Banff is a charming resort town with a spectacular national park that draws many visitors each year. Though spring and summer are the most common times to visit, winter turns the area into a stunning wonderland.
If you want to visit this charming town in winter, check out these tips for travelling in Banff and the best advice and suggestions to make the most of your visit.
When to visit
Banff is gorgeous all winter, but if you’re in search of a holiday experience, it’s best to visit in December. You’ll experience some snow and chilly temperatures, as well as less crowded attractions and budget-friendly travel and accommodation.
If you’re looking for more of a snowy wonderland, it’s best to visit in February or March. This is the peak of winter and offers ideal conditions for ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. This is the peak season for winter sports, so it’s best to anticipate higher rates for accommodation and activities in the resort areas.
What to pack
Winters in Banff can be frigid, with temperatures averaging a high of -4ºC and a low of -14ºC. It’s best to be prepared by packing a range of layers, insulated outerwear, and winter accessories to prepare for different temperatures such as a parka, knit caps that cover your ears, scarves, a neck warmer, insulated gloves, thermal layers, wool socks, and waterproof and insulated boots. If you’re going to spend a lot of time outdoors, consider getting outer layers designed for winter activities, such as winter hiking boots and hand warmers.
How to get around
Banff has public transportation, but if you want to have the freedom to explore the region, a car hire is the best way. You can hire a car from the Calgary Airport or other agencies, but bear in mind that the vehicles are larger and designed to traverse the winter roads, so they may be tricky for unfamiliar drivers.
Winter tires aren’t mandatory, but they can be a huge help in snowy conditions and something you wish you had known about in advance. The weather in Banff may prompt snow closures, ice patches, and partially covered roads that could be hazardous without the additional protection.
What to know about Wi-Fi connections
Banff has Wi-Fi in some areas, but you’re likely to encounter spotty service in the area. If you have data service, you can use your cell phone to check the weather, traffic, routes, and other vital details to know before you go. Many of the public places have a Wi-Fi connection as well, such as restaurants, vacation lodges, and visitor centres, so you should have enough service to get the information you need for the day. Any vital travel information, such as reservations and local directions, should be saved offline on your cell phone or printed for reliable access.
Visiting the national parks
Banff is known for its beauty, so visiting the national parks is a must on your trip. You can get a pass to access Banff National Park and Jasper National Park that’s available as a day pass, a family pass that offers access for up to seven people, and the Discovery Pass, which grants access to up to seven people for 12 months.
The diverse landscape in the parks is a sight to behold. You’ll see icy waterways, shimmering lakes, snow-covered peaks and trees, and an abundance of wildlife such as moose and elk.
Seeing the northern lights
Winter is the best time to see the famous northern lights, especially in a remote area like Banff. This spectacular natural light display in the sky is often seen in high-latitude regions. Be sure to bring a camera and check the aurora watch website to find out the best time for viewing. Banff also offers tours through the Rocky Mountains and around the majestic Lake Louise to give you the best chance of seeing this stunning natural phenomenon during your trip.
Skiing the big three
Banff is known as a prime ski location that draws winter sports enthusiasts. The slopes are known for smooth, dry snow that’s ideal for skiing, as well as spectacular panoramic alpine views. There are three well-known ski resorts in the area—Lake Louise, Banff Sunshine, and Mt. Norquay—that offer a range of different options for various skill levels and interests. If you plan to spend a lot of your time skiing, you can find accommodation near the slopes that caters to skiers, as well as lodges and après-ski restaurants.
If you’re bringing the kids, snow tubing is a must during your trip. Mt. Norquay has a tubing park with a magic carpet that transports you to the top of the slope, from which you’ll rush down at lightning speeds in a tube. You can also sled in many areas throughout Banff for a different type of winter activity. The tubing park is open every day, and you can ride for free if you have a pass for the big three.
Take a gondola ride
One of the biggest draws of Banff is the alpine views, especially with the snow caps in winter. In addition to hiking, you can experience the gorgeous scenery with a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain, which gives you a bird’s-eye view of the resort town, Bow River, and the Rocky Mountains. When you reach the summit, you can stroll along the skywalk to see even more of the landscape and take some impressive photos. The gondola ride is a little pricy, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s well worth it.
Hike with snowshoes
Banff is filled with snowshoe trails near Lake Louise and through the town, giving you an opportunity to take in the landscape on a rigorous hike. There are numerous hiking trails that take you through the diverse landscape, but you can also make your own way. The trails range in difficulty, but even the beginner trails pass some spectacular scenery along the Spray River, Johnson Lake, the Cascade River, and Mount Rundle. If you need snowshoes, you can rent them from local tour companies.
Ready to plan your trip?
Now that you have all the essential information and travel tips before visiting Banff in winter, you’re ready to plan your vacation. Visit Expedia to check out Banff vacations and get ready for your adventure!