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.
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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, Banff National Park is a winter enthusiast’s wonderland. There’s no better place to take advantage of quintessential Canadian activities within a half-hour radius.
Best Things to do in Banff in Winter
1. Ski or Snowboard
I mean, obviously, right? 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 OMG 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. Oh, and it boasts one of Canada’s only heated chairlifts, too.
2. Stay Somewhere Amazing
The Post Hotel & Spa is one of Canada’s few Relais & Château properties and provides guests with upscale yet relaxed charm along the Bow River, unparalleled service, free ski shuttles, and award-winning food.
Rooms and décor are Swiss-inspired, many with wood-burning fireplaces (and an unending supply of kindling and wood during your stay). The Post is less than five minutes from Lake Louise Ski Resort and only half an hour or so from Banff Sunshine Village. Its boutique feel with world-class amenities will make you want to move in.
Trekaroo Tip: If you need to rent gear, Adventure Hub in downtown Banff is the only company that will deliver to and pick up your rentals from any hotel in Banff or Lake Louise, including The Post Hotel. For free.
3. Go Dogsledding
Wanting a bucket list adventure? Dogsledding is definitely one of the most popular things to do in Banff in winter.
Start your 16-kilometer adventure in Lake Louise and take a loop through The Great Divide, where it’s Alberta on one side and British Columbia on the other. And do it all behind eight Alaskan Huskies, known for their incredible stamina. Kingmik Dogsled Tours — an ethical dogsled company with a small outfit, ensuring personal attention and care for every dog — will even teach you how to drive on the way back.
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4. See a Frozen Glacier Waterfall
Take a one-hour horse-drawn sleigh ride from the Chateau Lake Louise to see blue-tinted glacier water frozen in time on a mountainside. Trust me, it’s so much better in person. On a good day, you might also catch ice climbers repelling from the top!
5. Eat Gourmet Comfort Food
If you love to eat, there are plenty of options both on and off the mountain in Banff National Park. For a real treat, splurge on the rösti, fondue or six-course tasting menu at The Post Hotel’s restaurants. You haven’t eaten breakfast until you’ve tried rösti with a side of duck sausages!
At Lake Louise Ski Resort, indulge in refined mid-mountain eats like bison short ribs at Whitehorn Bistro, which sits at 6,700′ elevation. If you’re spending the day at Banff Sunshine Village, make a reservation for lunch at Chimney Corner for fireside dining and pork belly gnocchi that’ll give you enough energy to ski or board until ski patrol kicks you out at the end of the day.
6. Ice Skate on 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 first-timer, it doesn’t get much more Canadian than skating on a natural lake “rink” in a national park beside an ice castle.
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.
7. Wander Around Downtown Banff
While exploring downtown Banff sounds cold, 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.
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8. 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 at 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 where Banff’s natural wonders existed without visitors to see them.
To experience Johnston Canyon at its fullest, join Discover Banff Tours for a four-hour family-friendly excursion. Kids ages eight and up can join the tour at a discounted rate. The gentle walk along the canyon catwalks is both easy and safe for even the youngest of explorers.
Head to the upper falls to see the towering waterfall at its fullest and watch ice climbers scale a wall of ice that looks like it could shatter at any moment. For an even more unique adventure, check out the Johnston Canyon evening ice walk where headlamps guide you through the darkness and reveal Johnston Canyon’s most beautiful attributes.
Looking to visit again in the summer? Check out our post on the Top 10 things to do in Banff year-round.
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