Ikon Pass Road Trip to SkiBig3: Robby Brown’s Story

Edit by Daniel Thomson.

Words by Robby Brown, Ikon Pass holder.

Your entire life can change in a matter of seconds. In a single moment, the life that you knew could be gone.  I had this single, life-changing moment on August 5, 2017. It was a Saturday morning and I was in the process of moving into a new apartment in Seattle, Washington. Between moving boxes, I received the call that my Dad was on a bike ride back home in Sacramento, California, when he had a heart attack and was being taken to the hospital. Within 30 minutes I received another call saying that he had passed. Just like that, my best friend, sports coach, ski partner, life coach and, most importantly, my Dad was gone. He was 62.

We work our entire lives for this abstract thing called “retirement;” assuming along the way it’s guaranteed. It’s not. This experience gave me clarity that the time we wait for after our working years to start living might not come. We must live in the moment and seize opportunities now. The winter immediately after my dad passed, trying to stay active, I decided to get a season pass to Crystal Mountain. Busy with school and work, I hadn’t skied much for the past 8 years. Reconnecting with the mountain allowed me to grieve and provided me some of the best healing I’d had since he’d passed.  It also brought back so many memories of being on the mountain with my Dad and the many ski trips we had taken together during my childhood. The experience was cathartic and a strange blend of overwhelming grief and intense joy.

Robby Brown's Ikon road trip through the United States and Canada. Image supplied by Robby Brown.

Over the course of the season, I learned about the Ikon Pass. This pass gives you access to 39* destinations. Stretching across North America, South America, Asia, and Australasia (*41 as of Sept 2019, now including Europe). It was then I made the decision that I was going to take on the ultimate road trip and spend a winter driving across North America. I would spend this time visiting friends and family, exploring new cities and sights and, of course, skiing. So, for six months, I’ve been on the road in my trusty RV, Betty, making my way across the continent.

Ikon Road Trip with Robby Brown, photo by Dan Thomson
Ikon Road Trip with Robby Brown, photo by Dan Thomson

This part of the story brings me to Banff National Park, a place of majestic mountains, beautiful lakes, and three Ikon Pass ski resorts nestled between it all; Mt Norquay, Banff Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise. Together these resorts make up SkiBig3. While the resorts are within forty miles of one another, each has its own unique aspects, features, and feel.

Robby Brown at Banff Sunshine, photo by Dan Thomson
Robby Brown at Banff Sunshine, photo by Dan Thomson

Day One was at Mt Norquay. This resort was unique in its homey, small town, mountain-feel. Don’t let this smaller mountain fool you, it has some really fun steeps off the North American Chair, where you feel like you’re going to ski right into the town of Banff. Not to mention, this mountain provides a breathtaking view of the town. You could really sense that the locals that call this place home have a strong community. The day I was there, Norquay was hosting a ski racing competition for kids and everyone was having a blast dressed in Hawaiian hula attire.

Robby Brown meets some locals, photo by Dan Thomson
Robby Brown meets some locals, photo by Dan Thomson

Day Two was spent at Banff Sunshine Village, where I met and was able to spend the day with some local SkiBig3 Ambassadors. They showed me around the mountain and introduced me to the people of Banff. This resort has it all including a wide variety of terrain for all skill-levels. You can take it easy throughout the upper village area, or explore the steeps of Goat’s Eye and Delirium Dive. It was such a joy to meet so many excellent people that day. Everyone made me feel so welcomed. These locals embraced me with open arms and really wanted me to experience the beauty of Banff.

Ikon Road Trip with Robby Brown, photo by Dan Thomson
Ikon Road Trip with Robby Brown, photo by Dan Thomson

I spent the next few days at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and it’s surrounding backcountry. It was awesome to go up a ski lift and point out the beautiful surrounding mountains, only to find out that you can ski-tour it. To make it even better, we received some fresh powder overnight, and I learned some of the best skiing at SkiBig3 can come in April. Talk about a destination for Spring skiing!  From the gorgeous lodge, to the steeps in the back bowls, and touring the backcountry, Lake Louise was an awesome resort to round-off my first trip to Banff and the Canadian Rockies.

Lake Louise backcountry with SkiBig3 Ambassadors Shannon Martin and Dan Thomson.
Lake Louise backcountry with SkiBig3 Ambassadors Shannon Martin and Dan Thomson.

I could provide mountain stats about these resorts, but the stats wouldn’t do this place justice. It’s beauty is off-the-charts and it’s definitely something I recommend experiencing in-person.

There are many times when I feel my Dad’s presence when I’m in the mountains and I felt it over and over again in Banff. I wish he was able to experience this place with his own eyes, but I know he is able to experience it through mine. I feel nothing but gratitude for my Ikon Pass and the locals of Banff who took me in and showed me their beautiful land and skier’s paradise. I am already looking forward to planning my trip back!

Ready to include Banff National Park in your next Ikon Pass road trip? SkiBig3’s friendly Reservations Team are always happy to share their local knowledge and experience to help you find the best vacation package for your style and budget.  Mountain Collective and Ikon Pass holders are eligible for special lodging discounts. You can reach SkiBig3 vacation planners by calling 1-844-754-2443.

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