Nestled in the western province of Canada sits some of the most jaw dropping scenery you can imagine. Once you have spent some time in Alberta, it will always hold a piece of your heart thanks to its endless mountain ranges, stunning glaciers and tranquil lakes. The locals tend to have a fantastic outlook on life, spending as much time as possible in the ever-changing nature that surrounds the towns, and holding the upmost respect for the wildlife that shares this amazing corner of Canada. Alberta is fantastic in the winter months as a destination for skiing, but I particularly love visiting in the early summer when the ice has just melted, the air is still fresh and the days are filled with sunshine.
Regular direct flights to Calgary, the largest city of Alberta but surprisingly not the capital, are available from London and take approximately 9 hours. The transfer time by road from Calgary to Banff is 1 hour 40 minutes and a further 40 minutes on to Lake Louise. The scenery along the route from the airport is astounding as you leave the flat plains of Calgary and travel further west, the peaks of the Rockies appear as if from nowhere growing to dominate the landscape. I highly recommend breaking the journey with a stop at the Grizzly Paw Brewery in Canmore. This is a great opportunity to meet some locals, tour the brewery, taste the beer and take in your surroundings in the heart of the Rockies. You can turn this brewery tour into something truly memorable by chartering a helicopter from Calgary Airport, landing in the brewery grounds, this definitely gets your trip off to a memorable start and the pilots have tonnes of local knowledge pointing out the spots where filming was carried out for films such as the Revenant.
For added impact, we like to start our Alberta trips with a visit to Lake Louise. Arriving at the famous Fairmont Chateau after the sun has set; your guests will awake the next morning to the stunning views of Lake Louise. A remarkable surprise which, when combined with the gentle breeze of the fresh mountain air and the sweet scent of pines, is a treat for the senses and in my opinion makes for an unforgettable moment. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise really has no competition when it comes to its location, the hotel is large but the service is excellent and the facilities are impeccable, added activities such as canoeing on the lake make for once in a lifetime opportunities. If you awake early, enough you can hire canoes for the group and have the lake to yourselves before the tourists start to arrive.
Any trip to Canada would not be complete without some Grizzly bear spotting. The ski slopes of Lake Louise are a great place to be at one with nature while our local guides lead you through the forest trails, entertaining you with tails of the resident bears and the mischief they create. Another great spot for grizzly spotting is Sunshine Meadows, which is a little closer to Banff. Other activities, which make the most of the natural resources around the area of Banff, include white water rafting, hiking and Via Ferrata, which is possibly the safest way to try your hand at rock climbing. Here you can take in the sights of Bow River from the top of Mount Norquay while being safely attached to metal piping that runs across the mountain.
When changing location to Banff, the Fairmont Banff Springs may seem like the obvious choice for hotels due to its landmark position, but we also love Moose Hotel that is more boutique in its style. The bedrooms at the Moose Hotel adopt the style of alpine lodges, whilst a dip in the Jacuzzi situated on the roof is simply spellbinding; enjoy a drink in the warm bubbles as you absorb the uninterrupted views out onto the Rockies. Its location in Banff adds to the appeal, stepping immediately out on to the high street where all the nightlife hotspots are within walking distance. One of my favourite evening venues is Highrollers, a retro ten-pin bowling alley with over 50 craft beers on tap! They also serve up fantastic chicken wings to keep your crowd going long into the early hours. Striking a relationship with the locals is also highly recommended to enjoy a hosted private cowboy cookout; our friends are located in the heart of the Rockies and can be reached by horseback, or horse drawn wagons. Here local cowboys cook you up a barbeque feast; think thinly sliced Albertan steak, slabs of buffalo sizzling alongside roasted yams while you master the art of lassoing and toast smores on the campfire.
As you venture back to Calgary for your return journey, a great stop off point is the Winter Olympics Site, known most famously in the UK for Eddie the Eagle’s performance. Here you can try your hand at bobsleighing, bomb down the slopes on the skyline luge and experience the icehouse or the museum that all have some very good private hire options.
If you are considering a destination that is slightly further afield for your next incentive, then Canada may well be for you. Alberta is sure to give you a warm, wholesome welcome, with great food, a fantastic array of activities and excellent local hospitality.
By Sophie Darbon
Sophie began her career in events back in 2010 after graduating from Bournemouth University with a BA in Events Management. Sophie is passionate about all events but particularly loves working in incentive travel.More articles by Sophie Darbon