At his hotel, guests can be as active or inactive as they wish. There's an 18-hole golf course in a splendid setting next to the gently flowing Bow River, numerous hiking and walking paths, mountain biking trails, plus indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a video arcade, weight room and sauna. Nearby there's also heli-skiing and heli-hiking.
If your room is equipped with a Jacuzzi, as many are (usually $40 to $60 Canadian extra), you may not feel compelled to even leave the grounds.
Joggers take a morning run along the river's edge and around the rolling green turf of the golf course. Even the smack of club on ball is fairly obscured once you pass the starter's window. And watch out for chipmunks that may come darting across your path at any moment. The freshness and purity of it all will dazzle you.
There are exquisite views from throughout the hotel, especially in the Riverview Room, where a dose of serenity always comes free of charge. Enjoy the quiet with a book or, perhaps, a pen and paper so you can finally write that letter to a dear friend. If this setting doesn't inspire you, it may be hopeless.
You might even pick up a malady known as "Banff fever." For the first-time visitor, it's easier to catch than the common cold.
Mt. Norquay Ski Area
Take a stroll down busy Banff Avenue, which runs through the heart of town and affords a terrific view of Mt. Norquay, a popular ski area 10 minutes from downtown. You'll get some good photo opportunities while you walk.
Norquay has 17 runs spread over 123 acres, plenty of space for beginners and experts alike. It's also the only place in the area that offers night skiing (open until 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday).
Mt. Norquay is one jewel of Banff's "Big 3" ski resorts. The others are Sunshine Village, about 15 miles southwest of Banff along the Trans Canada Highway, and world-famous Lake Louise, well worth the 40-minute drive west, whether you ski or not.
It's hard to imagine a journey to Banff not including a stop at Lake Louise, where they filmed parts of "Doctor Zhivago." Admire the emerald lake from the back steps of the elegant Chateau Lake Louise, with Victoria Glacier spanning its powerful, snow-white presence directly across the water. It's a sight to be shared with someone special, a place to fall in love.
Like the Banff Springs Hotel, the Chateau, which will celebrate its own centennial in two years, has also undergone a prominent face lift recently, having added a new wing with 140 rooms. In general, rooms at the Chateau are modestly appointed (TV sets are just being added to each room for the Olympics), but it's what you find \o7 outside\f7 the hotel that leaves an imprint like few other destinations will. Best advice for a visit to Lake Louise: Bring plenty of film.
It's 1 1/2 miles along a paved path from the hotel around the west side of the lake, to the base of Victoria. Another splendid morning run or walk, with breathtaking views looking back at the hotel. But, first, request a wake-up call so you won't miss the sun peeking over the mountains and reflecting on the lake as it rises dramatically through the sky.
There is a veritable winter fest of activity on the frozen lake: cross-country skiing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, hockey and Bavarian curling. You can also go dog sledding on grounds just outside the hotel. There are about 100 kilometers of cross-country trails in the area, plus some great hikes in the mountains surrounding Lake Louise. The best is a 2 1/2-mile trek (about 50 minutes, with plenty of resting places along the way) to Lake Agnes, with a mandatory stop at the charming Lake Agnes Teahouse, a little log cabin that sits on a waterfall and offers freshly baked breads for refreshment.
Sunshine, which gets about 400 inches of snowfall annually from its perch atop a high meadow basin, is open longer than the other Banff ski areas, from November till the first week of June.
Some attractive ski packages are available to the Banff area through Banff Club Ski, whose general manager is fittingly named Ladd Snowsell. There are weeklong packages to both the Banff Springs Hotel and the Chateau Lake Louise starting at $302 Canadian (about $245 U.S.), depending on when you come. For more information, contact Banff Club Ski, Box 1085, Banff, Alberta, Canada TOL OCO, phone (403) 762-4561.
You needn't be a skier to enjoy the eight-minute Sulphur Mountain Gondola ride, which is minutes from downtown Banff and open year-round ($7 round trip for adults, $3 for children ages 5 through 11). Hardier souls climb the mountain; the summit is almost 7,500 feet. There's a prime viewing area there, along with a restaurant.