The first dusting of snow brings endless possibilities.
As lakes freeze and snow piles up, an insatiable appetite for adventure emerges from all Canadians. Whether you feel most at home on a frozen lake or shredding the slopes of the backcountry, Banff National Park has something for everyone.
Here’s our list of essential winter experiences you need to try this season.
*Operations in winter 2020 may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check directly with the activity provider for the most up-to-date information.
The moment you break through the trees and walk out into a mountain clearing, you’ll understand why snowshoeing has been the best way to travel during Canadian winter for thousands of years.
With over 30 feet (9 metres) of annual snowfall in Banff and Lake Louise, snowshoeing is a great way to see the mountains once the snow accumulates and makes traditional hiking trails too deep to access. The best time to explore Banff National Park by snowshoe typically runs December to April. Independent adventurers can rent snowshoes from several local outfits or join guided excursions from several local tour operators. *See below for complete listing.
Cross-country skiers of all levels will appreciate the variety of skiable terrain available in Banff National Park. New skiers will enjoy the ease and quality of track-set trails, including an illuminated loop at the Tunnel Mountain campground for night skiing. More experienced skiers will love the adventure of skiing into backcountry lodges, where you can expect a cozy night next to a fireplace. Check out Sundance Lodge or Skoki Lodge.
Dogsledding is an essential experience for those looking to explore the Canadian Rockies in historic fashion. Snuggle under your blanket and race through the forests of Banff and Lake Louise in a truly unique way. But if you’re a dog lover, be prepared: The best part of the whole trip will probably be spending time getting to know your own team of Alaskan Huskies! You can experience dog sledding with Kingmik of Snowy Owl.
Lacing up your ice skates on a frozen lake is likely the most iconic Canadian thing ever you will ever do! Although locals may be able to point you to a frozen backcountry lake, there are several maintained places to skate, including several rinks in the Banff townsite and the iconic ice at Lake Louise.
Night Sky Photography
Winter nights send many running for the nearest fireplace, but those in search of crystal-clear skies know that chilly temps bring the best conditions for night photography. Grab a camera and boost your Instagram feed with a few stunning long exposures from around Banff and Lake Louise. Looking for some inspiration? Check out local dark sky wizard Paul Zizka Guiding & Photography.
Enjoy the serenity of a horse-drawn sleigh ride across a winter landscape. Sleigh riding during the day in Lake Louise with Brewster Adventures treats you to stunning views of the frozen lake, the surrounding mountains and a frozen waterfall. After the sun sets, snuggle under a blanket and enjoy the twinkle of stars above, the warm lights of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and the glitter of snow in the moonlight.
In Banff you can enjoy a glide across picturesque, snow-covered meadows, led by a cowgirl or cowboy and a trusty team of steeds. Book for a family of four or a romantic private trip for two with Banff Trail Riders.
Summer or winter, Johnston Canyon is a special place. Join a guided interpretive tour and explore both the lower and upper frozen waterfalls via suspended catwalks. Keep your eyes peeled and you might just spot some ice climbers taking things to the next level! Try it with Discover Banff Tours, White Mountain Adventures or Banff Adventures.
For a wide selection of winter adventure rentals check out: Wilson’s Mountain Sports and Alpine Social Rentals (Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise) in Lake Louise or Snowtip-Bactrax, Banff Adventures, Ultimate Sports, Chateau Mountain Sports (Fairmont Banff Springs) in Banff.