Banff, Canada

It is kind of expected that when in Canada, you will go to the mountains, at least by many of the people whose paths I have crossed. Luckily my hosts in Calgary felt the same way, and thought nothing of driving us the 130-odd kilometres to Banff, to see the waterfall, some mountains and, as a bonus, take in the Banff Centre Mountain Film & Book festival.

View of Banff mountains from the road
View of Banff mountains from the road.

The mountains in the distance become almost commonplace on the drive, until you reach a dip and they disappear. Emerging from the dip, which must last longer than it feels, suddenly those mountains are no longer a background commonplace, but looming large in your vision.

We passed the ski resort of Kananaskis (not, I don’t think, pronounced Kanana-skis, though I am sure some cannot resist), gondolas and the like to the ready. Skiing is not cheap, but I am told the cheapest way is to get a pass just for this resort, which is also the closest to Calgary. Banff is next, then Lake Louise. Plenty of options. If you want a pass to everywhere, it’ll set you back around CAD $2,300.

Bow Falls viewpoint
Bow Falls viewpoint. Not viewing the falls.

We were happy with free entertainment, on a cool but not freezing day. About 1.5km walk from the centre is the Bow Falls viewpoint. The walk there is beautiful, through tall fir trees, along well maintained paths. And the spot itself is beautiful, too, with mountain views all around, and a small waterfall gushing away. To the left of my photos. Honestly, it’s just not the best waterfall ever, so I didn’t take a photo.

(Okay, actually I kind of forgot, but still – trust me, the mountains are the highlight.)

Me, proudly turning my back on the Bow Falls viewpoint
Me, proudly turning my back on the Bow Falls viewpoint.

Rikki was happy to take my photo, and I posed, trying to look serious.

View from the bridge, Banff
View from the bridge, Banff. Any way you turn, there is a view.

Having heard stories of playing golf beside the river and mountains, we strolled back into town. You wouldn’t believe it from the photos, but hidden behind the trees in many of these photos are various holes of the golf course. Much clearer on an aerial view.

View of Fairmont Springs hotel
View of Fairmont Springs hotel, from Surprise Point.

We could not work out what the surprise was at Surprise Point. We stopped there and were not surprised that the view was good, and the posh hotel looked posh.

Mountain views everywhere
Mountain views everywhere.
Surprise Point
Surprise Point.
Fairmont Springs hotel panorama
Fairmont Springs hotel panorama.

It is a beautiful town. We walked, we soaked up the views, we felt cold at Surprise Point as the day ended. We discovered there was free beer for the taking at the film festival, and went and had one, and then headed into one of the auditoriums as the sprawling (honestly, it’s massive) Banff Centre, and watched Dreamland, a film by Stanislaw Berbeka about his climbing father. I realised fairly early on that the bloke sat in front of us was Stanislaw, so let him off the fact that another bloke kept coming over to talk to him, and that he from time to time lit up his phone. It’s a faux pas, but when sitting nervously watching your own film, a forgivable one.

Dreamland, film at the Banff mountain book and film festival
Dreamland, film at the Banff mountain book and film festival.

The film was good, though I was a little lost in the Polish names for a while, forgetting who was family and who an old climbing buddy of his father. There was plenty of old footage, from the 80s and 90s, some of which was obvious, but sometimes the film cut to old footage without me spotting it, which made the story-telling a little jumpy. But I learnt more about Polish climbing in the Hindu Kush – first ascent over 8000m in Winter without oxygen, for a start – than I had known beforehand, and a book/film festival in a Winter resort has an atmosphere all its own.

Banff. Beautiful. Visit, if you get the chance. If you have the money, go and ski/snowboard etc. there. Me? I’m off to Vancouver. Whisper it, because I am claiming to be all happy to finally be in cold weather, but it’s warmer there.

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