Planning to visit the Banff-Lake Louise area this year? Consider the following highlights, aimed at ski hounds and snow bunnies alike.
What to do
Banff National Park may be home to some of the world's best slopes, but thrill-seeking ski buffs can take their experience to a higher level (literally) through heli-skiing. Based out of Banff, Canadian Mountain Holidays Heli-Skiing ( www.cmhski.com) offers private multiday chopper tours of some of the country's best uncharted runs. Not just focused on pros looking for seriously steep terrain, CMH also provides introductory classes with professional ACMG-certified ski guides for those who have never ventured off-piste.
If you prefer downtime over downhill, take in the waters at Banff Upper Hot Springs ( www.hotsprings.ca); the historic spa and bathhouse features a source-fed pool and majestic views. For professional pampering, head to Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Banff Springs ( www.willowstream.com/banffsprings), the Castle in the Rockies' on-site wellness centre.
If you're going to be in Banff National Park this month, be sure to take in Snow Days, a month-long festival focused on winter fun. Starting today and ending Feb. 12, the event includes a two-week ice-carving extravaganza, a treasure hunt and a ball-hockey tourney. Check out www.banfflakelouise.com for daily offerings.
Where to eat
The Bison Restaurant & Terrace
Recently named the Best Restaurant in the Mountains by Calgary's Avenue magazine, The Bison ( www.thebison.ca) is your best bet for Rocky Mountain comfort food. The menu features locally grown, organic and sustainably farmed protein and produce, including, yep, Alberta beef.
The Bear Street Tavern
Downstairs from The Bison, the much more casual Bear Street Tavern ( www.bearstreettavern.ca) serves up a delicious array of pizzas, including such unique concoctions as the Wheeler Hut, a pie topped with wild forest mushrooms, pine nuts and truffle oil. Try it with a drizzle of honey (seriously).
Where to shop
In downtown Banff, shops catering to both sport and leisure lovers abound. Check out the rustically appointed Roots store (227 Banff Ave., 403-762-9434) for those camp classic grey sweats. An unparalleled selection of handmade fudge, including Pure Canadian Maple, Rocky Road and Butter Pecan, is on offer at The Fudgery (215 Banff Ave.).
The Banff Indian Trading Post For more than 100 years, The Banff Indian Trading Post ( www.banffindiantradingpost.com) has been an outlet for native crafts including beaded leather moccasins, silver jewellery and furs. Poke your head into the back room for taxidermy and other oddities.
Where to stay
Storm Mountain Lodge
For a proper mountain escape, Storm Mountain Lodge, which served as the backdrop for Globe Style's fashion shoot, offers private cabins nestled on a five-acre forest site free of telephones, televisions and other modern amenities. Built in 1922, Storm Mountain ( www.stormmountainlodge.com) was refurbished in 2003 without any impingements on the integrity of the original log cabins. Relaxing by the fire in the main lodge, decorated with vintage mountain paraphernalia, is a must. Breakfast, lunch and dinner (all featuring organic ingredients, Alberta-raised meat and wild fish) are served in the rustic dining room.
The property is located in a wildlife corridor, so expect to see more than just scenery.