A guide to the spaces between the airport and the mountains
You get off the plane, you’re tired. You just want to get there, right?
Travelling from the Calgary Airport to Banff is an often overlooked part of the Canadian Rockies experience. After all what could there be to see between the Prairies and the mountains besides endless rolling field? You may be surprised—there’s more than you might think. Mother Nature has done a wonderful job of making the transition from the flatlands to the mountains a gradual process. The pleasure of being driven in a luxury coach can’t be underestimated—particularly if you’re someone who likes a good view.
As you ride the Brewster Express from YYC to Banff, slowly relaxing into the landscape and recovering from your journey, keep an eye out for these sights.
Calgary and the Canadian Rockies have a strong Olympic legacy, dating to our hosting of the 1988 Winter Olympics. As you leave Calgary, look to your left and you will see the most obvious marker of this legacy—Canada Olympic Park. This site played host to bobsleigh, luge, Nordic combined, ski jumping and aerials. Today, it is a local icon that continues to train world class athletes, and is home to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
The landscape between Calgary and Banff is constantly changing and provides some of the clearest markers of the last ice age, and the creation of the Canadian Rocky Mountains you will see. This starts with an unassuming rock outcrop seen by looking out the right hand side of the coach just west of Calgary. Believe it or not, this is the start of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Shortly after passing that unassuming rocky outcrop, the coach climbs a big hill, known as Scott Lake Hill. You are now crossing the highest point on the Trans-Canada Highway outside of the Canadian Rockies. Be sure to keep your eyes to the front of the bus, as this is your first unobstructed view of the impressive Front Range of the Canadian Rockies.
Down the other side of Scott Lake Hill, you will find a collection of hills that are a little odd. One side of the hills has trees, while the other is grassy. Known as “Drumlins”, these funny little hills are a marker that this whole area was once covered by ice. Formed under glaciers and ice sheets as they flowed across North America, they are a great reminder that every mountain, valley, and stream you see are the result of glaciers.
Possibly the most impressive vista you will see on your way to Banff is that of the very Front Range of the Canadian Rockies. These jagged, rocky peaks are the smallest of the mountains, but you would never know it by looking at them. They tower high into the sky and offer your first welcome into the mountain environment. Of them, the most iconic is Mt. Yamnuska, which meaning “wall of stone” in the Nakoda language. At the base of the stone wall lies the McConnell Thrust Fault, this fault results in a difference of age between the lower and upper rock of 450 million years!
In many ways, these mountains are always shifting, changing and evolving. As you venture into the mountains, this drive offers an outstanding opportunity to adjust to the pace of life in the Rockies—where glaciers still reign and nature takes centre stage. Welcome!
Brewster Express’ shuttles from Calgary Airport to Banff feature luxury seating and large viewing windows. Relax, unwind and enjoy the view!