The Top 13 Reasons to Visit Banff In Winter
Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Alberta’s claim to fame – Banff National Park is any adventurers dream destination, regardless of the season.
As the temperature dips, something magical and dramatic starts happening in Banff. A winter wonderland starts emerging. This magical event opens up a whole new world of activities simply not possible at any other time of the year. From snow-capped mountains to peaceful forests blanketed in snow, a rustic mountain town allows visitors to find fun with every mountain peak they see.
There’s no doubt about it – winters in the mountains can look intimidating and can lead some to wonder – why travelling to Banff in winter is a must and what there is to do in Banff in the winter. The answers to those thoughts are answered below. We’ve outlined everything you can do in Banff in winter.
Before You arrive
As Canada’s first national park – Banff has been inviting guests to visit since 1885. Just 120km west of Calgary and surrounded by four other picturesque national parks (Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho & Waterton-Glacier), Banff sees an average of 4 million visitors every year! For more information on the park in general, click here.
13 Must-do Activities in Banff in winter
Grab a pen and paper because this is one long checklist!
We would be remiss if we didn’t include skiing on this list of top winter activities in Banff National Park. An obvious inclusion because Banff is surrounded – and we mean SURROUNDED – by world-class ski hills. The three prominent ones in Banff National Park (also grouped and called Ski Big 3) are Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay. All three boast incredible views and something for every type of skier.
As always, stay safe and check trail & weather reports before heading out.
1. Sunshine Village
A mere 15-minute drive from the town of Banff – Sunshine Village is truly a skiers paradise. With 3,300 acres of skiable terrain, Sunshine famous for its long ski season.
Visit Their Website: Here
2. Lake louise ski resort
Home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America, Lake Louise Ski Resort, also sports an incredible 4,200 acres of skiable terrain. Heaven.
Visit Their Website: Here
3. Mt Norquay
This local favourite is just 5 minutes outside of Banff’s town and is famous for its night skiing – the only ski hill to offer it in the Canadian Rockies.
Visit Their Website: Here
Skate On A Lake
Banff National Park has no shortage of lakes to skate on – we’ve listed a few you have to check out!
4. Lake Louise
This iconic spot is the most famous lake to skate on in Banff. Providing an outrageous backdrop (mountains in every direction), skating on Lake Louise is a must while experiencing winter in Banff.
5. Two Jack Lake
Banff locals know all the right spots for winter activities in the Canadian Rockies, and Two Jack Lake is no exception. When the lake freezes over, head to this incredibly scenic spot for some pond hockey or a whirl around the frozen lake. An insider tip? If you time it just right, the lake freezes over clear & smooth – making it look like you’re skating on glass.
6. The ice rink at fairmont banff springs
Guests of Fairmont Banff Springs need not travel far to enjoy scenic skating. The Vermillion Lawn Ice Rink is nestled perfectly on the upper garden terrace of the hotel. Surrounded by Castle and mountains provides this ice rink with all the Instagram-worthy moments.
PS – looking for a way to warm up after the skate? STOCK Food & Drink is open with warm & delicious to-go options!
Take a Hike
Winter doesn’t have to mean only skating and skiing; there are plenty of other activities available should you wish to take another path.
Known in the summer as a hiker’s paradise, Banff National Park doesn’t shed that title once the snow comes in. With plenty of groomed trails around the park, it’s easy to rent a pair of snowshoes and head out for a hike. Hiking in winter provides you with some incredibly beautiful sights, and most are so peacefully quiet you’ll have a hard time leaving it behind.
Pro Tip: The Resort Activities team at Fairmont Banff Springs has a plethora of activities happening daily that will get you out and able to explore our backyard! Click here to see the offerings.
8. Ice walks
When the temperature dips, the sub-zero temperatures turn Banff’s waterfalls into jaw-dropping ice sculptures. Renting ice cleats is easy in Banff, and choosing a trail won’t be too difficult. The most popular is Johnston Canyon, which takes visitors to two sets of frozen waterfalls through a glittering canyon.
Go on a photo hunt
9. Banff gondola
There isn’t a bad view in Banff, but there is something up heading up the Banff Gondola that takes your breath away. It offers views of some incredible mountain ranges, views of Banff’s town, and a board-walk that has perfect perches to take photos.
Due to governmental restrictions please check hours of operations before visiting!
10. Icefields parkway
A bucket list drive any time of the year, but you need to drive down the Icefields Parkway in winter if you are looking for some dramatic views. You’ll see another more frozen lakes and mountains than ever imagined. Trust us; you won’t tire of the views.
Pro Tip – Travel safe and check weather and road conditions before heading out.
These experiences are something the whole family can enjoy!
This historical mode of travel is made accessible to visitors of the national park. Learn about the Canadian heritage behind dog-sledding, meet the animals and more!
Get your heart racing in this family-friendly activity!
13. catch the northern lights
You’ll have to be willing to lose some sleep to catch this unique phenomenon. When temperatures dip and Banff has a clear sky at night, you’re more than likely to see some northern lights! Download the Northern Lights tracker app for a better chance at finding out when & where you’re most likely to see them!
Click here for the best Banff Hotel Offers.
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