Banff is a tourist town set in the middle of a national park. Despite the crowds of year-round tourists, it looks like a Hollywood set with quaint buildings, tall pines, and a mountain dead center at the end of the main road. Tree-shaded parks dot the area, and as we drove into town we were startled to find a full-grown elk not 20 feet from us, sporting a trophy-hunter’s dream rack of antlers. He looked benign sitting in the middle of a small park, but elk have become a nuisance in Banff, eating gardens and, when frightened or provoked, attacking tourists. The city has established a tagging system, the color of the tags denotes the number of attacks that particular elk has made on humans. The fourth tag is a death sentence.
We steered clear of the elk, and spent some time shopping. Downtown Banff is mostly tourist shops, outfitters, hotels and restaurants. There are galleries of local art (some of it very good), shops with expensive resort clothing, and a couple of good bookstores if you’re looking for guidebooks and maps. Since Banff is so central to all the activities in the area, you can find an outfitter to provide whatever you need from skis to tents. For the less adventurous, there are plenty of souvenir shops around. We prowled through a few and picked up the requisite t-shirts, hats, trinkets and books to take back home. Like most ski towns, there are plenty of restaurants and bars to wile away the evening hours after a day in the open air.