Hidden gem: The Canadian Marriott with a Nordic spa that stands in the shadow of Banff

Jul 3, 2022

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Even if you have yet to visit, you’ve probably heard of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Its majestic mountain peaks, hot springs, cool summers and snowy winters are pretty legendary.

What you may not know, though, is how few points-friendly hotels there are in the area.

While points hotels are not the be- all, end-all of travel, if you are trying to stretch your vacation dollars, their absence can present a bit of a logistical challenge.

We can’t wave a magic wand and wish into existence some great Banff properties where you can use your hotel points, but we can tell you about one property in nearby Kananaskis that might not have been on your radar: Kananaskis Mountain Lodge.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Part of Marriott‘s Autograph Collection, this points-friendly property is surrounded by natural beauty. But is it a worthwhile alternative to Accor‘s Fairmont Banff Springs, a better-known (and far pricier) points option in Banff?

Here’s what to know about Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, Autograph Collection before you book a stay.

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You’re an hour from Banff but still in a beautiful setting

Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, also known as the Pomeroy, is not actually in Banff. As its name suggests, it’s instead in Kananaskis Country, an area about halfway between Banff and Calgary.

Because the property is roughly an hour from both destinations, it’s fairly easy to reach while still being remote enough to feel like you are really in the Canadian Rockies.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Given the lodge’s location, it’s a great jumping-off point for exploring all that Banff has to offer — but know that Kananaskis is worth checking out, too. It’s not as built up as Banff, but it still offers its fair share of outdoor activities (think: horseback riding, hiking, skiing and more), plus a few shops and eateries.

Related: Small Canadian towns you can book with points 

There’s a huge Nordic spa

A major advantage to staying here is the property’s proximity to Kananaskis Nordic Spa. Open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., this epic Nordic spa complex features more than 50,000 square feet of hot and cold pools.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

While access to the on-site facility isn’t complimentary for hotel guests, there are some “stay and soak” discounts you can take advantage of when you visit. Instead of paying $119 or $129 per person (depending on which date you visit), hotel guests can visit for just $69 between 6 and 9 p.m. An additional $10 discount is available if you have Gold Elite status or higher in the Marriott Bonvoy program.

Related: TPG’s guide to visiting Canadian provinces

You’ll find a mini indoor water park

While many properties have pools, Kananaskis Mountain Lodge dials up the fun by offering a small indoor water park. Best of all, it’s open late (from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily) and doesn’t cost a penny extra for guests to access … sort of. More on that later.

If I was a kid, the pool would have made me lose my mind … in a good way. It’s not massive by any means, but it has multiple waterslides, a waterfall and a splash area. There’s also a large hot tub that sits partly inside and partly outside, so you can get some fresh air without having to get out of the water.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Related: 12 best hotels with a lazy river

Family-friendly rooms are plentiful

Our stay here was during a multigenerational family trip with my parents and my kids, so one standard hotel room wasn’t going to work.

Luckily, we didn’t have to pay double the amount to book two rooms like we normally would have had to do, as there were a couple of family-friendly room types available. While they cost more than a standard room, they still are cheaper than what you’d spend on two standard rooms.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

For a two-bedroom Family Room, which comes with one king- and two queen-size beds, like the one we reserved, expect to pay between 511 Canadian dollars (about $394) and CA$843 (roughly $650) per night (taxes included) this summer.

While the lack of a second bathroom was certainly a downside, especially since the door on the only bathroom didn’t seem to lock, we found the space more than adequate for our family. It’s great to have the option to book a room that can sleep up to six people at a cost that is often about 50% less than it would be to reserve two standard rooms with points or cash.

Should you still decide two standard rooms are the way to go, know that the points rates are reasonable. Rates hover between 45,000 and 60,000 Bonvoy points per night, depending on the dates you choose. That means you can apply 50,000-point free night certificates to your stay, though you may need to top off your certificates with some extra points.

Right now the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is offering three free nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Related: How to save money when booking international hotel rooms for a family

Some extra fees apply

My family loved the property’s water park and nightly s’mores, but know that there’s a catch to these seemingly free amenities.

Despite appearing free on the surface, they’re actually inclusions factored into the hotel’s resort fee. With that CA$25 (about $19) per night (plus taxes) resort fee, you can also use select sports equipment, borrow board games and access other facilities like the fitness center and game room, but you’ll be on the hook for this pesky fee whether you plan to take advantage of these perks or not.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

You’ll also have to pay CA$22 (approximately $17) per night if you plan on parking on-site. However, if you park in the nearby public village parking area, like we did, you can avoid this charge.

A CA$15 (roughly $12) daily fee for the area’s Kananaskis Conservation Pass is technically required when you visit or stay in Kananaskis Country, too, though the spot to buy the pass was closed when we arrived, so we accidentally missed paying that fee. Know that you’ll pay a similar fee if and when you visit Banff as well.

The food is tasty

Even though the lodge is in a pretty remote location where you might wonder about the quality of the food options, we were pleasantly surprised by the hotel’s cuisine. Since there weren’t a ton of places to choose from near the hotel, we ended up enjoying a few meals on-site.

Because I have Platinum Elite status, I opted for free daily breakfast as my check-in amenity. That turned out to be a solid selection. It included either room service or full breakfast for two in Forte Restaurant’s dining room.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

We went for a takeaway option, choosing French toast and eggs with bacon, toast and potatoes (plus coffee and orange juice). All of it was free thanks to my elite status. Not to mention, it was delicious and plenty to share with my family.

Along with in-room dining and Forte, there are the grab-and-go Market Cafe, the Cedar Room (a Canadian chophouse) and Blacktail Bar, which was a lively lunch and evening bar spot located just off the hotel lobby.

Bottom line

Although Kananaskis Mountain Lodge isn’t right in Banff and could benefit from some deep cleaning and updating in a couple of spots, it is a relatively stylish property that provides all the essentials.

Sure, it isn’t as upscale as the Fairmont Banff Springs (which my family also enjoyed staying at this trip), but it’s far more affordable and just as memorable to visit. We thoroughly enjoyed the property’s amenities and exploring the Kananaskis area, all without breaking the bank.

Featured image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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