A location inside one of the world’s most beautiful national parks is merely one reason to visit Banff, Alb.
SET INSIDE ONE OF WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL NATIONAL PARKS, THIS CANADIAN ROCKIES SKI TOWN IS BUBBLING WITH CHARM AND AUTHENTICITY. BONUS: WINTER IS OFF SEASON HERE.
Banff might be my new favorite ski town. It’s got all my requisite must-haves: walkable downtown with mountain views, great restaurants, fun après scene, gurgling creek running through town, plenty of character-filled hotels, and a handful of ski resorts within a 20-minute drive. If only it wasn’t a 20-hour drive from my home in Denver. Details, details.
Seriously, though, Banff really does have it all, and no vacation to the SkiBig 3—Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Mt. Norquay—would be complete without spending a couple days soaking in its charms. Play pick-up hockey in one of the town rinks (this is Canada…), visit the Whyte Museum for a glimpse of early Banff life, or explore the grounds of the historic Fairmont Banff Springs, even if you’re not overnighting there. The 19th-century Scottish Baronial chateau sits just above Bow Fall on grounds teeming with local fauna. It’s a veritable winter wonderland.
Like all good ski towns, Banff’s off-slope activities are plentiful. Outdoorists can keep busy hiking or snowshoeing on the miles of trails that splay out from town; for excellent views of Banff and beyond, try the Tunnel Mountain hike, which switchbacks up the side of Sleeping Buffalo, rising over town. Those looking to get further off the grid should venture into the expansive Banff National Park trail system, where the options are nearly endless, and the crowds are nearly non-existent.
Banff Avenue is the town’s main drag, and while there are certainly plenty of kitschy T-shirt shops lining it, dig a little deeper and you find lovely, locally owned gems peddling not only their wares, but also that imminently friendly Canadian spirit. That’s the thing: Banff is not just a ski town, it’s a warm and welcoming hub filled with like-minded outdoorsy types. What’s not to love about that? (Aside from the 20-hour drive, that is.) H E R E A R E O U R P I C K S O N W H AT T O D O , S E E , E AT, D R I N K , A N D MORE I N T H E TOW N O F B A N F F.