7 Things You Don't Know About Banff

Banff is all about tourism and the outdoors, and millions of visitors have spent a memorable holiday in the small town that offers something for everyone all year round. Banff is Canada’s proverbial postcard destination, nestled in a Rocky Mountain valley. Everybody knows about Banff, but few know what life is really like in the town. Especially when it comes to the people who live and work in Banff and call it home. Ready to be surprised? Step into that postcard-perfect town and find out 7 things you didn’t know about people who call Banff home.


Banff Trails and Horse Crap:

Horse Riding by https://www.flickr.com/photos/mhowry/

Horse Riding by Matt Howry / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This is serious business with locals divided between those who love horses and horseback riding and hikers who hate side-stepping the piles of horse poo. After a series of town meetings in February, 2015, the Trails Master Plan was updated. Everything from signage to horse manure littering the hiking paths was dealt with, although horse riding is still very much a part of life in Banff. Poop and scoop would take on a whole new meaning if you have to hitch your horse, unsaddle and scoop.


Cycling Paths and Parking:

Banff by InSapphoWeTrust

Banff by InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Another flash point for heated social confrontations in this mountain paradise. Well, at least it has people on both sides of the issue a little flustered. If the town creates a cycling path on city streets, then that means that parking along those streets is no longer possible. And if you drive to work every day, then that’s a problem. Town planners have come up with a few possible solutions. For example: 

  • Remove one lane of parking to create: a segregated, two-way, cycling greenway;
  • Enforce one way vehicle traffic and angled parking to create, you guessed it: a segregated, two-way, cycling greenway;
  • Remove one lane of parking to create two conventional biking lanes;
  • Convert the existing sidewalk to a multi-use path, preserving parking.


Paid Parking

Banff by LWYang

by LWYang / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

As you can see, parking is a hot-button topic with Banff residents. The town council quickly put together a Transportation Master Plan in 2014 to deal with what apparently is “severe congestion.”

  • Studies show that nearly a third of traffic downtown is caused by vehicle owners cruising Beaver and Bear and other streets in the close-knit downtown core, desperately looking for some parking action.
  • There is a troubling shortage of around 125 parking spots at peak periods. And it’s only set to get worse with estimates that the shortfall could triple within a decade. 

One of town council’s solutions was a pilot project last fall to enact paid parking along Beaver and Bear streets. Locals were downright angry, complaining that it makes Banff an even more expensive city to live in. Some tourists threatened to stay away. Germans said it was no big deal, being used to paying high prices for gas and parking. Is paid parking here to stay in Banff? Banff Residents Against Paid Parking (BRAPP) are dead set against the plan. They have collected around 1,500 signatures calling for a plebiscite on the issue. That’s about 80% of the local vote in most elections.



Rocky Mountain Earthquake [Public Domain]

Earthquake in the Rocky Mountains [Public Domain]

In mid-October, 2014, Banff was shaken by a small tremor measuring 2.7 on the Richter scale. But back in 1918, the area suffered a 6.0 earthquake, which is no small matter. This time around, Banff mayor Karen Sorensen contacted her fellow mayor at nearby Canmore to see if they had felt anything, but said that Canmore’s mayor felt nothing. According to the Banff mayor, the quake felt like a large truck rumbling by for a few seconds. So, Banff does get the occasional earthquake. Who would have thought?


Chain stores:

In case you’re wondering if Banff has more in common with North York than you thought, chain stores are a big concern to some local residents, who want to preserve the uniqueness of Banff. But back in March, 2013, the town council voted 5-1 not to put further restrictions on chain stores opening franchises in Banff. Tourists tend to like to shop in chain stores and so do many locals according to Mayor Sorensen. It seems locals like the mix of local business and chain store franchises. 


Population Explosion

Estimates that Banff’s population could boom to up to 10,000 residents are troubling Parks Canada officials who want to ensure a sustainable and vibrant community within Canada’s premier National Park. Attempts at capping commercial establishments back in 1998 were designed to limit available jobs in Banff and thus keep the town’s population around 8,000. According to the 2014 Municipal Census, Banff’s total population in 2014 was 9,386, including 8,421 permanent residents and 965 non-permanent residents. That means the permanent population is 1,579 short of the feared level. A deeply troubling sign, especially given that chain stores are now able to open up in the town. Will Banff surge someday to the frightening population levels of say, Okotoks, Alberta which has around 25,000 residents and is essentially a suburb of Calgary? Not if Parks Canada bureaucrats can help it. 


Cheap Booze:

Locals Liquor by Andrew Bowden

Locals Liquor by Andrew Bowden / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

If you want to save on your liquor bills, the place to go in Banff is underground. No it’s not a speakeasy; it’s called Locals Liquor. Located downstairs in the Sundance Mall. Make sure to pick up some Silver Bullets, as the locals call Bow Valley Beer which at about a buck a can, is a shot of Rocky Mountain goodness. 


So while the residents of Banff enjoy some of the most beautiful surroundings anywhere, they certainly have their share of local issues. And there remains one fascinating question: are the bicycle lanes set to stay open all winter long?


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