More Impressions of Banff

Monday was the second of our days off skiing over Christmas.  The thinking was that the ski hill would be very busy.  Despite the apparent marked fall in numbers of visitors from the UK, it was indeed very busy.  We monitored the bottom lift area from time to time on the live on-line webcam and the queues for the both the gondola and chair lift were long all day.  A good part of this was probably accounted for by the fact that with Christmas and Boxing Day falling on a weekend both Monday and Tuesday were Public Holidays so Canadians would have come from a good distance to Lake Louise, “Canada’s Favourite”.

We mooched around in the morning and then Ruth and I went for a walk down to the Bow River Falls.  The river was still frozen but the stretches of  flowing water were more extensive than they had been a week ago.  I guess this is because the temperatures had been reaching highs of around -10oC rather than hovering between -25 and -30 oC.

Snow cover gone, thew fragility of the ice exposed below Bow River Falls

River flow drops below the original level at which it froze

Increased surface water flow through the ice on Bow River Falls

Having an inactive morning and then ambling through the main street of the ‘Downtown Banff’ gave time to reflect.  Certain things strike you over and again and yet seem a pleasant surprise each time.

Youngsters can be boisterous and inconsiderate wherever they are, that’s just part of growing up and eventually realising that they aren’t the only ones on the planet.  But it does seem that as a rule Canadians are an order of magnitude more polite and considerate than Brits.  Many Canadian men are very big.  I mean very big. I’m 6 foot and am frequently towered over here.  And you get the impression it’s hard muscle.  Yet get in the way of one of these big guys in the street and he apologises even if it’s your fault.  Come to a street corner without traffic lights and the cars stop to let you cross. Including 4x4s.  That’s a real contrast with the UK where the attitude of 4×4 drivers seems to be: “there’s no possibility I’m giving way and if I didn’t get you first time I’ll come back for another pop”.  And people seem so quietly spoken.  It is so refreshing.

One aside here about these big Canadian blokes.  One of the passions in Canada is ice-hockey and it is on TV screens in all the bars (well, in all 3 that I’ve been in).  The blokes who play it are massive, they move at very fast speed and the aim seems to be to take out as many of the opponents as possible by ramming the stick into them and smashing them into the barriers around the side.  It seems very reminiscent of Rollerball (the film) which I dare to surmise may have been inspired by ice-hockey.  The principle and underlying philosophy of Rollerball is that the violence is confined to the arena and peace and calm reign outside.   Could this be what accounts for the general politeness and, if it isn’t a contradiction in terms, the rugged gentleness, of Canadians. But then the USA is passionate about ice-hockey too.  Hmmmmm!  May need to rethink that one.

Another contrast with the UK is the news items covered in the local newspapers.  A few headlines from one issue of the ‘Rocky Mountain Outlook’: “Public supports return of Bison”;   “Rabbits attract predators” (cougars in this case); “Bystanders save man who fell through ice”; “Casey (Mayor of Canmore) takes 10% pay cut (voluntarily!!).  These are local papers and so focus on local not national or international issues and some articles inevitably cover local trivia but I’ve scanned through 3 local papers now and only picked up one  case of crime, a guy who had a stash of cannabis hidden under his stairs.  What a contrast with local papers at home which are full of little else but crime and bad behaviour.

Wandering along the main street it is obvious that visitor numbers have picked up dramatically in the last few days.  There may be fewer Brits but it is clear that there is a very cosmopolitan mix with many from China.  Another of the local papers records in its Review of 2010 that “Approved Destination Status was granted by China paving the way for Chinese tourists to visit the Rocky Mountains”.  It does indeed seem to be a very cosmopolitan community with many of Japanese extraction, Japan not being that far distant across the Pacific.  The local Presbyterian Church also houses the ‘Korean Presbyterian Church of Banff’. And there are at least 2 Greek eating places, one offering ‘chicken souvlaki pita’.  Have to try that one. Other eating places include a number of Japanese, Chinese, Italian places, and even a couple of Irish pubs. It could be that traditionally ethnic minorities have integrated into the community over here rather than remaining in ethnic groups.  But it seems good.

Enough reflecting for now.

After wandering along the river to the Falls we came to the confluence with the River Spray and the ice hockey rink I mentioned a while ago.  This being a bank holiday the place was humming.  Must have been over a hundred people in all, skating, playing ice-hockey, tobogganing, standing or sitting around a fire chatting.  I guess it’s quality of the background created by the snow which makes it look so very much like a Lowry painting.  In fact I seem to remember he did one painting of Peel Park which was very similar.

One Canadian standing next to us looking down on the scene said with great pride and enthusiasm  “Isn’t that just so Canadian!” In truth it was really heart-warming.

The Waldhaus ice rink at Banff: locals out enjoying themselves

Gathering around the fire for a chat

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