“What is there to do in Banff in winter” is a question I get asked a lot. There may actually be MORE things to do in Banff in the winter months than in summer. There are activities galore for all ages and abilities and it is absolutely worth visiting Banff in winter. Here are just some of the main attractions I enjoy so be sure to add these ideas to your travel bucket list.
Best Things to do in Banff in Winter
Go Skiing – at 3 different resorts
Banff National Park has 3 of the best ski resorts in North America. They are: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay. A great way to enjoy all three mountain peaks is with a SkiBig3 pass. Whether you are taking a shuttle bus or have a rental car, it’s just a one hour drive between the town of Banff and Lake Louise so enjoy as much time as possible on the slopes.
Johnston Canyon Ice Walk and Ice Climbing
From December to April, Johnston Canyon provides a couple unique things to do in Banff in winter. The waterfalls freeze during the winter making it an interesting place for an ice walk. Be sure to rent snowshoes or cleats in Banff, or take a guided tour. If you really want to do something unique, try ice climbing! It’s a great place to learn and there are numerous guided trips available with instructors and gear to ensure beginners through to advanced will be safe while having fun. Take the picturesque Bow Valley Parkway to get there.
Wild skating on glacial lakes has been very on trend the last couple years. However, wild skating – or simply outdoor skating as Canadians know it – has been one of the most popular things to do in Banff in winter for decades. There’s something special about strapping on a pair of skates and taking to the frozen alpine lakes and rivers in the Canadian Rockies.
Heading to Lake Louise? Read my 33 Best Things to Do in Lake Louise in Winter post.
Sip Hot Chocolate
Warm up with a decadent cup of cocoa after a long day. Banff’s best places for hot chocolate is at Evelyn’s Coffee Bar in downtown Banff or STOCK Food + Drink deli at Fairmont Banff Springs.
One of the longest available activities makes cross-country skiing a must for things to do in Banff in winter when making your holiday travel plans. Cross-country skiing is available in Banff and Lake Louise from November through to April.
Snowshoeing is a classic Canadiana winter experience and an easy one to add to your list for those of any age, ability or fitness level. If you can walk, you can snowshoe! It’s a fun way to explore new terrain that wouldn’t be easily accessible in winter.
If you’ve never been on these bikes, the tires are extra wide providing great grip for you to be able to rip around safely on snow and ice. There are several great trails around Canmore and Banff that are ideal for fat biking. Fat bikes can be rented from Snowtips Bactrax.
Originally used as transportation by Canada’s Inuit, dog sledding is now available as a recreational activity. Several providers offer dog-sledding in Banff National Park; however two companies that are a good option are Kingmik Dog Sled Tours and Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours. You can go dog sledding to the Continental Divide, which is the border between Banff in Alberta and Yoho National Park in British Columbia.
Another iconic experience in the Canadian Rockies is a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Enjoy the sounds of the horses hooves and jingling bells as you’re pulled across the snow and along the shoreline of Lake Louise towards one of the most beautiful places, Victoria Glacier. Brewster Adventures has offered these winter sleigh rides in Banff for decades and you’re sure to enjoy.
Watch Ice Carving
Ice Magic ice carving competition happens less than a minute walk from the shores of Lake Louise every January. It’s a short window – just 11 days – but you can enjoy the incredible artistry long after the competition. It’s one of many easy and interesting things to do in Banff in winter for family members of all ages.
There are a lot of dining options but going for fondue dinner is an absolute must on your list of things to do in Banff in winter. Luckily there are two excellent options to choose from while in Banff National Park: Walliser Stube at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Waldhaus Restaurant in Banff. Dig in and enjoy!
Get High in the Sky
Taking the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain is ideal for sightseeing and the perfect place for those wanting to enjoy the best views of the mountains at a more leisurely pace.
Planning a summer visit? Be sure to read my Travel Guide to Moraine Lake.
Soak in the Hot Springs
Banff Upper Hot Springs and its 100% natural mineral water is one of the more popular attractions. And for good reason. Taking a soak in the warm water is such a great thing to do after your first day on the slopes.
Take a Road Trip
The Icefields Parkway offers one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Take a scenic drive to Jasper National Park but be sure to get an early start so you have enough time for some wild skating on a frozen lake along the way.
I hope these things to do in Banff in winter give you lots of ideas to consider. If you’re planning a trip to visit Banff in winter for the first time, read my post with 3 reasons why you should. I also answer your most FAQ’s about Banff in winter. I have no doubt you will have a great time in this special place.
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