Review
Fairmont Banff Springs
By Kathy Chin Leong


It’s the ultimate girlfriend getaway, trendy “man-cation” location, unbeatable fairytale wedding destination. And how about a place where Mom and Dad can actually have a second honeymoon? The Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Alberta, wears all these hats and wears them with elegance. This historic 117-year-old landmark modeled after a Scottish castle continues to reign in majesty with lux surroundings and services and amenties to satisfy a vast palette of preferences and interests throughout the year.

AT A GLANCE

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 (CDN) in overall upgrades.

It’s 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.

With a staff over over 1,000 during high season, the resort maintains 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 toney gift and art galleries. A retail community of stores and eateries with accessible pricepoints is less than a 15-minute walk in downtown Banff. The local bus also comes right to the doorstep to bring guests into town.

DINING  
 
After shopping, no one shall 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. The grill features an outstanding morning buffet filled with a dessert bar, hot entrees, and assorted pastas and cereals. Pace yourself!

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.

SPA

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 megaspa which 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 with comfort: 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, 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 first and gradually icy waters for invigoration. In addition to a spate 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.

SERVICES  
 
The resort that opened in 1888 is staying on top of guests requirements for an ideal stay. A new pet policy allows folks to bring up to 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 ten to two hundred.
 
Complimentary tours of the castle, free shuttle services to the golf course clubhouse, local access to ski resorts, and miles of hiking trails steps away make the Banff Springs a dream come true for older clients and younger ones who crave adventure.
 

ACTIVITIES

A spate of adventures 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 yields 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 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 snow shoeing.

****

DETAILS

Fairmont Banff Springs
405 Spray Ave.
Banff, Alberta
403/762-2211
www.fairmont.com

Location: one and a half-hour drive from Calgary International Airport
Guestrooms and suites: 770
Rates based on 2006: Low-season January – April,  and October – December $192-$316
High-season June – October: from $377 to $553.

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