Okay, so you may or may not know that lately, I have been spending A LOT of time in Calgary. For the last 7 out of 9 weeks, I have hopped on a Monday morning flight, spent 2-4 days jumping between a hotel, an Uber and a tiny office, and then take a flight back to Toronto.
The very first time I did it, I spent a weekend in Banff. I took many beautiful photos and wrote a lovely blog post about some of the things you can do in Banff in the winter. This weekend was supposed to be the same. I would check off a few Banff activities I missed last time, head into Jasper National Park for a bit and take many more beautiful photos. That did not happen. But before we get into that whole mess, let’s back it up a little and examine all the little warning signs and mistakes made along the way.
Why is it so hard (and expensive) to get snow tires!?!?!
First, I spent several hours last week trying to find a car rental company that could guarantee me snow tires. These are mandatory when you’re driving between Banff and Jasper in the winter. I looked at 6 different companies before I found one that could get me snow tires. And guess what? They were bloody expensive. $550 for 3.5 days. This is when I should have said “you know what, I’ll just get a normal car and do Jasper another time.” Did I do that? No. Because I’m stubborn. I had already laid out my itinerary and I wasn’t going to abandon it just because Calgary car rental companies are snakes (okay, I recognize I am being a tad dramatic).
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Wait, it gets cold in the Rocky Mountains? Really?
Second obstacle: I have no warm clothing at my place near Toronto. It’s all at my parents’ house. Facepalm. So on Wednesday night, I left work early, took a two-hour train to my parents’ house, picked up my stuff, said “hello family, hello boyfriend” and then left again at 7:30 am the next morning. What did I grab from home? You know, base layers, gloves, hat, fleece, hiking boots, hiking pants, plus I already had a puffy jacket and shell with me.
Did I grab snow pants? No. Winter boots? No. A proper winter jacket? NO.
I only travel carry on and the weather was forecasted to be -5 C. This is what I wore during my January trip and I was a pretty comfortable temperature. So realistically, I should have been fine. But remember that “realistically” is not “reality”.
In reality, Calgary and Banff got hit with a very sudden arctic wind blast that dropped the temperature down to – 36 C. So fast forward and here I was, trying to watch the gosh darn sunrise in Lake Louise and after 15 seconds I’m already too cold to hold a camera.
“What am I going to do?” I called into the void of my unnecessarily expensive Hyundai Sonata, “it’s too cold for all the outdoor activities I planned and I’m under-prepared!” More than anything, I was concerned about driving to Jasper. Three hours on a partially maintained, not commonly travelled road without cell service… if the car was to break down I would probably definitely freeze and die. I know, unlikely, but I don’t (intentionally) mess around with death. So, I needed a new plan. How can I reconcile this weekend?
Whatever the problem, hot water is the answer. Always.
Hot pools. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to say “screw you outdoor adventure!” and go soak in a hot pool. One thing to know about me is that I believe (incorrectly) that hot water fixes everything. Whatever the problem, a hot shower and a hot beverage can fix it.
And the only thing better than a hot shower followed by a hot beverage is sitting in a hot tub while sipping a hot beverage. So instead of driving to Jasper, I decided I would immerse my cold body in a hot pool as soon as physically possible. And not just any hot pool. I would go to the BEST hot pool. Where are the BEST hot pools? None other than the Fairmont Banff Springs. So I drove from Lake Louise to Banff to visit the hot pools.
All was going well until one tiny snag in the plan.
You now have to be a hotel guest to use the hot pools on the weekend.
You see, the Fairmont Banff Springs used to let anyone purchase a day pass to the hot pools & spa, hotel guest or not. Upon arriving at the Fairmont however, I learned that they had recently changed their policy to only allow hotel guests on weekends. WHAT. WHY. “It gets too busy otherwise” the kind front desk woman explained to me. As someone who doesn’t like being around more than 8 people at a time, I can get behind this. So I inquired about the cost of a hotel room, just out of curiosity.
For Twin Room (2 single beds) it would be…. (drum roll please…) $585!!! Uhm, yeah I’ll pass thanks.
BUT THEN. PLOT TWIST. The front desk woman told me they had “moderate” rooms available – moderate meaning rooms too small to advertise online. And guess what? They were only $240 a night (still expensive compared to a hostel, but a total steal for the Fairmont). YES PLEASE. The front desk woman still insisted on showing me photos before I committed. I looked at them for exactly 0 seconds and committed.
You’re probably expecting me to say the room was so absolutely tiny and horrible and yet another snag in my weekend plans and I should have looked more closely at the photos before committing. Well, for once, my hastiness didn’t end in regret! The room was a completely reasonable size, close to the spa and had a comfortable bed. It was like a tiny slice of heaven.
Champagne tastes better on a beer budget.
Have you heard that expression before? I hadn’t, but my mom used it to describe my stay and man, was she correct. I’m sure Banff Springs Fairmont Hotel is wonderful on any given budget, but I think it’s even better when you’re paying only a little more than a Holiday Inn.
So what did I do? I lounged in the hot pools for six hours. SIX. HOURS. Not all at once, mind you. I first went in the late morning and wandered from whirlpool to hot pool to cold pool to mineral pool to outdoor hot tub to sauna to steam room. And then I did it all over again. Then I went and got lunch (to be honest, the food was pretty mediocre and the most disappointing part of the experience).
Then I went back to the spa for another round. Then I went and lounged in my room for a bit, worked on a blog post and had dinner. Then I went back for – you guessed it – another round. I didn’t leave the hotel once the entire day.
“Well, that’s not very outdoor adventure-y of you.”
You’re absolutely right. It’s not. This weekend turned out to be entirely inside. I lounged, I wasted time, I was lazy. And honestly, it was wonderful. I’m always so GO-GO-GO that it was nice to finally stop. Not just slow down, but come to a complete stop. And it was also nice to pause the expectations I set for me, of always being outside or doing what I can to get me outside.
In this day and age, there is pressure to always be on the move. Productivity is celebrated and laziness is villainized. While this is still a theme constant in my current professional life, it was helpful for me to experience a weekend of slow-paced nothingness and just relax. Maybe it should be -36 C more often. Anyone else enjoy the occasional lazy weekend or two? What do you do to unwind?
More of my many misadventures
Stranded in a forest without cell service (and all the road trip mistakes that led me to this point)
I have had, most certainly, without a doubt, the WORST experience you could ever have with bug bites
Note: I think it’s pretty obvious, but just to be clear, I was not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned in this post. However, there may be affiliate links, meaning if you book a trip through one of the links I may earn a small commission (at no cost to you).
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