It really is a game of two halves when it comes to our trip to Banff/Canmore, and you’ll understand why as you read on.
I was so excited to get to Banff, having images in my head of it being most like Queenstown which we’d visited and fallen in love with on honeymoon in 2013. I have a fondness for ski resorts; especially the nightlife, everyone congregating together after a day on the slopes or hoying themselves out of planes to enjoy a beer and listen to each other’s adrenaline filled tales. Banff is every inch that town, although with it being Late September when we were there, the slopes weren’t open yet so the vibe was watered down slightly.
Staying in Banff itself proved ridiculously expensive so we stayed in nearby Canmore. It’s a decent enough sized town in it’s own right to be fair, with a couple of supermarkets, and plenty of pubs/bars/restaurants which are walkable to keep you entertained in the evening. This was also the first place we stayed 3 nights, so as to give us 2 full days in the area.
We went into Banff, which was literally about 15 minutes away (when most of your drives are hitting the 5-hour mark, 15 minutes feels almost walkable!) And the equivalent of the Banff City Council has their shit together in terms of parking. 2 massive free parking lots which are a 3-minute walk into the city centre. Very tourist friendly.
It was the next biggest town we’d visited after Vancouver and I was pleased to see a bit of commerce. The town centre is nice to walk around, and all the store fronts have that lovely light wooden alpine facias which makes everywhere (even the Tim Hortons) look more upmarket. We had a coffee and a donut in said Tim Hortons for breakfast then went for a lovely walk along the Bow River to Bow Falls. The best thing about going slightly out of season as we did, was that it didn’t feel that busy. I can’t imagine how chaotic it must feel in peak ski season or the middle of summer.
We were higher up now too so everywhere was starting to get covered in snow, which made it all the more pretty, even if it did mean Dave had to make an emergency purchase of a new hat and gloves.
We stopped for lunch at Eddie Burger, which came highly recommended by the internet and I mirror that recommendation. Burgers, staff and service were all top notch.
And sadly, thus kind of ends our magical Banff experience. Because at around 2pm on our first day, snow stopped play.
When it snows in Canada it really effing snows let me tell you! Trapped by the pending blizzard we walked the block from our hotel to the Grizzly Paw Taproom which was literally round the corner, had a pint in there, then across the street for a very average A&W burger then took shelter back in our room watching crap American telly. Weather wise, day 2 would be better right? I mean how long can it possible snow for?!
All f*cking night as it happens. I woke up that morning to a good 6 inches (whey hey) which somewhat limited what we were able to do. Not to be deterred though, I put on almost literally every item of clothing I packed and we went for a walk along the Bow River which was really pretty then stopped off for a hot chocolate to see if we could formulate a plan on what else there was to do. We couldn’t.
So we walked further along the river. I’m not sure if it was the constant swapping from cold to warm to cold again but I wasn’t feeling particularly well that day. On the second river walk I was suddenly so tired I could have honestly lay down in the snow and gone to sleep. And that’s not like me. I’m a leo, I need to be warm!
The snow was unrelenting, and I felt like it was battering my face no matter which direction I turned so as my resolve levels lowered my whingy levels rose and I think Dave was a bit sick of me by lunchtime. We had a very quiet sandwich and bowl of soup and swung by the supermarket for some provisions then decided to try and have a drive somewhere in the car.
The storm was THAT BAD that we got 20 minutes down the road and sacked it off, visibility was poor and the roads didn’t feel safe to drive on. So, not for want of trying, we sacked the day off, went back to our room, I had a nap to sleep off my grogginess and then we sat and drank wine out of plastic cups.
Don’t get me wrong, Banff (and Canmore for that matter) are lovely and well, well worth a visit. We were just super unlucky with the weather I think.
At least I was able to continue my foray into becoming a Canadian wine expert!