If there’s one thing Mother Nature has mastered in Canada, it’s creating a series of landscapes that are nothing short of visual poetry—masterpieces that need to be seen to be believed. And while Banff National Park is just a tad too well known to be called a “hidden gem,” it’s definitely one of the jewels in Canada’s great crown of must-see natural wonders. Check out this guide to the top things to do in Banff in winter.
The drive alone from Banff to Lake Louise and back again is spectacular—flanked by the Rocky Mountains, millions of evergreens, and several bodies of water frozen by the crisp mountain air.
With more than 4000 square miles to explore, it is not difficult to find things to do in Banff in Winter. There’s no better place to take advantage of quintessential Canadian activities within a half-hour radius.
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Best Things to do in Banff in Winter
Ski or Snowboard at Three Ski Resorts
Skiing is definitely one of the top things to do in Banff in winter. This is a skier’s paradise and within the park itself, there are three options: Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff Sunshine Village, and Mt. Norquay, each offering something unique.
For those postcard-perfect views of the Rockies at every turn, look no further than Lake Louise Ski Resort. It also offers daredevils and expert skiers some of the most challenging terrains and bowls in the country.
Banff Sunshine Village is everything one wants in a family-friendly mountain, with runs for every ability available from the top of nearly every chairlift. It’s set amidst meadows with the mountains in the backdrop and allows even novices to ski through trees. Banff Sunshine Village boasts one of Canada’s only heated chairlifts, too.
Mt. Norquay, though smaller scale, is the only mountain in the area with night skiing. A SkiBig3 pass gives you the flexibility to ski at all three resorts.
Go Snow Tubing in Banff
Snow tubing in Banff has evolved into one of the most fun things to do in Banff in Winter. Head to the Norquay Tube Park to experience eight fast lanes and the longest tubing lanes in all of Alberta.
After skiing at Lake Louise end your day with a visit to Sunny Tube Park. Both parks feature magic carpets that will take you to the top of the tubing hill ensuring you save time and have an amazing experience snow tubing in Banff.
Explore Banff on Fat Tire Bikes
Fat tire biking and e-fat tire biking are incredible things to do in Banff in Winter. Exploring the landscape on two wheels means you can escape the crowds and see some of Banff’s best scenery. There are plenty of easier trails accessible from the town of Banff as well as moderate trails like the climb up Tunnel Mountain.
Families with teens can join a two-hour tour with Bikescape and explore the park on electric fat bikes. Local guides lead groups on some of Banff’s best winter trails while sharing some of Banff’s history. Keep your eyes out for wildlife including deer, elk and even bears. Tours do not require any previous fat bike experience and stick to trails suited to the group’s ability.
Go Dog Sledding
Wanting a bucket list adventure? Dog sledding is definitely one of the most popular things to do in Banff in Winter. Tours are offered in Banff National Park in Lake Louise as well as in the nearby Spray Lakes Provincial Park.
Start your 10-mile adventure in Lake Louise and take a loop through The Great Divide with Kingmik Dogsled Tours. During the tour, guests cross provincial lines from Alberta into British Columbia while being pulled by eight sled dogs, known for their incredible stamina. The tour concludes with guests being able to guide their own sled.
Visitors to Banff can also explore nearby Kananaskis with Snowy Owl Sled Tours. Welcoming families with kids of any age, Snowy Owl Sled Tours range in time from two hours all the way to overnight. Try the Powder Hound Express tour to get a taste of dog sledding and enjoy a campfire and freshly baked goods in Spray Lakes Provincial Park.
Check for hotel availability in Banff National Park. Trekaroo is a Booking.com affiliate and offers the lowest rates guaranteed.
Experience Banff National Park at Night with Nightrise
At Nightrise, families can visit an immersive digital art experience at 7,486 feet. Nightrise transforms the Banff Gondola into an after-dark spectacular with vibrant lighting, digital art installations and more at the top of Sulphur Mountain.
Telling the story of the Stoney Nakoda People, the Nightrise experience begins during the eight-minute ride to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, guests can explore Sulphur Mountain through the Four Wonders. Made up of Cosmic Ray, Diamond Dust, Alpenglow and Frosted Waves, the Four Wonders are displayed through shimmering lights, sound effects and projections.
This unique experience runs through the winter months.
Visiting Banff during the holidays? Check out these 9 Enchanting Banff Christmas events.
Go Ice Skating at Lake Louise
One of the most iconic things to do in Banff in winter is to ice skate on Lake Louise. Whether you’re a skating pro or a first-timer, it doesn’t get much more Canadian than skating on a natural lake “rink” in a national park.
There are skate rentals available for a couple of hours or the whole day, and a large section of the lake is serviced by a Zamboni that helps smooth out the surface.
Explore a Frozen Winter Wonderland
Truly one of the most incredible things to do in Banff in winter is to explore the frozen landscape surrounding you at every turn. One of the best places to do so is Johnston Canyon.
Kids and adults alike marvel at the beauty of the frozen waterfalls and ice-lined canyon walls. The silence in the canyon brings you back to a time when Banff’s natural wonders existed without visitors to see them. The gentle walk along the canyon catwalks is easy enough for even the youngest of explorers.
For an even more unique adventure, check out the Johnston Canyon evening ice walk with Discover Banff Tours where headlamps guide you through the darkness and reveal Johnston Canyon’s most beautiful attributes.
Visit the Town of Banff
Visiting the shops on Banff Avenue and Bear Street is another one of the much-loved things to do in Banff in winter.
From souvenir and brand-name shops to wonderful bars and restaurants, you could easily spend an afternoon exploring the downtown area. Be sure to grab a hot beverage from Wild Flour Bakery while you wander (hint: the mocha is made with divine chocolate ganache!).
Once you’ve shopped ’til you dropped, climb aboard a horse-driven sleigh ride with Banff Trail Riders to experience some of the hidden beauty found right in downtown Banff.
Only a few streets from Banff Avenue, horses lead you through snowy meadows with views of some of Banff’s most iconic mountain peaks. Often enough, you will spot some of Banff’s famous elk as they roam the landscape. The sleigh ride includes a fireside stop with hot chocolate.
Looking to visit again in the summer? Check out our post on the Top 10 things to do in Banff year-round.
Social Media and lead images by: Bigstock/Bgsmith
Thanks to Andrea Traynor for contributing to earlier versions of this article.