It was on our fourth day in Banff that I finally got the layers thing down. Getting the layers thing down, I figured out at last, basically just meant putting on my body every single piece of clothing I'd brought to Canada with me, and then a few of Sean's for good measure. For our final day of skiing---this time at Mt. Norquay---I wore two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, tights under my snowpants, a camisole under a long-sleeved thermal tee under a normal long-sleeved tee under an old cashmere sweater of Sean's, a fleece, a ski jacket, and a hat made of alpaca wool. Oh, and a partridge in a pear tree too. Though thinking about it, that partridge was probably overkill.

The funny thing about the Banff-Lake Louise area is that all three of its ski mountains are so vastly different from one another. The terrain is different, the snow is different, and the overall vibe of each is different too. While I'd found Lake Louise most similar to the fairly traditional mountains I'd skied before and Sunshine Village to be unfamiliar but thrilling, Norquay was the mountain that surprised me the most, pretty much because it was so unlike the others.

It's widely known as "the locals' mountain," see, a place where the lift operators greet you by name (and they do!) and parents take their kids to races on Sunday mornings. There was a race going on the morning we were there, actually: two or three dozen pint-sized daredevils, all speeding down the mountain at seven zillion miles an hour on their comically tiny skis. I'll tell you what, there's nothing like realizing that the majority of second-graders are braver than you are to make you question a few key life choices, that's for sure.

At Norquay, we made the acquaintance of Ted (hi, Ted!), who was to be our "snowhost" for the day. An electrician by trade, Ted volunteers one day a week at Norquay and let me tell you, if you're going to Norquay, Ted is the guy you want by your side: he knows everyone---or everyone knows him---and the smiles and handshakes and conversations never stopped all day. It was like skiing with the mayor! Except guess what? THE ACTUAL MAYOR OF BANFF HIMSELF SKIS AT NORQUAY, at least according to a few people I talked to. Being with the ever-popular Ted also meant we probably could have cut to the front of the line a bit if we'd wanted to, but there was never any need because Norquay is notorious for not really having any lines in the first place. Honestly, I don't think we ever waited for a ski lift for more than about seven seconds.

While Norquay isn't quite as fancy as the other resorts, it's refreshingly down-to-earth; most skiers we saw were families, and it even offers hourly rates to let locals squeeze in a few runs during a lunch hour or after work. That's not to say the mountain doesn't have some challenging terrain, though: Sean about fainted dead away when he saw the snowboard park, protesting that he was too old to attempt jumps that high. And as you can see from the video below---look, more vlogging! Extreme vlogging! VLOGGING FROM A MOUNTAINTOP!---even relative newbies like me had to take it slow.

(Seriously, HOW SLOW DO I SKI? I had no idea I skied so slow! Watching this video of myself was like watching paint dry; I kept wanting to push myself a little faster downhill. I think my problem is that I am generally very cautious and meticulous in life and these traits have followed me onto the mountain. Seriously, get yourself a snack before you begin this.  Because spoiler alert: it takes me TEN THOUSAND YEARS to get down.)

Skiing Norquay (Slowly) from Holly on Vimeo.

Anyway, after a hilarious mountain-top slip and slide session, during which Ted totally caught us almost plummeting to our deaths....

....right before he snapped this....

.......we left the mountain exhausted, happy, and in need of either of a very good masseuse, a very large bottle of Baileys, or something better than the two combined. And wouldn't you know it, we found it.

As luck would have it, our new hotel, the Fox Hotel and Suites, was famous for one thing in particular: its awesome grotto-like indoor/outdoor hot tub. I'd seen pictures of this on the website before I arrived, sure, but I wasn't prepared for just how cool it would be in real life. At the Fox, all the rooms are arranged around a central courtyard, and in the middle of the central courtyard is the opening to the awesome indoor/outdoor grotto-like hot tub:

Which is modeled after the famous Banff Springs and, inside, looks a little like this: 

(For those playing along on Twitter, this is also where I accidentally wore my diamond engagement ring and then proceeded to FREAK THE FREAK OUT about whether or not I should have done that and whether the chlorine was going to discolor it and cause my fiance to leave me because clearly I wasn't capable of having nice things because I wasn't able to take care of them. For the record, however, my ring seems to be perfectly okay. But quick show of hands: diamonds in hot tubs? Yes? No? Only if you promise to start a band, Holly, and call it Diamonds In Hot Tubs and get that dude from Rock Of Love to be the lead singer and Tila Tequila to sing backup?)

The Fox, in general, was a pretty great hotel: the rooms were a little smaller than those at the Deer Lodge in Lake Louise had been, but they were brand new and imbued with a cute, cozy charm. The flat-screen TV pleased Sean---it was Superbowl Sunday, after all---and the almost supernaturally comfortable bed pleased me; I doubt I have ever slept as well before, nor will I ever again. I think it had something to do with the pillows. Or maybe it was just that I'd been throwing myself down a mountain all day.

For dinner on Sunday night, we made the ten-minute stroll into the heart of Banff---a super easy walk from the hotel, although the front desk will also give you free passes for a shuttle bus that runs up and down Banff Avenue---and found ourselves getting lost on the way to The Bison, a new-ish restaurant in a "green" building that I'd heard quite a bit about. The great thing about Banff, however, is that all the street names are animals, and so it's entirely possibly to say things like "I'm on the corner of Wolf and Caribou" or "I'll just wait for you here at Bear and Grizzly." This makes being lost....well, not exactly fun, but certainly more amusing.

The food at The Bison turned out to be insanely good, and we ate an awful lot, including the contents of two of their bread baskets, although we can hardly be blamed for that, because they came accompanied by what is possibly the most brilliant invention ever: a dish of butter COVERED IN OLIVE OIL, SPRINKLED IN SEA SALT. Yes, you heard that right: butter, oil, and salt ALL IN ONE PLACE, just begging to be sopped up with a crusty piece of bread. Seriously, who made this decision? Who figured this out? Come here, sir, I would like to shake you by the hand.

The most awesome part of our meal, however, was our waitress, an Australian girl who looked a little like the actress who plays Meredith's sister on Grey's Anatomy and who, upon bringing us our desserts----homemade s'more for me, caramel-apple upside-down cake for Sean---smiled when I said that they looked "a little avant-garde." (They did! They were super wacky! And in enormous bowls!) After we'd made our way about halfway through them, she wandered over again and said---with a perfectly straight face---"are you enjoying your large, avant-garde desserts?" That is pretty much the most awesome thing a waitress has ever said to me. I mean, honestly, Banff, like I even needed another reason to fall in love with you. 


Feb 05, 2009

I'm pretty sure if I ever decided to try skiing, I'd crash constantly and/or go so slow that I'd eventually give up and start scooting down the mountain on my butt.

You have the accent ever, though. I'm sure you hear that a lot. Cute video!

Feb 05, 2009

How about the fact that I scrolled down past all the ski talk (i.e. "wait, you mean I have to be active??" talk) in search of the food and accommodations talk? What exactly does that say about me?

Feb 05, 2009

Boys can pee standing up. Girls can wear tights under trousers in cold weather.
I can't decide who wins.

Feb 05, 2009

You are a speed demon on the slopes compared to me. You also don't whimper as you ski, unlike me.

Feb 05, 2009

This is a comment about your Best!Things!Ever! site currently on display in your sidebar, "I love you, but..." because the comments are not working on that post for some reason.

Holly, I have to say I'm a little surprised that you are promoting that site. I didn't find it funny at all - it made me feel sad and bleak inside.

"I love you, but nobody else does"?
"I love you, but cancer is rife in your family"?

Are these really reasons not to love someone? Can you imagine Sean saying something like this to you, how it would break your heart?

It's bad enough that people are so shallow and cruel that they would say things like that, but to dedicate a website to it so that other people can laugh at it? Accompanied by unflattering drawings?

Each one of those drawings and quotes represents someone who got their hearts broken and their dreams shattered.

I think you've taken a step or three down from your usual quality of blogging here.

Feb 05, 2009

I'm pretty sure that diamonds in chlorine are fine, after all it's the hardest substance on earth (right?). I would be more worried about the ring slipping off my finger and going into a jet or a grate or something. I'd make good use of the safety box in the room, and stick it in there....just in case.

Feb 05, 2009

Quick note about engagement rings in hot tubs, you are right that this is generally not a good idea. I work for a wedding band/engagement ring manufacturing company and our CEO is fond of a demonstration that he does at tradeshows that illustrates why. He takes a 2 carat engagement ring and suspends it upside down in straight clorine bleach and within a minute or two the stone drops to the bottom of the tank because of the chemical corrosion on the metal prongs which secures the center stone. Now this isn't going to happen when you are in a diluted situation like a pool or hot tub but it is not great for your ring either. Even more important is to remember to remove your ring when you are scrubbing the bathroom. And so ends my public service announcement for the day. :)

Feb 05, 2009

To be fair, you were skiing int the SLOW SKIIING AREA, so your slowness was totally warranted!

Anne & May
Feb 05, 2009

I don't need breakfast today. I'm just going to sit here and eat my heart out.

I think your skiing form has greatly improved! You look great up there!

Feb 05, 2009

That hot tub looks like my vision of heaven. Oh my god. Again, still envying your life!

Speedy Canizales
Feb 05, 2009

Regarding the brave second-graders skiing down the mountain with no fear: I have been there, and you are absolutely right. I love that they just jump in there with no hesitation, a quality I'd like to have when I'm skiing. I'm more of a cautious skiier like you, and will sometimes hesitate on the precipice of a steep hill. Lately my solution has been to just go for it (and not think! Just ski!) but the fear sometimes gets the better of me.

Your skiing looks good! I see that you are keeping your skis parallel as opposed to pizza slice (or wedge). Next thing you know you'll be tackling that steep hill in your photo with Sean!

Feb 05, 2009

once again I am jealous, jealous, jealous. I really want to take this vacation if for nothing else but the views! Oh, and I've been videoed snowboarding a couple of times and I am mortified by a) how slow I am; and b) how I always have a weird chicken arm out for balance. That grotto will now appear in my dreams.

Feb 05, 2009

I have a similar video of skiing at Mount Snow in Vermont last week. In fact, I think I might be going even slower than you are. Your series on Banff has been terrific.

Feb 05, 2009

First of all, you could be an Olympic skier compared to me, because hey, at least your are standing up and going downhill! When I ski (or snowboard), I spend almost the whole time on my butt not going anywhere, because I can't get up.

Second, on hot tubs and diamond rings. I kind of found this out the hard way. We had a hot tub on our honeymoon that we spent a good amount of time in. The diamond (and sapphires) in my ring were just fine, but the white gold setting and band? Not so much. The white gold got this dark yellowish film all over it that would not come off no matter how much I cleaned the rings. I finally had to take them back to my jeweler and cry uncle. They ended up buffing the gold back to it's original color and telling me that maybe next time I shouldn't wear my rings in the hot tub.

Feb 05, 2009

You guys look like you are having a ton O fun..
but I just have to say one little thing...
the picture of Sean in the Hot Tub.....
It makes me want to scream !!!!
Where's his torso?!... Where's his torso?!
Just kidding.. Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy !

Feb 05, 2009

Yet another day of insane jealousy. Yet another day of thinking I should give snow skiing another shot.

If you weren't so adorable, I might just flounce for effect.

Feb 05, 2009

I had to take a picture when I was in Banff last, as we found ourselves at the corner of Moose & Squirrel. Hello, Rocky & Bullwinkle!!

Feb 05, 2009

I wore a ring my boyfriend gave me in an outdoor hot springs, and the minerals in the water started to turn it a funny colour. In a true display of chivalry, he clambered out of the (extremely rocky and slippery) pool to trek back up the hill to put it in our bag, and luckily I managed to buff it back to its original colour. Since then I've been careful not to wear treasured jewellery in watery situations!

Camels & Chocolate
Feb 05, 2009

Your backpackery hotel was MUCH cooler than my Banff backpackery hotel. Jealous! Going to complain to the Banff/Lake Louise Board of Tourism (kidding, Banff/Lake Louise Board of Tourism...maybe you could just bring me back to make up for it instead?!).

the sassy kathy
Feb 06, 2009

carrie - i'm curious - does it matter what kind of metal the stone is set in?

geeky - you mentioned bad things happened to your white gold band.

does the same thing happen with platinum?

and holly i also continue to be jealous of your trip - and around-the-world galavanting in general :)

Feb 06, 2009

OMG!!!! This is so weird - my boyfriend is in Banff right now AND Banff is one of my most favouritest places on the earth!!!

Okay I know I'm being weirdly over-excited about this, given that we've never met but, I thought it was worth mentioning and I'm SO PLEASED that you've enjoyed it there. The Bison is a WONDERFUL restaurant, they make wicked Mojitos.

One of my most favouritest things to do in Banff (besides illegally feeding the chipmunks at Lake Louise) is to eat fudge and candy. For the fudge there's two places in Banff that are good and for the candy you must go to Welch's - http://www.banffcandy.com/about.html as they sell candy from all over the world and from my past as I've found candy in there that I thought wasn't made anymore! My favourite candy is the Soor Plooms. They're bright green, oval hard candies, slightly sour very intense kind of pear-y taste. Lovely.


Feb 06, 2009

I looooved Banff when I went and saw tons of bears and caribou and even a moose. Thank God I didn't ski there or I would have died and therefore probably disliked it. You're so brave to ski on camera!

Feb 09, 2009

ONLY YOU could look adorable in ski goggles. Well played, Ms. Burns. Well played, indeed.