Visiting Banff this winter?? You will love it! This place has all the activities you could dream of against the most magnificent back drop.
Fun Fact: Banff National Park is the third oldest national park in the world! WOW. Super neat!
Whether you are already planning a visit, or need a little motivation to plan one, below you can find my top 10 recommendations for things to do in Banff this winter!
1. Go Skiing/Snowboarding
Even if you are not an avid skier, you cannot go to Banff without checking out the world renowned skiing. I thought I was a great skier until I spent a few seasons out here. These mountains are amazing and give you everything your ski-bum heart could desire. Also, FRESH POW. So much pow. There are two ski resorts in Banff that I recommend. Lake Louise, and Sunshine. Both are great for different reasons. Sunshine is roughly 30 minutes closer, and tends to get better snow since it’s at a higher altitude. However, sunshine has a flat section half way up which can be killer for snowboarders. Lake Louise is a little further but steeper. It also has a great back country section. Also Lake Louise has unbeatable views, along with a killer Après Ski.
2. Skating on lake Louise
Lake Louise (not the ski hill, the actual lake) gets a huge rep in the summer for its bright blue/greenish colour. BUT it is just as amazing in the winter. The best part of Lake Louise in the winter is they shovel out a couple skating rinks so you can go for a nice little skate with the world’s most amazing back drop. Even better than going for a skate is doing the most Canadian thing I can think of and picking up a game of shinny (pick-up hockey) outside, in the rocky mountains….. ahhhhh life does not get much better than that. We started with a small group and before you knew it we had a whole tournament going with random people we had met…. Most Canadian thing ever.
3. Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is another place that gets a lot of attention in the summer but should not be dismissed in the winter. Again, this lake has the most beautiful backdrop of mountains. And the best part is because it’s a small lake, it freezes really well and you can walk along it (please check the conditions before you head out, because I don’t want to tell you it’s safe and then find out someone went out after a really warm week and the ice wasn’t as thick).
4. Hike Johnston Canyon
If you’re anything like me, you don’t want winter to stop you from getting outside and doing all the things you love to do. Which for me, includes hiking. Normally when I hike, I like to summit something or gain some sort of elevation… But that’s not the safest in the winter, so going for a nice flat hike in the winter is good enough for me to get my fill! Johnston canyon is great for this. The scenery is beautiful; see some gorgeous flowing, and frozen waterfalls. And if you’re extra adventurous you can take a crack at ice climbing, which Johnston Canyon is known for! If it’s not for you, you can be sure you’ll find others that are doing it and you can get a pretty cool view of some bad ass ice climbers. Also, try and find this hidden boulder….
5. Cross country skiing in Canmore
So Canmore isn’t technically in Banff, but it may as well be. Canmore is the cutest little mountain town just outside Banff (I actually like Canmore slightly better than Banff…. But shhhhh). Canmore is literally 5 minutes outside of Banff, so don’t worry it’s practically all the same.
ANYWAYS, Canmore has amazing cross country skiing which was designed and developed for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. The Canmore Nordic Center offers you over 60km of world class cross-country trails. They also have a 2.5 km track that is illuminated for night skiing!
6. Dog Sledding
Dog-sledding is one of those things you do once, really love it and probably never do again. BUT are happy you did it. This is a bit of a pricier activity, which could cost you just under $400 for 2 people ($200/person). But still, the winter wonderland that is Banff National Park is the perfect landscape for this fun winter activity.
7. Hot Springs
Hey, fun fact! Did you know that the Banff Upper Hot Springs are the reason that Banff was put on the map? Yup, an explorer discovered the steaming cave of mineral waters in the late 1880s and it led to the protection of the region and eventual development of what is now, Banff National Park!
These hot springs are 100% naturally flowing and is kept at a nice 37-40o C year-round. Perfect way to finish a day on the slopes, or doing all your other fun winter activities!
8. Snow Shoeing
Yay! More fun snowy activities! I remember my mom always wanted to take me snow showing as a kid and I was like wtf… why?? BUT fast forward a couple years and I meet a guy (of course) who wants to take me snow shoeing and me being me is like yaaaaaaaaaa, that sounds fun (because everything sounds fun when you’re into a guy) and bam… turns out it actually is a lot of fun. I just really love getting outside and this is just such a fun and different way to do it. Explore some trails that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to explore on foot! There’s also a secret cabin in the woods that you can snowshoe to and stay in, but if you want to know about it, you’re going to have to message me personally because I don’t know if I want to share all my secrets to the world.
Another activity that is on the pricier side, but again so much fun that it definitely deserves to be on the list. Snowmobiling will cost about $250 if you’re riding solo, or add $130 to that if you are looking to ride tandem. Again, this is something you can do in a lot of places, but not a lot of places will have the insanely beautiful back drop that you’ll have in Banff!
10. Peyto Lake
I know, you’re thinking okkkkkk, chill with the lakes. BUT this place is so beautiful and picturesque that you gotta go!! Here is the great thing about Peyto Lake. In the winter you can’t really summit any mountains in Banff, thus you can’t really get beautiful aerial views of any of these lakes. Buuuuuuut, with Peyto Lake, you start at the top! And when I say start… I mean you start and finish at the top… you don’t go anywhere… just to be clear. So it’s a great opportunity to get a nice view from the top even in the winter!
So that’s it folks! There is my top 10 recommendations for things to do in Banff this winter. If you have been to Banff and have any must do’s… PLEASE let me know in the comments below!! Always looking for more fun winter activities!!
If you need help packing for your winter trip check out my video on winter packing tips!
Photos from Peyto Lake taken by my talented friend Sierra Lerner xo