Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winter in Banff - Always Something New to Try!

I'm always amazed that we never run out of new things to do when we visit Banff in winter. At only an hour away from Calgary, one would think that eventually we'd have skated every rink, hiked or skied every trail, and be out of fresh new ideas for a weekend trip out that way. 

Our last overnight trip in Banff proved however that there are still new things to be seen and done in the mountain town.  Even staying at a new hotel provides fresh opportunities for fun.  Especially when that hotel is the Douglas Fir Resort!  You don't even have to leave the hotel the whole time you're in Banff - there is that much to do at the Douglas Fir.  And given how cold some of our weekends have been lately, this is a very good thing to have the option of staying in a warm hotel all day.

Winter in Banff - Always Something New to Try!

Banff's Only Indoor Waterpark

The Douglas Fir Resort has an indoor waterpark with two giant waterslides, a hot tub and kiddie pool. The waterpark is free for registered guests and at $20 per person to drop in for the day, you definitely want to be a hotel guest!  There's also a separate swimming pool for those staying at the hotel that is not open to the public.  We had an awesome time in the waterpark after playing outside in the snow and found it to be a great way to finish off the day.

The waterpark provides life jackets for kids as well so no need to bring one from home.  

Douglas Fir Waterpark

The Ultimate Banff Playzone

The Douglas Fir Resort offers a giant indoor play park exclusive for their registered guests and it opens at 8am!  If you know the mountains, you know it's way too cold to go outside with kids that early.  We were even able to get some play time in before checking out the next day.  We thought this was the ultimate family addition for a hotel and it made the morning go a lot more smoothly!  When your child wakes up at 6:30, there's a long wait until you head out skiing for the day. And maybe it's because we stayed at the resort mid week, but we had the playzone to ourselves.  I would expect it to be busier on  a weekend however.

Douglas Fir Indoor Playzone
Great Way to Start the Day!!

Family-friendly condos and chalets

We stayed in one of the Douglas Fir chalets and were able to cook our own meals, light a fire in the wood burning fireplace before bed, and enjoy complete comfort away from home.  We had a loft suite with a separate bedroom on the main floor which worked really well for us.  We put our son to sleep in our bedroom so we could stay up later, and then transferred him to his loft when we went to bed. 

The rooms are nothing fancy but they work.  While you can certainly find newer accommodations in Banff, the chalets at Douglas Fir were comfortable for my family and we had no complaints.  

Simple but Comfortable

New Ski Trails

Yes, we found a new ski trail in Banff we'd never skied before.  That's because it's never been an official ski trail until this winter.  Parks Canada decided to start grooming and track setting a portion of the Lake Minnewanka loop road from the lake to the Upper Bankhead parking lot.  It's an easy ski and offers great views of the valley.  While I still enjoy the trail into the Cascade Valley which also leaves from Lake Minnewanka, it was nice to try something new.  For more information on what's new in Banff this winter, visit the Parks Canada website.  A complete list of cross country trails can be found on their website as well.  And while we didn't try it this time, the  Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court has been trackset for skiing this winter as well and offers a 4.5 km family-friendly loop right in the town of Banff. 

Skiing on the Lake Minnewanka Loop Road

First Time Skating on the Bow River

I'd always heard that you could skate on the Bow River but had never actually seen the oval cleared off until this year.  It's not a big oval, but for those who like natural skating surfaces, this is as natural as it gets.  The oval is located near the summer docks for Blue Canoe on Bow Avenue. While you can skate on the cleared rinks in Banff, skating on the river gets my vote for best place to skate.  For a great article on sweet spots to glide in Banff, check this one out from the Campsite website. 

Skating on the Bow River in Banff

Banff''s Ice Playground

Banff Ice Slide

Quite possibly my favourite thing to come to Banff for each winter, the Ice Playground is created for the Banff Winter Festival each year.  I'm not sure if the slide is still there or not but as of mid-February it was still alive and well.  I imagine it will be there till it melts.  To find it, just go downtown and head towards the river.  It's set up right beside the public bathrooms and main parking lot on Bow Avenue. 

And We're Going Back...

We'll be spending another night in Banff in mid-March so stay tuned for more winter fun in one of our favourite little mountain towns.  I've actually found another new skating rink to try and we hope to try a ski trail that's been on our list for years now.  For a preview of where we hope to skate, check out this story from Family Fun Calgary on the brand new Cave and Basin Skating Rink.  And I guess if it gets really warm over the next couple of weeks, we can always revisit last year's spring trip to Banff.  Always something to do! 

Ice Train in Banff
Banff Ice Playground

Big Thanks

Thanks to the Douglas Fir Resort for accommodating our stay.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own and I wasn't compensated in any other way beyond the stay. 

Thanks also to Banff Lake Louise Tourism for their assistance facilitating this visit and trip. 

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