BBC's Tim Warwood shares his Canada holiday diary
I find the best way to start any holiday is to get as tired as you can, get on a long haul flight,
then simply add an even more tired seven-year-old, a pregnant wife, and finally three really heavy bags to the mix! Let all this simmer over approximately 1.6km of walking to a car hire desk, only to then find you have left your driving licence back in the UK next to the Kettle!!
Welcome to Canada.
“Hi, 3 tickets to Banff on the next bus please! What, in three hours? Really?”
Now, my wife isn’t a huge winter enthusiast. Don’t get me wrong, she snowboards every year, (joys of marrying a ‘Professional’), but I think given the choice she’d choose a warm weather, light travel bag, beach holiday every time. And based on how I am now feeling having left my driving licence back in the UK, thus not being able to get our hire car, and now having to wait 3 hours for the next bus....I am starting to side with her!
So, three hours waiting and one and half bus hours later we’re in Banff in Canada. It’s dark, snowing, freezing cold, and the electronic sign we just drove past to get into Banff National park said ‘Wolf Warning’.
We bunked down into our beds and dreamed of waist-deep powder. Well I did anyway, my seven year old was now wide awake due to jet lag!
FIRST TWO NIGHTS STAY AT THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN RESORT
Our apartment was beautiful. The kind of apartment you dream of owning in a Ski Resort but will never actually be able to! The beds looked like elephant operating tables. They made my seven year old daughter look like a barbie doll in a normal bed, and doubled perfectly as trampolines!
The TV had 7,546 channels with every single one playing only adverts. We Loved it! When you chuck into the mix an indoor pool and outdoor swimming pool, plus really nice staff, amazing burgers, I can’t actually find a complaint.
DAY 1 - TOWN OF BANFF
What I really didn’t want to do was write something about how nice everyone was. But bloody hell everyone was so nice! Not sure if this is Canada or just Banff, but just getting around town, going in shops, buying coffee, renting Skis, anything... everyone was really nice!
We hopped on the resort shuttle into town and rented Lilah some skis from a nice little shop called
Snowtips. We managed to get 20% off courtesy of the discount booklet that no one ever looks at! I
do recommend reading these. I have never before, but now I am a dad I am frugal. Suffice to say I
had our week mapped out after that, not eating anywhere unless I got at least 20% off courtesy of
the little discount booklet!
Oh and by this point I had phoned my mother back in the UK and she was now on a mission to
‘ship’ my driving licence over to me. Thanks Fed Ex!
DAY 2 - NORQUAY & TUBING
Pancakes for breakfast! With Mayple syrup! Woooohooooo. AND COFFEE, and creamer! Yes
Having lived the life of a professional snowboarder, and done quite a lot of days snowboarding, I
am used to the cold. Think of me as a younger modern day Sir Ranulph Fiennes, just without the
travelling. In all that time; only two days stand out as being really cold. The first was in Whistler
2001; When the lift op in the morning said to us ‘what on earth are you doing going snowboarding today, there’s a frost bite warning in effect!’ We did one run, came straight back down, and my friend Rich Gillet got frost bite on his cheeks!
The second time was our first day in Norquay. I can’t honestly describe just how cold it was. Even
the icicles were huddled up. It was crisp* to say the least! However foolish or not, we were going
riding....it was our first day!!!
I made Lilah put on every single item of clothing that she had, and we boarded the town shuttle bus
up to the resort.
Norquay is an amazing little family owned resort just ten mins outside of Banff. It overlooks the
town. In fact I have no idea if it was family run and owned, but the feel and look of the place was
just that. Smiles greeted us from the waiting ski Instructors, and after palming Lilah off with one of
them, a nice girl from Bournemouth called Jade, we went to meet our guide, Dan. Dan was
Canadian, and surprise surprise...really really nice!
The lifts all go straight up from the wooden restaurants and locker rooms of the base station. Man it
was cold, and this particular cold was sapping my enthusiasm like watching your favourite football team 7-nil down! Norquay would be such an amazing fun place to ride. Unfortunately the snow wasn’t epic and I was just too cold. It is also worth mentioning at this point, my wife Lucy was five months pregnant, and had woken up with a 1920’s version of the Black lung. She really wasn’t very well at all. So after packing her into a shuttle bus home, me and Dan had two more runs before heading off to find Lilah, who against all odds, was LOVING it! She braved it like a little beast. Huge thanks to Jade who very kindly got Lilah back up to speed on her skis. I think they were on a ‘one run, then hot chocolate’ kind of schedule.
Now, I am definitely a glass half full kinda guy....And the fact we did very little at this amazing
resort only means that when I return I will still have it all to do. And I will return...Big thanks to Dan
and everyone at Norquay for hosting us, and also for the lovely burger at Lunch.
Our day wasn’t done though....as Mt Norquay had TUBING!!! WOOOOOHOOOOOO....Me and Lilah had as many goes as our cold fingers would allow. Then we jumped on the shuttle bus back to our apartment. A really nice first day!
*(dad chat for baltic)
NORQUAY SKI & SNOWBOARD GEEK SPEAK!
If you get the goods at that place you would be puking! Some really nice steeps just up beyond the top of the lifts. All in all a very nice resort. Set in the trees, it does offer a bit of shelter from the snow and trees, small lift lines the day we were there.
Mt. Norquay is probably Banff's best family ski resort. Skiers and snowboarders will find terrain for all levels, including groomed runs, bumps and a terrain park for the brave and careless. Not only does Mt. Norquay have the only night skiing in the Bow Valley it’s also very affordable and as the only hill in the area with hourly passes, you get charged for the time you ski, not the time you don’t. And it’s only 5 mins from Banff!
DAY 3 - DOCTORS WAITING ROOM AND MOOSE HOTEL Day three I’d rather forget. My wife Lucy contracted a good dose of the black lung on route to Canada, and subsequently we had to go and wait in the doctors ALL DAY (2 hours) for her to be seen. She really wasn’t very well at all. However we all cheered ourselves up by going for the best hot dog that the world has ever made in a place called Eddies Burger Bar. I have never eaten anything like it. The thing could bring about world peace. I washed it down with a milkshake. Lucy washed hers down with two antibiotics, and Lilah just felt sick for the rest of the day from over eating! We also transferred hotels this day and we found ourselves staying at the INCREDIBLE Moose hotel and suites. Only once or twice have I stayed in a hotel with a roof hot tub. But never have I stayed in a hotel with two roof hot tubs that had views of the mountains, and an indoor pool. There was also a gym. Suffice to say Lilah thought Christmas had come early! The rooms weren’t too shabby either. Our apartment could have easily slept 98 people! Hopefully this amazing relaxing hotel would help Lucy with her cold and flu*.
Oh and drivers licence update: Wooohoooo It arrived, and only cost me 4 million pounds to fed-ex to Canada. What a nightmare! Don’t ever forget your driving licence when going on Holiday.
DAY 4 - SUNSHINE VILLAGE & THE MOOSE HOTEL If you like your coffee like I do...then the WHITEBARK Cafe on Banff Ave, does an amazing ‘proper’ flat white! Thanks for the rad coffee guys! We met up with our guide Stefan who proceeded to take us straight to the top of the mountain for the early morning runs you dream of. With Lilah in tow we took it easy, but already after a day of lessons in Norquay she was getting much better. We had such a beautiful first run down from the top. However Lilah wasn’t that good, so I fobbed her off on ski school and I went snowboarding!
Sunshine is a snowboarder's resort; Lots of nice runs through the trees, jumps and drops. Stefan
was a perfect host taking me on Canada’s ONLY heated chairlift, just at the right time. We stopped for lunch on the mountain and treated ourselves once again to some well-earned burgers and chips in a very nice restaurant called the Chimney corner. It suddenly dawned on me that I was ruining all my future snowboard trips by doing this one in such luxury!
We also got a glimpse of the hotel up at Sunshine Village on the hill. WOW what a ski in ski out
destination this would be, and I am told that if you time it right you can catch a glimpse of the
northern lights up here - weather permitting. Although they can’t turn them on and off for you like
some previous guests have asked!
We shredded all afternoon, and picked Lilah up from Ski school with a huge smile on her face.
They had eaten cookies! Huge thanks to Stefan, Ski School and everyone at Sunshine Village for
being really really nice.
We got back to Banff, only to discover that the VERY VERY nice people from Alamo had delivered
the hire car to the hotel. The ironic thing is, that after all the fuss with not being able to pick up the
hire car because I didn’t have my licence with with me...they dropped off my hire car without seeing my licence.
Sunshine Village sits high on the Continental Divide in the heart of Banff National Park, and only
15 minutes' drive from Banff. The three sprawling mountains provide amazing views and lines of
sight uninterrupted by any signs of civilization. It is actually possible to ski in two provinces -
Alberta and British Columbia - in one run.
Sunshine Village has a seven month season stretching from early November until late May. The
Village's altitude of 7,200 feet ensures the snow stays dry. Sunshine can receive up to nine metres
(30 feet) of snow in a season, and it stays all year.
It's truly Canada's Best Snow. The resort features more than 3,300 acres of skiable terrain, ranging
from gentle, inviting beginner runs all the way up to the most extreme big mountain runs. Delirium
Dive has been named one of the 10 top off-piste destinations in the world although I didn’t take to
DAY 5 - LAKE LOUISE
We drove to Lake Louise on day 5. It’s the furthest away from Banff of all the resorts, but WELL
WORTH IT! Let’s get it out the way shall we...everyone was lovely, Lilah went to ski school, and we ate a better ‘lunch’ on the mountain, than I have eaten in a lot of UK restaurants!
Joking aside, Tyler our host very quickly got the gist of what I was all about and before I could say ‘there aren’t many lift queues here’ I was shredding powder in the trees! Lunch once again was so
nice, thanks to Lake Louise for the treat, and the biggest special thanks goes to Jenny from Ski
School. Because when I reluctantly took Lilah back after Lunch she could ski. And I mean properly
rip around the mountain. Don’t get me wrong the previous two days of lessons had definitely helped, but Jenny put the pieces of the puzzle together and we as a family went skiing around the whole mountain. MY LIFE IS COMPLETE!
Although being five months pregnant and riddled with the kind of flu that would render a man
absolutely USELESS, Lucy also took a few steady runs with us. It was super soft, it was snowing,
and WE LOVED IT! Such a brilliant day!
LAKE LOUISE SNOWBOARD GEEK SPEAK!
The steepest of the big 3. All in all a very nice resort with vast and varied terrain! Set in the trees, it
does offer a bit of shelter from the snow and although the day we were there it was snowing, the
scenery is spectacular! Lake Louise is Located in the heart of majestic, historic Banff National
Park, and with 4200 skiable acres, Lake Louise is one of the largest ski areas in North America.
The unique layout allows families and groups of varying abilities to ski together; as there are
beginner, intermediate and expert runs down from every chair. Beginners and intermediate skiers
have access to an abundance of gentle slopes and long cruising runs. Experts can explore endless
chutes, glades, gullies and remote bowls in some of the Rockies' most challenging terrain.
A SPECIAL MENTION FOR...
The restaurant Tooloulous. A Louisiana styled cajun seafood and burger joint on Caribou St. This
place was so nice that we ate out there twice! The staff as you can expect were brilliant!
DAY 6 - LAKE LOUISE & HOME
On our final day, before we headed back to the airport, we went for a walk on/around the actual Lake Louise. What a beautiful part of the world this is. You only have to put ‘Lake Louise’ into
google and you’ll get a slew of incredible photos...and even though the lake was completely frozen over, it was still amazingly beautiful and they had cleared the snow so you could ice skate right there on the frozen lake! We didn’t do it, but I wish we had. Next time I guess.
After thoroughly annoying Lilah by making her walk for way too long, the only way a parent can, we jumped back in the car and made the 2 hour journey back to the airport. We cried the whole way back. And the whole flight home!
LILAH’S HOLIDAY MEMORIES:
On our last day I fell and Twisted my knee, and my Dad carried me all the way back down the
mountain on his snowboard. It was so fun!
The best places I skied were Norquay because it had tubing, and Lake Louise because I got to go
through the woods and ski on the animal trail. I also liked it on the top of the moose hotel because
there were two hot tubs on the roof. And a fire place! I loved it when I had Nutella pizza for
Breakfast too, but don’t worry, I had some berries with it.
At Sunshine Village there was a ski run that was like a roller coaster....it was soooo fun! All in all I
had a great time in Canada, and can’t wait to go again soon.
LUCY’S HOLIDAY MEMORIES
I couldn’t get my snowboard trousers to do up because of my pregnancy bump. Also Tim had to do
my snowboard boots up everyday! I really enjoyed the few runs I did at Lake Louise because the
snow was so soft!
My whole holiday was marred a little due to the flu that I contracted on the way there. BUT I loved it and will definitely be going back as a family!
Written by Tim Warwood
Tim presents on CBBC, BBC, Dave and RedBull. He's the creator of @FFW_UK and is husband to Lucy and now dad to three little beauts.
Tim's next TV project is ANIMAL IMPOSSIBLE: In this 10 x 1 hour series produced by BBC studios Natural History Unit, presenters Tim and Gendle “risk life and limb” to uncover the truth about the natural kingdom, answering questions like: Do cats always land on their feet? Are Sharks mindless man-eaters? Is spider silk stronger than steel? And, could a squid sink a ship?