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Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

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Savannah, GA
posts: 3
Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

I'm planning a trip to Bighorn Meadows Resort in Radium Hot Springs in January. My friends say I'm crazy to go in winter, but I want to experience real winter weather in a fairly remote area at a nice resort, and hopefully see Bighorn sheep and maybe do a little cross-country skiing and snowboarding.

My main concern is the drive over the rockies from Calgary to RHS in a rental car. I have some, but not a lot, of winter driving experience. How well are the roads maintained? How steep are the grades on Hwy 93? Is there a good website to check road conditions before heading out? Is there be an alternate route from another city that might be safer driving during January such as Spokane, WA?

Oh yeah, and am I really crazy for wanting to do this???!!! :)

Thanks!

Diane

West Grey, Ontario
Destination Expert
for Toronto, TripAdvisor Support
posts: 58,222
reviews: 71
1. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

Hi DiMoon;

I would NOT suggest starting to learn how to drive in winter conditions in the Rocky Mountains ! Driving in the winter takes genuine experience, and through the Rockies, even more so.

You may want to read over the Traveler Article "Winter Driving in Canada", here on TA.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g153339-c55003/Canada…

Best Regards

Kamloops, Canada
posts: 531
2. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

The majority of the driving will be in winter obviously but the section between Calgary and the junction to RHS(H93) is pretty easy mountain highway. Highway 93 has some moderately steep sections and windy portions but in my mind you will probably be fine. Winter driving can be challenging at times but patience, speed and proper vehicle will help tons. Roads are usually well maintained BUT winter at times can drop lots of snow and delays may be needed on your part. You could fly into Cranbrook(YXC) from Vancouver and drive H93 for about 83 miles over an easier section.

http://www.drivebc.ca/

A great site to visit for your driving in BC, has webcams for RHS and other parts of BC too, fairly current highway conditions and many other features.

Crazy >> probably but winter can be a magical time of the year and thought out properly can be lots of fun. How is that for a Canadian answer for you eh!

Enjoy your visit :0)

Kimberley, Canada
posts: 291
reviews: 37
3. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

Kudo's to you for coming in January - yes, it will be winter; you need to know there are close to 100,000 people living in the Kootenay Rockies area of B.C. - not really that "remote" + thousands of Albertans travel over the mountain passes 365 days/year to play in this area. Don't let the roads hold you back, please "come on up". . :-)

Delta flies from Salt Lake City to the Canadian Rockies Airport in Cranbrook, B.C. http://www.flycanadianrockies.com/

Cranbrook is less than two driving hours from Radium along the bottom of the Valley; there are no mountain ranges to pass through. Very good road up the Valley to Radium with lots of traffic - quite a bit easier route than solid three hour drive, right through the Rockies, from Calgary airport to Radium. Having said that, HWY through Banff National Park and then up Castle Mountain to Kootenay National Park could be classed as one of the most beautiful in the World. .. I like the scenery on the drive to Calgary better than coming west.

Regardless of fly in destination - plan to drive in daylight; drive slowly and sensibly and read many posts giving good advise about winter driving. First time winter drive would be a lot easier from Cranbrook up the Valley.

http://www.fairmonthotsprings.com/resort/dvd - here is a link to support your efforts to come to the "warm side of the Canadian Rockies". "Good video" that highlights entire Columbia/Kootenay Valley. For what it is worth, Fairmont HOt Springs is easy one hour 15 minute drive from Canadian Rockies Airport. I don't realy like "pools" at either, very much; my taste is for natural hotsprings at Lussier - try this link; hellobc.com/en-CA/…Radium-Hot-Springs.htm

- don't recommend you going to Lussier without a seasoned winter driver - there is steady winter traffic as the basically untouched pools are favorite New Year's Eve destination for many. . .

You only live once - the 35 million people in Canada always find away to get through three to nine + months of winter driving ++.

Hope links light up for you - if not "cut and paste" ?

Enjoy the Video - it really is that beautiful up here.

Kimberley, Canada
posts: 291
reviews: 37
4. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

One last thing - please do not fly to Spokane and plan on driving the four+ hours north to Radium. Northern Idaho does VERY LITTLE maintenance to their roads in the winter. Calgary is better option; Cranbrook Airport is "best"; if you want safest route. Kalispel - Glacier "FCA" - not a "bad option" - Montana roads/drive to Cranbrook - not too bad in winter. . . Depending upon the weather it could be better option than Calgary - no mountain passes to navigate - ensure your FCA Airport Rent-A-Car is good to go in Canada.

Worst winter road I drove on in the last ten years - not even a "stormy day" - was this past winter from Spokane Airport . Total white knuckle drive on Idaho roads to USA/Canada border in my AWD vehicle.

Rockies BC
posts: 684
reviews: 5
5. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

Living in the Cranbrook/Kimberley area myself, I agree wholeheartedly with everything eastpouce said. May I add this: When you rent your car, make sure you ask for a car with SNOW TIRES. Yes, they have them - they do cost more (about $10 per day) but frankly I WON'T drive in the winter without them. Money well spent, and Cranbrook's Budget has several vehicles with snow tires. Flying into Cranbrook instead of Calgary makes a LOT of sense. If you have car trouble, you are never far from civilization. But if you are stuck in Kootenay Park, well ... I sure wouldn't want to be...

Savannah, GA
posts: 3
6. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

Thanks everyone for being so friendly and for all your very helpful information. If I had realized you guys in The Great White North had it so together on keeping the roads in such good shape I would have planned a trip sooner!

Although I'm a warm weather dweller, I've actually driven in snow in the Great Smoky Mtns quite a few times (that's what I meant by some, but not a lot, as in not as much as people who live there), where many roads are not maintained and many are closed after first snowfall, so I think I'll be ok on your well-maintained roads.

I am really looking forward to enjoying your winter wonderland. Thanks again for all your input and the great info.

Canadians Rock!!! :)

Edited: 10:18 pm, November 27, 2009
Savannah, GA
posts: 3
7. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

Just a little follow up about my trip...

The roads from Calgary to Radium and Invermere were excellently maintained as everyone said. Thank you all again for easing my concerns about the logistics of my trip.

Radium is a good central location, a quiet little 4-way stop town with a small grocery store, a few restaurants, and the very friendly and helpful folks at the Kootenay visitors center. Radium is close enough to activities without feeling crowded. It was the perfect place for me. I was looking for a wide variety of outdoor winter adventures to explore during the day and quiet, relaxing evenings away from the hustle and bustle of other tourists, and that is exactly what I enjoyed at my "base camp" in Radium.

I'd like to point out some things future travelers to this area should keep in mind: Start your drive early in the day so you have time to enjoy the scenery along the way. It takes 3.5 hours from Calgary to Radium with no stopping and you will most definitely want to stop and take some pictures. I would say allow 5 to 6 hours at least, or more if on the way you want to explore Banff village shops/restaurants/activities for a few hours. This drive is so incredibly beautiful you will not want to be rushed.

It had actually "warmed up" to 0 C (32 F) the day I drove to Radium. This caused slippery conditions, but there were clearly posted alerts along the roads. I drove the speed limit, made the trip during daylight hours, and had no problems. However, there were 3 fatal accidents in the area during the week I was there, due to driving too fast for conditions.

The rental car company I used in Calgary (Thrifty) does not install winter tires, only all-season tires, and does not even offer snow chains as an option, and SUV's were out of my price range at about $950/wk. Thrifty is generally very competitive with other rental car companies so maybe that's a Calgary thing?

I heard talk of some laws changing soon in Calgary requiring winter tires. That would be great. I was fortunate that the weather was pretty good most of the time, clear and cold and some light flurries. Overall, the Canadian Rockies with its gently rolling roads, easy grades, and 360 degree scenery, made for a very pleasant and relaxing drive.

One more thing, entering the US now is a long and stressful wait getting through security. It took me 2 hours to get through. The lines are long and it seems like everybody's got an attitude, passengers and airport/airline employees. You must check all backpacks, even laptop cases that look like backpacks, and you must carry everything on the plane (ipod, laptop, phones, etc) in your pockets or small purse. They run everything, even your wallet through the xray machine and then also examine everything again by hand (yep, they even open your wallet and examine its contents), and also pat you down and wand your person. Airlines were holding flights for passengers stuck in line, but I wouldn't expect that to last too long so get there at least 2.5 hours or more before departure.

I probably won't visit Canada again until security measures are made more "convenient" again with body scanners, but I love the Canadian Rockies and can't wait to visit again!!

Diane

Kamloops, Canada
posts: 531
8. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

Thanks for re-posting.

Good comments for all to understand. Some companies, at least in BC, can provide vehicles with true winter tires but you need to ask.

We can hardly wait for your return :0)

Sadly airport 'stuff' seems like that is the way things are going nowdays. These tend to be international flight rules.

Kimberley, Canada
posts: 291
reviews: 37
9. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

Thanx for sharing - happy to hear you came and conquered!

Did you find the drive back from Radium to Castle Mountain Junction to Banff to be as beautiful as anything you have ever driven?

.

I have, for several years now, enjoyed the opportunity of driving across the Canada/USA boarder and flying USA point to point; whenever I can. It's "easier" and cost lots less than flying our no competition "Canadian Rockies Internaitonal Airport".

We have "excellent" Border crossings - both ways - in this area with many of us making single day trips to "Big Box Tax Free Discount" stores in Kalispell; or overnight trips to Couer deLaine/Spokane.

So, when you come on back, soon(?)- consider FCA or GEG airports and crossing via rubber tire to avoid Airport "Security". .

Cheers

mf

Edited: 1:57 am, January 16, 2010
Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 13,127
reviews: 87
10. Re: Winter driving to Bighorn Meadows in Radium Hot Springs

Glad you enjoyed your trip, and thanks for posting back with information about it, to help future travellers!

Just wanted to point out one thing, about the speed limit and winter driving - this is intended to be the maximum speed in ideal (summer!) conditions - i.e. bare and dry pavement. So if it is wet, slushy or icy, you absolutely should be driving slower.