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September or December

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Camden, Australia
posts: 113
reviews: 14
September or December

Hi,

I am needing a little help between the 2 months/seasons. The plan was to go mid September and see Lake Louise, Columbian Icefields and just the scenery in general. However i do love the snow and sled dogs and would love to be there in winter too.

Can someone please help me with what season is the best to go, pros and cons of each season, peak times?

I am stuck and don't know which i would get more out of, it has been on my bucket list for a while and want to go the best time possible.

Thanks

Banff, Canada
Destination Expert
for Banff, Banff National Park
posts: 4,499
reviews: 73
1. Re: September or December

Both months are wonderful, but I think September if it's your first and possibly only trip. Most of the iconic views that probably put the area on your bucket list would look very different in December.

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 12,550
reviews: 86
2. Re: September or December

It really depends whether you want to have a summer holiday or a winter one (although mid-September is more "autumn" than summer). With a winter one, it may come with complications such as snowfalls that might throw your itinerary off (for example, right now the TCH from Golden, BC to Revelstoke has been closed for about 24 hours since yesterday because of avalanche danger and control activities.) Also, you may not want to rent a car and do your own driving in winter conditions if you have no experience with it.

Note that while you can see the Columbia Icefields in winter, there is nothing open there. The area is absolutely gorgeous at any time of year ... extremely rugged mountain scenery, but the glaciers are not as obvious in winter when they are snow covered. If you came in mid-September, there is a good chance that there would be some snow in that area, possibly road-side, or on some of the hiking trails.

Sounds like I am being somewhat negative about winter, which is not intended. (I love winter!) But in my mind, the thing to clarify is what kind of experiences/activities you want.

When you mention December, do you mean over the Christmas period, or earlier in the month? Christmas is a busy time, probably a bit busier than mid-September (which is out of "peak" season, but is still a very popular time to come).

Edited: 12:40 pm, January 03, 2014
Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 12,550
reviews: 86
3. Re: September or December

By the way, "TCH" is the Trans Canada Highway (hwy #1 that goes through Banff and Lake Louise and west into BC).

Camden, Australia
posts: 113
reviews: 14
4. Re: September or December

Thanks so much. I'm really not too sure of activities yet it's more I just wanted to come see some of the Rockies. The Rocky Mountaineer is too expensive for me. It would be closer to Christmas in December if that helps. Sorry I'm being vague I'm just not sure what to do there. We will catch tour from Banff to the lake and ice fields, we drive in the other side of the road and after a minor accident in Italy I think I've scared my husband away from driving in another country :)

Banff, Canada
Destination Expert
for Banff, Banff National Park
posts: 4,499
reviews: 73
5. Re: September or December

If visiting Lake Louise and the Columbia Icefield area via tours are priorities for you, then September is definitely preferable to December.

Greater Sydney...
posts: 9,108
reviews: 33
6. Re: September or December

G'day meic. I don't think I have seen another poster here from Camden before. We need to get together for a coffee. :)

As said both above and on your other thread on the Alaska forum you are asking for a comparison between apples and oranges. As you have been advised on the Alaska forum most activities there shut down mid September, but I don't think that things in the Rockies shut down until a bit later. Others could advise better in that regard.

You are right to give the Rocky Mountaineer the flick as, IMO, it is well overpriced for what you get and a 7 day Alaska cruise could be had for the same money. The RM stops running at the end of September anyway.

If travelling in December, the Rockies IS NOT a place to learn winter driving skills in snow and ice, no matter that it is on the opposite side of the road for us or not.

Just my few thoughts. Myself, I would go mid June. :)

Camden, Australia
posts: 113
reviews: 14
7. Re: September or December

Hi Frommy,

I think by the looks of it September is the go. Becasue of work September and December are really the only times we can squeeze in any holidays.

My husband and i are very much do it yourself, never been a fan of tours so would like to get ourselves to places where possible. I found a tour company Brewsters and Sundog that have shuttles and hop on hop off from Banff to Jasper but i don't know if it is worth driving ourselves and staying the night in Jasper. This may be a good question to ask you, if you have driven from Banff to Jasper and what the roads are like for us folk on the other side?

We will be flying in from Anchorage to Calgary around 6.30pm so will catch the bus from Calgary to Banff then and then have 3 full days and lave lunch time on the 4th day.

Any help would be grateful :)

Greater Sydney...
posts: 9,108
reviews: 33
8. Re: September or December

Mate, after 40+ year of driving here my first experience on the 'wrong' side was in the Rockies. I only drove for a few days as I lost my wallet with my drivers license in it and, like here, a license must be carried at all times when driving so our Calgary resident daughter did the rest of the driving. I did not drive in Calgary, but on a subsequent trip to the US drove the Colorado Rocky Mountains and in Denver in peak hour. That was quite easy as there was no way i could mistake the side of the road I was on. When driving it is easy to remember to just keep the passenger in the ditch and it only takes a little more concentration.

The roads themselves are wonderful and the Icefields Parkway, as well as being spectacular, is beautifully engineered. If you imagine mountain driving, say like up to Katoomba, then forget it - it is more like driving the Northern Road to Penrith. Very well engineered and for nearly the whole distance between LL and Jasper following the rivers along the valley floors. There is one climb near Bow Summit (I think it is called) but that is much easier than even Mt Ousley. So, by all means drive (and stop, and drive and stop repeated). There is so much to see and do along that road that you would not experience in a coach tour. The weather should not be much of a problem in September.

The link below is for the Parks Canada detailed map of the IP and is very hard to read, but if you go to the botom of the page there is a link to a .pdf version which is very clear and printable:

pc.gc.ca/eng/…Parkway.aspx

I am a little confused though. Do you mean that you only have 3 and a bit days in the Rockies? If so then you are going to have to make some hard decisions on what to miss out on. I normally recommend a minimum of 5 days split between Banff and Jasper. Please advise.

Frommy

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 12,550
reviews: 86
9. Re: September or December

I thought Frommy would be along to say hello. :)

I meant to include the following in the information above, but was writing in haste and forgot... The other complication about coming for a winter holiday is packing winter clothing or having to buy it once you get here if you don't already own it. Again not to put too negative a spin on it, but you might get decent weather, or you might get horrible weather where it is just too cold (even for Canadians!) to be out doing outdoor activities. Sightseeing is fine though, because you tend to be in a warm vehicle, and you get out for short periods of time, snap a pic and get back into the warm vehicle.

My 81 y/o father has been here in Jasper visiting me over the Christmas holidays... he lives in eastern Canada and spends alternating Christmases between me here in Jasper and my sister who lives in a much warmer climate in the US. I was just commenting to him today about how lucky we have been this time with the weather, since it has been very mild and has not prevented us from doing any outdoors activities (which typically involve walking downtown for coffee almost everyday, but have also included two short and relatively easy snowshoeing excursions). There have been some years when he has been here for the holidays when we have had a couple of relatively mild days, and then it's been into the deep freeze for the rest of his stay (as in, daytime highs in the minus 20's Celsius... which, for many people (even Canadians) is too cold to enjoy being outside for any length of time).

With the mild weather we have been having (from approx. 0 to -5 in daytime), you can get buy with a bunch of layered clothing, topped with a fleece layer and then a windproof layer. (I wear the same top layers for spring, summer and fall hiking, and just vary the base layers). But when it is -15 or -20, you really need to have proper winter clothing if you plan to spend any amount of time outdoors.

Edmonton, Canada
posts: 4,173
reviews: 66
10. Re: September or December

September!

You'd be amazed how dark it is in December. The sun comes up after breakfast (unless you sleep in), and goes down with a thud before dinnertime. Nights are long, and not conducive to sightseeing.