Mad Trappers on the Mountain – Sunshine Village Ski Resort Calgary’s favorite ski resort

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Nestled smack dab in the base of Sunshine Village Ski Resort https://www.skibanff.com/ is The Old Sunshine Lodge…a little cozy log cabin built in 1928!  Perfect location for a hearty lunch, after a hard morning skiing! …which is my favorite day…any day skiing at Sunshine!  The little log cabin sits among giant, gorgeous, modern timber frame lodges with fine dining and spa facilities mountain side. The Old Sunshine Lodge is less formal as it now houses…Mad Trappers Grill & BBQ!  Great Eats! The low log ceilings and historic photographs all over the walls tell the story of Sunshine…how she was born and who made it happen.   All while you are feeling the hugs of ski ghosts all around you…it feels so rustic, warm and just right to be in this mountain lodge.  Such a testament to this place and such a great vibe for a sublime day skiing!  The food and drink menu is awesome, lots of hearty lunches, (salads too), mixed with a great drink and wine list.  Try some Chili with a Baked Potato…Minestrone Soup and Bread…yum!  Wash it all down with a pint…or try a “Reindeer Games” deliciousness…I love it here…I just love it here.  I could not help myself, but to share some of Old Sunshine Lodge’s amazing history…

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GsimpsonIn 1841 Sir George Simpson, a Governor for the Hudson Bay Company trekked through the Continental Divide, (Mount Assiniboine, BC on one side, Banff National Park on the other), what is now known as Sunshine Village Resort.  George, originally from Scotland was a respected businessman who was also known for his love of the outdoors and wilderness.  Although he looked the part of any English Lord… underneath his polished exterior and exceptional business acumen lied an adventurer. Known for his remarkable strength and endurance he was noted as the first man to ever circumnavigate the earth by land, (and sea in between), an incredible feat for his time.  He was the first non aboriginal to see this incredible region…and to note an oddity during his observation of this area…”hole in the wall mountain”…known today as Goat’s Eye!

The famous Palliser expedition followed in his footsteps in the late 1850’s including geographer’s and botanists to map and examine the region for planning the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway, (which was completed in the late 1880’s.)  CP Rail sponsored a lot of special interests groups along the line to promote the railroad company.  One of them was; “The Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies”. The cabin was built-in 1928 to act as a rest stop for these horse enthusiasts.  Then something amazing happened…

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Pat, Jim & Dell Brewster with Austin Standish at Sunshine Ski Resort which they purchased in 1936 for $300.00.
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After the Sunshine Village Ski Resort expansion 1937.
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The first Ski Instructor at Sunshine was Swiss Mountaineer Bruno Engler.

In 1934 Jim, Dell and Pat Brewster rented the cabin from CP Rail.  Jim and his two brothers as well as Austin Standish had found this perfect location by accident…literally…while exploring in the area, there had been an accident and they had to take refuge in the CP Log Cabin.  During their stay in the cabin they noticed how perfect of a location it was for a ski area.  They were all avid skiers who had recently got into the sport.  They had an idea…to entice Ski Clubs to come to the resort. It worked!  Visitors came from all over and would pay $5.00 a day or $30.00 a week for an all-inclusive ski vacation!

1175129254-Bruno-Engler-Rappell-Columbia-Icefields-(Photograph)Bruno Engler was a handsome, skilled mountaineer.  The last of the Swiss Mountain Guides hired by Canadian Pacific Railroad.  Bruno arrived in Canada in 1939 at the age of 24 at the beginning of Canadian Mountain Culture.  His skills were widely known and soon he was sought after by the Canadian Government to train troops in mountaineering during the time of the Second World War.  Later he was hired by the Brewster’s to start-up the Sunshine Village Ski School, he became a legend in the Banff and surrounding area where he lived his life until 2001.   Bruno was known for his skiing, guiding and mountaineering skills….he was a pioneer in avalanche safety, as well as world-renowned photographer for high altitude photography.  As well as his time acting and story telling… Bruno soon became the Ambassador for Canadian Mountain culture.

 

Skiing Revy is a Dream…world class skiing close to Calgary

Revelstoke Mountain ResortDrive 4 1/2 hours due west through the great Canadian Rocky Mountains and you will be skiing at Revelstoke Mountain Resort from Calgary, Alberta.  Ah Yes…Revy is a Dream…so completely beautiful and vast.  This is the most beautiful mammoth mountain I have every set a ski upon…true bliss.  This resort has sprung out of a Back Country Lodge and the reputation just grew and grew about the perfect, sublime, snow conditions Mount MacKenzie boasts is simply amazing.  It is a beast!  The largest, tallest ski resort North America at 5620 ft, or rather in Canadian; 1713 meters!  It is the only resort where a very long gondola ride is the “lift” to unlimited terrain…topped with a quad to the top of the world…the views are stellar!  We arrived with socked in, cloudy skies at the base of Revy, (aka Revelstoke Mountain Resort) http://www.revelstokemountainresort.com/, jumped on the gondola and through the clouds we went…to break through to blue bird skies and sunshine!  Such a perfect way to start on this incredible mountain.  I cannot describe the snow…soft light powder…dry and fluffy, and a TON of it!

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Revelation Lodge is spectacular, just like it’s views of the Monashee mountain range and valley!

Revy is the only resort to offer: Lift, Cat, Heli and Back Country skiing in one resort.  The Cat Skiing is particularly popular and books up fast.  Cats take you to natural bowls that offer Deep and Steep endless runs.  A quick afternoon powder lesson at Revy will prepare you for these great bowls.  Cannot be missed!

Back Country Skiing offers a 500,000 acres park of natural terrain.  Avalanche Ranch at Revy offers training to prepare for such excursions and offers guided packages as well to those brave, snow fiends.  Did you know there is a back pack air bag that will deploy like an air bag in a car?  If you are caught in an avalanche, it inflates and the idea is to make a gap around you to breathe…so amazingly cool…even though I will NEVER, EVER need one…It’s a liftie life for me.

Free Mountain Tours are offered to those skiing at Blue and above…great way to learn your way around this enormous resort.  If you want to up your game…(I don’t, but Thanks)…you can ride with a pro for a day to push your skills.  I am far too old to push any skills…I just need to keep getting out! Yay Me!

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The small town of Revelstoke has all the amenities you will ever need and has come a long way in the last ten years from the old, plain rail town it has been for years.  They have revitalized the town, spent some money and enhanced the neighborhood close to the mountain with larger timber frame homes, and developments.  The mountain village base has a SKI IN/OUT luxury Condominium style Hotel with Day Spa, Cafe and great dining and drinks at the Rockford.  There is also the Tavern that offers local micro brews and pub fare that goes down pretty easy after a hard day on the hill!  Revy is my ski dream!

Calgary’s Best Day trip to Babbling Brooks at Big Hill Springs

One of the best hikes close to Calgary is Big Hill Springs.  30 minutes West of Calgary is my favorite wet hike!  Please wear rugged waterproof shoes…and if  summer, swim shoes for the kids to play in the water.  Early summer brings tons of flowers and exploding springs everywhere! So much fun to listen to the mountain springs rushing and pooling throughout this gentle hike.  The diversity is quite amazing in this little pocket of the prairies.  It has amazing springs, creeks and brooks…geological deposits and rock formations in the middle of a small wooded valley in the middle of the foothills…quite special.

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It is the sound that is amazing…of the rushing water over rocks all around you.  Pools here and there to appreciate the perfectly crystal clear water.  This area is well visited and I HIGHLY recommend everyone go and see this little slice of heaven, but particularly if you have small children and elderly family members.  So many little spots to bring a camp chair and enjoy the nature all around you, as well as some picnic tables and benches.  This is a watery playland in the middle of the prairies…like an oasis in the desert…magical. Take 1A West towards Cochrane for 15 mins, then turn right, (north), on #766 for 15 mins to #567, turn left (West) for 5 mins, to the park road on your left. (times approximate, should take no more than 40 minutes from NW Calgary).

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One of my favorite attractions at Big Hill Springs are the Tufa mounds…I always appreciate rocks…and these are special.   Tufa is limestone that is carbonated from the earth by geothermal springs, forming large porous rocks, in waves…or watery shapes made of stone.  Tufa was used by the Romans to build their border walls and early temples, due to it’s enormous strength and versatility to work with and shape.  Even more curious is that Tufa is the least understood calcareous landforms on earth, by geological science, and oddly are also found on Mars.  Yes Mars… to be exact on the boundary plains, southern region, of circum-Chrysen in the cryosphere…and yes of course I looked that up!  You got to check out the Tufa here!

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The real treat at Big Hill Springs is the Bugs, Birds and Flowers…so many!  The watery oasis creates a perfect micro climate for lots of wildlife.  Frankly I would live here too if I could :)…and even in winter when things freeze up…this hike is beautiful.  Lots to see at this small Provincial Park.  I promise you will be back more than once!

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Calgary’s Cool Colonel Kananaskis Day Trip

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My hubby at the last remaining Guard Tower at the Camp.

45 Minutes from Calgary…If you like history and hiking…this is it.  The Colonel’s Cabin in Kananaskis is an amazing place.  https://hermis.alberta.ca/ARHP/Details.aspx?DeptID=1&ObjectID=4665-0017In this gorgeous mountain park, the last thing you can imagine is an internment camp full of Nazi’s in Canada.  In 1939 this former employment camp started stringing barb wire, built guards towers, (used to be 8), and started interning German Canadian sympathizers to the Nazi cause, known as the group; Deutsche Bund fur Kanata. they would get propaganda from Germany via The US, (who had not yet entered the war).  This literature was used to gain support and sympathy for Nazi Germany from within Canada, it was rumored to have been authored by Josef Goebbels himself.

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Barrier Lake
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Kananaskis Hwy 40
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Colonel’s Crazy Skies…went from cloudy to sunny as soon as we arrived.

Later on at the camp, radical German Communists were added who had more disdain for the Nazi’s then their British guards. It made for a tense environment among the prisoners.  During the course of WWII, life at this camp, (that grew to 700 prisoners at one point), had held many high ranking prisoners like spies for Herman Goering that were later traded for the release of two English Lords.  In 1941 a group of young Nazi sailors captured in the Pacific Coast were sent here, among them were reported to be Gastapo.

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During the war years the Fascist prisoners often started riots, purposely provoking their British guards…in hope someone would get shot and die, then with luck, word would get back to Hitler in Germany so he would know how much they supported him! Another case of history really is…stranger than fiction.

The interpretive hike here at the Barracks is easy and pretty…a little further along from the Barrier turn off of Hwy 40, turn east, (on the other side of the road from Barrier Lake), into the University of Calgary Research Park…huge green sign…hard to miss.  Turn there and you will quickly see signs to the Colonel’s Cabin.

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Lieutenant Colonel WH Watson was strict, but also would walk among the prisoners to earn their respect.

The original cabin for the Colonel and one guard tower is all that remains.  There are interpretive signs and commemorative plaques honoring those who served, mostly the gorgeous Kananaskis Country is all around you.

I love taking pictures of insects...and this lovely one posed so nicely for the picture.
I love taking pictures of insects…and this lovely one posed so nicely for the picture.

The History Loop trail is light and relatively easy and you have the option to hook up to the Forestry Loop that is a fabulous hike to Barrier Lake and back.  The trees seem to speak a story about the history of this place, a strange feeling…after all, just about every tree that was cut down to create the trails in the trees were likely cut down by a Nazi!

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Best time to go is late June when the flowers are blooming, like these rare orchids.
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My hubby leading the way, enjoying the pretty forest walk.

 

Calgary Day Trip to Grassi is Great!

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55 mins west of Calgary is an amazing hike that has been dedicated to an Italian immigrant Lawrence Grassi who arrived in the Rockies in 1912. He was an accomplished miner, but an even more accomplished climber.   He was a small, handsome man, but was always respected as a fiercely brave and strong mountaineer. Lawrence was responsible for creating most of the famous hikes in the Canmore area.  He reportedly climbed some of the most challenging peaks over 50 times and once even carried down a fellow injured climber on his back and across a glacier rather than leave him unattended.  An amazing feat.

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View going up the “Hard Way” of the hike.

One of my very favorite hikes is one dedicated to him…Grassi Lakes. Basically this hike has it all…views…views, views…a hard way, and and easy way.  Two emerald, aquamarine ultra clear mountain lakes…thundering waterfall, an ancient coral reef that is now a climbers paradise…and ancient native pictographs…whew!  All in one hike!  I love this hike and recommend it to anyone who visits Canmore, (especially in late June when all the wild flowers are in bloom).

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This is a great hike for all ages and perfect for a family.  Easily done in a morning or afternoon.  Super easy to find too…Basically drive to the Canmore Nordic Centre and instead of turning right into that parking lot…drive another 500M and turn left into the parking lot for the Grassi Lakes interpretive area.  There are two routes to take, Hard and Easy…both are quite manageable, but I recommend going the hard way up, as climbing up some of the steeper rocky stairs when wet is easier than climbing down. The hard way runs along the ridge of the mountain and allows for amazing view of the waterfall and breathtaking view of the Bow Valley on your way up.

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Tons of natural springs run here right into late summer, so make sure you wear sturdy, waterproof shoes.   The lakes are fantasy like, very deep small lakes that are as clear as glass, but in every blue green jewel tone you have ever seen.  Quite a magical experience. Once you get to the very top of the interpretive hike, which involves lots of different paths, wood bridges  and natural rock steps…the view is awesome and to the north the gigantic porous mountain, (that usually has a climber or two hanging off the side), quite clearly shows it’s original purpose as an ancient Coral Reef.  It has fossilized into the massive, porous, sponge looking stone it is today.  Sport climbers love it here, and they are fun to watch…Grassi is just so cool! Science and nature collide.  There is many spots to picnic, by one of the lakes is always my favorite!

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