Mark Weber

‘Mountains’ of memories garnered on Banff trek

It’s remarkable how there are certain places in the world that one never tires of vacationing in – even after years and years of visiting.

For me, Banff is one such place.

The town has always been a favourite family destination. As far back as I can remember, my parents and sisters and I would often holiday in Banff or at least include it as part of our annual summer vacations. In the winter, we also often enjoyed skiing at Sunshine Village while staying in Banff as well. So early on and regardless of the season, I garnered a strong sense of familiarity and affection for the entire area.

My parents certainly treasured our times there, too.

Our collection of slides is filled with shots taken while holidaying there, and it’s interesting to watch them today and see how the community has changed over the years. There are the sites and highlights that have been part of the warm, inviting fabric of Banff for years including the famous hot springs pool and the gondola that slowly crawls up the face of Sulphur Mountain. The old Post Office Gardens, laid out decades ago, have maintained their pristine, intricately groomed appearance as well.

As any regular visitor knows many businesses and eateries along Banff Avenue have come and gone, but there are some that have managed to stand the test of time and shifting consumer tastes such as Welch’s Chocolate Shop and The Grizzly House restaurant. Packed with every kind of souvenir imaginable, The Banff Indian Trading Post on the other side of the bridge is also another town fixture. An enormous bear still stands in the back part of the store, as he has since I was a kid.

Cultivating my love for Banff further over the years was my late father who lived for a year in Banff when he was a young man. Naturally it was one of his favourite places as well. He would often tell us stories of his adventures living and working in the world-famous community, and of the people he met during his time there. Sometimes, it was tough to know if some of these stories might be a touch exaggerated – like the one about the guy my dad knew who often trekked up Mt. Rundle and relished sitting on the edge of its notoriously steep precipice while dangling his legs over the edge. Can’t quite imagine it, but who knows?

A visit to the Banff Springs Hotel is always included on any visit now as well. Unlike much of the town, this is a place where time seems to stand still. Little has changed over the years, and the best parts include the sweeping, stunning views of Bow Valley from the patio at the back of the facility. A gallery of photos capturing moments of the hotel’s history is also a must-see, including one of Marilyn Monroe golfing on the nearby course while taking a break from shooting River of No Return with Robert Mitchum in 1953.

Perhaps the best part of visiting Banff is when you are lucky enough to be there with someone who shares your admiration for it. I recently visited there with my mom for a few days, and it was interesting to hear her reflect on times spent there when it was a much less busy and less commercial place. Her love for Banff hasn’t diminished however, in fact, she seems to find the region a place of wonder and refreshment just like she always did.

Ultimately, that’s what makes the place so meaningful. When I think of Banff, I of course think of family. When happy memories flood into one’s mind at pretty much every turn as I wander its streets and take in the picturesque scenery, how could it be any other way?

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