Luring thousands of Aussies to its snow-covered streets every winter, Banff is one of Canada’s major ski centres, with three mountains on its doorstep. It’s also the main hub of the Canadian Rockies, and its wide streets are lined with countless bars, restaurants and outdoor retailers.
If your thermals aren’t warm enough, don’t worry, you’ll find plenty of places to upgrade them. And while you’re at it, why not grab a new down jacket, too? You’re going to need one when you’re traipsing from saloon to club to early-morning pizza joint every weekend.
Before you hit the après, sample some of Canada’s game meat at Maple Leaf Grill, an iconic restaurant in downtown Banff. Here you can feast on dishes such as bison short ribs, 10-ounce “rancher’s steak” tenderloins, and elk burgers.
When happy hour rolls around – or has well and truly passed – you’ll be spoilt for choice with boot-scootin’ venues. A must-visit is another iconic spot, Wild Bills. Enjoy a cold brew before working up the courage to join the line-dancing crowd.
When it comes to skiing, Banff has everyone covered, with more than 3000 hectares of terrain shared between Lake Louise Ski Resort, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay, and a whopping nine metres of snow every season.
Lake Louise is the biggest of the bunch (and one of the largest in North America), with four mountain faces and plenty of variety among its trails. There are plenty of wide runs and open bowls, with 45 per cent of terrain catering to intermediates.
Sunshine is equally as impressive, with gentle terrain to suit first-timers, as well as gnarly off-piste for experts in an “extreme free-ride zone”. Google Delirium Dive to whet your appetite.
If you want to avoid the crowds, or simply prefer small resorts, jump on a shuttle to Norquay, known as the locals’ hill. This family friendly resort is only minutes from Banff town centre and has plenty of runs for all levels, including 28 per cent for advanced riders. There’s also a great little terrain park that’s under lights at night.
If you’re not sure where to head, try them all on the one lift ticket. The ski season is from November to April/May.
If you’re there in the warmer months, go hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, horse riding, fishing or caving in and around stunning Banff Mountain National Park.
Whether you’re into rock climbing, mountaineering or skiing, the annual Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival is one for the calendar. Over nine days in October and November, the mountain town comes alive with the world’s most inspiring adventure stories. Told by explorers, authors, photographers and filmmakers, this is one festival that promises to light a fire under your long-buried dreams.
There are countless places to rest weary legs at day’s end, but when it comes to luxury, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise steals the show. Situated in Banff National Park, the historic chateau is the perfect launching point for outdoor activities. In winter, hire ice skates and take a twirl on the frozen lake, and in summer tour the shores in a canoe.
The hotel also has a reputation for its wellness offerings, with a health club and day spa, plus mindfulness retreats.
If you want to be in the heart of all of the action, book a room at Brewster’s Mountain Lodge, a family hotel designed in that quintessentially Canadian log-cabin style.
Words by Jennifer Ennion.
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