Hidden in a valley under the shadow of craggy snow-capped mountains there is a little Canadian town, populated by young adventurers from all over the world who daydream of fresh powder, white water and alpine trails.
Banff is an absolute outdoor lover’s paradise.
The mornings are crisp and cool, even in the summertime as the sun takes longer to make its way over the enormous peaks and shine down into the valley. When you step outside your door the thin mountain air always has a whiff of wood smoke and an invigorating chill.
As you stroll down the one main street in the tiny town you might see a group of five deer sitting in the park nibbling on leaves. You will be astounded and then realize that the locals are simply walking by… deer and elk roam through the town almost every day. This is the Canadian Rockies and the line between civilization and wilderness is thinner than the tiny windswept trees that cling to the tops of the mountain peaks.
I was lucky enough to grow up a few hours away from Banff, Alberta, Canada and I had the pleasure of working there for a summer when I was 19. It was one of the best summers of my life so far and I still think back to my adventures canoeing and hiking with friends, who were from Japan, Australia, Germany and many other countries.
Many people head to Banff to work and play for a summer season or a winter ski season. It’s only an hour and a half drive west of the Calgary International Airport and it is right in the heart of Banff National Park, the oldest national park in Canada.
This town has plenty of opportunities for employment for those working and travelling their way across Canada, whether you want to work in the cute tourist shops, restaurants and cafes or as a tour guide or ski instructor. Those who have hospitality experience will have many excellent hotels in the area to apply for, including the gorgeous Banff Springs Hotel which presides over the town like a stately castle from another era.
But it doesn’t really matter where you work in Banff, because the adventures start when your shift finishes.
If you love zooming down a mountain slope at full speed, you’ll be in heaven here. Within a short drive from Banff you have access to three of Canada’s most outstanding ski resorts, Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Norquay. You don’t even need a car, as there are shuttle buses offered by many of the hotels and tour companies.
Lake Louise is the most famous and therefore the busiest, but the scenery is mind-blowing. Sunshine Village gets more snow and is higher in elevation so has a longer ski season. Norquay is where the locals go and there are plenty of very steep and difficult runs here if you are looking for a challenge.
The ski hills are busier on the weekends, so if you want to beat the crowds try to negotiate a day off work in the middle of the week. If you think you will be hitting the slopes a lot during your time working abroad in Canada, consider getting a ski pass which might save you some money.
If you are visiting during the summer season in Banff, you could probably hike a different trail through the Rockies every weekend and still not see all there is to discover. Whether you want a peaceful walk in the woods or a challenging trek up a steep rock face you will have lots of trails to choose from.
A great trail to start with is Sulphur Mountain, which can be reached by taking a bus from the main street in Banff town. The bus will take you to the base of the tram which takes tourists up and down the mountain. However, if you want to make it up there on your own two feet you can follow the switchbacks all the way to the top. It takes around 2-3 hours depending on your fitness level, but oh my god is the view ever worth it.
If you work in downtown Banff, canoeing is something you could do on your lunch hour! Only three minutes away from the town centre is the Blue Canoe docks, where you can rent a canoe and paddle your way down the Bow River.
If you have a little bit more time, get some friends together and rent the canoes for the day. Head down 40 Mile Creek into the Vermillion Lakes. The great thing about canoeing is that it lets you slip quietly through the wilderness, giving you a chance to spot plenty of wildlife as you glide past.
White Water Rafting
Perhaps you like your day on the water to be a little less tranquil? In Banff National Park there is a river called the Kicking Horse and when you are rafting it you will understand why because you will feel like you are trying to hold on while riding a bucking bronco.
There are several tour companies that will take you on a rafting trip down the Kicking Horse River through these wild rapids.
These are just a few of the outdoor adventures you can have in Banff, not to mention horseback riding, swimming, rock climbing, mountain biking and many more.
One of the things you will learn here is that the Canadian Rockies are not just a place but a way of life. The locals will show you that the wilderness that surrounds them is not only stunningly beautiful but it is also the greatest playground imaginable. Have fun and keep an eye out for deer wandering down your street!