What makes Banff the best National Park to visit in winter

Travel to Canada - What to Expect

What makes Banff the best National Park to visit in winter

An “off” season adventure is a great way to sidestep the influx of visitors often associated with National Park travel during the summer. Canada’s Banff National Park is no exception. The country’s first National Park, and the third-oldest park in the world, Banff National Park is pristine, rugged, and utterly awe-inspiring, which makes it the best National Park to visit in winter.

Experience towering peaks, glacier-fed lakes, and the driest, lightest snow imaginable – all with less visitors. This magical place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and winter exploration is suited to every age, ability, and interest. It’s also one of few National Parks worldwide that offers skiing and snowboarding. When you combine fewer tourists with wide open spaces, visitors can experience exceptional skiing & snowboarding with uncrowded runs and essentially no lift lines.

Skiing and snowboarding in a National Park means untouched, protected views as far as the eye can see. | Photo by Jillian Tester at Lake Louise Ski Resort

Skiing inside protected National Park boundaries

Three ski resorts – Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay, and two quaint mountain communities – Banff and Lake Louise, are nestled among 1.6 million acres of unspoiled wilderness that is Banff National Park.

Skiers and riders are treated to views and vistas stretching as far as the eye can see, untouched by mass development. Imagine peak after peak of pristine snow, jagged-edged crags, and an unfathomable number of trees. Imagine using the ski area boundary as your backcountry gateway where you can sample mounds of untracked powder.

Unlike traditional U.S. ski areas operating on either private acreage or government-leased public lands, the resorts of SkiBig3 are located within the National Park. This means ski area operators are guided by strict regulations designed to minimize environmental impact and this translates to the natural beauty that is difficult to describe because there is nothing quite like it in the U.S.

SkiBig3, in Banff National Park, is home to three world-class ski resorts – Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay. | Photo at Banff Sunshine by Josh Segeleski

Endless outdoor winter activities

Winter adventuring in a National Park can be otherworldly; ice crystals coating pine needles, mounds of snow blanketing tall peaks, mirror-glass lakes and icy rivers cutting through heavy drifts, waterfalls frozen into glittering icicle formations, winter critters leaving prints in the snow. Exploring Banff National Park during the winter months is a unique alternative to adventuring in the summertime and getting outdoors is the best way to really experience the peaceful beauty. So, bundle up and choose your adventure in the best National Park to visit in winter.

Things to do in Banff in winter

  • Grab ice cleats and walking poles and take a walk up Tunnel Mountain; get a head start by jumping on the ROAM public transit Route 7 bus.
  • Rent a fat bike and pedal to Cave and Basin National Historic Site, riding along the river or the Marsh Loops trail.
  • Glide on a pair of cross-country skis. We recommend the Spray River West trail or Cascade fire road, off the Lake Minnewanka Road.


In Banff National Park, you can hike all year round at low elevations. One of our favourite trails, close to town, is Tunnel Mountain. | Photo by Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Things to do in Lake Louise in winter

  • Head to Lake Louise via ROAM public transit route 8 for a deeper dive into the Canadian Rockies. While at the lake, walk, ice skate, cross-country ski the vast trail system, or just sit back and take in the spectacular view of Victoria Glacier.
  • Enjoy track-set cross-country trails on the Fairview Loop or the Moraine Lake Road trail. The Moraine Lake Road trail is wide enough for skate skiing as is the Old 1A or Great Divide trail.
  • Choose the viewpoint at Peyto Lake as a great snowshoe destination.


Exploring Lake Louise on cross-country skis is one of the best ways to get into the Canadian wilderness in winter. | Photo by Banff Lake Louise Tourism

More outdoor winter activity ideas


Winter fat biking is similar to mountain biking except the bike has fatter, studded tires that make cruising over packed snow fun and easy! | Photo by Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Cozy indoor winter experiences

Banff National Park covers over 2,500 square miles, including the Town of Banff and the Hamlet of Lake Louise, promising acres of adventure. Outdoor exploration is a given in any National Park, but there are also many great indoor options in Canada’s First National Park – making it the best National Park to visit in winter.

A thriving arts & culture scene


Luxurious spas and wellness services

Relax and restore at one of many area spas and wellness centers, including:


Cedar & Sage, Banff’s only holistic spa, has an infrared sauna with a one-way window overlooking Bear Street. | Photo by Cedar & Sage

Indoor activities and fitness centres


Indoor rock climbing, available at the Banff Centre, is a great indoor winter activity for kids and teens. | Photo by Sally Borden Fitness & Recreation

More things to do indoors in Banff National Park


On a rest day, visit the top of the Banff Gondola. There you’ll find a wildlife and science interpretation centre that’s fun for the whole family! | Photo by Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Plan a trip to Banff National Park this winter

Plan ahead and save big on a Canadian winter vacation. Book a Ski & Stay package and save on lodging and lift tickets. Right now, SkiBig3 offers a No Questions Asked cancellation policy allowing for free itinerary changes and full cancellation refund on ski & stay packages up to 14 days from travel.

If you’re thinking about a visit to Banff National Park this winter, our reservations team will be happy to help you book anytime. Give them a call at 1-844-754-2443 or go online to access some exceptional Ski & Stay Package deals.