Banff: Summertime in the Canadian Rockies
“Ya bro, it was like 5 degrees, but I guess that’s like summer in Canadia. Get it? You’re Canadian so you must be from Canadia!”
Wish I could say that less than fifty percent of British/Australian people I’ve met have made this joke, but at least I’m able to curse at them in French after they make it; yay for bilingualism! All terrible jokes aside, I’ve come to realise that the world in general sees Canada as a cold, snowy place (a position that I’ve reinforced with my horror stories of the east coast winter 2015). Although for five to eight months of the year this may be true, every year a time comes when the humans, bears, and beavers of Canada attempt to shed their winter guts faster than the land can shed the snow (we rarely win). This beautiful time of year is summertime, and during summertime there is no better place to be than Banff!
“I’m just so sick of nature and beauty, I just want buildings and to go shopping”
If you share the same opinion as the two German ladies quoted above, then fortunately for you the city of Calgary is just over an hours drive from Banff. However, if like myself you have the exact opposite opinion then you will be happy to know that the town of Banff is part of Banff National Park which is part of system of four connected national parks that cover almost 20,000 square kilometres of nature and beauty! Within Banff National Park alone you could spend weeks stopping at the marked interest points that line the highway. With pull offs about every ten kilometres for spectacular canyons, beautiful valleys, and probably at least one glacial fed lake that was your computers default screensaver. Of course, being in the Rockies, you are also surrounded by mountains that offer climbs for every level of climber. Within the town of Banff, you can expect to summit and descend a mountain in anywhere from one hour to ten hours, depending on your mountain of choice and level of hangover. If your level of hangover has rendered you incapable of a measly one hour climb then you should seek help, and Sulphur Mountain offers it with hot springs and a gondola to the summit! Each mountain offers a unique, spectacular view and just being able to say you’ve summitted a Rocky Mountain (even if you had a little help from the floating chair) is pretty sweet on it’s own.
“Really, you guys have burglaries?! My biggest danger when walking home from the bar is running into a bear or a cougar?”
You ever hear one thing come out of someone’s mouth and think to yourself, “I’ll never respect this person again”. Clearly the scholar of a Vancouverite behind this quote likes to take the looooong way home from the bar (the one that takes you thirty plus km outside Canada’s third largest city and through the forest via a mountain). That being said, when stumbling home after a great night at one of Banff’s wonderful nighttime establishments it is not uncommon to come across an elk or coyote. Virtually any outdoor activity you partake in while in Banff will almost certainly involve you crossing paths with wildlife. Whether that be while mountain biking some of Canada’s best trails, kayaking on some clear blue glacial fed water, or golfing at one of Canada’s top ranked courses, which I can vouch for being literally filled with elk and coyotes. There is also always a chance of running into bears, especially if you are going to climb a mountain. All of these animals can be dangerous, but as long as you always stay in a group, keep your distance, and for god sake stop trying to pet the animals, then you will be fine.
“No I can’t go out tonight man, I’ve got tomorrow off.”
One of the most interesting friends I met in Banff lived by the philosophy of going out every night before our 5 a.m shift and using his weekends to catch up on a weeks worth of sleep. Although I do not endorse this lifestyle, Banff is certainly the place to do it. It has a perfect mix of pubs offering live music and clubs offering a platform for bad decisions, with a different bar ‘owning’ each night of the week. Although the town only boasts a population of just under 10,000, the mix of young seasonal labourers and the steady influx of tourists allow for a perfect mix that can fill a club on a Tuesday. This demographic also makes for a thriving restaurant scene which, along with the souvenir shops and a number of name brand shops, fill the chateau style buildings of Banff Avenue. If you travel beyond Banff Avenue and over the Bow River, you will wind up at the most beautiful hotel, and potentially even building, in all of Canada. This ‘Castle in the Rockies’ is the Banff Springs Hotel and is worth checking out even if you don’t have $500 a night to spend on a room.
The town of Banff and the national parks surrounding it offer a wonderful vacation spot for anyone seeking adventure, romance, or a place to booze until you get drunk enough to try to ride an elk (please send pictures if successful, will add to article). Word on the street is it’s pretty sweet in the winter too, but I hate winter and that’s not what this article is about so don’t ask me to elaborate! Hope you all get a chance to check it out and enjoy Banff as much as I did and remember DON’T PET THE BEARS!