Canadian Castle

The historic Fairmont Banff Springs is staying current

By: Kathy Chin Leong

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The Fairmont Banff Springs is
nestled in greenery.
It’s a girlfriend getaway, trendy “man-cation” location and unbeatable fairytale wedding destination. The Fairmont Banff Springs, Alberta, wears all these hats with elegance. This historic 117-year-old landmark, modeled after a Scottish castle, continues to reign in majesty with luxe surroundings and services and amenities to satisfy a vast palette of preferences and interests throughout the year.

Epic Proportions
Sequestered one mile up in the Canadian Rockies, the 10-story Banff Springs Hotel is a monument of epic proportions, anchored by medieval architecture and antiques to match. Yes, there are suits of armor in the Mount Stephen Hall. At the same time, the hotel has kept up appearances by investing over $100 million in overall upgrades.

Its stone exterior with turrets and columns delivers fantastic eye candy up close and at a distance. In fact, the gem is a favorite subject of professional photographers, and hotel guests often drive to the nearby scenic Bow Falls lookout to seize that photo of the entire property which looks as if it is suspended atop an endless forest.

A staff of over 1,000 (during high season) maintains the resort’s 770 guestrooms and suites, each with views of the valley or mountains.

European-styled rooms range from 162 square feet for the standard and up to 638 for a two-bedroom suite. While the rooms offer wired Internet services, they do not have the flat-screen TVs, iPod speakers and DVD/CD players many other high-end hotels are touting.

Meanwhile, shoppers will delight in the resort’s 15 tony gift and art galleries. A retail community of stores and eateries with accessible price points is less than a 15-minute walk away, in downtown Banff. The local bus also comes right to the doorstep to bring guests into town.

After shopping, no one will go hungry here. The castle features 12 restaurants, ranging from its casual 250-seat Bow Valley Grill to the intimate 25-seat Grapes wine bar.

But the most thrilling dining can be found at the sophisticated Eden Restaurant at the Rimrock Resort Hotel, 10 minutes away. Of note at this small, romantic French restaurant with floor-to-ceiling mountain views is its 17,000-bottle wine cellar and its signature dish; lobster poached in white chocolate. Clients should expect to spend between $90-$150 for this ultimate, AAA Five-Diamond, epicurean experience.

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Willow Stream Spa
Rocky Mountain Relaxation
Back at Banff Springs, women, couples and men who want to escape for a weekend of pampering will find that “ahh” at the resort’s Willow Stream Spa a 38,000-square-foot mega-spa that completed a $2.3 million overhaul in 2003. Upon entering, clients are given a pass key to use the facilities. The huge co-ed relaxation room with a panoramic mountain view oozes comfort with couches, recliners, reading materials, a welcoming fireplace, sliced cucumbers floating in ice water, snacks and a spa menu for ordering meals. There is also a separate men’s and women’s area and a smaller venue for waiting.

Unique to Willow Stream are the cold/hot mosaic-tiled pools and showers designed for the Nordic spa method of plunging into hot waters and gradually dipping into icy waters for invigoration. In addition to a variety of salon services, facials and massages, its focus on renewal and health means that clients can receive treatments for specific issues such as jetlag and sports recovery.

Keeping Up With the Times
Despite opening in 1888, the resort is staying on top of guests’ requirements. A new pet policy allows clients to bring a maximum of two pets into their rooms. Parents who need a break from their kids can obtain babysitting services on the premises. The resort offers a variety of indoor and outdoor wedding venues for small parties of less than 10 and up to 200.

Complimentary tours of the castle, free shuttle to the golf course clubhouse, local access to ski resorts and miles of hiking trails steps away make the Fairmont Banff Springs a dream come true for both older clients and younger ones who crave adventure.

Active Options
A spate of active options means that no one in the party has to feel bored. The Banff Springs 18-hole golf course offers an academy, group and custom lessons and offers players engaging scenery of the Rocky Mountain peaks.

Fitness enthusiasts will be relieved to find a fully operational gym with state-of-the-art training equipment and classes for various levels. An indoor lap pool and two outdoor pools provide an ample swimming area. In the summertime, the resort offers tennis, rafting, heli-hiking, fishing and gondola rides. By winter, the hotel concierge will help clients choose from heli-skiing, dog-sledding, ice-fishing, cross country and downhill skiing and snowshoeing.


Fairmont Banff Springs
405 Spray Ave., Banff, Alberta

Location: Only 1½-hour drive from Calgary International Airport
Guestrooms and Suites: 770
Commission: 10 percent
Rates: Low-season rates (January-April and October-December) start at $268.