10 unforgettable ways to enjoy Banff in winter

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With the change in the seasons it's easy to slip into hibernation mode. It's natural - the bears do it, so why shouldn't we? Well, as much as we love snuggling up by a crackling fire and enjoying a good book, it's also a spectacular and peaceful time of year to get outside.

1.  Snowshoeing

The easiest transition from summer hiking is to strap a set of snowshoes to your feet... and continue as usual!

If you're new to winter exploration, there are a lot more things to consider when getting out and about in the winter.  The temperatures have plummeted, and the danger of getting yourself into a sticky situation is very real.  Seriously consider getting a guide to take you out on your first adventure.  We recommend Get Outside Adventures - their scheduled adventures are all sold out already this winter but grab a group of friends and build your own custom adventure!

2.  Overnight in a Wilderness Hut

Whilst you've got your snowshoes on, why not head in to one of the many wilderness huts for a quintessential Canadian experience?

Away from the town, the cell service, the wifi, these huts give you the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind in the peace and tranquility of a remote backcountry cabin.

If you don't have any backcountry experience then check out any one of these great outfitters who will happily take you and your friends out.

Snowshoe happinesss
Spectacular day in the mountains.
Spectacular day in the mountains.

3. Skiing & Snowboarding

Banff is blessed to have 3 stellar ski resorts that call the town home:

Mount Norquay

Sunshine Village

Lake Louise

All of which provide excellent skiing and snowboarding from November through to Easter (and beyond!)

From cruisy blues and green runs, right the way through to epic double black diamonds, there's something for all tastes and abilities.

We'll do another blog post soon on the differences between the three resorts, but you really can't go wrong!

 4.  Ice Walks

These take 2 forms: putting on ice cleats and heading up a frozen canyon, or putting on full crevasse rescue gear and taking a guided tour out onto a glacier!

Both are truly special and once in a lifetime kind of experiences, and both are an easy day trip from Banff!  If you want to incorporate one of these great adventures into a trip and are looking for some advice on how long you need for it, what you should bring, then don't hesitate to get in touch.  It's why GuideMe was created! We love to help out with the trip planning side of things.

Ice Walkers on the Athabasca Glacier
Dog sledding in the winter sun
Dog sledding in the winter sun

 5.  Dog Sledding

I have to admit I was skeptical about going dog sledding the first time I tried it, and I was blown away by how much fun I had!  Skimming across frozen lakes with the pale winter sunlight sparkling in the snow; it's a peaceful way to travel and a fun way to spend time with four legged friends.

There are 2 companies in Canmore that run tours, and one in Lake Louise.

Top tips for dog sledding:

  • Wear LOTS of warm layers.  It's chilly when you're sitting in the sled!
  • If there are 2 of you, book a self - drive sled.  Even if you haven't done it before the dogs have.  You'll get enough instruction by the extremely knowledgeable guides to be able to command the pups, and after a few minutes you'll be a pro!
  • I was told to wear ski goggles to protect from flying poop... it wasn't an issue for us but I wouldn't have wanted to test it out!

 6.  Sleigh Rides

Is there anything more romantic than snuggling up under a cosy blanket with a loved one, watching the wintery scenes go by on your own sleigh ride?

Both Banff and Lake Louise have sleigh ride operators who offer tours each day, so whichever town you are in you're not too far from this fun and memorable activity.

Check out Brewster Adventures or Banff Trail Riders for more information or to book.

Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride - Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography.
Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride - Banff & Lake Louise Tourism // photo credit Paul Zizka Photography.
Ice Skating on Lake Minnewanka // photo credit Paul Zizka Photography.
Ice Skating on Lake Minnewanka // photo credit Paul Zizka Photography.

 7.  Ice Skating

As a non- Canadian, this is one aspect of winter that I haven't fully come to grips with yet, and that's embarrassing.  I've managed to go out a handful of times, but I still don't own my own pair of skates!

Thankfully, there are a number of great locations where you can rent skates to take out onto any of the ice skating rinks that are built for the winter.

I'll dedicate another blog post to this in the coming months, so until then contact us for top tips on where to rent skis and which lakes are in good skating condition!  Take care though, and know how thick the ice should be before heading out onto it.

 8.  Tubing

One of the most enjoyable and under-rated activities you can do in the winter time!

Mount Norquay may be the smallest of Banff's 3 resident ski hills, but boy do they have it dialled when it comes to non-skiing or snowboarding activities!  Plus, they offer night skiing and tubing which allows you to enjoy these activities with views like the one on the right.  As the sun goes down and most people head inside, why not try something a bit different and scream down a slippery slope in a rubber ring?

The staff are amazing, they are there to help you have a good time safely, and will help you link up like in the photo so you can enjoy each slide with your closest friends and family.

Tubing at Mt Norquay
Tubing at Mt Norquay
Canmore Cave Tours

 9. Caving

This may not immediately spring to mind when you think of winter in Banff, after all, most people visit here in order to experience the beauty on the surface!  What may come as a surprise is just how much beauty can be found beneath the surface.  Just outside of the park, in Canmore, you can start to explore the wondrous network of caves that weave their way beneath the mountains.  The full extent of the cave system is still unknown and being explored by experts, but Canmore Cave Tours will guide you through the etablished ones.

Oh, and even if it's -30 outside, the caves remain a balmy 0 year-round!

 10.  Hot Springs

After any or all of these fun outdoor activities there's really only one way to end the day: hot springs.

Head up Sulphur Mountain road to the Banff Upper Hot Springs and let the healing waters work their magic on your weary muscles.  You'll leave feeling relaxed, refreshed, content and like the memorable day ended just the right way.

Upper hot springs // Photo Credit Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson.
Upper hot springs // Photo Credit Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson.

Is there anything we missed?  What's always included on your days out in Banff?  Let us know in the comments below!

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