Looking for things to do in Banff this winter? You've come to the right place. We have experienced amazing winter activities in Banff, Alberta that will get you outside enjoying the snow right now!
Anyone can sit on a beach drinking Mai Tais, but not everyone can brag that they've soared through the Rocky Mountains, plunged down a massive peek, or glided through an ancient forest before a night on the town.
Visiting Banff during the winter months is far more exciting than summer. Trust us, we've been to Banff in every season, and winter is our favourite. There are so many things to do.
All you have to do is dress for the weather, and get ready for the trip of a lifetime.
These are just some of the unforgettable winter things to do in Banff winter if you turn north instead of south for your next vacation.
What to do in Banff Winter
Winter vacations aren't just for the hearty anymore, Banff and Lake Louise have made winter trips comfortable, glamorous, elegant, and exciting for everyone.
If you dress the part, take advantage of the hot pools, luxurious spas, fine dining, and elegant hotels, you'll have a well-rounded trip that will blow away anything on the beach.
So try something new this year and see all the great things to do this winter in Banff.
1. Helicopter Tour over Banff National Park
If there is one helicopter tour that you do in your life, do it over the Rocky Mountains.
Dave and I have had the privilege of taking scenic flights on 6 continents, but our flight over Banff National Park offered the most breathtaking views of our lives.
Seeing the Rocky Mountains in winter was the most striking scene we've ever witnessed.
The peaks covered in snow looked like the perfect winter wonderland. Each pass offered one stunning view after another.
The helicopters that the company, Rockies Heli uses are state of the art with bubble windows and plenty of space to give everyone the best possible views.
2. Snowshow the Rocky Mountain Trails
We killed two birds with one stone during our helicopter flight with Rockies Heli, by booking the Heli Snowshoe experience.
We landed on a mountain peak and hiked through the trails showcasing extraordinary mountain views.
We've done a few snowshoeing experiences in Banff, and this one was by far the best since it started at altitude and we were already high in the mountains. Nothing could compare to these views!
3. Take photos of the Starry Nights in Banff
Winter in Banff is the best time for night photography. The days are short so you can find darks skies as early at 6pm.
The nights are clear revealing the milky way and the Aurora Borealis. Banff is known for its darks skies and places like, Vermilion Lakes, Lake Minnewanka and Bow Lake are just a few places to capture stunning night skies.
4. Snowboarding and Skiing
A person cannot round up a winter vacation without mentioning snowboarding or skiing.
Banff has some of the best ski conditions in North America
. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, you can count on a long ski season, with lots of fresh powder, world-class runs and fun for all levels and ages.
There are Three Ski Resorts in Banff
What makes Banff Unique is that there are three ski resorts located directly in Banff National Park
You will never tire of trying out all the backcountry bowls, trails through the glades or gentler runs on the main hills.
See our video and check out our snowboarding adventure at Lake Louise
5. Take Photography Tour
Banff is one of the most scenic destinations on earth.
Bring home your own memories on a photo tour with Rocky Mountain Adventures.
You will be taken to the hottest photography spots for photographers, but you can also have the option of learning how to process your photos and optimizing them for print where you can hang your memories on your own walls.
- Love Alberta? Check out our Alberta Summer Road Trip.
- There's great travel to Southern Alberta too: Enjoy seeing the Hoodoos of the Badlands
6. Dog Sled to British Columbia
There's only one place you can go dogsledding in Banff National Park and that is with KingMik Dog Sled Tours.
Their team of dogs are fast and filled with pep and zip as they run through the Great Divide Trail all the way to the border of British Columbia.
As you are snuggled up inside a warm sleeping bag and zipped into the windproof canvas, you glide through the forest looking for lynx tracks while your guide tells you about the area, the dogs and the scenery.
On the way back, it's your turn to drive the sled and you'll feel like a true explorer as you mush through the old Trans Canada trail.
Read all about Dogsledding in Banff: There are video and pictures too!
7. Banff Hot Springs and Spas
When looking for things to do in Banff, you don't have to stick to adventure. There are a lot of romantic options too!
Like a couples massage, outdoor hot springs, luxury lodges and cozy hideaways.
I told you that it wasn't all about being outside in the cold, there are a lot of things to do in Banff that don't have to take you through a snowy wonderland. (although who wouldn't want to?)
Banff is home to thermal pools where you can bask outside in a tub while taking in the views.
The Banff Hot Springs are the most famous hot pools in Banff, and you can even rent an old timers bathing suit to feel like you are in a bath house of the roaring twenties.
8. Couple's Massage
Banff is filled with spas and luxury hotels. You can book many a spa through your own accommodation, but we tried the downtown spa Cedar and Sage.
As many of you already know, Dave and I have a lot of massages around the world.
Our massage at Cedar and Sage worked all the knots out of our backs in a tranquil setting with certified massage therapists.
With its downtown location, we could stroll the shops and enjoy a coffee afterward to truly get that sense of peace that one is looking for after a week of so many adventures.
9. Johnston Canyon Ice Walk
Want to see frozen ice like you've never seen before? Take a hike through Johnston Canyon.
It's an easy walk on a well-maintained steel walkway where you'll see frozen waterfalls all around you.
Make sure to go to the very end to see the most beautiful of them it's only a two and a half-mile walk taking you to six different frozen waterfalls and a deep pool of swirling water that is reached by walking through a stone arch.
You may spy some ice climbers there as well, or you may want to give it a try yourself!
10. Ice Skating on Lake Louise
If there is on must on the things to do in Banff
It's the most scenic ice rink in the world. Just out front of the Fairmont Lake Louise is the world's prettiest hockey rink complete with Zambonis, hockey benches, and figure skating.
It's free to skate on Lake Louise and the ice is ready and waiting as professionals maintain it with state of the art equipment.
11. Play a Game of Hockey
You can rent your hockey gear at Wilson Mountain Sports located about 5 minutes away on your way into the lake or you can bring your own.
12. Order a Flight of Spirits
It's the only distillery in all of Banff National Park.
As a matter a fact, it's the only distillery in a national park in North America. Park Distillery makes smooth vodka and rye right on sight.
Direct from the glacial waters of the Rocky Mountains you can be sure that they use the purest water on earth.
They offer distillery tours where they'll tell you most of their secrets and you can sit down and sample all their spirits in one tasting.
Be prepared, they go down so well, you'll be feeling it when you stand up. But you know what they say about great booze, no hangover!
The tasting has a mix of pure vodka and rye as well as spiced, and coffee flavour. Everyone in your party will have a different favourite. I'm a purest and loved their straight, silky vodka!
13. Stay in a Back Country Lodge
If you ever make it to the Rocky Mountains, you must make sure to go to a backcountry lodge.
This is the epitome of things to do in Banff. Why? Because it is where you completely get away from it all. Don't fret too much about bears or cougars in the winter.
For the most part, they're hibernating and if you are a party of two or three, they'll be more afraid of you than you are of them.
Imagine sitting in a log cabin heated by a wood-burning stove as the snow falls around you outside.
That is pure heaven. Sundance Lodge has an executive chef, hot water for showers, solar power and cozy bedrooms.
This is where luxury meets rustic living and if you go home and tell everyone that you trekked 16km into the Rocky Mountains to stay at a lodge, you will be the hero of all your friends.
You can get to the Banff Alberta Back Country by snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
14. Take Sleigh Ride
The Fairmont offers sleigh rides along the edge of Lake Louise taking you out to the base of Victoria Glacier.
It's a beautiful ride through the forest offering mountain views and a romantic experience.
Sip hot chocolate as your driver takes the reins and tells you of the history of the Canadian Rockies.
15. Go Snowtubing
Norquay has some excellent snowtubing and its just a few minutes out of town.
If you aren't into skiing big hills, this is the ultimate couch potatoes thrill ride. You get to enjoy the Rocky Mountains without having to learn a new skill!
16. Indulge in Alberta Beef in the Town of Banff
The Town of Banff has an excellent food scene. Nothing beats Alberta Grade A beef, so head out for the night and try some local cuisine.
Most eateries serve farm to table and ingredients are all locally sourced.
Our recommendations for where to eat in Banff are:
- Sleeping Buffalo Dining Room at Buffalo Mountain Lodge
- Fine Dining at Buffalo Mountain Lodge
- The Bison Restaurant Downtown
- Park Distillery – Downtown
- Block Kitchen
17. Go up the Banff Gondola
If you aren't into winter sports but still want a mountain view, the Banff Gondola is a top attraction in Banff.
There is a restaurant at the top and a fun interactive museum.
There are also viewing platforms to take in different views of the Canadian Rockies.
18. Cave n Basin
Cave n'Basin is a really cool experience in Banff. It was the original Banff Hot Springs.
This national historic site take you on a tour through a cave towards an underwater hot spring.
You can't swim in the spring anymore, but it is amazing to walk in the path of the birthplace of the Canadian National Park system.
19. Relax with the One You Love
After being outside all day, there is nothing more romantic and calming than sitting by a fire.
I don't know about you, but we could stare at a fire forever. There's no need to make small talk, just relax, watch the wood burn and contemplate the amazing time you had in Banff National Park.
Making a fire each night in our hotel or lodge was a ritual we looked forward to.
We would sip wine or tea and do nothing but let the flames lull us to a slumbering state where we were ready to climb into our beds and dream about the next day in Banff.
20. Stop in to See the Fairmonts
Even if you are not staying in these hotels, they are worth stopping in for a look.
The old hotels were originally built for CP Rail passengers connecting Canada.
They have been renovated over the years and are the luxurious experience in Banff. Book a night here for dinner or just stop in for a coffee.
We always pick up a coffee at the Fairmont Lake Louise to take with us on a hike around the lake.
Hotels in Banff
Most hotels have outdoor hot tubs and our favourite was the views at the Juniper Hotel and Deer Lodge.
But Sunshine Mountain Lodge at Sunshine Village has Banff's largest hotel hot tub located right on the side of the ski hill where after a day on the boards, you can soothe your aching muscles in the tub.
We also stayed at Deer Lodge located right next door to the Fairmont Lake Louise and it was excellent.
And for a romantic winter getaway in a luxurious yet rustic cabin complete with fireplace, we recommend Storm Mountain Lodge.
- Want recommendations for the best accommodation in Banff – Read our post: Hotels in Banff: 8 Great Stays in the Rockies.
Lake Louise is 57km (35 miles) from Banff. It is an easy drive along the Highway 1 or The Bow Valley Parkway which is the more scenic route.
It depends on what you want to do. Lake Louis is better for skiing and activities on the lake. The hotels are fully functioning with eateries and shops. But the town of Banff offers more amenities and it is closer to Banff's main attractions like the Hot Springs and Banff Gondola.
Banff and Lake Louise are fully functional in the winter. Everything is open save for hiking trails to lakes which are snowed in and many lake and hiking parking lots are closed.
Banff is 130 km (80 miles) from Calgary or an hour and a half drive. It is 145 km (90 miles) from the Calgary Airport.
Our trip to Banff is in partnership with Banff and Lake Louise Tourism. All opinions are our own, all activities and lodges were chosen through lengthy discussions to make sure that they suit our travel style and likes.
We planned our trips the way anyone would, through research and information tailoring it to ThePlanetD.