Have you visited the Banff National Park in Alberta? It contains some of the most beautiful glaciers and glacier-fed lakes in North America. Banff is beautiful any time of year but with snow it turns into a winter wonderland. Ann and I had the opportunity to go for New Year’s Eve with a group of friends. Most of our group wasn’t into skiing, so we researched other ways to enjoy the area. Here are our five recommendations for things to do in Banff in the winter.
1 | Snowshoeing at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Even if you are not a skier, the ski resorts are a fun way to experience the snow covered mountains. The Lake Louise Ski resort has many activities for the winter months including Snowshoeing tours. This provided the perfect opportunity to try it out for the first time. It’s a beautiful way to experience the mountain. The 1 hour tour we took was supposed to be a wildlife snow shoeing tour, but we didn’t see any wildlife, only foot prints. We found that snowshoeing is quite the workout. If it’s your first time you may want to start with the 1-hour tour to see how you feel.
Tip – If you are not comfortable driving a car in snow/ice conditions there are shuttles that will take you from the airport in Calgary to the Banff and Lake Louise hotels. There was even a shuttle from our hotel that went to the Lake Louise ski resort. Options are a bit limited so be sure to research ahead of time.
2 | Go Tubing at Mt Norquay
Mt Norquay Ski Resort is only five minutes from downtown Banff and home to Alberta’s largest Tube Park. They supply the tubes and a magic carpet towing system to take you to the top of the hill. You can solo or link to a group of friends but be sure to dress warm, flying down the mountain on a tube is a blast but the cold can take your breath away.
3 | Ride the Gondola in Banff
The Banff Gondola offered an amazing view of Banff and the Bow Valley. We walked the Banff Skywalk to the Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site and Sansons Peak Meteorological Station. Note from Ann:even though the temperatures were low, most of the walkway is in the sun, so it was a pleasant walk.
4 | Visit Lake Minnewanka
When Lake Minnewanka freezes in the winter you will find bubbles under the ice. These are formed from methane gas released in the lake. Normally they would break through to the surface but in the cold temps of Canada they freeze. It’s very beautiful and unusual. Plus for any Texan, walking on a lake is kind of a cool experience. Our lakes don’t freeze.
5 | Johnston Canyon Ice Walk
A stroll through Johnston Canyon in the winter shows you how nature makes art out of ice. The temperatures drop so quickly seeping water from the rocks freezes almost instantly. We took a tour with Banff Adventures. We really enjoyed our guide and the hike through the canyon. They even had hot chocolate and cookies for us. We got to wear ice cleats and look like we know how to walk on ice.
Note from Ann:Teri and I both don’t like hot weather, so we thought – Canada in the winter time? No problem! Except that an arctic front hit Banff right as we were there, taking temperatures down to -31 degrees Fahrenheit. Problem! That’s a little chillier than we had in mind. There are not enough layers to keep you warm in these temperatures, you know you’re in trouble when even the locals are avoiding going outside. Some of our planned activities, like dog sledding and New Year’s Eve celebration got cancelled because of the cold front. The real cold only impacted a couple days of our trip, but don’t worry, we’re already planning to return to Banff soon, this time in the summer/fall :-).