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Banff, never to go anywhere else!
Member Name: stevedpark
Date: 23/04/03, updated on 24/04/03 (494 review reads)
Advantages: Atmosphere, Prices, Skiing
Disadvantages: chilly, DC-10
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.
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
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