Top 25 public golf courses in Calgary (within an hour drive of downtown) and Banff/Canmore

Many consider this the best hole in Canada. #4 at Banff Springs aka Devil's Cauldron

Many consider this the best hole in Canada. #4 at Banff Springs aka Devils Cauldron

The List:

1. Stewart Creek
2. Banff Springs*

Wildlife at Banff Springs seems to be always present

Wildlife at Banff Springs seems to be always present

#10 Par 3 at Banff Springs

#9 at Banff Springs

3. Hamptons

#7 at Hamptons

#7 at Hamptons, Photo from the 1st weekend it was open in 2013

4. Heritage Pointe (Pointe/Heritage 9s)
5. Wintergreen
6. Silvertip
7. Redwood Meadows
8. Links of Gleneagles
9. Kananaskis Lorette
10. Watervalley
11. Kananaskis Kidd

Opening hole @ Kidd

Opening hole @ Kidd

#4 at Mt Kidd in early season shape

#4 at Mt Kidd in early season shape

12. River Spirit (Spirit/Millburn 9s)
13. Sirocco
14. Canmore Golf Club
15. Darcy
16. Nanton
17. Lynx Ridge
18. Inglewood
19. Elbow Springs (Springs/Elbow 9s)
20. Canal at Delacour
21. Speargrass
22. Shaganappi
23. Valley Ridge
24. Springbank Links
25. Calgary Elks

It’s not until you start building this type of list you realize it’s not simple. I’ve always found it very easy to critique other top golf course lists but at the end of the day I used them as a guide to check out new tracks during my travels and too often the hype didn’t meet my expectations.

Golf course ratings really are subjective to each individual. I found this out when I consulted a few friends and local golf professionals to let me know their top 10s. I’ve played each of these courses, study golf design and even shot under par at a few of them so those are my minimal qualifications.

My list is first and foremost rated on the actual golf course design. What this boils down to in my books is did the architect make the most of the available land and make a course that is fun for hackers and scratch players alike? Secondary criteria is conditioning, service, practice facilities, pace of play (tee time spacing) and I even take a bit of the 19th hole atmosphere into the equation.

Value is a very important component but I don’t really take it into account since at the end of the day golf is expensive in Calgary. Prices start at $53 + GST for a 5200+ yard municipal course for 18 holes on Fridays-Sundays and getting one of these tee times isn’t easy. Any way you cut it we have terrible value compared to nearly anywhere in Canada and the USA.

A golf course ranking list is meant to create discussion imo and this is exactly what I hope happens since Calgary golf course reviews are so limited.

*An amazing course originally, easily the best on this list. With the routing redesign in the 1980s and poor conditioning, especially the bunkers, it’s no longer as special.

This use to be the opening hole at Banff Springs, now #15

This use to be the opening hole at Banff Springs, now #15

The old finishing hole at Banff till they muffed up the routing in the 1980s. Now #14

The old finishing hole at Banff till they muffed up the routing in the 1980s. Now #14

Hyatt Regency Vancouver Hotel Trip Report

Hyatt Hotel Vancouver

Hyatt Regency Hotel Vancouver

After a wonderful week at the cabin in Whistler we decided to spend a night in Vancouver before heading back home. It was early January and from what I’ve been told it’s the slowest time of year in Vancouver. Every hotel was available and prices even for the true five star hotels with Virtuoso and AMEX fine hotels and resorts benefits were hovering around $200 nightly.

I still had a few suite upgrade vouchers to use up thanks to my Hyatt Diamond status. The Hyatt rate was also $137 and I’ve never stayed at this hotel so I concluded I was getting a fair value. I’m sure I could have got the hotel on priceline for closer to $90 but then wouldn’t be able to use the suite upgrade.

We took the PCL bus from Whistler which dropped us off right at the Hyatt’s back door. I was carrying my snowboard bag, her skis, a backpack and a suitcase as I made it to the check-in area. There was no Elite line and the bellman never asked to help me out with the 100 pounds of gear I was hauling around. Check-in was quick and we headed to our room.

During check-in is when I found out the club lounge was closed for the night. This was actually another reason I booked this hotel since my Hyatt status gets me in for free. I only made the reservation a few hours before through Hyatt and they had to call the hotel direct to make sure I could use a suite upgrade so in a perfect world it would have been nice to know about this beforehand.

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Entrance to living area. Look at those bags I had to haul too

Entrance to living area and that luggage

Nice bar area

Nice bar area

View from living area

View from living area

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The other bathroom was nearly identical, even had the same painting

The other bathroom was nearly identical, even had the same painting

Floorplan

Floorplan

Our suite was probably close to 900 square feet in size. But it was one of those chopped off style suites which use to be two separate rooms converted into a suite so it has virtually no flow. The first day we didn’t even use the living area and just relaxed on the balcony which was attached to the bedroom.

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Nice size!

Nice size!

Nice view

Nice view

Bar area in bedroom

Bar area in bedroom

Clean air filter :)

Clean air filter :)

We did walk into both hotels bars to entertain the idea of a drink or four there but both spots were empty, the new bar downstairs didn’t have a single person in it so we headed to Cactus Club and the Pacific Rim lobby lounge.

Carpaccio at Cactus Club across the street is excellent

Carpaccio at Cactus Club across the street is excellent

Lobby Lounge at Fairmont Pacific Rim (Report on this hotel coming soon)

Lobby Lounge at Fairmont Pacific Rim (Report on this hotel coming soon)

Great area to sit at the PacRim lobby bar

Great area to sit at the PacRim lobby bar

Overall the furniture was in good shape and you could tell it had a recent remodel. However there were lots of scuffs on the baseboards and walls. The bed was comfortable. The next morning we made our way to the restaurant to have breakfast. Since I’m a diamond member breakfast is included which is an awesome benefit of the program.

I forgot the details but we were entitled to around $35 each for breakfast. We went with the buffet in this case. I ordered a flax seed smoothie (the only one on the menu) and made my way to grab a fruit plate. Watermelon was the exotic choice here but if you prefer honey dew or cantaloupe, apples, or orange slices this will be more your style.

Then I asked for a small omelette from their station and added a couple slices of bacon and sausage. The gent making the omelette was a true class act, we joked a bit and it was really good. With literally 3 bites left on my plate my smoothie arrived. At this time I should say a smoothie is one of the best things you can have when you wake up with a hangover. Anyways it was awful, it may even beat the terrible pad thai I had at another Hyatt. My better half makes shakes often and she always uses flax seed so I thought it may be just me but she couldn’t stomach it either.

I requested the bill and then we waited for 15 minutes. I was patient with my shakes arrival but not the second time around. So we let the hostess know and continued with our day. Later on I did get a note from the manager and he apologized about the experience and offered a bottle of wine, I had to turn down because we were heading to the airport in a couple hours.

At checkout there was a line so I opted for the machines. It wasn’t a quick process and an agent that had become free came to help me out. I was charged for the internet (free for diamond members) and the breakfast shake so that took a bit of time to resolve even though I still ended up paying for that shake somehow?

I carried my bags and luggage and once again no bellman offered to help and that’s when I realized this hotel is a notch above a Holiday Inn but far from a luxury hotel. In other words it’s like one of those $66,000 Hyundai Equus cars that may look very similar to the $75,000 Mercedes E550 but at the end of the day underneath it all it really isn’t.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel Mega trip report with 3 different suites

The Banff Springs refers to itself as the “Castle in the Rockies” and there is no doubt the building justifies the name but is the rest of the experience fit for a king and queen?

Banff Springs Hotel from the east

Banff Springs Hotel from the east

West side of the hotel as you drive up to the entrance

West side of the hotel as you drive up to the entrance

I’ve stayed at the Banff Springs now over a dozen times on separate occasions so obviously they must be doing something right to earn my business for this long. My stays have been split up rather evenly between visiting during the peak season in the summer and staying here during the winter ski season.

The hotel is grand and by that I mean it holds a lot under one roof when it comes to choice. They have 27 holes of golf, 12 restaurants and lounges, Willow Stream Spa, pools, bowling alley, small shopping mall including a wine boutique, convenience store and liquor stores. Seasonally they also offer different activities right on the resort grounds such as curling and skating in the winter and horseback riding and tennis in the summer.

Curling rink setup during the winter which usually has an outdoor ice bar nearby

Curling rink setup during the winter which usually has an outdoor ice bar nearby

The town of Banff and surrounding area offer plenty of outdoor adventure activities. In the winter Sunshine Village ski area is a 15 minute drive and Lake Louise ski area is 30 minutes from the hotel. If you rarely make it out to this neck of the woods I highly suggest you make the trek to Lake Louise for skiing and check out the actual lake at the Chateau Lake Louise sister property and enjoy some après at the Post Hotel pub which cooks up excellent food in a casual setting. During the summer visiting Lake Louise is a must and I will post my report on the Chateau Lake Louise soon.

Throughout this report I will try to include as many “Tips” as possible to ensure your experience at this hotel lives up to its reputation. With nearly 800 hotel rooms and 1,100 staff members not everyone gets the same experience at the end of the day from what I’ve seen and heard.

Now before you even think about arriving at this hotel I suggest you get in touch with the concierge and book all the golf, dining and spa activities well ahead of your arrival. On weekends don’t expect to arrive at the spa and get a same day treatment or a 7pm dinner reservation at Castellos, their Italian restaurant without a reservation.

The Springs has a very easy cancellation policy ranging from 4-24 hours so at the worst case you can cancel and then one of the people who didn’t book ahead of time will get lucky. You aren’t only competing with other hotel guests for reservations but also people from local cities like Calgary who make a day trip and all the other tourists in Banff who may not wish to spend the bigger bucks to stay here but will come to the hotel for a nice meal or a day at the spa.

Checking in on a Friday at 4pm isn’t the most exciting part of the Banff Springs experience. I’ve sat in the line of cars in the traffic circle near the hotel where it has taken nearly half an hour to just unload the car. In case you find yourself in these shoes I would suggest driving under the bridge which connects the main hotel building with the Stanley Thompson wing.

This way you can hop into the hotel to retrieve your room keys and avoid the dreaded wait to just unload. If that area is blocked off you can just park in the traffic circle facing the conference area as well as liquor and convenience stores. I usually will take my bags to the room and go park myself if there is a serious line to get to the front door.

Front desk area

Front desk area

Presidents Club check-in

Presidents Club check-in

When the golf course is open I normally leave my car at the course after enjoying a round of golf and having a few too many adult bevies to drive back to the hotel so I just take the shuttle and end up saving the $29 valet charge too ;) Ever since they added the $10 gratuity charge per night having $39 + taxes at checkout adds up. Even before this gratuity charge kicked in the staff used to say tips were included? At least they didn’t start charging a $28 resort fee which seems to be becoming the norm at higher end resort hotels lately.

But back for a second to gratuities, I’m not a fan of the nightly $10 charge because at the end of the day I don’t get to decide who earns my gratuities and what share everyone gets. Overall though the service at this hotel has been top notch for all my stays so I’ve come to accept the $10 charge even though I still tip the staff when their service shines in my books.

If you’re a Presidents Club member they might even have your keys at the bellman desk so you don’t have to deal with any long lines at the reception/front desk counter. But not always, even being a Platinum member can cause a long wait because I’ve seen the Presidents club desk have one agent compared to 5 working the regular counter.

The Banff Springs also has a new VIP concierge who currently works out of the old FPC check-in desk. This is on the base level of the Rundle lounge just next to the south exit and parking circle I suggested earlier where you should drive in case it‘s really busy. I’m sure you can arrange to pick up your keys from there and be checked into your room fairly fast in case there are big waits.

Being a platinum member with FPC in the past you could reserve a one bedroom suite months before you arrived. It was one of the best uses of a suite upgrade certificate throughout the Fairmont chain especially if you get lucky and draw one of their specialty suites. Nowadays at check-in you can inquire about what one bedroom suites are available and then choose to use your certificate or not.

On this visit the lady handling our check-in really did a first class job. I asked about the possibility of using my suite upgrade and she said I had a choice between the Spa Suite or Stinson suite which used to be the presidential suite. The spa suites at this hotel have a special place in my heart with their 400+ square foot balconies.

The Stinson suite takes up the full wing over the rundle lounge on the 9th floor. It is referred to as the bowling suite since it’s fairly narrow but very long. It has no balconies but full 180 degree views, I hope no one ever had to use the emergency exit out of this room located off the bedroom since it looks like a death trap.

Stinson suite which is being redone soon

Stinson suite which is being redone soon

View from the suite

View from the suite

These photos were taken in 2009 so sorry about the poor quality but it will get better

These photos were taken in 2009 so sorry about the poor quality but it will get better

Looking north from Stinson suite

Looking north from Stinson suite

Bedroom

Bedroom

Fire escape view

Fire escape view

On this visit I went to play golf with a few friends while my better half spent the afternoon getting a massage and using the Willowstream spa. The facilities at this SPA are a notch above the average for sure. It costs $79 ($49 for FPC members) just to enter and when it’s not too busy this is actually worth it if you are planning to spend a fair amount of time there and really value peace and quiet.

The spa has a lounge which offers cookies, muffins, fruit, tea, coffee and flavoured waters. It also offers a larger mineral pool with classical music under the water as well as 3 different waterfall plunge pools with different temperature waters. There is an outdoor patio with hot tub. There is also a steam room and sauna on the men’s side along with a men’s lounge which has a TV, magazines and a few comfortable chairs as well as a balcony and shower/change facilities. You can have food delivered to the SPA but it’s a limited room service menu since they don’t want any big spills or odours from certain foods.

Spa entrance

Spa entrance

Outdoor area at Willowstream Spa

Outdoor area at Willowstream Spa

I’ve played the golf course at this hotel quite a few times and it really is a special place. Not only did I have my first hole in one on their signature hole the Devil’s Cauldron but I have enjoyed these links with many friends over the years. I really do wish the first hole started from the Banff Springs hotel as it originally did but they decided to build a bigger clubhouse in the 1980s and as a result the old #1 hole is now #15.

The old first hole

The old first hole

Looking back at the hotel from the old 1st hole

Looking back at the hotel from the old 1st hole

This may seem trivial to most of you but at the end of the day it really changes the way the golf course is played. No longer will you start on what may be the best opening hole in Canada but you no longer finish at the actual hotel like the course was meant to be played, with the hardest holes coming into the clubhouse and usually hitting into the wind.

The old last hole, imagine finishing your round and having a pint at the castle and looking back at the course

The old last hole, imagine finishing your round and having a pint at the castle and looking back at the course

I got a hole in one on this hole called "Devils Cauldron"

I got a hole in one on this hole called “Devils Cauldron”

The signature hole is now too early in the rotation, if you plan to play this course and it isn’t busy I would ask the clubhouse staff if you could start on #15 and they have been willing to make this exception, but it‘s rare so consider it lucky. The Banff Springs Golf course also offers old hickory shafted golf club rentals with gutta percha balls so you can play the course with the same equipment players used a hundred years ago on this same course.

Practice Green

Practice Green

I promise the golf part of this post is almost over but I must add we played this course two weeks after it opened. It was my first time playing it so early in the season and I can see why the green fees are reduced during this time. Besides waiting for 20 minutes for our two veal bratwursts and snack pizzas at the turn the overall shape of the course was pitiful. I don’t think any of the bunkers had been raked since the beginning of the season and the greens were atrocious. I understand they were aerated 4 days before our arrival but at the very least the staff could have let me know when I made the tee time. There was no cart service for snacks and beverages either, for $155 for 18 holes the service and conditions were poor.

Another golf guest

Another golf guest

Luckily there is no additional penalty for hitting wildlife *No wildlife was hurt during this round of golf

Luckily there is no additional penalty for hitting wildlife *No wildlife was hurt during this round of golf

After the golf I headed to my tranquil quarters for the night. The spa suites are located just to the right of the spa on the same floor as you walk into the hotel from the front entrance. As you walk up to the door you can’t help but notice the doorbell, a very good sign in any hotel room. The two SPA suites at the Banff Springs really are impressive. They have been renovated recently and have a modern contemporary feel which is rare in this hotel but a welcome sight for the frequent guest.

View as you walk out on the balcony from the Spa Suite

View as you walk out on the balcony from the Spa Suite

The only real negative is you are on the ground level so the views from the huge balcony have some trees which block out a few views. Otherwise you can entertain probably 30 people here easily. The turret dining room is always a special place to have a meal or even better the balcony when the weather cooperates. The only bad part about this is the usual tourists who are on the ledge above you and are peering in with jealousy.

Dining area

Dining area

Looking back at the hotel from the patio. The Stinson suite is the top floor of the wing on your right

Looking back at the hotel from the patio. The Stinson suite is the top floor of the wing on your right

Entrance hall

Entrance hall

Cozy

Cozy

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Another angle

Another angle

Welcome amenity which has been getting smaller over the years

Welcome amenity which has been getting smaller over the years

Bedroom

Bedroom

View from our patio

View from our patio

Office space

Office space

From the turret

From the turret

Nice shower

Nice shower

For those of you coming here for the first time or who don’t have status with Fairmont I do have a few room suggestions. This hotel renovates floor by floor from bottom to top. I think they are currently on either floor 8 or 9 (Floor 9 is small compared to the rest) so keep this in mind. I had a stay over New Years Eve and was on floor 7 in a very nice deluxe non view room. I also stayed in a parlour suite on the 2nd floor and saw a few friends’ rooms on floor 2 at the same time and it almost seems like a different hotel.

1 bedroom parlour suite from 2010

1 bedroom parlour suite from 2010

That bar is a feature more hotel suites should have for sure

That bar is a feature more hotel suites should have for sure

I’ve also stayed in an Executive View Suite in the Stanley Thompson wing. Besides the long walk I really felt no special charm on this side of the hotel and I prefer a Junior Suite over an Executive Suite without question. The hotel is huge and if it’s not sold out and you don’t like your room call the front desk and they should be able to help you out.

Stanley Thompson Wing

Stanley Thompson Wing

Best part about staying at the Stanley Thomspon wing is the high probability of close animal sightings during the summer

Best part about staying at the Stanley Thomspon wing is the high probability of close animal sightings during the summer

With 12 different dining options I suggest you browse the menus and go with your gut. The prices at the restaurants are above average so I usually go to Castellos for group dinners even though spaghetti will run you $27. Overall the food quality at this hotel and service are above average for a resort this size. If you happen to be here with a group I suggest looking into booking the private room at the Banffshire Club. There is no additional cost to reserve this room and it will definitely make for a memorable meal.

In house gourmet convenience store

In house gourmet convenience store

I’ve never been to the fitness area at this hotel but have frequented the pool many times. This hotel has been around for so long they have a liquor license for the full building. A major benefit to this is they actually allow you to bring your own booze to the pool and enjoy it as long as you have it in a plastic cup. There is an indoor lap pool, grotto style hot tub next to it and outdoor heated pool which is a blast in the winter.

Most common floorplan / layout at the hotel. This is the 2nd floor. The 7-10th floors in the main building will have a different layout as well as the suites on the south part of the 6th floor

Most common floorplan / layout at the hotel. This is the 2nd floor. The 7-10th floors in the main building will have a different layout as well as the Regal suites on the south part of the 6th floor

If you are expecting a true world class five star experience while at this hotel make sure you get a room on their gold floor. The gold floor has many benefits and I suggest you get in touch with the hotel itself to make sure it’s worth the additional expense.

Taking all my stays into account I must say the Banff Springs has treated me well over the years. Yes, I’ve had to endure some really long lines but over time all I remember is the special nights I’ve enjoyed at the castle with friends and family. If you make it here and take my “tips” into account I really hope you end up feeling like a queen or king as you deserve to at this castle.

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Four Seasons Whistler Hotel Report

After a beautiful drive into Whistler from Vancouver in our rented Volvo C70 convertible we pulled into the Four Seasons right behind a tour bus that already started unloading their baggage and the swoon of tourists were getting off the bus. Luckily my better half darted for the front desk to retrieve our keys as I put the car in park. I was expecting the tour group to have their keys handed out by their guide but no they swarmed the front desk individually.

I made the booking through a Four Seasons Preferred partner so got to enjoy daily breakfast, an upgrade and $100 resort dining credit during our stay. We booked the standard room and were upgraded one category. Our check-in agent wasn’t actually a front desk agent so when I asked what the breakfast credit was good for she wasn’t sure as well as if the room had a balcony.

She got one of her colleges who explained we were upgraded and we could enjoy breakfast in room or at the hotel restaurant. The only part we didn’t really get was how much the breakfast credit was for. My better half thought $46 and I thought he said $48 per person. I think it ended up being $36 and we had to pay for the taxes and tip on top of this.

Entrance

Entrance

Courtyard

Courtyard

Lobby

Lobby

Front desk

Front desk

As we walked into the room I was nicely impressed. The room had a great layout with large double vanity sinks, separate shower, tub and potty with an enclosed door with a closet on the opposite side. The balcony had a nice table, two chairs and an ashtray! It’s nice to see some hotels haven’t forgotten about smokers.

The room was a generous size and the only complaint I have is the lack of more windows since it rests on an interior corner or whatever a building planner would call this. I’ve stayed at Four Seasons now a few times and must say their open glass showers with that little ledge to put stuff on are fantastic layouts though.

Bathroom

Bathroom

Closet

Closet

Messy room but are those mismatched night lamps?

Messy room but are those mismatched night lamps?

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Patio View

Patio View

Anyways it was our first night in Whistler and we were in the mood to just stay indoors since the weather was a bit nippy. We rolled into the lounge to spend our $100 credit. The food here is more tapas style since everything is small and most plates are in the $11 range. We had the oysters, crab salad, carpaccio flatbread and they ran out of the mussels after we placed our order. The food wasn’t anything spectacular but well done and we felt there was good value.

The following day she spent at the Scandinave Spa while I was at the Chateau Whistler golf course. Afterwards we walked into our room and the housekeeping department did a fantastic job as is the usual for a Four Seasons. We were hungry so took the house car for dinner in Whistler Village.

Beautiful Par 3 on Chateau Whistler golf course

Beautiful Par 3 on Chateau Whistler golf course

Now I’m not sure if a “house car” is a standard in true luxury hotels around the world but to me it should be. The house cars usually have a “10 block” limit which I fully understand and actually like. This way I know even if it’s out it will only be a 5 minute wait unless the roads are clogged. Not that house cars are any cheaper then cabs because I always tip a $5 or $10 but it’s nice to enjoy one of their luxury cars with an employee who can share some good knowledge about the city if I inquire. Needless to say it was a nice ride to the village for our dinner.

House Car and van

House Car and van

Both days we decided to eat in the restaurant for breakfast. Since occupancy levels aren’t high in mid September in Whistler the full buffet was limited to an “Alpine Buffet” where you could upgrade to the full buffet for an extra $6 where they would deliver hot food a la carte. I enjoy fruit and maybe a few slices of smoked salmon for breakfast so I opted for the Alpine buffet both days which was good. For $22 a person I may even be inclined to visit it in the future even if I weren’t staying at the hotel. Between me and my better half we can eat $22 alone in raspberries here.

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The hotel has a nice outdoor pool with a few hot tubs scattered around it. The only real downfall was it would be nice if you could enter the pool from indoors like at many other ski village hotels. We enjoyed it one evening after dinner and were the only ones here.

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We parked our rental car just up the hill past the hotel. During the winter when they need to clear snow off the streets this isn’t a place where you can park legally. Just be sure not to leave any food in your car or garbage in your pickup if you decide to park here. Of course you can always pay the $28 for parking too right at the hotel.

Floorplan of their east building

Floorplan of their east building

Overall the service and room experience we received while staying here was very good and what you would expect from a Four Seasons. Since we were staying after Labour Day the rates are close to the lowest for Whistler at this time and it’s an easy choice to spend an extra $60 a night compared to many of the 3.5 and 4 star options nearby while getting the Four Seasons Preferred partner benefits.

If you prefer to be in the middle of the action a hotel in Whistler Village will probably be more to your liking. It isn’t truly ski in or out either even though they have a separate ski building and ski concierge at the base of the Blackcomb chairlift a few hundred yards away. Since the hotel was built fairly recently it doesn’t have the perfect location but guarantees to be quiet compared to many of the other top hotels in this ski town. However keep in mind anything you may need is at most a 15 minute walk or 3 minutes by house car.

I’ve stayed at 20 different hotels, condos and B&Bs in Whistler and can easily say the Four Seasons is in its own class in this ski town. It is truly the only 5 star hotel and if you enjoy the finer things in life, plan to eat out every meal and want to get out of the relative hustle and bustle of Whistler village during the night this is your hotel. If you prefer to cook a few meals and have more living room space at the same budget as a room at the Four Seasons I would suggest you look into many of the 1 and 2  bedroom condos with kitchens available throughout Whistler.

 

Star Alliance MegaDO 4 Video

I’ve already written an upcoming post on my experience at the #StarMegaDO4 and will post it up shortly after I get through that pain staking editing process. Until then here’s a video sneak peak:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/55310072″>megado#smd4</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user14763442″>Chris Holenderski</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Shangri-La Vancouver Hotel Report

Arriving at the Shangri-La Vancouver isn’t the most glamorous experience. You enter an underground garage just like any other and soon after take a left into an underground check-in area. We made the reservations just hours earlier through a Virtuoso agent and arrived at the hotel around 1:30pm.

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In addition to the upgrade we were entitled to we also got another upgrade so ended up in an Executive Balcony room. The room wasn’t quite ready so we were ushered into their lounge and had a beverage and got our keys about 40 minutes later when my better half went to see what the status was.

The hotel is on the lowest 15 floors of the tower and the rooms start on the 7th floor. Our room was on the 11th floor and as we entered seeing the destruction of the parking garage and hearing the jack hammering wasn’t exactly what I envisioned beforehand. Perhaps this is where the double upgrade came into play, looked good on paper but not in reality.

View from our room

View from our room

Overall the room was meticulously well maintained and clean. At one point the housekeeper knocked on the door and replaced the soap dish because it had a minor chip. The room had a nice couch, large Calcutta marble bathroom, large walk-in closet and a small patio but if you’re a smoker that’s all you need.

Amenity

Amenity

Hallway at entrance

Hallway at entrance

Closet

Closet

Dual sinks and marble everywhere

Dual sinks and marble everywhere

Blinds are essential during the workday since there is an office tower across the street

Blinds are essential during the workday since there is an office tower across the street

Bathroom seat and view

Bathroom seat and view

Many hotels would put this room into the Junior Suite category, especially considering it’s on a corner so you get windows everywhere. From the moment I got off the elevator and spent some time in the room I realized just how eerily similar it is to the Fairmont Pacific Rim. It’s as if they used the exact same designer and he just changed the shades of wood/marble/walls.

Photo from the odd balcony

Photo from the odd balcony

Excellent seating area for a non suite room

Excellent seating area for a non suite room

Corner room too

Corner room too

In the bathroom, the Shangri La puts out all the toiletries you may need including a full size toothbrush and toothpaste. The toiletries were L’Occitane which I’m always happy with. However the tv in this mirror is really useless. It’s just too small unless you are sitting there putting on makeup or styling your hair.

Excellent hotel toiletries

Excellent hotel toiletries

Small TV in the mirror

Small TV in the mirror

I ended up having a nap shortly after check-in while she was at the Pacific Rim spa. Once she came back and woke me up we realized our room had become a sauna. The “Engineer” spent a good hour and a half in our room and sometimes running downstairs. At the beginning it’s no big deal but after 45 minutes this just becomes kind of awkward.

The bed, couch, tv and programming were all excellent. We had a food and beverage credit so decided to order room service for dinner. The menu looked very promising since it had many of the best dishes you can find while in Asia. We ordered the Pad Thai and Nasi Goreng.

I could barely get through 3 bites of the noodlest. My local food court which sucks at making Pad Thai was better than this. The flavour of plain mushy noodles is what still sticks out.

The Nasi Goreng wasn’t much better, actually even worse. The chicken was truly inedible. It’s as if they made it first as dry as they could and then rolled it in dry spices. This easily qualified for one of my worst 5 chicken breast experiences ever.

The next morning we headed for breakfast since we had another food and beverage credit thanks to Virtuoso. I ordered a very nice smoothie which they delivered from the Smoothie bar upstairs. I went with a classic American breakfast and it was well prepared. The hash browns were actually excellent, easily in my top 3 hash browns ever.

The hotel has an outdoor pool and hot tub which isn’t large but makes the most of the space. We were the only ones there so it was perfect to soak in a few rays which usually appear in the afternoons. The gent working this area also stood out when it came to making us feel very welcome.

IMG_3691

I have dined at their Market dining room which has a Jean Georges menu. This was in 2011 and overall it was an excellent experience and I even found it to be good value for fine dining.

Floorplan at Shangri-La

Floorplan at Shangri-La

Check-out was easy. I had actually hoped they would have acknowledged the maintenance issue but it didn’t happen.

I was hoping my experience at Shangri La was more special but at the end of the day I realized the Fairmont Pacific Rim is truly the more spectacular hotel. Even if I didn’t have the maintenance issue or were served the best Pad Thai ever I would still pick the Pacific Rim if the price is the same. The Pacific Rim is located right next to the water and the view it delivers is what brings me back to Vancouver.

But in this case I was staying at a $299 rate (During Labour Day long weekend) which included $100 food and beverage credit and $80 towards breakfast including tip. Plus a room upgrade, amenity and late check-out. The Pacific Rims basic room for the same dates was over $500 with no extras. If this is the case I wouldn’t hesitate to save the difference and make this great hotel my home in Vancouver.

Trip Report: The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald Edmonton AB, Canada

I recently completed my 4th stay at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in the last 3 years. The hotel is located right in the heart of downtown and overlooking the river valley. It’s about a 45 minute drive from YEG airport and about 20 minutes from West Edmonton Mall, the two biggest attractions in Edmonton ;)

Macdonald Hotel

Entrance

Hotel grounds facing the river valley

My plan was to play some golf before checking in to the hotel but time was tight so I passed on the golf and arrived around noon. I wasn’t expecting my room to be ready since I gave them no indication of an early arrival. John greeted me, apologized a few times the room wasn’t ready, offered me a free drink and got on the phone with housekeeping to get me a set of keys asap. He also mentioned a few local arts and culture events happening in Edmonton since this is a Passion my other half selected and the reservation was under her name.

Front Desk

Lobby

I’m not one to refuse a free beverage so I ordered a Stella and got a lot of dirty looks from all the business folks stuck drinking water, working on their laptops and checking out my golf clubs which I proudly displayed in the middle of the confederation lounge. I wasn’t even a quarter through the beer and my room keys were delivered.

Confederation Lounge during the day

Another angle

My better half stays at this hotel regularly so we were upgraded to a nice room overlooking the river valley. The room and furniture were in good shape. The king bed was comfortable and didn’t have any sag. The blue paint on the one wall gave the room a more modern classic vibe which I thought worked very well.

View from our room

Pyramids in Edmonton

I did notice the bathrooms in this hotel need a renovation fairly soon. The bathroom was clean as you’d expect at a hotel like this except the shower head was actually rather disgusting. The towels were of good quality and I think this was the first time I got the entire Le Labo line of bath products.

WC

Since I brought up Le Labo I will share my pennies of wisdom here. I know this fragrance has won some awards but I’m actually quite shocked Fairmont decided to use it chain wide. At least in the past we only had a 1 in 3 chance of getting Fleur du Matin by Miller Harris which is very similar to Rose 31. The Le Labo Rose 31 soap has a nice lather and I think the scent is fainter compared to the shampoos. I tell you when my better half arrives from a Fairmont it invades whatever room she is in at our place if she used Rose 31 shampoo that morning. So in case you sit in similar shoes to me and truly detest floral scented soaps I suggest you request different soap.

The first time I checked into this hotel a few years ago I received an amenity that hasn’t yet been duplicated. It was 3 tiers of desserts and treats including Crème Brulee, chocolates, baklava, shortbreads and more. The bottle of Champagne at Monte Carlo is the other amenity that stands out too. This time around we got a few fruits.

Platinum Amenity, one strawberry missing

As I sat on the couch I noticed the card and opened it up. Inside I found a very nice hand written message and welcome from the concierge. Since she noticed the Arts and Culture passion she dropped off a bunch of extra magazines on this topic for us to enjoy during our stay. Nice touch by the staff here and I guess Fairmont is really noticing our passions and good on them. A free round of golf and lesson at the Banff Springs is an excellent perk for being a platinum member with Presidents club.

Extra reading material

We enjoyed some food and drinks on two nights at the confederation lounge at the hotel. Both nights there was live music which is one thing Fairmont seems to do well in all their hotel lounges I frequent. Colin Bullock I met about 5 years ago at the Mallard lounge at the Chateau Whistler. He also plays at the Pacific Rim so if you are ever at these hotels I suggest you sit down and enjoy his performance.

Lobster mac and cheese, a few bites already taken.

If you haven’t noticed a trend, before the plate even hits our table my better half has her fork ready to indulge. Cheesecake with one bite already taken

Maid service was great during our stay. We did get turndown service on one of our nights but not the other but the only part I miss about turn down is the bottles of water. There are two brothers who work as valet/doormen and they both had a great attitude and gave me rides in the complimentary BMW 7 series within the downtown core.

Floorplan

Weight area of the gym

Pool with a hot tub on the right not pictured and an exit to an outdoor patio with loungers

Store and entrance to pool and gym areas

Empire Ball Room

During check-out I met John once again who I got to know over the weekend. I think he knows my other half fairly well since she stays here more often but we shared a few jokes and he stored my luggage while I went to grab lunch before heading home.

Overall the service at the Fairmont Macdonald during this stay was personable and excellent in many regards. The hotel obviously has a very classy and old school feel so if you prefer a contemporary hotel I would look elsewhere such as the neighbouring Westin. Edmonton doesn’t really have much choice in higher end hotels.

If the Fairmont Macdonald continues this level of service and renovates their bathrooms in the near future I think they should have no problems keeping and gaining a loyal clientele and being the place to stay in Edmonton.