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Banff for Christmas

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Perth
posts: 405
reviews: 6
Banff for Christmas

Hi all - hope you can help - we are hoping to have a White Christmas next year and Banff looks amazing - in particular to stay at Lake Louise. We really need a break from the usual hot Christmas!

Anyway - need to know - coming from Perth, Western Australia - am thinking flying from the east coast to LA (we have to fly Qantas with flyer points) and then from LA to ????? on any airline.

Could I ask regarding weather - is everything really snowy in Canada or only specific regions at that time of year? Reason is we have to be home for New Years Eve and wondering the likelihood of being snowbound or having travel disruptions.

Where should we fly in to from LA and how best to get to Banff for Christmas - plane, train, car?

Also if we have only say ten days how to split it - first visit to Canada (likely to return) - but want a real Christmas experience in Banff.

Sorry I know my research isn't great (yet) but we have a limited window of opportunity to get the award seats and want to ensure it is a good option to travel at that time within this region of Canada without too much disruption.

57 replies to this topic
Toronto, Canada
posts: 7,818
reviews: 438
1. Re: Banff for Christmas

I'd be taking a plane from LA to Calgary....

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 11,792
reviews: 80
2. Re: Banff for Christmas

Most of Canada is snowy at that time of year, although British Columbia's "lower mainland" (the Vancouver area and lower Fraser River valley), Vancouver Island, and possibly southern Ontario (Toronto area) are less likely to have snow.

You would definitely want to fly from LA to Calgary (YYC), which is about 2 hours' drive from Lake Louise. LA is over 2500 km from Calgary ... almost like driving from Perth to Adelaide. From Calgary, there are shuttles that can get you to Banff or Lake Louise, although if you plan to stay in LL, you will probably want to rent a car. Note that LL is a very small centre ... down in the valley adjacent to the highway, there are several hotels, a hostel, gas station, a few shops, a couple of restaurants, and 4 km away, up at the lake, the big Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel.

Edited: 11:53 am, December 11, 2013
Perth
posts: 405
reviews: 6
3. Re: Banff for Christmas

Thank you so much, very helpful.

We may be flying into Vancouver via Hong Kong and then flying home via LA or vice versa- depends on where we can get the frequent flyer seats. Whichever way it is, it will take us three flights to get there! About 24 hours of flying and longer with transit times.

The main attraction for Lake Louise is to spend Christmas at the Fairmont Chateau - so perhaps we will do that and then spend some time in Banff.

We will have about 13 days on the ground in Canada and just trying to work out the best way to spend our time. It's early days in planning so any recommendations much appreciated.

Banff, Canada
Destination Expert
for Banff, Banff National Park
posts: 4,218
reviews: 68
4. Re: Banff for Christmas

For the Banff/Lake Louise portion of your visit, definitely fly into Calgary. Once you decide how many days out of your 13 will be spent in Banff/Lake Louise, you will undoubtedly have more specific questions, which folks on this Banff forum will be happy to answer.

For an overall question such as "what should we do with 13 days in Canada?", I think you might want to go up a few levels to the Canada forum.

Perth
posts: 405
reviews: 6
5. Re: Banff for Christmas

Thank you - will do so. We would like to enjoy a nice relaxing holiday and don't want to do too many locations - in saying that have read a little more on Lake Louise and thinking perhaps Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be enough and then maybe stay in Banff to explore further.

Not sure about driving in winter, not used to snow so we may not be able to hire a car.

In saying all this would like thoughts on how many days to cover the attractions of Banff - say two days Lake Louise and maybe four in Banff - which would leave us a few days in Vancouver and a few at another location - hopefully not too far from Banff.

6. Re: Banff for Christmas

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Banff, Canada
Destination Expert
for Banff, Lake Louise
posts: 2,616
7. Re: Banff for Christmas

There are many things to do to fill your time in Banff and in Lake Louise. If you are planning on staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for Christmas there are a few activities you can do in the area. Please note some of these activities may not be running on Christmas Day. There is sleigh rides along the lake http://brewsteradventures.com/, dog sledding on the great divide trail http://www.kingmikdogsledtours.com/ and if you are not wanting to ski at the Lake Louise Ski Hill you are still able to ride the sightseeing gondola and see the beautiful views of the Lake Louise area. There is also ice skating on Lake Louise.

These activities can fill 2-3 days in Lake Louise.

In Banff there is the Banff Gondola, the Upper Hot Springs, lots of museums and restaurants. There is also dog sledding, skating, icewalk tours, wildlife tours, heli tours and tubing. http://www.banfftours.com & http://banffadventures.com/

There are lots of things to do you fill your time and can easily spend 8 of your 13 days in the Banff Lake Louise area.

Perth
posts: 405
reviews: 6
8. Re: Banff for Christmas

Thank you - very helpful - please excuse my lack of knowledge about locations as it is early days and we have to get a rough itinerary before booking flights.

I like the idea of spending more time in Banff/Lake Louise - I am just wondering from there - best transport to another location for say 2 days - and is there train travel for instance to return to Vancouver to fly home.

It would be nice to see scenery via rail as well as flying into locations.

I see Jasper is another location of note - would there be any issues travelling to Jasper from Banff in December?

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 11,792
reviews: 80
9. Re: Banff for Christmas

The only train service to the Canadian Rockies in wintertime is to Jasper, on VIA Rail www.viarail.ca . There are trains twice a week from Jasper to Vancouver, and twice a week from Vancouver to Jasper (and beyond). So you could head to Jasper, and then take the train from there... train departures from Jasper are on Tuesdays and Fridays at 2:30 pm, arriving in Vancouver on Wednesday and Saturday at 9:42 am. I would recommend a generous margin of safety between arriving by train and flying out of Vancouver, in case of any delays on the train. At this time of the year, the majority of the train trip is in darkness since sunset is at about 4:30 pm in Jasper, and sunrise in Vancouver at 8 am.

The biggest issue with self-driving at that time of year is winter driving conditions and the lack of experience many visitors have with them, and that it can be an added cost to find a car properly equipped with winter tires (not all-season tires). The main highways are cleared and sanded promptly after snowfalls, but the road between Lake Louise and Jasper, the Icefields Parkway, is a high elevation road and not designated a highway, so it is not maintained to the same standards ... i.e. it is not necessarily cleared down to bare pavement, and since it is a parkway and not a through-highway, it is not as high up on the priority list as other roads. I know people that drive the length of it often in the winter (since it is the fastest route from Jasper to Calgary), but I also know just as many who, like me, avoid it unless necessary. If you have no winter driving experience and don't have a car with snow tires, I would recommend taking the Sundog shuttle instead of driving it yourself.

Perth
posts: 405
reviews: 6
10. Re: Banff for Christmas

Thank you so much - we would not want to drive in snow conditions as we are unused to it and if it's scenic want to enjoy the vista rather than the road.

If we were to travel on to Jasper we would take a tourist shuttle and then perhaps train back to Vancouver - although I am not sure now as you helpfully mentioned it is dark for most of the journey - am weighing up ease of transit - will look at the train timetables etc to see if it fits and definitely allow perhaps two nights back in Vancouver before departing.

Do you think the train travel back to Vancouver is the best option to return there rather than shuttle back to Calgary and fly?

This would mean we would spend two nights in Vancouver on arrival - fly to Calgary - shuttle to Banff for say five nights, two nights at Lake Louise and then perhaps three nights at Jasper - but that all comes down to further research as to what we want to do in each place.

Also being Christmas etc we want to ensure we look at best places to stay e.g Fairmont in LL and Banff - and also whether being non skiers or winter sports people - what would be the highlights for us.

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