorite ski shop, Carvers also rents snowshoeing equipment.

Comment below with your Breckenridge favorite memories and not to miss adventures!

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