Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff transforms into a stunning winter paradise as the snow begins to fall, offering a plethora of activities for visitors of all ages and interests. From thrilling outdoor adventures to cozy indoor retreats to girl’s weekends to romantic getaways, there’s no shortage of things to do in Banff in the winter. In this guide, we’ll explore a variety of activities, local culinary delights, and special getaway options to ensure you have a memorable winter experience in Banff.
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Is it worth visiting Banff in the winter?
Visiting Banff in the winter is a truly beautiful experience. Banff National Park transforms into a picturesque winter wonderland that beckons adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. The snowy season, from November to March, offers a unique opportunity to explore the park’s stunning landscapes in a whole new light.
Winter sports enthusiasts can delight in world-class skiing and snowboarding, while those seeking a serene escape can enjoy peaceful snowshoeing and ice skating on frozen lakes. If you are lucky enough, you may witness the Northern Lights across the night sky.
Winter in Banff provides unique opportunities to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, deer, and if you’re lucky, wolves or cougars.
How Do You Get to Banff?
In order to get to Banff you will need to book a flight into the Calgary International Airport (YYC). From there you will have to rent a car for the 1.5 hour drive to the Rocky Mountains. Once out of the city, the majestic drive is worth every minute of it.
What’s the Weather Like in Banff in the Winter?
Temperatures in the Canadian Rockies typically range from -10°C to -1°C (14°F to 30°F). Frequent snowfall ensures excellent conditions for winter sports, while the crisp, clean air and clear blue skies make for stunning vistas.
Things to Do in Banff in the Winter
In this section of the guide on “Things to Do in Banff in the Winter,” I will delve into the heart of this captivating season, sharing the most enchanting experiences and activities that Banff has to offer during its snow-covered months.
Skiing and Snowboarding and Tubing
Banff is renowned for its world-class ski resorts, including Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay. Whether you’re a beginner looking to learn the ropes or an expert seeking challenging slopes, these resorts offer a diverse range of trails to suit all skill levels. Don’t forget to check out rental options if you’re traveling without your gear.
Banff Sunshine, located a 20-minute drive from the town of Banff, is one of the most popular ski hills in the area. This ski resort is made up of more than 3,300 acres of skiable terrain and over 120 thrilling runs catering to all skill levels, from beginners to experts. Sunshine boasts Canada’s first and only heated chairlift as well as an orange cover to protect riders from the wind.
Accessible via a scenic gondola ride, this ski resort is perched at an elevation of 7,200 feet, offering awe-inspiring panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and Banff National Park. The ski-in, ski-out convenience from the slopeside hotels and cozy mountain lodges ensures that you can maximize your time on the mountain.
Lake Louise Ski Resort, is a 40-minute drive west of Banff, provides a different experience than Sunshine. With over 4,200 acres of skiable terrain, the front side of the mountain is geared towards beginners and intermediates, while the back side has more steep bowls and tree runs and is more suitable for experts. The resort is located at the base of the Victoria Glacier with a base elevation of 5,400 feet, and top elevation of 8,650 feet (2637 metres).
You will find 164 runs across the mountains, with the longest run being 8 kilometers (5 miles) that will suit all skill levels. If you are not into skiing or snowboarding, you can try your hand at tubing or snowshoeing at the hill. Depending what run you take, you may be so high up that you could be above the clouds!
Mount Norquay, a 10-minute drive from the town, is great for beginner skiers or if you are traveling with kids. Mount Norquay’s rich history adds to its allure. It was one of the first ski areas in Canada and has been welcoming winter sports enthusiasts for nearly a century.
One of the best things you can do here is tubing. You can ride down Alberta’s longest tube lanes on an inflatable tube. Good for ages 4 and up! It’s a definite must-try!
Embrace the winter chill with a skating session on one of Banff’s picturesque frozen lakes. Rent your skates at one of the rental places in Banff or Lake Louise and head out one of the two best lakes in the area, Lake Louise, behind the Chateau, or Lake Minnewanka. The best thing about ice skating is other than the rentals, it is free!
Lake Minnewanka is definitely a place to visit. It has a rich history that includes Indigenous habitation, European exploration, and the construction of the Minnewanka Dam in the early 20th century. The dam raised the lake’s water level, submerging historical sites like the Lake Minnewanka Village. Today, it’s a popular recreational destination known for its outdoor activities.
Snowshoeing or Cross-Country Skiing
Explore Banff’s stunning landscapes by embarking on a snowshoeing adventure, winter hiking or gliding along cross-country ski trails. Popular spots for cross-country skiing include Tunnel Mountain, near Lake Louise, around Lake Minnewanka, and many more options. There are many snowshoeing options throughout Banff National Park but I highly recommend Johnston Canyon and Mirror Lake (Lake Louise). Guided tours are also available for those seeking local insights and stories.
Hiking – My Favorite Thing to do in Banff in the Winter
Experience the enchanting beauty of winter in Banff National Park by embarking on snowy hikes. Explore the pristine landscapes along the 5.4 kilometer (3.4 mile) Johnston Canyon Icewalk, traverse the stunning 3.9 kilometer (2.4 mile) Moraine Lake Trail, or venture up Tunnel Mountain for a 4.8 kilometer (2.8 mile) hike. A hike that is a longer and harder, but worth it, is Sulphur Mountain. This 10.8 kilometer (6.7 mile) trail will take you to some amazing views. Most of these activities will give you unparallel views of the Canadian Rockies.
If you are not sure on how to prepare for hiking in the winter, then check out these useful tips for winter hiking for beginners.
Hot Springs and Wellness
After a day full of activities, unwind at the Banff Upper Hot Springs, where you can soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters while being surrounded by snow-covered mountains. Additionally, there are numerous wellness centers and spas in Banff ready to pamper you.
Best Places to Eat in Banff
The Juniper Bistro
Guests can savor locally inspired cuisine made from fresh, seasonal ingredients while gazing out at the stunning landscapes that make Banff National Park so iconic. Whether enjoying a hearty breakfast, a leisurely brunch, or a romantic dinner, your meal will definitely be an experience.
The Grizzly House in Banff is a legendary dining establishment known for its cozy and rustic ambiance. Specializing in fondue and grill cuisine, it offers a unique interactive dining experience where guests can cook their own food at their table. Highly recommend this restaurant! One of my favorites.
Eddie Burger & Bar (local favorite)
This go-to spot offers a laid-back dining experience with a diverse menu of creative burger options including vegetarian and vegan options and a selection of craft beers and cocktails.
Wild Flour Banff’s Artisan Bakery Café
This charming café is renowned for its artisanal bread, pastries, and delectable treats.
Beavertails is a beloved Canadian treat destination that specializes in serving iconic, hand-stretched, and deep-fried pastries shaped like a beaver’s tail. These golden, crispy pastries are generously coated with a variety of mouthwatering toppings, such as cinnamon sugar, chocolate, or maple syrup. Okay I may have added ice cream to mine!
Looking for a Girlfriend’s Getaway?
Banff Avenue is lined with boutiques and shops, perfect for an afternoon of retail therapy. Don’t miss out on the unique local products found only in Banff.
Spend a few hours at the Fairmont Spa Banff Spring. This world-class spa offers a serene escape where guests can rejuvenate and unwind. Indulge in a range of treatments including massages, facials, and wellness therapies, and thermal water pools. The Spa provides a truly exceptional and pampering experience, making it a must-visit activity for those seeking a relaxing and rejuvenating girls weekend away.
End your day with a visit to one of Banff’s lively bars or clubs, such as the Dancing Sasquatch for a night of dancing or the Rose & Crown Pub for live music every night.
Planning a Romantic Getaway?
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a majestic and historic icon, often referred to as the “Castle in the Rockies.” With its rich history, picturesque setting, and myriad of romantic activities, from strolls through the lush gardens to cozy fireside evenings, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel creates an unforgettable backdrop for a dreamy romantic getaway.
Rimrock Resort Hotel, perched high above the picturesque town of Banff, provides breathtaking panoramic views from every angle. Enjoy intimate moments in beautifully appointed rooms and suites, complete with cozy fireplaces and private balconies, setting the stage for romance. Whether you’re gazing at starlit skies from the outdoor hot tubs or exploring the nearby natural wonders, the Rimrock Resort Hotel promises an unforgettable romantic escape in the heart of Banff.
From thrilling outdoor adventures to culinary indulgences, Banff in the winter is a destination filled with wonder and excitement. With this guide, you’re now equipped to explore all that this snowy paradise has to offer. So bundle up, embrace the chill, and get ready to create unforgettable things to do in Banff in the winter.
Guest author bio: Melanie is the founder of The World Travel Girl. She has been traveling for over 12 years and decided to share her passion with others. Her mission is to help everyday people explore the outdoor world and connect with nature.
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