Ice cold with a twist – Canada’s frozen parks will leave you with a warm glow

When my tour guide asked if I fancied some bubbles in the heart of the Canadian Rockies I was naturally keen.

But unbeknown to me, he wasn’t talking about the ones that come in a flute.

I was standing, tentatively, on top of the frozen Abraham Lake, in Clearwater County, Alberta.

And the bubbles he was referring to were the strings of pearl-like ones cocooned in the ice under my feet.

Although beautiful, this amazing natural phenomenon is caused by decomposing dead plants and animals from the murky depths.

It produces a slow and steady fizz of methane gas which freezes when the temperature dips to -20C in winter, trapping it in an icy chamber until the ice thaws again.

During the summer this artificial lake is piercingly turquoise and people come here to hike and fish.

But in winter, folk flock from around the world to see the incredible sight on the North Saskatchewan River.

I’m in David Thompson Country – a rugged area between Alberta’s more touristy Banff and Jasper National Parks, known for its wild beauty and named after one of the country’s greatest explorers.

Just down the road we stop for snow-shoeing at the Cline River Canyon. The snow crunches like Styrofoam under my feet, which appear to have tennis rackets strapped to them, as we make our way through thousands of pine trees.

When we reach the bottom, frozen waterfalls drape the jagged rock walls around us.

I tell our tour guide, JP from Pursuit Adventures, that this ravine is as close to Narnia as I think I’ll ever get.

It’s so enchanting, I keep expecting Aslan the lion to pop out and say a quick hello.

I’m here for five days travelling from Jasper to Banff via the Icefields Parkway, which is officially called Highway 93.

This super-scenic road stretching 144 miles is a regular on lists of the world’s most beautiful road trips.

Gazing at endless snow-dusted mountains and mirrored lakes, craggy glaciers and soaring pines I can see why. The three-and-a-half-hour drive through the backbone of the Rockies is breathtaking, bucket-list stuff.

We had started our journey in Jasper, a charming town with just a few thousand residents and a lot of moose.

Jasper is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies – 4,250 square miles of untamed wilderness.

The town stands in the shadows of the 12,972 ft Mount Robson, the highest peak in the range spanning British Columbia and Alberta.

It’s also rumoured to be where Megan and Harry honeymooned in 2018.

A relaxing yoga session at the Jasper Wellness Centre limbered us up nicely for the next morning.

At -16C, most people would be hibernating, but in Alberta they venture into the great outdoors to make the most of winter. So, wrapped in as many layers as I could find, I headed to the Maligne Canyon, about 10 minutes’ drive away, to climb a frozen waterfall.

This is the deepest canyon in the Rockies, and if climbing up a waterfall sounds hard, first we have to get to it.

For that we need crampons, terrifying-looking devices covered in steel pins that slip over your walking shoes for traction. And I thought walking in heels was hard.

They take some getting used to, but thankfully the rest of the group is too distracted by the fantastically fresh air and stunning scenery to notice my Bambi-on-spikes-on-ice impression.

Maligne Canyon is a Mecca for ice climbers and luckily the team at Rockaboo Mountain Adventures show us how it’s done.

It’s hard work and nerve-racking, but the perfect tonic was soaking our aching limbs in the hot tub at the Mount Robson Inn afterwards, and looking up at the illuminated night sky.

Jasper isn’t just a natural beauty during the day, it’s also a Dark Sky Preserve, the second largest in the world, making it ideal for stargazing.After a whirlwind of activity, I’m ready for some relaxation at our next stop – the four-star Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a three-hour drive away in Banff National Park.

It’s a classic picture postcard, a frozen lake back-dropped by the chateau-style hotel and the Victoria Glacier.

From my bedroom window I watch tiny figures glide on skates, while across the lake I can hear the clash of hockey sticks.

I decide I’ve earned my ice in a glass so head to the outdoor bar carved from more of the cold stuff for cocktails.

The hotel was originally built as a base for outdoor enthusiasts and alpinists more than 100 years ago.

During the summer you can hike or canoe on the enticing emerald waters and in winter it offers world-class skiing. Marilyn Monroe was a regular guest in the 1950s.

It’s easy to see why, with a luxury spa and the fabulous Fairview restaurant, where we feasted on mouthwatering elk ribeye steaks.

Our next and final stop was Banff town, a 45-minute drive away, home to hot springs and some of the world’s best ski runs. There are three ski resorts in the region. We picked Lake Louise’s 4,200 skiable acres, one of the largest in North America.

The majestic slopes are suitable for all levels, whether you’re braving black runs or shuffling about the baby hills.

Luckily, all it took was a few ‘Burt Reynolds’ – shots of spiced rum and butter schnapps – in the après bar to get me feeling like Izzy the Eagle.

Banff is great to explore, with boutiques, restaurants, bars and the beautiful Bow River. At Park Distillery they make their own whisky using water from surrounding glaciers.

One night we dined in the sky after taking the Banff Gondola up to the Sky Bistro at the summit of Sulphur Mountain, 7,000ft above sea level.

Afterwards we sang along to live music at the Rose & Crown pub before collapsing into our beds at the delightful Mount Royal Hotel.

The temperatures here might be freezing, but the beauty of the Canadian Rockies and the warmth of the people will melt your heart.


Bon Voyage offer an 11-night fly-drive holiday to the Canadian Rockies from £2,395pp. Valid for travel in February, the package includes 10 nights’ room-only (1nt Alt Hotel, Calgary; 3nts JW Marriott, Edmonton; 2nts Mount Robson, Jasper; 2nts Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, 2nts Mount Royal, Banff), return economy flights from Heathrow to Calgary, and 4×4 car hire.

A selection of winter activities
are also included: ice climbing day trip with Rockaboo Mountain Adventures to Maligne Canyon (Jasper NP), snowshoeing at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and tubing at Mt Norquay (Banff NP).


Source: Read Full Article