BANFF NATIONAL PARK
The transition from cold winter into the joyful spring is nowhere else as beautiful as in the mountains. Especially the Rocky Mountains! The peaks are still covered by snow but you feel that nature is ready to start off blooming and birds arrive at their summer residence. We were not quite ready to let the winter go, but were also craving for more sunshine. So where can you enjoy snow activities and have spring feelings at the same time in the middle of March? As we are big fans of mountains too, our decision was pretty clear... Quite spontaneously we packed our bags for a weekend trip to an extraordinary beauty, the Banff National Park.
The Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts. They also count the Emerald Lake Lodge and the Deer Lodge in Lake Louise to their rustic style high-class accommodations. Actually it was a place like we have always imagined it - when we would stay in the Rocky Mountains, then in a wooden hut with a fireplace. And we found ourselves in two comfy armchairs in front of a fireplace, snuggled into a blanket with a glass port wine in our hand. Very romantic indeed!
At first we thought about skipping the Banff Gondola, because it seemed like a typical tourist attraction. But we definitely got surprised! The Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk offers a wonderful little winter stroll with a truly phenomenal view. It get’s even better in the evening, during the magic hour! We had the chance to join the so-called Alpenglow Festival on the Rooftop Observation Deck, where you can enjoy the nature light show at a fire pit with live music and special cocktails. We ensure you the panorama onto Banff and it’s surrounding is breathtaking and you don’t want to miss that!
We have seen countless pictures of the pretty big ice statues and people ice skating on the frozen lake in winter. It is so picturesque, you don’t believe it is true! But then you see Lake Louise and its panorama for the first time and you just stay speechless by the dimension. Walking over the huge frozen lake was super fascinating and big fun! Also the steep slippery way up towards the Fairview (better with spikes or snowshoes) was definitely worth it! And well, we know it is kind of cliché to dine at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. But it was just too seductive to get a fabulous afternoon tea at the Poppy Brasserie after so much fresh air! It turned out, that you better book a table for afternoon tea upfront! Nevertheless we ended up having a gorgeous dessert and hot beverages with some booze ;) haha...
A bucket-list-once-in-a-lifetime experience we definitely wanted to do in Canada? Dog Sledding of course! Not just the Howling Dog Tours team in Canmore, but their two-hour “Unleash the Musher” tour was incredible. First they drove us up to the Spray Lakes Reservoir where we got surrounded by breathtaking nature as huge lakes and mountains like the scenic Three Sisters. Right away we got introduced to our cute team – Rayban, Angus, Rocket, Breezy, Spotty and our lovely guide Harry of course ;) These dogs are highly motivated athletes eager to run – indeed, they barely could stand still while we had hot chocolate and cookies for a short break at the lake. But at last they are still dogs and super happy if they get cuddled! It was pure fun and an adventure you definitely shouldn’t miss out!
Icewalk? Oh yes! The little hike into the narrow Grotto Canyon near Canmore you can do by your own - if you are prepared! For walking on the frozen creek bed up to the spectacular icefalls you will definitely need spikes under your shoes! And you should definitely explore this gorgeous remote location in the morning! When we went there after the dog sledding the ice was slightly melted and at some points slushy because the midday sun was already too strong and the temperature too high in March!
A delicious cheese platte to share, fresh Panini’s and great coffee for brunch or lunch? Here you go... the Mountain Mercato in Canmore offers a unique flair, while offering local Canadian products varied with Mediterranean specialities – so you get several different types of Maple Syrup and a fresh traditional Italian Ciabatta in the same store. We absolutely fell in love with the charming bistro-grocery hybrid.
Located on 7.510 ft (which is 2.290 meter) on top of Sulphur Mountain The Skybistro is probably the most divine farm to table concept in Canada. In general we are fans of dinning with a view, but this restaurant topped it all. The excellent service, the dainty dishes and the sunset atmosphere made this experience unforgettable for us. We highly recommend the Gondola & Dinner combo, which already includes one appetiser and one main course.
Regional. Seasonal. Canadian. At The Bison in Banff they have a map in their menu, where you can look up from which farms the food on your plate come from. Almost all ingredients like the vegetables, cheese and wine are from local farmers. Also the bison comes from family-run farms in Alberta, ensuring the highest quality and sustainability. And we can tell you it was delicious! We loved the open kitchen concept, which is integrated in a spacious modern room with mountain elegance. We’ll be back in summer for Sunday brunch and drinks on the sundeck for sure.
Also next time we make sure to visit The Juniper, which was highly recommended by the locals.
On our way back to Vancouver we passed the Yoho National Park and made a detour to the popular Emerald Lake, which is actually truly scenic. The little stopover also brought us to the charming souvenir store The Boathouse! Actually it is a Boathouse and the rental for cross-country in winter and canoes in summer. A very well implemented and catching concept! We couldn’t leave without some souvenirs :-)
First of all... stroll along the Banff Avenue and enjoy the view on Cascade Mountain. Also there are many stores and a bunch of souvenir shops to ramble through. Unfortunately we have found no outstanding concept store we can report about at this point.
However in Canmore you get a bunch of them! The most remarkable is definitely Alberta’s Own Marketplace. It“celebrates the talent and tenacity of its people, proudly offering a stage to showcase all that this great providence is made of”. We really enjoyed every corner of this store and the handmade products of Alberta’s artists. If you walk through the whole marketplace you end up in the beautiful Wilderness gallery of Brandon T. Brown. His pictures are so intimate; we felt like having a connection to the animals he portrayed. Fascinating and inspiring work, we can highly recommend to have a look at!