I get it. Whether you’re from Toronto or Texas, the polar vortex has made this winter a bit of a monster and a little fun in the sun sounds fantastic. I’m here to argue that if you haven’t yet made it south, you’re better off saving your vacation days for a real Canadian vacation to beautiful Banff, Alberta.
1. World Class Late Season Skiing/Snowboarding
It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned back country shredder or a first time skier, there’s perfect terrain for all levels of experience. If you don’t want to spend too much time travelling, you can hop on a shuttle bus to Norquay mountain 2 minutes from downtown. If you’re looking for a bigger mountain experience Sunshine Village offers over 3000 skiable acres with uber advanced runs like Delerium Dive, to your basic green run and is just 10 minutes outside Banff, or head another 25 minutes down the Trans-Canada Highway and hit up Lake Louise Resort. The Banff National Park is truly blessed with 4 world class ski resorts (Nakiska, Norquay, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise) within a half hours drive and will absolutely blow any ski bums mind, especially anyone living east of the Rockies.
2. Ever seen an Elk?
If you’re not from Banff, haven’t been to Banff and don’t hunt wild game in Alberta, you probably haven’t seen an elk; I know I’d never seen one before going there. Renowned for it’s wildlife, the National Park in which the town of Banff is situated provides a sanctuary for many Rocky Mountain animals, but while bears, wolves and sheep can be quite shy, Elk are quite confident that no one will bother them. If you stay in Banff for more than 1 day your are pretty much guaranteed to see a gang of elk bedded down in a field on the side of the highway, feeding on someones front lawn or just cruising down Banff Ave. Just be careful cruising the back streets at night as you don’t want to run into a big bull.
3. Brilliant Winter Activities
Snowshoeing, dogsledding, nordic skiing, hockey and winter camping; if you’re not a skier but still enjoy being active in the winter, there’s no shortage of things to do in Banff. What better way to spend a winters day than renting a set of cross country skis and heading up to Lake Louise to ski around the lake with the massive, glacier covered mountains as a backdrop. The Fenlands (Banff’s new Recreation Centre) was completed just two years ago and features 2 NHL sized ice surfaces and the most picturesque curling club you’ve ever seen, using post and beam construction with plenty of windows to let the natural beauty of the outdoors into the facility. CHE offers adult recreational tournaments there March 28 – 30, April 4 – 6, April 11 – 13 and April 25 – 27.
4. Mmmmmm…..Hot Springs
You’ll surely be looking for a way to relax and wind down, and while there are plenty of traditional Apres-ski experiences in the village, it’s recommended that you head up the hill and hit up the natural hot springs. Against the backdrop of Banff’s spectacular alpine scenery, the Banff Upper Hot Springs is a modern facility that’s been visited by tourists for over a century. It can often get very crowded with tourists in the summer months, but during the spring season you’ll get the benefits of relaxing in the naturally heated water in the crisp winter air with almost no one else around to interrupt the tranquility.
5. Shops, Sites and Snacks
As one of the most popular ski destinations in the world, Banff is one of the most visited cities in all of Canada, but not everyone who visits comes to ski. During the day the main drag (Banff Ave) is packed with shoppers heading from one shop to the next looking for a new sweater, a perfect gift or a delicious piece of chocolate. Though there’s definitely an influx of tourist shops featuring little statues with beavers dressed as Mounties, there’s also a number of wonderful art galleries with fine works depicting the scenic views associated with the town, such as the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel or Bow Falls. At night the town really comes to life with plenty of restaurants and bars to accommodate all tastes, whether you want to grab a burger at Banff Ave Brewing Company or some fine dining at Le Beaujelais.
So if you haven’t already blown your winter vacation time, or even if you have but have a yearning to try something different, hop on a plane to Calgary and head to Banff National Park this spring to experience Canada like you never have before.
Canadian Hockey Enterprises