My Vacation — At -38 Degrees

In Style, travel, world on February 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm
Banff Springs Hotel, October 1929, Banff Libra...

Here it is, from a photo taken in 1929, a year after the Banff Springs Hotel was renovated. Heaven on earth! Image via Wikipedia

Not many people are eager for a vacation involving ice, snow and air so cold it hurts to breathe. Your breath freezes onto your scarf, leaving a shelf of rime. Your moist nostril hairs lock together and, as your body warmth condenses and freezes inside the lenses, your eyeglasses are useless.

But so worth it!

I’m in Banff, Alberta for another two days, a week in all, and it will be heart-wrenching to leave behind such spectacular beauty. I wake up every morning, in my little 8th. floor aerie, and peer out at the snow-capped peaks, painted pink with the dawn’s light or flirting through mist and snow squalls.

Why Banff? I’m Canadian, so it’s been part of my fantasies and visual vocabulary for years, although popular with Europeans as I hear British and Irish, French and Spanish and German accents all over town.

My father even made a film here, for Walt Disney, called “King of the Grizzlies.” Although I didn’t join him on location,  he told me how to wrangle a grizzly — jelly doughnuts (held out to entice him forward) and low-voltage wiring (to keep him on the path.)

I’ve settled into an astonishing place, built in 1888 and renovated in 1928, The Banff Springs Hotel, and have reveled in its combination of elegance, history, luxury and warmth. Tea is taken in a room whose wall of windows faces a valley. A heated pool outdoors shoots plumes of steam into the frigid air. Stained glass windows overlook a curling rink.

I feel like Eloise of the Rockies! (If you have never read the Eloise books, about Eloise, a six–year-old girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York with her nanny, her dog Weenie and her turtle, Skipperdee, they are a delight. Inspiring, too.)

The hotel is so large they hand you a map to help you locate your room, and their many amenities, from a bowling alley to the spa to the sushi restaurant to the pub in the woods. I’ve been working on a photo project involving one small, beloved white stuffed bear I’ve had forever, posing him throughout its rooms and halls; I’m calling it The Unregistered Guest.

And every day brings the distinctive clomp-clomp-clomp of skiiers trudging the hallways in their ski boots.

Today’s balmy — only -8 (Celsuis.) Off to go dog-sledding!

  1. I love just sitting in the Springs Hotel staring at the “Million Dollar View”. Time to go back for a visit I think🙂

    • This morning — I leave tomorrow (sob) — I awoke to snow and pure white beyond the windows. It’s an amazing landscape and changes daily, sometimes hourly, with the light and weather. So glad I came!

  2. I hope you enjoyed your visit. I really wish I could brave the cold, but my days of feeling the brisk cold air hitting my lungs are over with. The pain is too intense for me to leave the warm climate of Florida. One day I’ll make it up to the mountains once again, but I’ll have to be content with my nostalgic reminiscence.

  3. I loved it, every bit of it, even when I thought I might really almost get facial frostbite. Luckily, it was not painful to breathe, although one woman told me that inhaling in the worst of it was like trying to breathe with strep throat.

    The harder part, which whacked me for a few days, was the altitude — at 4500 feet. I felt nauseated and tired for a while.

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