In winter, Canada’s snow-blanketed Rocky Mountains are the perfect playground. Travelers to Banff National Park are spoiled for choice when it comes to winter adventures, with everything from horse-drawn sleigh rides to wildlife-watching hikes to world-class skiing on offer. See below for inspiration on Banff’s best winter activities.
The snowy surfaces of Alberta are perfectly suited to sleigh rides. Passengers in horse-drawn sleighs are given blankets to keep cozy as they streak across snowy meadows, admiring the views of the majestic mountains and valleys of Canada’s first national park.
With many of Banff’s resident animals descending from their high-ground summer retreats in winter, the cold season provides unexpected wildlife-watching opportunities. Of course grizzly bears will be in hibernation, but other species, such as mule deer and bighorn sheep, are active year-round. For the best chances of spotting wild animals, go with a guide who can also explain how these hardy creatures survive the harsh winter conditions of the Canadian Rockies.
Winter hiking in Banff National Park is the ultimate escape, and with so few tourists braving the elements, you’re more likely to have the trails all to yourself. Trek through the Johnston Canyon to see frozen waterfalls. Go as part of a guided tour and you’ll be given ice cleats and hiking poles to help you along.
Skiing and Snowboarding
It’s just a 10-minute drive from Banff to the powdery slopes of the Mt. Norquay ski resort, where around 60 runs cater to all levels, from new to experienced skiers. The resort, which is typically open from December through mid-April, also has snow tubing runs. Sunshine Village, a resort with more than 3,300 acres (1,335 hectares) of skiable terrain, and Lake Louise Ski Resort are also good options, being just 15 minutes and 40 minutes, respectively, from Banff town. For cross-country skiing, try the Fairview Trail or Pipestone Trails near Lake Louise.