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A family exchanges sand for powder on a spring holiday adventure in the Canadian Rockies

A family exchanges sand for powder on a spring holiday adventure in the Canadian Rockies

Silas, from the left, Jeff and Henry Walker are preparing for tubing on Mount Norquay in western Alberta. (Rachel Walker / For The Washington Post)

"Follow me."

I'm trying. But with torched quads trying to stay on top of ski's floating through fluffy powder, it's harder than it sounds. In front of me, Jasper Johnson, a local Banff, bows down the slope into a happy stock at Lake Louise Ski Resort. We weave through the trees at high speeds and put the first traces in the snow last night. As the field flattens, my heart begins to run, my cheeks are cold, and falling snow has already erased the traces I have just left.

It is spring break in the Canadian Rockies. The children are in the ski school and my husband and I are hunting Jasper around Lake Louise with drunken passion. Since our arrival seven days earlier, we have been on the receiving end of both sun and storms.

As if that is not enough to fulfill our safari fantasies, there is the destination itself, which tends to fairyland. Here in western Alberta, towering peaks with rugged glaciers cross the glorious Bow River Valley. Nestled next to the lakes, rivers and hot springs are elegant hotels, legacies from the 20th century railway of this region. With the beautiful scenery scorched in our psyche, we feel like explorers in Banff National Park, overwhelmed by its magic. As Jasper said during our first elevator ride of the day: "Here you get the millions of dollar images without the houses of millions of dollars crowding everyone."

He is right. Even though we have our choice of three ski areas, the development is strictly limited in Banff National Park, which means that the only ski-in, ski-out accommodation that we will experience is at Sunshine Mountain Lodge, a boutique mountain top hotel accessible through a gondola. For the rest of our trip we will stay at the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise, and if we are a drive away from the slopes, we encourage ourselves to discover more than just skiing.


The TeePee Town Chair by Banff Sunshine is the only heated lift in Canada, a nice extra when the temperature drops. (Rachel Walker / For The Washington Post)

In Banff that mainly translates into food. Balkan, a Greek restaurant on the main road, enters my children with its flaming cheese (saganaki) and hooks me up with marinated, slowly cooked lamb. Unfortunately, we are not there on a Tuesday Greek night and so the plate lacks splashing and belly dancing, but the food more than compensated.

Another night we drive up the Banff Gondola to Sulfur Mountain to an altitude of 7,510 feet for an unforgettable meal at Sky Bistro, a modern venue with floor-to-ceiling windows. For dinner, we encourage strong winds for the 15-minute walk along Banff Skywalk, which offers unparalleled views of the Bow Valley. Then the ocean-to-sky seafood chowder from the restaurant, a light but robust selection of mussels, salmon, shrimps, tobiko (roe) and bacon, warms us. The bison steaks are soft and flavorful, and the dessert is edible art. This sweet creation resembling a Japanese garden (and in fact the Nanaimo Garden is called) is served in a glass ball and consists of crumbled cookies and coconut, a buttery custard and chocolate shards.

Fortunately, we spend most of our days outside and move. At Banff Sunshine, a gondola brings skiers and snowboarders to high-altitude area from the parking lot. From the three mountains of Banff Sunshine my family and I stick to Standish and Lookout for the mix of average and advanced terrain that is ideal for our children. They love the TeePee Town Luxury Express Quad chairlift, which has heated seats and an orange bubble that we lower to protect us from the cold. My husband and I exchange the children's rights, so that we can explore each of the exciting, steep bowls, on the far left skier, of Lookout. (We save the most extreme terrain, Delirium Dive on Goat & # 39; s Eye Mountain, for the next time because the snow cover is thin and the cliff falls are said to be huge.)

At Mount Norquay we find a down-to-earth hill of the local population that takes a hit. It is steep. The views are even better than those on the summit of Sulfur Mountain. The North American chairlift of the resort, reminiscent of the early days of the sport, slowly rises to 1,300 vertical feet. From the top we bombard a steep bump before we drive to the other side of the mountain and test our edges on the steeply prepared pistes of Norquay.

We meet the boys. To our delight they have sailed on the same grounds that they have with their ski school instructors. We celebrate with z & # 39; n celebrate the afternoon to spend on the steep hill. This is not really a break from the brand challenge of Mount Norquay. Just like the slopes here are exciting, so also the pipe strips. As soon as the staff gets a feeling for us, the men and women at the top of the tube park like to add a whiff of whirling dervish to our descent and descend into a haze. Personally, I prefer skiing, but my children maintain that tubing predominates.

On 4,200 hectares Lake Louise is the largest of the "Ski Big 3" resorts. Skiing here is phenomenal, but that does not stop me from taking a break one afternoon and signing up for a guided backcountry snowshoe tour. My interest is twofold: to get an idea of ​​the backcountry terrain and to absorb this beautiful landscape at a slower pace. My guide, Lydia, delivers. She works throughout the year for Parks Canada as a naturalist, and her affinity for this landscape is matched only by her knowledge of the ecosystem. She stands on grizzly bears and wolves, larches and smaller plants, while she leads our group of five road from the ski resort to a pristine mountain ridge.

Every night we want to fall exhausted in our beds, but because our hotels are so interesting, we do not immediately hit the bag. It would be impossible to choose a favorite from the three hotels we stayed at. In the Banff Springs we discover countless dark wood paneling and intimate gathering rooms. My husband and I go to the Ramsay Lounge for a cocktail for dinner, where we can watch the boys in the open air lounge downstairs. We bowling in the alley of the hotel and play every night in the extensive indoor pool.

The sensation of Sunshine Mountain Lodge begins with the gondola ride to the hotel (our luggage is provided by snowcat), but extends to the intimacy of a few people in the resort long after the lifts have stopped. This hotel has one of the best views of the hot tub that I have experienced. It is also next to Mad Trappers Smokehouse, a self-contained restaurant that was founded in 1928. With roughly carved tree trunks and Coors Light on tap Trapper feels like a classic bar of a ski town – the kind that a person beckons walls can really talk.

In Chateau Lake Louise our room looks out over the lake of the same name and the ice-covered mountains behind it. We watch how skaters turn and hockey and horse carriages circling the lake, after which we explore the castle of a hotel for hours. The two highlights are fondue in the Valais Stube and people watch from a plush sofa while we sip cocoa and nibble at the contents of an antipasto board as a lively wedding party in black tie holds job after the wedding ceremony and before the reception.

When it is time to leave, we are not ready. At the airport we buy Canadian flags for the boys and we sort our Canadian money. They exchange stories and while I listen, I have a heartbreaking thought: I hope they will do this together for the rest of their lives together. I want my family to travel and ski for as long as possible, and then one day, for a long time, I hope that Henry and Silas go to the mountains in the winter – together and with their own families – and that they explore new slopes and find cozy taverns and toast us and their memories of trips like this one.

Walker is a writer from Boulder, Colo and finds her on Twitter: @racheljowalker.

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