Next week Im going to be in Banff, Alberta.

Its just a generic resort town, so I dont suppose any of *you* would be there to party, but I was hoping some of you might have visited and know some tips/tricks/things to see/things to avoid.

My plans so far: soak in hot springs for a week


  1. #1 Sili
    March 17, 2010

    Sounds like something out of a comic book.

    Have fun! Watch out for stalkers. Don’t let Arnie into the pool after having played in the poison ivy.

  2. #2 Winter Toad
    March 17, 2010

    Carry a camera as you walk around the town, so that if you should suddenly find yourself face-to-face with an elk, you can get a picture of it before you back cautiously away. When that happened to me one block from the main street, I forgot completely that there was a camera in my cell phone.

    There’s a nearby hike up the mountain if you’re interested in that. Late March, at that elevation, it might be a bit cold, but it’s worth considering.

    There’s also the mandatory jaunt to Lake Louise if you can manage that. The photo across the lake toward the glaciers is one of the more iconic images of canadian scenery.

  3. #3 Phillip IV
    March 17, 2010


    You should teleport there, like Nightcrawler.

  4. #4 Paul
    March 17, 2010

    I can do better than just tell…I can show you the things you can see in Banff, from my trip to Banff and Jasper in 2007:

  5. #5 biopunk
    March 17, 2010

    Don’t pack for too cold weather. It gets warm enough, so you can wear a hoodie or something. Hiking boots should be good enough foot-wise.

    Sunglasses are a must.

    Try snowshoeing.

    I can’t recall what you prefer to drink, but the Sleeman’s Honey Brown Lager *has* to be sampled. I’m sure the St. James pub on Wolf street would have it…

  6. #6 Emerson
    March 17, 2010

    Great plan

  7. #7 ERV
    March 17, 2010

    I can’t recall what you prefer to drink, but the Sleeman’s Honey Brown Lager *has* to be sampled. I’m sure the St. James pub on Wolf street would have it…

    This is the kind of advice Im looking for.

    Try snowshoeing.

    This is not.


  8. #8 Rod
    March 17, 2010

    If you have deep pockets and like to eat, the Sunday brunch at the Banff Springs Hotel is not to be missed.
    If you are a candy nut try Welch’s on Banff Ave. You are likely to find anything that was ever made containing sugar and/or chocolate.
    Try the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. Ride up, walk down, or if you are really energetic, walk up and ride down. Some of us ride both ways, but we had small grandkids with us.

  9. #9 rfguy
    March 17, 2010

    I was in Banff just last weekend! (I live in Calgary, so it’s only about an hour drive.) The hot springs are nice, but soaking for an entire week would be a bit much for me – I’d at least have to get out to eat and drink! I can give advice on places to eat (Magpie and Stump is good, Barpa Bill’s is better – the lamb souvlaki pita is wonderful), but I’m not much of a drinker. Some local brews to sample are Sleeman’s, as mentioned, Big Rock (Traditional and Grasshopper are popular), Kokanee, and Alexander Keith’s IPA. I can also give advice on hikes, which you really should try – the trail up the west side of Tunnel mountain is pretty quick and easy, and gives some great views.
    If you want, perhaps we could meet up – you’d be the second ScienceBlogger I’ve met, after PZ’s visit to Calgary a year ago or so.


  10. #10 Runs with Scissors
    March 17, 2010

    I second the meetup sentiment. I’m guessing we could get a few Calgarians to make the trek to the wilderness.

  11. #11 Don Cates
    March 17, 2010

    Even if you don’t stay or dine at the Banff Springs Hotel, do go see it. Walk around in the public areas and grounds.

  12. #12 ERV
    March 17, 2010

    Would Sunday be good?

  13. #13 Left_Wing_Fox
    March 17, 2010

    Alley Kat and Big Rock are the Alberta native brewers. If you like unusual taste sensations, the “Aprikat” is a surprisingly good apricot wheat ale, while Warthog and Traditional are nice brown ales.

    Kokanee is good for a mass-produced canadian Lager, and lexander Keith’s is a Halifax staple: my personal choice for a light, easy-drinking summer beer instead of a lager. Sleeman’s Honey Brown used to be my favorite beer, but I tend much more towards darker english-style bitters now. To that end, I highly recommend the Yukon Gold English style pale ale if you can find it.

  14. #14 noophy
    March 17, 2010

    Don’t pet the big cuddly grizzly bear.
    Drink all the micro breweries you can, we have a few up here in Alberta!
    Welcome to Canada eh!

  15. #15 rfguy
    March 17, 2010

    Sunday doesn’t work for me; Monday evening would be much better, any other evening would probably work too. If that doesn’t work for you, I’ll wave in your general direction as I ride over Nose Hill park on my way home from work.


  16. #16 ERV
    March 17, 2010

    Tuesday or Wednesday evening might be doable?

  17. #17 Runs with Scissors
    March 17, 2010

    I could do Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. The rest of the week is shot for me.

  18. #18 SaskSkeptic
    March 17, 2010

    Things I would do:
    1. Go Skiing. Sunshine or Lake Louise
    2. Hike Johnston Canyon (easy hike up river canyon)
    3. Banff Gondala
    4. Drive the Icefields Parkway
    5. Take the Columbia Icefield Tour

    I think there are snowmobile tours (outside the park) Personally I would look into them.

    The Korean BBQ restaurant is reasonably good (there isn’t one where I live).

  19. #19 JustaTech
    March 17, 2010

    Have fun at the meeting! The sessions during optimal-ski-time will be … minimally populated. (Say hi to my bosses, they’ll talk about HIV and T-cells.)

  20. #20 SteveG
    March 17, 2010

    Johnston Canyon

  21. #21 Vinny
    March 17, 2010

    This certainly shows my age, but it is what I think of every time I think of Banff!

  22. #22 Cynical
    March 17, 2010

    I second the vote for the icefields tour. Standing on a river which flows in feet per day is something to bend your mind around.

  23. #23 Moishe
    March 17, 2010

    If you’re interested in geology, there’s a large Devonian reef outcrop at Grassi Lakes above the town of Canmore. Not a bad hike if there isn’t too much snow.

  24. #24 DrDuke
    March 17, 2010

    I wouldn’t call Banff “generic”. That’s sort of like saying Yellowstone National Park is “just some generic park”. The town may not be too special, but the surrounding wilderness is awesome. You need to get out and see some of it.

  25. #25 biopunk
    March 17, 2010

    Abbie, you know you can’t load up on the carbs without doing some cardio, so sample the beers and try to snowshoe.

    Remember: falling on yr ass snowshoeing *is* less spectacular than falling on yr ass skiing, but there *is* less chance of us reading about you referred to as the “aspiring-HIV-researcher-whose-pipetting-skillz-were-tragically-cut-short-due-to-a-freak-skiing-collision-with-an-elk” compounded by the failings of our filthy socialized medicine, and the thin mountain air…

  26. #26 sinned34
    March 18, 2010

    Oooh, my favorite subject: beer!
    Kokanee is okay for a macrobrew. Sleemans is pretty much the same, but neither of them is a “local” beer, since Kokanee is from BC and Sleemans is from Ontario. Alexander Keith’s IPA is not really an IPA, but is more like a Molson Canadian with a touch more flavour. Big Rock from Calgary has Grasshopper (a decent wheat ale) and Traditional Ale (also good). I’d avoid Wild Rose beers unless you like seriously hoppy beer, and definitely do not drink anything from Mountain Crest!
    Of course, I’m a big beer snob, so feel free to ignore everything I’ve said (except about Mountain Crest!) and just grab any Canadian beer that tickles your fancy.
    Strangely enough, I lived in Alberta for half a decade and I’ve never been to Banff…

  27. #27 Ritchie Annand
    March 18, 2010

    Have you answered the all-important question about why you’re going to be up around these parts next week? πŸ™‚

    I’m going to miss the indomitable Abbie by a few weeks! Banff was going to be our reward for not skipping breakfast for two months, no joke πŸ™‚

    So no March celebrity, then! We’ll have to console ourselves with meeting Leonard Nimoy in April (he has to sign my copy of I Am Spock; I learned not to hate Bill Shatner from that!) and going to Eddie Izzard at the Jubilee in May πŸ™‚

    The Silver Dragon had good Chinese food last few times I’ve been out in Banff, but it’s not a place to eat alone. Grizzly House’s exotic fondue (Shark, Alligator, Rattlesnake, Ostrich, Frogs Legs, Buffalo and Venison) will nearly break the bank at $63 a person. Ye Olde Fudgery is pretty good for fudge and stuff if it’s still there.

    There are a few cool rocks and gems places along the main street. The Burgess Shale is none too far away across the border into BC, so there’s a bazillion fossilized trilobites and ammonites for sale. I like the bismuth crystals; they are so cool. Quite a lot of jewelery made out of gems and critters, too.

    The hot springs are good, though, yeah. Mmmm, hot springs.

  28. #28 ImagingGeek
    March 18, 2010

    Ahh Banff, the stomping ground of my youth. Lots to do there, but it is expensive. Unfortunately, we (as in Canada) didn’t really get a winter this year so the skiing isn’t fantastic, although it isn’t too bad either. In terms of things to do, there’s a tonne, but being a tourist town its all quite expensive. Are you staying at the Banff Springs (cool hotel, but pricey)? A few ideas:

    1) If you have a clear day catch a cab to the sulphur mountain gondola. There is a lookout and tea hut at the top of the godola with amazing views of the rockies & banff. There’s often mountain goats up there as well, especially in the winter (they like to lick the salt off the rocks). Cost is ~$30 to take the gondola, plus whatever the cab is (about $10 from Banff Springs). If its cloudy, don’t go.

    2) The hot springs, which you have apparently already found out about.

    3) Downhill skiing/snowboarding. There are two resorts less than 15min from town (Norquay & Sunshine). And if you’re in for a bit of a drive, Lake Louise is ~45min away. All three are excellent – Sunshine & Lake Louise have more to offer to the more experienced skier. Newbies; especially if you board, are better off at Norquay. Unless you’re a good boarder I’d stay away from sunshine – there are a lot of flats, so unless you have the confidence to build up some real speed, expect to do a lot of walking.

    4) Dog sledding. There are several companies in town that do 1/2 day tours. Its a lot of fun, and as a dog owner I think you’d really like it.

    5) Cross country skiing. I think tours are offered, but there is a lot to explore on your own (especially if you head east towards Canmore – i.e. rent a car). If winter keeps going the way it has, you may be hiking instead.

    6) There are a few museum in town. They’re small, but neat. the Cave-and-basin (the original attraction in Banff, basically hot springs inside of caves) are really neat. Unfortunately, they’re a museum; we cannot soak in the water anymore cause its killing the endangered snails.

    There’s a lot more, but I cannot think of it off the top of my head.

    In terms of weather, winter temps in Banff can be anywhere from -30C to +15C. Its late enough in the year that -30 is unlikely (plus its been a mild winter). Just make sure you bring some warm stuff – at worst it’ll end up living in your suitcase.

  29. #29 Stephen Wells
    March 18, 2010

    For some reason, I can only perceive “Banff!” as a sound effect from a Captain America comic. I look forward to your future vacations in Zonk and Wammo.

  30. #30 ERV
    March 18, 2010

    Have you answered the all-important question about why you’re going to be up around these parts next week? πŸ™‚

    To get away from this goddamn ceder pollen so my eyes will quit watering/itching and my nose will stop running and I stop sneezing for a few days. *twitch*

    And the hot springs.

    And Im presenting some research at a conference πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the suggestions, folks!!!

  31. #31 rfguy
    March 18, 2010

    My plans have changed, so I could be in Banff on Sunday. Hopefully this is good for everyone who wants to meet up – now we just need to decide on a time and place! The Magpie and Stump is good, if you don’t mind Mexican food prepared and served by (mostly) Aussies…

  32. #32 Optimus Primate
    March 18, 2010

    Aww, man! I’m gonna miss good beer AND an ERV groupie meetup? *pout*

  33. #33 Travis
    March 18, 2010

    Maybe I am just a snob but why is there so much love for the Sleeman’s Honey Brown Lager? I mean, it is a decent, drinkable beer, I do like the Sleeman’s bottles, but as beer goes I would hardly rank it on my must have, must try list. It is more one of those beer I am happy to have on a hot summer day, and really happy someone brought it rather than some generic Molson/Labatt product but if I was to recommend beer I would probably look for something from one of the smaller breweries in Alberta and BC, something from say, the Nelson Brewing Company, or Tree Brewing (both in BC, not sure about Alberta beer, sadly all we ever seemed to get when I lived in Vancouver was a bunch of Big Rock varieties, which were often quite enjoyable).

    Anyway, enjoy Banff! Drink some good beer.

  34. #34 Ritchie Annand
    March 18, 2010

    Ah, so you’re here for this? That looks… remarkably intense πŸ™‚

  35. #35 GP
    March 18, 2010

    Another vote for the snowshoeing, which no longer involves having oversized tennis racquets on your feet. Snowshoes nowadays are light and flexible (as well as being pretty small), and a good way to use your favourite hiking trails in the winter.

  36. #36 Travis Saunders
    March 18, 2010

    I’m a big Grasshopper fan – it’s great with a slice of lemon, especially on the patio of the Rose and Crown.

    Banff is nice, but it’s SUPER touristy… I second the suggestion of renting a car for an afternoon and driving to Canmore, which has a lot of great hiking, XC-skiing and a delicious little bistro on the main drag (I can’t be sure of the name, but I’m pretty sure it’s LunaBLUE). Lake Louise is also worth the drive if you’re into scenery and don’t mind an hour or so of driving. Have a great trip!

  37. #37 ERV
    March 18, 2010

    Ritchie– Nope, this one. Its kinda two meetings in one πŸ™‚

  38. #38 Ritchie Annand
    March 18, 2010

    Good god, that looks like a full dance card, Abbie. Going to take in the evening poster sessions?

    Sponsored by the Gates foundation, too! All told, I’m glad they turned philanthropic. How active have they been in regards to HIV research or buying medicine? Can we forgive them for the Cascadia project yet? πŸ™‚

  39. #39 DJD
    March 19, 2010

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the mummified merman on display in the back of the old indian trading post. Bad Albertans! No cookie.

    Then again maybe I’m the only one who likes weird, creepy, sideshow stuff like that.

  40. #40 ERV
    March 19, 2010

    Okay, so, Sunday noon-afternoon-ish?

    You all wanna meet for lunch or a hike or something? I dont want you to drive over to Banff, have a cup of coffee, and drive home. Thatd suck.

    But I dont totally know what my schedule will be till I get there… Um, like, a hike in the afternoon and early dinner, maybe?

  41. #41 rfguy
    March 20, 2010

    Sunday afternoon works for me. Shall we all meet up at the Banff springs hotel? We could hike up Sulphur mountain (1.5-2 hours up, a bit less to come down), or do a more tame hike like Tunnel mountain, then go have some food (and possibly beer).


  42. #42 ERV
    March 20, 2010

    Um, lets go for a more tame one πŸ™‚ That first option sounds like a bit much πŸ™‚

    What time?

    1, 2?

  43. #43 rfguy
    March 20, 2010

    Ok, tame is good sometimes πŸ™‚

    1 works for me. How about meeting at the revolving door at the front of the hotel?


  44. #44 ERV
    March 21, 2010

    We will be there! Anyone else who wants to come is welcome to meet-up there too, if anyone else is still in!

  45. #45 Runs with Scissors
    March 22, 2010

    Aargh. I didn’t hear anything by Friday AM and made other plans for Sunday. Hopefully this happened.


  46. #46 windy
    March 22, 2010


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