Ah Banff…. A town, a national park, a gag from the old sitcom F-Troup and a crater on Mars. In 1885, Canada’s first Prime Minister John A Mac Donald settled the dispute of who discovered the Hot Springs and therefore had the right to develop them by declaring Banff Hot Springs Reserve Canada’s first National Park. HA! Nice timing. This coincided with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and the beginning of tourism. The park expanded, the CP Railway built hotels and a town sprang up to provide for the guests. Banff was a hit. Wealthy Europeans flocked to this remote Canadian destination. They still do. There is plenty to keep the adventurous visitor fit and satisfied, summer or winter.
The Post Hotel Actually in Lake Louise, but this is Canada, a 45 minute drive is nothing. It is still in the Park and it is the only Relais &Chateaux in the Province. So you know the accommodation is great. The restaurant won “best food in the Americas” from Conde Nast Travelers Gold list so you know the food is great. But you’ll come for the wine list. The cellar has over 25500 bottles, is a lifelong passion of owner George Schwarz and has been awarded Wine Spectator’s Grand Award , its highest honor, since 2002. Their specialist wine events are legendary, a must attend on any calendar. https://posthotel.com
Lake Minnewanka Cold, very cold, water scuba diving in this glacier fed manmade lake is a unique experience. Not to look at fish. In 1888 a rustic hotel was built on the shores of the lake. Mostly fishermen came. Slowly a town grew. In 1912 the Government decide to make the lake a holding reservoir for downstream generating stations. Buildings moved. 1941 a hydroelectric plant was built, the lake doubled in size and the town was submerged. Now the only way to visit is with a tank.
Hot Springs Soaking in hot water is how this whole place got started. A true luxury in 1884, pretty awesome today. Except for the crowds. Make your dip truly decadent by renting out the whole place. It is available for private hire an hour before opening and hour after closing!
Banff Springs Golf Club CP Railway thought a 9 hole course would be a nice attraction for guests of their hotel. It became a draw in its own right when Stanley Thompson spent $1,000,000 redesigning it in 1927 making it the most expensive course in the world at the time. It is now considered by many to be the most spectacularly located coarse anywhere. The par 3, 4th hole, called Devil’s Cauldron is as scenic as golf gets. Just try to concentrate on the ball.
Park Distillery Craft spirits at their most creative. Park Distillery says their water is what makes them distinct. It comes from 6 different glaciers in the Park. Grains are local too… Alberta and the prairies are the breadbasket of Canada. Malt, barley, rye and wheat are all harvested nearby. The Park Maple Rye is as Canadian as booze gets! Their onsite shop sells the whole selection or enjoy as a cocktail in the adjoining bar/restaurant.
Heli-Hiking There are 1600 km of trails in Banff National Park. Some are easy, some are hard, but for the truly spectacular, to get away from the hoy ploy and civilization itself book a heli-hiking trip. Some even include overnighting opportunities.
then, of course, there is skiing…