BANFF: Proof that God exists and he skis here.
“Youre going skiing where?”
Banff is a riddle wrapped in an enigma for most Americans. Most have heard of it of those, almost everyone Ive spoken to has a relative who spent at least part of their honeymoon there. But when you mention Banff, the first question people ask is always the same, how do you even get there?
Its not easy, but boy is it worth it
How to get there:
Most (affordable) flights to Calgary (YYC) from the east coast connect in Chicago or Minneapolis, which bring their own winter travel dangers of delays and missed connections. There are a few, yet pricey, direct flights a week offered from Air Canada and Continental.
Once you make it to Calgary you can rent a car or take the Banff Airporter bus service and drive the insanely gorgeous 80 miles west to Banff National Park. Thats right Banff is located in a National park, and allow me to say, Canada is serious about their parks. The wildlife have their own bridges every few miles so that they can cross the highway.
The second major question you will get about Banff is Where do you ski there? You will notice that through a simple Google search the answer is not easy which is why the three major mountains have joined forces to create Ski Big 3, a consortium whose soul mission is to get you skiing as easily as possible. Let me tell you, the views are astounding at each. 360-degree peaks for what seems to be infinity.
1. Lake Louise Canadas Favorite Ski Resort
About a 40 minute drive from Banff, Lake Louise is aptly named for the lake and glacier the mountain surrounds. Some of the best skiing Ive encountered in my life the mountain boasts massive amounts of terrain including a backside bowl where it is possible to find untracked powder even on the busiest of days. One of Canadas only Snowboard-cross courses makes for an amazing test of skills in a slightly more regimented setting.
2. Sunshine Village Canadas Best Snow
Being situated on the east side of the continental divide has a major impact on Banffs snowfall. Averaging well over 360 inches a year, the snow is dry and light compared to Whistlers wet, heavy snow. That fact, combined with frigid temperatures, makes it so that the snow isnt melting and refreezing, so icy conditions are kept to a minimum. Sunshine is only 15 minutes from Banff.
3. Mount Norquay “Banff’s Family Ski Resort”
The smallest but steepest of the Big 3. Norquay fits a very specific niche among adventure seekers. Located the closest to the town of Banff, and thereby Calgary, it’s an easy mountain to get to and offers some challenging terrain. Work on your moguls and tricks in the park night skiing makes for another perfect draw for the locals.
The Town of Banff
Established in 1885, the town of Banff was primarily a mining town in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Its cross streets remind you of a Telluride of Aspen (without the designer stores).
Where to Stay:
Ski in/ski out is considered a novelty here. Banff skiing is hard-core and not to be bothered with such niceties. That is to say that the frill factor is still not 100% evident in the vast array of lodging opportunities.
The Juniper has taken a chic spin on eco and sustainable lodging and utilizes 100% green electricity. With beautifully appointed and spacious rooms the Juniper is a perfect option to base yourself right outside of the town of Banff, as its just off the Trans-Canada highway and easy to access every mountain.
Lobby to lift in 15 minutes flat
This is one of the most majestic hotels weve ever seen. Situated on the shore of Lake Louise, as if some great ocean liner from the past beached itself on the shores of an ancient glacier, the Fairmont simply has everything you could need. Countless restaurants and bars of every type, a vast indoor city designed to please. Just across the highway from Lake Louise ski resort, the hotel will deliver you and your gear in seamless and orchestrated precision.
Where do foreign leaders, celebrities and the royal families of the world (we hear Prince William and Kate Middelton are honeymooning here) stay? This Relais and Chateux accredited hotel was originally constructed in 1942. The Post House boasts a Temple Mountain spa with Roman style indoor pool and fitness center. The 4 star restaurant has won countless awards and been named the best restaurant in the Americas by the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List. Featuring a wine cellar with over 25,500 bottles of the planets finest wines, there is also a cigar and scotch room and fireside bar, perfect for winding down after a hard day on the mountain.
Where to Eat:
The Bison 211 Bear Street, Banff
Widely regarded by many locals as one of THE places to eat in Banff, the Bison features locally sourced ingredients from all over Alberta and British Columbia. The downstairs bar is much more relaxed, serving some insanely good flat bread pizzas and cocktails.
Saltlik 221 Bear Street, Banff
Alberta beef is king at this classic steakhouse. Right in the center of town, Saltlik caters to all palates and appetites. Amazing cocktails and a chic downstairs bar provide something for everyone.