In the Heart of the Rockies

Rimrock Resort Hotel

The world is full of fascinating and unique places that many people may never have heard of. Agawa Canyon in the Algoma district of Northern Ontario, Makena Beach in Maui, and the Ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden are but a few examples of this. But just because you may not have heard of it, does not mean that you should not seek it out.
The Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff, Alberta is just such a place. Nestled within the confines of the Rocky Mountains, it has a unique charm, and boasts one of Canada’s best restaurants as well as some of its finest wines. The Rimrock doesn’t need to be a household name like Lake Louise; it thrives and succeeds on word of mouth, and retains its status as a diamond in the rough. We spoke with General Manager Trevor Long about this spectacular tourist destination.

The Rimrock has a storied history. Back in the 1850s it started out as a small 100 room hotel. In the early 1900s it served as a bath house, with the Banff Hot Springs directly above it. In the late 1980s, a group of Calgary businessmen undertook a massive renovation project which was eventually taken over by a group of Japanese investors at Sumotomo Trust. And in August of 1993, the Rimrock officially opened with 346 guest rooms, and has since developed a reputation for excellent service, fine dining and some of the best views in Alberta.

Part of the Rimrock’s status as a world class resort is due to its 5 Diamond rated restaurant, Eden. Eden has held this status for nine years running and is one of only five restaurants in Canada to attain this designation. What does it take to be rated so highly? “It covers everything from the type of silverware you use to linens, glassware, China, decor, and the ambiance,” says Trevor. “The biggest aspects are your food, service, attention to detail, the wine list and knowledge therein.” An international body conducts annual unannounced assessments of hotels and restaurants, and then a short time later contacts the manager to give their assessment and rating. It can be prohibitively expensive to maintain the diverse elements that go into a 5 Diamond rating, and Eden’s efforts are a reflection of the Rimrock’s overall emphasis on quality.

Much of Eden’s success can be attributed to its executive chef – Ralf Wollmann of Germany, who has been with The Rimrock for six years. “He is tremendous,” says Trevor. “He is very skilled in reference to building a team and cost control. He has a very creative menu and a creative mind. He empowers his staff, allowing them to participate and build up a great culinary team. For group businesses and conferences he is very good at doing team building exercises, iron chef competitions involving our guests in pastry making, chocolate displays or truffles.”

The restaurant’s menu changes with the seasons. A world class restaurant needs to use the freshest ingredients available, and Eden’s menu evolves to reflect seasonal availability and tastes, with some items, such as beef and seafood, served year-round.

Eden also carries 1,200 varieties of wine with 18,000 bottles in stock. Sommeliers are on staff to offer the best wine pairing to complement the dining experience, and the restaurant’s offerings have been honoured by Wine Spectator.

To be successful these days, one must be aware of the carbon footprint left behind. So a number of years ago, the Rimrock strengthened its environmental policies. “Being in a National Park, we wanted to ensure that our guests were all aware of the commitment from Rimrock to be environmentally friendly,” explains Trevor. “The Green Key policy is essentially an indicator of our dedication to being environmentally friendly.” The Rimrock currently possesses a 4 Key standing, and is working toward the highest designation of 5 Keys. This can be achieved in various ways: purchasing local produce; pollution prevention (e.g. a no-idling policy); a towel and bed savings program; and low-flow toilets and showers. Lighting is utilised appropriately, and the Rimrock’s boilers are energy efficient. “The boilers alone cost $500 000,” says Trevor, “but in the long run it saves us money. It is an investment in the future, but also a business investment,” one which attracts similarly eco-conscious partners in industry who wish to do business with the Rimrock.

Hosting conventions accounts for about 40 percent of the Rimrock’s business, and the resort has dedicated 18,000 square feet and 17 banquet rooms to meet the needs of these visitors. “The Rocky Mountains are a huge draw – just to come up and enjoy the beauty of what we have,” remarks Trevor. “Our conference rooms look out over the mountains, which our guests really appreciate.” The resort can cater to groups of five, up to 600. The main function centre is on level 6, and others are on levels 4, 5, 7, and 9. They are all strategically placed for the best views over the entire valley.

Like many resorts, the Rimrock’s peak season is June through September. “There is so much to do here – hiking, rafting, golfing – mountain biking is huge – sightseeing, mountain climbing. In winter, it would be skiing, snowshoeing and dog-sledding. But the summer is the bigger draw.” The occupancy from June through September runs 80 to 90 percent or higher.

Speaking of occupancy, the Rimrock boasts four standard categories of rooms, as well as its Signature Grandview and other suites, catering to diverse needs and budgets. The Signature Grandview suites feature some of the best views in the hotel, and many of them have fireplaces and balconies. All feature the highest quality furnishings, and are considered by many to be the nicest suites in all of Banff. All guest rooms boast top level amenities including Aveda beauty products, widescreen LCD televisions, parking, and wireless internet access.

Due to the seclusion and stellar reputation of the Rimrock, many celebrities choose to make it their home away from home when in Banff. Trevor is a big fan of golf and always enjoys a visit from Chi Chi Rodriguez; and don’t be surprised if you spot other stars such as Joshua Jackson, Jason Priestly, Neve Campbell, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw or Scarlett Johansson, among others.

Of course, there are challenges to be overcome when operating any business, especially in the accommodation industry where it is often a discretionary spend. One of the main challenges the Rimrock faces is in staffing. In the hospitality industry, staff retention and quality can make all the difference to the level of service one is able to offer; it is also important to be able to cater to individuals from abroad and make everyone feel at home. The Rimrock recently undertook an international worker program to attract skilled staff from around the world, and has seen great success, attracting qualified individuals from India, Australia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and other countries. This is an international exchange approved by the Canadian government, and is, Trevor says, a great way to promote goodwill between nations.

Along with its fantastic restaurants, convention facilities and spectacular rooms, the Rimrock also boasts a terrific spa and pool with great views on level 3. In the spa you can choose from an extended menu of treatments, including body treatments, facials, hand and foot care, and massages. The pool area also has a sauna and whirlpool, and there is a comprehensive fitness centre on site.

Trevor Long would like our readers to know that, “Although we don’t have a chain name behind us, we have everything there is to offer with a luxury property and a unique location. The Rimrock is the hidden gem of the Rocky Mountains. To run an independent hotel is difficult sometimes,” he says. “We don’t have the name of a Fairmont, Marriott, or Sheraton, and sometimes it’s difficult to get your name out there, but we are improving on that with marketing and word of mouth.” Something tells me that the Rimrock Resort Hotel is doing just fine, and will continue to provide excellent, truly special service for many years to come.

July 17, 2018, 7:31 AM EDT

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