Local Zen

Aside from a short jaunt to California to visit an old friend, we at Zen Travellers have been staying pretty local this year. In light of the sticker shock we experienced in the US after the Canadian dollar sunk, a wedding to plan, and bigger travel plans on the horizon, we’ve taken to trying to make the most out of our local surroundings. Luckily for us, Alberta and its environs deliver in spades.

Tahoe Lake View
Northern California, you’re quite alright too.

New Years at Duck Inn Lodge – Whitefish, Montana

As I’ve written before, there are plenty of reasons to revisit a place you love, so to start 2016 off right, we headed to a place where we have been many times before and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly by ringing in the new year in Whitefish Montana. While there, we enjoyed some world class skiing and witnessed a rare inversion where the valley was clouded and cold but the top of the mountain was clear and warmer than below. We tried some new restaurants and stayed in the beautiful Duck Inn Lodge where we could watch the ducks gather in the creek every morning and the deer make their way to a salt lick every evening. On the last day, we zipped around the beautiful municipal cross-country trails for the first time and got an early start for the drive home. While we weren’t exploring anywhere new, we enjoyed different places and activities in Whitefish than we had in the past.

The View from Duck Inn Lodge, Whitefish Montana
The view from Duck Inn Lodge in Whitefish

Mulvehill Creek Wilderness Inn at Revelstoke

We employed the same approach with respect to another favorite ski destination in February and stayed at the Mulvehill Creek Wilderness Retreat a unique eco-hotel just outside of the town while enjoying Revelstoke’s famously good snow pack. Again, although it wasn’t our first time to Revelstoke, it was an all together inspiring experience to stay closer to nature and enjoy the good hospitality of the folks at Mulvehill.

Skiing at Revelstoke, BC
Bluebird day after two straight powder days at Revelstoke

Cross Country Skiing the Great Divide Trail

El nino has made it so warm and dry in Calgary that it has hardly felt like winter this year so it made it hard to get into winter sports despite my actually being able to do them this year. Still, we discovered a new favorite cross-country ski trail in Banff National Park. Again, this is a place we have visited many times, but the Great Divide trail had lingered on our list for a long time. Finally, we set off to make the picturesque arch one weekend and had a blast despite less than ideal snow conditions. Despite it looking like a winter wonderland, the snow was actually quite sticky and portions of the 15km ski gave us very little glide. Getting to the marker on the Alberta/BC border made it worthwhile and we were also treated to the sight of some very excited sled dogs. The Great Divide is a long but flat and straightforward ski to a fun place to stage a photoshoot with friends. Since it was so snowy when I was there, I would like to go back and do it again when I can see the surrounding peaks. As I’ve written before, I’m a firm believer in always having a reason to go back so I am glad that this experience, wonderful as it was, gave me one.

Great Divide Marker
Jumping for joy at the Great Divide

Crowsnest Pass & Waterton National Park

More recently, we visited another old friend down in the Crowsnest Pass with the intention of skiing at Castle Mountain from there. Castle was supposed to get 12 centimeters of fresh snow for the Sunday which we thought should make for some really fun skiing. Since the forecast said no new snow on Saturday, we decided to make a leisurely drive down to the Pass and check out some new places in the area. First we headed down to Waterton Lakes National Park which is mostly a ghost town during the winter, but stunning nonetheless. We embarked on one of our earliest hikes yet and climbed the short but steep Bear’s Hump which gives you a birds eye view of Waterton village and the expansive prairie below.

Bear Hump view at Waterton Lake National Park
Waterton Lake and the Prince of Wales Hotel from the Bear’s Hump.
From there, we stopped off at what is possibly Alberta’s most random waterfall in Lundbreck before making our way to the Pass to meet our friend for dinner. We enjoyed a lovely visit with her and her family before heading to Castle for what we hoped was awesome skiing. Sadly for us, the skiing did not deliver so we quit after only a couple runs and headed back to Waterton to ultimately rule out a wedding venue. While the visit hadn’t gone exactly as planned, we were delighted to catch up with an old friend, explore some new places and make some small gains on our wedding plans. To that end, I have also written before on the virtues of being flexible and open to unplanned experiences while travelling.
Lundbreck Falls, Alberta
Local Alberta gem: Lundbreck Falls

So while we may not have collected any new stamps for our passports recently, we have been fortunate enough to discover some inspiring local gems. In short, we found some local Zen.

Local Zen at Waterton National Park
Pictured: love and local Zen.


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