Banff in late February - first question of many!
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Oct 11, 2012 12:19 PM Last Post By: jasminetom19
Sep 16, 2012 2:44 PM
Banff in late February - first question of many!We have booked tickets to Calgary for Feb 21st to March 2nd 2013 and are just starting to plan our itinerary. I've read the LP book but there is little info about winter activities so I've already learned much more from this forum.
My first question is just figuring out the best plan for getting to Banff and getting around. First off, we are coming from the southern US and have little experience with snow and winter driving. We are generally capable drivers and up for the adventure, but want to be mindful of our novice status and not get in over our heads with the snow an ice (literally or figuratively!). That said, we would like the freedom of renting a car but I am somewhat concerned about the driving conditions. If we rent, are 4 wheel drive vehicles with good snow tires the standard vehicle available from the rental companies up there? Would it be better to take a shuttle to Banff so we avoid the long drive and just rent for a few days in Banff to travel around to the ski resorts, Lake Louise, and possibly Jasper (depending on conditions). Or, are we better off scrapping the car idea all together and just finding a hotel that has a ski shuttle and doing a few tours that have transport to venture out of town? Again, we are more the type to want to explore on our own rather than using group tours/transit, but only if we can do so with a reasonable level of safety.
Sep 16, 2012 6:01 PM
1there are shuttle buses to the ski resorts which are handy to take for your days of skiing. and assuming you are staying in the town of banff, you can walk to many restaurants so a car isn't really necesssary.
personally, i would rent a car for a few days (4 wheel drive isn't necessary but good all season or winter tires are recommended). in general, they keep the highways in good driving conditions. but, you need to be somewhat flexible at that time of year. i.e. you could hope to drive to jasper on a tuesday, but, if a storm comes in, the highway may be closed for a while, while they clear it or it could be a risk you just don't want to take. the safe bet if you really want to do the trip to jasper, is book a tour through brewsters bus company,
driving in the mountains in the winter is something to take seriously. however, having said that 70% of the time, the roads and visibility will be fine.
Sep 16, 2012 8:24 PM
2Calgary is a twined highway all the way to Banff. A 4x4 is NOT necessary. I personally would rent a car, but thats just me. If you return it back to Calgary, you can find cheap deals. This would allow you to go as you please, snowshoe, ski, eat, shop, hike, etc. You could swing by Lake Louise on a down day, ski, check out the lake and Chateau, maybe even swing up through the icefields. Many of Banffs popular hikes are a 5-15 minute drive.
February is at the tail end of the "dead of the winter"...so expect a healthy snow base, cold days....maybe some mild days. With regards to driving, if your cautious...drive not to fast or to slow, your biggest issue will be other drivers! We have many aggressive drivers here...including semis.
Sep 17, 2012 8:29 AM
3Driving between Calgary and Banff/Lake Louise is pretty easy. None of the rental companies have winter tires. If you are nervous I would get something that has all wheel drive with traction control. Having said that I drive an old dodge caravan and have not had an issue since I have been here.
The road from Lake Louise to Jasper is another story. It does not get plowed at night so it tends to be ugly for a good part of the winter. Also as mentioned above if there is an avalanche you could get stuck there a couple of extra nights.
One thing to keep in mind is that almost every activity in Banff can be done without transport.
Sep 17, 2012 10:09 AM
4Thanks for these helpful replies! Glad to hear it won't be as treacherous as I feared. If at all feasible, we really would like to rent a car as opposed to organized tours/transport. I may hunt around to reserve an all-wheel drive just so we feel a bit more secure.
Would we be okay playing it by ear with lodging that time of year? If we won't know which day (if any) will be best to drive up to Jasper, that makes it tough to book rooms in advance. Thinking we would make reservations for the first half of the trip but not the second to allow for some weather-dependent flexibility. Is that a reasonable approach?
Sep 19, 2012 2:29 PM
Sep 19, 2012 2:39 PM
Sep 25, 2012 11:20 AM
7Feb 18th is the Family Day holiday so it shouldn't be too bad - although some schools (and possibly the universities) use that weekend for the start of an extended break so I would definitely book ahead. I would book for as much of the time as possible - that is getting into the height of the ski season...
Sep 26, 2012 6:02 PM
8I would not recommend driving the Icefields Parkway on all-season radials. You need a car with winter tires. The road is not patrolled after 3:30 or 4 pm, so be sure to get an early start and do the drive in daylight... there are a lot of stops you can make for photo ops (although most of the summer pull-outs are not ploughed). Be aware that there are NO services along the road from Num-ti-jah Lodge (35 km north of Lake Louise) until Jasper, and there is no mobile/cell service along most of the road either.
Oct 11, 2012 12:19 PM
9Hi there, I'm not sure if someone has mentioned this already, but me and my boyfriend just booked something called the Airporter. Its a coach from Calgary to wherever you want in Banff and back -cost about $251 return for both of us (not each) around £160 i think. We booked it for May 2013 so well in advance! Hope this helps :-) I'll post you the website when Im next on a computer (on my phone at the moment)
(0 star Hotel)
From US$30.20 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$157.74 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$624.02 per night