When I plan a holiday I really try to shape it around a road trip and the more difficult the trip the better! This is what led us to a back country jaunt across West Canada… in winter!
The rough plan was to travel east to west, across the Rockies, but it is not a trip to take lightly. In October, our planned route across the Rockies was shut for hours after more than twenty cars crashed or slid off the road.
To be as prepared as possible we looked for a car that would be tough enough to get us out of trouble. Enter Jeep’s ubiquitous Wrangler. The selectable four wheel drive system and all-weather tyres (required by law in Canada’s snowy parts but not always fitted to hire vehicles) promised us at least a chance of traction if the weather turned bad.
Of course, our real safety net was the weather report. With the run up from Edmonton to Jasper being bitterly cold (minus 25) and snowy, we were counting on promised clear skies for the most difficult section of the trip – Jasper to Banff on the Icefields Parkway.
Described as one of the most beautiful roads in the world, the Icefields Parkway connects the mountain towns of Jasper and Banff. Started in the 1920s and finished in the early 1940s, this is one road that lives up to the hype. Words (and pictures) simply can not adequately capture the beauty of this part of the world.
For us, the clear skies we needed for a safe trip also meant a further drop in temperature. Throughout the day, the temperature didn’t rise above minus 33. Despite this, the little Wrangler started easily, kept us warm and gripped the ice. It was a deeply impressive performance and one that sees the Wrangler cement a place in my heart.
Travelling east from Banff to Whistler saw a mix of both freeway and back country roads. We were again blessed by clear skies and minimal snow until hitting the slopes at Whistler-Blackcomb. Here, the snow fell hard and constant, making for wonderful skiing conditions and horrible driving. Luckily, the run from Whistler to Vancouver is easy two lane most of the way.
The key to this sort of trip is having contingency plans that you are prepared to use. Ours included cutting the Icefields Parkway part of the trip altogether or even ditching the Jeep and flying. Luckily, the weather held and we were able to experience spectacular scenery and enjoy our time on the road.
Flipsy’s Thoughts on Canada
- If you’re a confident driver, able to safely correct regular skidding, take the chance of crossing the Rockies in winter – it is an experience you will never forget.
- If you’re not confident at correcting skids on snowy roads, fly. This is what the locals do and most of the best bits can be accessed by plane and tour guide.
- Beaver tail pastries are delicious.
- Canadian coffee is perhaps even worse than American coffee.
- Jasper is small and quiet.
- Banff is expensive but stunning.
- Whistler is party central and a lot of fun.
- Despite a few really lovely areas, Vancouver is largely sad and dirty.
- I can’t wait to go back and explore more of this wonderful, wonderful country.