If every earth sciences lesson explored sites as immense and beautiful as the Rocky Mountains, there’d be far more geography nerds in this world. Here’s our guide to all four seasons in the Rocky Mountains.
The Rocky Mountains make geography sexy. This masterpiece started to form more than a hundred million years ago, with granite and sandstone sheets shifting, tectonic plates heaving and the very surface of our planet folding into shape. Today, more than a hundred mountain ranges form this rocky spine that curves across 5,000km of western Canada and the USA – further than Victoria and New South Wales’ coastlines combined.
Luxury accommodation peppers the landscape and astonishing national parks abound – some promising glimmering lakes, others bubbling mud pools and seething fumaroles – all graced by views of mountaintops scraping at the sky.
With a ski season that spans over six months, averages more than eleven metres of snow per year, and offers a range of activities from ice skating to spa days, it’s no wonder Whistler is a popular winter destination. Snow bunnies carve up sugar-white slopes and sip bubbles at après ski in Whistler. Lodges sparkle with Christmas lights and evergreens stand like elegant ladies wrapped up in plush coats of snow with icicles glimmering from their branches like diamonds. Come night, if you can tear yourself away from an eggnog or whiskey by a roaring fire, you might just spy an aurora waltzing through the inky sky.
After a day gliding down the 200-odd ski trails that make Whistler
Blackcomb the continent’s largest ski resort, unwind with a soothing
alpine stone massage at the Four Seasons’ award-winning spa.
Snuggle beside cosy fireplaces and look towards the magnificent
views of the powdered mountains and alpine forests.
Play: Heli Wilderness Wellness
Chopper into a land of ice and snow with Head-Line Mountain
Holidays. Enter glassy-blue ice caves in Canada’s southernmost
ice cap, and then touchdown near remote, natural hot springs
for an afternoon soak far from the rush of the slopes.
Come shoulder season, sunny skies take hold, and though the occasional storm coats the slopes with powder, you won’t have to share the runs with the masses. But there’s more to Aspen than snow sports – Hunter S. Thompson lived on a ranch here, and yet he skied just once in his life. Mountain bikers take to thawing trails, rivers transform into fly-fishing hotspots and blooming crab apple trees add a softer touch to town.
Stay: Hotel Jerome
Aspen’s oldest hotel opened its doors back in 1889 and has been a favourite with the stars ever since. John Wayne, Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray and Cameron Diaz are just a few famous names that have stayed here, and Hunter S. Thompson penned several of his books in its Old West-style J-Bar.
Play: Food & Wine Classic
Worship at the altar of mouth-watering cuisine at this annual event
held in the final throes of spring. For the past 35 years, the who’s who of the culinary world have come together to host workshops for the rich and famous (the average income of attendees is US$700,000). If you don’t snag festival tickets, console yourself with dinner at the Chefs Club, an award-winning partnership between Food & Wine magazine and the luxurious St. Regis Aspen Resort.
Wholesome American summer camp meets opulent accommodation by the shores of Lake Louise. With crisp, fresh mornings and balmy afternoons, this jewel in the Canadian Rockies offers an astonishing backdrop for canoeing, hiking and horse riding. And at the peak of summer, melt washing down from Victoria Glacier transforms the lake basin into a glimmering cup of aquamarine.
It may promise more luxury than the simple log cabin hotel that was first built by the lake back in the 1890s, but this grand palace still exudes the same level of warm Canadian hospitality. Greet Marcus, the golden labrador retriever and ‘Director of Pet’ relations in the lobby, before settling in for afternoon tea served with views of staggering granite peaks.
Play: Expedition Horse Ride
Saddle up and canter through the region just as explorers did more than a century ago, while surveying the route for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Brewster Adventures takes riders through montane landscapes peppered with wildflowers and past gushing waterfalls, always under the watch of the mountains.
Fall’s lingering golden light brings out a fiery side in the landscape of Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park. From September to mid October, the 4,000m granite ridges burst from a forest aflame, and the golden aspen and cottonwood trees reflect in mirror-like rivers. Bears search for berries as they plump up for winter and deer, elk and moose compete for the affection of mates.
At the doorstep of the national park, this hotel’s sandstone and redwood design honours the rugged nature of its surrounds. Sink into the heated, outdoor pool promising one of the best views in the world and marvel at the majesty of the mountains.
Venture off the beaten path and spy North America’s famed wildlife on a 4WD safari with EcoTour Adventures. Watch bison feasting on grasses, pronghorn antelope gathering for their annual migration and bald eagles twirling through the air, your exploration interrupted only by lunch at a luxury lodge.
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