How to Plan the Best Banff 5 Day Winter Itinerary
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Winter from Surprise Corner

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!

See winter views over Banff at the gondola summit
Photo Credit: Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit

Banff National Park is also home to a ton of activities ranging from icewalks, snowshoeing, skiing, sightseeing, snowmobiling, dogsledding and more – it’s enough to keep a family busy for days!

Here we have a comprehensive itinerary for visitors to mix and match with. Whichever adventures you choose, there is sure to be activities for everyone.

Day 1: Arrive in Banff and ride the Banff Gondola to summit views and soak in the hot springs

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.

Visit our Reservations Team at the Store on Banff Ave

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.

Winter Banff Gondola in Banff National Park
Photo Credit: Chris Amat / Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection

Located just a short walk from the Banff Gondola, the Banff Upper Hot Springs are a must visit in Banff. With entry at less than $10 per person and towel and swimsuit rentals available for just a few dollars, it’s the perfect place to soak and enjoy the views of Mt Rundle. Going in the evenings or mornings is best to avoid crowds, so stopping here after the Banff Gondola is highly recommended. Check out our tours and hot springs packages!

Enjoy a winter dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
Travel Alberta / Roth & Ramberg

Day 2: Hike to frozen waterfalls and snowshoe in deep powder

For a scenic, active day exploring the natural beauty Banff National Park and the surrounding area, combine a morning icewalk with an afternoon snowshoeing tour. Every morning there are guided icewalk hikes to Johnston Canyon and Grotto Canyon.

See frozen waterfalls on the Johnston Canyon Icewalk with Discover Banff Tours
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta / Stevin Tuchiwsky

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.

See frozen waterfalls on the Grotto Canyon Icewalk with Discover Banff Tours

Then, with a 45 minute break in Banff (just enough time for a quick bite or to grab a takeaway meal), it’s time to head off on a snowshoeing adventure to neighbouring Kootenay National Park. Located on the other side of the Continental Divide where it’s snowier, it’s one of our favourite locations to play in deep powder with snowshoes.

Banff Snowshoeing Race with Discover Banff ToursAlthough 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.

Maple Taffy Treat on a Banff Snowshoe Tour with Discover Banff Tours

Plus, this tour includes the option to try flying down a snowy hill on a crazy carpet slide. This fun version of tobogganing is a favourite for kids and adults alike!

Take a crazy carpet slide on the Snowshoeing Tour to the Paint Pots with Discover Banff Tours to the Canadian Rockies

Day 3: Banff sightseeing and a sleigh ride

After an active day of hiking, it’s the perfect time to take a break and see the sights that Banff has to offer.

See Hoodoos Viewpoint on a Banff winter tour with Discover Banff Tours
Photo Credit: Devaan Ingraham and Banff Lake Louise Tourism

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.

Then, for a truly unique sightseeing tour, 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.

See Banff's winter beauty on a group sleigh ride

Day 4: Spend the day skiing or snowmobiling

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.

Skiing at Lake Louise
Photo Credit: Reuben Krabbe / SkiBig3

Looking to hit up a new hill? 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, this resort is a favourite for intermediate to advanced skiers. Additionally, the new Discover Banff Tours’ Panorama Ski Shuttle runs three days a week to the family-friendly Panorama Mountain Resort where 3,000 acres of terrain meets 4,000 vertical feets. The best part? Both shuttles include transport from Banff and still cost less than the price of a full-day lift ticket!

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Powder Express Shuttle from Banff

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.

Heliskiing near Banff
Photo Credit: Joe Carter

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!

Stunning views on a full day Paradise Basin snowmobiling tour in the Canadian Rockies

Day 5: Visit frozen Lake Louise and go dogsledding

Visit Lake Louise in winter
Photo Credit: Noel Hendrickson / Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Simply a must do for everyone traveling to the Canadian Rockies, whether it is summer or winter is to visit Lake Louise. The full-day Discover Lake Louise Tour combines the highlights of the scenic Bow Valley Parkway (where we might spot some wildlife!) as well four hours of free time at Lake Louise to try snowshoeing, ice skating on the lake, or enjoy a hot beverage inside the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel with some time for shopping.

Ice skate at Lake Louise on a full-day tour with Discover Banff Tours
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta

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 still have around two hours of free time at Lake Louise.

Experience dogsledding in Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies
Photo Credit: Banff and Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photograph

Private Tours

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.

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