teaches journalism at Concordia University in Montreal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Touristas on Sulfur Mountain
(Our writer and his wife Hetty are on a trek from Calgary through the Rockies to B.C. This is the second installment of their trip log.)
There is seemingly always a little truth with any cliché -- the Irish like to have a drink, Italians talk with their hands, the Swiss are precise, or the Scots are tight with the purse.
Well, so it is with another cliché: the Japanese tourist likes to visit Banff, Alberta.
There were more Japanese in this town nestled in the Rockies about 130 km west of Calgary than I have ever seen congregated in one place. And yes, they had a lot of great looking camera/video gear.
But the cliché belies a simple fact: The Japanese have the good taste to visit an absolutely superb Canadian destination replete with some of the greatest scenery the One ever offered up to us.
It's ironic-people living three times as far away from the Rocky Mountains as any Canadian are more excited and willing to visit them than we are.
Well, fellow Canucks (and all others), I heartily encourage you to visit Banff when you get the chance, and here's a few highlights and tips for you…
Next: Lake Louise and the Columbia River Valley
- Take the gondola up to the top of Sulfur Mountain
Beautiful view and a spectacular ride as you climb 7,486 feet above sea level in eight minutes to the summit. For the fit among you, there is also a hiking trail that will take you to the top (and then you can take the gondola down for free).You'll get great views of the town and surrounding mountains and valleys, lots of wildlife, and it's all worth the $20 fee.
Tips: Get on the gondola before noon or you'll wait a long time at the summit to get back down. Plan on about 90 minutes total for the gondola and looking around (including the 10-minute walk up to Samson's Peak on a self-guided interpretive walkway). You can relax in the hot springs near the gondola base station if you're aching from the hike. The mountain and hot springs are about 2 km from the centre of town.
A funny thing happened at the summit: Hetty and I asked a young lady to take our picture at the top of Samson's peak. I detected a Quebec accent in her voice, and sure enough she ended up being from Rivière du Loup, east of Montreal. A mere 20, she said she had decided to see Canada for herself-and her smile as she took in the view seemed to indicate she was enjoying the voyage. Her final destination was British Columbia, just like us…
- Take a walk through the town of Banff.
There's no getting away from the fact that this is a tourist town, with corresponding prices for goods and services (gouging is too harsh a word so let's call it creative pricing). Lots of shops to browse, and stop at the Info Centre (there's also a good one in Canmore, just before Banff, with lots of maps and attraction guides). If you have a large budget, you might consider staying at either the Rimrock Resort or the Banff Springs Hotel (rooms and suites for both hotels range from CAN $280 to $1200 per night, but they have several packages).
The latter is world-renowned as a majestic and rustic former Canadian Pacific hotel, although a quick walk-thru it this time (I was here in 1994) led me to believe it had been remodeled with a mind to resemble a mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to impress the Americans who are willing to pay a king's ransom for an authentic Canadian wool sweater at one of the hotel shops.
However, the dining room is still spectacular and the Bow River Falls directly behind it are worth seeing. If you really want to pamper yourself at one of these impressive places, consider going in low season.
There's lots of horseback riding and hiking trails in these parts, so you can easily let your inner woodsman jump out to enjoy the incomparable Canadian Rockies.
This was my third time here and I can honestly say I don't think I'll ever get tired of these rugged mountains. However, I have never gone past Banff, so it's back into our convertible for the 60 km trip to Lake Louise -- and beyond.