Making Hay on a Slow Snow Day
Calgary is the main gateway to both Banff and Jasper national parks, though Edmonton (250 miles northeast of Banff) is another option. Major carriers servicing Calgary include Air Canada, American Airlines, Continental, Delta, Lufthansa, Northwest, and United. Edmonton includes Air Canada, Continental, Northwest, and United. The Banff Airporter shuttle service departs approximately every hour; return tickets cost $82 for the 80-mile journey to/from Banff (1-888-449-2901, www.banffairporter.com).
For those not in a hire car, regular shuttle services connect Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, and Calgary. Sun Dog Tours runs daily services via the Icefields Parkway from early December through late April: the journey takes approximately four hours (more if you convince the driver to make frequent photo-op stops!) and tickets costs $55, or $49 for service to Lake Louise (1-888-786-3641, www.sundogtours.com).
Where to Stay
Accommodations run the gamut from five-star luxury to simple hostels. For the big splurge, The Fairmont chain operates the spectacular Chateau Lake Louise and old-world Banff Springs (sample prices start from $379 and $649 in winter and summer, respectively; 1-800-257-7544, www.fairmont.com). Banff's downtown Mount Royal Hotel is a good mid-range alternative (sample prices from $130 to $200; 1-877-442-2623). Because the area's ski resorts lie within national park boundaries, there is no slopeside accommodation, with the exception of the Sunshine Inn and Sunshine Village (1-877-542-2633). Winter accommodation is generally easy to organize given that the Banff-Lake Louise area boasts over 100 hotels, lodges, condos, and B&Bs ready to handle the much bigger summer influx of tourists.
Where to Eat
Banff is a well-served base town in all seasons, with a good variety of restaurants, pubs, and nightspots. Locals rate Cafe Soleil for good tapas and fusion food, or Evelyns for on-the-money pre-ski java and pastries. If time and budget permit, head to the high ground at Buffalo Mountain Lodge (1-800-661-1367, www.buffalomountainlodge.com) to savor their to-die-for selection of game meats, including mouthwatering free-range buffalo and caribou. The lodge is also a good out-of-town alternative for those looking for a quintessential (and quieter) Rockies retreat. Options are limited in Lake Louise, though dinner at Chateau Lake Louise overlooking the moonlit, snow-dusted lake is a sure way to après-skier's heart.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication