On our first full day in Banff, also Christmas Day, we had breakfast in the tiny town at the only open cafe.
Since the weather forecast made it seem like few days would be as clear and sunny as this one we took the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain.
(A video of the ride up for our friend who is afraid of heights)
Outside the restaurant and gift shop at the top there is a short path to climb to the peak, but in -20 weather this is no easy feat. Our first experience with this kind of cold showed us the quick damage those temperatures can do: taking a glove off to take a facebook photo results in numb fingers. And that’s in direct sunlight.
After dinner in town, we drove to Lake Minnewanka via Tunnel Mountain. We never made it to the lake before sunset though because we stopped on the scenic drive to let a herd of grazing Elk cross the road.
After seeing the Elk the lake was a bit of a disappointment, nothing really to see in the winter. On our way back to town we parked and walked around the grounds at the Fairmont Hotel.
Since the sky was still perfectly clear we headed to Vermillion Lakes for shooting stars. Stepping out into the brittle cold and hearing the ice crack underfoot was unnerving, but to looking up and seeing the band of the milky way’s core was a rare treat not available in most places of the world anymore (and even on the Darkness Map Vermillion Lakes is still yellow). However, we learned the second lesson of the day about cold temperatures when our camera batteries died within minutes of unsheltered (sitting on a tripod) exposure to the wind gusting across the frozen lake.
There would be no more cloudless nights for the entire trio.
To soothe our frustration (okay, mine) we headed to the Juniper’s bar once again for shots of Banff Ice.