Tag Archive | winter

Johnston Canyon – Winter’s Natural Canvas

Old Man Winter has a bad rep for delivering endless months of bitter cold, icy roads and countless hours of back breaking snow shoveling. However hidden behind these sinister acts, the old man is an artistic genius who has the power to create wintry magic and wonder with just the merest hint of an arctic outflow.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park is a fantastic example of winter’s creativity at work. Situated just a 40 minute drive along the scenic Highway 1A from Banff the canyon makes for a relatively easy winter half day hike.

The Hike (5.2 km return, 135m elevation gain)

Starting from the car park you head over the small Johnston Creek bridge past the Johnston Canyon Resort and into the forest. With glimpses of the surrounding snow-clad peaks the trail follows the canyon below to the Lower Falls 1 km away.

The best view of the Lower Falls can be seen by ducking your head and taking a quick trip through the natural cave to a cosy viewing platform!

The trail then involves a few switchbacks before you reach a breathtaking raised iron catwalk set deep in the canyon. Mind your head on the overhanging rocks!

With snaps safely secured head towards Johnston Canyon’s Mona Lisa – the Upper Falls. While views are great from the platform, you can demonstrate your climbing skills and head down onto the snow to get a closer look at the mini icebergs in the plunge pool. You may be competing for space though with ice climbers as this is a popular climbing spot!

Top tips

  • Bring ice cleats as the hike can be very icy! Our Yaktraxs worked well, while snowshoes are another option.
  • Wrap up warm -the canyon is cold as it gets very little direct sunlight and remember cold airs sinks!
  • Arrive early to get a parking spot as the hike can get pretty busy. If you don’t have your own vehicle Discover Banff Tours offers an “Icewalk” package with Banff hotel pick up and drop off.

Hopefully you will leave Johnston Canyon knowing that despite his dark acts Old Man Winter knows how to create a gallery for all to enjoy.

 

Snoeshowing @ Mt Seymour

Snowshoeing is often referred to as the fastest growing winter sport in North America! While we have no proof to support this (we don’t really like to spend our weekends counting snowshoers) it kind of makes logical sense. Snowshoeing is an inexpensive activity, which requires only some warm clothes, a moderate level of fitness, no lessons, a pair of snowshoes and some snow!!

IMG_2139

Why give Snowshoeing a go at Mt Seymour?

For the powder junkies amongst you the thought of giving up the opportunity to be tearing down a mountain at high speed scaring the life out of beginners doing pizza wedge turns in order to go walking on the snow might sound ludicrous! However, have an open mind for a few moments and consider the following as to why you might want to make the 30 minute drive from Downtown Vancouver to Mt Seymour Snowshoe Centre….

– The trail passes for snowshoeing are relatively inexpensive at around $9 per day at Mt Seymour when compared to the cost of a full day lift ticket!

–  You only need snowshoes and some warm clothing to participate, no need for fancy “go-pros” or carbon fibre skis made from recycled NASA rocket ships. We managed to pick up a beginner pair of glorified tennis rackets at Sportchek for around $70 in the January sales. If you don’t have your own you can always rent from Mt Seymour at a price of $27 per day which includes your trail pass.

IMG_2132

– While your average downhill skier or rider would suggest their day is tiring, they clearly have not tried snowshoeing where gravity is not your friend! A 5 minute trudge uphill is a serious workout which certainly strengthens your legs and core!! Mt Seymour has around 10km of well-marked trails ranging from green, through blue to black.

– There are no barriers to entry such as needing expensive lessons to know what to do – if you can walk in a straight line you can go snowshoeing!

– There is low injury risk when compared to other winter activities such as downhill ski racing, ski jumping and the Skeleton Bob!! The trails at Mt Seymour are groomed and well-marked so you should not be able to get lost, even if the weather is inclement! Saying that you should remember you’re in a winter environment so you need you to carry water, snacks and a spare layer or two in case you happen to have an accident with a tree well!

IMG_2136

– The groomed trails offer a great way to enjoy the mountains, beautiful forests and frozen lakes in a safe environment.  The more hardcore of you can progress to showshoeing in the Back Country. Out of Mt Seymour car park there is the well-trodden Dog Mountain trail which is not maintained by Mt Seymour but has the added bonus of being completely free!

– It’s a great social activity where you don’t have to learn a new language to participate. There are no rails to grind, no biffs to incur, liplayers to avoid or jampiece shredders to applaud. It’s a great activity to enjoy the mountains and catch up with friends and family while getting fit!

– Mt Seymour also offers Twilight, and Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe guided tours if you fancy something a bit different!

IMG_2148

Insider tips

– Bring snacks as there is nothing to eat on the trails except some forest floor fodder (but only if you are Survivorman or Bear Grylls) . However, at the end of the day the Mt Seymour Day Lodge serves up a choice of burgers, fries, chilli, coke, coffee, cookies…..basically everything you need to restore your sapped energy levels!

–  Be warned that the last trail back to the car park is just under a km uphill so keep something in the tank to get back or you could look a little silly trying to jump on the magic carpet ride with the kids just to avoid the hill (the thought did cross our minds!!)

– When you get your trail pass stick it to a metal clip on your coat, not on your back as you will look like an amateur who has no idea what they are doing!

– And finally when going downhill don’t lean back….as you will soon find yourself moving rapidly downhill on your backside cleaning out any fellow snowshoers in your path!

So all in all, a cheap and fun way to enjoy the mountain, and a great way to get fit too!

IMG_2127

%d bloggers like this: