Banff is a resort town nestled high in the Rocky Mountains of southern Alberta and at 1,383m (around 4,540ft) is recognised as the highest town in Canada. It’s only about one and a half hours drive from Calgary in the East and a four hour drive from Jasper in the North. The beautiful little hamlet of Lake Louise is less than an hour to the West. Banff has a population of about 8,700 local residents but with around four million visitors a year this number swells in the peak tourist months. This creates a festive holiday spirit and the atmosphere feels youthful and energetic. The town itself is situated within the Banff National Park and is one of only two incorporated municipalities within a national park in Canada. The town is surrounded by wilderness so it feels like you’re a long way from the outside world – all the while enjoying the luxuries of modern life in a spectacularly beautiful location.
Winters in Banff can be very cold with lows averaging minus 13deg C (9deg F) and highs of minus 3deg C (26deg F). This is the perfect temperature for snow and in winter Banff is famous for it’s skiing and with three world class ski resorts all within a short drive from the township, Sunshine Village, Mt. Norquay, and Lake Louise Ski Area, the choice of ski runs is remarkable. All three resorts run shuttles to the mountains in the winter months so there is no need to drive yourself.
Mt Norquay is the closest to Banff and the least touristy of the three resorts. The ski runs are generally for more advanced skiers and it is the mountain frequented most by the Banff locals. Sunshine Village is higher than the other two resorts and as a result receives the most snowfall and has the longest season. The resort has more than 100 ski runs with 10 ski lifts and leans more to the intermediate skier. Lake Louise Mountain Resort is nearby to Lake Louise township and is the most well known of the three. It has over 4,200 acres of skiable terrain and 139 ski runs which makes it one of the largest ski resorts in North America. Every winter it holds world cup ski events for men and women and has a vast selection of different terrains to choose from.
Summers in Banff are also spectacular and the terrain transforms from a skier’s paradise in winter to an outdoor adventure playground in summer. The different terrains that were under several metres of snow in winter become verdant pastures and rolling hills perfect for an easy short walk or more challenging overnight hikes. The mountains also provide some challenging mountain bike trails and it’s possible to hire bikes from operators in the town. There is abundant wildlife in the hills around Banff and many of the tour operators in the area run nature viewing walks. It’s also wonderful to canoe and kayak on the beautiful mountain lakes of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake or down the slow moving Bow River. Temperatures in summer range from highs of 22deg C (72deg F) and with lows of around 6deg C (43deg F) the nights can be quite chilly.
No matter what season you visit Banff the crisp mountain air, the spectacular scenery and the friendliness of the locals will ensure you have a vacation that will remain in your memory for many years to come.