The Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies is home to some of the countries best skiing. Areas of outstanding natural beauty are complimented by some of the most varied skiing imaginable, the resort itself is filled with low rise charm, the small town feel making it friendly and welcoming; it may not be the most traditional of resorts but Banff has great access to the vast outdoor arena and all that it has to offer.
Designated as a world heritage site it is difficult to overstate the beauty of this region but with access to three excellent ski areas Banff is not just a pretty face – whether you are an experienced skier or are just starting out Banff is the place to be.
Although classed as one large ski region Banff actually has access to three individual ski areas, Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay, these have little in the way of individual hotels and facilities and Banff itself is the most convenient place to base your holiday. The three areas cover 8000 acres and have 62 easy, 132 intermediate and 80 difficult runs, the longest of which are 8kms. There is also some great off piste with the abundance of powdery snow and over 50 miles designated as cross country – the wide variety of skiing is one of the main draws of the area.
The excellent ski schools and gentle nursery slopes make Banff perfect for even the most green of skiers, these excellent facilities stretch across the board though with the resort having something for everyone right up to the most experienced of skiers who can find the ultimate of challenges when they attempt the advanced Delirium Dive. The profusion of excellent runs and the guarantee of high quality snow makes this resort perfect for every skier irrespective of ability.
There are plenty of alternative sporting experiences if you fancy a break from skiing; snow-mobiling, dog sledding and wildlife walks are all popular and for relaxation there are hot springs, great shops, museums celebrating the indigenous population and a large cinema. There are plenty of good places to eat out with varied choices including hearty local fare, Greek, Mexican and several fine dining establishments.
The nightlife can be as brash or as low key as you like, there are relaxed bars, bars with live music and nightclubs that remain open until the early hours of the morning, Banff may not be a non stop party but it is certainly lively enough for all but the most hedonistic of travellers.
For something a little special the Fairmont Banff Springs cannot be recommended highly enough, the property itself is over 100 years old and is more like a resort than a hotel, huge numbers of shops, restaurants and bars add appeal to the splendour of the hotel and with its own spa facilities it offers a relaxing experience after the exertion of the slopes.
There are several excellent budget hotels, most notably the Homestead Inn and Irwins Mountain Inn both are in great locations and both have cheap yet good sized and well appointed rooms, real bargains can be found particularly during the winter months (peak for ski season).
With good skiing from Mid November until late May the ski season in Banff is long and although there is a peak ski season (during December) the resort remains steady with visitors throughout the winter months, the ski area is so vast that there is no particular time that will feel any more crowded and the snow quality also remains consistent throughout the period.
The one great advantage of Banff is that although the winter months are peak ski season they are actually the low season of this Rocky Mountain resort and as such the prices are extremely favourable when the skiing is at its very best.