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13 Life-Altering Issues to Do in Banff in Winter


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Banff is Canada’s most well-known and visited nationwide park, and the star attraction of Canada’s most lovely province. Recognized for its vibrant turquoise lakes and dramatic mountain peaks, the park takes on a complete completely different vibe in winter. Should you’re in search of the quintessential Rocky Mountain winter expertise, that is certainly it!

Under are 13 issues to do in Banff in winter that you simply’ll bear in mind for a lifetime, from ice skating on iconic lakes and snowboarding a few of the world’s greatest slopes to soaking in thermal springs and gazing at frozen waterfalls. We’ve accomplished a number of of those experiences with our children, so additionally try my information to kid-friendly issues to do in Banff.

Rising up in Alberta, making a visit to the Rocky Mountains is an annual ritual, and we Albertans generally take with no consideration simply how superb a spot Banff is, regardless of all of the vacationers! Even after exploring many components of the nation, I nonetheless assume it’s one of many prime locations in Canada to go to.

To learn how to piece all of it collectively to your journey, right here’s my really useful three day Banff itinerary. When visiting Banff in winter, bear in mind to decorate heat, drive secure, and don’t get too near the wildlife.

Additionally contemplate extending your journey to Jasper Nationwide Park (particularly the Maligne Canyon Icewalk!) to the north or distant Waterton Lakes Nationwide Park to the south. Listed here are my guides to Jasper Nationwide Park in winter and Waterton Lakes Nationwide Park.

Associated Data:

My Alberta Bucket Checklist
5 Awe-Inspiring Alberta Nationwide Parks
Canada’s 38 Unbelievable Nationwide Parks
Lonely Planet Banff, Jasper & Glacier Nationwide Parks

The place to Keep in Winter in Banff Nationwide Park

View of Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel from Surprise Corner in Banff
Canada’s most well-known lodge

Most Iconic: Banff Springs Lodge (see on Reserving / TripAdvisor / Agoda) and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (see on Reserving / TripAdvisor / Agoda)

Spa Lovers:  Canalta Lodge (see on Reserving / TripAdvisor / Agoda)

Greatest for Households: Moose Lodge & Suites (see on Reserving / TripAdvisor / Agoda)

Finances Pleasant: Samesun Hostel (see on Reserving / TripAdvisor / Agoda) or seek for cheaper resorts in close by Canmore

You may additionally need to contemplate staying in close by Canmore. It’s simply exterior of Banff Nationwide Park, but it surely’s much less touristy and has cheaper lodging. Canmore can also be well-known for its winter actions and hosted components of the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988! Right here’s my information to Canmore and the encompassing Kananaskis space.

Greatest Issues to Do in Banff Nationwide Park in Winter

In no specific order, listed below are 10 unimaginable issues to do in Banff in winter! Please be aware that I’ve not noted experiences involving animals, corresponding to canine sledding and using horse sleighs.

Ice Skating on Lake Louise

Ice skating on Lake Louise in Banff National Park, an absolute must on any Alberta bucket list

Topping my listing of unimaginable Banff winter actions is ice skating on Lake Louise, probably the most iconic lake in Banff Nationwide Park. I’ve in all probability been to Lake Louise a dozen occasions since I used to be a child, but it surely was solely not too long ago that I took my very own children to expertise the lake and skated on it for my first time.

My son ice skating on Lake Louise, one of the best activities in Banff in winter
My son Sage LOVED skating on Lake Louise

All I can say is: what a magical expertise! Gliding round whereas surrounded by towering peaks was nothing in need of magical. Our children beloved it too, and we spend an enormous a part of the time simply plopped down with our skates on on the sides of the rink to admire the 360-degree views.

Ice skating on Lake Louise is a straightforward exercise to organize for. Should you don’t have your personal skates, pop in to Wilson Mountain Sports activities in Lake Louise Village on the drive in to the lake. Leases had been solely $12 a pair per day once we visited. You can even lease them from Chateau Ski And Snow within the foyer of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise lodge proper beside the lake, however that’ll price you $20 for 2 hours.

My daughter ice skating in winter in Banff, with Fairmont Chatear Lake Louise in the background
My daughter Lavender’s first time ice skating!

The rink is normally open from early December to round mid-April, however you could need to time your go to with the Ice Magic Pageant (see under).

Lake Louise is in fact not the one one – listed below are a number of different locations to go ice skating in Banff. For extra lake hopping, additionally see my information to one of the best lakes in Banff Nationwide Park.

For extra unimaginable locations to ice skate within the Canadian Rockies, learn my information to the greatest lakes in Jasper Nationwide Park!

The Ice Magic Pageant 

Ice sculpture at Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise, Banff in winter, with peopel skating on Lake Louise in background

Talking of magical experiences at Lake Louise, The Ice Magic Pageant really lives as much as its title. Right now, you may see expert carvers from all over the world form huge blocks of ice into unimaginable sculptures.

Two women standing in front of an ice castle at Lake Louise
My spouse Emily and our good friend from Taiwan

Apart from snapping selfies in frozen castles, it’s also possible to watch velocity ice carving competitions and extra. The 2021 Ice Magic Pageant is slated for January 20 to 31, however you may nonetheless see the ice sculptures for a number of weeks after. We really snapped these pics in early March, and the sculptures had been simply beginning to soften.

Child inside an ice castle at Lake Loiuse
Our children beloved exploring (and sometimes licking…) the ice castles

And earlier than you allow Lake Louise, don’t miss the subsequent entry!

For extra Alberta enjoyable, learn my guides to Drumheller, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Medication Hat, Lethbridge, and Fort McMurray!

Having a Drink in an Ice Bar

Bottles of booze in an ice bar beside Lake Louise, Banff National Park

One more quintessential Banff winter exercise to get pleasure from at Lake Louise is having a drink in a real-life bar made completely of ice. You’ll be able to select from steaming scorching drinks like espresso and scorching chocolate, or one thing stronger for a body-warming buzz.

The Ice Bar normally units up between Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the lake, and stays open so long as it may well keep frozen.

Hitting the Ski Slopes

Skier at Lake Louise, Alberta

Banff Nationwide Park gives a few of the greatest snowboarding on the earth. From superb powder to jaw-dropping surroundings, the “Massive 3” ski resorts in Banff are the one ones in Canada which might be positioned inside a nationwide park.

The Massive 3 are Norquay, which is closest to Banff city, Sunshine Village, which you’ll get to trip a scenic gondola simply to succeed in the underside of, and Lake Louise, probably the most well-known ski resort in Banff.

Should you plan to ski all three resorts, you may get a Massive 3 Go.

Soaking at Higher Scorching Springs

Banff Upper Hot Springs on Sulfur Mountain

What would a day of snowboarding be with out soaking in steaming scorching water after? The mineral-rich thermal waters pouring out from the slopes of Sulfur Mountain are the truth is the raison d’être for Banff Nationwide Park (see extra on that within the subsequent entry), so by taking a dip at Higher Scorching Springs, you’re taking part in Banff’s historical past!

My wife and two kids in Upper Hot Springs in winter
A should in Banff in winter, even with children!

The recent spring spa is positioned a 7-minute drive or bus trip up Mountain Ave from Banff townsite. The beginning of the Banff Gondola (see #7) is a number of steps away.

Word that Higher Scorching Springs is closed till additional discover (final up to date early 2021).

Are you from Edmonton and in search of extra issues to do in winter? Think about doing a staycation in an area room at Fantasyland Lodge like we did!

Uncovering Banff’s Historical past at Cave & Basin

Hot spring cave at Cave and Basin in Banff
The unique scorching spring at Cave and Basin Nationwide Historic Website

To be taught extra about how it began, you may’t miss Cave & Basin Nationwide Historic Website on the backside of Sulfur Mountain . That is the unique web site the place Canadian Pacific Railway employees uncovered an underground scorching spring, resulting in the event of Canada’s first nationwide park. It was as soon as known as “Decrease Scorching Spring” to differentiate it from Higher Scorching Spring up the mountain.

Our kids curling at Cave & Basin, a unique winter activity in Banff
Curling on prime of what was once the unique Banff Scorching Springs pool

Apart from the precise cave and scorching spring, there’s a small museum on web site, and in winter, a lot of kid-friendly actions corresponding to curling and ice hockey could be loved within the courtyard the place the historic scorching spring pool as soon as was. 

Driving the Banff Gondola

Riding the Banff gondola in winter, with mountains in the background

For unparalleled, birds-eye views of Banff townsite and the encompassing valleys & peaks, you may trip Banff Gondola to the summit of Sulfur Mountain. Stare upon wintry landscapes from above, discover the summit trails, and heat up in one of many atmospheric eating places on prime of the mountain.

Boardwalk covered in snow on top of Sulfur Mountain in Banff
Boardwalks lined in snow on Sulfur Mountain

In winter, there are vacation actions galore, corresponding to cookie adorning, big board video games, kids’s crafts, glowing tattoos, and Santa himself makes appearances.

The Banff Gondola will not be low cost, but it surely’s an expertise of a lifetime. See the newest packages and e-book your spots on-line right here.

Johnston Canyon Ice Stroll

Hiking in Johnston Canyon in winter
See little Sage in there?

In winter, gorgeous Johnston Canyon takes on a brand new life, with icicles hanging from rocky cliffs and a few of the greatest frozen waterfalls close to Calgary. You’ll be able to finances one return to Decrease Falls, two hours return to Higher Falls, or extra severe hikers can go all the best way to the Ink Pots (4 hours return).

The path is straightforward sufficient for youths, however could be slippery in winter. Though not completely essential, ice cleats or crampons do assist. For waterfall chasers, additionally see my information to one of the best waterfalls in Alberta!

The canyon is half-hour out of Banff city on Freeway 1A, which is parallel to the primary freeway between Banff and Lake Louise. In winter, there’s no public transportation to Johnston Canyon. 

For extra attention-grabbing ice walks not too removed from Banff, see my information to one of the best straightforward winter hikes in Kananaskis.

Frozen Waterfalls and Ice Climbing

Frozen waterfall at Lake Louise
Frozen waterfall at Lake Louise

In winter, Banff Nationwide Park’s quite a few waterfalls develop into frozen spectacles. Among the most spectacular ones embrace the waterfall on the finish of Lake Louise, Panther Falls (on the Icefields Parkway near Jasper Nationwide Park), and the waterfalls in Johnston Canyon.

It’s additionally potential to go mountain climbing on a few of these frozen waterfalls and a few extra severe climbs within the mountains. Banff Adventures and Yamnuska Mountain Adventures are two respected guides.

Snowshoeing in Banff

Showshoeing, one of the most popular Banff winter activities

It doesn’t get far more Canadian than snowshoeing, does it? Snowshoeing will not be solely tremendous enjoyable and low affect but in addition type of train. Among the hottest trails embrace Johnston Canyon, Sunshine Meadows, and the path round Lake Louise. See a extra detailed listing of snowshoeing trails in Banff right here.

To lease snowshoes for the day, strive Banff Adventures on the town ($15 per day).

Cross Nation Snowboarding in Banff

Cross country skiing, one of the best things to do in banff in winter

One more strategy to get near nature in winter in Banff Nationwide Park is by cross nation snowboarding. This well-liked exercise is usually a surprisingly good exercise, and means that you can cowl extra floor than snowshoeing.  

Among the greatest cross nation trails in Banff are the Fairview Loop, Moraine Lake Street, and Cascade Valley.

Northern Lights in Banff

Northern lights above a frozen lake in Banff
Aurora borealis in Banff Nationwide Park

It’s potential to see northern lights in Banff Nationwide Park all year long, particularly in winter when daylight is brief. Among the greatest spots for viewing Northern Lights in Banff are on the parks lakes, the place you’ll get pleasure from a wide-open sky.

Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake are two good choices close to Banff townsite however far sufficient away to be devoid of sunshine air pollution. Different choices are wherever alongside the Icefields Parkway, which has little or no mild. Remember that Jasper Nationwide Park to the north of Banff is the world’s largest easily-accessible Darkish Sky Protect!

Seeing Ice Bubbles

Me with methane ice bubbles around my head.

In current yr, ice bubbles have develop into all the trend on social media. Ice bubbles are fashioned with micro organism on the water feed on decaying vegetation and launch methane. This methane will get trapped in frozen layers of ice on the floor of the lake, making a stunningly lovely impact.

Ice bubbles can been seen at many lakes within the Canadian Rockies, however Lake Minnewanka normally has one of the best ones. Seeing them is usually a little harmful, although. You’ll must see them early sufficient within the winter that the lake hasn’t been lined in snow but, however when you go too early, the ice could possibly be too skinny and you possibly can fall in. In reality, 4 individuals fell into the freezing water of Lake Minnewanka in a single weekend in early 2021 and needed to be rescued. So please, watch out!

The best possible place for seeing ice bubbles within the Rockies is at Abraham Lake, which is simply exterior of Banff Nationwide Park. See my detailed information on the best way to see ice bubbles at Abraham Lake.

Ultimate Ideas on Visiting Banff in Winter

Going to Banff in winter is an expertise of a lifetime. Irrespective of which mixture of the above actions you do, it would certainly be unforgettable. Even simply one in all them alone is well worth the journey, so likelihood is you’ll be coming again to expertise winter in Banff Nationwide Park time and again!

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