Five (non-ski) Reasons to Visit Banff in the Winter


1. Tons of activities – Banff is one of the top ski destinations in the world, but if you’re like me and don’t ski (I just fall) there’s still a lot to do in and around this mountain town. We spent a long weekend in the area and our schedule was packed with exciting adventures. We took an ice walk through Johnston Canyon, famous for its frozen waterfalls and streams. Even though we don’t ski, we still had a great time snow tubing at the Norquay Ski Resort. And my favorite activity, dogsledding, was an exciting two-hour ride through the backwoods around Lake Louise. Believe it or not, this is just a tiny portion of the activities available in and around the Banff/Lake Louise area, more than enough to keep the most ardent non-skier (me) occupied and even exhausted for days.

2. Après-ski – Just because I don’t ski doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy an après-ski beverage and meal. The town of Banff is littered with cool little spots to warm up with a hot toddy and a plate of poutine where you can sit back and watch the snow fall. Even the McDonald’s in Banff has a roaring fireplace. My favorite place to grab an alpine inspired meal was at the Grizzly House fondue and steak restaurant. Located in downtown Banff, the Grizzly House is an institution, serving hot oil and raw meat for more than forty years. The fondue is served in a traditional Swiss style and their beer collection is the perfect accompaniment to this wintertime treat.

3. People – Canadians are nice, they just are. It’s something I always notice right away and I love experiencing their warmth and hospitality. Maybe it’s because I live in what Travel + Leisure magazine has named one of the rudest cities in America, but I’m not used to people saying please and thank you, although I love to hear it. But Banff has taken Canada-nice to a whole new level, I felt like the community gave us a big hug every time we left our hotel room. Not only are they nice in Banff, they’re interesting. People come from all over the world to live and work in the village, mostly for the skiing and snow boarding opportunities. That means your waiter could be from Australia and the hotel clerk from Germany. Their stories and experiences are all interesting and a little unusual, making even random conversations in Banff an event unto themselves.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

4. The Hot Springs – The reason why Banff exists, what propelled it into a tourist hot spot in the 19th century are the natural hot springs, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them. Even though shushing down mountain slopes has overtaken the popular spas as the number one reason to visit, the thermal complexes are not only still running, they’re still drawing the masses. Whether or not the steamy mineral water really possesses medicinal qualities, there’s nothing more relaxing than to sit back in the hot baths, admiring the snowy peaks and remarking at how many people have sought peace and tranquility over the years doing the exact same thing.

Kingmik Dogsled

5. Natural Beauty – This was my first time in the Banff/Lake Louise area and everyone kept telling me how beautiful it was, especially in the summer. While that may be, and I have no doubt that it’s gorgeous in July, I cannot imagine a more perfect form of natural beauty than Banff in the winter. I’m not sure if it was the virgin snow we crossed while dogsledding, or the massive peaks jutting out of the ground crowned with a ring of ice and snow, but the natural landscape was gorgeous. Every time we saw something else of stunning beauty, it took away our breath (or maybe it was the elevation) and made us thankful to be there at that moment. Yes, there’s plenty to do in Banff, but nature is the real star of the show.

These are a few reasons why I think a trip to Banff in winter is a great idea, what are some of yours?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

12 thoughts on “Five (non-ski) Reasons to Visit Banff in the Winter”

  1. Matt, I really enjoyed this post. Banff is one of my favorite destinations and I enjoyed my two trips there last summer. However, I have never visited in the winter and I would really like to go. I am also a new blogger and have done one on my hike to Mount Temple and have more to come. Thank you for your posts.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Randall, I really appreciate it. It was my first trip to Banff and I knew almost immediately that it wouldn’t be my last. We really enjoyed the visit and I would love to see it in the summer.

  2. I’m only a four hour drive from Banff, but I’ve never gone there in the winter. I’ll admit it’s mostly because I just thought of Banff and winter as a skiing only type fo place, but clearly I’m wrong. I’ll have to try and get out to Banff before spring comes.

  3. Hi Matt, you might have just made a decision for me. Being a non-skier myself, I have always been in Banff during the summer. But your recommendations make it an attractive winter destination for me as well. I am especially drawn to the dog-sledding part :). Did you have to mush yourself, or could you just sit comfortably in the sled (which I would personally prefer)?

    1. That’s great, it’s really a fun place. If you want to mush for a few minutes you can, but you don’t have to. I tried my hand at it for 5 minutes before retreating to my comfortable sled cocoon. :)

  4. We are planning to visit Banff in summer on our next big trip. Thanks for your article on options to do, although they may not all be available in summer. I think the hot springs looks amazing!

    1. You should definitely visit, it’s amazing. While you won’t be able to ice hike, Johnston Canyon is supposed to be gorgeous in the summer, as is Lake Louise of course.

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