Plan to double tourism revenues must go beyond Banff, Jasper: Minister

The Alberta government's plan to double the province's tourism revenues by 2030 is achievable without putting excess pressure on already crowded visitor hot spots like Banff and Lake Louise, Tourism Minister Tanya Fir said Wednesday.

The Alberta government’s plan to double the province’s tourism revenues by 2030 is achievable without putting excess pressure on already crowded visitor hot spots such as Banff and Lake Louise, Tourism Minister Tanya Fir said Wednesday.

In an interview, Fir said the UCP’s ambitious goal to grow tourism revenues to $20 billion in just 10 years (up from $8.9 billion in 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available) will take into account the ecological concerns related to ever-increasing traffic and congestion at some of the province’s most popular attractions. She said while world-renowned sites such as Banff and Jasper will always draw visitors, Alberta’s 10-year tourism plan will focus on ways to move visitors to other parts of the province.

“We’re interested in creating tourist opportunities in brand-new areas, areas that don’t have a lot of environmental pressure on them — whether it’s the Badlands or rural areas or Indigenous areas or the North,” Fir said. “Areas that can welcome guests because they’ve never been tourist destinations before.”

Fir, who has been meeting with MLAs and community leaders from across the province to talk about how to boost tourism in far-flung corners of the province, said part of the government’s goal is to develop more partnerships with private-sector tourism operators. She added the government is open to proposals for commercial developments that could boost the tourism sector, “providing we do the proper consultations and make sure we’re still protecting and preserving our environment and parks.”

This week in Calgary and Edmonton, Travel Alberta has been holding consultation sessions with tourism stakeholders as part of the process of developing a new 10-year tourism strategy for Alberta. The agency is expected to present its report to the minister this spring.

Travel Alberta CEO Royce Chwin acknowledged the government’s goal of doubling tourism revenues by 2030 is ambitious and said if the province continues to do exactly what it has done in the past, it “won’t even get close.”

“We can’t just rely on our major developed centres like Edmonton, Calgary, Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise,” he said. “How do we spread the tourism dollar around?”

While there is a real desire on the part of the government and private sector operators for more development, Chwin said, that doesn’t mean there’s a desire to “pave everything over and put up amusement parks everywhere.”

“It’s not just about jamming more people into the province,” he said. “We’re thinking about, what is the right kind of responsible development that would really respect the land but still bring visitors here?”

Grace Wark, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association, said an expanded tourism industry in the province cannot come at the expense of ecological integrity. She cautioned that even some of Alberta’s most pristine areas, such as the Kananaskis and Crowsnest Pass regions, have come under pressure from increased tourism in recent years.

“If we’re going to be seeing tourism expand into areas, that should be happening in places where a development footprint already exists, and where it isn’t going to interfere with species at risk or headwaters,” Wark said.

Article by: Calgary Herald

Mountain Meals: Where to eat in Banff and Canmore

Photo: Sky Bistro Instagram 

Most visitors to Banff and Canmore know about the attractions that await in the mountains, be it the hiking trails and ski hills or the famous Banff Hot Springs, but the Bow Valley is also a great place to eat. There are so many restaurants calling out to visitors it can be hard to make a choice, but these spots offer some of the best meals in the mountains:

Chuck’s Steakhouse 
101 Banff Ave, Banff

Photo: Chuck's Steakhouse Website 

Unless they happen to be vegetarians, visitors to Alberta usually want to try some local steak. Chuck’s is definitely one of the best places in Banff to sample a local cut. The room has a relaxed Western vibe to it, but everyone takes the steaks very seriously — servers are trained to walk diners through the differences in the menu’s vast selection of ranch specific beef. For those who can’t decide between wagyu, prime, or grass-fed, Chuck’s also offers platters so you can try a bit of everything.

Instagram: Chuck's Steakhouse 

Crazyweed Kitchen 
1600 Railway Ave, Canmore

Photo: Crazyweed Website 

One of Canmore’s most beloved and long-running restaurants, Crazyweed has been a favourite of locals and out-of-towners for over 20 years. The food is innovative and always skillfully prepared, but the room itself is small and homey, making for what the restaurant itself calls a “fancy not-so-fancy” dining experience. Expect fresh and plates of seafood, pasta, steaks and salad, all drawing on seasonal ingredients and globally-inspired flavours.

Instagram: Crazyweed Kitchen 

300 Mountain Ave, Banff

Photo: Eden Restaurant Instagram 

Many of Banff’s restaurants are fancy, but none quite so much as Eden, the Rimrock Resort’s premier restaurant. The holder of the rare AAA/CAA 5-Diamond award, Eden offers the very best in white table cloth-style fine dining — this is the kind of place that is worth getting dressed up for. The house specialties are the multi-course tasting menus; for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience, go for the 10-course Grand Degustation with wine pairings.

Instagram: Eden Restaurant 

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel 
405 Spray Ave, Banff

The Banff Springs isn’t a restaurant — it’s a hotel that is home to nearly a dozen different culinary experiences, all of which live up to Fairmont’s famously high standards. The restaurants include fine dining at the 1888 Chop House, charcuterie and wine at Grapes, the Vermillion Room French brasserie and Bavarian bar food at the Walhaus Pub. Executive Chef Robert Ash runs a unique program that emphasizes doing everything in house, from butchery and sausage making to chocolates and other sweets.

Instagram: Fairmont Banff Springs

Park Distillery 
219 Banff Ave, Banff

Photo: Park Distillery Instagram 

As the only distillery in a national park, Park Distillery already has a lot going for it, but in addition to its award-winning spirits, Park also operates one of Banff’s best casual restaurants. The campfire-themed menu is full of bar appropriate appetizers, charcuterie, burgers and ranch-style entrĂ©es, all of which wash down nicely with a cocktail made with one of Park’s signature products.

Instagram: Park Distillery

Ramen Arashi 
3rd floor #213 Sundance Mall, 215 Banff Ave, Banff 

It’s a relatively well-kept secret, but Banff is home to what just may be the best little ramen place in all of Alberta. Ramen Arashi is in a cramped space in a mall, but even if it’s busy, it’s worth waiting in line for this incredibly flavourful Japanese noodle soup. The ramen is all made with hand-crafted slow-cooked broth, with different toppings and proteins available to suit the tastes of any ramen lover. The restaurant also serves a tasty selection of Japanese rice bowls and appetizers.

Instagram: Ramen Arashi

Sage Bistro

1712 Bow Valley Trail, Canmore

Photo: Sage Bistro Website

This cozy restaurant is a Canmore classic: it’s located in a little log cabin, but the eclectic French-inspired food is hardly rustic. The room is nice and cozy and the food exceeds expectations with dishes like a fragrant Thai red curry seafood bowl and a red wine and rosemary-braised lamb shank. Upstairs Sage runs a wine lounge (open Wednesday through Sunday) with a separate small plates menu and a list of hard-to-find wines offered by the glass or the flight.

Instagram: Sage Bistro

Sky Bistro
100 Mountain Ave, Banff

Photo: Sky Bistro Instagram

It’s not often to find a restaurant that sits at 7,510 feet and it’s even rarer to find an excellent restaurant tied to a major tourist attraction, but the Sky Bistro at the top of the Banff Gondola manages to tick both those boxes. Chef Scott Hergott’s food is informed by local ingredients: he likes to call it “farm to summit” cooking. The restaurant also serves Canadian wines and beers and, of course, offers the best view in the entire Bow Valley.

Instagram: Sky Bistro

The Bison
211 Bear St # 213, Banff

Photo: The Bison Instagram

With a name like the Bison, it’s not surprising that this downtown Banff restaurant specializes in refined Canadiana cuisine. The Bison works closely with local farms to create regional farm-to-table dishes. Bison and beef both figure heavily on the menu, alongside carefully prepared sides and salads.

Instagram: The Bison

The Sensory
101-300 Old Canmore Rd, Canmore

Photo: The Sensory Instagram

One of Canmore’s newer spots to eat, the dishes at this restaurant reflect the flavours of the mountains, with ingredients like wild game, birch syrup, and saskatoon berries. Upstairs, you’ll find a fine dining restaurant, while the ground floor is home to the Wit Bar, a more relaxed version of the Sensory that serves sandwiches, bar snacks, and casual meals. Both halves of the business offer a thoughtful wine list and a selection of incredibly creative cocktails.

Instagram: The Sensory

Three Ravens
107 Tunnel Mountain Dr, Banff

Photo: Banff Centre Website

The Banff Centre is known for its events and artist programs, but many people don’t realize that it also has a top-notch onsite restaurant. Three Ravens Restaurant and Wine Bar is a modern fine-dining space that offers dishes worthy of the Centre that it’s a part of. Like many Banff restaurants, local proteins (including game) is on the menu, along with a good selection of Ocean Wise seafood.

Instagram: Banff Centre

Article by: Calgary Herald

Canmore is Alberta's top recreational property market

The recently released Royal LePage Winter Recreational Property Survey 2019 once again identifies Canmore as Alberta’s go-to recreation and retirement community.

The town, about 45 minutes west of Calgary city limits, is nestled in the Bow Valley, in the shadows of the Three Sisters mountain range and has added affordability to its attractiveness. According to Royal LePage, the single-family median price declined two percent year over year, while the median condominium price dipped 2.8 percent to $479,000.

“The modest decline in median price reflects more sales of smaller condo units as builders seek to meet buyer demand for relatively more affordable properties. This shift in the inventory mix offers new opportunities for buyers who thought they were priced out of the market,” said Brad Hawker, managing broker, Royal LePage Rocky Mountain Realty.

In the heart of Canmore is Spring Creek, a growing, village-inspired community with a variety of home styles, as well as a hotel, local pub, liquor store and more retail outlets planned in the future.

The Tamarack is the fourth condominium building introduced in Spring Creek in the last three years and has been well-received since its launch in October, with 75 percent of the homes now sold.

The four-storey building features 80 homes, in a unique layout and the opportunity to lease units to visitors.

“The community layout sets this building apart with a uniquely grand entrance. A broad, scenic road that leads to the Tamarack is designed to feel like approaching a luxury hotel,” says Ross Jansen, director of sales, Spring Creek Real Estate. “Tamarack is split into two distinct wings: The Lofts at Tamarack and the Residences at Tamarack. As a nod to its picturesque surroundings, textures and finishes offered within these homes are nature-inspired.”

The new lodge has a Tourist Home permitted use, one of few developments that currently possess this designation in Canmore.

“With this zoning, condominiums are permitted to be used as either a permanent residence or for short-term stays,” says Jansen. “Homes without this designation and rented for terms shorter than 30 days may face a fine starting at $2,500.”

Floorplans range from 720 sq. ft. to 2,331 sq. ft., in single- and two-storey formats, with one, two and three bedrooms.

“The Tamarack will also include ground-floor commercial development and amenities such as a fitness space steps away the jacuzzi hot tub and spa area,” says Jansen. “Occupancy is slated to start in late 2021.”

For those not keen on vacation rentals, Jack Pine Lodge is an option.

“It will be completed in 2020,” says Jansen. “Homes have a spa-inspired ensuite, rock fireplace, oversized gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, upgraded finishings and hardwood floors in all living spaces. Amenities include a garden hot tub, underground heated parking and geothermal heating and cooling.”

When the Tamarack is completed, Spring Creek will be about 50 percent complete, an important milestone, says Frank Kernick, president, Spring Creek.
“The thoughtful planning that went into this community is taking shape and it’s exciting to see,” says Kernick. “Demand continues to be high for the enriching lifestyle and gorgeous, expertly-appointed homes we offer at Spring Creek. Our residents love the sweeping views of the Rockies, and close proximity to downtown Canmore and all of its terrific places to shop and dine.”

Article by: Calgary Sun