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    Things To Do Around Banff in Winter For Outdoor Lovers

    Things To Do Around Banff in Winter For Outdoor Lovers

    By Lynn WDestinations

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    So it’s snowing, now what? Instead of cozying up indoors, grab your boots, mittens, toque, skis, snowshoes, and throw everything in your car and get ready for some Banff winter activities. In this article, we’ll detail the best outdoor winter activities and best winter deals in and around this postcard-painted Albertan mountain town.

    Read on to discover extraordinary things to do in winter in Banff!

    Best Outdoor Winter Activities in and around Banff

    Banff is a winter wonderland for outdoor activities, unreal scenery, and when you take off your skis or boots, you can always enjoy a hot drink and the snowy landscapes from inside a warm, quaint restaurant or coffee shop. It’s pure holiday card magic! But what sort of Banff winter activities can you do? We’ve got all the details for you.

    Let the following list of outdoor winter activities in and around Banff inspire you to get out and spend time in this mountain-backed town:

    Skiing/Snowboarding around Banff

    Hit the slopes on one of the three resorts spanning Banff National Park (or visit all three): Banff Sunshine, Mt. Norquay, and Lake Louise Ski Resort, situated closer to Lake Louise than Banff—as you probably guessed. When writing this article, only Mt. Norquay is open, so be sure to check opening dates before you go!

    Can’t decide where to go? Here are some tips:

    • Mt. Norquay is a hub for local families and is only a short drive from downtown Banff (around 15 minutes), making it a popular item on the list of outdoor activities in Banff! It also offers night skiing.
    • Banff Sunshine is ideal for skiers and snowboarders who prefer blue runs! 55% of its slopes fall under the intermediate category. Sunshine Village is also only a 20-minute from downtown Banff.
    • The exceptional views surrounding Lake Louise Ski Resort make the 45-minute drive from downtown Banff so worth it. You’ll find slightly more black diamond runs here (30%), so if you feel like a thrilling experience, surrounded by incredible views, this ski resort is for you.

    If you don’t feel like planning a ski holiday, consider looking into tours around Banff National Park. We can’t help but rave about the 9-Day Rocky Mountain Ski Tour, which takes you to Sunshine and Lake Louise Ski Resort, as well as Kicking Horse Mountain and Fernie.

    Cross-country Skiing around Banff

    Grab those skis and start making your way across winter terrain amid snow-dusted trees! You’ll find a collection of notable cross country skiing routes in Banff. Thankfully, the number of green routes makes cross country skiing one of the best things to do with kids in Banff.

    First-timers will enjoy the Tunnel Mountain Winter Trails. Just go to the Tunnel Mountain Campground, and you can find a few flat trails from here! Check out the free guide for Tunnel Mountain XC Skiing for more detailed information on this beginner-friendly spot.

    For a more challenging option, expert skiers will enjoy the 26.3 km Redearth Creek XC Trail, situated around 30 minutes from Banff. Do note that avalanches can affect this trail! For another challenging route (and epic scenery), consider checking out the Goat Creek to Banff Springs trail, which is around a 40-minute drive from Banff.

    Skating on frozen lake in the Canadian rockies winter near Banff Mt Rundle

    Skating on frozen lake in the Canadian rockies winter near Banff Mt Rundle

    Snowshoeing around Banff

    Snowshoeing in and around Banff will not only give you some much-needed fresh air and outdoor exercise, but it totally immerses you in nature’s snowy bliss. The fairytale scenery will force you to forget about the cold slapping your face as you snowshoe!

    Seasoned snowshoeing veterans will enjoy the Healy Pass Trail. This 19.6 km route can last between 6-10 hours, but there’s nothing better than being surrounded by trees laden with snow on a trail flanked by white-painted mountains. Plus, just think of the warm hot chocolate you can have after in a cozy coffee shop. You can park at Sunshine Village ski resort, which is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Banff.

    Beginners or those craving some outdoor breeze but don’t have the energy for an intense workout will appreciate the Sunshine Meadows Snowshoe Trail (also located in Sunshine Village). This 3.3 km route only has an elevation of 40 m.

    Another family favourite is the Johnston Canyon Snowshoe Trail—the ice waterfalls are spectacular! You can also hike this trail, but it’s definitely recommended to put microspikes on your boots if you do. It takes around 40 minutes to travel here by car from Banff. The road to the trailhead is currently closed, but you can park at Castle Junction and walk to the trailhead (this does add a couple of hours to your journey).

    Hiking around Banff

    Snow or summer, hiking remains as one of the best outdoor activities in Banff.

    If you want to hit the trails during winter, but don’t have snowshoes or skis and only have your microspikes and boots, hiking is the way to go.

    If you enjoy hiking amid frosted pine trees and love frozen lakes backed by shimmering mountain peaks, you’ll fall in love with Boom Lake Trail, a winter hike just 30 minutes from Banff. This is a popular trail for skiers and snowshoers, but the traffic along this route helps to flatten the snow for hikers with microspikes. Do note that this route may be challenging for young kids. You may want to consider a beginner-friendly hike like the Johnson Lake Hike, which is only a 14-minute drive from Banff!

    If you want to stick around Banff and don’t feel like travelling far, you can always do Tunnel Mountain! This hike is the epitome of “bang for your buck.” It’s short but winds to phenomenal views. Look down at the town of Banff while gazing at a river crisscrossing under bridges and various bodies of bright blue bodies of water, while the snow-capped mountains grab your attention in the background. If you’re staying downtown Banff, it’s easy to walk from your hotel to the trailhead.

    You can also hike Sulphur Mountain if you don’t feel like driving far! This hike is slightly more challenging and longer than Tunnel Mountain, but it’s worth it from the top. Even if you go on a cloudy day, you can always reward yourself with a drink at the Sky Bistro. It’s also popular to ride the gondola up, but the hike is definitely worth it!

    For more advice on Banff winter hikes, check out our list of amazing winter hikes in Alberta.

    Skating in Banff

    Nothing feels more Canadian than lacing up skates and gliding across frozen lakes backed by mountain peaks glistened with blankets of snow. Whether you’re looking for a casual skate or a game of shiny, Banff has you covered.

    For nature-made rinks and some of the best Banff winter attractions, head to Vermilion Lakes, Lake Minnewanka, Johnson Lake and Two Jack Lake. There’s nothing like skating or playing hockey amid some of the most outstanding Canadian views. Be sure to check the conditions before you go or before you step on the ice. Just remember that these frozen surfaces are created by nature and not maintained by humans.

    For more maintained rinks, head to Banff Community High School for the Downtown Rink or Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre, an indoor rink free for youth 17 and under. Anyone older will have to pay $6. You can check the schedule here. It’s closed now due to COVID-19, so be sure to check if it’s open before you go.

    Ice climbing near Banff

    Add a pump of adrenaline to your winter with some ice climbing ventures in Banff! If you aren’t experienced in this area, it’s advised to go with a guide—they can also provide you with the necessary equipment.

    However, if you have your ice axe and crampons and you’ve climbed frozen waterfalls before, go for it! Johnston Canyon is a popular spot to ice climb in Banff. You can learn more about ice climbing in Banff via the Alberta Travel website.

    Hiking to frozen waterfalls Jonhston Canyon winter hike near Banff Canada

    Hiking to frozen waterfalls Jonhston Canyon winter hike near Banff Canada

    Stay in Backcountry Lodges

    Submerge in the wild by staying at one of the backcountry lodges in Banff’s backyard. Go on endless hiking or skiing adventures and come back to a quiet spot in the mountains, where only the hush of wind or snow shaking off trees can be heard. The best part? You can only reach these secluded spots by hiking or skiing. Talk about an adventurous winter activity!

    Consider looking into Skoki Lodge or Sundance Lodge.

    Ride the gondola

    Admire the panoramic views of Banff from up high! Located just a few minutes from town sits the Banff Gondola, which travels up Sulphur Mountain. At the top, expect culinary masterpieces to match the mesmerizing views! This is the perfect activity for days when you want to appreciate nature without committing to an exercise. The gondola is also one of the most popular Banff winter attractions!

    Hot Springs

    What better way to end an adventurous vacation than to relax your muscles in hot springs? Admire snow-capped mountain peaks and occasional gusts of winter air as you bask in hot water at Banff Upper Hot Springs!

    Do note that the hot springs are currently closed due to COVID-19, so check the website for updates!


    Tubing is one of the most fun things to do in Banff in winter! If you want a burst of thrill, head to Mt. Norquay, hop in a tube, and unleash screams as you fly down the slippery hill. And don’t even worry about walking up the slope after you fly down. The magic carpet towing system will pull you right back up. There’s even a tubing area tailor-made for young kids, so all members of the family can enjoy this exciting winter activity.

    Beautiful town of Banff in Alberta Canada night dawn winter hiking

    Beautiful town of Banff in Alberta Canada night dawn winter hiking

    Best Winter Deals in and around Banff

    You don’t want to miss out on excellent discounts and packages, do you? Thankfully, we’ve collected the best winter deals in and around Banff, which in turn, will hopefully help to cut costs and ease any money-related stress that can accompany vacations!

    Best Accommodation Deals around Banff

    Why stay somewhere for full price when you can find sweet deals at another? Here are some of the best accommodation deals around Banff:

    • Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa: Pay $150 per person and receive one-night accommodation in a standard room, $50 towards the Keg Restaurant, and 2x$75 credit for the Red Earth Spa. Be sure to call 403-762-9292 right after you make your booking to reserve your spot at the spa! Book at Best of Banff to receive this awesome deal.
    • Canalta Lodge: Stay here and save 20%! This is only a limited offer, so take advantage of this fantastic winter deal while you can. They also have amazing packages, such as, if you book between Sunday and Thursday, you will receive two tickets (valid for one day) to the three big ski resorts around Banff, breakfast, hot tub, sauna, underground parking, all for $325 a night. This offer is not available between December 23-January 3rd.
    • Juniper Hotel: Stay in a standard room, receive a Banff gondola pass, and one daily winter rental of either ice skates, snowshoes, cross country skis, or skates for just $119 per person. You can’t use this package between December 26th and January 2nd. Check out Banff Adventures for more information on this sweet deal.
    • Moose Hotel & Suites: This ideal downtown hotel gives you the best Banff has to offer! When you book your stay here, you’ll receive one night in a superior hotel room, two glasses of feature wine at the Pacini Restaurant, and 2x $100 credit to put towards Meadow Spa and Pools. Pick up your phone and call 403-760-8577 to reserve your spot at the spa! Book at Best of Banff to get this packaged deal.

    Best Ski Deals around Banff

    Enjoy the slopes, knowing you paid a little less for a lot of fun. Take a look at some of the best ski deals around Banff:

    • The Big Drop Card at Mt. Norquay: If you're a local who loves to ski, you’ll love the Big Drop Card! This card grants you three free lift tickets that you can use on your 1st, 4th, and 7th visits to the park and a 25% discount off a full day of powder on your 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th ski! This also includes any tickets purchased on or after your 8th time at the park. Hello, savings!
    • The Ski Week Deal at Sunshine Mountain Lodge: This is basically like an all-inclusive deal, but instead of palm trees and a beach, you get mountain peaks and powder! And not all food is included. However, for $1,197 per person, you get five days of unlimited skiing or snowboarding, five nights of accommodation at Sunshine Lodge, a ski-in, ski-out hotel, 2-hour ski lessons for four days, and various activities, such as tobogganing, bonfire evening, wine and cheese night, and opening and farewell reception. You can only book this deal on selected dates between November and May.
    • Lake Louise Plus Card: Get a free lift ticket on your 1st, 4th, and 7th visits, and receive 20% off lift tickets throughout the season! And for a limited time, this deal is only $99. You don’t want to miss out on this epic package. It also works for Castle, Panorama, RED Mountain, and Schweitzer.

    Best Outdoor Deals around Banff

    Get sweet packaged deals on Banff winter activities! Find out some of the best outdoor deals around Banff:

    • Winter Activity Pass: This fantastic packaged deal includes a sleigh ride, a winter rental of either snowshoes, ice cleats, skates, or a gondola pass! It costs $107 for adults and significantly less for kids.
    • Husky Express: Go on a dogsled tour, receive a Banff gondola pass, and a winter rental of snowshoes, skates, or ice cleats. A sled of 2 costs $570.
    • Family Fun: For $69 (adult price), receive a gondola pass and a rental of either skates, snowshoes, or ice cleats! You’ll have to dish out $45 for 6-15-year-olds.

    Winter Weather in Banff

    While Banff looks like the type of snowy oasis you see painted on holiday cards, the temperatures can still drop to an unbearable cold. On average, winter weather in Banff varies from 0C to -15C. In March, the temperature can rise to above freezing. Be prepared for cold snaps and gusts of chilly wind, but all in all, the chilly weather never takes away from the beauty surrounding Banff. Plus, the warm coffee shops dotting the downtown area provide great refuge from the cold.

    Views of beautiful Mount Rundle EEOR from Banff resort town winter

    Views of beautiful Mount Rundle EEOR from Banff resort town winter

    What do Wear during Winter in Banff

    It all depends on what you want to do! When it comes to deciding what to wear during winter in Banff, it’s best to start with the Canadian essentials: mittens, toques, jackets, boots, thick socks, and layers of clothes. If you’re skiing, tubing, XC skiing, ice climbing, you’ll definitely want to pack snow pants as well. Bring along some sort of waterproof pants to wear atop warm pants or long johns when you go hiking or skating.

    When you’re walking around town, you can get away with wearing jeans, a winter coat, mittens, and a toque, but you may want to pack a couple of layers in case the weather drops!

    Fun Winter Facts about Banff

    Tell your friends and family some fun winter facts about Banff on your road trip here!

    1. Swiss and Austrian mountain guides introduced Banff and Lake Louise to skiing in 1909
    2. The mountains in Banff National Park are around between 45 to 120 million years old
    3. Canada’s first national park was Banff National Park—it was established in 1887 and called initially Rocky Mountains Park
    4. Banff National Park has about 1,000 glaciers
    5. Banff is the highest town in Canada at around 4500 feet above sea level

    Banff is the perfect winter getaway for families, couples, and friends! It has a little something for everyone—and a whole lot of beauty!

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