An unusual hotel to say the least!
Stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs if, like us, you
1) Are able to book in the Gold Floor- where we had access to the Lounge, which was quiet, easily accessible (just down the hallway from the rooms), had free hot drinks and snacks...and was simply a nice place to chill out at during breaks from our activities - there is a reading room with books and computers you can use, and complimentary wifi on this floor. The bar is NOT complementary though- it works on an "Honor system" where you fill out a form to pay for what you take, and it shuts at 9PM. Without the lounge, we would have found it rather inconvenient to have to find our way around this very large hotel each time we wanted a snack/ meal/ sitting break.
2) Need easy access to a wide range of resort-type activities: We didn't rent a car, and so the shuttles available for ski trips to Sunshine Village, access to onsite bowling and ice-skating, onsite shops and mini-marts were very useful. There is a tennis court for summer, and wonderful indoor pool in the spa (with a baby pool for kids), and a kids' club (not open when we were there).
3) Are in for the experience without being too picky about the value-for-money!: For the same price in an Asian resort eg in Bali, you'd expect plush, over-the-top luxury (read: large bathrooms with loads of plush towels, great fittings etc). This is a different kind of "luxury" where the rooms are kind of bizarrely laid out (the main bathroom with the tub was in the living room by the front door, while the bathroom in the bedroom was a tiny closet we could barely fit into with only a stand up shower), but the rooms are comfortable enough for you to know you are afterall in a Fairmont. The closets were strangely built in behind the room doors so if you open the door, you'd miss the closet altogether (and can't access these tiny closets with the room doors open). Kind of spooky and strange....however we did enjoy the many trails around, the facilities, the shops, the bowling and ice skating very much.
4) You want to sit and chill with a fantastic view. Rocky mountains, lakes, trails.... all at your doorstep!
Some other pointers:
The service was good on the Gold Floor- the front desk was efficient and friendly (brought our girls princess crowns and an activity kit) and we borrowed DVDs.
Room service was rather expensive and limited (mostly Western style food offered) but I suppose most people would try out any of their numerous restaurants instead. There is a mini-mart next to the bowling alley where you can buy cheap groceries like pot noodles and chips.
The bowling alley is not accessible every night- the first night we went they were shut for a bowling league open to the town folk and we had to go away disappointed. It is also not very cheap (can't recall the details, but my daughter and I spent about CAD50 for 3 games in an hour).
There is a lobby canteen-style restaurant with simpler food you can pop into a microwave...
Definitely use the ice-skating facilities in winter! Although you have to walk to the Conference Center to rent the skates (cheaply), then tripse quite a long way and down a lot of stairs to the rink (you can't bring a stroller). There is a little hut by the rink to sit in and they even start a fire sometimes to warm you up.