Let’s set the record straight. January in Banff and Lake Louise can be frosty, but it’s also so uniquely beautiful that it merits wearing an extra few layers to experience it.
It’s the time of year when the stars shine the brightest, and there’s a good base of powder and ice for all of your favourite winter activities.
We’ll repeat that last part -- it’s one of the best months for winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, skating, cross-country skiing, and more -- and there’s no better place to do so than the Canadian Rockies!
Here’s what you can expect to see, do, and experience in Banff and Lake Louise in January.
It’s cold. But it’s also manageable.
If that seems intimidating, let us assure you that it’s well worth it. This is the time of year when the skies are mostly clear, making for great views of the stars and possibly a rare appearance from the Aurora Borealis.
Banff Daytime -4°C (24.8°F)
Banff Overnight -14°C (6.8°F)
Lake Louise Daytime -6°C (21.2°F)
Lake Louise Overnight -20°C (-4°F)
What to Pack
Layers are a traveller’s best friend. Before you head out for the day, throw on a winter coat, toque, mitts, and a scarf.
Wear (and pack extra) layers like long underwear, socks, sweaters, and activewear pants if you’re heading to the ski hill. As you warm up, you may want to remove layers to avoid sweating through them, which can make you colder. A pair of waterproof pants or snow pants will go a long way in keeping you warm and dry.
Wear thicker layers if you’re doing something a little more sedentary like dog sledding or tubing since you won’t have the added benefit of exercise to keep your temperature up.
Waterproof and slip-resistant boots are always suggested, no matter the activity.
These items are available for purchase in Banff and Lake Louise if you don’t bring them from home. Check out our local outfitters.
What to See and Do
We like an active holiday, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to sit back and let someone else do the work, and by someone, we mean our furry four-legged friends. Dogsledding is a spectacular way to see the mountains and try a traditional mode of transportation developed by Indigenous peoples. You’ll have time to meet and greet the dogs and learn from their mushers before giving it a try yourself.
By now, the lakes have frozen over and are ready for skaters. Parks Canada doesn’t monitor natural lakes for ice thickness, so we recommend safer options. You’ll find human-made rinks in Banff and a natural rink on Lake Louise, which is checked by Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise staff.
Ski Three Resorts
Banff National Park offers adventure year-round, but January brings snow-blanketed mountains that provide endless adventure for skiers and boarders. Take a gondola past the treeline up to Banff Sunshine Village, and if you’re game, check out the Great Divide chair for routes that take you into neighbouring British Columbia.
Deep powder lures people to Lake Louise Ski Resort from around the world, but novice skiers shouldn’t be shy: the resort offers plenty of beautiful runs at all skill levels, and snowshoe tours are the perfect alternative to hitting the slopes.
Right outside the Banff townsite is Mt. Norquay, well-loved for its steep terrain and fantastic views of Banff town. For an adrenaline rush without skis, try Norquay’s tube park.
Go on a Guided Adventure
Sparkling snow transforms family-friendly summer hikes into new experiences. January is a great time to put on some cleats or snowshoes and hit the trails.
A guided tour of Johnston Canyon (with Discover Banff Tours or White Mountain Adventure) is a must-see this time of year, and if you’re up for more excitement, try a guided ice climb on the frozen waterfalls.
Strap on your snowshoes and explore Sunshine Meadows as a winter wonderland with the excellent guides from Great Divide
Relax and Rejuvenate
After a day exploring or hitting the slopes, your body deserves some time to relax and unwind. Try hitting the world-famous Banff Hot Springs to take in the views while soaking in waters straight from Sulphur Mountain. You can also soak in one of the many outdoor hot tubs if you've booked a hotel or spa package with one.
Join us in celebrating all things winter! For the last two weeks of January, there are events all over Banff and Lake Louise suitable for families, friends, and couples alike.
After dark, the skies light up with more than just stars as the Banff Gondola hosts Nightrise in partnership with the Stoney Nakoda Nation. A combination of light, projections, and music cover Sulphur Mountain, telling the story of the First Peoples in this area.