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Banff Ptarmigan Inn 3.0

Banff, Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies

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This hotel has undergone significant renovations.
New photos are coming soon, but read our updated expert review in the meantime!

Review Summary

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Pros

  • Great location one block from downtown
  • Contemporary rooms with comfy beds and Keurig machines
  • Several rooms have balconies offering mountain views
  • Italian restaurant open for free buffet breakfast and dinner 
  • Health club with hot tubs, sauna and steam rooms, and tiny gym
  • Ski perks include free ski lockers and dedicated wax room
  • Bike and ski rental discounts in town
  • Free bus passes (unusual for central properties)
  • Public computer, plus free, fast Wi-Fi and local calls
  • Some rooms are pet-friendly 

Cons

  • No AC in rooms (fans on request)
  • Rooms facing the back shake when the train goes by
  • Standard Rooms have balconies that face an interior atrium
  • Tired public spaces and health club area
  • Breakfast gets mixed reviews

Bottom Line

In 2017, Banff Ptarmigan Inn did a revamp on its 134 rooms and hallways making it more of a contender among the area's mid-range properties. That said, public spaces are still a bit tired, and some balconies face an interior atrium instead of the mountains -- be aware when booking. All rooms have mini-fridges and Keurigs, and some suites have gas fireplaces, though all lack AC. Guests have access to hotel features like the health club (with two hot tubs, steam room, sauna, and gym), on-site Italian restaurant, ski lockers, computer station, and freebies like fast Wi-Fi and heated, underground parking. There's also two meeting rooms, bike rental discounts, and a mediocre (at best) free breakfast buffet. Since rates are often the same as upper-middle-range properties, it's worth comparison shopping with the nearby Moose Hotel & Suites and Elk + Avenue. 

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Scene

A spotless and casual hotel with uneven renovations 

Banff Ptarmigan Inn has been around for several decades, but in 2017 they undertook room and hallway renovations that made them a competitor in the mid-range category. (Note: Our pictures were taken before these renovations.) However, the decor throughout the other public spaces rests somewhere between "drab business hotel" and "chain motel" due to mismatched contemporary furniture, dated tile floors, and large interior atriums decorated with fake plants. These lackluster public spaces miss the mark and make the property less appealing overall (especially compared to the nearby Banff Aspen Lodge and Elk + Avenue Hotel, which is more stylish and similarly priced). Still, this is a solid option for folks who aren't looking to spend too much time hanging out on site, but want a few basic features on hand for when they do. But as rates can be higher than upper-middle-range properties in the area, it pays to shop around.

Location

Fantastic location one block from downtown with several public transit stops at hand

Banff Ptarmigan Inn has an excellent center location on Banff Avenue, one-half block from the edge of downtown. The free shuttle to the Banff Gondola and Upper Hot Springs picks up outside the Elk + Avenue, right next door, which is also a stop for the Route 1 public bus toward Sulphur Mountain. Buses stopping across the street continue the same route but toward Tunnel Mountain. Free shuttles to Lake Minnewanka also depart across the street, and shuttles to the popular ski hills of Norquay, Sunshine, and Lake Louise are all within walking distance. Most trailheads are within about a five-minute drive. 

  • Six-minute drive to the Banff Pedestrian Bridge (14-minute walk)
  • Six-minute drive to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
  • Seven-minute drive to Cave and Basin
  • 10-minute drive to the Banff Gondola (14-minute bus ride)
  • 10-minute drive to the Banff Upper Hot Springs
  • 14-minute drive to Lake Minnewanka (38 minutes via public transportation)
  • 26-minute drive to Canmore (55-minute bus ride)
  • 39-minute drive to Lake Louise
  • 87-minute drive to Calgary Airport

Rooms

Contemporary rooms with comfy beds and mountain (or interior) views; small suites with gas fireplaces

Thanks to 2017 room renovations, Ptarmigan's 134 guest rooms got the makeover they desperately needed. Tacky motel-patterned bedspreads were tossed; decorative and stylish wood and fabric headboards were added; new beds got triple-sheeting; furniture was updated; and the motel-style bathrooms were modernized with stylish vanity sinks and smooth heather-gray brick tiling. Amenities also got spruced up with Keurig machines and pods, real mugs, mini-fridges, kettles, individual bedside reading lights, and vented climate control. But rooms are still missing air-conditioning and they're dimly lit throughout. Bathrooms are also decked out with magnifying mirrors, a basic selection of Rocky Mountain Soap products, and shower/tub combos. For the most part, rooms here are quiet, but the walls to the hallways are thin and the bright hall lighting creeps through the crack under the door. Rooms in the back are also prone to vibrating whenever the local train flies by.

Spacious Standard Rooms are the only rooms without windows to the outside. Instead, all face interiors, though it doesn't stop them, oddly, from having carpeted balconies that end up overlooking either the lobby or a large, interior atrium. The latter can be noisy if the space is rented out for events, and they can't provide cooling breezes on hot days -- a serious downside for some guests. Upgrades to Superior Rooms snag exterior-facing windows and some sport roomy balconies. King bed configurations are noticeably smaller than those with two queens, but manage to stay on the comfortable side.

The Premium Rooms were reformatted as Mountain View King Suites, and are ironically the smallest and somewhat sparsest rooms here. Guests forego the separate living space of the Superior King Suite, but gain slate-stone gas fireplaces, front-of-hotel Tunnel and Rundle Mountain views, 40-inch flat-screen TVs, separate showers and tubs, and roomy, furnished balconies for rooms on the second floor. 

Features

Full range of features including a basement-level health club, restaurant, and meeting rooms

Banff Ptarmigan Inn has enough features to cover guests' basic needs, plus a bit extra. The on-site restaurant Meatball Pasta and Pizza, located a half level down from the main lobby, serves up Italian fare (and much-praised gluten-free options) for dinner and is where guests grab their free breakfast. Oddly, the restaurant's bar area is separated and located at the front of the hotel. Both the vibe and food are chain-restaurant casual, and we found the free buffet breakfast pretty basic, consisting mostly of yogurt and bread with a popular made-to-order omelet station. 

There's no spa here, but guests that use the spa at either the Moose Hotel & Suites or Caribou Lodge & Spa can charge treatments straight to their room. (The same goes with meals and drinks at Banff Lodging Company sister properties.) Ptarmigan does have a lower-level health club with two hot tubs, a huge steam room and sauna, and a small gym with an unfortunately, muggy location next to the hot tubs. Like many other indoor health clubs in town, it's windowless and feels tired. It's free to use, but guests need to grab a code from reception to enter.

Convenience features include an ATM in the lobby, ice and vending machines on each floor, and free heated underground parking on a first-come, first-served basis. Ski- and bike-rental discounts are available at a partner shop in town, where guests can also drop off and pick up skis for tuning. Most hotels this close to downtown don't give free bus passes, but Ptarmigan is an exception. 

Business features include fast and free Wi-Fi (good enough to stream effortlessly), a public computer station with printer, and large meeting rooms (that can also be rented as event space) with the ability to host between 30 to 40 individuals and to order catering from the on-site restaurant. 

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Address

337 Banff Avenue, Banff, Canadian Rockies T1L 1H8, Canada

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