It’s an elephant! No, it’s an Iroquois-class destroyer! No, it’s a Canada Pacific Railway hotel that has been built in the middle of the pine forest!
Why there? William Cornelius Van Horne was the president of Canada Pacific Railway. As soon as the tracks were laid through the scenic landscape he realized the potential of the place but he also saw a problem: ‘Since we can’t export the scenery, we’ll have to import the tourists.’ I pretty nice spot was chosen for the – between a sulphur hot spring and a waterfall.
The first tourists were checking in during the summer of 1888. A fire destroyed the first hotel in 1926. Two years later a new one stood in its place. This time built with stone. The lobby was packed with movie stars, royalty and Benny Goodman.
Today the Banff Springs Hotel offers 770 rooms, a spa, fifteen stores and twelve restaurants. You do not have to leave the place during your stay, but if you do, there is a 27-hole golf course that gets high ratings by those who understand golf.
Staying at this hotel is a… surreal experience. You are likely to lose orientation completely while browsing the salons, corridors and banquet halls. And most things in this hotel are grand. This also goes for the breakfast buffet. I’ve never seen anything like it. Not before I came there and not afterwards. It’s the size of a basketball court.
This hotel gets the four star award for the level of service, comfort and because it’s so… special. An extra star might have been added if the restaurants had been a notch up.
A special notes for skiers: Banff is smack in the middle of the Canadian Rockies but there are no slopes, nor any quad lifts. If skiing is your thing, you’d better leave town. The nearest ski area of any significance is Sunshine Village, a 25-minute drive away. It might be worth it, as it’s a great ski area. Lake Louise, a regular stop on the ladies downhill World Cup tour, is a 45-minute drive away on good roads. Yes, of course we’re talking good roads. This is North America, goddammit!
Fairmont Banff Springs
405 Spray Avenue,
P.O. Box 960
Banff, Banff National Park
Alberta T1L 1J4, Canada