Deep in the Canadian Rockies is the mountain town of Banff – named after the Scottish birthplace of George Stephen, the President of Canadian Pacific Railway who founded the town and its natural springs in 1883. As well as a short transfer of just 90 minutes, there are plenty of reasons why you can’t beat a winter holiday to Banff. Here are a few of our favourites…
8,000 acres of feather-light, dry powder cover the three huge mountains that make up Banff’s ski area – Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay. Whatever your ability, you can ski on all three peaks, as they all have gentle slopes, top-notch ski schools, plenty of untouched back bowls and quality snow parks. The pistes are quiet too, meaning you’ll rarely have to queue for a lift. Banff Sunshine, which straddles the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, is also known for not having a single snowmaking machine – that’s how good the snowfall is. And if you want to explore the ski area further, tag along on a tour with local mountain hosts who’ll show you around the slopes for free.
National parks and wildlife galore
Banff is nestled in the heart of Banff National Park – Canada’s first national park – surrounded by the striking beauty of the Canadian Rockies. It’s also got UNESCO World Heritage status, meaning that everything here – from the glistening glaciers and sweeping vistas to the incredible array of wildlife – is protected and untouched. On a winter walk through the snow, or on a ski bus ride to the mountains, you can take in the picturesque scenery and try to catch a glimpse of elk, marmots, grizzly bears and possibly the occasional moose. If you’re lucky, you may even sight the phenomenal Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights.
Traditional railway town
After discovering Banff’s natural hot springs in 1883, Canadian Pacific Railway proclaimed the area a spa destination, using the sudden influx of tourism to fund their railway line through the Bow Valley. Fast forward to today and this working mountain town still showcases its roots with over 130 saloon bars and a mixture of international restaurants, from the Irish pub, St James’ Gate, to the Greek taverna, Barpa Bill’s Souvlaki. And, most of the accommodation is centrally located, meaning you won’t have far to go for a steaming bowl of poutine – chips drenched in rich gravy and creamy cheese curds.
It’s not just about the slopes
If you’re a non-skier, or simply fancy taking a break from the slopes, Banff has got you covered. Grab your ice skates for a glide across Lake Louise’s frozen lake, snuggle up on a dog sled ride through the snow-topped trees or discover the Johnston Canyon Ice Walk, full of beautiful ice sculptures and frozen waterfalls. You can also enjoy fresh glacier air on the Icefields Parkway Tour, where you’ll see some of Banff’s natural wonders like Bow Lake, Mistaya Canyon and Athabasca Glacier to name a few. And if you’ve come on holiday to unwind, well, you’ll just have to dip into what Banff was made famous for – it’s oh-so relaxing hot springs.
Ready for picture-perfect views and plenty of piste? Start planning your winter getaway to Banff.