In February 2018, I had the privilege of spending five days at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed every moment of my visit to the winter wonderland of Alberta.
If you like to plan your travels in advance, now is the time to start thinking about a stay at this historic hotel set in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
I always prepare for vacations with my usual checklist:
- Passports: check
- Flights: check
- Accommodations: check
Most of my travels are based on destinations that promote sun, sand and surf so it’s not difficult for me to plan and pack.
This trip was different.
Like most people that live in the southern part of the United States, my winter wardrobe consists of light sweaters, coats and fashionable boots. During our mild winters, I don’t layer my clothing, nor are my coats and boots insulated.
My lack of a winter wardrobe that was meant for extremely cold temperatures caused me to start researching the best in winter gear. I gathered information on everything from base layers to the warmest socks.
Winter clothing of lasting quality can be expensive and I was purchasing a complete wardrobe for my husband and myself. The years of practice I had using coupons, shopping off season, and when possible, combining coupons with sales, came in very handy.
I comparison shopped between websites, received email and text alerts when prices dropped, took advantage of free shipping, and used rebate sites to make the most of my spending. Everything was purchased well in advance of my trip with most items coming in at a savings of anywhere from 50-70 percent.
“If you’re cold and miserable, you won’t have any fun.”
These were the words spoken to me by a friend I turned to for advice on what I needed to purchase to be ready for my trip to Alberta. She was right.
If you have seen photos of beautiful, snow-covered landscapes, and have thought about visiting a winter wonderland, but you live in a climate where you wear shorts and sandals more than you wear a coat, I am providing a list of items that you will want to purchase before your visit.
Items to Pack for Warmth
1. Base Layers – High quality top and bottom base layers were easy to find. My local warehouse store sold them at a reasonable price throughout the year, and I took advantage of purchasing them when they were advertised with additional savings.
TIP: Look for thin layers with the words “moisture wicking” and “quick dry”.
2. Thermal Vest – I purchased a thermal vest that would serve as a layering piece. It was thin enough to go over a sweater and under a coat or jacket.
I also purchased a puffer style thermal vest from a store that was going out of business, but it was more for the purpose of fashion. I found that puffer vests do not lay as flat against the body as a thinner vest, and feel a bit more restrictive in terms of motion when they are used for layering.
TIP: Look for a vest with ‘water resistant’ in the description.
3. Warm Hat – This seems obvious, but there is one thing I quickly realized: I wouldn’t be outside 24/7 so I needed two different hats.
For those times that I would be inside, I chose a beanie with a warm flannel interior.
For days that I would be outside in the cold and snow enjoying winter activities, I chose a hat with moisure wicking and thermal properties.
4. Long Coat with Hood – When I wasn’t wearing snow pants, a long hooded coat was exactly what I needed to stay warm. The hood gave me an extra layer of protection on snowy days. I purchased a coat that was water resistant and insulated with faux down.
TIP: This type of coat adds bulk to your suitcase, so look for one that is packable with a detachable hood. I also suggest wearing your coat to save room in your suitcase, which will also save you from searching through your suitcase for a coat when you land.
5. Ski Jacket – A ski jacket came in handy when I wore ski pants and participated in activities such as snow tubing and dogsledding. It stopped at my waist, and had interior pockets for everything you could imagine. There was a bungee cord for securing my mitts. A shorter jacket felt much more comfortable when I was active.
TIP: Look for a jacket that includes an inner band that fastens around the waist. This band is meant to keep the cold and snow out when you’re zipping down a hill on skis or a snow tube.
6. Adjustable, Insulated Ski Pants – Ski pants are an essential item for enjoying outdoor activites in freezing weather. The pants I purchased were extremely comfortable, and included an adjustable, nylon inner layer. They were adjustable at the waist and around the base of each leg, ensuring a seal that kept warmth in and cold out.
TIP: Fit varies from brand to brand, and unless you are buying a pair of ski pants in person, find a retailer that provides free shipping and free returns. I also read a couple of pages of reviews that mention the fit.
7. Insulated Boots – I bought a fashionable pair of insulated boots to wear on outings and for use around our hotel, and I bought a pair for outdoor activities. My indoor pair was lighter in weight and my outdoor pair was heavier and had a more rugged look.
TIPS: Take the time to research and find the best boots that have been tested and approved for use in the snow. Two things that are extremely important in snowy climates are traction and feet that will stay warm and dry.
I also recommend wearing your boots on your flight. It saves weight in your suitcase, and you’ll be ready for the cold outdoors when you arrive at your destination.
8. Insulated Mitts – Prior to speaking to my friend who had plenty of snow experience, I purchased a pair of insulated gloves. When I spoke to my friend, she told me that mitts were a better way to keep my 10-digits warm. She was right.
TIP: Look for ergonomically designed mitts. More than likely, a slight curve will be built into the mitt to allow for a better grip on objects.
9. Merino Wool Socks – Whether I’m at home or in a cold climate, warm feet are important to me because my feet are always cold. I did my research and found a pair of over-the-calf socks made with merino wool, nylon, lycra and spandex. They never rolled down or bunched up on my legs and they were so comfortable that I almost forgot I was wearing them.
TIP: If you want extra warmth (which I did), purchase a pair of over-the-calf silk sock liners. Similar to base layers for your body, they do not create extra bulk and can be worn layered with wool socks or can be worn alone.
Within a few months of this trip, I would be on a cruise to Alaska and would need to use these items again.
In addition to advice about clothing, my friend gave me a list of items that would make the outdoors a little more friendly to the parts of my body that would remain exposed:
- Dark sunglasses to prevent snow blindness
- Lip balm with sunscreen
- Moisturizing lotion
- Saline nasal spray to prevent nosebleed
- Portable tissue packets to keep in coat/jacket pocket, as cold and wind tend to make the nose and eyes run
How Health and Wellness Affect Travel
My preparation for a much colder environment involved more than just having the right clothing to make my visit fun. During our conversations, my friend mentioned something I had never heard of before: altitude sickness.
She advised me to have a healthy breakfast each day and to drink plenty of water each day during my stay. I had a headache the next morning, and we had an outing planned to Lake Louise Ski Resort. I had a sinus headache before we left home, and I had been taking an over the counter sinus medication, so after eating breakfast, I took my medication and got dressed.
I still had a headache, but otherwise felt okay when we arrived at the ski resort for lunch. It had been several hours since breakfast and I ate a light salad. But then suddenly, the sight and smell of food at our table caused a wave of nausea. It was so bad that my head started to throb. I felt miserable!
I stopped talking and took several deep breaths to keep myself from throwing up. Within 30 minutes, the nausea passed, my head stopped throbbing, and I was able to go outside and enjoy snow tubing at the resort.
Someone in our party told me that they had packed an over the counter migraine medicine and that I was welcome to take the bottle to get relief from my headache. It was exactly what I needed.
Laringitis was the next illness that I had to deal with, but I was prepared. I packed a throat spray that provided relief and helped shorten my recovery time.
I was the recipient of so much helpful advice, and yet there were still lessons learned.
- My husband, who insisted that he didn’t want a coat with a hood, ended up wishing that he had one. My hood came in very handy on the day that we went dogsledding. It snowed the entire time and I was able to pull my hood over my face for extra protection.
- Knowing what I know now about altitude sickness, I would consult my doctor before traveling for additional recommendations, prescriptions or remedies that could ease those awful symptoms.
- Always ask for advice when going somewhere unfamiliar. We all want that sense of adventure and the feeling of knowing that we did something on our own, but advice from someone who has been there is invaluable.
Has there been a time when you recieved advice when you traveled somewhere new? How did that advice help you enjoy your destination?
Leave your comments below, and who knows, your comments may help me during future travels. 🙂