* Prices may differ from that shown
**The nature of this review**
Rather than re-iterate all of the wonderful things to see and do in Banff as 14 other reviews have done beautifully, I thought I would tell you of our activites on a 2 day trip to Banff in case others want to see it all on a tight time schedule. Banff is of course a beautiful town in the Rocky Mountains, just 1 hour away from Calgary airport by car. We visited in the summer of 2011 and had a perfect time. I seriously love the place. It is only small, one main road, less than 50 shops and restaurants but lots of visitors. In techy terms, it is a real "honeypot".
So here we go with essentially what was our trip report which I hope will provide some useful insight to the area and hopefully encourage you all to go and visit!
**Our arrival in Canada**
We arrived at Calgary airport at 2pm local time, it took nearly 2 hours to get out of the airport and clear customs but we finally made it to the rental car desk. The guy on the desk suggested we upgrade the car to at least a "full" size car for driving on the mountain roads and we are glad we did this, our Chevrolet Impala was well worth the small extra bit and with travelling around so much, the space in the boot of the car was brilliant. I would strongly recommend getting a car with at least a bit of power.
**Getting out of Calgary**
Having left the airport with the map firmly in the boot, I soon learnt that there are only a handful of main roads in Canada, and we were not on any of them. We took an unscheduled detour around the suburbs of Calgary (which I recommend not trying at home folks!) before finally finding somewhere safe to stop to retrieve the map. We finally got on the highway and before long, in the distance, the majestic Rockies loomed over us. The drive was so exciting, flat land all around us on three sides, but through the front window, the gateway to our holiday was getting closer and closer. The drive to Banff was approximately one hour and twenty minutes, but it seemed much shorter with the fantastic display of beautiful scenery to gawp at out of the window.
**Getting into Banff National Park**
After passing Canmore and paying our park pass fee (we got an annual pass as it worked out better for us), we turned off for Banff, only to take a right turn at the junction (I found Canadian signposts to be not so clear in some cases) and after 10 or so minutes, I felt we had taken a wrong turn (turns out we were on the Lake Minnewanka loop!), so we headed back to be greeted by the beautiful Banff.
**Hotel in Banff - Magnificent!!**
Our hotel was Hidden Ridge Resort on Tunnel Mountain. I can highly recommend the property, the hot tub with views over Banff and the Rockies were a highlight of our trip. I will do a full review at some point, but if you stay there ask for a room with a view and be prepared that some of the the rooms are quite dark even with all the lights on. I also recommend staying on Tunnel Mountain, it was 5 minutes from Banff in a car and felt so peaceful in comparison to the hustle and bustle of the town. We headed to Bruno's for some food, again I will do a full review but the food was cheap and cheerful, not a fine dining experience, but the staff were friendly and pointed out some good things for us to see and do. I felt like all of the staff in shops, restaurants and hotels really knew their stuff and were more than willing to dig out a map or provide information for tourists, so don't hesitate to ask.
**First full day of activity in Banff - suggestions of itinerary**
We headed to bed early, feeling fairly jetlagged and of course woke up bright and early at around 5am. This 8pm bedtime, 5am wake time would continue for the next 4-5 days and we made the most of the early morning opportunities. The week before we came away the weather wasn't so good in Banff and someone on here told us to make the most of the good weather when you can. I would say that was excellent advice and with that nugget of information safely stowed away, we jumped on the Banff gondola just around 9am. Whilst we were up there, the weather was clear-ish, then in snowed, then it was brilliant sunshine. I learned a saying about Alberta weather "if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes" - mountain weather is extremely changeable and a tragic downpour of rain can be over within minutes (unlike England where it seems set in for 2 weeks). The views from the top were breathtaking, really really stunning. It also helped situate us, as I couldn't quite work out where everything was, given that I had such a clear image in my mind of what Banff would be like, it took a while to break that mould. We stayed at the top of Sulphur Mountain for around 2 hours, there is a cafe up there which is nothing special and a gift shop, but we were just in awe of the entire scene before our eyes. I would also say to anyone a little nervous of the gondola, yet it is high but the ride is incredibly smooth and I felt very safe throughout. By 11am, the peace and quiet at the top of Sulphur mountain was well and truly over and the hoardes of tourists on coaches queuing to go on the gondola made me feel glad we had done it really early.
After this, we headed to the Lake Minnewanka loop as the weather didn't look so great and I always figure that in general lakes and waterfalls look pretty good in the rain anyway so we tried to keep that in mind for variable weather days. We went around Lake Minnewanka, Johnson Lake and Two Jack. It absolutely poured down when we arrived at Two Jack and we had our sandwiches in the car. By the end of the sandwich, it was brilliant sunshine, so the tip about waiting five minutes in Alberta weather really made sense! This area is pretty good for wildlife and on our way out, we spotted what we thought was an elk (but since realise they were mule deer) - it was very exciting seeing these things in the wild. We stopped for a quick photo/video and then went on our way.
At this point, the weather was turning again so we were going to go to Banff Park museum, but by the time we arrived, the weather was so nice we took an unscheduled stroll down the Bow River to Surprise Corner. This is one of the "hiking trails" which is definitely more of an easy, easy walk, and also very pleasant. There are lots of benches to stop at and soaking up the atmosphere of Banff was just a really nice thing to do.
We headed back to Hidden Ridge around 3pm to sit in the hot tub, unable to believe we were in such a gorgeous place. That night we decided to eat in Grizzly's fondue restaurant, again I'll do a full review, whilst it was different, it was very expensive, not at all filling and I can't recommend it, we certainly wouldn't eat there again. Feeling shattered we retired to bed after a busy but exciting 24 hours.
**Second full day of activity in Banff - suggestions of itinerary**
We were up early and headed up Highway 1a to Johnston Canyon which took about 40 minutes. We had high hopes of seeing some good wildlife, as many people in Banff had described it as being one of the best places to see wildlife, we thought it would be a dead cert at 7am, but still, only the mule deer came to see us, nothing more exciting like the bears and wolves and cougars that had seemed so prevalent in the area when people spoke of taking this highway. We were a tad disappointed but got on with our day. Again we arrived at approximately 8.15am and it was busy enough but quiet enough to enjoy it. Again this is a "hike" that isn't so much of a hike, however believing the "hike" to be difficult, we decided to just stroll the first paved part. In flip flops, it wasn't too much fun, I recommend at least trainers as there are some uphill bits to the lower falls, but again, a much easier hike than we anticipated (particularly as we weren't going to do it). The walk was brilliant and pretty easy and the lower falls were very rewarding, had the trainers been on the feets, we would have gone to the upper falls but it seemed ridiculous in flip flops! I would suggest going to the little cafe in the gift shop, it is genuinely vintage and just felt very quaint, we really liked it!
We drove back along Highway 1a, again no wildlife spotted. We headed to Banff Springs Hotel, which is massive and impressive, but after wandering inside, I was heartily unimpressed with what seemed like a theme park castle. The man in one of the shops there told me he thought I wasn't impressed with it because I was used to real castles, which is true I guess, perhaps North Americans are more impressed because they don't see real British castles very often, so with that in mind I guess Banff Springs seemed pretty good to them!
After lunch on a picnic bench overlooking the hotel, we headed to the Hoodoos (another "trail" which is an easy paved walk). Two cougars had recently been sighted there, so we waited ages for more people to walk with us along the path as the "carnivore alert" sign suggested, but no one came so we just went to the first view point by ourselves at it seemed close enough to the car park and we made lots of noise to make ourselves known. The hoodoos were OK and worth a look, but the view over the beautiful Bow River was spectacular from this vantage point. That signed and sealed it for me, I was in love with Banff.
After this we went to the Banff Park Museum full of taxidermy animals, for the $4 it cost to get in it was worth it and filled an hour or so for us. We then wandered down Banff Avenue , disappointed that so many of the shops were full of the same (in most cases tacky) souvenirs. Once you've been in one shop, you've been in most of them! The situation of Banff between Mt Rundle, Sulphur and Cascade was so picturesque, I really loved it.
**2 days vs 2 weeks*
We had originally planned to have another day in Banff (but had to change due to hotel availability in Lake Louise), which we would in hindsight have spent visiting Canmore which is supposed to be lovely and less touristy than Banff (according to some Calgary locals). I would say the 2 days we spent in Banff were enough for us who were keen to see as much as possible and maximise the time we had in each place.
Personally, on reflection, I would now love to chill out and relax in Banff for a week or so. Either in summer or winter, it was one of my favourite places of all in Canada, but the itinerary suggested would be useful for someone trying to maximise their time in the town. We tried to pack as much in as possible, next time, I would try and chill out a bit more!
Also posted as dollydaydream84 on tripadvisor.
I've spent a lot of my life in ski resorts and Banff is by far the best I've come across. In the 4 months I lived there I found there was something for everyone in this beautiful town.
The town of Banff, in Banff National Park, is a real tourist town. Beautiful, secluded and the most amazing scenery I've ever seen. Every morning the mountains took my breath away. Walking through the town, it's like being in a film. Shopping is pretty much limited to gift shops, ski shops and supermarkets. Everything is expensive so if you wanted a day out shopping, a trip over to Calgary is probably the best idea. Out of town malls, Like Cross Iron Mills really provide everything you want.
Eating out in Banff is so easy! Lovely bars and restaurants line the streets, there's such a huge variety with Spanish, British, Italian, Mexican as well as traditional Canadian food on offer. One of the best things about Banff is it's unique nightlife. Bars and clubs to suit every taste, although these tend to be something else that can be a little expensive.
Other things to do in Banff are the brilliant museum, located at the far end of the town, where you can see a huge variety of displays on the history of the area, and my favourites, the amazing local wildlife. (But of course if you don't want to go to the museum, you're bound to see a great range of wildlife wondering around the area!) Sulphur mountain is walking distance from the town, you can take a gondola or hike to the top, and try out the famous hot springs baths. Period style swimwear is available to hire, and always brilliant for a laugh!
Where to Stay
Banff Fairmont Springs is the most beautiful building I have ever seen in my life. A short walk out of town and surrounded by forests, rivers, lakes and of course the mountains, this place is well worth a walk past, even if you don't have the budget to stay there. Hotels, lodges and youth hostels in and around the town can suit every pocket. I would suggest staying a short walk from the town giving you freedom to explore.
When you get to Banff, you're not going to have any idea where you ski. Busses call at loads of stops through the town to take you up to the resorts. The nearest, Norquay, is only a few minutes away. It's a little small for more advanced skiiers and boarders but it has a great snow school as well as offering floodlit night sessions.
About 20 minutes out of town is Sunshine Village. With 1 gondola and 9 chairs, Sunshine consists of 3 mountains; Goats Eye, Lookout and Standish. As well as offering a much wider range of terrain than Norquay, Lookout mountain has a great freestyle terrain park. Sunshine Village reaches over into British Columbia and has some the best offpiste I've ever seen, including the notorious Delirium Dive. The Sunshine Village ski school is one of the friendliest and creative I've ever seen.
Further out of town again is Lake Louise. I don't know too much about LL, as I only rode there a few times. It's brilliant for anyone wanting to see some first class scenery, although due to snow cannons, it does get a little icy.
More adventurous people might want to travel to Kicking Horse. This new resort, about an hour away in BC is not for the faint hearted. Ridges and natural terrain parks making this a challenging and beautiful resort. Kicking Horse also has it's very own bear sanctuary! Early spring is a great time to visit, I managed to see a few on the bears off the the ski lift as they were coming out of hibernation!
Lift passes for Banff are available for either the tri-mountain area (norquay, sunshine and LL) or any one of those three. Kicking Horse packages are available from agents in the town. If you were only going to get one pass, I'd make it sunshine.
Banff in Alberta, Canada is set in the heart of the Banff National Park, surrounded with the Rocky Mountains, some of which are Sulphur mountains, Mount Rundle, Mount Norquay and Cascade Mountain. It is popular both summer and winter, and some of the hotels make provision for storing skis and snowboards. There are many restaurants with all tastes catered for, and for those who haven't tired themselves out touring the surrounding countryside there are nightclubs too. About 90 miles from Calgary, it is a popular stopping off point for people touring the Rockies. At 1,463 m or 4,800 ft, it is the town with the highest elevation in Canada. The railway also stops in Banff and people can travel by train from Calgary or on through the Rockies.
The temperature varies a great deal in July it was quite warm and I got sunburned, in December it is -21, I checked a few minutes ago!
The Bow valley Parkway or Highway 1A is a more scenic route to the TransCanada Highway, between Banff and Lake Louise.
There are lots of shops encouraging you to spend your dollars, tempting fudges, warm clothing for exploring the mountains, sports equipment, designer bags and cases. Loads of shops selling postcards, touristy presents and a shop of Christmas items.
But not everyone likes shopping so you can learn more about the area by visiting a museum or several museums. These days most things are expensive but at the Heritage Hall you can discover all about the western mountains and the Banff Springs.
Across the Bow River from the town is the Banff Park National Historic site, with displays of birds and mammals, it is an elegant building but there is a small charge here. There are several other museums in and around the town, one about the buffalo and native people and another about local caves and springs and how the National park was created.
Across the bridge from the town is a lovely garden called the Cascade gardens, there are pools, water features and some beautiful flower gardens. We stopped here briefly before heading just out of Banff to Surprise corner where we climbed up to the viewpoint to look across the Bow River to Banff Springs and the large hotel built there. Further on we left the coach and climbed up a little way to see the Hoodoos, unusual shaped spires, carved by the forces of water and wind. Here we saw a wedding and listened to the haunting sound of bagpipes, with the piper in full Highland Dress - yes we had travelled from Scotland to Canada and felt we were at home!
I love looking at water, although don't ask me to swim in it, and we weren't disappointed with the beautiful Lakes and waterfalls and rivers near Banff. We stopped at Two Jack Lake which is near Lake Minnewanka, a glacial lake. The peaceful scenery was stunning, and a few little Columbian ground squirrels played around near us, hoping for titbits.
To get an overall view of the countryside around Banff then a trip on the Gondola is a must. Just five minutes ride from the centre the Gondola ride is not for people afraid of heights. There are often queues at the ticket desk, but we soon climbed into the four seater gondola and found ourselves being transported up to the summit of Sulphur mountain, 2.281 feet above sea level. Once at the upper level you can get a 360 degree view, have a snack or a meal in the restaurant, buy gifts from the shop or do the boardwalk to Samson's peak just 1km up to the first meteorologist station in the area. Walking back down is an option if you find the gondola ride too hair -raising but the path zigzags it's way down hill and it over 5km! The eight minute ride costs $26 for adults and $13 for children, under 5's go free.
There is a row of hotels leading up to the town, and so you can choose where you want to stay, from high class hotels to motels and hostels. There are also lots of places to eat, again from high class to the hamburger bar or sandwich bar. In the one shopping centre there were several places to buy your food and then sit in the communal eating area. You can eat Asian, Greek, Italian, Mexican, Swiss, German, French and Steaks, a very good and varied choice.
I loved Banff and the area around it but I will never forget our stay at Lake Louise, in Banff National park, about 35 miles west of Banff. We stayed at the Chateau on the edge of Lake Louise and experienced a storm when the lake turned rough, then it returned to its peaceful beauty when the sun came out. We also heard the glacier calving, which sounds like thunder. Lake Louise is described as Canada's Diamond in the Wilderness, a place to explore with guides, popular both in summer and winter. Glaciers, waterfalls, beautiful lakes, amazing scenery when we left Lake Louise behind it was a long way along the highway before another town, about a 3 hour journey to Jasper, the wilderness is the right name for this hauntingly beautiful lonely place.
We travelled with the Rockie Mountaineer coach as we explored the Rockies towards Jasper where we went by train to Vancouver. The hotels we stopped at en route have been reviewed separately, and this review will also be Ciao where I hope to add photos too if you are interested.
Banff Winter 2008
First of all Accomodation
We stayed at Banff Avenue Inn.
During the winter season the hotel is taken over and run by Crystal Ski and what a great job they make of it.
The hotel is very clean, the rooms are massive and the Jacuzzi is great after a days skiing.
Breakfast is a buffet of cold meat, pastries and breads and each day a hot breakfast is offered.
Afternoon tea is a selection of cheese, olives and cold meat with a choice of at least two cakes with as much tea and coffee as you can drink.
The evening meal is two sittings 18:30 or 20.00hrs. You choose at breakfast which sitting you would like. You also have a choice of two starters and two main courses each day. These are not run of the mill meals but fresh fish, quality meats and something different each day. They are happy to cater for vegetarians and others with particular requirements.
The staff are great and bend over backwards to help.
Ski lockers are very handy in the underground car park and the ski bus stops nearly outside.
The main shopping, eating and drinking places are 5 min stroll down the road.
We will be going back soon.
Next Banff town.
The town is small very friendly and excellent value.
Plenty of shops, places to eat and drink and all at good prices.
The people are so nice and friendly without being over the top.
Great great great.
Sunshine is masive great lifts no queues great runs and snow.
Lake Louise is a bit further away and a little less snow but gives more tree lines runs and a different outlook on the Rockies
If you like skiing you really cannot go wrong with Banff. There are runs to suit all sorts from the steep and the scary to the long easy and wide. Each day you are guaranteed to find freshly groomed pristine pistes . The only thing to remember is if you are going in January/ February take some quality kit and wrap up warm. It is bitterly cold due to the winds that whip over the continental divide - They really are strength sapping (but not to put you off they dont blow all the time). There is no good or bad time to go during the ski season which runs from November till May (However Mt Norquay the closet mountain to the town does not open till December the 10th) as the snow is always abundant and sure. If you go in April/May take lighter clothes for the town as you will be blessed with some gloriously worm spring weather that the normal ski gear will have you melting in.
Open to Dec.21, 05 Dec 22, 05 to Jan 4, 06 Jan 5 to April 1, 06
/April 2, 06 to Season Close
3 out of 4 Days $195.00 $207.00 $204.00
4 out of 5 Days $260.00 $276.00 $272.00
5 out of 7 Days $325.00 $345.00 $340.00
6 out of 8 Days $390.00 $414.00 $408.00
7 out of 9 Days $448.00 $476.00 $469.00
8 out of 11 Days $504.00 $536.00 $528.00
9 out of 12 Days $558.00 $594.00 $585.00
EXTRA Days $62.00/day $66.00/day $65.00/day
During the skiing season your tri area lift pass provides you with free transport to the three mountains on the pass. Norqway 10 mins from the town. Sunshine 20 mins away(my favourite) and Lake Louise about 40 mins away. The tri area lift pass is excellent value for money but my advise if you are going for 14 days is to buy a ten day pass. Then you can spend some time visiting local attractions- after all its a long way to go just to ski
Banff is about an hours transfer from Calgary slightly more if you are one of the hotels ant the end of the drop off (Inns of Banff is always the first and Rimmrock and Chateau are last - who says money can buy you everything!!).
Should you wish to there are other ski areas not included in the lift pass all within half a days travelling from Banff these are
You will be able to book trips to these resorts through your hotels or several of the sightseeing companies within the town -But if you have your own transport then you can drive and make the most of the stunning scenery along the way
Good reasonable hotels are bountiful -They all will deal with you individually ,so if you want to try booking without a ski company go for it or buy your flight from one of the ski companies (they really do get the cheapest flights or you can also try Zoom for cheap flights) and call the hotel to see if they will do you a deal- they often do. Carlton cedar court is great a real feeling of style on a reasonable tariff - Banff Inn is a family run hotel that goes out of its way to help- nice rooms - nice bar - so hot tub, give the breakfast a miss on some days and go next door to the local dinner (pancakes to die for). Inn of Banff is a large international hotel but prides itself on its price and service. I have stayed there twice and would recommend it every time. The outdoor hot tub is amazing and the views from it are spectacular. Plus it is the very first building you come to as you enter the town. The only downside is it is a good 15 min walk into town although there is a free shuttle bus or pay as you ride trolley bus that picks up and drops of all over the town.
For really cheap accommodation there are even two hostels although space can be limited peak season due to the backpackers staying. But that adds to the enjoyment as you meet people from all over the.
world. I just thought I would add here that the Voyager Inn would also fall into the cheep category if you are staying there do not expect luxury it really is very standard- probably low standard compared to the rest of choice on offer in Banff (The prices in all of the brochures do not seem to take this into account - You will be paying the same as if you were staying in a better hotel)
EATING OUT & DRINKING
Alberta is famous for its beef and you cant go wrong with any of the beef dishes- Personally I would recommend the Albert beef melt it chunky beef and cheese sandwich that you dip in gravy- full of carbs great when youve had a hard day skiing. But heres a few restaurants to give you an idea of whats available
Melissa upstairs bars - Good home cooking (cracking breakfast menu)
Brunos bar and grill - Lots of meat but good choice of other options
Wild Bills - Excellent menu choice - regular life music
Magpie stump - Mexican
St James gate (Irish pub ) - Good pub fare and huge choice of beer (live music)
Rose and Crown - Good food - Good beer - Good Music
Bumpers Beef house - Name says it all (bit out of town good position for First hotels ie,Voyager and Inns of Banff)
Salt lik - Steaks
The Keg - Steaks
Pad Thai - Very small Thai restaurant in the clock house mall - The food was phenomenal go there it is a must (also possibly the cheapest restaurant in Banff)
Typhoon -The other Thai restaurant - good food - bit on the expensive side
Silver dragon - Chinese restaurant - great food - does take out
There are loads more but then I would be typing for ever. This is just to give you an idea.
I would really recommended this destination as an ideal skiing holiday whether you want to learn or can already ski it has something for everyone. Do take the opportunity to go on excursions offered as it is a long way to go and not see something of what this amazing place has to offer. A one week break is not enough really I would recommend two weeks at least.
Sunshine Village is located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and only minutes from Banff, Canada. It touts itself as being "The Premier Ski and Snowboard Resort" and I think they are right.
WHERE IS SUNSHINE VILLAGE?
Sunshine Village is located just 15 minutes from Banff in the Canadian Rockies. The nearest airport is Calgary International, served by direct flights from around the world. We took a direct flight from Manchester to Calgary. Banff is about 1½ hours from Calgary on a well maintained four lane highway. If it is day light when you arrive, you get to see some spectacular views!
WHAT ARE THE MOUNTAIN STATS?
There is 3,358 acres of Skiable Terrain!. The top Elevation is 8,954 feet / 2730m with a base Elevation of 5,440 feet / 1660m! Total Vertical is 3,514 feet / 1070m. The average annual snowfall is up to 33 feet / 9m. While we were there it was about half that and only on one occasion did I see a small bare spot on a piste. Also, out of the 10 days we were there, there was only 1 day that we didn't have fresh powder!! Lift Capacity is 20,000 people/hr . We were there during the VERY busy time between Christmas and New Year and the longest we ever had to wait for the gondola to go up the mountain was 15 minutes and it was a virtual sea of people!! Lift time was even less! The longest I waited for a lift was about 5 minutes on the 30th of December! There are 107 named runs spreading out over 3 mountains and 2 provinces. The terrain is broken down into 20% beginner, 55% intermediate, 25% expert.
1 high speed 8 passenger gondola
5 high speed quad chairs
2 quad chairs
1 triple chair
1 double chair
2 magic carpets
The season length is from Mid November to late May . They say in April and May many people actually ski in their swimwear!!
It can get VERY cold! On the last day of our ski it got to below -30!! Unfortunately, I just couldn't take that cold and we only skied for 3 hours on that day with A LOT of warm up breaks!! However, it averaged between -8 to -15 on the other days and if you dress in layers (I had 4), then you won't find it that cold most of the time. The coldest times are always the lifts and expecially if you decide to ski above the Alpine line.
WHAT ABOUT SKI SCHOOL?
My better half has been skiing most of his life as had my in-laws who came with us. I had learned to ski in the Real Snow indoor slope at Castleford called Xscape (I have a review also on this.). Though I knew the basics, I felt I should take some skiing lessons there. There are several options.
Discover Skiing / Discover Snowboarding- about 4 hours at about £65 per day
Daily Group Workshops - Learn to Ski or Ride- about 4 hours at about £60 per day.
Performance Group Workshops - Improve Your Skiing or Riding- about 4 hours at about £70 per day.
Private Lessons ranging from 2 to 6 hours at about £125 to £250 per lesson.
I choose the Private lessons. In the private lessons the cost includes from 1 to 5 people and is a VERY good option for a group of adults of similar ability. However, I did this on my own and was VERY satisfied. Because I was a private lesson, I got special treatment and got on lifts from the front of the que and had one on one attention from an amazing instructor. After assessing that I could do basic skiing, the instructor took me straight to the slopes and by the end of the lessons I had done more than 5 runs and felt very comfortable and confident on the skis. I didn't take any other lessons and withing 2 days I was skiing from the top of the mountain all the way to the base sight at the bottom!!
There is also various Children programmes and clubs that help to make the experience of families more enjoyable. The children really amaze me with their fearlessness and their ability to pick it up so quickly. From the top of the mountains they follow their instructors like little ducks in a line. AMAZING!!! They are extremely well supervised and a close eye is kept of the children by EVERYONE at Sunshine. My own ski instructor stopped and thought she saw a lost child. The child was not lost but I thought that is was good policy. Packages range from £25 to £40 per day with exceptional packages for longer stays.
If you stay in Banff, there are MANY places to rent ski equipment from ski boots, skis and poles to ski jackets and pants. However, there is a ski rental place at the base of Sunshine that has rates that are very similar to the ones in Banff. A complete package of ski gear will cost you about £65 for 6 days for an adult and £50 for 6 days for a child.
Lift passes are about £140 per adult and £ 100 per child for a 5 day lift pass. You can get group rate passes with a tour company. This is what we did. We got a 6 day lift pass for £130 and this gave us free access to a bus service that ran between Sunshine and Banff. This was exceptional value since the bus cost about £6 per day if you pay for it individually. The shuttle bus runs about every 1/2 hour all morning taking people to Sunshine and about every 1/2 hour in the afternoon taking people back to Banff. We never had any problems with the shuttle. If a shuttle fills up there is another bus waiting to take the remaining people! We were always able to time ourselves to leave the top of the mountain to be able to get to base, have a warming drink before getting on the bus. The trip only takes about 20- 30 minutes depending on which hotel you are staying in.
FOOD and DRINK?
There are 9 places to get food and drink. Cost for a large oatmeal cookie and a coke cost about £3. Once we got 2 hotdogs, chips and a large drink and that cost us £10. Food is not cheap on the mountain. However, we had said we could spend £20 a day on food on the mountain (2 people) and we never spent it all. Too much mountain to ski!!!
Sunshine offers FREE daily tours. Twice a day the Snowhosts give free tours of the mountain. These relaxed and informative tours are perfect to help intermediate skiers or riders here for the first time to find their way around our network of 12 lifts and provide a fun way for to explore different parts of our ski area with a group of skiers and riders. I did not take a tour. However, my in-laws have on several occasions and have said they are EXCELLENT!
We stayed at a hotel in Banff. However, there is Sunshine Inn at the resort. 6 nights will cost about £350 to £450 per person. It is a ski in/ski out hotel. The rooms have wonderful views!!
WHAT TO BRING/WEAR?
You want to ensure a fun first day on the slope so it is wise to plan ahead. Make sure you have clothing that will keep you warm and dry as well as equipment that fits properly.
Layering is the concept of dressing in a way that allows you to adjust to a wide range of conditions. Dress in layers, instead of one bulky "do everything" garment. As the ski day warms up it is easy to shed layers. This definately worked for me and I didn't complain about the cold until the last day when it got below -30!!!
- Polypropylene underwear, top and bottom, synthetic materials help to keep moisture away from your skin, unlike cotton. Experts recommend that you do not wear cotton as an inner layer and I agree. The cotton holds in the dampness. Never once did I feel wet or sweaty even after a very long and warming run!
- Warm, dry socks, one pair at a time only - no cotton
- Turtleneck, sweater
- Jacket/Parka & Pants (Snow/Water Resistant)
- Hat, 60% of heat-loss is through the head!
- Neck Warmer, do not wear a scarf, it could get caught on lift equipment! THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!
- Water proof Gloves/Mittens - mittens are the warmest. However, I find them harder to hold my poles!
- Goggles, strongly recommended on cold or snowy days for warmth and increased visibility. Invest in a GOOD pair. My first pair was not of the best quality and kept freezing over. I ended up buying a new pair on the mountain!
- Sunglasses, the sun is 40% stronger at this altitude, plus glare from snow
- Lip Balm, Sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher
- Snack, Fruit, Energy Bar and Water - stay hydrated to help with altitude acclimation
- ID, Wallet, Cash
- Skis, boots and poles or snowboard and snowboard specific boots
- My suggestion is to invest into a good pair of boots before you go skiing for the first time. Where them around the house A LOT to start bedding them in to fit your foot. My feet NEVER hurt during the time I was there skiing and on many days my feet remained in these boots from 8 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon- 8 hours!!
Follow the sun- starting out on Wawa, Standish, or Strawberry for early morning sun, then on to Divide, Angel, Tee Pee Town or Goat's Eye for great afternoon rays.
Snowing Heavily- Stay below the Alpine line. Most of these are green runs, but the trees help shelter from the falling snow. The top of the mountain can be blinding at times!
Sunshine Village is 100% REAL SNOW!!! They don't have any snow cannons and the pistes are very well maintained. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful. The runs are fantastic and very well maintained. It is a place I will definately go back to!
After 5 years of persuasion I eventually talked my partner into going skiing. We decided to opt for a fairly last minute deal and started price watching the ski holidays in the internet and on teletext. Near the end of January 2003 a deal appeared on the teletext website offering a price of £299 per person for a week room only accommodation in Banff, Canada. We phoned the number straight away and was surprised when someone actually answered (as it we 11pm!). The price was correct so we booked there and then. The price included return flights to Calgary and return coach transportation from Calgary airport to our hotel in Banff. The reason we were looking into ski holidays in Canada and America were... I have skiing in Europe and America before and have also taught skiing for many years and this was to be my partners first time. The Canadian and American ski areas are a lot quieter than those of Europe and so it is more relaxed when out and about in the mountains. As it had taken me so long to persuade her to try skiing I did not want her first impression to be that of busy mountain side and long disorganised queues at the lifts. I also personally feel as that the Canadian and American après-ski has more atmosphere than that of Europe's so all round the experience should be better. We flew from Manchester with 'My Travel' as the holiday, even though booked though teletext was with them. The plane was terrible! It was a very old DC-10 that looked as though in inside had, had a quick coat of white emulsion to brighten it up a bit, there was very little room in the seats (hence most people were actually standing for most of the flight), the in-flight entertainment didn't work and we had to stop off for refuelling in Northern Nova-Scotia for an hour as the plane could not hold enough fuel for the 8 hour flight! Eventually we landed in Calgary a quick process though immigration and collection o
f our luggage, then straight outside to were we met the rep who pointed us into the direction of the coach. The journey from Calgary to Banff is about an hour or so though some very stunning scenery. We had our hotel allocated to us on arrival and we had been told by the rep that it was to be Bumpers Inn, this was the coaches first stop. Bumpers Inn is a smallish Inn, styled in typical Canadian fashion. The room was surprisingly spacious with a good sized bathroom and sufficient facilities. Across the parking lot is a petrol station with a Dominoes Pizza take away attached and right next to Bumpers Inn is the famous Bumpers Steak House. From Bumpers it is a flat 20 minute walk into the centre of Banff. Along the way, there are all the other hotels, the majority of which have their own restaurants which are open to anyone. A word of warning! Canada is cold. The week before we went out around the 22nd March 2003 the temperature was down to -25 degrees Celsius. However when we went it had risen up to -10. The first day we set off walking to the town centre, there were clear skies, no wind and it was about 10am. I had on a thermal t-shirt, a long sleeved t-shirt and a thick polar fleece jacket, I walked across the parking lot and turned right, around the corner onto the main street, I made it about 5 minutes before turning back quickly for my Gore-Tex over jacket. Don?t be put off by this, as you soon acclimatise after a day or so. In the centre of Banff there are many shops selling touristy things as well as many clothes and sport shops selling well priced ski equipment, again there are also many restaurants and bars here. From Banff the ski areas of Sunshine, Mt Norquay and Lake Louise are easily accessible by coaches that run frequently to these areas. Mt Norquay is the nearest and is only about 15 minutes ride away. A day's lift ticket here costs about $50 Canadian Dollars which is about £20 sterling.
One thing to bear in mind here is that it is much colder then Europe and the runs tend to be steeper. The 'trail' (piste) grading system is also different escalating from Green - easy, Blue - intermediate, Black Diamond - Advanced to Double Black Diamond - Mad! I state this because of my first impression of the nursery slope just outside the eating area. I am used to these in Europe being almost flat and this was nothing near flat! However myself, undeterred by this, and after telling my partner that it's quite normal for nursery slope to be like this and the steeper the slope the easier it is to learn. She was happily going up and down the Magic Carpet Lift and beginners slope on her own by the end of the first day from my tuition. While there we managed to get in two days skiing at Mt Norquay as we had booked trips to see some of the area and to go dog sledging. We now wish we had not done the trips (although they were really good) and had done more days skiing. While my partner was up and down on the Magic Carpet I went off to ski the rest of Mt Norquay. Once I was on the 3rd chair lift way from the eating area I had the trails to myself, the only people I saw was the lift attendant at the bottom and top of chair 3 and 3 skiers who always seemed to be just studying the trail map at the top of this lift. There are not particularly many runs here and they are not too long in length, however they are very varied and with it being so quiet I was able to ski down these as fast as I wanted and also able to tackle the near vertical slopes in peace and quiet and with no audience! We do wish we had skied more and we also wish we had gone for longer, although don't be put off by the distance compared to Europe, as it is nothing compared to Europe and is easily worth the little bit of extra travelling (even just for a week). Once you have experienced somewhere as perfect as Banff you will wonder what tempted you with Europe in
the first place! We are getting married in April next year (2004) in Mauritius and so we are strapped for cash due to saving for this, however we will be making sure that we get at least a weeks skiing in, in Banff before then. A wise man is famous for saying "If you don't ski Banff this year you'll only be one year older when you do" - Warren Miller. Other Info... Steaks - Banff and Alberta itself are famous of Alberta Steak, several places in Banff sell Alberta Steak, most famously Bumpers Beef House and Bar. Here they sell all sizes and styles of steak cooked perfectly to your liking. However if you are used to eating 8oz steaks over here and you order the equivalent over there expect a lot more, mine on every occasion must have been nearer 12oz unless they have always sold me short over here! The steaks also come with hardly any fat on them, which is also a bonus. If out drinking in a bar at night and you get a bit wrecked 'don't walk back to your hotel' get a taxi, as apparently the police like picking people up who have had to much and cart them off the the drunk tank which is supposed tobe a concrete room with a concrete bed for you to sober up all night in. The Canadian are really frienly people and this really adds to your enjoyment of being there. They all seem really happy all the time (not supprise, i would be if i live there!) and they have always got time to talk to you. This is really good if out on the slopes and you need the chair lifts slowing down for you, just ask they will almost stop it for you to sit on. Try the Irish Bar just round the corner from the Mall, good food, good atmosphere and good prices. Useful Web Sites - http://www.bumpersinn.com/ - Where we stayed http://www.bumpersinn.com/beefhouse.htm - Next door, great food! http://www.skibig3.com ? Check out info at the 3 main resorts before you go
Banff is right in the center of Banff National park, which was Canada's first national park, in the Rocky Mountain state of Alberta. It is surrounded by some of the most spectacular and rugged mountain scenery in the world, including glaciers, ice fields, snow-covered peaks, crystal clear lakes and raging rivers. Banff has everything for all types of visitors, the snow capped Rocky Mountains are some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. I have visited Banff on a number of occasions since 1997 and have had a really enjoyable skiing holiday. It is best to avoid early season as the temperatures can be very cold (as much as minus 30C), better to visit later in the season, for instance during March. The main hotels are mostly situated on the main road and a short bus trip form infront of your Hotel will take you to one of the nearby ski areas of Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village or Lake Louise. During the evening the town is very lively, with many bars full of skiers, my favourite place to eat, the Hard Rock cafe is (June 2000) sadly closed :-). Prices in town were not so expensive when I visited, try the Hudsons Bay Company for cheap CK, Levis jeans etc, or if you fancy a 'day off' skiing then I suggest that you take a bus to Calgary and try the shops there where you can find a great selection of shops. Oh and don't forget to get a form to claim your tax (GST) back on any purchases that you make out there. Our favourite is ski area Sunshine Village (www.skibanff.com) and the bus only takes 20 minutes or so to reach the bottom of the gondola station. Sunshine has a great mix of slopes for all abilities and a very long (and reasonably easy) run back down to the car park if you don't fancy taking the gondola down at the end of the day. If you are new to the area and are learing to ski then I suggest that you try Club Ski www.skibanfflakelouise.com/html/skiing/club_ski.html which last for 3 days starti
ng on a Monday and a Thursday, it visits Lake Louise, Sunshine and Marmot on consecutive days and is a great way to get to know the 3 main ski areas.
I stayed in the Banff Springs hotel over Christmas and the New Year with my family on a skiing holiday. The flight to Calgary lasts about 8 1/2 hours but the only company that fly direct from England are Air Canada, which costs 700 pounds per person. The bus to Banff takes just over 1 3/4 hours and if you go without a tour operator, as we did, I would recommend the Banff Airporter service. The skiing in Banff is terriic, with a reputation for good snow and late skiing, although having to take a bus to each of the ski resorts is a bit of a hassle - especially to Lake Louise which is 3/4 of an hour away in the coach. The buses are very regular to be fair and run every half an hour or so and are always on time. The drive to Sunshine and Lake Louise is very scenic. For beginners I would recommend going to Lake Louise because the slopes are wide and narrow and there is a green run down from the top of every chair in the resort. Sunshine has less skiing for beginners and the third resort, Mount Norquay, is just one steep mountain. For more advanced skiiers, the blues and blacks of Sunshine are terrific and Goats Eye Mountain at Sunshine is great. The toughest runs can be found at the Back bowls of Lake Louise and there is some good off piste and powder skiing to be found there. Overall, Lake Louise is by far the biggest resort and Mount Norquay (which is only 5 minutes away from Banff) is the smallest. Sunshine, at 20 minutes away and being a good size is the best compromise of size and distance. Banff itself is great and the Banff Springs was very good. I will soon be writing a review about the town itself and the hotels.
First the accommodation: ------------------------ I stayed in the Crystal Club Hotel: Banff Avenue Inn. I wanted to book a basic room but noticed the Premier Suite prices were the same, so grabbed the chance. This gave: More spacious room; Two Queen "sleigh" beds (never tried a Queen size before - did not notice any size difference from my own King size); Comfy sofa and armchairs; Telephone (local calls are free from public phones, so I didn't use the hotel one.); TV - all those channels... there's always something on. Mondays offer "dinner and a movie" feature, with two classic films on a theme (e.g., Tom Hanks) and humourous repartee between cooking hosts; Fantastic gas fireplace (switched on by flicking what I initially thought was a light switch! - I want one!); Jacuzzi bath in main room (you can just about see the TV, but the room is large, and it's a long way away!). Separate shower room with WC and sink. I was slightly disappointed in the amount and range of food provided in Crystal's Club Hotel (not as good as in Europe, in my experience). Next Banff town and Calgary: ---------------------------- Banff town is very commercialized, with many gift shops all selling the same type of thing. Prices are reasonable if you are used to UK prices, but I want to buy a stetson style hat, and noticed that the quality/price/choice combination was vastly better in Calgary. Took a greyhound to Calgary (about £20 per person, about 2 hours journey, with stops, so you can see non-touristy towns). Then I took the free bus from the bus station to the city's rail line, which is also free as long as you stay in the Downtown zone (luckily this is where the shopping malls are). Got off a few stops down at TD's mall - huge! Lots of interconnected buildings with enclosed interconnecting walkways. After the intense
cold outside, it is at first a relief to be in the warmth, but a couple of hours shopping makes it a relief to cool off outside (strangely, because I like being warm). Lammle's western outfitter is a good place to stop for your souvenirs - a lady originally from Edinburgh can fill you in on hat facts, lore, etiquette, and maintenance, and the hat prices were half those in Banff, for better quality. After my first substantial purchase, I was given a Canadian dollar $25 (about £12) discount voucher for my next $100 (about £50) purchase. One thing that grabbed my attention is the politeness, friendliness and eagerness to help of the people, even in Calgary. The way the locals speak is pleasant, and I was not the only person to be reminded by them of the film Fargo. There are also lots of foreign workers, especially Oz/NZ, there for the season or longer. For sightseeing in Banff town, just take a stroll off the main drag around town, or go up the Sulphur mountain gondola (beware when walking around here: there are cougars around!). The Bow Falls are beautiful, and you can cut through the forest from there, up the hill, along a trail, to get to the stunning Banff Springs Hotel - their cafe/shop serves welcome hot drinks! Next, the ski areas! -------------------- Well, before I skied here I called myself an intermediate intermediate. However, after being viciously wiped out by a snowboarder, and encountering a couple of cliff-steep green runs, I would say I was set back a little! Superlatives abound, as I expected. It is large, varied, pretty, cold. The first week I was there, the slopes were deep in powder, more than I have ever experienced - like a feather bed! In Sunshine Village resort, it was impossible to make a snowball, as the snow remained powdery in the cold. These cold exposed conditions made Sunshine difficult, despite the beautiful terrain, and wide "pistes" (if they can
be called that, because pisting machines were rarely seen - the slopes were usually left "au naturel"). As the snow started to pack down, conditions became a bit more like Trois Vallees in France, at its best! Lake Louise is suposed to be more distant than Sunshine, but I skied most there - the ski passes included bus travel, and the buses were comfy, warm, spacious enough, and assistants helped with loading ski/board gear into the luggage hold. Once you get there, the conditions seem slightly milder than Sunshine, and the "backside" is a great favourite in the morning - a big safe playground generally, with opportunities to rev things up a bit if you want, by taking shortcuts down the fall line... Sadly I left Norquay (pronounced "NOR KWAY" ) until my last ski day - compares well with many European resorts, in terms of snow conditions, variety, range, lift-type. Being only ten minutes drive from the town and you're on the slopes, it's bound to be popular, but it deserves greater respect. The food! ----------------- Never had a disappointing experience while dining out. I was very impressed - prices compared well to UK, better in some cases, and it always pays to take local advice, which I did. Try the diner on Banff Avenue for fast & friendly, cheap large portions, and go for the endless coffee at $1.50 (ish). Coyote Cafe on a side street is full of knowing locals, and a stream of surprised "Mmmm" noises - "how can chicken taste this good?" More to the point, "what is that crap I've been eating all these years?" Try anything! Smoked chicken pizza, and the burger are excellent. Giorgio's was also highly recommended, and the minestrone soup starter was more like a beautiful vegetarian stew. The spinach cannelloni main meal was perfect, and I left fit to burst. For maximum pleasure, order two different start
ers and two main meals, then share everything with a friend, because the portions are so large you probably won't finish everything, and you'll want to try it all! I also took the obligatory sightseeing trip to Chateau Lake Louise, walked on the frozen lake, and admired the carved ice castle on the lake (wish I could return Jan/Feb to see the fruits of the ice carving competition). The Chateau hotel is mainly recently built, but incorporates a much older building, and its historic feel. It is worth a visit, I feel, on a rest day from the slopes. They serve good takeaway coffee and hot chocolate inside, near an exit door that leads onto the lake, much in demand when you return inside after admiring the scenic location. There are a few seating areas to sit and sip while defrosting! There are a few places to get food, but I tried and recommend the "pub" in the chateau for huge burger and fries - about $15. They offer a limited menu of finely prepared food, which was priced quite reasonably considering the surroundings. Finally: -------- The constant theme is the cold - wearing enough layers of clothes and a good jacket, plus covering up extremities is top priority in temperatures from -7 degrees to -30 degrees and lower. A full face mask or balaclava might be a good idea, even if you are used to skiing with just a headband in Europe! Sleigh rides on the frozen Bow river in Banff are not boring! They can be quite exciting when you see the water flowing beneath eighteen inches of ice, and see cracks in the ice. Even better when you are in a ten-person sleigh pulled by two cart horses, and HEAR the ice crack from one side of the sleigh to the other... Ski-mobiling (I took a day trip to Golden in YoHo National Park) may be fairly costly ($200 per person approx, including coach transfer from Banff) but worth it for the experience - in untainted forest, climbing an icy/snowy mountain on a
powerful vehicle, iced trees, sheer drops, feeding wild birds perched on your hand. They prepared a barbie for our group of 15 or so in the middle on nowhere, up a mountain, and set us off on various ski-mobile circuits, telling us to go faster - a really good laugh! There's lots for the non-skier in Banff, which is more than can be said for some European resorts, and considering the price, I'd say that you're getting equal or better value for money (I paid about £1700 for two people for two weeks). The journey from UK is hell, despite the larger legroom on Air Canada than Monarch (etc) charters, and the best efforts of the "no-nonsense" Air Canada cabin staff. I think that is the main reason I won't be making this an annual trip. However, I'm glad I did it - at least once in my lifetime! Postscript: ----------- Sadly, on the return journey I was forced to eat at a Road Chef or something like that - what a disappointment compared to even a Canadian diner! People, we need to complain more! How else will standards compete in UK? No, I didn't complain to Road Chef - 30 hours - no sleep - too tired! Sorry!
I was in need of a serious vacation and a friend had told me about this national park in Canada filled with beauty.I hopped onto the internet and found out all the information on the park. Banff has lots of great spots that are spectacular to camp in.There are lots of cabins looking out onto Banff's many lakes,surrounded by nature these serene and secluded area are by far the best to take a relaxing trip to.If you are one of the people who would rather stay in a hotel instead of roughing it there are tons of four star hotels in the Banff region. After kicking off your shoes and having a peaceful sleep in your bed you are going to need breakfast.Only steps away from most of the hotels are quite a few restaurants that serve great food at reasonable prices. Once you have eaten you are going to want something to do.I suggest taken in the views from some good look-out spots.Then after you have found a spot it is time to whip out the picnic and eat lunch as the wildlife walk by as if you are not even there. Although this part of Canada is wonderful,not every thing is free.If you want to spend a week-end here and see everything expect to pay a fair amount. Banff really shows you the beauty that is in Canada's national parks and why it is such a prime vacationing location.Even if you are with the family of just by yourself you will be truly amazed by the breath taking scenery.
I had the fortune to live in Calgary for two years, and for both ski seasons bought seasons passes for Sunshine Village, nr Banff. So what made me go back? Firstly, the resort offers superb value for money, both for day skiers and season pass holders. There is a huge amount of terrain with a total of 91 runs and 12 lifts. The terrain is widely varied with something to suit everyone, nice gentle blues and a gentle skiout through the trees through to Delirium Dive for the experts (note. to go on Delirium you must have an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and partner, there is a gate at the top which will only open when you put your transceiver by it). Sunshine is 100% natural snow, and there´s normally a lot of it, can we say "powder"!! Although 2000 got off to a slow start. There are 5 high speed quad chairs so there is hardly any queuing or lineups as Canadians might say! And for the snowboarders, this year all the hire boards feature stepin bindings. The staff at Sunshine and most Canadian resorts for that matter are friendly and helpful. With the pound to dollar exchange rate, you´ll find your cash goes a long way. Downsides: At weekends there can be queues for the Gondola up which are a pain, and there could be better daylodge facilities. It should be noted that Sunshine want to improve both of these (new/improved gondola and new permanent daylodge on Goats Eye mountain) but hardly any ski resorts in Canada are able to get development permits to do any work.
During the last week of November 2000 we were lucky enough to get over to Canada for a weeks skiing. I’ll try to say a bit about the whole trip rather than just the skiing, so please bear with me. We flew from Heathrow to Calgary, Alberta on an Air Canada Flight. This was the first of five Air Canada flights on the trip, and I would fly with them again. The employees all do their very best for you and never stopped running around. The only criticisms I could find about Air Canada is they seemed a bit poorly organised and didn’t give you enough food. On one of the flights they had to return from the runway before take-odd to check if the all of the bags were loaded. When we arrived in Calgary we hired a car from Alamo, who were cheapest. I’d priced this using a website with the URL www.bnm.com They give comparisons between the main rental companies at most major airports. It cost about 145 ukp for 6 days hire of a large saloon (Chrysler Intrepid), including insurance, taxes and a ski rack, the fuel in Alberta was a whacking 32p a litre. Our destination from here was Banff, an easy 80 odd mile trot up the dual carriageway. A word of warning though. Look very carefully at your map of Calgary before trying to leave. If you take a wrong turning it can be very disconcerting. We found this out to our detriment, it took us an hour longer than it should have to get onto the Trans-Canadian highway and on the back of a 9 hour flight this was quite distressful. We arrived in Banff very tired, but the accommodation we were booked into soon cheered us up. Situated about a mile south of Banff Village, The Rocky Mountain Resort consists of a number of very large chalets divided into eight apartments. Our apartment had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, large kitchen/living room with open fire and a balcony with ski rack. This was a freebie (Borrowed timeshare), as we’d never be able to afford something this extravagant for the two o
f us. The resort had spacious parking, was kept very tidy and snow free, had a swimming pool, bar restaurant etc. It was perfect. I’m just very glad we didn’t have to pay for it. The next morning we popped into Banff to hire skis. Something to mention about Banff at this point – It gets 4 million tourists per year, mostly during the summer. This means the winter season is just a bonus to them, and there are bargains around. We randomly picked a place called The Ski Stop, on Bear Street. This turned out to be a lucky choice. As we wanted five days ski hire, they threw in a 50-dollar meal voucher for Giorgio’s Italian Restaurant, on Banff Avenue. The bindings were set perfectly. I never felt a wobble all week, but when some nutter took me out from the side on the last day, I flew straight out of the skis thus avoiding a nasty knee injury. At the shop we discovered that Lake Louise was the only mountain presently open for skiing. We jumped in the car and headed north. It’s a very scenic 35-minute drive up the highway to Lake Louise. When we arrived they were only doing day lift passes at a reduced rate of 15 pounds, as not all of the runs were open. This is very reasonable for North America, as was the 19 pounds they were charging for an hour’s private lesson, for any size of group. The instruction we got here was very good and the instructors all nice and friendly with shiny white teeth, although they teach slightly different methods to Europe (They aren’t big on facing down the hill) . The runs here were all finished off with artificial snow, but it was extremely well groomed and made for ok skiing. Most of the skiing we did here was of the downhill through trees variety. There weren’t that many lifts open though (4 from 11), but still enough for some fun. The Women’s World Cup Downhill & Slalom races were on while we were there. It was pretty exciting going up in the lift and watchi
ng these girls hurtling down the hill underneath us. I was a bit surprised at the lack of spectators, but LL is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. We also skied at Sunshine Mountain, who were charging the same prices. On paper this looks a lot closer to Banff, but once you take into account the windy little roads and the 20-minute gondola trip up to the top it’s a toss-up. The snow was real, un-groomed and wild. This is a massive ski area (LL is bigger, apparently) set in a beautiful high mountain valley. This meant it was above the tree line and quite exposed. It felt colder than Lake Louise which had been down to –15 one of the days. As it was just opening I didn’t really get a chance to see or ski much of it, but it looked like great skiing. The 20-minute gondola trip up was ski-downable via a track that looked like fun. There is extensive cross country skiing potential here (Back country, in Canada) The high meadows at Sunshine looked like they’d be well suited to this. Likewise there were lots of snowboarders, and they seemed to be well excepted at both hills. The other hill in the area, Mt Norquay, didn’t open while we were there. It’s very small by comparison, apparently, but a lot handier as it’s closest to Banff. If I were going again I’d try and ski all three. If you don’t want to hire a car the buses only cost about 6 pound return from Banff. Banff itself is lovely. It’s a really cutesy mountain village, with a population of about 6,000. It boasts 6 Japanese restaurants alone though, so it’d be hard to get bored here in the evening. The places we ate at included The Silver Dragon, a Chinese Restaurant with huge, tasty portions and small, friendly prices. Giorgio’s, our freebie from the Ski Stop, turned out to be a gem. Massive starters, but manageable, stylish entrees – I’d highly recommend this one to any fans of Italian food. Wild Bills,
a Tex-Mex, also was great. I could bang on about the food here all day, but I think you’d need to be very unlucky to get a bad meal in Banff. For beers try the Rose and Crown. Wooden clad with a log fire and Strongbow on draught, it claims to be a real English pub, anyway the prices were similar. I don’t know about that, but it was good and the tables for eating always seemed to have plenty of reserved cards on them. All of these establishments were situated on Banff Avenue, the main drag, as was the cyber-café in the Sunshine Mall. At 3 quid an hour I only stopped long enough to pick up my mail and check the footie scores at home. Still a handy thing to have. Also on Banff Avenue is Safeway’s, a decent sized supermarket with a nice Deli. In Canada it seemed that you could only buy alcohol from off-licences, cigarettes from petrol stations and food from supermarkets. Another notable rule is that pedestrians have right of way everywhere, which nearly resulted in some very flattened and irate Canadians. We really enjoyed our stay in Canada. It’s a long, quite expensive flight, but when you get there everything’s fun and not too pricey.
Banff is a tremendous town to visit - a must if you are anywhere in Alberta. It is a hour or two in a car from Calgary, acessible along a good highway with soem tremendous views of the Rockies on the way there. However you do have to pay $10 to get into the National Park where Banff is located. Nestling in amongst the Rocky Mountains the town is a real gem. When I visited in March it was very cold, but despite this it is a place I will always remember. In the town there are plenty of places to in which to eat. There are plenty of shops, but beware of some of the prices. The best place I found was the Indian Trading Post at the top of the main street. This was not only interesting and reasonably priced but it reflected some of the Indian traditions (if only in a way the tourists would appreciate!)Other people I know who ahve vistied Banff have also been very impressed and loved it as well. Slightly further out of town there is the Banff Springs Hotel. Anyone visiting Banff must seek this out if only to say they have seen it! There is also a cable car that takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain. There is a tremendous view from the top (8000 feet a.s.l.) and it's well worth the ride, even if like me you don't like heights and the cable car ride. A short walk away from the base station of the cable car to an out door swimming pool filled with naturally occurring hot water. This pool is open all year, and it is amazing to see people swimming in the open air with the backdrop of the frozen Rockies and when it is snowing as well. It is also said that elk come down into the town in Winter roaming the streets. Although I did not see any myself it is said not to be an uncommon experience and one that would be most interesting to see. Is Banff worth a visit? Most certainly yes! Its picturesque outlook and friendly atmosphere make it an ideal town to visit, and it is certainly a place to remember
I have spent 4 weeks on Sking holidays altogether in Banff and loved every moment of it. Banff is set amongst the spectacular Rockie mountains and offers fantastic views in all directions. The canadians are very friendly and appreciate the winter visitors as they have more time to get to know them. (the summer tourists stay only a couple of nights.) Banff feels really safe, only danger coming from the elk that wander along the high street. Loads of shops to explore and enough restaraunts to eat out at a different one every night . Temperatures in January can get to below -30, one day we expierienced -40, it is a strange sensation feeling your nose freeze, and it becomes a pain when you have to keep de icing your spectacles. The hot springs are a must visit venue . These are best visited when it is very very cold. Peoples hair, and moustaches freeze, and towels left by the pool freeze in all kinds of wierd shapes. However the water is that hot you can sit with your body out of the pool and still feel too hot. Even the cheepest hotels are very good, and The banff Springs Hotel or the Rim Rock Hotel offer world class service and facilities