The night the sky put on an incredible show….

‘An aurora, sometimes referred to as a polar lights or northern lights, is a natural light display in the sky, predominantly seen in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions’
I have see the Aurora Australis only once before as a kid near Tunnel Beach in Dunedin, NZ. I don’t remember it well except I thought it was aliens.

Here in Banff I get alerts from Aurora Watch but the times I have been outside I haven’t seen a thing. Most people go out the Lake Minnewanka and need a special camera to see them with the naked eye.

Last night was different! I’m so glad I was awake to witness this incredible sight. 

At first it was just a green tinge behind Mount Rundle. I was frustrated as I was sure if I went to Minnewanka I’d see more but as Fergus was in Calgary at a gig I was unable to get out there.So I stayed and took some photos using my Northern Lights Photo Taker App and as the time went on the lights got brighter and I could see a definite line right across the sky getting brighter and brighter every minite. I could actually see them moving like ghostly swirls right above me! One bright line across the sky turned into a series of lines and swirls that changed all the time.  It’s really hard to describe, you just have to watch in wonder. This amazing show by Mother Nature certainly makes you feel small and insignificant. 

Something I will remember for the rest of my life.

Tattoo Time again!

I have tattoos, I have quite a growing collection of tattoos now. I started with a small dolphin on my shoulder in 2000 and have since turned that into a half back piece with Cherry Blossom, A Bird of Paradise, a Louis flower, water and wind. I also have the quote ‘when one door closes a another one opens’ so very true.

I have the coordinates of all the places I have lived on my back also, I had this done in Las Vegas on my 30th birthday and lastly I have a large Anchor on my leg to represent my life of travel and me seemingly not being happy anchored down anywhere….yet. 

So I decided to get what they call here in town a ‘Banff Stamp’. Which is basically a tattoo of a mountain, Assumingly very popular in there parts of obvious reasons.

I found a simple design I liked and had it tweaked a bit and opted for it to be placed on my inner, upper arm. A little scary as it’s my first ‘puplic ink’, all the rest is covered 90% of the time. 

I went to JP at Perfect Image in Banff and paid $170 (+tip) for my mountain range and I absolutely love it, it will always remind me of this wonderful part of the world and the memories I have made here.

50 days, 5 resorts and a million laughs…

This is the first time since we started traveling that I have felt really down. I feel like something is missing, something special has ended and there is a void in the pit of my stomach. The ski season is over.​I always knew I would have a wee cry and be upset when the ski season ended and to be honest I was getting a bit sick of skiing and only made the effort to go up if the weather was good whereas at the beginning of the season I would go, rain, hail or shine but I am feeling very sad that I can no longer jump on the bus and head up the mountain for a few hours before work or spend the morning skiing and the afternoon at Trappers having a few drinks or watching a band.2016/17 was such a great season and doing this was the best thing I have ever done and something I have wanted to do all my life. Sunshine Village is a very special place, the staff, many we know personally have made it such a great place to be. From the instructor who taught Fergus to ski to our mate Mitch from rentals, they have all made it a season to remember.Goat’s Eye, Standish, Angel, Wawa, Divide, Teepee and Strawberry are words we used often and everyone knew where you were talking about. In the future these words will always evoke a good memory when they are randomly and most probably very infrequently used. We had our own language up there, one everyone understood.I’m so glad Fergus has enjoyed it too. Back at the start of November he had never even been to a ski resort and I remember laughing at him trying to walk in ski boots for the first time, roll on 7 months and he is nearly as fast as me and is flying over big jumps and down black runs with ease. I’m glad I have been able to introduce the sport I love to the man I love.Slush Cup 89 was the best way to end a cracker season, the sun was out, the tunes were pumping and Trappers was packed full of revellers all wanting to cheers to a great season. It definitely went out with a bang!So today I packed up my boots, wiped down my skis, put them into storage and cleaned out my rucksack of things skiing related and stored them away in a memory box.

Yes, it is sad but we still have another Canadian ski season ahead of us, an amazing Summer full of travel and adventure and we have met some lifelong friends skiing this season at Sunshine.Sunshine village will always have a special place in my heart.
 

A fleeting visit from some Queenslanders.

We were lucky enough to have a very fleeting visit from Sarah and Deryck from Australia in March. I know Sarah as the daughter of Kyme, who used to sing in a band with my Dad years ago in Australia. She seems to have followed me around the world from NZ to Australia then to England and now to Canada! Her boyfriend Deryck did a season in Whistler so returns to Canada often. (I hope we will follow suit)

They stayed in Whistler on their holidays and made the long journey (14 hours or so) over to Banff to see us. The weather was bad when they drove through, both BC and Alberta were getting pummelled with snow and at one point I wasn’t sure they were going to make it.

Sure enough, while at work on the night shift I received a call that they they were only an hour away! So once they arrived Fergus came to work to meet them, grab some dinner from Nesters and keep them company until I arrived home. 

The following day we got up early and headed to Lake Louise. With only one full day in Banff, Deryck was keen to see the ledgedary lake voted one of the most popular tourist spots in Canada and on the places to see in the Lonely Planet Guide on Canada.Once there we bundled down to the snow covered, frozen lake for a wander. Deryck, intent on taking thousands of photos (much like me) wanted to walk across the centre while Sarah, Fergus and I chose to walk on the sleigh path around the side of the lake to avoid the deep snow. 

Somehow we lost Deryck and the three of us ended up at the end of the lake watching climbers on the frozen waterfall while Deryck had apparently turned back and was at the Chateau waiting. Sarah and Deryck went for a second trip across the lake while Fergus and I waited at the Chateau and watched the ice skaters. It was a stunning day and not too cold either.Back in Banff we stopped quickly at the Norquay Lookout that looks over the Town of Banff and at Surprise Lookout that looks over the Bow falls to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. (The Castle in the Rockies)Back in Banff and hungry we stopped into Tommy’s Neighbourhood Pub for burgers and beers. I love Tommy’s, the burgers are big, the drinks cheap and there is always a good atmosphere in there.We then decided to get some wine to take home and headed down to the car which we had parked by the river and were lucky enough to see a couple of huge male Elk foraging for food. Got some great photos and we were really chuffed Sarah and Deryck got to see some of our local wildlife.Had a few wines and a great old catch up at home before heading to bed. Sarah and Deryck left at around 3am that morning.It was really nice to catch up with Sarah and to meet Deryck who is a lovely chap. 

See you in Australia guys! X

SKIING! – This is what we came to Canada for!

Stunning first day at Sunshine Village.

The Resort

Sunshine Village ski resort opened on November 3rd, the earliest opening day for 30 years! That tells me this season is going to be a cracker one.
Sunshine consists of 3 mountains, Mt Standish, Goats Eye and Lookout Mountain. It’s a lot bigger that any ski area in NZ but smaller that the big ones in Europe. You jump on a high-speed Gondola at the base and travel 20 minutes to the Village where there are 3 lodges, Lookout Lodge where there are restaurants and shops, Old Sunshine Lodge which is a pub/restaurant and Sunshine Mountain Lodge which is a ski in/ski out hotel. Sunshine Trail Maps

There are 12 lifts including 2 magic carpets and a luxury express bubble chair with heated seats. 

We have season passes which were just under $1000. Really cheap when you use them a lot which we will. I also get half the cost back through work if I say until the end of the season!Not the nicest of photos…..

Gear

I had my trusty Head Great One skis and Scott poles sent over from the UK at a cost of £130. Even though my skis are 2010 they are in great shape and always preform wether it be ice or deep powder. After a wax and sharpen at Snowtips in Banff where I get a 25% discount, they were ready to go.  Head Great Ones

I invested in new boots this year and am so glad I did so. Ski boots are so important to both comfort and performance and getting them mounded you your feet is also a must. They are not cheap though, mine were $369.00.

I researched for ages on the internet at the best womans boots from 2015 and 2016. I wanted the right flex for my skill level and of course a comfortable boot! In the end I had a pair in mind and went to Sports Experts in Canmore and funnily enough they had a selection of last year’s boots on sale and had one pair of Atomic Hawx 90 left in my size! After a few days breaking them in they are by far the most comfortable ski boots I have ever owned!Alomic Hawx 90

Ski School

Fergus had his first skiing lesson on the Sunday after the resort opened. He was so lucky there was only 2 of them in his all day lesson. Him and a lady from the Gold Coast. I went up and down Stawberry a few times (the small lift near the bunny slope) so I could watch his progress. First day of lessons

​I have to say, Fergus has taken to skiing a lot faster than I ever did. On his first day he went down a Green run on Stawberry and the second day we went up together I took him all over the mountains. Some runs he wasn’t fond of but he’s definately faster and more confident each day we go. I’m so very proud of him.Fergus and I on the bubble chair Stunning day!

I can also feel myself improving, it’s been 2 weeks since Sunshine opened and I’ve been 5 times. The snow has been wonderful, 8-10cm of fresh powder has fallen this week and it’s just fab to ski on.

Dreams do come true…

Lake Louise, Norquay and Nakiska open soon and we will go out and explore those resorts but Sunshine will be home for the next 6-7 months. I cannot believe I can ski every 3-4 days, I have been wanting this all my life, it’s true, it’s never too late to live your dreams.Ski bunnies – my flatmate Carris & I

Memories of the tropics…

This evening was the first evening shift I did alone at Brewster’s Mountain Lodge (BML) and with only around 52% occupancy and a handful of check ins it was a pretty slow night.While looking at Google Earth, as one does when they have time to spare and a computer, I stumbled upon Port Douglas. Over the years I have wandered down the streets of ‘Port’ via street view or had a look at the Sheraton Mirage Resort website just to see how its changed or to show someone the beautiful paradise I used to work in.I still feel a hint of sadness that I left such a beautiful place but then I quickly remember why I did so and that was to travel, and travel I certainly did! After leaving North Queensland I have travelled to over 20 countries, spent 10 years in England and now I am on a working holiday visa in Canada.

Its funny how these 2 resorts, one in Tropical Northern Australia and the other in the Canadian Rocky Mountains are so very similar.They are both urrounded by incredible, world renowned areas of natural beauty,

  • Banff – The mountains, lakes, glaciers and rivers
  • Port Douglas – The reef, rainforest, rivers and tablelands

They both rely on tourists to survive after being small industrial towns

  • Banff – First settled in the 1880s, after the transcontinental railway was built through the Bow Valley.
  • Port Douglas – The township was established in 1877 after the discovery of gold at Hodgkinson River.

They both have very dangerous animals living in and around them 

  • Banff – Grizzly/Black bears, Cougars, Elk, Moose
  • Port Douglas – Crockodiles, Jellyfish, Cassowary, Snakes, Spiders, 

When I arrived in Port I was 19, fresh out of collage, a little immature and raring to party! My first job was there, and so were my next 20 or so. I was hired and fired numerous times and wasn’t really that bothered about my job as there was always another around the corner, and if not, the bank of Mum and Dad was there to help out. I did housekeeping, turndown service, waitressing, bar work and worked at a tour desk.I did manage to stay at the magnificent Sheraton Mirage Resort for 3 plus years and was basically running the swim up Ocean Breeze Bar while also working in both the buffet and fine dining restaurants, the bakery, the activities centre, the Cocktail bar and helping with banquets. It was hard work but I really loved working there. I was eventually fired for calling in sick after a night out, the local snooker competition end of season drinks in fact. My F&B manager was also in a team so instantly knew where I had been. Massive fail but I was probably time to move on anyway.I loved living in the tropics, walking down beautiful 4-mile beach to work, sometimes stopping for a dip, sailing to the Low Isles on huge yachts while drinking cocktails and laughing and singing, trips to the Daintree Rainforest for raves and fishing, lazy days sunbathing on the beach and of course all the Sunday sessions with the locals at the Courty Pub.While Port has a population of 4,454 permanent residents, Banff has around 7,584 so is a lot bigger but also due to being in a National Park can’t get a lot bigger due to building legislation whereas they are constantly building new resorts and apartments in Port and in a few years I wouldn’t be surprised if it joined Craigie. (The next settlement)
What is similar about these towns is the lifestyle and the people that come here. Banff is bursting with young 19 year olds, fresh out of collage, a little immature and raring to party! Being the ripe old age of 36, when I walk down the street I see loads of younger people doing what I did all those years ago and have heard stories about people not being that responsible and getting fired from jobs for this that and the next thing. History repeats itself….

Instead of living next to the Great Barrier Reef, its Islands and the Rainforest I am now in amongst towering mountains, alpine lakes and most importantly ski fields, 3 of them in this area and more a bit further away. Heaven!I am so so so excited about finally doing a ski season, not just anywhere, but in Canada, the ultimate ski destination. I look back at my past and yes, sometimes I feel a bit sad thinking about the good times and friends I met back then but then I think of what my future holds, more good times, more new friends, adventure, excitement and fun.I may now be 36 and more mature (just a little bit) but I still have that 19 year old’s passion and drive for adventure, meeting new people and living life to the fullest.

‘Not all those who wander are lost’ J.R.R Tolkein

 

 

The arrival of friends and family

After being in Canmore only a matter of weeks it was time to host our first visitor.  Frankie, our friend from Bromley arrived at the beginning of September from New York and was our first guest. It was nice to still be off work and be able to show her around the area a bit. 

We went up to Norquay Gondola and after a wet and cold ride up and a hot chocolate in the restaurant at the top, the clouds cleared and we could see right up the valley and over the town of Banff. Got some great photos up the top.Fergus and I on top of Norquay Mountain

The weekend she arrived was also the annual Canmore Highland Games so we went down in the afternoon for a look around and some food and drinks. There were lots of stalls as well as a big beer tent and food vans. We watched some highland dancing, pipe bands and Irish dancing which was amazing! Had lots of drinks and listened to the various bands inside the tent. It was a great day and night. Frankie stayed with us two nights before moving on to the hostal on Canmore and then to Hi Hostal in Banff.Frankie, Sheryl and Fergus – Highland Games

On September 19th Kim, also from Bromley, returned to Canmore. She did a visa a few years ago and was here to do a second. I was working when she arrived so left her to explore the town on her own on her first day but later that same day my cousin Susan arrived from New Zealand! I told Kim Susan was arriving around 2pm and funily enough they arrived at my work at the same time! So I sent them off for lunch and a mosey around town before Susan returned to help me close the pet store.   

That evening we all met up for locals steak night at The Wood and a few drinks and a game of pool afterwards. Kim has now moved into a lovely flat in Canmore. 

The following two days Fergus and I had off work to play tour guide to Susan who was on a 5 week tour of Canada and the US. Unfortunately the weather on both days was rubbish and you could barely see the mountains through the cloud and on and off rain. 

The first day we went to Calgary airport to pick up my skis that I had sent over from London and then went up to Spray Lakes to do some wildlife spotting. Didn’t see a lot apart from some Chipmonks, rabbits and a deer. I guess the Bears had headed to higher ground to prepare for hibernation. Susan and I at Spray Lakes

The following day we were up early and headed up to Banff to look for Elk. We had been told they like to hang out at the Golf course so went for a drive around the course loop near bow river and we were not disappointed! We came across a male with a bunch of females and saw another 3 males trying to move in on the pack. They were making weird noises but we didn’t see any fights unfortunately.Elk at Banff Golf Course

Had a quick stop at Bow Falls before carrying on up to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake for a look.Susan and I at Bow Falls

Driving up the road to Moraine Lake was great, it had been snowing up there and small areas of snow lined the roadside. It was quite misty and we felt like we were miles away from anywhere, that is until we arrived at the lakeside lodge and saw loads of tourists milling about!

We climbed the small hill at the head of the lake and from the top, the view, even though we still couldn’t see the tops of the mountains, was amazing! The lake is a stunning blue/green colour and is surrounded by green forest and stunning snow capped peaks.Susan and I at Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake Panoramic

Had a look through the the gift shop at the Lodge before carrying on to Lake Louise. Again, it was crawling with tourists but it’s a very impressive place. The huge Fairmont Hotel stands at the head of the lake looking to the mountains and glacier in the distance. Again, we were unable to see the glacier or the tops of the mountins due to the low cloud.Lake Louise

Had some lunch in the small Lake Louise shopping area before heading back to Banff. Had a look around Banff town before dropping Susan off at her hostal and saying our goodbyes. The following day she got the tour but up to Jasper and we were happy to learn the weather had cleared so she was able to get great views for her trip. 

We are so lucky to have had so many visitors and new arrivals so early in our stay in the Rockies. It’s such a lovely part of the world to share with loved ones.

I hope it continues.