Off to paradise

It's that time of year again, the late January lull. This is the time when most Alaskans have grown weary of several months of cold and darkness and book plane tickets to somewhere else, for a week or two of respite. We consider it our right as Alaskans. I think it might even be written into the state constitution.

I think the idea of the winter respite is to go to somewhere warm like Hawaii, and this is the track most Alaskans take. I did this last January - flew to Oahu, walked in my bare feet on the beach, rode a road bike, hiked a volcano. This year, I decided to travel to a place a little closer to my heart - albeit colder, more wintry and hopefully snowier than Juneau. I'm sitting in the Sea-Tac airport right now, waiting for a flight to Calgary. Then, it's on to Banff.

It's a completely frivolous trip. No, I'm not going there for a race. No, I'm not even going to be doing any biking (well, maybe a little). It's a ski trip (yeah, really wish I had practiced that), with a little snowboarding thrown in, and if the skiing doesn't kill me, possibly some good long runs. This trip is all about being outside in the mountains It comes at a bad time for my employer. I feel guilt about that. But right now, I need this winter respite into the wintry paradise of the Canadian Rockies. I really do.

Both of my previous visits to Banff came at anxious, angst-ridden times in 2009. The first was prior to the Tour Divide in June, when I was nervous and extremely uncertain about the prospect of undertaking that race. The second was during my drive north following my completion of the race in July, when I was feeling a lot of uncertainty about returning to Juneau. And both times, just being in Banff was a soothing, healing experience for me. I found clarity and a level of peace during my frivolous, small excursions around that mountain town. I fell in love with Banff. And the whole time, my friends told me, "If you think Banff is great in the summer, you should see it in the winter."

I planned this trip several months ago. But it just happens to come at a similarly angsty time. Only this time, instead of having a big, scary goal or a return to a difficult situation in front of me, I have all of those things behind me and only uncertainty in front of me. You could say I need some time in Banff now more than ever. And I am really looking forward to it.


  1. Have a great break! enjoy and have fun!

  2. nice skier9:31 PM

    Good luck with the skiing part of your trip - hope it's fun for you. Make sure you have a qualified person (professional ski instructor) give you a good first lesson so you start off right. It can make a world of difference.

    Not every Alaskan goes to a warm place in winter. Last year at this time I went to northern Minnesota for a week of xc skiing in sub-zero temps with my best friend who lives there. It was a blast!

  3. Why not a quick getaway to a little place known as Orange County? Just kidding sister, have a great trip!

  4. Take pictures to post. I love reading your blog and I have been thinking about a trip to Banff myself for a while. Have a great trip!

  5. "It's a completely frivolous trip."

    In my eyes there are no "frivolous" trips. Everyone deserves to get away from time to time so why should you be any different.

    You've earned it and deserve it Jill, so just go and enjoy yourself as much as possible. Just don't break anything:)

    Looking forward to hearing about it and seeing your images. I'm heading to northern MN for some sub-zero snow biking.

  6. Have a fun trip. I made a stop in Banff during the Christmas holiday time. It is a beautiful area. I didn't go skiing there, but I did go in Jasper. The conditions were great and the views from there were beautiful. I'm sure you'll have a great time.

  7. Anonymous8:33 AM

    Soak it up!

  8. Cool! Have fun! You definitely deserve some Jill time.

  9. Enjoy your break - a winter holiday is a great thing when you live as near the top of the globe as we do. I looked at a map and Juneau is at 58 degrees North, slightly further north than Inverness Scotland, with no Gulf Stream to warm it up! I'm a bit surprised that you don't have snow to sea level all the time up there in winter.

  10. Anonymous1:39 PM

    If you have time go north on the Icefields Parkway towards Lake Louise. Take your camera. Post your pictures.

  11. Hi, this is a Chinese biker from Beijing who met your friend Bjorndihle in Arizona when we pedaled. he said let me connect you, because you wanna cycle in Tibet? haha. anyway Best Wishes!
    Shao Ming in Sedona, AZ

  12. Enjoy Banff! I honeymooned there in late spring. It's as beautiful as they say. Everyone says to go to Lake Louise. The hike all the way up to the Plain of Six Glaciers is very worthwhile, but don't miss nearby Lake Moraine. Fewer tourists, no gaudy hotel and another beautiful hike up to a pass. Probably snowed in, but the open field below is stunning.


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