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Weather in BC and Alberta in May - driving a rental car


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Hi - we're adding a Rocky Mountaineer train trip after our Celebrity Alaska cruise next May. We are contemplating renting a car in Banff and doing sightseeing on our own for a few days in mid-May, 2023 before driving to the Calgary airport.

 

We lived in Boston for 32 years, so know how to drive in snow, but mountains with snow is a different situation.

 

How are the roads in Alberta in mid-May in general? How much snow? We want to see Lake Louise, the area around Banff and then go to Calgary.

 

If driving ourselves is not a good idea, any suggestions for alternate transportation?

 

If this is not the correct Forum for this discussion, suggestions for alternate sources would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks,

Kay

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There is no way to accurately answer your questions, even if you were asking about next week instead of next year!  The mountains can have quite an effect on the weather conditions east of them.  It is currently quite lovely here in Alberta but we often get a winter storm in mid May.  And then we get the high heat of summer, a day/week later!  It can, and has, snowed every month in Alberta, although it is rarer in June, July and August.

 

Currently, in early May/22, the roads are totally bare and dry or bare and wet for the areas you are wanting to travel.  Check out this website for Alberta road conditions:  https://511.alberta.ca/#:Alerts  Most of the snow will be at the higher levels of the mountains, above the treeline.  But, if a freak snowstorm does occur, it shouldn't last more than a day or two and the snow should melt fairly quickly.  I also think the snow hits Calgary more than the Banff/Canmore area because the moisture tends to fall east of the mountains.

 

So, I would still plan to do what you're planning since no one can predict what the weather will be like.  Does your RM trip include any touring about, like to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper?  If so, some of that will probably be enough.  Lake Louise can be particularly busy and it can be very difficult to find parking so it would be better to do that with RM if possible.  

 

If you have a rail only RM trip, then, yes, definitely rent the car and do your own tour.  You will need a Parks Pass but you can purchase that in Banff.  You might be able to purchase online in advance.  Let me know if you want more info on that; I can research it for you and provide the links.  If you want to do the research yourself, go to the Parks Canada website and search under Banff National Park. 

 

I should advise that rental cars don't usually have winter tires on them.  I don't remove my winter tires until mid May because of the expected freak snowstorms...!

 

Hope that helps, even though I couldn't predict the weather for you.  If you have any other questions, ask away!

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This is a perfectly reasonable plan for mid May.  The roads are in excellent shape and are most likely going to be bare and dry.  You are being careful which is most of the battle.  Mountain weather can be very weird and inconsistent so double check the reports before heading out and follow advice.  Be willing to adjust your plans on the fly.  A snowstorm is not probable, but certainly possible, you don't want to be at altitude when it hits.

 

Even Canadians consider the weather around Calgary a little bizarre at times (it has snowed in August).

 

 

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Your trouble might be finding a rental car, especially in Banff.  Best get on that right away!

 

Also Lake Louise might still have some ice covering it.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/9/2022 at 8:29 AM, Alberta Quilter said:

This is my view this morning, May 9/22:

Oh my! This looks like that mid-May snow you mentioned earlier. It looks very wet and heavy - no fun to shovel.

 

I see that it is 42 and rainy in Juneau today. I wish that Celebrity would offer this 9 night itinerary later in the season!

Edited by MarKay525
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On 5/6/2022 at 1:44 PM, cruiseryyc said:

Your trouble might be finding a rental car, especially in Banff.  Best get on that right away!

 

Also Lake Louise might still have some ice covering it.

Our trip isn't until next year so we should still be OK.

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Thank you for these replies - you gave us a lot to think about!

 

I think, to be on the safe side, I'll start researching companies that provide custom tours so we can see what we want to see while someone else does the driving. Will also look for a livery/black car service to get us from Banff to the Calgary airport area. 

 

I have lots of time to research and it will be fun.

 

Thanks again - Kay

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44 minutes ago, MarKay525 said:

Oh my! This looks like that mid-May snow you mentioned earlier. It looks very wet and heavy - no fun to shovel.

 

I see that it is 42 and rainy in Juneau today. I wish that Celebrity would offer this 9 night itinerary later in the season!

It was VERY wet and heavy but is mostly gone now.  In fact, outside my neighbourhood, the snow is gone.  The roads are bare and dry again.  So, again, I think if it happens this time next year, it will be manageable for you, given you do have experience with driving in snowy conditions.

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