The run-up to Christmas in the Canadian Rockies

Thursday was our day off from skiing and the day that the world seemed to descend on Banff for Christmas.  The appartment block seemed to suddenly fill up, the streets and shops of ‘downtown’ were suddenly thronged with people of all nationalities.  Even the launderette was full as people decided to have clean clothes for the festive season.

But there’s the thing.  Christmas is not the frenetically, frantically commercialised razmataz over here that it is in the UK.  The only thing that begins to get under the skin is the inability to escape Christmas songs. They are the same old classics re-rendered by singing wanabees-but-never-willbees played in every bar and restaurant, most shops, in the ski lodge, and at ski-lift loading points.  But that is it.  No last minute panic shopping.  No queues to buy yet one more present.  It all seems very low-key.  It was a pleasure to be out and about.

As mentioned previously I traditionally do my Christmas shopping on the last Thursday before Christmas and this year I wanted a few more things so I stuck to tradition.  I was out and about early in the morning and finished by 10.30.  I could have finished sooner but lots of shops didn’t open until 10.00.  Even in the last few days of the run-up to Christmas businesses kept to their normal opening hours, no undignified, desperate scrabbling to do anything to get people through the doors.

The sun was shining again as it had been on the last day-off so I went out earlier than before with the camera to walk down by the river to try to get photos with the sun on the snow on the frozen river.  And that was what lots of others were doing.  Just strolling down by the river to the waterfalls in the sunshine.  Very relaxed, pleasant atmosphere.  I was asked to take photos for a few people who wanted photos of themselves against the dramatic backdrops of the falls and the mountains, chatted to local folk out with their families, passed the time of day with local joggers ……. and took lots of photos, the sun being in just the right place.

Looking across the River Bow just below the town bridge at the end of the morning.

The river continues to flow through a narrow channel in the ice

Looking down from the top of the Bow River Falls

The frozen falls

Looking up to the frozen falls

Looking downriver below the falls as it bends sharply

Long shadows at noon

The river continues to freeze over

Friday and it was back to skiing.  A lot more people at the resort now as many Canadians and lots of Brits come for a few days over Christmas.  Lots more people on the runs, some either very rusty or not very good and struggling to stay upright on the icy slopes.  Some completely mental and skiing, or more frequently snow-boarding, far too fast.   I was clipped in the back by a boarder as I made a turn.  If  I hadn’t turned at that moment he would have hit me full on and taken me out completely.  As it was he ran over the back of my skis but I was unscathed.  The rule is that the skier/boarder uphill has the responsibility to avoid those below him.  Unfortunately some don’t care.  If an old fogey gets in the way of a young buck it’s his own fault.

On a more positive note there were a lot of parents out with young children.  It is amazing how good some of the kids are.  Little tots, as young as 3 or 4 I guess, skiing down completely unaided.  One was crossing the Blue piste I was on doing  a Black run!!!!!  It really was a family day on the slopes.  And Father Christmas was there too, skiing down the main piste to the lodge where he held court in front of the huge fireplace.  A great Christmas Eve.

View from Eagle Meadows just before the run drops sharply

Waiting for the bus back to Banff, a truly amazing sky


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