Post Summary: Things To Do In Banff In Winter, Where to Find Them, and What To Expect During Winter In Banff
Have you ever wondered where you can find the most magical winter wonderland experience? Your mind may immediately see the North Pole as a worthy contender…but let’s be real, it’s too far (and probably WAY too cold) for just a week’s vacation.
Berty and I were dreaming of a place where we could see amazing mountains, powdery snow, and admire the stillness and beauty of winter.
Boy, did we find the perfect winter escape…in Banff National Park!
You don’t need to be a hardcore winter lover to visit Banff during the snowy season. There’s a little something for everyone! In this post, we’re breaking down the quintessential Banff winter activities, where to go, what to do, and all the photogenic places to capture your amazing trip.
You’ll be packing your bags before you’re finished reading this blog post!
If you’ve been to Banff in summer, don’t write off a winter trip just yet. It’s a completely different experience in the Canadian Rockies and we’re here to share all the amazing things to do in Banff in winter!
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20 Amazing Things To Do In Banff In Winter
This post was made possible by Travel Alberta, The Banff Centre, Banff-Lake Louise Tourism and all of their partners for Banff winter activities. We were given an Alive Pass to participate in winter experiences so that we can share and inspire our wonderful readers to visit Banff in winter. As always, all of the opinions and writing in this post are completely our own!
All Little History About Banff National Park
Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park, (established in 1885) and one of five Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.
The other ones are Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park, and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
Also nearby are Mount Assiniboine, Mount Robson (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies), and Hamber provincial parks.
All of these parks are recognized under the UNESCO World Heritage program as an incredible site for fossil remains of marine life (yes, this was all once underwater!), diverse glacial processes, and natural beauty, of course.
Where Is Banff National Park?
Banff National Park is located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, in the province of Alberta, Canada. It’s Canada’s first national park (established in 1888) and gets around 4 million visitors every year!
The park is known for its amazing mountain views, relaxing hot springs, and amazing geological formations. Banff National Park is also a world-class destination for outdoor sports year round.
In the summer, you can go backpacking, fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking and so much more.
Banff in the winter provides a whole new palette of activities including skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, and so much more!
To fully experience Banff, you should visit at least twice – once in the summer and once in the winter!
How Do I Get To Banff?
The easiest way to get to Banff National Park is to fly into the Calgary, Alberta International Airport (YYC). Once you land in Calgary, you will need to find transportation to take you the 1.5-hour drive west into the mountains to Banff, Alberta.
Your hotel may already have a shuttle waiting for you (lucky you!), or you can choose to rent a car and drive yourself. We chose to rent a car to have more freedom around Banff in winter, and choose what winter activities in Banff we wanted to do and when!
If you’re concerned about driving from Calgary to Banff during the winter season, don’t fret.
Since Banff National Park is an extremely popular place for tourists, Alberta does an excellent job of keeping roads clear. Just take extra caution if you are driving during or right after a snowfall.
Quick Facts About Visiting Banff National Park
- The main language spoken in Banff is English, with a heavy influence of French. You will see many signs in both languages.
- The daylight hours during winter usually range between 8 – 10 hours.
- Banff uses the Canadian Dollar. The current exchange rate between USD and CAD can be found here.
- Peak Season For Banff in Winter: December – March
Now let’s get to the good stuff!
The Essential List Of Banff Winter Activities
1. Take The Banff Gondola Up To Sulphur Mountain For Insanely Beautiful Pictures Of The Canadian Rockies
Ever wondered what the Canadian Rockies looked like from the top, but didn’t have the mountaineering skills to climb your way there? Lucky for you, Banff has a gondola that will take you to the top of Sulphur Mountain for breathtaking views, without all the hard work!
Sitting at 7,486 feet in elevation, the Sulphur Mountain Summit has a newly renovated outdoor boardwalk (aka views views views), two amazing restaurants, an interpretive center, and 360-degree views of the Canadian Rockies.
From the top, you can experience beautiful views of the Banff town center below, Mount Rundle, The Bow River, and the mountains surrounding the Bow Valley.
Tickets to the Banff Gondola aren’t the cheapest, but totally worth it on a clear and beautiful day. Adult admission is $58 CAD, youth are $29 CAD, and you can get tickets for $45 CAD after 5 pm. We highly recommend visiting in the evening to see the Banff town lights glow during blue hour!
2. Visit the Banff Centre
The Banff Centre was founded in 1993 and fosters a community of creatives, musicians, writers, leaders, and thinkers!
Their mission is to develop leaders for Alberta (and the world!) to change the world in positive ways, all while doing it in the middle of the beautiful Canadian Rockies.
This is a great place in Banff to attend art shows, listen to performances and even bring larges groups for lectures or exhibitions! We also suggest taking a tour of the campus area, which has unique architecture, state of the art facilities, and some of the best views in Banff.
If you’re feeling hungry after your tour, the Banff Centre has a number of great restaurant and cafe options to fit any budget.
Cheaper, to-go type of food can be found at Le Cafe for a quick bite. A nice sit-down meal (with a fantastic view) can be found at Three Ravens Fine Dining and Wine Bar and Vistas Buffet. For late night drinks, stop by Maclab Bistro to meet interesting people and try creative comfort food!
Seen below: The Banff Center provides the Leighton Artists Studios, a secluded and forested area of campus that provides temporary housing for artists. These beautiful cabins provide a space to foster creativity in any and all forms.
3. Go Dog Sledding In Banff National Park
One of the most quintessential things to do in Banff in winter is to take a dog sledding trip!
Dog sledding history dates back to the Inuit People of Northern Canada in 1000BC, who used dog sledding as a mode of transportation for supplies, food, and communication between areas. Today, they aren’t used for survival, but instead for the enjoyment of you and the dogs!
There are many respectable dog sledding companies in Banff that provide a great winter experience.
You can choose a company that lets you be your own musher like Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours and watch the dogs run their little hearts out. It’s a really fun experience to give these dogs extra love, and this company has tons of routes to take them through to keep things interesting!
You can also opt to simply go along for the ride at Kingmik Tours, located near Lake Louise. Kingmik brings you to the continental divide into British Columbia, so you can say you’ve taken a dog sled all the way over to another province!
During this trip to Banff in winter, we experienced a half-day excursion with SnowyOwl Dog Sled Tours, where we got to take a 10km trail through Canmore and drive the sled! We drove on a frozen lake, swerved through forest trails, and looked out for moose on the tracks!
4. Take A Heli Tour With Alpine Heli Tours In Canmore
If you are looking for once-in-a-lifetime activities to do in Banff in winter, this is it, my friends.
Climbing to nearly 10,000 feet and seeing the Canadian Rockies as far as the eye can see is a pretty incredible experience.
For this trip, Berty and I drove down to Canmore, Alberta from Banff (a 2o-minute drive East on the Trans Canada Highway) and went to Alpine Heli Tours to get our minds blown.
Alpine Helicopters will run 12, 25, and 30-minute sightseeing tours. These trips can include views of the Three Sister Mountain Range, The Goat Mountain Range, Spray Lakes, and possibly an up-close-and-personal look at the majestic Mount Assiniboine.
If you’ve never flown in a helicopter before, a Canadian Rockies helicopter tour would be an amazing first experience!
The 12-minute tour starts at $150 CAD per person, and this is the tour that Berty and I were able to experience. We got reallllyyy close to the mountains, saw the thick forest with a dusting of snow, and went crazy snapping as many photos as we could!
Note: This trip was hosted and sponsored by Travel Alberta, for the purpose of inspiring you to take your own amazing trip!
5. Capture Mount Rundle At Two Jack Lake
Visiting Two Jack Lake is a very easy winter day trip from Banff. Just 15 minutes from the Banff town center and you could be strapping on your snowshoes or ice skates for some winter fun!
There are many Banff winter hikes to choose from, especially around this area of the park. Click here to discover some Banff trails fit for your level, and remember to have fun!
Photographer Tips: This place is great for sunrise (the sun comes up directly behind it during winter in Banff!) BUT it’s also great during the middle of the day! Come during this time for fewer crowds and a lot more sunlight.
6. Photograph A Passing Train At Morant’s Curve
Love the Polar Express? Morant’s Curve in Banff is pretty much the real-life version of that magical train track and a beautiful and accessible place to snap a photo! The train track curves to match the Bow River and is a spectacular Banff photography location for winter shooting.
You can easily find Morant’s Curve located on the Bow Valley Parkway.
The easiest way to reach this amazing Banff photography location would be to get off the Lake Lousie Exit of the Trans Canada Highway and turn east to finally go south down the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A). There is a small parking lot labeled “Morant’s Curve” and you simply have to cross the street to see it. Easy!
Important Banff Photograph Note: The train times are commonly elusive and don’t follow a set schedule. We’ve heard of people waiting hours for a train and others waiting two minutes! Come with reasonable expectations and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when a train passes by!
7. Explore The Frozen Johnston Canyon
Take a day trip from Banff to experience a Johnston Canyon Ice Walk! You can easily do this on your own, or book it through a tour (we booked it through Discover Banff Tours) for a guided experience with tons of cool geological information about this beautiful frozen canyon.
During the Johnston Canyon ice walk, you will walk 5km round trip on a well-maintained steel walkway that suspends over the canyon.
It’s an easy hike with minor elevation changes, but it’s important to remember to wear microspikes. Microspikes are like boot covers for the bottom of your shoes with little spikes to prevent you from slipping on the ice.
During this winter trip in Banff to Johnston Canyon, you will see six different frozen waterfalls, each with their own beauty and unique features. Some are completely frozen solid, but you can still see water flowing underneath all the layers of ice!
This is a great place for easy Banff winter hikes. You can opt to walk all the way to the Lower and Upper Falls for the “full” trail, or if the weather permits, go a little farther to see the Ink Pots.
If you’re looking for even more adventurous things to do in Banff in winter, consider hiring a guide to take you ice climbing! There are tons of places to do this, but Johnston Canyon is a popular place for beginners and experts alike.
8. Capture The Sunrise At Castle Mountain
If you’re deciding what to do in Banff in winter, make sure that a visit to Castle Mountain during sunrise is a priority!
Berty and I decided to drive to the frozen Bow Valley River to get the morning glow before sunrise. To access this area, you need to drive over to Castle Junction, which is an exit between the Banff town center and the Lake Louise area.
Park on the side of the road (make sure you have your Banff National Park Pass!) and go through the wildlife gate. Make sure to close the gate behind you to keep animals safe and off the road.
Here are the coordinates: 51.266560, -115.926661
Winter Tip: Winter in Banff means later sunrises and more time to sleep in. During the peak winter months (December/January) the sun doesn’t rise until around 8:30 am! If you are a photographer, this is another awesome reason to book a Banff winter vacation!
9. Try Your Balance With Ice Skating At Lake Louise
During Winter in Banff, Lake Louise is one of many lakes that completely freezes over. This means it’s time to break out the ice skates and hockey pucks for some good old winter fun in Banff!
Lake Louise is the most popular lake to go ice skating in Banff. It’s also the most scenic ice rink in the world! This is because the mountain backdrop is beyond comparison, and the ice is well maintained by the staff at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
There are many other places to go ice skating in Banff too. If the lakes are clear, Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake are also really great additions to a Banff winter vacation.
Ice Skate Rentals: The nearest place to rent ice skates is at Wilson Mountain Sports, just a 5-minute drive down the hill from Lake Louise. A pair of skates are $12 CAD for the day and a hockey stick is $9 CAD.
10. Capture Vermillion Lakes During Sunrise Or Sunset
Just outside of the town of Banff is one of the most photogenic spots in Banff National Park in winter!
Vermillion Lakes is popular year-round, but especially beautiful during a Banff winter vacation.
Here, there are some thermal patches with mini methane bubbles like the kind you can see at Abraham Lake. The frozen lake’s foreground can also make for an incredible Banff winter photograph!
There are also tons of opportunities to pull your car over and take a picture of the amazing Mount Rundle, which seems to tower above the Banff town center.
If you’re staying in any of the amazing hotels in Banff, you will have a very easy time reaching Vermillion Lakes.
Additionally, the sun rises later and sets earlier, so there’s plenty of time to sleep in and still catch the beautiful sunrise and sunset colors at Vermillion Lakes!
Banff Winter Photography Tip: If you are setting up your tripod to take pictures, make sure to pack warm items! Bring some blankets, hand warmers, and wear plenty of layers. Remember to wear a hat and gloves to keep warm while you are outside.
11. Explore The Famous Abraham Lake Methane Bubbles
If you are looking for iconic pictures of Banff in winter, Abraham Lake is an essential Banff winter activity!
This man-made lake is actually a large area of a river, which means there’s a constant water flow beneath all those layers of ice.
The most popular place to park and explore the lake is at Preacher’s Point, off of Highway 11. Here, you can park your car and walk down to the top of the lake.
Don’t let the distance from Banff deter you – this 2-hour and 15-minute drive (185 kilometers from Banff) may be long, but you will be driving through the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) which is one of the most scenic drives in the entire world.
Important Notes For Banff Photography In Winter:
- Make sure to time your trip to Abraham Lake after a long period of no snowfall. This will give you a better chance of seeing the bubbles through the ice-covered lake! Fresh snow = hidden bubbles.
- The best time for viewing the bubbles depends on Mother Nature, but you can expect good turnouts between December and February.
- Walking on ice is a dangerous activity. Wear microspikes (these attach to the bottom of your boots and have little metal spikes to help prevent you from slipping), and always test the ice with one foot before committing to a full step. It’s generally considered safe (ish) to walk on ice when it’s 4-6 inches thick. However, never trust ice completely.
12. Spend an Afternoon Soaking at The Banff Upper Hot Springs
Long day after skiing or snowboarding on the Banff Mountain resorts? Try ending the day with a relaxing soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Built in 1932, the Banff Upper Hot Springs initially began as a sacred place for the indigenous people of Banff. After Banff National Park was founded in 1885, the government made efforts to protect and preserve this space for generations of soakers to come.
Today, it’s the perfect place to ease your sore muscles from a long day of snowshoeing, skiing, or other amazing Banff winter activities.
Tips For Soaking: Towel rentals are $1.90 and locker tokens are $1 for single use. We suggest bringing a small number of items and bringing your own towel to save on money – especially if you are traveling in a big group.
Ticket Admission to Banff Upper Hot Springs: Adult tickets are $8.30 CAD, youth tickets are $6.30 CAD, and children under 3 are free. Check the Banff Hot Springs website to determine the hours of operation during your visit.
13. Walk To The Frozen Boathouse On Lake Minnewanka
During the peak winter season in Banff (around February/March), you will find that most of the lakes have completely frozen over, including Lake Minnewanka. It’s crazy to us that a lake this big can totally freeze over, but it does!
If you’re around for Banff in winter, take some time and walk out to the frozen boathouse in the middle of the lake. You can also spot some ice fishing holes, and may be lucky spotting some wildlife!
In the summer, the Lake Minnewanka driving loop is fully open, but it’s only partially open in the winter. This is because one part of the driving loop is a special wildlife corridor during this season, which means tons of bighorn sheep and elk!
Other Banff Winter Things To Do Around Lake Minnewanka:
- Snowshoe Trails – The Cascade Trail is what we recommend
- Nordic Skiing Trails (Cross-Country Skiing)
- Banff Sunrise and Sunset Photography
- View the Northern Lights (with very good conditions and clear skies!)
14. Explore The Amazing Banff Skiing Hills
One of the most popular winter activities in Banff for visitors is going up to the mountain for skiing and snowboarding.
Banff has some of the most beautiful mountain resorts in the world – not only for their amazing summit views but for world-class snow and winter activities!
Banff has three hills so close to one another that they coined the phrase “SkiBig3″! You can buy a bundle of lift tickets to all three Banff mountain resorts which are Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt Norquay.
Not sure which one to choose? Here’s a little rundown of the Banff Ski Resorts:
- Banff Sunshine: Located on the Continental Divide, this resort has 137 trails perfect for intermediate skiers ready for a challenge!
- Lake Louise: Family-friendly area, perfect for all levels. This is a great place to take some ski and snowboarding lessons if you’re just starting out.
- Mount Norquay: Perfect for the more advanced level skiers and snowboarders. You can opt to take it easy on the tubing hill here, or even go night skiing.
You can purchase a 3-day pass for around $300-$400 CAD (depending on the time of year) which gives you access to all mountains resorts, free shuttles to and from the mountains, and night skiing access. The pass can also get you special perks at restaurants (SkiBig3 pass), a complimentary pass to the Banff Upper Hot Springs, and free admission to the Whyte Museum.
Which brings us to another perk of the SkiBig3 pass…(keep reading)
15. Be A Kid Again At The Mount Norquay Tubing Hill
Not really interested in skiing or snowboarding, but still want to join in on the mountain fun in the Canadian Rockies? We suggest checking out Mount Norquay’s tubing hill!
The tubing hill is fun for the whole family, and open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. After December, they are also open at night on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
You can choose to race your friends down one of their eight lanes and walk or ride back up to the top for more fun. Staff at the top can help you get situated, and even help you get some spins in as you glide down the mountain.
Tickets are $35 CAD for adults and a perfect way to spend the day if you are a non-skier or non-snowboarder! Who says they have to have all the mountain fun??
16. Discover The “Surprise” At Surprise Corner
One of the most surprising (see what we did there?) places to visit in Banff during winter would be Surprise Corner.
It is aptly named because of the sudden appearance The Banff Springs Hotel makes when you walk or drive up Tunnel Mountain Road, just outside of the main town square of Banff.
From the viewing platforms at Surprise Corner, you can see the hotel across the Bow River, with the Bow River in the foreground and Bow Falls just a little farther upstream from the hotel.
It’s often referred to as one of the most beautiful hotels in Canada and one of the oldest too! The Banff Springs Hotel was built in 1888 and served as a scenic mountain stop on the Canadian Pacific Railway route.
This is an extremely easy trip to take if you are staying in Banff – just a 5-minute drive from downtown. A small parking lot is off to the right of Tunnel Mountain Road, with a few viewing platforms to choose from.
We opted to see this place at night to capture the stars in the sky above the Banff Springs Hotel!
17. Go Snowshoeing On One Of Many Trails For Banff Winter Hikes
There are over 1000 miles of trails to explore in Banff National Park in winter! There are many places to take guided group tours, or you can go out and explore on your own.
Berty and I had a ton of fun making our own path and finding our way around the forest near Lake Louise. Just remember to read up on avalanche basics and always go with a buddy.
Lake Louise Winter Snowshoe Trails (Click here for more details and a full list of Banff snowshoe trails)
- Lake Louise Lakeshore – 4 kilometers out and back, no elevation gain (very easy)
- Fairview Lookout: 2 km out and back (easy)
- Louise Creek: 5.6 km return, 195 m elevation gain (moderate)
- Highline Trail to Paradise Creek: 9 km out and back (moderate, avalanche training required)
- Mirror Lake via Lake Agnes hiking trail: 5.4 kilometers out and back (difficult, avalanche training required)
- Taylor Lake: 12.6 km out and back, 585 m elevation gain, (challenging, avalanche training required)
Don’t have snowshoes? No problem! There are tons of places to rent snowshoes in Banff and Lake Louise.
First, check to see if your hotel or resort rents out equipment. Secondly, you can rent gear at trusted places like Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise, or Banff Adventures located in the town of Banff. Rentals range anywhere from $10-$30 for a day’s rental.
18. Take A Drive Down The Icefields Parkway
Too cold to take a hike or go to the mountains? Try taking a drive up the Icefields Parkway to get amazing views right from the car!
The Icefields Parkway in winter is an incredible way to experience the Canadian Rockies and all the wonderful features that the season provides.
You can opt to drive the entire 140 miles of the scenic drive all the way up to Jasper National Park, or you can drive and turn around whenever you please. There are many scenic pull-offs to see, all without the pressure of strenuous hikes.
Along Highway 93, here are some of the points of interest that are worth a stop:
- Peyto Lake: (1-hour drive, 100 km from Banff) One of the most photogenic places in the summer, this place can look gorgeous with a fresh blanket of snow! You won’t be able to go down to Peyto Lake but rather view it from above.
- Bow Lake: (1-hour drive, 93 km from Banff) Watch the snowfall at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and cross the wooden bridge in the snow.
- Saskatchewan River Crossing: (1.5-hour drive, 135 km from Banff) Beautiful river photographs right from the road.
- Columbia Icefield: (2.5-hour drive, 185 km from Banff) Explore a glacier in the middle of winter!
Remember: Check the road conditions before leaving on a trip up the Icefields Parkway in winter. The snow is only plowed from the road during daylight hours, so make sure you have enough time to get where you’re going and have a full tank of gas!
Want more tips for driving in Banff in winter? Scroll to the bottom of this post to read more safety tips!
19. Photograph The Iconic Emerald Lake Lodge In Yoho National Park
If you have time for a day trip from Banff, consider driving to Yoho National Park and exploring the magic of Emerald Lake Lodge in the winter.
Being so remote from other locations and amenities in the Canadian Rockies, this place truly feels like a wilderness escape. The lodge with the towering mountains in the background is the perfect scene to snap some photos and soak in the relaxing ambiance.
Spend some time photographing the peaceful resort across the lake, and stay for dinner at their amazing restaurant and bar.
20. Hike With The Wolves
Love wolves? Ever wondered what it would be like to get up close and personal with one? Come to Golden, BC and take a hike while walking amongst these majestic creatures in the Canadian Rockies.
Northern Lights Wildlife hosts wolf hikes for photographers, where you can wander a trail while they roam around being, well, wolves! This is a great opportunity to get close to wolves and capture them running around and playing in the snow.
During the Wolf Centre tours, you get to hear about the wolf conservation efforts of the center and gain a little more awareness about these shy and beautiful creatures.
Where To Stay In Banff In Winter
Okay, you’ve got tons of things to do during your trip, but where should you stay? Luckily, there are so many amazing places to choose from, all the way from budget-friendly to extra splurge-worthy locations.
Budget Places To Stay In Banff
Trying to go to Banff in winter but don’t have a ton of money to spend? There are plenty of affordable options to choose from, including homestays, hostels, and coming during the off-season in Banff. Here are a few suggestions:
- Airbnb (click here to get $40 off your first booking!)
- Samesun Banff Hostel (one of the most top rated hostels in Banff)
- Banff International Hostel (close to the Banff town center)
Convenient Hotels In Banff
If you are without a car, convenience is key to choosing a place to stay in Banff National Park. You’ll want to find a place with a shuttle service to the mountains, complimentary transportation, and/or easy pickups for Banff winter tours you may book.
- Brewster’s Mountain Lodge (downtown Banff)
- Sunshine Mountain Lodge (perfect for skiers who want to be near the slopes)
- Deer Lodge (close to all the Lake Louise winter activities)
- Elk Avenue Hotel (right downtown)
Splurge Resorts In Banff
Let’s say this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Maybe a honeymoon, anniversary, or just an epic Banff winter vacation you’ve been saving up for! Lucky for you, Banff has incredible, and we mean INCREDIBLE, five-star hotels and resorts that will make you feel like royalty.
Here are some options for those of you who don’t mind the splurge and are looking to go all out during your Banff winter itinerary.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (Lake Louise)
- The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (Banff, Alberta)
- The Rimrock Mountain Resort (Banff, Alberta)
- The Post Hotel (Lake Louise)
- Stoneridge Mountain Resort (Canmore, Alberta)
Tips For Winter Travel In Banff, Canada
Winter driving in Banff National Park, the Icefields Parkway, and Jasper National Park require proper caution and preparation. Consider these points below to have the safest and most fun trip possible!
Purchase A Banff National Park Pass
This isn’t a consideration but rather a requirement. Make sure to purchase a national park pass for the number of days you will be visiting Banff.
If you plan to visit other national parks in Canada during the year, think about purchasing an annual pass to save quite a bit of money on entrance fees.
Pack A Shovel and An Ice Scraper
If you are renting a car in Banff National Park in winter, there will most likely be an ice scraper included in your reservation. If you’ve never used one, an ice scraper is an important tool to remove snow and ice from your car windows so you can see while driving.
A shovel may seem like a little bit of an overkill, but if you are considering traveling to farther places like up the Icefields Parkway or Abraham Lake, we highly suggest packing one.
Snowfall can happen fast and HARD, so you may end up having to dig your car out of a parking space!
Drive With A Full Tank of Gas
Last time we were visiting Banff in winter, a semi-truck jack-knifed on the Trans Canada Highway, causing a FOUR-HOUR traffic backup. We had no choice but to sit in our car and wait, so make sure you have plenty of gas for your trip, just in case!
Check The Weather Before You Go
The weather in Banff during winter can change in the blink of an eye.
Before you embark on your winter activities in Banff for the day, make a habit of checking the local weather report and road conditions. Here are some websites to save and bookmark for your Banff winter vacation:
It’s also important to remember that winter tires are REQUIRED to drive on the Icefields Parkway between November 1st and March 31st.
Make Sure To Hydrate And Moisturize!
The air in the Canadian Rockies is commonly dry, and even more so in the winter in Banff. Make sure to carry water in your car and make a habit of drinking water at every meal to stay hydrated.
Exposure to the cold climate (especially when skiing and snowboarding) can dry out skin and cause chapped lips. Pack ultra-heavy lotion and carry chapstick with you for quick relief on the go.
Bring Lots of Layers
If you are deciding whether to wear that extra layer or not, wear it. It’s a lot easier to strip layers than it is to add them, so always err on the side of too warm when packing for Banff in the winter.
See below for a more detailed list of things you should pack for Banff in winter!
What To Pack For Winter In Banff, Canada
It’s important to know what to wear in Banff for winter. Wearing too little can cause you to be uncomfortable, or even worse, get you sick!
Read below for tips on staying warm while experiencing a Banff National Park winter, and suggestions on what to be packing for cold climates.
The most important thing about preparing for Banff winter activities is to remember to dress in layers. The most common way to dress in layers is with a base layer, a down layer, and finally a waterproof layer.
Make sure there is plenty of air flow between the layers for maximum warmth. This counts for socks as well! Doubling up on socks can really make a difference in keeping your feet warm on those Banff winter hikes!
Pack (or rent) Specialty Gear
To maximize your time outside for Banff winter activities, it’s important to wear the proper snow gear. Here are some items to consider packing (or renting!) during your snowy vacation:
- Gaiters. These are essentially little sleeves that wrap around the bottom of your boot and go up to your knee. They are used to keep snow out of your shoes when walking through deep snow.
- Microspikes. These attach to the bottom of your boots and have little metal spikes to help prevent you from slipping on ice.
- Buff. A buff is a multi-purpose accessory, made of merino wool that protects your face and neck from the old winter wind.
- Goggles. If you plan to ski, goggles will protect your eyes from the harsh sun and cold elements.
Use Aids To Stay Warm
Hand warmers, a blast of warm air from the car, or a hot cocoa in hand can really make a difference for your cold body. Pack what you think you will need!
A good rule is to pack more than you need so that you don’t have to be anxious about being warm enough!
Average Temperature in Banff In Winter: The average temperature during the winter in Banff (December to March) can range from a high of 23 degrees Fahrenheit to an average low of 6 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this area is notorious for cold snaps – we even experienced a -19 F day during our trip!
Map of Banff Winter Activities And Things To Do In Banff In Winter
Okay, we’ve prepped you with winter activities in Banff, what to pack, how to prepare for winter driving and even suggestions on where to stay! Now the only challenge with Banff in winter is choosing what activities to pack into your itinerary!
To help you better plan out your days, we’ve included a google map of all the places mentioned in this post. Use it to create the perfect Banff winter itinerary and maximize your time in the beautiful Canadian Rockies!
To Wrap It All Up…
If you are wondering what to do in Banff in winter, we hope this post could give you some really great ideas to get planning! Banff National Park during the winter is an incredible experience. We hope we could shed some lights on the beauty of this season in the Canadian Rockies!
What are some of your favorite winter things to do in Banff National Park? Tell us in the comments below, or tag us with #themandagies on Instagram so we can see your adventures!
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