Irresistible Banff - 7 Reasons We Can't Stay Away
Last month, we were joined on the podium at the Ski Club of Great Britain's Industry Awards by Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise Ski Resort, who came top in the 'Best Resort' category. A big congratulations from team Ski Safari - although the news came as no surprise to us!
This is a destination which has been a hit with us for many years and we'd like to share exactly why we keep going back for more.
1. Breathtaking Alpine Scenery
The three resorts of Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mount Norquay sit within Banff National Park. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, it offers some of the most stunning scenery in North America and is one of the most photographed areas in the world. It also boasts some of the world's finest unspoiled ecosystems.
Chances are you will have seen pictures of the iconic hotels to be found here, such as the Fairmont Banff Springs or Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, while the natural scenery of Lake Louise is like a postcard in every picture. If you're really lucky, you can even see the Northern Lights.
2. Superb Reliable Snow
An average of nine metres of dry, fluffy white powder falls every winter, making Banff a sure bet for guaranteed snow starting in November and lasting long into May. In fact, the resorts only close when they do because the government insists. And it's all natural!
This winter is no different - all three resorts opened 9 November with Banff Sunshine receiving over a metre of snow already.
The height and climate of this area play a big part in the legendary quality and quantity of the snow and they certainly make the most of it. Banff Sunshine prides itself on its soft snow - instead of making any, they capture all of it with cleverly placed fences, building a snowpack without the need for artificial help, which they then move around the mountain as required. This ticks another box for us with the obvious environmental benefit of leaving a smaller carbon footprint, but it also slows down and allows for maximum use of snowmelt at the end of the season.
3. Incredible Variety of Resorts and Terrain
The three resorts covered on the Tri-Area Pass, Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mount Norquay, provide a total ski area of 7,700 acres. The terrain is incredibly varied and ensures that one visit is never enough. We usually find that most of our time is spent in Banff Sunshine, with three mountains offering everything from beginner runs to some of North America's most challenging steeps, notably Delirium Dive, plus it has the most snow (see above). This is also our favourite resort for family skiing as it's where most of the ski schools operate and it has superb, confidence building slopes which all lead back to base.
Lake Louise is famous for its early season World Cup Downhill. The gladed terrain on the front side here is absolutely fantastic and suitable for all levels with more challenging chutes in the back bowls.
Mount Norquay is affectionately seen by the locals as a warm up area or one for an easier day on the legs - its one mountain has just 31 runs, but these are perfect on a bad weather day thanks to the tree-lined slopes. You can also visit the unique and historic tea house here, the highest in the Bow Valley. Resembling a James Bond film set, it was frequented in the 1950's by the gliterati, including Marilyn Monroe. Now the Cliffhouse Bistro, it's been restored from the striking original building, with the mighty Mount Rundle its timeless vista.
4. Rejuvenating Hot Springs
In 1883, three railway workers discovered a hot spring on the slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the rest is history! Since their first discovery and the ensuing late 19th century craze for the “water cure”, many spas were opened and people flocked to Banff to enjoy the purported healing properties of the mineral-rich springs. Our favourite is the last remaining and most historic public bath - the Upper Hot Springs.
With all the facilities of a modern spa, the Upper Hot Springs are set against Banff's impressive backdrop. The water is heated geothermally, bubbling up to the surface from three kilometres into the earth's crust. Sitting in the pools and watching the snow fall on the surrounding peaks is nothing short of magical.
5. Lively Mountain Town
We absolutely love Banff town. From live entertainment to cosy pubs, upbeat Martini lounges, western saloons and modern nightclubs, the Canadian mountain town offers big city amenities in a friendly, old-world setting. There are more than 100 bistros, pubs and fine-dining restaurants to choose from, plus a huge array of activities from snowmobile tours to the new sightseeing gondola and platform, from nature hikes to ice-climbing and of course, soaking in the hot springs.
6. Enthralling Wildlife
Needless to say, it's a national park! Expect to see caribou and elk literally walking the streets of Banff town. Look a little further and you will find moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pine martens and all kinds of birds. Lynx have been known to make an appearance and we're told that around 65 grizzly bears also call Banff home, but visiting in the winter we've yet to see any up close...
Some Friday cute for your insta-feed! This inquisitive pine marten spies spectacular wilderness photographer, @banffstace, just in time for the perfect portrait. Pine martens are a very special sighting in Banff National Park. They spend much of their time in trees looking for prey, don’t forget to look up! #mybanff: @banffstace...#pinemarten #banff #wildanimals #cuteanimals #canadiananimals #banffnationalpark #animals
7. Consistently Fantastic Value for Money
One of the very best value-for-money destinations in North America, you can be sure that you'll not pay over the odds for a truly incredible ski holiday here any time you choose to visit. The lift pass also offers superb value, covering the three ski areas, inclusive of free and easy travel between the resorts on the regular shuttle, plus a day pass at the Upper Hot Springs.
10 nights at the 4* Mount Royal Hotel in Banff town starts from just £1050pp
For further details, call us on 01273 224060 or request a quotation online
Snowboarder/Skier: Five ski seasons: La Plagne, Les Deux Alpes, Kitzbuhel, Serre Chevalier, Courchevel, and all the UK organisation in between before joining Ski Safari in 2008.