Reporting from Banff for BoingBoing

I'm doing my guestblogging assignment this week while in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. I came here to give a talk about Make and makers at Digitel (Digital Game and Intelligent Toy Enhanced Learning), by invitation of Mike Eisenberg of University of Colorado at Boulder's Craft Technology Lab. After my talk, my wife and I went for a hike to see some of the magnificent mountains that surround Banff. The first real snow of the season came last Sunday. I took this photo below of Mount Rundle with the Bow River making a loop in the Banff valley. The town is out of the picture to the right.


Tonight I've bought a book about the geology of Banff. Mount Rundle is on the cover. It's called How Old is that Mountain? by Chris Yorath. I want to learn more about this part of the Canadian Rockies and what they're made of.


  1. I live in Winnipeg, it’s pretty flat around here.. you can stand on a chair and watch your dog run away for days. When I meet someone from Calgary, I mention how lucky they are to live so close to the mountains, it’s just so sweet.

    They go “Meh… it’s the mountains…”

    I’ll never understand that.

  2. Hey, that’s in my corner of the world! (er, nearby)

    We’re having unseasonably warm weather in southern Alberta this year. I’ve grown this beard, and the temperature went up to 20 degrees today!

  3. Somebody once told me that Banff is the only place that she had been that was prettier than the post cards.

  4. How jealous I am of you! You and your chinooks. In central alberta, its been hovering around zero, and there was snow in calgary… I for one am very grateful for places like Banff, Canmore, and Jasper.

  5. Head north along the Columbia Icefields Parkway…it just keeps getting more beautiful!
    Mountain Cafe, Jasper, Alberta best navy bean soup in North America!!

  6. I’m currently teaching here at BNMI for a mobile residency.

    Agreed, it’s a lovely change from Winnipeg although I disagree with @1 — the prairies have their own majesty. You don’t hear people complain about living near the coast because the sea is “flat!”

  7. if you are keen on a particular mountain range, specific mountain or even route up some damn slab or slag pile, often including its geology, you can’t do better than – just go to ‘areas or ranges’ or ‘mountains’ and search away. breathtaking pics of the gasherbrums in pakistan, the canadian rockies, and the fabulous dolomites. alpine eye-candy!

  8. That’s one big beautiful rock! What a beautiful place to visit, but I don’t think anyone is lucky to live in a place where the temperature stays around zero C for four months, been in the South too long for that stuff. I start to hibernate when it gets below 10 C.

  9. I agree with JG and I’ve driven all over the Pacific NW and the Rockies. The road between Banff and Jasper is the prettiest I’ve travelled on (or at least top 3). You should drive to at least the Columbia Ice Fields.

  10. Hey Dale,

    Head on down to Canmore, just south, and find a nice restaurant called “The Quarry.” It’s on main street.

    Find Naomi. She’s great.

    You have a professional acquaintance from Mozilla in common.

    If her husband, Simonticus, is about buy him a beverage for me.

    There is a local small press book called “Don’t waste your time in the Canadian Rockies” you can find up there. It is honest and has astounding short hikes ( and long ones ) between its slim covers.

    enjoy it all!

  11. Have to second the Quarry nomination. *burp*

    My time is split fairly evenly between Calgary, Canmore and Cochrane (and Vancouver), and I consider myself very very lucky to take this stuff for granted. I don’t know if I could settle down anywhere else.

  12. Bob & Ray did a “World News Report” in the 50s, in which an intrepid correspondent keeps trying to get through but is overwhelmed by static and distortion every time he introduces himself. His line, “Buford Balloon, in Brisbane,” has been stuck in my brain for decades.

    In that spirit, may I suggest “Blogging from Banff for BoingBoing” as an alliterative alternative to “Reporting…”?

  13. Go to Nelson if you have the time, but I doubt you could get there this time of year.

    One of my favorite places in the world.

  14. Your picture makes me want to drop everything and go out to the mountains (and to heck with my job)…. after all it’s only an hour’s drive for me. I know a lot of Calgarians are pretty blase about the mountains (#1), but this Calgarian isn’t.

  15. It is said of Bow Valley miner and mountaineer Lawrence Grassi that “he once headed off to Calgary for an eye examination but failed to arrive. Lawrence explained that when he got as far as Ghost Dam he looked back and, because the mountains looked so far away, he couldn’t go any farther and had to return”.

  16. You’re a lucky guy, Dale. Banff is one of my favorite places in the whole world. I was up there skiing a couple of years ago, and the sheer beauty of the place is almost overwhelming.

    My wife and I have a strict “no returns” policy for vacation travel – there’s a lot of the world we haven’t seen, so we don’t go back to a place we’ve already been. This is one of only 2 places where we’re willing to make an exception.

    Oh, and total agreement about the Quarry in Canmore – my wife still says it’s the best calamari she’s ever had.

  17. Alberta is one of the only Canadian Provinces that I have yet to visit. Other than the obviously beautiful scenery, what are some other cool things to do while your there? Dale, it would be much appreciated if you could send me a PM with some info, because you’ve inspired me to make a stop there the next time I visit.

  18. I see lots of albertans read boingboing, and i thought i was the only one. Hello from edmonton.

    PS: only 4 hours to see the mountains for me. Wish it was shorter.

  19. “I want to learn more about this part of the Canadian Rockies and what they’re made of.”

    You don’t have to read a book to find out what they’re made of. I’ll give you a clue: It’s not fail.

  20. Thanks for all the kind advice. I do plan to make it up the Columbia Icefields. Maybe I’ll stop in the Quarry in Canmore on the way home on Friday.

    #19 Woid, I like your suggestion. I originally had Blogging intead of Reporting but I thought I was pushing the alliteration a little to much. Love the Bob & Ray reference.

  21. Wow. The weather must be warm this year. You can still see bare ground in the middle of November? Nice.

  22. Welcome to Canada, welcome to Alberta, and welcome to Banff. You won’t be disappointed!

    #26 – of course lots of Albertans read BoingBoing. Lots of _Canadians_ read BoingBoing. Blame it on Doctorow and the higher-than-average-for-an-American-site coverage of Canadian news. I heard of Michael Geist first through BB. Which probably says more about the shameful state of tech news coverage by Canadian sites…

  23. Greetings from Prince George, British Columbia.
    I usually travel through Jasper & Banff every summer on my way through to Calgary for concerts or other events. The Canadian Rockies is one of the most amazing places to explore and vacation, hope you enjoy your time there.

  24. My husband and I traveled to Banff last year for our 1-year wedding anniversary. Honestly the best trip of my life. I’ve spent months in Europe, and Banff (and surrounding areas) blew Europe out of the water. I’d move if I could…

  25. While in Banff, don’t forget to get plastered at Mel’s. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are $1.75 highballs. Build yourself a pyramid of liquid death!

  26. Banff is beautiful, and so is Jasper. I’ve lived in Alberta all my life, and only this summer did I drive the Icefield Parkway. Don’t be like me and wait decades to drive it — it’s gorgeous.

    However, if we’re talking Mountain Parks, as far as I’m concerned, the Jewel of the Mountain park crown has got to be Waterton Lakes National Park.

    From the eponymous Waterton Lakes (which cross the 49th Parallel into Montana and Glacier National Park) to quaint and very-not crowded town site, to Cameron Lake at the end of the Akamina parkway, everything is, in my opinion, one or more notches more breathtaking than the other mountain parks.

    The geology of the park is quite interesting as well — the region was formed as part of the Lewis Overthrust, and as a result there is almost no transition from praire to mountain.

  27. Unless I’m grossly mistaken, that’s the view from the Hoodoo lookout.

    Where my brother had his wedding ceremony. I watched the clouds drift across that mountain while he said his vows.

    And where I made a fateful decision two minutes later.

    And where my wonderful wife accepted my marriage proposal five minutes later.

    A treasured spot in my family, for sure.

  28. Hi:

    Near Banff (65 Km or so) is the famous Burgess Shale, which the well-known evolutionary biologist Steven Jay Gould wrote about in his great book “Wonderful Life.”

    The fossils of the Burgess Shale are nearly unique in that they contain physical representation of fine details of the soft-tissue of Cambrian life, which was mostly rendered extinct by the earliest mass extinction event at the end of the Cambrian era.

    While Dr. Gould got a few things wrong in his book, most notably Hallucegenia (sp??) was upside down, it was a fascinating read for both me and my wife when we went on a sailing trip in the Virgin Islands back in 1991.

    I highly recommend any books or articles about the Burgess Shale, if you care about evolutionary biology at all.

    Here’s a couple of links”

    Thanks for the Boinging!

    JR in WV

  29. I concur with the recommendations for “The Quarry” in Canmore. My wife and I had brunch there on our wedding anniversary last year, and I had my first (and thus far only) ever culinary experience that literally moved me to tears. For me it was the savoury french toast (with sweet potato french fries, but it was mostly the toast), and the meal was around $15.

    As for Calgarians taking their mountains for granite (heheh), I grew up in Calgary and at one point made it out to the mountains for scrambles and hikes about twice a month during the summers. For a long time I was cynical about the disproportionate number of Calgarians who list proximity to the mountains as the primary thing that they love about their city relative to the number of Calgarians who actually visit the mountains even on a semi-regular basis (say once a year or more). After I subsequently fell out of the latter category, I still counted myself among the former.

    Then when I moved to Toronto for a few years, the biggest thing I missed about Calgary (except for the climate) was the ability to drive for less than an hour and be in a place like Kananaskis Country or Banff National Park. Although I hadn’t exercised my ability to do so in the preceeding year or two before I left Calgary, when the possibility itself was removed, I suddenly realized how true the words “I love the mountains” can be, even if your actions don’t bear them out as much as they ought to.

    As for the climate, I’m convinced that the “big sky” effect in the prairies where the cloud layer sits quite high up (and also the fact that completely cloudless days are extremely prevalent here) has a huge positive psychological impact on people—I know I certainly cherish the ephemeral sense of freedom that it brings to me. I’m also grateful to the Edmontonian who once chided me over my impatience with how long I’d had to wait for the current Chinook wind to finally break. Now I rememeber to be appreciative every time it blows in.

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