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Larry Turner


BANFF SPRINGS HOTEL, CANADA-In the world of instant communication and gratification, one of the recent publication rages has been books on "where to go and what to do before you die."

I find them amusing, entertaining and wonderfully subjective in content, realizing of course that what floats your travel boat may not float mine. You might like sky diving in Tasmania or an adventure sail in the Straits of Dardanells. I'd probably go with a not so fresh horse in the Great Basin's big sagebrush ocean with miles to gain before I sleep...or a winter sojourn in ski country which I've never experienced


I love the sparseness and simplicity of travel, yet I adapt quite well to luxury and opulence also. I am a peasant in my garden yet a king sometimes in my travels. Case in point: Fairmont's Banff Springs Hotel floats my travel boat quite well, thank you very much.

Grand Lobby
Conference Center

That said, I'd be subjective and suggest the Banff Springs Hotel to go before you die. Called "The Castle of the Rockies," it is indeed fit for a king or queen and for those travelers who wish to feel like "royalty." Longtime Banff Springs' general manager Ivor Petrak best said it when addressing his staff, " People who come here are dreamers and they want to live in a real castle...so we don't sell rooms, we sell a dream."



The "Castle" was born in 1888, modeled after a Scottish luxury castle. Banff Springs was first advertised as the "finest hotel on the North American continent." Built at a cost then of $250,000, it was Canadian Pacific Railroad vice-president Cornelius Van Horne's-an Illinois native-realized dream of a grand hotel. Van Horne had said about the majesty of the Canadian Rockies, "If we can't export the scenery, we will import the tourists."

His veritable words still echo his vision, as Banff Springs has become one of the world's grand hotels and tourist destinations. What started as a 250-room summer property has grown to 770 guestrooms and suites, serving tourists year around-with practically each room offering stunning views of the incomparable Canadian Rockies. Three nearby ski resorts have made it an alluring winter and spring vacation resort. .

Hall of New Guest Wing
Entrance to Cascade Ballroom

Cascade Ballroom
Custome Detals
Expert Craftsmanship


The Oak Room
Riverview Lounge


Building materials were brought from around the world to create this baronial castle. Featured in the Castle are ten restaurants, the enchanting Willow Stream Spa, nineteen boutiques and shops, a bowling and games center, indoor and outdoor pools and numerous fascinating nooks and crannies to explore. One can even get lost in the Castle, but it is well worth the diversion.

Riverview Lounge
Riverview Lounge
Rundle Hall



One of my favorite Castle haunts is the Conservatory located in the northwest level two mezzanines. It is a quiet, thoughtful architectural promontory where worldly tensions and stress melt away like spring snow. Seated in the high-backed, deeply cushioned peacock design stately chairs, I was mesmerized by the grand Canadian Rockies views, notably the Gibraltar like Cascade Mountain-the signature mountain of Banff-and the Bow River. A pleasant stroll below the Castle leads to Bow Falls. The Castle's "million dollar view" of the tantalizing Bow River system though-tucked between Mount Rundle and Tunnel Mountain-is from the Rundle Lounge. A hallowed English tradition takes place here: afternoon tea from 2pm to 4pm whereas one can enjoy a cup of tea or sparkling wine and sumptuous pastries while gazing at the grandeur beyond revealing Rundle Lounge windows.

Mount Stephen Hall
Mount Stephen Hall


The Castle's most grandiose room is the vaulted two-story Mount Stephen Hall with palatial French stained glass windows bearing the coat of arms and crests of four Canadian Pacific Railway presidents (Lord Mount Stephens being the first). The entire Mount Stephen Hall Wing exudes a medieval presence with old-world monastery reproductions and stonework, rare antiques and paintings, oak carved ceiling beams and a floor of irregular Bedford lime flagstone. Guarding one end of the hall are replicas of full armored knights. It is the perfect room for securing a window seat and table to write postcards, musings or a love letter. Four years ago my son and I attended a candlelight evening feast here that conjured thoughts of what it must have been like with King Arthur and the Roundtable.

Castello Italian Ristorante
After Dinner Drinks


The Castle has one five-diamond dining restaurant: the Banffshire Club, home to some of Canada's finest cuisine. One evening we had a memorable feast in the Castle's elegant Castello Italian Ristorante. Notable, too, were our gourmet pre-ski breakfast buffets and a Sunday brunch at the Bow Valley Grill. On another visit, I hope to try the Castle's Samurai Sushi Bar and The Grapes Wine Bar, which specialize in fondues, pates, wine and cheeses.

Outside View of Spa
Willow Spa Indoor Pool
Indoor/Outdoor Pools


To have an audience with the Castle would not be complete without indulging in the European-style Solace Willow Stream Spa-a perfect start or ending to a day hiking and exploring the many nearby trails of the Canadian Rockies. I took one day off from outdoor explorations just to satiate in the rejuvenating experience of this unique spa of varying temperature waterfalls, indoor and outdoor mineral pools (with an underwater speaker system), whirlpools, saunas, private solariums, fireplaces and therapeutic treatment rooms.

The Castle's spa is based on the Hungarian Kur treatment, or the Kur bath renowned for its high mineral and trace element content which benefits circulation, muscle and joint mobility. The Spa's custom massage and body treatment menu is vast. I had the Japanese shiatsu pressure point massage. Some of their custom massages include the mountain stone, après ski, jetlag recovery and alpine aromatherapy. A thicker pocket book can get you day and hourly packages such as pure indulgence (eight hours for $599 Canadian) and keep your shorts on (one hour for $169). Sounds interesting, heh?

June through October is the Castle's prime tourist season, reflecting rates that are nearly double over November through May (which varies from $219-$359 Canadian).

In the busier summer tourist season, the Castle offers a robust outdoor activity menu including golf, horse riding, fishing, hiking, mountaineering and sightseeing.

USEFUL INFORMATION: The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel 800-663-7575, 403-762-2211, fax 403-762-5755, www.fairmont.com.
Banff Skiing: www.SkiBig3.com; 800-661-1431, 403-762-4561; email: Pakages@SkiBig3.com



Prints may be purchased by contacting Larry at Skiturn789@yahoo.com.

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