Updated Dec 23, 2015.
Something magical happens in Banff National Park when the mercury dips well below zero, and stays there for months on end. It takes freezing temperatures to turn water to solid, and when this happens the region’s lakes, rivers and creeks turn into some of the most scenic ice skating rinks in the world. Whether you prefer a manmade rink, a frozen lake or the smooth surface of an indoor facility, you’ve got all three options at your fingertips here in Banff. Throw some hot chocolate in the mix, and you can’t get more quintessentially Canadian than that!
All FREE unless otherwise indicated. Downtown Rink at Banff Community High School Located centrally on the field at the Banff Community High School, this rink is easily accessed from the downtown core.
Santa on the Banff Ave rink. Photo-J. Bierman
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel This outdoor rink below the Waldhaus Restaurant has a heated shelter and crackling fire to keep you warm.
Skating at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Winning the top spot for scenery, this rink is maintained right on Lake Louise, and features bonfires to keep you toasty. During the Ice Magic Festival an ice castle is installed right on the lake!
Skating on beautiful Lake Louise. Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography
Lake Louise Recreation Centre Located on Village Road in Lake Louise, this facility includes an outdoor hockey and skating rink. Ice rink schedule here. Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre This indoor rink is open for public skating at a cost of $6 (FREE for 17 and under). Skates available for rental for use on-site only. Check the schedule here.
The NY Rangers, practicing at the Banff Fenlands rink, a few years ago.
Banff Train Station This outdoor rink has boards-perfect for some shinny.
The following bodies of water are the local favourites for outdoor skating when conditions permit (usually early season before a big snowfall, or when wind has blown snow off the surface of the ice). As these rinks aren’t maintained, be extra cautious about checking for safe conditions prior to skating (see safety section below). Bow River A skating oval is cleared on the Bow River, and gives you the perfect setting to do some laps while you take in the mountain views at every turn. It is generally maintained, but prone to bumps, cracks and elk tracks! Located along Bow Ave, near downtown Banff.
Taking the little one for a ride on the Bow River. Photo by Meghan J. Ward.
Mountain Lakes Vermilion Lakes, Lake Minnewanka, Johnson Lake and Two Jack Lake are all contenders for a memorable skating experience when conditions allow. Chances are you’ll have the ice to yourself unless word gets out! Check the Parks Canada website for special conditions about each of these, as the ice can be uneven in some sections.
Skating on Johnson Lake. Photo via @rockadile
- Ensure safe ice conditions prior to skating and know what to do if someone breaks through the surface.
- Check conditions after heavy snowfall. Wait for rinks to be cleared or bring a shovel and lend a hand!
- It is recommended you wear a helmet. Remember you’re skating on a hard surface.
Skate Rentals Bring your own skates or leave them behind – there are plenty of places to rent a pair in Banff and Lake Louise. Banff
- Snow Tips/Bactrax
- Explore Rockies Cafe (Banff International Hotel)
- Banff Adventures Unlimited
- Fenlands Recreation Centre (Skates available for rental for use on site only)
- Ultimate Sports Downtown
- Ultimate Sports (Inns of Banff)
- Chateau Mountain Sports (Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel)
Looking to rent a bike trailer for your baby? Ask at Ultimate Sports at 206 Banff Avenue.
Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff. Catch her adventures on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and on her website at meghanjoyward.com.
Do you have a secret Banff skating spot that isn't included here? Please let us know in the comments section!