Little did I know when I drove across the country in the spring of '98, and again in May of 2000 that my farewell letter to Banff would be dated January 29, 2017. Even less likely to me at the time, would have been writing said farewell letter, with my wife and 2 year old daughter in tow! Yet, here I am attempting to put thoughts and emotions to paper, as we embark on a new adventure to Vancouver Island.
Having lived just north of 17 years in Banff, this has been an emotionally tumultuous time for me these past couple months. The friendships, experiences, hardships and successes have all considerably shaped who I am today and who I will become tomorrow. When I came to Banff, I just finished my apprenticeship, had never skied, cycled or picked up a camera. Relative to the person I am today, I was an empty shell when I made the drive from Southern Ontario. Yet here I stand today, a byproduct of the near two decades spent as a proud Banffitte.
I'm lucky to be able to say I've experienced the best of Banff. Starting with a 7 year run working as a chef at the Castle in the Rockies, the Banff Springs Hotel.. to spending almost a decade honing my culinary skills and ski ability, heli skiing with Canadian Mountain Holidays.. and rounding out my time in Banff as a part of the most incredible community of parents and kids that exemplify the true spirit of Banff! It's hard to imagine a more well rounded community of people.
One thing I hope is that I never took living here for granted. There are definitely some places I never managed to visit such as Lake O'Hara and several other backcountry trips I had on the bucket list. I suppose some unfinished business is reason enough to come back on a regular basis ;) I can say unequivocally that I always appreciated how close to nature we live here in Banff. Wildlife sightings are a regular daily occurrence, including bears, deer, elk and rare sightings of wolves. It really is incredible how lucky we are to have a front row seat to this abundance of wildlife.
Just last week I was out for a drive around Lake Minnewanka road and was lucky enough to witness several bull elk hanging out together. It brought back memories of living in staff accom at the Banff Springs and having to navigate up to a hundred elk on the way to work! Cycling the Bow Valley Parkway, it was common to see a handful of grizzly bears during a two hour ride or if lucky enough, members of the bow valley pack of wolves! The list goes on and on, you get the gist of what I'm trying to say.. It's a privilege to live in Banff National Park!
This of course is what makes leaving so difficult.. I honestly never thought I would leave, even consider it for that matter. Then again, I never thought I would stay after my summer contract in 2000. I actually didn't try skiing until the end of that first winter because I was certain I would leave at the end of the following summer. It didn't seem worth it to bother when I knew I was going to leave anyway.. Turns out skiing was that "decisive moment" they talk about in photography that forever altered my life. A sliding door of sorts that turned me on a course towards my future wife and daughter. The thought of never skiing goes far beyond not experiencing epic powder... it's simply incomprehensible.
Banff has given me a lifetimes worth of happiness in just under two decades. Skiing, cycling, backpacking, summiting mountains, a passion for photography, amazing professional opportunities, lifetime friendships and of course, most importantly, a family of my own to share it with :) I'm incredibly proud to say I lived here for as long as I did.
The accompanying images are just a few of the visual memories of my personal favourite places around Banff that have left an everlasting imprint on my soul..
Farewell Banff, see you next time as a tourist!
Jamieson Caskenette, January 29th, 2017