Your seven day Banff winter itinerary:
It’s no secret that Banff and Lake Louise are home to some of the best skiing in the Rockies – but there’s loads more to do in winter!
Here we have a comprehensive itinerary for visitors to mix and match with. Looking for skiing and icewalks? Pair day 2 with Day 4. Looking for a gentle family-friendly mix? Match day 1 with 3 and 6. Whichever adventures you choose, there is sure to be activities for everyone.
Day 1: Arrive in Banff and ride the Banff Gondola
Begin your Banff vacation with the latest information and suggestions from friendly local guides at the Discover Banff Tours’ downtown store on Banff Ave. Their friendly local experts will help you with things to do and see in Banff with your time. Pick up maps, brochures and other useful information.
Get your bearings at the Banff Gondola – journey up the Banff Gondola for a sky-high view of the Rockies and the Town of Banff. Newly renovated with an observation deck, interpretation floor, ‘Above Banff’ theatre, Sky Bistro licensed restaurant and more, this is an experience that deserves more than a couple hours. If you go around sunset, make a dinner reservation at Sky Bistro and dine while watching the sun set from the top of a mountain.
Day 2: Skiing
One of the most popular winter activities for Banff National Park is skiing. Our Banff Canadian Rockies ski resorts (Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Banff Mt Norquay) are well known for their light champagne snow powder and mountains that offer terrain for all level of skiers and snowboarders. For advanced skier, expand your Banff ski holiday by indulging in the ultimate ski experience – heli-skiing – and surely the Canadian Rockies is the place to finally try it. You don’t need to be an expert skier to participate, blue run skiers will also enjoy the deep fresh powder and long interrupted runs.
The most popular day ski trip from Banff is the daily Powder Express to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, with pick up direct from Banff hotels to the ski hill in 1.5 hours. With runs as long as 4,177 feet, you will be pressed to ski six runs top to bottom over the entire day. Bowls, chutes and groomed runs allow for a day of free-riding.
Night or day, snow or shine, tubing at Mt. Norquay is a great family activity to start off a holiday in Banff with, and located just a five minute drive from downtown Banff. Glide down in groups or race down as singles. Norquay will be blasting the tunes and selling refreshments and hot drinks at the North American Lodge. On weekends it’s possible to do this at night under the lights, or anytime between 10:30am – 4:00pm.
Day 3: Visit frozen Lake Louise and go Dogsledding
Simply a must do for everyone traveling to the Canadian Rockies, whether it is summer or winter is to visit Lake Louise. The Discover Lake Louise and Snowshoeing Tour combines the highlights of the scenic Bow Valley Parkway (where we might spot some wildlife!) as well as a peaceful snowshoe adventure through the forest at Lake Louise.
For those looking for a more active day, snuggle into cozy sleds under warm blankets while a team of happy hard working huskies sled you through trails heavy with fresh snow on a doglsedding tour. The Great Divide Tour in Lake Louise includes 1.5 hours of dogsledding along the Continental Divide near Lake Louise for approx 16 km, and you’ll have plenty of time for photos and to play with the dogs.
Day 4: Hike to frozen waterfalls and warm up at the Hot Springs
Three different ways to experience a unique winter experience. On the Grotto Canyon Icewalk, walk on a frozen creek bed through a canyon past unusual rock formations, ancient Native rock art and icefalls. Or, hike on steel walkways bolted to the walls on the Johnson Canyon Icewalk that give spectacular views of the canyon below and finally to the spectacular frozen Upper Falls.
Enjoy an Evening Icewalk of Johnston Canyon that offers a whole new perspective to a dramatic setting. Following the light of your headlamp, this unique tour explores the canyon in the night. Guests are amazed by how much more they notice with the limited light of a torch, and the mesmerizing ice falls and canyon that are discovered. Top it off with hot chocolate and maple cookies on the trail, and it’s the perfect way to spend an evening in the Park.
Complementing a day of adventure with a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs is a must – going in the evenings or mornings is best to avoid crowds, but going in the winter is simply the best time of year to enjoy this traditional soaking practice. Check out our tours and hot springs packages!
Day 5: Snowshoeing in Deep Powder
Discover Banff Tours offers two snowshoeing trips in neighbouring Kootenay National Park that are each unique in their own right. Although you will hear stories of past explorers using the traditional wooden snowshoes with rawhide lacings on the Snowshoeing to the Paint Pots Tour, with the new lightweight technology snowshoes, you will find it as simple as walking, and a fun activity for all ages. Considered a sacred site by First Nations today, you can see the orange and red ochre beds, play in the snow fields, try a crazy carpet slide down the hill and enjoy a uniquely Canadian treat – hot maple taffy made on the snow by your guide.
Our Marble Canyon tour takes guests on a series of bridges connecting each side of the canyon spanning over waterfalls, gushing crystal clear water, and geological rock formations sculpted over thousands of years’ worth of water, wind, and on the surrounding mountains, fire. Your guide will explore the facts and benefits of forest fire which swept through this area in recent years.
Day 6: Banff Sightseeing and a Sleigh Ride
Animals shelter themselves in the valley against harsh winter conditions, but you can still spot, elk, coyotes and sometimes moose and wolves. They can be difficult to find, so go with local guides on the Discover Banff & Its Wildlife Tour, spotting for wildlife, while you visit Banff’s famous viewpoints. Take a photo from Surprise Corner of the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel with a winter backdrop. Visit frozen Bow Falls, the eerie Hoodoos and Lake Minnewanka, Banff’s largest lake.
Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride in Banff with family and friends, in the woods surrounding the Banff townsite. Or snuggle on a romantic Banff sleigh ride just for two with an authentic Buffalo robe, chocolates and a delicious alcoholic beverage all included.
Finding ways to stay warm is something we know best – pair the cozy sleigh ride experience with a hot spring and gondola package to make it a day of sights, history, and staying cozy. Start off your day with a sleigh ride, venture up the gondola and perhaps have dinner at Sky Bistro while watching the sunset, then complement it with a soak in the hot springs (open until 10pm on weekdays and 11pm on weekends). All conveniently located on the Sulphur Mountain side of Banff, across the bridge from downtown.
Day 7: Experience the thrill of snowmobiling
An adrenaline power adventure! Snowmobiling tours from Banff include Paradise Basin in Panorama, BC or Kicking Horse in Golden, BC (both with transportation from Banff), perfect for beginners. If you are an advanced snowmobiler then ask us about out the thrilling Powder X advanced snowmobiling tour!
Any of the above days and more can be packaged into a privately guided tour – each tailored experience is unique to the visitor and allows you to explore on your own schedule with one of our interpretive guides and pickup/drop-off at your hotel.