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A mountain town of huge character amid the Canadian Rockies' most amazing scenery

Banff is a mountain town of enormous character set in the centre of the most dramatic scenery the Canadian Rockies has to offer. And it's not unusual to see elk strolling down the main street.

With Banff as your base you can explore the skiing of Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay, both very close to the town, and Lake Louise, a little further away.

Sunshine Village is one of the highest resorts in Canada, and is proud of its great reputation for good snow throughout a long season - it averages 30-ft of snow each winter. The slopes, with some delightful lightly-wooded areas as well as many runs above the treeline, embrace three peaks and you can ski in the provinces of both Alberta and British Columbia on the same run.

While half the slopes here are graded intermediate, there are some iconic runs for experts - such as Delirium Dive on the North Face of Lookout Mountain.

Mount Norquay is even nearer Banff and is a charming and compact resort full of quiet, wooded slopes - although, for the adventurous, it does have a steep sector with some seriously challenging mogul fields. On two evenings a week, Mount Norquay has floodlit skiing.

Most visitors will also include at least a day at the substantial resort of Lake Louise (a three-area ski-pass is available) - with ski-buses on hand (free to lift-pass holders) to reach all three ski areas.

Banff is a town rich in history with world-class art galleries and museums and an internationally-renowned performing arts centre – as well as more elks' heads stuck on bar-room walls than you can poke a ski stick at.

The extravagantly turreted 19th-century Fairmont Banff Springs, built in castle style, is one of our favourite hotels here, as is the Rimrock, spectacularly set a little outside town - but there are dozens from which to choose.

The main street buzzes with shops, restaurants (more than 100 at the last count) and saloons. The Keg Steakhouse is a popular rendezvous and for live music Wild Bill's and the Rose and Crown pull in the crowds.


Banff Maple Leaf Grille

Located on Banff’s busiest corner, The Maple Leaf has become a trusted and recognised dining spot in the downtown area. A perfect partnership of excellent cuisine and top-notch service, you’ll feel right at home in this cosy restaurant.

The Maple Leaf’s menu features Canadian cuisine and specialises in a tantalising choice of Alberta beef, bison, elk and seafood. Chef Sal Polizzi sources the finest Canadian ingredients to make classy, hearty meals that will seduce your taste buds and leave you feeling warm inside. You’ll also find an award-winning wine list here for the perfect partner to your meal.

The spacious log-cabin interior ensures that you receive a warm welcome in both senses, before settling down to dine with breathtaking mountain views perfectly in sight. A grand staircase, rich wood feature walls and a host of artwork combine with rich upholstery to create an heir of elegance to the dining room, making it the ideal choice for a special occasion, or as a treat.

Elk and Oarsman Pub and Grill

Elk and Oarsman Pub and Grill

A great hangout to escape the cold, the Elk and Oarsman has everything you could possibly need to escape the cold and have a great night

The open-plan bar area makes it a fantastic watering hole to drink and be merry throughout the night, with the entire bar in unison. Around the corner, you’ll find quieter seated areas which are great for grabbing a bite to eat in front of a very welcome open fire. Speaking of food, the Elk and Oarsman’s chicken wings are an absolute must as the ideal bar snack. Nachos and potato skins with braised elk are also excellent alternatives.

Best of all, you’ll be spoilt for choice of beverage with beer and whisky menus making it harder than ever to decide on your favourite tipple for the evening. If you’re feeling more adventurous however, try something a little sweeter. Drinks that are more like desserts await, such as Snowy Lane: chocolate spiked with Kahlua and vodka and topped with whipped cream. What a treat!