The True North — Banff, Alberta, Canada

My first-time visiting Canada will most certainly not be my last. With stunning scenery, local earthy flavors, and helpful residents, Alberta, Canada is a place that inspires aw in everyone who visits. While spending our time skiing the Rocky Mountains, exploring Banff’s town center, and trekking to ice blue waterfalls, my family and I were blessed to gather a true glimpse of what it is like to live in this almost-artic town.

We began the trip exploring Calgary – a city big enough to constantly meet new people, but small enough to pass friends on your walk down (what was the main strip called?). With flat terrain and mountains cascading in the distance, this is truly a city of wonder, but the real exploration started when we arrived in Banff.

Each night fresh snow fell softly and gracefully leaving untouched snow begging to be explored every morning. When winter is calling, you answer.

After driving 45 minutes to Lake Louise we skied long, steep trails with spectacular views of the adjacent mountain passes. About 30-minutes closer, Sunshine Village is delicately placed between multiple peaks leaving room for tons of perfectly groomed half-pipe-esque slopes to shred. Lines at both resorts were extremely short with less than a 5-minute lift wait, if any at all. Granted this was post-Presidents Day weekend (or Family Day if you’re Canadian) when everyone is back at work or school. For this reason, I definitely suggest around late February to hit these wide-open slopes.

On our ski off-days we adventured the surrounding areas via dogsled, gondola, and on foot (with ice-gripping boots, of course). The freezing temperatures insist on thick socks and layering up, but once you embarque on hiking trails such as Johnston Canyon in Banff or Athabasca Falls in Jasper, you quickly trade in the sweaters, gloves, and hat for the crisp, now refreshingly cool, air. If you’re looking for stunning views of frozen blue waterfalls, ice climbers and friendly wildlife, these are the places to go for any fitness level.

For a birds-eye view, take the gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Does it smell a little bit like eggs? YES. Are the views unlike anything you’ve ever seen? DOUBLE YES. Though it is on the more expensive side running at $60 per person (FACT CHECK PRICE), this attraction is worth the Canadian Dollars. This is the same with dogsledding (cost: ____) but this is definitely one activity everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.

Used as a form of transportation mainly in the Arctic during the pre-car days, these Huskies and other cold-bearing pups are ready to run! Eagerly waiting, the dogs bark and play until the crew yells “MUSH!” As an animal lover, I was concerned for their health with the constant workouts in the sometimes below freezing temperatures, but the more I watched them, I realized they truly are in their happy place when running in the snow next to their favorite partner or buddy. Chicken broth is added to the dog’s water encourages hydration and the caregivers are sure to serve handsome portions following each ride.

After working up an appetite ourselves, it’s time to find some human food! Canada is known for Earthy flavors including root vegetables, unique red meats such as Elk and Caribou, and the world-famous gravy and cheese curd covered Poutine. Our tummies were never empty with this hearty cuisine but were always left begging for more. From the 1888 Chop House in the Fairmont Hotel to The Bison not too far from Banff Ave, this food is full of deliciously fresh flavors accompanied by an assortment of well-balanced textures. You don’t need to look far to satisfy your sweet tooth either, with tons of candy or Beavertail shops staggered around the town, these tasty treats can’t be missed.

At each restaurant, shop and resort we visited, the people were helpful, kind and respectful — they even seemed excited that we were visiting their obviously beautiful country! The stereotype about Canadian’s being nice is absolutely true in the best way possible.  Unlike Los Angeles or New York, you are much more likely to strike up a conversation with a total stranger along a hiking path or with the waiter about commonalities or the activities you experienced that week.

All-in-all, Canada is a place of vast exploration with a lot to see, a lot to eat, and a lot of diverse conversations to be had. If you get the chance to venture to Canada, specifically Banff, be prepared for the ride of a lifetime as you open your eyes and heart to the True North

Have you ever explored Banff or Canada? We would love your suggestions and favorite experiences!