First Snow, Banff


The Banff Wilderness hosts humans and animals in a symbiotic embrace that is fragile at best. As elsewhere, tourism and commercial entrepreneurship lead to civilization creep into natural wildlands creating frustration as well as awed reverence among the inhabitants.

Briefly, Banff was first settled in the 1880s, after the transcontinental railway was built through the Bow Valley. Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) workers had then discovered natural hot springs on the side of Sulphur Mountain (near Siding 29). Canada's National Park system emerged then when the federal government appointed George Stewart to create an infrastructure of roads, bridges and services. The town was named Banff after "Banffshire", the district in Scotland which was the birthplace of two railroad company directors, Lord Strathcona and George Stephen. Now, approximately 8 million visitors come to the park every year.

My sojourn in the town itself and on Sulphur Mountain happened in the first week of October 2016. The shovels were out at the mountain summit, which can be reached both on foot and by gondola. The first option clearly requires stamina and fitness that the bulk of the visiting crowd does not possess, including myself. Below the summit, the bustling town is tied up in a package of tourist enticements, perhaps justifying the name of the ribbon that practically encircles the place --- the Bow River.