Travel writer, Charlie Dakin, gives a rare account of the unique opportunity of visiting North KoreaWritten by Redbrick on 21st February 2017
Hidden Gem: Banff
Travel writer, Sophie, describes the beauty of discovering a Canadian alpine resort that is off the beaten track
We have reached that time of year where the post-Christmas blues have just about vanished and the hope for snow is optimistic as ever. The cold, frosty mornings in winter means there is nowhere more fitting to visit, or merely fantasise over, than Banff. Banff is a resort town in the province of Alberta, roughly being 4 hours from the capital, Toronto. Populated with 7500 people, Banff is one of the most renowned tourist attractions in Canada. The main boutiques and restaurants, mixed with chateau-style hotels and souvenir shops give Banff a warming, cosy atmosphere; a place perfect for this time of year. On average in the winter, temperatures reach a low of -13.3 and a high of -0.2, so hats and scarfs will certainly be needed (and the occasional hot chocolate). Considering this, Banff is also home to three world-class ski and snowboard resorts. These being Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. So, if you’re a big fan of skiing, this place should definitely be on your wish list.
Banff was first established as Canada’s first National Park in 1885. Therefore, the beautifully naturalistic parks are something worth visiting. Parker Ridge Trail and Central Park are amongst the large array to choose from, and have been highly recommended by previous visitors to Banff. An 'exciting natural experience' is guaranteed as you step into the wilderness, which Canada’s most famous Park has to offer. Not only will you get to admire the stunning views of woodland and lakes, but the likelihood of encountering some wildlife is high. Elk, (related to deer) are the most common to be found in Banff. You don’t even have to visit one of the parks to spot them - they may simply be wondering alongside roads. However, there have also been numerous sights of bears and beavers. Although bears are rarely seen in the winter due to hibernation, large paw prints may be spotted in the snow if you look carefully. Despite this, if you’re lucky enough to visit Banff in the spring, then the bears are highly likely to be detected in the woodland. These parks are located in close proximity to Banff town, and the local bus can very easily provide transport to and from your desired destination. Therefore, if you’re a lover of nature, or simply want to go bear spotting, then Banff’s enthralling parks are the place to be. In fact, the parks are worthwhile visiting at any time of year; in the winter expect inches of thick, pure white snow to blanket the ground. Whereas in the summer, be allured by the freshness of woodland, foregrounding the unmissable Rocky mountains.
Although Banff is greatly popular for it’s stunning natural aspects, there is plenty to offer for those who like action-packed visits. In particular, the skiing and snowboarding resorts are not to be missed. Sunshine Village resort is located roughly 20 minutes from the town of Banff, which is accessible via Bus. With more than 3,300 acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain, this is winter wonderland for those who have skied before, or perhaps wish to try something new. With a welcoming and vibrant atmosphere, Sunshine village will make you come back for more every year. Skiing lessons are always available for those of you who want to brush up on skills or try skiing/snowboarding from the very first time. Not only this, but bars, grills and cafes are dotted around the resort. This makes taking a well-deserved break from skiing or snowboarding a little worthier; a range from rich hot chocolates to the classic Canadian burgers are on offer. Clearly, this resort has a reputation for a reason, and it is not one you want to miss if you’re visiting Banff for a ski holiday. However, other resorts such as Lake Louise offer winter sports which may appeal to those who aren’t a big skiing fan, or merely love the adrenalin. For example, tubing is one of the most popular events that Lake Louise holds - their Sunny Tube Park will not disappoint as you race down the long, winding tracks it has to offer. Clearly, in the winter Banff is a perfect destination for visitors who want to get active and try the exciting experiences that skiing/snowboarding has to offer. Or, if you simply want to enjoy the pristine snow and the less physical winter activities, Banff will fit your agenda perfectly.
So far, it seems that Banff is an attraction for visitors who want an adventurous, activity based holiday.
“When you need to wind down and enjoy the scenic views that surround Banff, then the Hot Springs are definitely worth a visit.
Of course, when you visit a new place, food is on the agenda. Down its small streets and interconnected roads, Banff is full to the brim with restaurants and cafes. Ranging from a classic McDonald’s to some of the most renowned restaurants in Alberta, Banff has everything to fit your fancy. In particular, ‘Bumper’s’ restaurant is a must - 'if you haven’t been to Bumper’s then you haven’t been to Banff.' This restaurant provides the largest, most delicious steak and ribs you’ll find, which is a classic meal when visiting Canada. Not only this, but the burgers and buffet will definitely to fill you up after a long day of travelling and activities in the snow. All the main restaurants and tourist attractions in Banff are within walking distance, so there’s no need to worry about transportation in the evening or day time if you want to simply explore Banff’s hidden treasures.
Essentially, Banff is one of the most naturalistic places you can visit in Canada. All year round, Banff’s wildlife and woodland will captivate you. If you thought you weren’t a lover of nature, this place is sure to change your mind. Banff is a destination where there is always something to do, and it’s guaranteed you’ll fall in love with it the moment you lay your eyes on it.