From the snowy peaks to the frozen lakes and beyond, Banff is a winter wonderland. It is seriously so amazing any time of year, that I was super fortunate to be able to spend most of January playing in the snow, tubing down mountains, walking through frozen waterfalls and beyond.
I am so fortunate to have Banff right in my backyard, and as such spend a lot of my time there. Seriously, I’m there all the time. But people are always searching for things to do in Banff in the winter, and this is the best list of my favourites.
Explore Johnston Canyon and the Frozen Waterfalls
There are amazing places to explore in Banff and Johnston Canyon is one of them. This place gets absolutely packed in the summer, so much so that you have to get there around sunrise in order to get one of the few hundred parking spots. It is actually just insane.
But in the winter time, Johnston’s Canyon becomes an icy wonderland that is absolutely perfect for exploring. The trail is still open, but you need to wear at least a pair of YakTrax (traction devices you put on the bottom of your shoes, and you barely notice). The reason I say you need to wear these is that the trail is not maintained and can be steep, icy and snowy throughout, leading to falls if you are not careful or prepared.
To the lower falls, it is a casual 2.7km round trip. The upper falls sit a bit further, and the entire hike will be 5.8 km. On the way there expect an incline across frozen metal pathways, and it will take you an hour or two to complete depending on your pace and the number of times you stop for pictures.
Go Tubing Overlooking Banff
Mount Norquay sits just north of Banff and the winding road up the side of the mountain leads to the ski hill and tubing hill. When you get there, you’ll see the exits towards two separate parking lots, and can make your way towards the tubing lot.
There you follow the path to Alberta’s largest tubing hill with eight head spinning runs. All the runs have stunning views of Banff below and you can even take a scenic chairlift further up the mountain.
Ski or Snowboard in the Perfect Banff Snow – SkiBig3
Banff draws thousands of people searching for powder on in the Canadian Rockies. Within a short drive of the town center of Banff, there are three separate ski hills in Banff. You can go to the amazing Sunshine Village, the beautiful Lake Louise Ski Resort, and the steep Mount Norquay. These are SkiBig3.
Most hotels in Banff with offer free transportation up to the mountains. They also can give you great advice if
- Sunshine Village Ski Resort – Sunshine Village is, in my opinion, the premier ski hill in the Banff area. A single lift ticket for the day will cost you $114 +gst Canadian. This ski hill is open for seven months of the year and can get up to nine meters of snow during the season. There are 137 runs at Sunshine Village, making it an amazing place to explore.
- Lake Louise Ski Resort – Lake Louise ski resort is world class and was ven named the best ski resort in 2017. With 145 runs and over 100kms of trails, you get to see the amazing Canadian Rockies in the winter from this viewpoint. The Lake Louise ski pass will cost the same as Sunshine Village.
- Mount Norquay Ski Resort – Mount Norquay is the smallest of the SkiBig3 and it is a steep run that overlooks the town of Banff below.
- It is great to note that if you want to experience all of the SkiBig3 resorts you can get a multi-day package that gives you a slight discount!
Go Play With The Dogs – Dogsledding in Banff in the Winter
There is something quintessential about being in a winter town and going dogsledding. People rave about going dogsledding in Banff, seeing the mountains all around them. But even better than this, you get to spend your day playing with pups! Win win win right!
Snowy Owl Tours have some of the best tours and they are committed to the ethical and humane treatment of their dogs. According to their website, their dogs are “working pets”, and they retire them much earlier than other dog sled companies!
Enjoy Skating and Warm Hot Chocolate
There are numerous outdoor skating rinks. You can get outside at Lake Louise, the Banff Springs and around Banff. These are a great reason to feel the wind in your face and the ice under your feet.
- Lake Louise Outdoor Rink – The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise maintains one of the BEST outdoor skating rinks in Canada on the amazing Lake Louise. You can rent skates at Chateau Ski and Snow and enjoy the magnificent views.
- Banff Springs Hotel Rink – This maintained rink at the Banff Springs hotel is an amazing place to experience the Castle in the Rockies and enjoy skating in Banff.
- There are also a large number of unmaintained places to skate in the Banff area including Lake Minnewanka, Jacques Lake and Vermillion Lakes
Bring a thermos or if available grab a steaming cup of hot chocolate for your adventure!
Take A Second to Relax In The Hot Springs in Banff in the Winter
Banff and the hotels within it are like a dream for those wanting to bathe under the falling snow in the winter freezing temperatures. There are hot springs, hot tubs and hot pools galore. These are great after a long day of snowshoeing or skiing, or just to spend a few warm minutes outside.
Hot springs and pools in Banff to explore:
- Banff Upper Hot Springs – These are one of the places that locals and tourists alike visit. The Banff Upper hot springs are located just outside of the main town of Banff and consist of one large pool.
- Willow Stream Spa – Located at the amazing Banff Springs Hotel, getting a spa access pass for the day allows you to enjoy the outside tubs and the hot water.
- Kananaskis Nordic Spa – This is one of the new hot spot attractions in the Banff area, it is described as an alpine sanctuary and is 18+. This means you can spend your whole day going from hot to cold pools and the sauna. It will cost you just under $100 for access, and there is a range of prices from $100-$200 for massages and other add ons.
Get Your Canadian On – Snowshoe Through Banff
Snowshoeing is another one of those quintessential Canadian activities that cannot be missed. This is one of the best things to do in Banff in Winter. The visitor center will have an updated snow report and trail report for snowshoeing trails in Banff.
I’m obsessed with my MSR snowshoes and they are great if you are looking to get into the sport!
There are miles of trails that are ready for snowshoeing, but one of the best is Peyto Lake. Most days getting to the lookout won’t require snowshoes, but there are paths that wind through the woods that without them, will lead to you being waist deep in the snow.
Another great place to strap on your snowshoes in Banff is at Lake Louise and the surrounding areas. You can snowshoe right across the lake or you can tackle one of the beginners level or moderate level trails around the lake.
Work Those Butts – Cross Country Skiing in Banff in the Winter
Cross country skiing is an amazing way to get out on the trails and explore the mountains around you. There are many maintained trails that can take you out into the wilderness. You can rent all the equipment you need either through your hotel or through one of the great gear rental places in Banff, just ask your concierge for the most up to date information (and discounts!!!).