Exploring Banff and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

The Banff Springs Hotel is one of Canada’s luxurious railway hotels that were built between the late 1870s and the late 1920s. The railroad played a critical role in opening up the vast expanses of Canada, and railway executives decided to construct opulent chateau-like hotels at critical locations throughout the country. Among Canada’s famous railway hotels are the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C., the Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta, the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa and the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

Among one of the earliest Canadian railway hotels, the Banff Springs Hotel was constructed in a Scottish Baronial style and opened in 1888. Located in a spectacular location inside the Rocky Mountains, this exceptional hotel property has been attracting Canadian and international travellers for more than 120 years. The general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Cornelius Van Horne, recognized early on that railway hotels would play a critical role in developing tourism and demand for railway transportation across Canada. By the early 20th century, the Banff Springs Hotel had become one of the top three mountain destinations in North America.

Over the years, many celebrities and dignitaries have stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel.  Its visitors have included Queen Elizabeth, King George VI as well as Helen Keller. The hotel experienced rapid periods of growth in the early 20th century, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s. Due to effects of World War II and the reduced demand for vacations, the hotel had to shut down for three years between 1942 and 1945, but the post-WWII economic boom reinvigorated the Banff Springs Hotel. In the 1960s it also started attracting many conference guests and family travellers that were exploring the country by automobile. From the 1970s onwards, the hotel would actually open all year long and start catering to winter tourists as well.

The 1980s were a period of great expansion at the Banff Springs Hotel which had grown to more than 800 rooms and in the 1990 the conference center was opened. In 1992, the Banff Springs Hotel was declared a national historic site by the Canadian Government and entered a period of extensive modernization, including the addition of a 12 million dollar spa. Since 1999, the Banff Springs Hotel is part of the upscale Toronto-based Fairmont Hotels and Resorts chain and is celebrating 125 years of hospitality in 2013.

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