Are you planning a skiing or snowboarding getaway to the Canadian Rockies?
You'll love Banff.
Experience spectacular glittering lakes, stunning snow-capped mountains, and majestic pristine wilderness. Nestled within Canada's first National Park, the snow destination features about 7,800 acres of skiable terrain with deep powder.
The terrain is dynamic and suits thrill-seekers of all abilities. From numerous gentle slopes for beginners and families to expert off-piste and backcountry skiing, Banff is a snow lover's paradise.
The snow destination has one of the longest winter sports seasons, starting from November to April. Sprawled across three ski resorts, a winter getaway at Banff offers many activities for skiers and non-skiers.
And it gets better.
With a SkiBig3 lift pass, you can access all three constituent resorts for a wholesome experience.
To help you plan for a fun-filled getaway in Banff, we've created a handy guide to help you explore this winter wonderland. You'll also learn about:
So are you ready to hit the slopes for an unforgettable winter experience in Banff? Explore the town's rich history and warm, enthusiastic people as you enjoy your stay. If you have time, you may even get to hear the popular folklore about the Banff Merman.
It all began during the Scandinavian Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) construction in the 1880s.
CPR workers discovered a series of thermal springs in the current Sulphur Mountains. Prospectors immediately recognized that the hot springs could be a tourist attraction.
The Canadian government declared the area and its surroundings a national reserve to avert the potential destruction of the natural resources. And in 1887, the Rocky Mountains of Canada (now the Banff National Park) was founded. Shortly after, a town a hotel was established, then a town grew, and the area became an international resort and spa.
And that was the start of skiing in Banff.
Banff is a vibrant town located within the Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is tucked within Alberta's wilderness in the Canadian Rockies, west of Calgary.
So how do you get Banff ski fields?
Visitors arrive via the Calgary International Airport, which has several direct flights from major cities in Canada, the US, and Europe. It also serves as the main inlet hub for visitors from outside the region.
It takes about one to two hours to get to Banff by road.
One way is by renting a car from easily accessible rental services within the airport. For example, you may rent a vehicle from the TransCanada company. A rental car enables you to access Banff's different ski resorts and activities.
The other way to get to the resort from the airport is by boarding shuttles. These shuttles leave at regular intervals (usually in one- or two-hour intervals) and are included in different Banff ski packages. If you are in a group, you may prefer the private shuttle options offered by various Banff hotels.
The Banff Airporter is a popular shuttle service from the airport, and you can easily book online.
Once you get to Banff town via the shuttle, the ski resorts operate free shuttle rides to the base of the mountains and the respective hotels.
The journey to the resort is pleasant, where holiday-makers enjoy scenic views of the surrounding landscape: lakes, mountains, and wildlife.
The journey by road may take longer depending on the weather and road conditions.
The Banff ski domain is massive, covering about 7,748 acres of variable terrain with 224 runs. Twenty-six chairlifts and two gondolas serve this huge snow area. It is made up of three ski fields, collectively known as the Big 3.
The Big 3 consists of three individual ski areas. These snow fields are accessible from each other, and you can access all three using the SkiBig3 Pass. They include:
This is the largest snowfield of the Big 3, and it's 60 kilometers northwest of Banff town. It is famous for being the venue for the men's and women's downhill races.
It covers approximately 4,200 acres of skiable area with 145 named runs, served by ten lifts. The terrain is varied and has snow activities for everyone, including:
Other features that make Lake Louise a perfect winter holiday include glades, remote bowls, gullies, and challenging terrain. Thrill seekers also get treated to magnificent views of Mt. Victoria and Lakes Temple and Hector.
The resort receives a seasonal average of about 5 meters of snow. The ski field supplements the natural snow with snow guns to keep the revelers entertained.
The resort also offers other activities besides skiing and snowboarding. For example, there are four terrain parks targeted to specific skill levels. These parks include:
The resort has several accommodation options, including the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. You can also find budget-friendly options such as:
There are plenty of places to dine in Banff's largest resort. These include:
This is the highest of the three snow areas.
The ski base in this resort is a massive bowl area high up the mountain at an altitude of 7,200. Due to its high altitude, Sunshine Village has an impressive seasonal average snowfall of 9 meters.
The resort occupies 3,300 acres of skiable terrain with 137 named runs and five terrain parks. Twelve lifts convey thrill-seekers up the over 2-kilometer incline.
Sunshine Village consists of 3 mountains:
Mt. Standish has the most beginner-friendly terrain with plenty of green runs. Both Goat’s Eye and Lookout mountains have advanced trails that delight expert skiers and snowboarders.
The terrain in this ski field is variable and is classified as follows:
The ski area is above the tree line, offering skiers and snowboarders unobstructed landscape views. They are especially treated to spectacular views of the mountains, the national reserve, and the ski resort.
The resort is the only one in the trio that offers on-hill accommodation and a ski-in, ski-out lodge. However, it only offers day-visit services.
The ski field is accessible via a 15-minute gondola ride. Most of the accommodation, lifts, and other skier amenities can be found high up in the mountains.
While at Sunshine Village, you can stay in the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. The lodge is conveniently located near the chairlifts and has a great outdoor hot tub.
There are plenty of places to grab a bite in this resort, including:
With its inception in 1926, this is the oldest of the snow resorts in Banff.
The resort is the smallest of the Big 3, covering 190 acres with a 502-meter vertical drop. It has 60 runs that add up to 16 kilometers, served by five lifts.
The resort has a diverse terrain fit for all abilities. You’ll find plenty of green runs for beginners and off-piste, and backcountry opportunities for advanced skiers and snowboarders. There’s also an incredible terrain park as well as the popular Tube Town tubing park for non-skiers.
Although Mount Norquay is famous as a training ground for world-renowned Olympians, it is Banff’s most family-friendly resort. However, 44% of the 190 acres of skiable terrain is classified as black diamond and double black, with only 20% being suitable for beginners.
The resort receives a measly 3 meters of snowfall each season. This is attributed to its orientation leading to the poor snow conditions. To compensate, snow guns account for 80% of the snow on the slopes.
The resort is close to Banff (only five minutes away) and Canmore towns which provide most of the accommodation options. While in Banff, you can stay in the following places:
Skiing and snowboarding are physically intensive activities, and you are bound to work an appetite. At Mount Norquay, there are several places to grab a bite. While you can cut expenses and bring your own food and warm them on the provided microwaves, you can also dine in the following places:
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can explore more fun-filled snow fields beside the three major Banff resorts. The main ones are:
Banff offers a memorable winter holiday experience with great terrain for skiing and snowboarding and stunning landscape views.
The unique combination of diverse terrain, magnificent landscape, fluffy powder, and warm people makes Banff a favorite destination for many snow lovers. Experience the beauty of the wildlife and the crisp, fresh alpine air of the Banff National Park.