Banff

Overview

Banff is a grid styled frontier town sitting in Banff National Forest. The resort is actually high season during the summer, rather than winter, and the tourist shops selling selling gifts very much reflect this. Whilst Banff isn't as picturesque as the cowboy villages such as Breckenridge or Telluride it is not unpleasant and is very attractive. The scenery surrounding Banff is simply stunning and this is one of the reasons that it is so popular in the Summer months. The high street dominates with various hotels, shops and bars etc and is very long.  

Banff is often the first destination for British skiers looking to go to North America, part of the reason is the very good value for money accommodation and charter flights into Calgary, of course the other reason is that it is an enormous ski area with some great terrain for all abilities. 

The one down side of Banff is that all skiing is accessed on the resort bus; Mount Norquay is a 10 minutes drive, Sunshine is 20 mins and Lake Louise is 45 mins. However, this shouldn't put visitors off as the buses are very civilised with skis going into the luggage holds underneath the seating. Skiers will have plenty of comfortable seating (treat it like a lift up the mountain) with no one standing up, unlike European resorts.

The ski area's local to Banff are all very snow sure with a long season and are spread over three differing mountains; Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise. These are collectively referred to as "The Big 3" or the "Tri-area". The skiing is predominantly around the mi mark but ranges from 1660m to 2730m and covers a huge 7750 acres. 

Beginners are best to try skiing elsewhere unless there is a specific reason to go to Banff. It's not that the ski area is unsuited to first time skiers it's just the journey to get to the skiing that may be a problem for some. The slopes are situated a bus ride from the town and accommodations and this can be a little inconvenient and also intimidating for first timers. Once at the skiing then it's s totally different matter with excellent nursery facilities on Mount Norquay and Sunshine Village. Personally we at Snow Finders prefer the l;latter complete with moving carper as it offers a vast amount of green trails for beginners to progress to. The Wolverine, Strawberry Express and Mount Standish chairlifts all give access to numerous possibilities for green run skiing.

Sunshine Village is a great ski area for Intermediates with lots of good trying pistes to get your teeth into. The cruising runs on Lookout along Continental Divide will delight all levels of skiers including advanced and the blacks on Goats eye will be a superb challenge for aspiring intermediates too. In white out days we find it's better to head towards Mount Norquay and it the tree lined terrain here. This mountain is smaller but has some great pistes.

Experts will be bowled over with what Banff has to offer. There are single blacks, double clacks, bowls, powder, chutes, and great terrain parks. If you like it steep and deep then Banff will not disappoint. The snow reliability is such that powder is virtually guaranteed and this is owning to the fact that it sits on the continental divide. True experts will want to head for Goats Eye mountain, an appendage to Sunshine Village, where there are a vast number of black trails plus The double black diamond Wild West bowl - a real challenge for good skiers. The bowls off of Lookout Mountain (Delirium Dive and Silver City) offer lots of pitches and lines to take. Mount Norquay offers a smaller scale version of Sunshine but with more tree lined skiing. There are some good testing single black diamonds here that will keep you entertained. 

Except for a couple of flats there is no reason why boarders would wish to avoid Banff. There are lots of natural hits, chutes, and powder plus very good terrain parks too. 

Positive

  • Good value
  • Long season with good snow record
  • Lots for the non skier
  • Huge ski areas

Negative

  • 3 Ski areas all accessed by bus 
  • Town lacks ski resort atmosphere
  • Long sprawling village so you can be a distance from the centre

Offslope/apres ski

For non-skiers Banff is one of the very best resorts to chose. There are so many activities and off-slope diversions. For the active there is a choice of snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice canyon walking, tubing, dog sledding, ice skating, cross country skiing as well as swimming. Spa treatments and facilities are attached to many of the hotels too. Shopping is a delight in the resort and trips to see the Calgary Flames Ice Hockey team is a must if you get the opportunity.

Apres ski in the European sense (i.e. straight after skiing) is a little disjointed owing to having to take a bus back to the town. Having said that the Mad Trappers on Sunshine gets rammed at the end of the day. Once night falls then Banff springs into life with a huge variety of pubs, clubs and bars.

For lively pubs and bars then try the Bears Den, Bump Bar, Tommy's, St James' Gate Irish bar, The Rose and Crown. For a more relaxed atmosphere try The Lik Lounge or Divas (both for the Martinis menu), Ramsey's Lounge (cocktails), Three Ravens (wine bar), or The Larkspur. When it comes to loud music and the small hours then Banff can offer The Aurora nightclub with themed evenings, The Dancing Sasquatch with resident and guest DJs, The Hoodoo lounge, and for Metal heads and punks then head to the Devil's Gap bar. 


Our View

Great value Canadian ski resort with a huge ski area and one of the world's world's best snow records. Banff is superb for skiers and non skiers alike with a very friendly atmosphere. 

At a glance

Chalets:
0
Hotel & Apartments:
18
Pistes:
7750 acres
Resort height:
1380m
Top station:
2730m

Suitability

Experts:
5 stars
Intermediates:
4 stars
Beginners:
3 stars
Non-Skiers:
5 stars
Scenery:
5 stars
Resort charm:
3 stars
Nightlife:
4 stars