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Visiting Mid-December

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Melbourne, Australia
posts: 47
reviews: 80
Visiting Mid-December

Hi guys,

We will be in the area around mid-December and i've been looking for tours from either Calgary/Edmonton or Vancouver and it seems like no providers offer anything in December.

I'm not able to drive, so driving is out of the question.

I've looked at the options of Greyhound or Amtrak from either of these 3 cities (we are flying in from the East, so it doesn't matter too much where we arrive as nothing has been 100% booked yet) just not sure where to go.

Out of Jasper & Banff what would be the best place to go in December without a car?

Thank you!

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
posts: 34,267
reviews: 54
1. Re: Visiting Mid-December

Hi DennisKir ~

The season for tours to the Rockies spans from about end May to end September. In mid December, it is seriously winter in the Rockies. Tour busses do not operate in the snow and ice of December as there is no market.

Amtrak is an American company that runs for example, between Seattle to Vancouver, but you will find VIA Rail from Vancouver to Jasper to Edmonton and points east. VIA Rail does not run from Vancouver to Banff or Calgary. They run all year. www.viarail.ca . Greyhound also travels between Vancouver - Jasper - Edmonton and Vancouver - Banff - Calgary. www.greyhound.ca .

I would say Banff is the bigger of the two towns, and you would perhaps have a bit more to do there.

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 12,343
reviews: 86
2. Re: Visiting Mid-December

Most of the packaged tours you will find for the area for the winter will be ski or snowboard vacations, including transportation, hotel, lift tickets and equipment rentals. Some sightseeing locations, seasonal roads and attractions are closed in the winter, so there are fewer attractions to package ... and there is just not the demand for tours in the winter.

Banff, population ~8000, is less than two hours from Calgary airport; Jasper, pop. 4500, is about four hours. Sundog Tours operates shuttles from both airports to Jasper (from Calgary, the shuttle takes the Icefields Parkway route (designated by National Geographic as one of "20 drives of a lifetime"); it's the only scheduled public transportation up the parkway in the winter.

There are other options to get from Calgary to Banff (check the Top Questions on the Banff forum page). As already mentioned, you can take VIA Rail from either Edmonton or Vancouver to Jasper. If I recall correctly, through the winter, VIA's schedule is going to be cut down to two trains per week in each direction, rather than the current three; you can find schedules, fares and all that on their website.

Jasper National Park is substantially bigger than Banff National Park, but Banff also has Lake Louise, another (albeit small) centre for visitor services as well as spectacular scenery (which both Banff and Jasper National Park have in abundance).

Popular sights and activities in Jasper in the winter are ice walks at Maligne Canyon, downhill skiing & snowboarding at Marmot Basin (www.skimarmot.com), cross country (nordic) skiing, outdoor skating, showshoeing, walking etc. There are various small tour companies that offer excursions for sightseeing, wildlife spotting, activities etc. There's even a day tour with a short ride on VIA Rail, to visit Mt. Robson in BC (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies) and then come back to town by highway. www.jasper.travel .

Banff (town) being bigger offers more than Jasper in terms of shopping, dining, choices in accommodation etc. There are three ski resorts within a 45 minute drive. Banff park also offers similar winter sports and activities to Jasper (no canyon ice walk though, as far as I know); both parks also have companies that offer dog sledding and snowmobiling, although both those activities are done outside the national parks. You can find Banff tourism info at their official page at www.banfflakelouise.com .

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 47
reviews: 80
3. Re: Visiting Mid-December

Hi guys, thanks for all your replies.

I had a look at Sundog, and from the looks of it if the tour does run (minimum of 4 people have to go) it would be great!

We will be coming from Cuba, so no options really coming through the US. It's around the same price to fly to either Edmonton/Calgary/Vancouver (from Toronto) - why I'm not too sure what to do!

I'd like to realistically spend around 2-3 days in Banff/Jasper. So arrive into either Edmonton or Calgary then head there, then either take a greyhound or railway service to Vancouver. I'm just a bit worried due to not having a car, that even with all these amazing attractions around I wouldn't be able to get to them.

The other option I was thinking, but as it is winter, the days are shorter and i'd be worried if I took the train Edmonton - Vancouver that we wouldn't see anything at all if it's all dark making it a real pointless trip.

Are there any tour operators from Vancouver that do a 1N/2N tour?

Thank you!

Edited: 4:29 am, August 20, 2012
Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
posts: 34,267
reviews: 54
4. Re: Visiting Mid-December

There won't be any tours running out of Vancouver to the Rockies in winter. The distance is about 850 km and most folks take 2 days to get there in the good weather of summer.

You are right about short days. In December (the shortest day will be the 21st-22nd) sunrise will be about 8h00 am and sunset will be about 4h15 pm.

For 2-3 days, I think your best bet is to arrive in Calgary (a 2 hour drive to Banff). Sundog offers a winter tour Banff to Jasper, and even offers a shuttle from Jasper to Edmonton (a 4 hour drive) if you needed to fly out from there.

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 12,343
reviews: 86
5. Re: Visiting Mid-December

I think the shortest tours between Vancouver and the Rockies, even in summer, are four days - it's basically two days of driving from Vancouver to the Rockies, if you want to break it into manageable bits and not be driving all day, and a "tour" usually includes some attractions or stops along the way. If you want to do it in a shorter time span, you're basically just talking transportation, and you can book VIA Rail or Greyhound to do that.

Brewster offers a few winter tours, out of Calgary:

vacationscanada.travel/packages/Firesides--S… (6 nts/5 days)

vacationscanada.travel/packages/Alberta-Wint… (6 nts/7 days)

vacationscanada.travel/packages/Mountain-Adv… (5 nts/6 days)

I'm not sure if there are other coach tour companies that offer similar (other than packaged ski vacations, as mentioned earlier). I think the reason why Brewster can offer these is that not only are they based in the area, but they have all the "infrastructure" to make up their own packages to boost visitation to their own businesses (so they don't necessarily have to make a profit on the tour alone) - as well as having the transportation division (coaches/buses), they own several hotels in Banff, as well as the Sulphur Mountain gondola.

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 47
reviews: 80
6. Re: Visiting Mid-December

Hi again,

I've looked through all the options. I've got a rough date of arrival of the 10-11th December. I sent Sundog an email too asking about the tours possibility of running - as of yet no reply.

From the looks of it - the ski/snowboarding only starts in January according to your links.

Brewster also only starts tours from the 16th Dec + onward, and that wouldn't work out as well.

Im not sure what else to do.

Planning on arriving into Edmonton, greyhound to Jasper. ??? to Banff and Banff to Calgary via Greyhound too.

But I'm scared I won't end up seeing anything much by not having access to a car at all.

Should I give the Rockies a miss this time and come back next year before the season is done? :)

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary, TripAdvisor Support
posts: 23,346
reviews: 66
7. Re: Visiting Mid-December

The Banff ski areas (Sunshine Village,

Lake Louise) open by mid-November.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
posts: 34,267
reviews: 54
8. Re: Visiting Mid-December

You ask "Should I give the Rockies a miss this time.". And then a smiley, so not sure if you're joking, but yes, I would come back next year -- before the end of September.

9. Re: Visiting Mid-December

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