Hitting the Rockies road
TRAVEL IN STYLE THROUGH CANADA’S MOUNTAINS
FRANCE SKIING: Hit the slopes with a one-week half-board trip to Les Arcs staying at the Hotel L’Aiguille. Departs on December 29 from Gatwick for £835pp. Book at crystalski.co.uk. HONG KONG: Head east from Heathrow on January 19 for four nights at the Crowne Plaza in Kowloon, room only, for £682pp. Visit ebookers.com. SCANDINAVIA: Set sail for Norway and Denmark on June 29, departing Southampton, on a one-week cruise that visits four ports including Oslo and Copenhagen for £699pp. You get $150 on-board credit per person. Visit princess.com. MALTA: Fly from East Midlands or Birmingham on January 9 for a week self-catering at the three-star White Dolphin Holiday Complex in St Paul’s Bay. From £95pp at travelsupermarket.com
HANGING on to the back of a Harley-Davidson, we tear down a country road in a blur of forests and mountains.
“Do you want to see a trick?” my driver asks.
The next thing I know our sidecar is off the ground and we are racing along with my head a lot closer to the road than I would like.
Dressed from head to toe in leather, paired with a skull bandana and heated vest, this is all part of the fun on a Jasper Motorcycle Tour in the Canadian Rockies.
Set in Jasper National Park, a vast wilderness area of Alberta province, the adrenaline thrill ride also takes in the crashing rivers of the Athabasca Falls and endless snow of the Columbia Icefield.
With limited light pollution the region has been deemed a darksky preserve and hosts the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. It’s a monthlong gathering in October where tourists come to appreciate the cosmos, go on guided star-gazing and planetarium tours, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
The festival’s glorious showpiece event is the Symphony Under the Stars at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, a luxury base that has welcomed guests including the Queen, Prince Philip and Marilyn Monroe.
Spread across 700 acres, the resort wraps itself around Beauvert lake and is ringed by mountains carved up by hiking trails.
After a gourmet three-course meal, concert-goers head outside, snuggled in blankets and sipping hot chocolate, to listen to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Strings and conductor Bob Bernhardt perform classical and modern pieces. With a backdrop of shooting stars and comets, it’s a spellbinding night.
The magic continues back at our hotel, the Chateau Jasper – a comfy abode with views across the misty mountains, where we warm up by the roaring fires and work through the cocktail menu.
The next day we hit the road again to Lake Louise, a glacier-fed body of water famous for its vivid turquoise colour. Hiking trails up the snowy hills provide a pathway to get bird’s eye view – and that all-important Instagram shot. You can canoe across it in summer and skate on it in winter.
At nearby Banff, a resort town filled with independent chocolate shops and bakeries, we pop in for a pint at the Banff Ave Brewing Co, which uses glacier water in its beer.
Keeping with the theme, we then enjoy a tour and tasting session at Park Distillery, sampling a range of spirits including vanilla, chilli and espresso vodka. Its restaurant, with wooden walls decorated with axes and elk antlers, serves up campfire-inspired dishes such as salmon in maple syrup, prime ribs with slaw, and buffalo sauce shrimp with popcorn.
In Banff we stay at the Mount Royal Hotel, which is more than 100 years old and re-opened this year with rooftop hot tubs.
From here we drive to Sulphur Mountain to ride the Banff Gondola and take in the views of six dreamy mountain ranges and the greenery of Bow Valley.
If you want some downtime in the spa after a serious hit of scenery, check in to the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge. The star attraction is its Nordic Spa