Stress free in Alberta

Stress-free.

This is the phrase that came to mind during a recent trip to the Canadian province of Alberta. It is difficult, if not impossible, to worry about e-mails or deadlines when staring at towering ice-capped peaks looming over turquoise water, a sight to behold in Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise and along the scenic Highway 93 that connects them.

And when anxiety does arise, it is quickly assuaged by the region’s friendly locals, who possess a genuinely laid-back, friendly demeanor that quickly rubs off. (Case in point: A handful of locals pointed out that they never lock their doors, because there never seems to be a reason to do so.)

Even Alberta’s capital metropolis of Edmonton feels more like a tight-knit neighborhood than a sprawling city, even though it is filled with towering skyscrapers, high-powered businesses and other hallmarks of a Big City. The local staff, at venues including the striking Art Gallery of Alberta, lovely Shaw Convention Centre, massive Expo Center and even-more-massive West Edmonton Mall (and glitzy on-site hotel, Fantasyland), are so earnestly considerate, you immediately feel any concerns you may have will be quickly laid to rest. The city’s natural backdrop, of the sprawling North Saskatchewan River valley—the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America—also establishes an away-from-it-all atmosphere.

The same holds true in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, resort communities with stunning natural vistas of the Canadian Rockies. While all three provide the picturesque backdrop of a world-renowned, carefully preserved national park, each offers its own distinct panoramas and accommodations. In Banff, sights include an Alpine village-esque downtown, the dazzling-blue water of Minnewanka Lake and The Fairmont Banff Springs, a Baroque colonial-style castle tucked inside the mountainous wilderness (and one of the most truly striking properties I’ve ever seen). In Lake Louise, the eponymous lake provides the visual wow: Its iconic turquoise color—the result of glacial sedimentation—and mountain-peak background provide a dramatic visual, as does the imposing Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise beside it. A more remote option, offering its own alpine vistas and boutique downtown, is Jasper, where The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge somehow manages to be at once authentically rustic and elegantly luxurious.

Just a short 20-minute trek from Banff, I ended the first leg of my trip with a venture to the brand-new Solara Resort & Spa in the small-town community of Canmore, also set against the backdrop of the iconic Canadian Rockies. I spent part of the day getting a massage, then headed to a brewpub for pizza on a patio fronting the famous Three Sisters mountain range.

As I took in the vistas and drank a local Canadian brew, stress was the furthest thing on my mind. And really, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Stay tuned for a blog about the Calgary Stampede, and our feature story about Alberta in October!

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