A September 2002 trip
to Banff by Drever
Quote: I spent five days in Banff National Park. These were spent at Banff, Lake Louise and visiting the Columbian Ice Fields. We were travelling through from Calgary to Victoria.
This action has led to Banff National Parks 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 square miles) of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows, rivers and hot springs. Built into the park are carefully sited resorts such as the town of Banff and Lake Louise. Visitors can tour historic sites, soak in hot springs, stroll along the shores of Lake Louise, spend a night in the historic Banff Springs Hotel or use the 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) of trails.
Abundant wildlife inhabits the mountain regions. Lucky travellers may see elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, black bears, grizzly bears, wolves and a host of other large and small mammals. The park also contains Alberta's southernmost herd of the endangered woodland caribou.
We didn't bother with travellers cheques but simply used credit cards for purchases or obtaining cash. I believe the rate of exchange is slightly better using this method.
The time difference is seven hours later than at the UK. This made it difficult at times to phone home so I used which is becoming the seasoned travellers standby - email. Sadly in Lake Louise I could not find a single internet machine that worked. I suspect communications in the Canadian Rockies might be a bit rudamentary.
Some friends on the same trip travelled on the Rocky Mountaineer train from Banff to Vancouver. It is certainly a thrilling alternative with complementary snacks and non-alcohol beverages on board. In fact our coach travelled at about the same speed as the train although we were also making photo stops. One of them was to watch the train enter a tunnel in Spiral Mountain make its loop within the mountain and come out another tunnel slightly lower down. A device for reducing the gradient. The road is also higher up so the view is better.
We had a "Standard Twin Bedded Suite" with sette and a gas fireplace which we didn't need to use. It was clean and did smell nice so maybe there is something to ionising. Inside the chalet-style building, the room which was on the second floor, was gloomy from the overhang of the roof. The walls were white and the room had wall-to-wall carpeting.
Supplied also was a fridge and bowls to allow us to make our own breakfast - if we wished. We did, but it was a bit difficult to eat the milk and cereals with the teaspoons provided - something bigger would have been appreciated.
The resort nestles at the base of picturesque Rundle and Cascade Mountains, 5 km from downtown Banff. In Banff Cascade Mountain is rather like those paintings of portraits with eyes that follow you everywhere you go. Cascade Mountain is always there looking down at you.
The Resort has lots of facilities including 2 tennis courts, indoor pool, gym, hot tub and squash but is quite a distance from downtown Banff. To overcome this problem the resort ran a cramped bus every half hour into Banff. Another very welcome service was that of free tours and guides. These tours were often out to lakes or woods. We went on three of these.
We generally ate in Banff because it has over 100 restaurants. On the one occasion we ate at the Resort I had a meal that had three different types of meat, one of which was bison. The portions were so small that the plate was virtually empty and the price was pretty high as well.
For more details about this Resort visit:
The Banff Rocky Mountain Resort
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 30, 2002
Banff Rocky Mountain Resort
1029 BANFF AVE
Banff, Alberta T1L1A2
Attraction | "Columbia Icefield Glacier Tour"
In front of the Columbia Icefield Visitor Centre lies the Athabasca Glacier--a tongue of ice 6km long and 1km wide. It used to practically reach the visitor centre but it has been gradually receding due to global warming. The visitor centre, we were told, was quiet due to the September 11 terrorist attack on New York. If that was a quiet day I would hate being there on a busy day. The Centre houses various displays about the Icefield and also restaurants.
We took the Brewster's Ice Age Adventure, a tour onto the icy slopes of the Athabasca Glacier. We travelled in a specially-designed Brewster Snocoach to the middle of the glacier, on a 5km round-trip journey. Our driver/guide explained that the coach was fitted with every safety device including a woman driver! We were asked to secure our seat belts--there weren’t any, funny girl! She just about wore out her throat relating all the facts--how glaciers are formed and the interesting geological features.
At the icefall below the glacier headwall, we stepping out onto ice formed from snow falling as long as 400 years ago. It was a lovely day and really not that cold considering that we were standing on a 1000 feet of ice.
We award top marks to Brewster’s and to our ever-so-funny guide.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 31, 2002
Columbia Icefield Snocoach Tours
100 Gopher Street
Banff, Alberta T1L 1J3
+1 877 423 7433
We arrived by coach after about a 10 minute drive at Lake Louise Village. It is one of those places built for skiers. The place amounted to two hotels, slightly more restaurants and perhaps five shops -including a post office, small grocery market, camera shop, and bookstore. For ski enthusiasts the place is probably a hit but when the ground is bare of snow the place is just a place to spend the night and move on.
The tour company had booked us into an "Economy Double" at the Lake Louise Inn. The Lake Louise Inn is a modern mountain resort, nestling in a beautiful setting near the Piperstone River. It consists of five buildings. We were on the first floor of the building next to reception. The overhang of the roof made it rather gloomy. The room had 2 double beds, private bathroom, hairdryer,television and telephone, clock radio and coffee maker. It was clean and the service was good. Facilities include two restaurants, Explorers Lounge, heated indoor swimming pool, hot tub, steam room, gift shop, arcade games, laundromat, and various facilities for skiers. There was an email facility in the reception area that was quick to take my money but didn't work.
Timberwolf Pizza and Pasta restaurant had an accurate descriptive name. Italian dishes for hungry people. It was upstairs in the reception building. We ate in the Timberwolf the first night after queuing on the stair for some time. It was a pleasant meal, well cooked, presented and delivered. Strangly some of the drinks on the drinks menu were only available if I went to the bar downstairs and got them myself.The second night learning from our mistake from the first night we booked a table at the Legents Restaurant downstairs. It has a rather fuller menu than the Timberwolf. The service was equally good.
Prices for a twin room was about $90 but of course it was part of the tour package. Interestingly breakfast was not supposed to be included but the Inn had increased the price to the tour company, the excuse being that breakfast was now included. Well I wasn't complaining but it is bad for getting repeat business.
For more information check out The Lake Louise Inn
Next day we went on a tour up to the Columbia Icefield. Those of the coach party who stayed behind found some interesting and enjoyable walks in the area of Lake Louise Village.
Banff mostly consists of a street (Banff Avenue) about a mile long with various short side streets. Houses are low-level timber houses so as to fit into the park. There are some beautiful log cabins and houses. The town is full of restaurants – over 100. It is difficult to recommend one. In general we just had a look at the menu and if it suited we walked in. We were never disappointed. I admit though to being slightly partial to the succulent steaks served up by The Keg Steakhouse and Bar. Coming from Scotland where we think our Aberdeen Angus beef is the best in the world, I am probably as good a judge of a good steak as any. I can only say that it was cooked to perfection and it was as good a steak as I have ever tasted.
For more information on menues and locations check out The Keg Steakhouse and Bar.
Banff was full of touristy-type shops. Unfortunately many of the shops seem to stock the same items.
Within the town, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is worth a visit. It is home to artwork and photos of the Canadian Rockies, as well as the Alpine Club of Canada library and the Archives of the Canadian Rockies. Canadian art is interesting for The Group of Seven set out to establish a unique Canadian form of art. It tends to record not only what the visual senses see but also feelings. I like Canadian art but it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.
Contained in the grounds of the museum are many historical buildings. We had a guided tour through the area. It is difficult to get worked up about a lot of timber buildings. I remember that to have a veranda or balcony was a sign of wealth in the early days
Luxton (Indian) Museum just over the bridge spanning the Bow River was very enjoyable. This natural history museum is named after Norman Luxton who once operated a trading post in the Banff area. Part of it is set up as a trading post and many items relating to Canada’s past are contained there.
Sulphur Mountain Gondola is possibly the highlight of a stay in Banff. It transports visitors to an elevation of 2,281m (7,486 feet) above sea level at the top of Sulphur Mountain. This offers possibly the best view in the Canadian Rocky Mountains - an unobstructed 360° view of memorable mountain scenery. At the summit are three outdoor observation terraces.
For the adventurous, there are trails along mountain ridges with panoramic views. We tended to stick to various low walks. One was to Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park's largest waterway and another in the area behind the Banff Spring’s hotel. The hotel was built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad Company to attract tourists into the area. According to our guide they built it the wrong around so that the staff get the best views and the biggest rooms. It is pretty much a village in its own right with its shops and golf course. The challenging 6,729-yard course offers scenic thrills and golf challenges throughout its 18- and 9-hole courses.
The attraction in the area was the Cave and Basin Hot Springs, discovered in the 1880s by two railway workers. These sulphur springs are great to bathe in, so some of the members of our tour told me. Being rather a stiff climb I didn’t make it to the caves myself.
Ayr, United Kingdom