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Rockies The Rocky Mountains of Alberta

To say that the Alberta Rockies are magnificent is not to indulge in hyperbole; it's hard to find the superlatives to accurately describe them. You could visit a thousand times and they will always look different from before, but always spectacular. The Rockies are a year round attraction, no matter what season you visit in, you can be assured that you will have a tremendous time.Banff and Jasper are the two major resort areas in the Alberta Rockies.

Situated in Banff National Park is the world famous Banff; the equally famous, (but a little quieter) resort of Jasper is situated in Jasper National Park. Some people may choose to stay away from a major resort centre. The town of Canmore just outside of Banff National Park is also a good base for a trip to the Banff Rockies. The town of Hinton, a good centre for a visit to Jasper National Park, is also just outside the park boundaries.Both Banff and Jasper have good highway links to the rest of Canada and the U.

S.A. Banff 's closest airport is Calgary International Airport. There is a bus link from the airport direct to Banff, or you can rent a vehicle.

For an outstanding introduction to the Rockies, the Rocky Mountaineer Vacations serve Banff and Jasper by train from Vancouver. The nearest major airport to Jasper is at Edmonton, where you can travel on to Jasper by bus, train or rental vehicle. Jasper is linked to the transcontinental train service of Via Rail Canada.In the Alberta Rockies the sun shines all year round.

In winter the weather is cold, but usually with blue skies. Dress as you would for any ski resort and bring sunscreen. Summers usually are warm during the day, but it does cool down in the evening and it can also rain, so pack appropriate attire. Spring is a great time to visit, with fresh new growth in the meadows. Though often warm, bring sweaters and rain gear. The same applies to fall, the sun still shines and the air is refreshingly crisp - the colours are incredible.

The Alberta Rockies have three world-famous resorts. Images of the Rockies are often synonymous with those of the Banff Springs Hotel, a castle-like structure that is the focal point of the Banff town site. Full of atmosphere and with an Old World charm, the Banff Springs is a full facility resort that is well worth a visit, even if you are not lucky enough to be staying there. The Banff Springs Golf Club is well known among golfers; it was one of the favorite golf clubs of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby when they used to play together. On the edge of Lake Louise is the spectacular Chateau Lake Louise and the stunning setting is matched by the quality and ambience of the hotel. In Jasper there is the Jasper Park Lodge which consists of rustic but elegant cabins surrounding a main building.

This hotel has everything from cross-country skiing trails to a world class golf course that is a favourite haunt of Hollywood stars. Stay in one of these hotels or all three, it will really add to the wonderful memories of your stay in the Alberta Rockies.The ski resorts here are excellent and people come from all over the world to ski the fine powder of the Alberta Rockies. There are world class resorts at Marmot Basin near Jasper, Lake Louise, Sunshine (between Lake Louise and Banff) Banff Norquay and the site of the downhill skiing for the 1988 Olympics at Nakiska in Kananaskis Country. All these resorts are good for all levels of skiing and wherever you choose, it will definitely be the skiing experience of a lifetime.Kananaskis Country is the Alberta Rockies' best kept secret.

To the southwest of Banff National Park, 'K Country' as it is known, is an unspoiled paradise. Full of picture perfect mountain scenery, wildlife and flora, Kananaskis Country can be visited at any time of the year. There are excellent cross-country skiing trails, which become excellent hiking trails in the spring. The Kananaskis Country Golf Club is 18 holes of great golf combined with great mountain scenery. Whether you camp, stay in a lodge or in a luxury hotel, all the facilities in 'K Country' are of an excellent standard.

The Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper is 230km of unsurpassed scenery. It is considered one of the greatest mountain drives in the world. The mountain peaks (often snowcapped) and many rivers, waterfalls, lakes and above all the glaciers, make this drive a must for any visitor to the Alberta Rockies. Despite the rugged terrain, this is an excellent highway that makes for easy driving (except on occasion in winter). There are numerous viewing points along the route and these are well signed with information on the immediate area.

You may see moose, elk, black bears and mountain sheep alongside the highway. Stay in your vehicle to take pictures; but don't approach on foot, these are wild animals and are often unpredictable. There are hiking trails leading off from many points along the route, although you must pay heed to the Park Rangers' warnings about bear sightings, etc. There are plenty of campsites, so it is possible to spend a number of days to take in the whole route. The highlight of the Parkway is undoubtedly the Columbia Icefield. There is a visitors centre that explains all about the glacier and it is possible to walk or take a trip by snowcoach on to the glacier itself.

The Jasper Tramway is Canada's longest and highest aerial tramway tour and the only one to offer a fully narrated and guided mountain lift tour in the Alberta Rockies. The tramway is a thrilling mode of transportation that enables everyone to explore the breathtaking sights and spectacular views of the area. At the top you can take a hiking trail or enjoy a snack or fine meal in the restaurant. A great time to go on the tramway is in the peaceful early evening, stay for dinner and enjoy the sunset.This has been an all too brief visit to the Alberta Rockies and the two major centres of Banff and Jasper.

There is something for everyone here, in any of the four seasons; world class skiing, world class golf, world class accommodation, all combined with world class scenery.

.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Canada Vacation.

By: Michael Russell



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