Banff National Park
student story by Marvin E.
Banff is probably one of the most popular areas to visit when going to Canada. The Banff National Park is located in Alberta, the province east of British Columbia. During your semester at Vancouver Island University, you will have a one week break before the final stretch of the semester. I would recommend you to finish most of your schoolwork before this break so you can plan a bigger trip with a few people. For the drive to the national park you should calculate at least 10 hours, depending on weather, traffic and the amount of time you spend on breaks. But oh boy, it is worth it
The city of Banff is not very big, but very well prepared for tourists. The architecture creates a special charm, which is enhanced by snow, which you can find there almost year-round. You can find a lot of information about the surrounding area online or in the visitors’ center of Banff. Several rental stores in the city rent out any kind of equipment you could need for hikes, skiing or ice walks. Accommodation in Banff can be expensive and rare, depending on the time you’re traveling, but there are a few places just outside the national park that where you can find more affordable housing. I stayed in an Airbnb in Canmore, a small city about 30 minutes away from Banff. This allowed our group to save money on housing while still being close to the park and being able to visit any day. There are countless opportunities to engage in recreational activities in the national park at any time of the year. The national park should be on your list of places to visit, regardless of when you are in Canada. Some of the activities are limited to certain seasons, like skiing and ice walking in the winter. Other popular activities are hiking and biking. While biking is mostly limited to the summer due to weather conditions, many of the hikes are still open in the winter. Anyone interested in seeing spectacular landscapes and beautiful nature should visit Banff and is almost guaranteed to find a suitable activity.
Hiking in the Banff National Park is probably one of the most breathtaking things I have ever done in my life. I visited in the winter, so not all hiking trails were open, and it was too cold to do very long hikes. Sun hours are also limited, but even the shorter hikes get you to impressive spots. The landscapes are not as colorful as they are in the summer, but the snowy trees make for a beautiful view nevertheless. One fun winter activity is ice walking. Depending on the trail, ice cleats are recommended and can be rented from several companies in Banff or any other town around. The hikes and walks are not necessarily difficult, so everyone can find a fitting trail and explore nature. We hiked a short trail around Lake Louise and found footprints of various animals along the track. The entire lake was frozen and people were able to walk on it, but it’s not advised. Due to the big number of hiking trails, I would recommend you do a little research to find the hikes that will fit you best and show you the kind of nature you’re interested in the most.
Skiing and snowboarding are always popular activities, and who doesn’t want to be able to say they did it in the Rocky Mountains? Admittedly, doing so isn’t cheap, especially since you’re likely not bringing your own equipment, but the experience is certainly worth it. I visited Banff in the first week the ski resorts opened their slopes. There was not a lot of snowfall up to that point, so we didn’t have many resorts to choose from. We went to Sunshine Village, which is a ski resort with 145 trails of which only around 25 were open on the day we visited. However, the number was sufficient for an entire day of snowboarding and the slopes were not too crowded. Luckily there was a good mix of greens, blues and blacks slopes for skiers and snowboarders of every level were able to enjoy their day.