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Scenery Review: Banff National Park UHD XP12 by Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini

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Scenery Review: Banff National Park UHD XP12 by Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini

By Nick Garlick



Once again, we venture into the vast and diverse landscapes of X-Plane 12, setting our sights this time on Western Canada's stunning province of Alberta. Renowned for its natural wonders, Alberta is a land rich with more than ten national parks, each showcasing a different facet of the region's geographical beauty. From over six hundred shimmering lakes to prairies, desert badlands, dense coniferous forests, and majestic mountains, the province offers a breathtaking panorama that we're about to explore.

Among these treasures is Banff National Park. While there are numerous ways to explore this vast wilderness, be it through camping, hiking, or biking, I believe that flying offers a unique vantage point, and what better way to soar above these landscapes than within the immersive confines of your X-Plane world!


First Impressions
When I think of mountain park destinations in X-Plane, Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini's 3D Mountain Park series immediately comes to mind. Their work has always set a high standard, with their "FSC Dolomites 3D" being a prime example, and even though it stands as one of the pricier additions to my X-Plane collection, the exceptional quality and attention to detail made every penny worth it. The vibrancy and intricate details of that scenery still captivate me, making every flight in that region a delightful experience.

Another commendable piece from their collection is the Matterhorn Park. With such sterling experiences from their previous products, my expectations for Banff National Park UHD for XP12 are undoubtedly elevated.

Will Banff for XP12 match the excellence of its predecessors? Can it replicate the joy I've found in other Dainese and Bellini products? Most crucially, can it encapsulate the mesmerizing beauty of the park's landscape? Join me as we delve deeper and explore these questions in this comprehensive review of Banff National Park UHD for XP12.



Documentation & Installation
Consistency in quality is a hallmark of Dainese and Bellini, and this extends beyond just their scenery, as they consistently provide thorough documentation for all their products, Banff being no exception. Included with this package is a 7-page manual detailing the installation requirements, insight into the project's construction, plus separate maps showing the area covered (I've highlighted the route covered in this this review). The installation process remains straightforward: download, extract the files, and place them in your X-Plane custom scenery folder, ensuring the correct file hierarchy.




Scenery & 3D Objects Quality
Dainese and Bellini's new edition for XP12 highlights an expanded scenery footprint, covering a vast area of approximately 1500 sq km. This range spans between +57 – 177 degrees of latitude and longitude. Notably, the updated package introduces us to the picturesque Moraine, Louise, Bow, Peyto, O'Hara, and Emerald lakes. Additionally, it incorporates characteristic resorts within the park, such as Baker Creek, Storm Mountain, Bow Lake, and Paradise Lodge.


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A standout feature of this edition is the 3D water rendition within the park's lakes, capitalizing on XP12's new 3D water capability. As you immerse yourself in this expansive scenery, there are thirteen distinct locations to commence or conclude your virtual flights, embracing the park's natural splendour. Among these, you'll find a single grass runway, two water runways, and ten helipads.


Here's a detailed list:


•    Water Runways:
•    LCLLW: Lake Louise, Canada
•    LCLM: Lake Moraine, Canada
•    Grass Runway:
•    XLCU: Louise-Banff, Canada
•    Helipads:
•    HLML: Lake Moraine
•    XCYCHLL & HLCLO: Lake Louise
•    HLSKT: Louise Ski – Station
•    HLEMR: Emerald-Lake
•    HLHAR: O'HARA-Lake
•    HCYO: Yoho National Park
•    HCBK: Baker Creek
•    HCBW: Bow Lake
•    HCPY: Peyto Lake

The Park's 3D Mountain Models
The mountain models within this area are meticulously crafted, drawing from DEM (Digital Elevation Model) data, and then enhanced with striking 4K resolution textures. The alignment of these textures over the adjusted meshes is precise, emphasizing both the elevation changes and the primary terrain characteristics to great effect.




3D Objects & Occasional Anomalies
In creating this Mountain Park, Dainese and Bellini have carefully referenced numerous real-life photographs of the region, reconstructing the area based on these authentic visuals. However, as with all scenery packages, there will always be anomalies, even in high-quality offerings like this 3D Mountain Park.

In the context of all the 3D mountain parks, such anomalies are minor and often go unnoticed during routine flights. It's only upon close examination, outside the standard flying environment, that these quirks might become apparent. Such imperfections are not exclusive to this product; they're a common thread across various simulation platforms, including X-Plane.

Remember, these infrequent occurrences typically arise due to the platform's limitations, and they shouldn't overshadow the overall quality of the product or influence your decision to invest. Tackling these anomalies directly might improve the visuals but could also significantly compromise in-sim performance or even hike the product's purchase price.

Balancing perfection, performance, cost, and quality is a tricky act. While acknowledging these slight imperfections, it's crucial to view them in the broader context of the product's overall value and experience. With that said, let's delve into my experience...


The Banff Adventure

As the first day of my Banff adventure dawns, I find myself approaching the picturesque Lake Louise with a mixture of excitement and awe. Picture this: I'm piloting the default 172, and as the early afternoon sun casts its glow, I make my way over the mountainous horizon, transitioning seamlessly from the default X-Plane world into the breathtaking surroundings of Lake Louise.


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My descent takes me over the iconic Fairmont Chateau, culminating in a gentle touch down at XLCU.


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Unique in its placement, XLCU is the sole airfield within the national park on terra firma. This quaint grass strip, nestled amidst towering mountains and bordered by pine trees, promises a memorable experience during take-offs and landings, more so during the unforgiving winter months. A closer look reveals the airfield's character: motorhomes, sporadic vehicles, parked aircraft, glider trailers, and modest structures, all of which add additional life and context to the area.


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Fairmont Chateau
Just moments from the airfield stands my haven for the upcoming days: the Fairmont Chateau. Renowned for its impeccable service, gourmet dining, and stunning setting, the 3D representation of Fairmont Chateau impeccably mirrors its real-world counterpart, earning its spot on the "Gold List". Nestled on Lake Louise's edge, its backdrop is a symphony of towering mountains, shimmering waters, and the grand Victoria Glacier. The careful placement of 3D objects replicates the hotel's ambiance, delivering an immersive rendition of this luxurious retreat.


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After such an exhilarating day, the allure of a sumptuous dinner and a restful night beckons, as tomorrow, the vast parklands await me!


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Awakened early by a chorus of chirping birds and the refreshing scent of pine wafting through the open window, the excitement for the day's adventure pulls me from the bed. After indulging in a hearty breakfast (cholesterol momentarily forgotten), I leisurely make my way down the driveway to the helipad, nestled just short of the shimmering water's edge. Poised there, ready for my arrival, is the Default Robin R22, promising a day of breathtaking exploration


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A tingling anticipation courses through me as I hop aboard. Checklists done, I ascend gracefully (for me anyway), drifting eastwards. Soon after skirting past XLCU, I veer southward, heading straight for my initial stopover: the picturesque "Baker Creek".

Baker Creek
Historically, dating back to 1949, Baker Creek Mountain Resort served as a tranquil stopover for visitors traveling the old coach road connecting Banff and Lake Louise, now recognized as the Bow Valley Parkway. The exclusively wooden, honey-toned architecture radiates an aura of serene rusticity, evoking solace, and grounding amidst the urban existence many of us know.


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Storm Mountain
Bidding adieu to Baker Creek, I soar southward, navigating towards the formidable Storm Mountain. Situated at the culmination of the "Misty Ridge", Storm Mountain peaks at an imposing 10,154ft or 3,095m. Perhaps it's just my perspective (or age), but dimensions voiced in feet resonate more impressively than in meters. Anyway, I digress! As I circumnavigated this region, it's impossible to remain unimpressed by the stupendous beauty Dainese and Bellini have demonstrated within this scenery package.


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Moraine Lake
Our aerial odyssey ushers us next to the ethereal Moraine Lake, an enchanting location, with the lake's waters fed by glaciers, nestled amidst the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The aquatic expanse mirrors an iconic shade of azure, an effect which has been precisely replicated in X-Plane’s virtual world. The lake features a secondary water runway, LCLM, which could have been used, but I instead opted for the Helipad (HLML), positioned adjacent to the lake. 


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O'Hara Lake
At an elevation of 6,630 ft (2,020 m), Lake O'Hara graces the alpine domain of Yoho National Park. This "jewel-blue" waterbody is undeniably a standout feature of the scenery, enhanced by log cabins lining its shores and a couple of boats resting on its tranquil surface. Whilst our tight schedule doesn't permit me to land on this occasion, a cursory flyover reveals not only the helipad's meticulous detailing but also the authentic representation of its surrounding environment, consistent with other landing zones within the scenery.


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Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is a newfound expansive gem that has been added in the Banff National Park update for X Plane 12. Spanning 507 square miles (1,313 square kilometres), it stands as the smallest in the quartet of national parks alongside Jasper, Kootenay, and Banff. The name 'Yoho,' originating from the Cree language, is an exclamation of wonder or astonishment. Flying through this section of the scenery, meticulously crafted by Dainese and Bellini, one can't help but resonate with that sense of awe. Nestled within the park's expanse is the helipad HCYO. 


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Emerald Lake
Tucked within Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake stands as one of the prime jewels of this digital depiction. As the park's most expansive waterbody, it finds itself surrounded by the grandeur of the President Mountain Range. The helipad at this site, HLEMR, mirrors the high standards observed elsewhere in the package. One can't help but stand spellbound by the lake's teal-blue sheen and its meticulously recreated surroundings within X-Plane.


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Peyto Lake
Within Banff National Park lies another glacial marvel, Peyto Lake. Located conveniently near the renowned Icefield Parkway, hailed as one of the world's most scenic drives, this lake draws its name from the pioneering trail guide and trapper, Bill Peyto. 


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Bow Lake
Our journey progresses to Bow Lake, situated closest to the headwaters of the Bow River. Derived from the meltwater of the Bow Glacier, the lake's waters shimmer with the familiar turquoise and jewel-blue hues, a unique coloration attributed to the glacial till deposits within the lakes. 


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As dusk's tendrils inch across the sky, the R22 rises from the helipad, charting its course southwards. Drifting through the valley, I circle back to our starting point at XLCU, Lake Louise.


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Exiting the R22, I saunter back to the chateau, drawn by the promise of a robust G and T, awaiting at the bar. My evening culminates with a sumptuous dinner, accentuated by the effervescent delights of a Cave Spring 2017 Riesling Brut, Canada's answer to champagne. As I retire for the night, I can't help but glance at the weather forecast, which tantalizes with the promise of the season's first snowfall. An air of excitement fills the chateau as guests prepare for what could be a picturesque transformation of the scenery. With that, the following day beckons, marking both my departure and my concluding thoughts on this breathtaking scenery


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As dawn breaks on the third day, the magical sight of a snow-clad landscape greets me. The prediction held true; the first snows of the year fell heavily overnight, transforming the terrain into a sparkling winter wonderland. Peering out the window from the regal confines of the Chateau Fairmont, I marvel at the beauty of the season's first snowfall. Nursing a heavy noggin around the 10 o'clock mark (I'll never learn), I indulge in a duo of delectable 'pain au chocolat' and a strong, invigorating brew of dark coffee. The task before me now is to ponder over the intricacies of this 3D mountain park scenery, and how best to describe it in a brief summary. Several rich sips and 'pain au chocolat' bites later, the “Nick” epiphany strikes.


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This scenery file is nothing short of enchanting as it presents a myriad of experiences for the avid X-Plane simmer. Far from claiming perfection, the Banff national park scenery transcends expectations, revealing lush forests, pristine lakes, rustic lodges, and panoramic mountain vistas. This Mountain Park, regardless of your takeoff point, promises an unparalleled return on investment. Be it small aircraft, ultralights, floatplanes, or helicopters, it caters to the full range of general aviation enthusiasts and, if you've a penchant for VFR flying under strict yet simplistic Visual Flying Rules, then this is your haven. In this context, Dainese and Bellini’s 3D mountain park series has consistently hit the bullseye, and this Banff edition upholds that legacy.


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When you take to the skies, don't simply glide past the iconic Lake Louise or strictly follow the path I charted. Venture out and explore, for Banff, in all its grandeur, conceals countless gems waiting to be discovered, each location as breathtaking and awe-inspiring as the next. Frequently celebrated as Canada's most picturesque spot, locales such as the Ten Peaks Valley and Moraine Lake are reputedly among the nation's most photographed vistas.

Like the original FSC Dolomites package, this 3D park for X Plane 12 has evolved, covering more ground than its legacy counterpart. One can't help but hope for more Canadian national parks to be encapsulated in future editions. Perhaps, with enough support, enthusiasm, and coin from our community, we'll witness this 3D park's horizon further expanded upon and enriched.


So, to address the looming question, is this an exceptional scenery? My unwavering response is...absolutely! But don't just hang on my words, dive in and bask in its majesty firsthand. This package is not just VFR, it's pure VFM (value for money), costing merely a few shillings and some!

Until our next airborne escapade... Pip, Pip, Tally Ho!






Banff National Park UHD XP12 by Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here:


Banff National Park UHD XP12

Priced at US$24.95



  • The area included in this new edition is about 1500 sq. Km
  • included in the degree + 51 ° -117 °.
  • this edition includes a larger area than in the previous one with Moraine, Louise, Bow, Peyto, O'Hara, Emerald lakes and some very characteristic resorts: Baker Creek, Storm Mountain, Bow Lake, Paradise Lodge, Field...
  • All Textures based on 4K (4096x4096)
  • Airports and Heliports
  • Housing Areas
  • Chateau - Louise Lake
  • Moraine Lake
  • Mountains - 3D Models
  • This scenery is only suitable for VFR flight, only with a "visual flight"



X-Plane 12 only (not for XP11)
Windows, Mac, or Linux
4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended
Download Size: 486 MB


Owners of the previous Banff XP11 can get the new Banff XP12 version for 40% off. Please find the coupon code in the original Banff XP11 invoice.


Review by Nick Garlick

22st August 2023

Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews


Review System Specifications: 

Windows 10, Intel 4790K liquid-cooled, overclock to 5GHz, 32GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM, Nvidia GTX 1070ti, Titanium HD Audio Card.


(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved




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