Escapes

Q:

Banff or Bust?

I'll be in Banff, Alberta, from October to December. What shouldn't I miss?

Banff Avenue.     Photo: John Vetterli / Flickr

A:Banff is often overshadowed by Whistler, British Columbia, its boisterous, look-at-me cousin to the west. But the small mountain town, located inside Canada's Banff National Park, has plenty to shout about. Here's how to spend the rest of the year:

Banff Big Three
With the longest non-glacial ski season in North America running from November to early May, you’ll usually find Banff enshrouded in a cape of prime powder. Three ski resorts—Mount Norquay, the Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Sunshine Village—lie within the national park and encompass nearly 8,000 skiable acres. Skilled shredders shouldn’t miss the off-piste terrain at Lake Louise Ski Area, some of the world’s finest. For the only ski-in, ski-out accommodations in Banff, opt for Sunshine Mountain Lodge, a boutique hotel with eco-friendly cred and access to Sunshine Village.

Take in the Canadian Rockies
Downhill and backcountry skiing may be the headliners in Banff, but other winter sports are worthy opening acts. For ice skating on natural lakes, try Lake Minnewanka (home to a lake cruise in milder temps) and Lake Louise (known for its glacier-fed turquoise water come summer), with skate rentals at the later available at Chateau Mountain Sports. Cross-country ski intermediate Spray River Trail, a local favorite.

If you want to view more than do, take in the slopes of six mountain ranges from the year-round Banff Gondola. You can also enjoy the views during another quintessential local experience: soaking in the pools at Banff Upper Hot Springs.

Festivals and Events
At the WinterStart Festival (November 29 to December 22, 2013) elite athletes begin their race to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games with the Audi FIS Ski World Cup downhill and super-G races. The Snowboard Cross World Cup is also set to debut this year at Lake Louise Ski Resort (December 20–21).

Bon Appétit Banff, the town’s version of restaurant week, happens November 14–24. Run the 10-day gastronomic gauntlet through your choice of 30 restaurants serving three-course menus at prix fixe bargain prices.

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