What To Do In Banff In December
Banff sleigh rides in winter

A white Christmas in the mountains is a dream for guests and a reality for locals every December in Banff. Banff truly comes alive as the quintessential Christmas destination, with ice rinks, carolers, lights, and so much more. Embrace the season by taking a snowy sleigh ride, skating on a frozen lake, going dog sledding, or flying down Alberta’s largest tube park. But before we explore all the wonders of Banff at Christmas time, we need to address the information you need to know to enjoy it. 

Roast marshmallows in the winter at Warner Stables in Banff
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta and Chris Amat

Banff’s weather in December

Banff’s weather in December creates the perfect environment for stunning blankets of snow with average temperatures of -5℃ to -14℃. We’ve seen it get colder, so come prepared!  Luckily, the sun does come out most days in December, making the chilly temperatures feel a little warmer.

What to pack for your trip to Banff in December

There’s no doubt that you will want to pack lots of layers and snow-ready attire. For starters, you will want a thick winter coat, a hat (in Canada we call this a toque), gloves, a scarf, warm socks, and a pair of winter boots. Underneath all of that warmth, you will also want thermal layers to keep in the heat. Sweaters and warm pants are a must! For more information about what to pack, you can check out our Banff seasonal packing guide.

Guided winter driving on Highway 1 with Discover Banff Tours

1. Take a snowy sleigh ride

There is nothing more magical than a winter sleigh ride in the Canadian Rockies. Especially when you get to share it with those you love. So, grab your family, friends, and loved ones and enjoy Banff in all of its winter beauty on a 40-minute sleigh ride through Banff’s mountain meadows. You can choose between a private sleigh ride, a family sleigh ride, or a romantic sleigh ride with your significant other. This adventure is what holiday dreams are made of!

Banff winter sleigh rides

See Sleigh Rides

 

2. Ice skate on a frozen lake

As winter sets in, the lakes freeze, and some transition to outdoor ice skating rinks! The timing can vary but typically ice skating season starts in mid-December, so grab your skates or rent them in Banff! Our favourite spots to ice skate are Lake Louise and the Fenlands in Banff. The jaw-dropping backdrop alone makes the experience worth it! 

Tip: If you are planning on renting skates in Banff, we recommend Snowtips in town! They will give you a discount if you mention that Discover Banff Tours sent you!

Try ice skating on a frozen lake on the Discover Lake Louise winter tour with Discover Banff Tours in the Canadian Rockies

3. Experience the thrill of dogsledding

Have you felt the thrill of mushing your own sled along a snowy trail with the wind in your hair and mountain peaks in every direction? If not, we are here to tell you, it’s a must-do. Dogsledding is easily one of the most popular things to do in Banff in December and tours can sell out months in advance, so we highly recommend booking ahead. You can choose from a tour with an instructor-driven sled, or a self-driven sled depending on the tour you pick! Either option is a blast.

Drive your own sled of dogs on a dogsledding adventure at Spray Lakes
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta / Mike Seehagel
Explore Dogsledding

 

4. Visit Lake Louise in December

Experiencing Lake Louise in December is like stepping into a real-life snow globe. The snowy mountains are the perfect backdrop to this amazing ice-covered alpine lake. There are many ways to see it and enjoy it, including snowshoeing and by dogsled. You can’t go wrong in this winter wonderland.

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

5. Slide down Alberta’s largest tube park

Looking for some high-speed fun while in Banff in December? Opening mid-month, Mt Norquay is home to Alberta’s largest tube park! Located just 10 minutes from Banff, (with a free shuttle bus from downtown Banff), it’s super easy to get to and with eight lanes of high-speed fun, it’s even easier to enjoy! Get ready to jump on the magic carpet with your inflatable snow tube and hold on tight as you slide, spin, and speed across the snow!

Mt Norquay Snowtubing
Photo Credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism and Paul Zizka Photography
See Banff Tubing

 

6. Enjoy the best things to do in Banff at Christmas

Soak up the Christmas spirit and get into the holiday mood at the In Search of Christmas Spirit productiona live Christmas story delivered by a sensory extravaganza of light and sound at Cascade Gardens. This free event runs on various evenings throughout the month of December and requires tickets to be booked in advance. You can also celebrate Banff in Christmas by going to a live performance of A Christmas Carol at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, as part of the Christmas At The Castle festive activities. Last but not least, you can get a stunning view of Banff with Mountaintop Christmas at the top of Sulphur Mountain when you take the Banff Gondola!

Christmas Lights at Cascade Gardens
Photo Credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

 7. Stomp through fresh snow

There is nothing like snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies. The deep powdery snow is perfect for snowshoeing and playing around. You can explore the majesty of Banff in December with a half-day snowshoeing tour that provides you with easy-to-use snowshoes and a friendly local guide that will lead you through winding forest trails and open snowy areas of sparkling fresh powder.

Banff Snowshoeing Race with Discover Banff Tours

Whether you’re in Banff in December to marvel at the snow-covered peaks or to experience all the unique things that Banff has to offer during Christmas, you will feel the holiday spirit and make adventurous memories to last a lifetime. We can’t wait for you to experience our winter wonderland. 

Is your time in Banff starting in November or extending into January? Check out our recommendations for What To Do In Banff In November and  What To Do In Banff In January! For more information and exploration of Banff, visit our blog.

The best Banff activities in December

Private Snowshoeing Tours

Looking for a new way to snowshoe Banff and area with just your friends or family? Book a private snowshoeing
5 Hours
8+
Snowshoeing to Marble Canyon
Limited Space

Snowshoeing Tour to Marble Canyon

Fresh powder and spectacular Marble Canyon snowshoeing as you hike past Marble Canyon's 40-metre deep gorge.   This half-day snowshoe
8:30am
4 Hours

Private Sleigh Package For Two

Experience the classical romance of Banff's winter wonderland on a magical sleigh ride package for two. Relax and take in
Throughout the day
40 Mins
Banff snowy sleigh ride
Family Fun

Sleigh Rides

Join us on our sleigh ride through the Banff mountain meadows with your family, friends or loved ones for a
Throughout the day
40 Mins
Banff Snowshoeing Race with Discover Banff Tours
Family Fun

Snowshoeing Tour to Paint Pots

First time snowshoeing? Try one of the best snowshoeing trails near Banff. This easy 3-kilometre trail is a Kootenay National
1:30pm
4 Hours
Drive your own sled of dogs on a dogsledding adventure at Spray Lakes
Limited Space

Dogsledding - Sunfeather Winterlude 4 Hrs

A longer dogsled tour with the option to drive your own dog sled in picturesque Spray Lakes, Canmore near Banff.
11:00am
4 Hours
Canmore dogsledding tour from Banff with transport
Most Popular

Dogsledding - Powder Hound 2 Hrs

This is the best value for money! A Dogsledding in Canmore tour that guarantees a hands-on experience to drive your
9:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm
2 Hours
Banff Dogsledding
Most Popular

Dogsledding - Great Divide 1.5 Hrs

The most popular Lake Louise dogsledding - The Great Divide tour, takes you along the base of giant peaks in
9:30am, 12:00pm, 2:00pm
1.5 Hours

Have More Questions About Traveling to Banff in December? We have Answers.

What is there to do in Banff in December?

As winter sets in, Banff becomes a winter wonderland in December with Christmas celebrations, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, dogsledding, tubing, and more snowy fun.

 

Is December a good time to visit Banff?

December is a great time to visit Banff! December to March is the peak of Banff’s winter tourist season. During this time, ski season is in full force, with plenty of other snowy activities including dogsledding, snowshoeing, tubing, and more.

 

Is Banff too cold in December?

It’s definitely chilly in Banff in December, with average temperatures of -5℃ to -14℃, but with the right outdoor apparel and layers, you will have everything you need to enjoy it to the fullest! The sun shines often in December, giving some extra warmth as well. For more information about what to pack, you can check out our Banff seasonal packing guide.

 

Is Banff worth visiting in winter?

Yes! Banff is transformed into a winter wonderland with spectacular snowy scenery and plenty of fun-filled activities, including sightseeing flights, dogsledding, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, and more.

 

What can you do in Banff if you don’t ski in the winter?

There are a ton of ways to enjoy Banff in the winter, it’s not just limited to skiing. You can go dogsledding, snowshoeing, tubing, and even for a sleigh ride! 

 

Is Lake Louise frozen in December?

Yes, Lake Louise is frozen in December and it’s stunning! With a snow-peaked backdrop, it’s great for ice skating, snowshoeing, dogsledding, and just soaking up the views!

 

Where can you ice skate in Banff?

As winter sets in the lakes freeze and some are set up as outdoor ice skating rinks starting in mid-December. Our favourites are Lake Louise and the Fenlands Center in Banff.

 

Where can I snowshoe in Banff?

There are lots of snowshoeing trails in Banff National Park, please check trail conditions with Parks Canada or join a small-group snowshoeing tour from Banff.

 

What is there to do in Banff at Christmas time?

Get into the festive spirit in Banff with Christmas celebrations including theatre performances, carol singers, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and decorations throughout the town.

 

Can you see the northern lights in Banff in December?

December is actually one of the best times to see the northern lights in Banff! They shine brightest from December to February and are best seen on nights with clear skies. Ask our Discover Banff Guides for the best locations to view them. 

 

How many days is enough for Banff?

To hit all of the best things to do while in Banff, we recommend visiting for around five days. There is just so much to see and five days will give you enough time to marvel at Banff’s must-sees.