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Banff Hotels and a couple of questions.

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Eyeing a possible Banff as a possible destination next Spring. There's a ton of hotels. But the problem is there's a ton of hotels. I think we'd prefer something near downtown and would certainly prefer something convenient to the ski busses. I know some places can be kind of noisy with street noise. And I also know the train blowing the horn at crossings can be annoying. Would also prefer some place that offered breakfast. Also, how much of a PITA are the ski busses? It's one of the things that really makes me hesitant about Banff. And if we rented a car, how are the roads to LL and Sunshine? Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 19
Roads could be just fine or roads could be really bad. Last time I checked, you couldn't rent a vehicle with winter tires out of Calgary. That would be a deal breaker for me, but YMMV.

I've also heard that Banff has the lowest return-visitor rate of any ski destination in North America, presumably because of the hassles associated with bussing to the hills.

Don't get me wrong - the skiing can be great and the town is a real experience - but if I'm looking for a ski vacation, I want ski-to-your-door.
post #3 of 19
Originally Posted by RISkier View Post

Eyeing a possible Banff as a possible destination next Spring. There's a ton of hotels. But the problem is there's a ton of hotels. I think we'd prefer something near downtown and would certainly prefer something convenient to the ski busses. I know some places can be kind of noisy with street noise. And I also know the train blowing the horn at crossings can be annoying. Would also prefer some place that offered breakfast. Also, how much of a PITA are the ski busses? It's one of the things that really makes me hesitant about Banff. And if we rented a car, how are the roads to LL and Sunshine? Thanks in advance.


Try the tags I added under Topics Discussed (right hand column).  For the Resort Pages, scroll down to the bottom to see the list of related threads.  Here are a couple threads from "Banff travel."






A 2016 trip report with a few pics.  Sometimes asking an existing thread helps to alert folks to the question.



post #4 of 19

I bought MCP and visited Banff - Sunshine (SSV) and Lake Louise (LL) the past season and I absolutely loved it.  I enjoyed it so much that I planned to go back next season in March, as I heard it has the best condition.  


In my case, I am terrified of driving in snow, so I am perfectly happy to take the ski shuttle, and let someone else worries about the driving.  The wknd. I visited there, it was the Alberta family wknd (which falls in the same long wknd as President's wknd.) so both resorts were bit crowded. On the way to SSV in the morning, since it was a 2-lane road, there was a bit of traffic jam heading towards SSV.  Many people that were driving there, since the parking lot was full, they had to park quite far away, and hiked into the gondola base with skis and boots.  That said, I was so glad that I wasn't driving!


As for LL, there was more parking space.  But that also meant you had to hike to the base if you arrived late and ended up parking far.   


As for hotel, I stayed at Mont Royal Hotel.  The back side of Mont Royal is a parking lot, that's where one of the ski shuttle bus stops.  Basically, I just waited at the hotel lobby, when I saw the ski bus came, I walked outside the hotel.  It was very convenient.  The hotel location was in the center of the town, <10 feet away was a McDonald, I got my breakfast to go and then ate on the shuttle bus.  MCP pass covers the cost of shuttle bus.  It worked out for me.  Also, the ski hub shop (where I reclaimed the lift pass using MCP) was right across from Mont Royal hotel.  As for the hotel itself, location was good, but the room was not that great.  However, I cared less about it since i only used it for sleep. For me, the terrain, snow condition and scenery matter more.  


As for you, which hotel to stay, I suggest you visit the following website (as an example).  Or you can google, Brewster Ski Shuttle Banff.  It will take you to Mont Norquay, LL and SSV sites w/ ski shuttle schedule.  On the schedule, it mentions the hotel stops they make.  You can either stay at one of those hotels or choose a different hotel but is closer to the shuttle stop.  






You can also visit ski big 3 website,  they are offering pre season sale now, if you book by Aug. 31st, you can save lodging up to 40% (?).  When you choose which ski pass, lift pass to buy, you may need to consider the cost of ski shuttle .  Because some lift pass does not cover the cost of ski shuttle, others do (like the MCP).  


I hope you will get to visit Banff next winter.  I maybe biased, but I just loved the Canadian Rockies, and I found Canadians are very genuine, hospitable ad considerate.  Plus with the strong USD now, it is a good time to visit Canada!  
I know @albertanskigirl  is a ski ambassador at SSV.  She is very friendly and perhaps can offer you some advice on visiting Banff....  
post #5 of 19
The ski buses are great. Very handy. We've stayed at Irwin's a couple of times and we've found it to be clean and affordable (we tend to be at our lodging on holiday to sleep only). They have courteous staff and it's a short walk to shops/restaurants. Ski bus is at the door.
No noise from the road in the rooms we have been in.
post #6 of 19

@fosphenytoin has already given a lot of great advice. i think the ski buses are great, and wouldn't worry about having to take them. Though I think with the ski shuttle cost, you may want to think about buying the skibig3 lift tickets as those include the ski shuttle cost and  that would probably work out the best, as you can also you the skibig3 pass at any of the resorts (ssv, ll or norquay).


i think if you have winter tires, the roads are fine, and rent-a-car companies do rent cars with winter tires if you request them. having said that, if you'd prefer a hassle free vacation, then ski shuttles are the way to go. 


as far as hotels go, i think a lot of it depends on what features you are looking for exactly, and your budget. most banff hotels are divided into 2 types  - the 'condo' apartment hotel (basically a 1 or 2 bedroom hotel with a full kitchen), or standard motel/hotel room, sometimes with breakfast included. as @fosphenytoin mentioned, i think you might want to stay along the ski shuttle route, if you decide to take the shuttle, because it just makes it easier to get to the shuttle stop. if you give us an idea of your budget, that would definitely help in narrowing down the choices - and id be happy to give you some recommendations. with the condo or standard room choice, i think much of it also depends on how much you plan on spending on food - food in banff can be very pricey, and i know many people will offset that with doing a few meals in the condo, and also preparing lunch for the ski hill. the food choices at ssv and ll are, let's just say, less than inspired. 5 days in a row of eating at onhill choices can be less then thrilling...


anyway, if you send some of those prefrences, i'd be happy to give a few thoughts or suggestions on places to stay...


good luck! safe to say that i think the canadian rockies are always an AMAZING place to vacation and go skiing :) 

post #7 of 19

btw - i just wanted to add, i know that 'skiing out you door' is what a lot of vacationers love in a ski vacation. but one thing to understand about banff/ll before you come here is that the towns and ski resorts are within the national park. what that means is very strict rules on development - especially development that is residential and tourism-related. you won't find ski-in or ski-out here (with the exception of the sunshine village lodge), but because there is such controlled development, it also means you won't have 5000 people on a run here with you. even when it is super busy, you will rarely deal with lines or crowds. most of our skiing days involve never waiting to get on the lift, and also skiing down runs with rarely seeing other people...so it's kind of a trade-off there i guess. 

post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks to all of you for the thoughtful replies and links. Much appreciated. I've always heard the scenery in the park was spectacular so I've always had a bit of desire to visit. And I've been seeing the 40% off deals. Between that and the current exchange rate it  seems like a super deal, and that's really why I've started looking so early. I'm 62 and will be with my child bride. We pretty much ski all day, then enjoy a bit of apres ski and dinner. We're definitely not looking for a late night party scene. I know we'd like to be able to get down town conveniently. Walking would be preferable, but a convenient shuttle or bus between lodging and downtown would work. Convenience to the ski buses would be really important if we skip a car, and I'd prefer to skip a car altogether if possible. And we'd want someplace quiet. If we had a condo type place we'd probably do most of our breakfasts there before going out. If a hotel room, somewhere that included breakfast or at least had a convenient breakfast option would be important. We're not looking to break the bank but between the exchange rate and, presumably 40% discount, we're also not real price sensitive. I know my wife would definitely want access to a hot tub. Thanks again.

post #9 of 19

Stayed a week at Brewster Mountain Lodge in March. Comfortable room, but no fridge is a minor hassle. We drove to SSV/LL each day, no big deal, BML has underground parking.

Good restaurants all over the town, but definitely hit Eddies for a burger at some point: http://www.eddieburgerbar.ca/

post #10 of 19
We started both times at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise and used the bus to get to the mountain. The Post has a fantastic restaurant. The village is walkable. But it's really small. You'll want to go to Banff for variety and that's sort of a haul for dinner. There are several other restaurants in Lake Louise, but you're pretty constrained. The Chateau Lake Louise has a more urban feel to it than the Post, which is cosy.
post #11 of 19

I don't really recommend staying in Lake Louise for more than 1 or 2 nights - really not much to do around there, and the food gets old very quick (not many choices). 


The shuttle runs and makes several stops along Banff Ave before going to either of the hills. It starts on the side of Banff Ave closest to Highway 1. It starts at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort and moves inwards to the Town parking lot, which is off of Banff Ave right next to the Bow River. Anywhere along Banff Ave would be best to make the shuttle easily accessible. I don't recommned staying as far out along Banff Ave as Banff Rocky Mountain Resort, or Inns of Banff because it can be quite a slog into town on a cold night, and I don't like to rely on the bus system. For maximum walkability to restaurants etc, I would definitely recommend staying at a place along Banff Ave between Moose St and the Bow River. 


If you'd like breakfast included, I'd happily recommend A Good Nite's Rest Bed and Breakfast: 




I've stayed there before and can highly recommend it - good breakfast, great rooms, really comfortable, mini fridge, coffee maker, microwave and great reliable wifi. Each room has a private entrance, which I like - as I like to have privacy when I'm on vacation. We'll stay there and have breakfast, make lunch from stuff we keep in the fridge and then go out for dinner. They have free parking too. 


Irwin's, Red Carpet, HIgh Country Inn will be your usual hotel/motel rooms - good price, but not much else - though High Country Inn does have a nice pool and free parking. We've stayed there a few times too. 


I would put Banff Aspen Lodge, Banff Park Lodge and Brewster Mountain Lodge in the next tier up from Irwin's and Red Carpet - both are nice. BAL has free buffet breakfast included and has fridges in their rooms. I'm not sure that Brewster's has either. Both are comfortable options - sheets and beds are definitely a step up from Irwin's/Red Carpet/High Country etc.


There is also Mount Royal and the King Edward - typical motels, but I don't usually recommend them because they arae right on Banff Ave and close to a lot of bars/restaurants, so the noise can be quite a lot in both of these hotels. 


If you decide that kitchen is a must, then I would go wth the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort on the other end of Banff Ave - they've recently updated many of their condo units and they are great. the pro of staying here is that it's the first stop on the ski shuttle, so you're guaranteed a space. The kitchen can save you a bundle on pricey Banff restaurants. The downside is that it is a long walk to the main busy part of Banff Ave. 


Hope that helps!

post #12 of 19
Not sure if this was mentioned by Lake Louise is about a 45 minute buss ride. Ski there first. Sunshine is a 25 minute bus ride and about another 15- 20 minutes up the Gondola before skiing. Those were turn offs for me. In Colorado we stayed in Dillon and can ski Keystone, Breck, A Basin, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Loveland which are all easy drives and there is public transportation for some. I compare the two because I have been to both and liked the Colorado experience much more.
post #13 of 19
I guess I'm just used to driving. I guess I don't care as much about ski in/out. When I visited Sunshine Village for the last weekend of the season in May 2015, I rented a vehicle (got upgraded from mid-sized car to a SUV at no extra charge) and stayed in a condo in Canmore. It was about a 45 minute drive to SSV, and the driving is pretty easy. As I understand it, Banff and the ski areas don't get the frequency of snow that Whistler gets, so the roads are usually clear. Keep in mind, the Banff ski areas are cold cold cold in January. I think the ideal time to go there is later in the season.

Used my MCP for lift tickets, rented skis at the top of the Gondola. Apres time was spent at Banff Sulfur Mountain Hot Springs and walking around Banff and then back to Canmore. Beautiful scenery in every direction, regardless of where you are.
post #14 of 19
Yes, roads are going to be fine by the end of May. I even had my summer tires (not all-seasons) on for the last few weeks of the season.

But it's a real crapshoot mid-winter, or any time before May. Yes, roads are usually cleared within a day or two, but that doesn't do you any good on the morning of a big dump. I wouldn't want to rely on a rental car with all-seasons (even if it's AWD) as a ski vehicle, even around Banff.
Edited by Alpha407 - 8/2/16 at 4:08pm
post #15 of 19

We stayed at the Ptarmigan Inn in Banff.  They had full breakfast sit-in style restaurant, good food every morning.  One block away from downtown, so it's close enough to walk but not in the heart of any "noise".  To be honest, I wouldn't classify Banff as "noisy" at night, it was very quiet and tame compared to most places we've been.


Shuttle stopped literally at lobby front door.  Toss your skis in the bus, jump on, jump off at SSV/LL, go ski with no lineups.  Wait for shuttle at same spot, get off at hotel/inn.  Boom, done.  Piece of cake.  Shuttles stop at almost every major hotel/inn throughout town, so it's extremely easy to get to the resorts.  There are also buses to get around town at night too, say, to get to the Hot Springs for example. 

Banff has the potential to be REALLY cold (and this is coming from a Canadian who thought Colorado's "cold" weather snap was downright balmy) in the dead of winter, but Spring is another story.  There are also inversions so it can be very cold in town in the valley but rather pleasant up the mountain during the day.

post #16 of 19

 Both SSV and LL have several microwaves available for use.  One of the neatest thing I saw at SSV, many people just placed their backpacks outside on this long bench.  I guess it was a good natural refrigerator!  Also, many families packed their own lunch or brought instant noodles and heated up in the microwave.  When I skied at LL, I brought my lunch, warmed up in microwave, then ate at one of the outside benches.  I truly enjoyed the experience!  

post #17 of 19

Yup - we always bring our lunch and have it there, often using the microwaves :) 


I wear icebreaker heavyweight wool long undies, a fleece sweater, regular snow pants and jacket and im fine that time of year. definitely bring some sort of face mask, and I do think wool gloves under my mittens. as a family, we'll ski down to -25c unless there's heavy wind. it's ok...it keeps the wimps away :D

post #18 of 19
Just booked our third seven day trip to Banff with Skican. Fly into Calgary, Brewster bus to Banff, dropped at the front door of Banff Aspen Lodge. No muss no fuss. Breakfast included. Bus to whichever resort we choose for the day. This is an economy trip, not a lot of frills but we are there to SKI. The most difficult thing is picking which of the fantastic variety of restaurants we will comfortably walk to for dinner. An absolutely stress free scenario. We are seniors with over fifty years skiing experience and wish we had figured this out sooner.
post #19 of 19

Not Banf, but I has occasion to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (not during ski season:().  I liked it.  The food was great and so was the Cognac.  I admit, it was not cheap.   Also you would have to take a shuttle to ski.

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