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.

SKI - - CONTENTS - By Sa­man­tha Ber­man

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.

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