Saturday, 13 January 2018

A wintery week in Banff, Canada


As mentioned in my last two posts, Dave and I spent a bit of time in Canada in November. We decided that after soaking up some sun in Mexico and enjoying the bright lights of Vegas, it would be great if we could spend a bit of time in the snow, so booked in for 6 nights in Banff, Canada.

We were very keen to do some skiing whilst there, so after researching the various skiing options for late November, we ended up booking in 4 nights at Sunshine Mountain Lodge, a ski-in ski-out resort located about 20 minutes from the town of Banff. After flying into Calgary from Vegas, then getting on a bus for 2 hours to Banff with Banff Airporter (which was an excellent transportation option for anyone considering a trip to Banff in the future), we spent a night at Banff Park Lodge, a cozy hotel in the centre of Banff.


Having done a little bit of research on the best places to eat in Banff, we were both keen to try The Grizzly House, a restaurant on the main street known for its fondue. We were extremely glad we did go here, as it was one of the best meals of our holiday (we ended up going back another two times).



Based on our waitress' recommendation, we ordered the cheese fondue as a starter to share, before having the hot stone with buffalo, elk and venison. The cheese fondue was incredible - it included a mixture of Swiss cheeses including emmental and gruyere, along with white wine and kirsh and a side of roasted garlic and cubed bread, and was such a comforting, delicious meal to enjoy while the snow fell on the ground outside. The gamey meats served on the hot stone, which you could cook to your liking, and which were served with a mixture of sauces and mustards, were also such a comforting dish.


The next morning, we woke up early to catch the first bus up to Sunshine Village (which was full of Aussies). Arriving at the village at about 9am, we caught the gondola up the mountain then checked into the hotel (where we were greeted by some Aussies) and dropped off our bags, before heading to the ski hire shop (where we were served by some Aussies) and picking up our gear for the next four and a half days on the slopes.

We had an amazing time at Sunshine Village. There had been a pretty big dumping of snow in the days leading up to our arrival, so there was plenty of soft, powdery snow for us. Given that we are both relatively new skiiers (this was my fourth time on the slopes and Dave's second time) and that we had never learned to ski as children, we decided to get a lesson on our second day, which really helped us with our confidence and taught us a few new skills.

Each day, we tended to wake up around 8am, and after getting our warm gear on, we headed to a small cafe located in the hotel, where I would usually grab a banana and nutella crepe, while Dave would get a cream cheese bagel - a pretty cheap but energy filled breakfast for our morning on the slopes. We would then ski for a few hours, before having an hour or so off for lunch, where we could choose to eat at one of the eateries on the mountain - whether that be the burger bar, the cafeteria with casual takeaway meals like pizza, pho or burgers, or the cozy tavern serving foods such as nachos, burgers, sandwiches and soups, and of course, mulled wine (this was our favourite place to eat, and the most popular among the skiers as well).
 



We'd then hit the slopes again and ski until about 4pm when the lifts closed. After taking off our skis and boots and storing them in the ski lockers reserved for hotel guests, we would make the most of the outdoor hot tub - despite being situated in the snowy outdoors, the water was so warm that after a few minutes in the water, it was quite refreshing to stand up and cool down a bit in the freezing air.

There were a few dining options on the mountain - two restaurants located within the hotel (which was great if you didn't feel like bundling up in your down coat, beanie, gloves and scarf) and the tavern, which was only about a 30 second walk in the snow anyway, so pretty convenient if you felt like a more casual option. We tried all three places over our stay and couldn't fault any of them.



After four and a half days of skiing, we checked out of Sunshine Mountain Lodge, hopped in the gondola and got the bus back to the town of Banff, where we checked into Banff Park Lodge again for the final night of our trip. We headed back to The Grizzly House for a late lunch, then headed next door to Beavertails, an amazing takeaway dessert place that is famous, funnily enough, for beavertails - a flat, doughy dessert in the shape of a beaver's tail that is fried and served with your choice of topping. Dave went for the classic cinnamon sugar, while I couldn't go past the nutella option. We then spent the afternoon wandering around the town of Banff, before heading back to the hotel to pack up before our flight the next day. Luckily, we were able to have a bit of a sleep in the next morning and spent a bit more time wandering around town, before having one final meal at The Grizzly House (can you tell that we were completely obsessed with fondue by this stage?!) and another beavertail for the road.




I have to say that I think Banff was the highlight of our holiday. For one, we didn't get sick (unlike in Mexico...hooray!), the scenery is absolutely incredible, everyone is so friendly, the snow is phenomenal, and the meals we enjoyed were some of the best we've ever experienced (that fondue...). As one of my favourite places I have ever visited, I really do hope that I get the opportunity to travel to Banff again in the future.


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