The best campgrounds we visited growing up in the 70s and 80s always had a pool. Not every campground we visited had them back then, only the best ones did.
People who grew up in Calgary in the 60s will tell you about the fantastic campground on the west edge of town that had a pool – Happy Valley.
Happy Valley was a year round playground of over 400 acres featuring swimming, skiing, golf, trail rides, picnic and bar-B-Q facilities, kiddies playgrounds, trailer court, service station and groceries. The main attractions, though, were the outdoor and indoor pool facilities capable of handling over 2,000 guests.
That is the kind of place that becomes a family tradition. The one where you book your week a year in advance and count down the days until you get to go back. Happy Valley was only around for a decade, though, as mismanagement by multiple ownerships saw the venture fail.
Decades before Happy Valley popped up in Calgary, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort was a place where people could experience a relaxing dip in a hot pool and some friendly hospitality. In the early 1900s, first the Fairmont Hot Springs Ranch, and then the Fairmont Hotel Springs, was a place where people could visit and swim and unwind in what has become Canada’s largest natural hot springs. In 1964, the resort would expand featuring more buildings surrounding this warm outdoor pool in the shadow of the Rockies overlooking the Columbia Valley and Purcell mountains.
The history of a place like FHSR is important because it’s the kind of place that is now going through third and fourth and fifth generations of fans. FHSR is the kind of place families circle on their calendar and return to year after year. It’s the campground / hotel with the killer pool. And now, with $5M in renovations underway, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is about to be so much more.
They’re using the hashtag #FHSRMemories as part of their next era and it’s the perfect tag to underline how much this place has meant to people for so long and how it continues to build memories for families.
My family was invited for a stay at the resort and our itinerary was jammed with things to do that, obviously, centred around the pool.
We arrived in the afternoon, ditched our gear and headed to the pool walking past western Canada’s largest selection of swimwear (seriously, there’s close to 4000 pieces to choose from inside). The three pools are of varying sizes and temperatures. There’s a lap pool, a dive pool, and a hot tub.
FHSR’s hot pools are different from other ‘grotto style’ pools in the Rockies that you might find at Banff or Radium. While those come with a strong sulphur smell, it’s natural hot water that is coming through the pools at FHSR.
More than 1 million gallons of water circulates through the pools each day meaning very little chlorine is even needed to keep things clean, the water is refreshing through the pools constantly.
After a swim, we had dinner in the newly renovated Antlers at the Lodge. Can you guess why they chose the name?
The menu has some great steak selections, as well as options for kids. After a day of travel and swimming, we went back to the room to relax and saw that others were still out enjoying the pool in the late summer daylight through to 10p
I booked myself an early tee time at one of the three golf courses at the FHSR, choosing the Riverside course down along the Columbia River.
The course is a fantastic design that hugs the meanders of the river through most holes. Sometimes you’re playing beside it, sometimes you’re shooting over it, and every now and again the designer takes the river and uses it for a dogleg, like on the magical 14th hole that stretches a 180 degree turn for a long par 5.
The staff were friendly, the Taylor Made rentals I used for the day were great, and the company of the others in my group (some staff from the Mountainside course) were great to play with.
My wife and kids slept in, grabbed some pancakes and eggs at Antlers, and headed back to the pool for more swimming and diving – because of course.
We all reconvened at lunch in the Bear’s Paw, another newly renovated piece of the property digging in to pub fare like pizzas, burgers, and fish and chips. The pub has big tv’s showing various sports, and high rustic tables and booths. Outside, a tiered deck is about to undergo renovations with a huge covered area to make the patio comfortable for at least 3 seasons of the year. Along the walls of the pub are vintage photos mixed with current ones featuring former staff and guests sharing their #FHSRMemories. It’s a really nice touch.
After lunch we walked down to the Activity and Experience Centre where we met our guides for our afternoon kayak tour down the Columbia River (right through the golf course!). The centre should be one of your first visits when you arrive at the resort. It has a daily schedule of events for kids and is the place where you can sign up for horse back riding, zip lining, mini golf, archery, and more at the Base Camp area for kids.
We hopped a bus loaded with boats and other visitors for a quick 10 minute drive down the road for our kayak adventure. We were dropped in a pond for some training and then paddled over to the river for a nice easy float downstream.
After an easy two hour cruise / float / small bit of paddling we piled out of the river and the bus took us back up another 10 minute ride to the resort for more pool time.
While the boys continued to assault the diving boards, my wife and I lounged on a new deck that’s been built alongside the huge green space and private cabanas for hire. Slushy tropical drinks and cold beer were had while we watched the boys climb the boards to jump and splash and twist over and over again.
After a long day, we opted to head back to the Bears’ Paw again for some appetizers for all to share. We snacked on nachos, calamari, and chicken fingers and when the boys got antsy, we let them wander off to a large salon at the front of the hotel that was filled with board games, a kids’ play area, and a piano. The pub happens to overlook the room, so while our boys chilled downstairs, my wife and I got some alone time upstairs.
After a while we joined them for some lounging while Charlie learned some chopsticks on the piano from one of the other guests. It was a perfectly relaxing and entertaining evening. All the while candy bar bingo and The Boxtrolls was playing in one of the conference centre rooms.
We slept in for our final morning, opting for some quick grab and go breakfast options and coffees from Steamers Cafe. We got everything packed up and then headed off for our 9a tee time at the Creekside golf course, a short 9 hole course (the longest hole is 130 yards from the back tee) featuring the big 8 inch cups making putting easier and more fun.
I LOVE IT when golf courses make the game accessible to kids. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort already hosts weekly lessons and clinics for “Fairmonsters,” they have options where kids can play for free on the courses, but the set up of the Creekside course is the best part. It’s the kind of golf experience built for families. The course is enough for me to practice my wedges while the boys can tee it up and feel like a hero when they drain a long putt.
Charlie and I played as a team, I hit the tee shots, he did the putting, and what a thrill it was when he dropped a 14 foot downhiller for birdie!
After our round we were left wishing we could have gone for another swim back up at the resort, but appointments called back home so we hit the highway for the 3 hour jaunt back to Calgary already making plans to visit for 4 or more days next summer. We didn’t make it to the zip line, or the mini putt, or the horse rides, or the Base Camp, or the hiking, or the spa, or the pool for a fourth time 😉 .. there’s just so much to do here!
Or maybe we’ll come back in the winter? Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is a nice easy hill for families to learn how to ski, and I can’t imagine how fantastic that huge hot pool would be in the winter after a day of carving turns up top.
Whatever the season, our family is already hooked on a new tradition that so many others have enjoyed for so long: Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is a place we will return to again and again building #FHSRMemories.
Disclosure: we were guests of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort for our stay. Our accommodations, activities, and some meals were covered.
About Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is a year-round destination nestled in the heart of the BC Rockies in the stunning Columbia Valley, and home to Canada’s largest natural mineral hot springs. Visitors can experience everything the resort has to offer including three stunning golf courses, RV resort and campground, Natural Springs Spa, ski area and the legendary natural mineral hot springs pools and more.
Visitors will be delighted to experience all the upgrades to the property, with the first phase of renovations culminating in July – just in time for the resort’s peak summer season.
Upgrades to the property will include:
- Modern renovations in all guest bathrooms
- Beautifully renovated King rooms and select guest rooms
- New deluxe RV sites with spectacular mountain views
- Prime location cabins with full kitchen, fireplace, patio, BBQ and can sleep up to six guests
- Renovated pool change rooms and expanded grass area around the natural mineral hot springs pool
- Addition of pool cabanas with bar and restaurant service
- New family-friendly activities, including a multisport area, mini putt and electric bike rentals
- Enhanced dining experience at the Mountain Flowers Restaurant and the Bear’s Paw Bar & Grill including a new food and beverage director, refreshed menus, modern décor and three-season deck
Upgrades to the resort are ongoing with a pause in construction from July to September to accommodate the resort’s peak season. Phase two will continue into the end of 2018 and into 2019 with the completion of all accommodation upgrades. For more information about the resort, please visit: www.fairmonthotsprings.com