Banff National Park is one of the jewels of the crown when it comes to Canada’s most beautiful spots, stretching more than 2,564 miles. Established in 1885, it was the world’s third national park. The town of Banff lies within this chunk of pristine wilderness, dotted with snowcapped peaks, glaciers and lush mountain meadows. It was just 7,500 residents, but data from 2016 showed it attracted more than 3.8 million visitors in its fiscal year.
The busyness of the destination makes picking a hotel even more challenging and important. There are plenty of properties to choose from but you’ll need to consider location carefully (especially if you didn’t arrive by car) and the price you’re willing to pay. Rates for luxury properties like the Fairmont Banff Springs can hover around the $500 a night mark at certain times of the year. July and August are the busiest months, so to get a deal plan your trip during the shoulder season.
During my last visit, I stayed at the Elk + Avenue. It’s located right on the main drag, i.e. Banff Avenue, so the location was perfect for walking to attractions and restaurants in the centre of town. There’s a grocery store right across so the street so you can grab inexpensive sandwiches and breakfast fare. (The rooms have small fridges, FYI.)
It’s a bit different than some other properties in the area. They tend to rely on a décor style that relies heavily on ski chalet look. It works for Banff, but it tends to be everywhere and can look old fashioned. I really like the contemporary feel of Elk + Avenue. It is more boutique hotel than mountain cabin with 162 rooms.
Opened in 2016 by Brewster Travel Canada (a large company that operates everything from tours to transfers and hotels in the area, it renovated the tired looking Banff International Hotel and turning it into a charming space. Wall art depicts the alpine history of the town while still looking contemporary and fresh.
My room was bright and light, designed with soft grey tones, silver accents and a bit of faux fur with decorative pillows on the beds. It had a small sitting room that was ideal for watching television and enjoying evening cocktails before heading out at dinner. The coffee table was a large chunk of a tree trunk painted silver, which was an interesting touch. The room struck a balance between being rustic and modern chic.
If you come during summer, you should be forewarned that this is no air conditioning. The windows open so you can take advantage of those fresh mountain breezes, but the rooms can get a bit stuffy. They come equipped with a tabletop fan, which helps, but even the warm temps of an October stay may be too much for those who like to sleep cool.
The service was good. The front desk staff was kind enough to let us check in a couple of hours early, which was especially sweet after getting up at 4:30 am to catch a flight to Calgary where the nearest major airport is. After grabbing lunch just a 10 minute walk away, we were grateful to have two very comfy queen-sized beds to collapse onto for much-needed naps.
The amenities are modest, but well suited to the property. There is a lounge (perfect for après-ski cocktails), a coffee shop with outdoor patio and a casual restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also has a service desk for Brewster Canada where you can book day trips, grab souvenirs and get information on what’s available to see and do in the area. Plus there is an outdoor Jacuzzi, ideal for chasing away a chill or soothing tired muscles after skiing or snowboarding on the peaks nearby.
Rooms have all the basics, including coffee/tea makers, ironing boards, flat screen TVs and complimentary wireless internet. When you book, you may want to ask for a room that doesn’t face busy Banff Avenue. It can be a bit noisy with a constant flow of tour buses coming into town.
Don’t let that dissuade you. Banff is a gorgeous, pretty town that enchants you at every turn with mountain views at every turn. The Elk + Avenue puts you squarely in the middle of it all.
Michele stayed as a guest of Elk + Avenue. As always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos courtesy of Michele Sponagle and Brewster Travel Canada.