The Fairmont Banff Springs, Alberta, Canada - Hotel Review
and Rocky Mountain Majesty
after a Scottish baronial castle, The Fairmont Banff Springs is a symbol of Rocky Mountain magnificence.
you build it, they will come. Few places offer better proof
of this than The Fairmont Banff Springs. Although the hotel — which
rises out of its hypnotic mountain setting like a Scottish baronial
Oz — is a landmark in its own right, it in fact started
life as a byproduct. When William Van Horne, General Manager
of the Canadian Pacific Railway, saw potential in the hot springs, he envisioned a hotel that would
be a destination to itself…and that could only be reached
by his train. The railway went on to build a series of luxury
hotels along the line; as a result, The Fairmont Banff Springs,
which opened its doors in 1888, inaugurated tourism in the Banff
area and played an integral role in the expansion of the Canadian
the architecture is awe-inspiring, we were
most impressed by the way this massive hotel takes advantage
of its location. It sits at the intersection of three glacial
valleys, at the confluence of the Bow and Spray Rivers, overlooking
Bow Valley and Bow River Falls (hence the Spray Avenue address).
Because of this, the 768 guestrooms — which range from cozy
corner rooms to split-level honeymoon suites — all share
one common trait. Windows that open onto fresh air and views
of mountains, meadows or valleys. The overall style is classic
European, and the colors are warm and buttery, with lots of
leather, natural wood and foliage. Signature rooms in the main
wing reflect the hotel's castle-like architecture, and
the Presidential Suite features a split-level living room with
a wood-burning fireplace, grand piano and library.
hotel was officially completed in 1928 after a fire damaged the property and it had to be rebuilt, but enhancements continued
into the 21st century, most notably with an infusion of $175
million in recent years. One of the primary benefactors of this
ongoing development was the 38,000-square-foot, three-story
Willow Stream spa. There are solarium lounges with fireplaces,
waterfall whirlpools, a Japanese soaking tub, a private couples treatment room, saunas, steam rooms and more. The lap pool is
situated in a high-ceilinged, colonnaded hall with floor-to-ceiling
windows, while the Hungarian mineral pool is in a stone-columned
room that brings to mind the inside of a very stylish igloo.
Treatments are plentiful, and many have a local angle, such
as the Banff Mineral Scrub and Rockies Rehydration.
Fairmont Gold Deluxe View Room
The Spa Pool
the mountain location, it's hard to believe that this
hotel served only summer guests until 1969. Banff is a playground
of winter pursuits — canyon ice walks, dog sledding, ice
fishing, ice skating, sleigh rides, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
This is not to forget skiing at the area ski resorts — Mount
Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise — which are among
the world's finest, and a ski school to match. As for
summer activities, golf is at the top of the list. The original
18-hole Banff Springs Golf Course was designed by the country's
master golf architect, Stanley Thompson, in 1928, and an additional
nine holes were later added. The course winds along the Bow
River and is a marvel, both for its layout and its Rocky Mountain
setting, certainly one of a kind.
the hotel may be far from so-called civilization, there is no
roughing it when it comes to dining. The hotel has almost a
dozen restaurants and bars, serving everything from sushi to
steaks. For a quintessential Fairmont experience, make reservations
at the Banffshire Club, where a Scottish atmosphere is enhanced
with Malcolm tartan drapery, antique reproduction tables from
the Stuart period, harp music and single malt scotch. The hotel's
kitchens are under the direction of Executive Chef Martin Luthi.
Among his signature dishes: fresh salmon marinated in whisky
and baked on a cedar plank. Those with an interest in all things
gourmet will also appreciate the wine and food tastings offered
daily during the summer and on weekends in the winter.
The Fairmont Banff Springs can now be reached by car — on
the gorgeous Trans-Canada Highway — it is no less secluded
than when it opened over 100 years ago. And its location in
Banff National Park means that the crush of modern life won't
be encroaching anytime soon. Complete with grizzlies, elk and
bighorn sheep, this hotel is a true retreat.