So you hightailed it to the Rocky Mountains, and now that you’re here you suddenly realize you don’t even know where to start. The options are pretty endless, but sometimes a nudge in the right direction is all one needs. Whether you’re after something scenic, something thrilling, or something familiar, The Rocky Mountains will be more than happy to quench your thirst.
1. Work In The Rocky Mountains
For those of you coming from overseas seeking work in Canada. The mountains are where the majority go. Typical jobs include Liftee, Cook, Customer Service Rep, Ski/Snowboard Instructor, Ski Patrol, Bartender, and Maid. Whether you’re from New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Korea, Japan or China, you’re likely to find someone who came from the same country as you.
The jobs don’t pay much. Expect slightly above minimum wage, usually $10 an hour. But the perks to the job are that you get a free lift ticket for the season, which means free snowboarding, skiing, and all around fun on the mountain. Normally staff dorms are provided at a discounted rate as well. Did I mention the staff priced drinks and food? You’re unlikely to leave the job richer than when you came in. But that’s the cost of living a life on the mountains. The quality of life is worth every dollar you didn’t make.
If you’re planning on working, be sure to apply by October, all the applications are done online through each mountains website. So have your CV/Resume and Cover Letter ready. Interviews can be arranged by webcam or telephone.
2. Mountain Biking
After all the snow has melted (sometimes before that), the mountains are populated by a new breed of being, looking for the same speed and adrenaline their colder counterparts experience in the snow. By summer time the mountains have turned into a Mountain Bikers Playground. Work can still be found during this season, but it isn’t quite as busy as the snowy season. Rentals are easily found on or near the mountain. I highly recommend checking out Whistler, it’s pretty world renown in the Mountain Bike Scene. Whether you’re a complete Newb to Mountain Biking or an expert you’ll definitely find something worthy of riding there. Another Mountain Bike Mecca worth mentioning is Rossland’s Seven Summits Trail (30.4 km). Very mind blowing! Look for a local information booth or check with your hostel or hotel for tips on where to find the best trails.
3. Snowboarding and Skiing
I would love to be able to list all of the mountains in The Rockies that you can ski or board on, but honestly, it’d be way too much work. Skiing is available from November to April. The majority of people head to Banff, Whistler, or Jasper. Don’t complete dismiss the “no-name” mountains though. Some of the smaller lesser known mountains can be your own personal playground, ripe for the taking. I haven’t come across a Ski Resort that doesn’t do ski, snowboard, and equipment rentals. So no need to worry if you couldn’t fit your Burton into your backpack. For a little extra thrill, check out the night riding. Or head to the Terrain Park to check out the pros. Just remember to play safe, and always be aware of the dangers out there.
If you’re feeling like getting some high-flying thrills, or need a good James Bond Style exit from somewhere stat, then clearly Zip-Lining is one of the best ways to do this. There’s a handful of different zip-line courses in the Whistler and Blackcomb area worthy of checking out. I suggest you check out Ziptrek Eagle Eco Tour. It has 5 zip-lines and includes a 2200ft massive line that drops an insane 20 stories. The icing on the cake is that you end it all arriving right in Whistler Village. Zip-lining is offered both in Summer and Winter. A 3 hour trek with them will set you back roughly $120 for adults.
5. Bungee Jump
Bungee jumping is an experience everyone should experience. There really isn’t anything like throwing yourself off a ridiculous height for no reason besides a thrill. It’s a blast. Thankfully the Rocky Mountains have a very cool bungee jump located just 15 minutes outside of Whistler Village (highway 99). You fall a solid 160ft (53m) into a massive gorge, above a shallow river. Finding the Bungee Jump can be tricky if you’re driving. It’s in a dense piece of bush that covers any chances you have of seeing it until you’re on the edge of the gorge. I found the only way you can tell you’re in the right place is by sticking your head out the window to listen for screams. Whistler Bungee is the highest bungee jump in B.C and it’s open year-round.
6. Kayak or Canoe
The Rocky Mountains are home to hundreds of different lakes and rivers, each with its own unique landscape. What better way to enjoy it than by grabbing a kayak or canoe and taking it all in from the middle of a pristine lake. Renting a kayak or canoe is an easy process, and relatively cheap. Pack some food, a couple drinks, and head to your nearest rental shop to sign up. Rental shops can be found in towns near many large lakes, and some are located on the lake, or very close by . If you’re looking for some great photos of a beautiful lake, head to Lake Louise. The ice blue water overlooking the mountains is sure to drop your jaw by an inch or two. Rentals can be done right at the lake, starting at roughly $30 for an hour, or a full day rental for a bit more. If you grab a canoe and fill it with people, it can make for a pretty cheap day, and is worth every dollar. Be sure to pack something warm, even on a hot summer day the breeze coming off the mountains can be a chill, especially if you “accidentally” dump your canoe.
7. Hiking The Rockies
Canada and hiking are synonymous. Every mountain will have plenty of hiking trails to explore. Most hotels, hostels, and campgrounds with have brochures on where to find nearby trails. If sticking to the trail just isn’t your thing, maybe you should consider “Heli-hiking”. Basically a Helicopter picks you and some friends up, drops you off on, or near the mountain of your choice, and leaves you for a few days. This isn’t for everybody, but if camping in the most remote Canadian wilderness and roughing it is what you came here for, then you better make your booking. Heli-hiking can be pretty expensive so I would recommend saving, or sticking to the regular trails (which are free).
8. River Rafting
The Canadian Rockies are laced with some of the most beautiful rivers found in the world. The beauty of these rivers truly reveals themselves once you start hitting the river rapids. Class 3 and Class 4 rapids can be found in several different rivers. Just outside of the Yoho National Park is the Kootenay River Runners. These guys run daily river rafting trips down The Kootenay River, and The Kicking Horse River, which is my personal favourite. Be prepared to get wet. If you’re after a little extra thrill be sure to ask them, they have one run where they beach the raft for a while and let you do some cliff jumping.
If thrill isn’t your thing, they’ve also got some casual rafting down some of the mild rivers. They give you information about the history of the river, tell you which birds to watch out for, etc. I think this is more directed to the elderly and the young kids. Not my thing, but I suppose sissies need something to do on the river too. (yea, I went there)
9. Party In The Rockies
So all this nature and beauty has been great, and you love it all, but what you need is a good place to grab a drink or twelve, and just cut loose. Well wait no longer, The Rockies have many a pub, bar, and club to visit.
If you’re in Banff, there are a handful of different drinking establishments worth checking out. Looking to shake your groove thing? Check out Auroras, cheap drinks for early birds, decent DJ’s, and a good sized dance floor to boogie down. Hoodoos is another one worth checking out, usually a younger crowd, but equally as rocking. If you’re looking for less drum & bass, and more real music, check out Wild Bills Legendary Saloon. It has a cool authentic wild west theme. If you’re just after a pint or five, and a good chat with that Aussie liftee you were flirting with all day, you’re most likely to find her at Tommys Neighbourhood Pub. Good selection of beer, and a cool place to hang out.
If you’re in Whistler Village, you’ll know how many different pubs there are around. One can easily go from Pub to Pub grabbing a beer here, shot there. It all kind of depends on the season as to how big of a party you’ll find. If you’re after a good pub, check out Amsterdam Cafe Pub, which is very much worth stopping by for a pint. If you’re after Rocking the Casbah however, check out Garfinkles, which is THE place to be to make a fool of yourself on the dance floor. If you rocked Garfinkles to the ground (or they just kicked you out) you’re next stop would have to be Moe Joe’s. Where you can continue to dance or drink your ski or snowboarding injuries away.
10. Relax in the Hot Springs
So all this adventure and partying is catching up to you, and your body is aching for some relaxation. Your bones and muscles say no more, and your toes are fed up with not being able to feel themselves. What better way to sort these problems out than by jumping into a steaming hot natural hot spring.
The Radium Hot Springs are found just outside of Kootenay. During peak season it can get pretty crazy, but they’re well worth the drive. If you’re looking for a more a unique hot spring, check out the Ainsworth Hot Springs. They’re a lot more quiet, and have a cool cave/tunnel in the rock where the hot springs extends. If you’re in Banff however, check out the Cave and basin Natural Hot Springs (see above photo). Costs for hot springs can range from cheap, to stupid expensive. Hunt around, flash your HI card or Student card and you might be able to get a discount. Once you’re in though, be sure to shut off your brain and body and enjoy.
Believe it or not but I had to cut a few things out of this post, there are so many different things you can do while you’re in the Rocky Mountains, it’s going to be tough choosing which you do. But don’t hesitate too long, that’s time that could have been spent on the slopes or in those glowing hot springs. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and do something!