Bart Donnelly is the senior manager, the Americas, leisure, for Banff Lake Louise Tourism. TravelAge West caught up with him to discuss summer and fall travel to this scenic destination in the Canadian Rockies.
What makes Lake Louise or Banff notable in comparison to other similar mountain regions?
To start, the destination offers more than 2,500 square miles of protected national park in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring the raw beauty of the Canadian Rockies. The combination of the rugged peaks, the glaciers and the turquoise colors of the glacier-fed lakes is something that sticks with people whether it’s your first visit to Banff National Park or your 25th visit. Plus, visitors can not only explore protected wilderness, but also the communities of Banff and Lake Louise, which offer a range of modern amenities, fine dining and shopping.
Are there luxury accommodations and amenities?
Definitely. At the top of the list for luxury are two iconic hotels, The Fairmont Banff Springs and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Fairmont is currently offering a six-night luxury package called the Fairmont Gold Peak Adventure Package, which includes three nights at each property on the Gold Floor, daily breakfast, private hiking guides in Banff and in Lake Louise, spa treatments, lunches and more. It’s a great way to experience the area.
What type of adventure activities does the region offer?
There’s plenty of sightseeing and sight-doing activities. For example, visitors can take a float-trip down the river or an exhilarating white-water rafting trip; they can spend a day rock climbing with a guide or take a leisurely stroll around Lake Louise. There is also golf, biking, heli-yoga and more.
What are some family-friendly activities available?
I think the entire family will enjoy a trip up the Banff Gondola or the Lake Louise Gondola, including a visit to a grizzly bear interpretive center where they can learn about the bears and why they thrive in this area. Also, a Banff Lake Cruise or a float-trip down the Bow River provide opportunities for families to get out on the water together. Other options include a visit to the Banff Upper Hot Springs, a drive up the Icefield Parkway to the Columbia Icefield Glacier Experience or an evening steakfry cookout by horseback or wagon, depending on age and comfort level.
On a personal level, what do you think is unique to Banff and Lake Louise?
The residents here are a true asset. Visitors to the Banff National Park area might meet local residents who came to work for a summer and are still here 10, 15 or 25 years later. It’s a fairly typical story. All of those people still enjoy this region and its activities — skiing and skating on the lakes in winter and hiking, climbing and biking in the summer. There’s one question people always ask me, and here’s the answer to that question: “No, you never take this amazing scenery for granted.”
Is it a good escape for the city-dweller that would like to vacation in more natural surroundings?
The city-dweller has a variety of options — including exploring one of the many campgrounds, visiting a backcountry lodge such as Skoki Lodge or Shadow Lake Lodge, hiring a guide for a multi-day backcountry tour or experiencing day trips such as white-water rafting, hiking or canoeing.