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> Banff, Alberta: Starter Kit and FAQ, (Almost) Everything you ever wanted to know about Banff!
charlamae
post Feb 1 2008, 12:58 PM
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I moved to Banff in the summer of 1998. Like most of the locals in town, I came for "just one season" and never left. Having travelled to many small towns around North America, I can truly say there isn't anywhere like it. Where else can you find a small town, where you can walk everywhere, with trailheads and nature's beauty (including wild animals) literally at your door, with world-famous ski resorts and golf courses just minutes away, filled with genuinely friendly people who care a great deal about their environment, with access to a major city and international airport just 1.5 hours away? Banff is certainly no regular small Canadian town!

Getting to Banff:
By Air
To closest commercial airport is the Calgary International Airport (YYC), located a 1.75 hour drive to Banff. Car rentals and shuttle services are available at the Airport. Shuttle rates are approximately $40/person each way. Car rental rates start at $150 for a week. As there are so many wonderful areas to explore near Banff (Canmore, Lake Louise), we recommend renting a car to get the most out of your Canadian Rockies vacation if you are only in town for a short duration.

If you do not plan on renting a car, your best option for getting to Canmore is one of the local shuttle providers: Banff Airporter or Rocky Mountain Sky Shuttle. You can also arrive on the Greyhound bus. The depot is located about 6 blocks from the nearest hostel, and a $5 cab ride from the other 2 Banff hostels.

Getting Around Banff:
Most places in Banff are within walking distance, with the exception of a few outlying attractions. Public transportation is provided at the low cost of $2 for a single ride (with discounts available for multi-rides or monthly passes). There are plenty of local sports shops where you can rent or buy a bike to help you get around. If you're keen to visit some of the nearby attractions (Lake Louise, Canmore, Columbia Icefield, etc.), you can either rent a car for the day, or hook up with one of the many locals that are always planning trips for groups. Like I said, Banff is filled with friendly people who enjoy their surroundings. There always seems to be someone heading to Lake Louise for a picnic or hike!

Another common form of local transportation is hitch-hiking. You will often find people on the side of the highway with their snowboards. They don't have to wait out there for too long. **HOWEVER** like any activity in which you put your life in control of a stranger, there are risks involved. Please be careful if you choose to hitch-hike.

Where to Stay in Banff:
Short Term Accomodation
There are 3 main hostels in Banff. SameSun Backpacker Lodges is located closest to the Bus Depot and main grocery store. Y Mountain Lodge (AKA the YWCA) is also located close to the downtown core, and easily within walking distance of all amenities. Tha Banff Alpine Centre is run by Hostelling International and is generally considered to be the nicest hostel in Banff, but is located 3 km from the townsite (but it is accessible by public transportation).

Long Term Accomodation
Long term accomodation in Banff has a bad reputation for being too expensive. A shared room in a house will be $400-$600/month. A 1-bedroom apartment will be $850-$1100. However, consider that you likely won't need a car and there is plenty of free stuff to do in town and suddenly the premium for living in this majestic place doesn't seem so bad. The local newspapers only comes out once per week and the best apartments either never make it into the paper or are snatched up instantly. Banff is a small town, so the best way to find long term (ie. more than 1 month) is to meet people and ask around. Banff is governed by a Need-To-Reside clause. You can't just move here becuase you want to ... you ahve to prove that you have a reason to be here (usually proof of employment). Those who can't prove their need-to-reside usually end up living in Canmore (a 20-minute drive from Banff).

What to Do in Banff:
There is alot to do in Banff, mostly geared to the outdoor enthusiast. Winter activities include Downhill Skiing (Norquay, Sunshine, Lake Louise); hiking; ice climbing; skating; cross-country skiing; and a variety of winter sports hosted at the Nordic Centre. Summer activities include hiking (trails too numerous to list with varying degrees of difficulty); rock climbing; canoeing/kayaking; golf and more. Believe it or not, there are actually plenty of NON sporty things to do in town. The Banff Centre offers offer theatre, dance, and music productions at a fraction of the cost (many times FREE) that you would pay to see the same mainstage acts in bigger venues. There are always talks, slideshows, independent film screenings, and other more cerebral activities for those that are not interested in physical activity.

Where to get more information:
BanffLife: A local organization which offers information and programming to newcomers
Town of Banff: Our local Town Hall is responsible for much of the programming in town
Parks Canada: Banff is the first and only town located IN a National Park.
Banff/Lake Louise Tourism Bureau: Plenty of info on the local area and activities
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starlagurl
post Feb 1 2008, 01:20 PM
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Thanks Charla, looks good! What do you like to do on a typical weekend?


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wakingdream
post Feb 1 2008, 03:03 PM
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Hey Charla,

Great info smile.gif I lived in Banff from '97 to '99. I loved it. It really is a very unique place to live with tons of stuff to do all the time. I used to live on Squirrell Street. I remember first moving and being pretty amused with all the street names. Once in awhile I'd get blocked in by Elk grazing in our front yard. Banff is such a stunning place where everywhere you look is like a picture out of a magazine and the colors seem like the most vivid you've ever seen. I sure do miss it. Thanks for the flashback.


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charlamae
post Feb 6 2008, 09:48 PM
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QUOTE(starlagurl @ Feb 1 2008, 02:20 PM) *

Thanks Charla, looks good! What do you like to do on a typical weekend?


Most typical locals would be at the slopes or on a hiking trail. I, however, have my regular 'rounds' on Saturday: I walk downtown and have lunch at Bella Crusta (easily the best sandwich shop in town), and then continue my way downtown. I stop at Saan's for the latest deals, check out the used book store, and usually end up at the library for a spell. The best part is seeing so many people you know on the street. You can esily bump into 10-20 people you know just ona walk downtown.

Other thatn the regular locals walk, I try to go to as many performances at The Banff Centre as I can. It's such an inspiring place, and one of Canada's Top 100 employesr. If it wasn't for The Banff Centre, the Bow valley would be pretty boring.
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starlagurl
post Feb 7 2008, 09:52 AM
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That sounds nice. I try to get out for as many performances/art events as I can, but in Ottawa, that's really easy.


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findingnine
post Mar 9 2008, 06:53 PM
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Aww man! I miss day trips to banff. That was one of the few things I enjoyed about Calgary!
Maybe this summer I'll squeeze it in when I go to Canmore.

Do you try all the tourist stuff just for fun? It's ok just once, you don't have to feel guilty. I was Nearby for years before taking a cessna ride over the mountains. Much less oppressive from above!


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moinmotion
post Aug 25 2008, 11:00 PM
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I live in Calgary and travel to Banff and area fairly frequently to enjoy the mountains. While I now tend to stay away from what I consider to be "tourist traps", I recently visited (or re-visited) with some family from out of town and enjoyed these 2 activites:

1) Taking the Banff Gondola - It's a bit pricey, but wow, are the 360 degree views of the mountains and valleys ever stunning! The ride to the top is only 8 minutes, but you'll want to spend at least half an hour or more enjoying the scenery. Note that in the peak season in summer, there may be lengthy lineups to get both up and down, so build in some extra time for that.

2) An evening horseback trail ride and steak fry booked through Discover Banff Tours - about 2 hours of easy riding through forest with a grilled steak dinner included. If you have non-riders in your group, they can hop onto the covered wagon. Departs from Warner Stables on the outskirts of Banff.
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starlagurl
post Aug 26 2008, 09:46 AM
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I went on the Banff Gondola too, and it sure was amazing. I'll vouch for that idea. Definitely worth the price.


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benenglish
post Jul 18 2009, 11:01 PM
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i recently arrived in canada and am living in halifax at the moment. me and my girl firend are hoping to travel over to banff around septmeber time ready for the ski season. i was wondering if anyone has any advice on getting jobs there and also about accomodation and which area has the best skiing. any help would be apreciated.
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jeremystravels
post Jul 19 2009, 01:46 PM
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I went to the Banff Mountain Film Festival when it was in Pittsburgh. Was pretty cool! punk.gif


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joannesykes0047
post Oct 8 2009, 10:54 AM
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I found your entry realy interesting and exactly what I am looking for. I am currently staying in scotland with my husband and 3 children. I am considering moving back to canada (we moved to scotland when I was 2), and I have seen the most beautiful pictures of baniff.

Do you think that it is an ideal place to move with a family. Are the schools great. I am currently a nursery nurse and i have experience in hotel work. How hard would it be for me to get a job. Is there a place to enlist to so I could do bank work at the schools and nursery as a nursery nurse or pupil support. Hope someone can help me.
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zhofer
post Dec 4 2009, 04:45 PM
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QUOTE(joannesykes0047 @ Oct 8 2009, 10:54 AM) *

I found your entry realy interesting and exactly what I am looking for. I am currently staying in scotland with my husband and 3 children. I am considering moving back to canada (we moved to scotland when I was 2), and I have seen the most beautiful pictures of baniff.

Do you think that it is an ideal place to move with a family. Are the schools great. I am currently a nursery nurse and i have experience in hotel work. How hard would it be for me to get a job. Is there a place to enlist to so I could do bank work at the schools and nursery as a nursery nurse or pupil support. Hope someone can help me.


Hi Joanne,

I grew up in Banff and can say it was a truely wonderful experience for the few of us that get the experience. I think someone already said it, but there aren't many small Alberta towns that come close. The schools were good, but there aren't options as there is only one elementary (k-6) and one high school (7-12). Many people are fortunate enough to walk to school, class sizes are very small and but the number of exta-curricular activities is limited due to the size.

In terms of work, things have slowed down, but it is a transient place with people always coming and going. I would however recommend finding a job before moving as life can be quite expensive but this can be diffucult if your coming from out of country. Wages are not the greatest in Banff as the majority of work is in the tourism industry. But there are good jobs out there you just need to look. Check out the local new paper - Crag & Canyon. It's a weekly publication and lists current job advertisements.

Hope this info helps!
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