I have always been a fan of human hibernation for the winter — layering myself in the warmth of fuzzy clothes and only unwrapping myself from my goose feather duvet when necessary. During the cold months, I tend to wait inside until the skin-prickling air transforms into a sun-shining, skin-melting feeling.
This being until my sister, who has always been my best friend, moved to Banff and I was forced to experience the beauty the snow-covered mountains had to offer. Whenever I went to visit her, she would always have us do some type of outdoor activity — snowboarding, hiking or any form of physical activity that made me feel like the crisp air would grab onto my skin and freeze me into an icicle. Despite the fact I came home exhausted due to my previous lack of exercise, I felt so much happier after each activity compared to what I felt like after spending the day in bed.
The more I visited Banff, the less it was for my sister (sorry sis) and more for the new-found serotonin I received from snowboarding. On top of this, the views I experienced were much more incredible to look at. Looking up at the tall standing mountains spread across the open country is a view that makes me feel more grateful than the average scenery of glass buildings standing tightly beside each other in the middle of the city.
The mountains are a magical place, which is why we need to take advantage of how close we live to them.
“When you see the mountains, and just how majestic and grand they are, your problems just seem so small,” says Kendra Scurfield, Banff Sunshine Village’s brand and communication director.
As Calgarians, we should brag about the fact that we can visit the mountains whenever we want, putting our lives into perspective with each visit.
According to the Health Fitness Revolution website, higher altitudes have been proven to lead to healthier hearts because the mountain air gives your lungs a chance to breathe gas-free oxygen.
So yes, being in the mountains is a scientifically proven way to make you healthier — and we all know the healthier you are, the longer you live.
According to Abigail Wise of the Huffington Post, visiting the mountains for as short as one week can spur weight loss and decreases your chances of obesity by four to five times compared to living at sea level. Being in the mountains has also proven to lower your risk of heart disease, because being in this environment promotes physical activity, says Wise. What a waste of time it would be to sit at the bottom of a mountain and watch an episode of Friends.
David Poirier has been working at the Fairmont Hotel in Banff for a year and a half (this being his second time living in that little bubble of a town, surrounded by mountains) and has witnessed this first-hand.
“Personally, I feel every time I'm here the air itself is so much nicer, there's just something about breathing Rocky air that you don’t get in the city,” he says.
The Rocky Mountains form the second-longest mountain range in the world, and the longest in North America. The 4,828-kilometre mountain range is only about a one-hour drive from Calgary, so there's no reason not to spend the day out there. I'm no downtown nine-to-five worker, but I can imagine driving downtown during rush hour traffic would take about the same amount of time — I'm sure I can guess which final destination you would prefer.
“It's a whole different world, where you can just escape the city to the wonders of nature,” Scurfield says.
Despite how close Calgary is to the mountains, there are still people, like my sister and Poirier, who feel that it isn't close enough — they needed the smell of pine trees and the feeling of the cold, crisp air right outside their window.
Now it may just be a coincidence, although I doubt it, but every time I visit my sister, her and all of her friends are always happy, active and full of energy — much like a small dog who heard the doorbell ring and is eager to see who has come to visit.
Poirier says that everyone you meet in the mountains has a similar mindset.
“You don’t want to settle down, you want to keep exploring, keep adventuring. You want to stay active; the nine-to-five thing is not for [them].”
After experiencing all the different activities there is to do in the mountains — golfing, rafting, snowboarding, snowshoeing — good luck trying to live a regular city life after that!
As part of the 25 million people living in the Rocky Mountain region, or the 1.336 million in Calgary, we are given an opportunity that people pay thousands of dollars to see.
“People spend their whole life saving to have the opportunity to come here for one week,” says Poirier. “So the fact that we live here is incredible and you have to feel blessed and you have to take in the sights that people only get to do once in their life, but you get to do it everyday because it’s our backyard.”
For us Calgarians, the Rocky Mountains may not be right in our backyard, but I think it's worth a one hour drive to be able to step out of your car into the thousands of opportunities the real life desktop background presents to you.
- By Shannon Oxley