A winter wonderland
With its magnificent landscapes, hiking trails, unique rock-climbing faces and incomparable ski and snowboard slopes, an extraordinary winter experience awaits you in Banff National Park. The town of Banff is also known for its vibrant night life, high-end boutiques, spas and restaurants. Here are a few key activities and addresses to get you dreaming.
Banff National Park alone has three downhill ski resorts: Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Norquay. They are grouped under the name SkiBig3 to offer convenient transportation, accommodation and rental packages. True to its reputation, the area is a dream destination for ski lovers.
Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, biking
Many hiking trails adapted to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or fat biking are available. Simply consult the Parks Canada website or brochures and, most importantly, check the weather and trail conditions before heading out.
A few suggestions:
- Moraine Lake route (15.6-km round trip), also accessible to skaters
- Spray River East and West trails (11-km loop), just south of downtown, departing from behind the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel
- Redearth Creek, a trail approximately 20 km west of Banff
Located approximately 20 km west of the town of Banff, Johnston Canyon is a must-see. Explore on your own or go with a guided group. Most hotels in Banff offer different ways to experience this magical hike. Ice cleats are necessary and can be provided by your guide. Although it is a relatively easy trail through the forest, you should still be in fairly good shape for this hike because it is 1.1 km to the Lower Falls and 2.6 km to the Upper Falls (where you can marvel at climbers scaling the ice). You will be amazed by the gorge and its magnificent frozen waterfall ice columns, as well as breathtaking views all along the trail.
With a little luck, you will encounter mountain sheep, goats, elk and deer on the park roads and see their tracks scattered in the snow, particularly in the Bow Valley. Although grizzlies and black bears hibernate a good part of the winter, it is not unusual to spot them at the end of the season.
There’s no better way to relax your muscles after a winter adventure than a dip in the very hot—40 ˚C, to be precise—Banff Upper Hot Springs. Located at an altitude of 1,585 m, this top attraction is the highest operating hot spring in Canada and a true historical gem.
Chic peak views
Surrounded by towering mountaintops and the majestic Victoria glacier, the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (CAA Four Diamond rating) offers incomparable accommodations and service.
On the mountain
Located in the very heart of the Sunshine Village Resort, Sunshine Mountain Lodge is the only ski-in, ski-out hotel in the park. The hotel has 84 rooms, including several family suites, restaurants, a heated outdoor pool and the largest hot tub in the area.
Perched at 2,042 m, Whitehorn Bistro in Lake Louise is a must for foodies. The patio boasts magnificent mountain views and the food is simply delicious.
The ideal place for hearty servings and great times with friends.
Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar
More than an excellent restaurant, it is also the only distillery in Canada inside a national park. Free distillery tours daily at 3:30 p.m.
For meat and beer lovers!
Text: Diane Stehle
Photos: © Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson – © Shutterstock – © Jeff Barlett – © Paul Zizka Photography – © Jake Dyson