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Jesstours.com is a travel website that details my adventures from around the world. It’s a mixed bag of travel experiences, stories and insights. It’s also a blog that doesn’t take itself too seriously but will provide my family and friends with an outlet to keep track of my travels as well as hopefully serve as an interesting and entertaining read, with some helpful travel maps and tips for those who simply stumble across this page. Happy reading and happy travelling!

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Lake Minnewanka – Canada

Aug 2013

Wanting to give our weary legs a little rest from consecutive days of skiing, Clara and I decided to drive to Lake Minnewanka, a glacial lake located in the eastern part of Banff National Park.

Lake Minnewanka (‘wanka’ pronounced ‘wonka’), is a large curved body of water that rests at the base of the Palliser Mountain Range. It is 28 kilometres long and 142 metres deep, making in the largest lake within the Banff National Park region of the Canadian Rockies.

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Having seen a lot of travel brochures with the lake splashed across their pages, I couldn’t wait to see this stunning part of the world with my own eyes.

Clara and I didn’t have to drive for very long before were shrouded by magnificent scenery. Through the window ‘I spied’ dense coniferous forests, a huge frozen lake and a collection of jagged mountain peaks, where several streams if not iced over, trickled cautiously down into the lake.

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As we drove further along the road Clara and I noticed a group of people hovering near what looked like a marquee on the ice. We wondered, ‘what could they be doing?’

Our questions were soon answered when up ahead we saw a man walking back to his car in a wetsuit. Clara and I turned to each other and said “surely not”. To our dismay this man and the group of people he was with had been ‘ice diving’. A hugely popular winter recreation as it turned out.

The man having seen both our expressions of, ‘is this guy for real’, assured us that the water temperature was in fact warmer than the outside temperature. Let me remind you that the outside temperature was sub zero!

When we asked him ‘why he would be doing such a thing’, he said enthusiastically that Lake Minnewanka’s scenic delights continued deep below the surface of the water. The man went on to tell us about the submerged resort village of Minnewanka Landing that lay buried beneath the ice. The submersion was the result of a power dam that was built to supply the town with hydro-electric power in the mid 20th century, which raised the lake by 30 metres and in doing so completely submerged the resort village.

Bewildered by this new information Clara and I drove on a little further, parked the car and made our way along the western shore of the frozen lake. We followed a snowy trail through thick, forested woods till eventually we came to a lookout on the rocky banks of the lake.

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Immediately, I was struck by the peaceful beauty of our surrounds; valleys of pristine woodland, jagged snow-covered peaks and a glistening pebbled shoreline backed by a brilliant blue sky. And with a huge amount of snow at our feet, we stood and gazed, amazed by it all.

Walking on a little further I became aware that the area in which we found ourselves was almost completely deserted. Apart from a handful of other walkers who like us braved the icy conditions, Clara and I for the most part had the trail and lookout practically to ourselves. I shouldn’t of been so surprised really, it was the middle of winter after all.

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In the summer months however, the hiking and mountain biking trails are dotted with people as are the designated picnic areas. Trout fishermen line the beaches and charted boats operate tours on the lake. While those seeking a chance a to glimpse wildlife watch for bears, deer, mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

Posted by Jess Fleming

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Sunshine Mountain – Canada

Aug 2013

On top of the world – Skiing, sliding, stacking and smiling on the slopes of Sunshine Mountain, Banff, Canada. Tell me, what could be better?

What started out as a trip to Banff to catch up with friends Clara and Alison, turned into a Canadian Rockies adventure, where I experienced some of the best snow that Canada has to offer.

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The term ‘rusty’ is an understatement when applied to my skiing ability. Luckily for me however, I was treated to my own personal ski instructor in the form of Alison on my first day back on the slopes in a very long time. Alison is not only an incredible skier but she also works as part of the Ski Petrol team at Sunshine Village.

Thank goodness I was in such safe and capable hands, as not having skied for over ten years I was certainly out of practice and in need of a lesson or two. Although I was kitted out in all the latest gear from head to toe, the ski boots, ski poles and the skis themselves all felt extremely foreign to me.

However after a couple of runs in the learning area, familiarising myself with the basic movements (namely how to stop), I started to get the hang of things and feel more comfortable and ever so slightly more confident. Alison however, more confident in my ability than I was, suggested that we take the chairlift up the mountain.

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After navigating and shuffling our way through the line we eventually made it onto the chairlift, and soon we were being lifted higher and higher up the mountain. As I looked over my shoulder I could not believe how stunning the view was. Nestled between the Rockies, and located within Banff National Park, Sunshine Village is surrounded by mountains and has a wide-open terrain with a total of 3358 acres of skiable areas.

We were on one of the twelve lifts that service the 107 named runs. As I scrambled to find my camera I was sadden to see that the photos I was taking did not do justice to the magnificent surroundings, so I decided to put the camera away and let my eyes take it all in.

Although I could not get enough of the views, I was happy to see the end of the ride was in sight as the onslaught of icy winds, lashing against my face was becoming rather painful.

After a surprisingly smooth dismount I became aware of the fact that I was standing next to a trail marked in blue. I started to feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer drop that I faced. However not wanting to let my nerves get the better of me or be out skied by five year olds, I followed Alison’s instruction. I found confidence in the fact there were people like me who where just as unsure on skis as I was. Once I let go of my fear the ride down was absolutely exhilarating.

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Of course there were a few hiccups along the way; a few stacks here and there, the loss of a ski, an embarrassingly long slide down a slope, as well as quick thinking jump from a chairlift that I forgot to get off! That happens to everyone, right?

Yet despite all those tales of misadventure, skiing on such glorious terrain as Sunshine Mountain was an absolutely incredible feeling.

Posted by Jess Fleming

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