Oh how I love Canada. It turns out my mom was born in Canada which makes me half Canadian! To this date I have only been to two Canadian provinces… Alberta and British Columbia (going up to Yukon in July 2013 and revisiting British Columbia). And yet there is one city I have grown to love that is located in the Canadian Rockies on the British Columbia-Alberta border. Banff, Canada in Alberta is a skiing resort that most Americans have never heard of.
The region is home to some of the highest mountains in the Canadian Rockies and is specifically known for its great skiing during the winter months. Most Americans don’t ever consider Canada as a good ski option but rather go for the packed slopes of Colorado, California or New Mexico. I went to Banff during Christmas one year and it was the perfect place for beginners to learn how to ski. Since Banff it is located further north than its US counterparts you’re guaranteed great snow. In Banff snow usually accumulates earlier in the season and there is typically a deep base. or the amount of snow on the mountain.
Getting to Banff
To get to Banff, Canada you first need to fly into Calgary and prices do the range from where you are flying from so it is wise to book early. You’re going to need to rent a car as Banff is about an 80 mile drive from Calgary. If you’re coming from the mainland there are direct flights from major cities like Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver, Atlanta, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Amsterdam, Denver, London on various airlines such as Air Canada, American , Westjet, British Airways, Delta, and United Airlines - (Remember that going to direct is not always the cheapest option) - For a complete destination list click on this link.
Staying in Banff
When I went to Banff I stayed at The Caribou Lodge. The Caribou Lodge is perfect for couples or families and for a chance to relax after a long day from skiing (they have a spa center with a nice jacuzzi, hot tube, pool and steam room). On those cold nights you are going to want a nice place to retreat and relax. The sun in the winter time does go down pretty early than most Americans are use to so it’s nice to come back to some place nice and cozy. Click here to check out the hotels of Banff. The city is not huge so it’s always wise to book in advance.
Banff is known for its skiing but in the summer months there is also mountain bike riding, hiking, enjoying the lake, scrambling and visiting the hot springs.
Now for the skiing! There are several ski places that are close by. Ski Banff @ Norquay is the closest to Banff and is perfect if you are just learning how to ski. For one day passes it is 59 dollars but there are several deals you can get if you click on the website. They offer all kind of tickets like 2 hour night-skiing or full day of skiing.
Probably the most popular ski resort around Banff is Sunshine Village. Sunshine Village is more expensive (starting at 79 dollars) compared to Norquay but has more challenging runs to offer and is a bigger Ski Resort in general with over 107 runs. The park has 3,358 skiiable acres and the vertical rise of the mountain is 3,500 feet. Sunshine Village can be very cold in the winter but it does have very good snow at around 30 feet per year. You can of course buy deals through their website and find season passes if you plan to go more than just once. Sunshine Village is a 16km drive from Banff and is the ski resort that the majority of skiiers who travel to Banff ski at.
There are of course other ski resorts like Lake Louise and Nakiska. Lake Louise is a 60 km drive from Banff or about an hour away north and Nakiska is about an hour south of Banff.
For some interesting activities to do outside of Banff there is Lake Louise. If you are not up for skiing one day then the drive to Lake Louise is perfect. There is a chateau that over looks a lake and in the winter time they make an ice sculpture on the frozen lake that you can walk out on… (don’t fall!).
In the summer time you can partake in the several hiking trails. The mountains nearby are perfect for day climbs or for scrambling (which is climbing a mountains without all the safety gear). Banff is an easy town to explore and they have several dining choices. The dining will be expensive though! (Canada is expensive and Banff is no exception). As a whole Banff is not huge but there is enough of a variety to be comfortable.
During the winter months the weather in Banff is quite cold from around 5 degrees to 15 degrees Fahrenheit Make sure to bundle up and bring the proper clothes to ski! The town is very easy to walk and if you’re up for hiking in the summer there are several hiking places that are close to Banff. In the summer temperatures are mild from highs in the low 70′s to lows in the upper 50′s. Perfect if you want to escape the heat.
Banff is a beautiful city nestled in the Canadian Rockies and a very good choice for skiing or to escape the heat in the summer time. Nature lovers will be impressed of Banffs natural beauty and the few tourist around. Consider it next time you think about skiing or as a possible summer time destination!
Images by: Nathan, tuchodi, hutch, nateeg