The rugged beauty of Banff National Park is a special place, but there is a fine balance between keeping it accessible to the millions who visit every year and preserving that natural splendour. So how did a group of developers maintain that balance while building the first new hotel in the mountain town of Banff in nearly a decade? They turned to a herd of moose.
OK, not a real herd of moose, but more than 350 moose images and sculptures that adorn the walls and landscape of the aptly named Moose Hotel and Suites. The creative team let their imagination flow, respectfully combining elements of forest trails, the mountains and the colours of the wilds. They also cleverly included the heritage of Banff by honouring a local landmark.
A few small hotels and homes were removed to make room for the Moose Hotel and Suites, but one house was carefully preserved. The Leacock House, a building of historic importance, was carefully relocated during construction to be returned and incorporated into the design of the hotel, as a way of maintaining part of the town’s heritage.
Back in 1913, people could actually purchase houses in the pages of a catalogue from the Eaton’s department store. The Leacock family ordered a whole kit of lumber, windows, wire and doors to be shipped by rail to Banff, and put together to build their family home. Leonard Leacock grew up in there and became a well-recognized mountain man and musician. His music career included teaching, performing and composing – the Leacock Theatre in Calgary’s Mount Royal University is named for him -- but he was known around Banff for his guiding and mountaineering skills. The house now sits protected on the site, surrounded on three sides by the hotel. Guests will be invited to use it as a place to relax or host small receptions.
When hotel designers went looking for art to adorn the 174 rooms and suites of the hotel, which sits at the corner of Banff Avenue and Moose Street, they turned to Jason Carter, an accomplished local contemporary artist.
Carter built a two-metre tall moose for each room from engineered fibreboard. He smoothed, painted and detailed each piece of moose art before they were mounted in each room.
“The Moose Hotel project is very different for me because it’s the very first time I’ve done anything in this scale and quantity,” said Carter from his studio in the nearby mountain town of Canmore.
Each room also has a few hand-painted prints by Carter including a “Happy Moose” in every bathroom.
It was intended right from the beginning that the hotel would respect the environment by using energy-efficient systems and reclaimed and salvaged wood where possible. There is reclaimed barn wood from Tsawwassen, located on the Pacific coast of neighbourhing British Columbia, and wood salvaged from a barn in the ranchlands of southern Alberta near Pincher Creek.
But when finishing carpenter Scott Avery looked at the fireplace in the lobby he knew he had the perfect section of wood that to complement the stone that had been set to look like the local dipping stratigraphy.
“About 20 years ago this big tree slipped off a cliff near my place on the Sunshine Coast (of B.C.). I knew it would be beautiful, so we hauled it into my shop. Its been leaning in the corner all this time, waiting for the right showcase,” said Avery.
Avery also brought a huge English Yew tree from Canada’s Pacific coast to create a distinctive entryway into the meeting rooms. It took a whole day to slowly slice the 100-year-old tree down the middle, but the outcome was worth the wait. “I love how the wood tells a story,” he says. “Everyone will look at it and see different things. It teases the imagination. “
Along with the 174 hotel rooms and suites, the property offers meeting rooms, hospitality suites and the Pacini Italian Restaurant. The Meadow Spa and Pools are complemented with a rooftop health club with outdoor hot pools, sauna and fitness centre.