Have you ever looked at the concept of lying on a beach somewhere as nothing but a waste of holiday days? If so I understand your apprehension of traditional holidays. Banff is the tiny tourist town in the Canadian Rockies that cured me of my hate of traditional holiday destinations.
I’m not usually one for holiday destinations, I’m more an extraordinary escapade kind of a girl, pack on my back no goal but adventure, yet somehow I found myself convinced by a couple of friends to come along for a road trip to Banff, Alberta. Not only was I glad I’d gone but I found in Banff an appreciation of relaxation and indulgence of the beauty of the place that I had found impossible to capture at any other holiday destination I’d visited. Banff taught me, a hardcore backpacker how to have a holiday and love it.
This may be a strange concept for some, the inability to holiday but for others with their modern constantly on the go lifestyles and a love of more adventurous travel. The idea of simply relaxing somewhere beautiful for a week sounds like nothing more than a waste of time off, that could be better spent adventuring in some far flung corner of the globe.
Banff changed all that for me driving in to the pristine winter wonderland was like a fairytale for this Kiwi girl, I didn’t know snow actually got that fluffy outside of movies. This was a literal winter wonderland, not the cheesy fake Father Christmas at the mall but actual pristine frozen wilderness.
The air was cold and crisp, the kind that makes your breath puff in the air and turns your cheeks rosy above your scarf. The kind of cold that can actually be painful but for a Southern hemisphere girl like me just caps off the winter vista.
If being surrounded with untouched mountains is your thing then Banff is definitely for you, amazing beauty, rugged snow capped peaks in the distance, a soft blanket of pristine snow over trees and houses and wild moose wandering just out of reach on the frozen riverbed.
As for this holiday making I was talking about earlier, my friends and I went up the ski slopes one day and I decided to do a very unlike “adventurous me” thing and stay in the Chalet.
While the guys were off snowboarding, my friend and I wandered the bunny slopes, making snow angles and strange leaning ice castles, even throwing a few snowballs. Before retiring to the Chalet for hot mulled cider and relaxing in front of an open fire, the slopes spread out before us through the massive pitcher window.
Now if you know me you know I’m a “doer” watching other people have adventures is not my thing but this one afternoon of relaxing body and mind was simply perfect. I may have even gotten a little tipsy =).
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty for a doer to do around Banff. I went ice skating on Lake Louise, Skating on an actual frozen lake was something that had been on this Kiwi’s bucket list for a long time (there are only 8 permanent ice rinks in the whole of NZ, you get that many in a single building in Canada) Needless to say I’m not very good, I survived with my all my limbs if not my dignity.
I rode a bucking bronco in a local pub, unduly proud that I managed to stay on longer than a whole bus of Asian tourists combined.
Then on our last day we splurged for a sled dogs ride, driving out into the mountains it was truly bone numbingly cold, wrapped in snow pants and coat, proly-props, two pairs of gloves, scarf and hat, nothing but my eyes showing. Like a waddling multi colored snowman and I still lost feeling in my feet within a minute. I had my own sled, with a driver who funnily enough was also Kiwi and a team of 6 dogs who each had distinct jobs and personalities to match.
The first half of the ride I was zipped into a small sled and quickly became aware of the lack of suspension a sled off road through the trees has. Watching the scenery whip by in a blur of ice thrown up by the dogs. Rocketing along at a great rate coasted around a corner and headed out into the open, on what in summer is a great lake. At this point my driver stopped the sled and asked if I wanted to drive “hell yeah”. Driving it turned out wasn’t as simple as it looked, a combination of hollering strange words at the dogs, hanging on for dear life while leaning out on one skid to assist turns and running along behind when the going was tough, had me exhausted in ten minutes flat. However I did get that epic “I’m driving a dog sled through open tundra” feeling that I’ll never forget, warms you right up too.
However the highlight for me has to be just wandering the village, there are tons of quaint if slightly touristy stores, I found an amazing tea shop, perfect to keep warm on the inside. Walks through the snow down near the river, where the wildlife ignores your presence in their icy domain and the snow crunches with every footstep. Seriously, wandering with the occasional break for hot tea or cider, delicious dinners and quiet nights in front of the fire reading my book made me think that perhaps there was something to this holiday thing after all. Rest and relaxation has never been so agreeable.
Untouched vistas, adventure sports and cozy relaxations, Banff pretty much has something for everyone. So whether you are an adventure lover or someone keen for a relaxing break away, Banff makes a great trip. It really did change how I view vacations for the better and if you have ever thought of a relaxing break as a waste of holiday days then you understand just what a recommendation that is.