Rocky Mountain rivers, Rocky Mountain peaks

Sunday was our second day-off from skiing.  An opportunity for tired muscles to recover.  An opportunity to not have to get up before the crack of dawn and totter out into near-arctic temperatures.

Instead we ambled out middle of the morning in near-arctic temperatures to walk to the Presbyterian church in the middle of Banff for morning service at 10.30.  It was very different to what any of us were used to.  One difference was that the hymn books had some hymns in French as well as English, an indication of the bilingualism in Canada.

There is a long-standing tension between the French and English speaking populations in Canada, with a log-standing movement for independence for the French-majority in Quebec.  I only have any knowledge of Alberta (the Province in which Banff lies)  but it is clear that even here all road signs and many other signs are bilingual.  Being used to bilingual signs in Wales, on one level this does not seem strange.  But it does seem strange having the signs are in English and French rather than English and Welsh.

After getting back to the apartment from church, speaking to David and the family on Skype and having some soup and rolls, we went our separate ways.  Ruth went to a health spa, a leaving present from work.  Tim went to the wax room to repair and wax the skis.  And I went for a walk by the river.

The river was quite amazing.  Much of it was frozen over but there was still a distinct flow, the energy created by going over the Bow River Falls. At the top of the falls the ice was heaped up with the water flowing under and through it, contorted and wonderful shapes.  Apparently the river freezes and the flow diminishes with the result that it continues to flow below the level of the ice.  The local newspaper reported an incident last week when a guy fell through the ice on another river in the Banff National Park and survived by swimming downriver under the ice until he found a hole he could get out of. Needless to say, I stuck to terra firma.  Canadians are bigger and made of sterner stuff than me.

It was bitterly cold down by the river.  The sun was shining on the surrounding peaks but not into the bottom of the valley.  This had two consequences.  First, my fingers were painfully cold as I had to remove my outer glovers to use the camera, so I slouched along hand-in-pockets grasping re-usable hand warmers with a life of only 30 minutes.  Second the contrast in light levels between the mountain peaks and ice on the river made taking photos very problematic.  It’s at times like this that I wish I knew more about the techniques of photography.

Looking across the River Bow from just below the Banff town bridge

Standing on the river's edge just above the falls

The ice piling up and contorting as the river level drops

Looking back up the river to the frozen falls

Just below the falls the river bends at right-angles

At the confluence of the Rivers Bow and Spray is an ice-hockey rink where locals play informally, sledge on the bank, and sit around an open log fire to keep warm and chew the fat

Monday and it was back to skiing.  This time at Sunshine Village.  The sunny weather continued with the day dawning bright and cloudless.  And very cold, -28 oC when we went out.  Apparently this number of days of sunshine is unusual in the Banff area.  But it made for great skiing.

With one exception.  It was so cold that after an hours skiing we resorted to a mountain restaurant to thaw out.  My hands were so cold that they were very painful and made me feel sick.  I used to have this when we had proper winters In Salford when I was a kid.  I would come home from school and be exhorted to put my hands in hot water to warm them up.  It was agony.

When it is this cold I wear three pairs of gloves but even that was not working.  Today, having warmed them up in the restaurant, I put some disposable hand warmers which Tim had into the backs of inner gloves.  Disposable hand warmers are like large tea-bags and keep warm for about 10 hours rather than the 30 minutes of the re-usable ones.  That worked.  By the expedience of stopping regularly and warming them up in the mountain lodges and keeping the hand warmers in the gloves I was able to continue skiing pain-free for the rest of the day.

And the skiing was great.  The Sunshine resort has the reputation of being one of the most picturesque in Canada and today with bright sunshine it certainly was magnificent.  We went up the top of the ridge which is the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia and the views of the peaks in both provinces were amazing.

Looking across from the piste to a ridge covered in trees heavily laden with snow.

Looking down the piste to the drop-off point

The top of another piste, close to the top of the world, and the boundary stone between Alberta and British Columbia

Very bleak and windswept on the ridge

Looking across to the Continental Divide

Just a high-level minor ridge used for powder-skiing


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