Visiting Banff in winter is a magical and memorable experience, one you won’t soon forget, and while Banff in winter is known for being cold, that doesn’t mean you should write off visiting this lovely mountain city altogether. This wonderful place has so much to offer and there are tons of Banff winter activities to do, so we highly recommend giving Banff a shot!
As a resort town in the province of Alberta, Canada, Banff offers beautiful views of Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade and there are tons of boutiques, restaurants, and parklands to explore. Going to visit Banff in winter means seeing all of these beautiful things in snow and with holiday decor, making it all the more magical!
You may even want to take the lovely drive up to see Jasper in winter as well. With this guide handy by your side, you will be able to an enjoyable trip to Banff during the winter months (November- February!). Check it out!
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Banff in Winter
Average Banff Winter Weather
The average weather in Banff in winter is, you guessed it, cold. With the Rocky Mountains close by, you can expect snow and chilly weather. January and December are typically the coldest months of Banff Winter, with average lows of 23°F , although it has dropped to the minus thirties before!
Don’t let this cold Banff winter scare you away, though! Because of the relative dryness of the air in Banff, the extreme temperatures are more bearable than at first glance.
This chilly weather is doable, as long as you pack and plan appropriately! And better yet, with a high likelihood of precipitation during the winter months, Banff always has snow during December, January, and February!
This snow makes for a magical winter wonderland, and we promise that the weather itself opens doors for Banff winter activities and even more special experience! Don’t forget, though, that November and March can be cold and experience snow as well– so just keep an eye out on that snow, ice, and frost when you begin traveling, packing, and planning!
Average Banff Winter Temperatures
As mentioned, January and December are typically the coldest months for the city. This mountain town can remain below freezing all day long, with drops late into the night. Travelers should be especially aware and careful of the wind chill, as temperatures can feel up to ten degrees colder with those harsh winds.
Daylight can last as long as up to eight hours during December, which means you have some good time during the day to experience the higher, warmer temperatures! But once night arrives, make sure you are bundled up and prepared for that wind chill and dropping temperatures.
Don’t be surprised if you wake up every morning to find more snow, ice, and frost covering this beautiful town! But also don’t be put off by it– we promise the crisp white snow only adds to the Banff winter experience– it truly is a winter wonderland, even if it is a bit cold!
Check out these average Banff winter highs and lows to get an idea:
November Temperatures for Banff: 32°F High and 17°F Low
December Temperatures for Banff: 23°F High and 8°F Low
January Temperatures fo Banff: 26°F High and 10°F Low
February Temperatures for Banff: 32°F High and 12°F Low
March Temperatures for Banff: 41°F High and 20°F Low
How to Get to Banff in Winter
Getting to Banff in winter isn’t too bad! You’ll need to fly into the Calgary airport (YYC) and then rent a car to drive to Banff, which is about a 1 1/2 hour drive away. Make sure to keep driving times in mind when you are choosing accommodation, and also be prepared to drive on some icy roads! And if you are wary of driving, airports and hotels often offer a shuttle trip!
Round-trip flights to Calgary are fairly cheap, especially if you’re looking at airlines such as Westjet and Air Canada. There are actually quite a few unique things to do in Calgary so you may want to add it to your itinerary!
It is typically cheaper to fly from East Coast cities that are major hubs, such as Boston, NYC, Atlanta, Washington DC and Miami. The prices also decrease during winter, especially since summer is a more popular time to visit the area, so make sure to take advantage of the lowered prices and visit Banff in winter!
What to Pack for Banff in Winter
If you are heading to Banff in the winter, there are a few packing tips we suggest you adhere to! Visiting Banff in winter is so magical, and it is truly an experience, but you need to stay warm and dry! And since Banff is a resort town, you may also want to be comfortable and fashionable too!
Dressing in layers is always key! This way, you can easily go from the cold, slightly wet, outdoors into a comfortable atmosphere inside. Below we have provided some key items to pack for your trip to Banff– this way you are well prepared for winter activities, comfort, warmth, and fashion of course!
- Thermal Base Layers. Guy or girl, you want to start your layering process ASAP! Weather you are wearing these in the comfort of your hotel room, or dining in a nearby restaurant after removing your coats, thermal based layers such as thermal leggings and tops are a must for Banff in winter. They keep you warm and are comfortable as well as breathable for all Banff winter activities!
- Waterproof Boots or Snow Boots. Regardless of what Banff winter activities you decide to participate in, you’ll need some waterproof boots. Whether you’re snow tubing, hiking, or just trekking through the town center, waterproof boots are multi-purpose: they keep your feet warm, supported, and dry!
- Thermal Socks. Beneath those boots, you’ll need a pair (or maybe even two!) of thermal socks to ensure that those toes stay warm! Don’t forget how cold it gets in Banff in winter!
- Thermal Jackets. This might be a bit of an investment, but thermal and waterproof jackets are great for Banff in winter because they offer the best protection against wind chill and dropping temperatures. Luckily, there are plenty of different designs and options out there– you can pick colors, jackets with hoods, ones with pockets and more! They are great additions to any wardrobe!
- Waterproof Pants. If you’ll be participating in all Banff winter activities, such as skiing and tubing and snowboarding, you’ll NEED a full waterproof outfit so you can enjoy the snow all day without getting too wet or cold. Make sure to finish off your waterproof outfit with a pair of waterproof pants as a way to prepare for Banff in winter!
- Extra Jackets. Whether you put an extra fleece over your base layer or are just lounging around in it during the day, extra jackets are important to pack! They are cozy, fashionable, and warm– perfect for Banff in winter!
- Gloves. If your hands are cold, so is the rest of your body! Make sure to pick up a pair of warm gloves, or maybe even skiing gloves, to keep those fingers toasty when exploring Banff in winter. Trust us, you will thank us!
- Warm Hat. Similarly to your hands, if your head is cold, the rest of your body will more than likely be cold! Retain body heat and wear a warm hat so you can enjoy the outside beauty Banff has to offer. And, as a side note, hats always help cover up bad hair days, so they can be a fashionable tip while also keeping your ears warm!
- Scarf. Lastly, we recommend packing a warm scarf to wrap around yourself! Again, these accessories can help you stay warm in the harsh wind chill, and they can be fashionable too! Keeping your neck warm during Banff in winter is a great choice, so whether you are walking through town, skiing, or just relaxing on a porch somewhere, scarfs are a must add to your packing list.
Things To Do In Banff In Winter
Visiting Banff in winter presents a unique opportunity to explore parts of the resort town you may otherwise pass up. While the weather is going to be cold, snowy, and icy, there are also indoor things and other winter wonderland activities you can do thanks to the weather! There is plenty see and do, so make sure to check out all of the Banff winter activities– we promise it’ll make your trip even more special!
1. Hike the Frozen Johnston Canyon
If you’re visiting Banff in winter, visiting Johnston Canyon is a must, as the frozen experience is one of the best things to do in Banff in winter! This ice walk is a 5km round trip on a steel walkway that suspends over this famous canyon. It’s an easy hike, with only slight elevation changes.
During this walk you can see six different waterfalls, and while many of them will be frozen, these frozen fractals are a sight to see! Whether you opt in to walk the full trail or not, you can also consider hiring a guide for the tour, so they can explain all about the geographical nature of this adventure!
Book Here: Banff Ice Walks
2. Take a Gondola to Sulphur Mountain
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Banff in winter, we highly recommend getting a once in a lifetime experience by seeing the Canadian Rockies from a birds eye view. The Banff Gondola takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountina for breathaking views– and the best part?? You don’t have to walk up there! Sitting at 7,486 feet in elevation, the Sulphur Mountin has a newly renovated boardwalk that offers great views, restaurants, and a 360 degree look at the Canadian Rockies.
Book Here: Banff Gondola
3. Enjoy a Dog Sledding Adventure in Banff National Park
Banff National Park was one of Canada’s firstly recognized national parks, and now you can take a dog sledding adventure through it! Dog sledding is not just a Banff winter activity– it historically dates back to 1000 BC, where the people of Canada used dog sledding for transportation of supplies and food.
Today, you can take a tour of the park on a dog sled and enjoy your ride across a frozen lake, while also swerving through forest trails! You might even be lucky and see a few animals such as moose on the nearby tracks!
Book Now: Kingmik Great Divide Tour
4. Relax at the Banff Center
If you are looking for a more calming activity for Banff in the winter, we recommend checking out the Banff Center! This center was founded in 1993 on the promises of building a community of creativity. This is a great place to check out art shows, performances, and more! There are also a variety of different sit-down restaurants that can be found in the center after you’re done exploring.
5. Go Ice Skating at Lake Louise
Lake Louise is one of the many lakes that completely freezes over during Banff in winter, which means it offers great Banff winter activities such as ice skating! Although it is stunning during the summer, ice skating is actually one of the best things to do at Lake Louise!
Known as being one of the most scenic lakes in the world, with mountains in the backdrop, Lake Louise is consistently maintained and therefore safe to go ice skating on! And if you don’t have your own ice skates, don’t worry! You can rent a pair at Wilson Mountain Sports for the day so you don’t miss out on one of the best things to do in Banff in winter.
6. Stay Warm At the Banff Hot Springs
If you get tired of the winter weather, you can easily spend the day warming up at the Banff Hot Springs! Relaxing here is fantastic. The springs themselves were originally a place for the indigenous people of Banff, and because of such, the government is set on protecting and preserving this space. It is the PERFECT place to ease sore muscles after skiing or skating, and we promise it will relax you! Warm-up from Banff in winter and enjoy some time in the hot springs!
7. Take a Trip to Banff’s Famous Skiing Hills
Would it be Banff in winter without skiing? One of the most popular Banff winter activities is skiing and snowboarding, of course! In fact, Banff is well known for its beautiful mountain resorts, and the three hills you can ski on: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mount Norquay. Be careful though, each location has a different “level” for its tourists– so if you’re new to these Banff winter activities, we recommend staying at Lake Louise!
8. Get Scared at the Haunted Banff Springs Hotel
The Banff Springs Hotel has been referred to as the most haunted hotel in Alberta, Canada, making it one of the most unique things to do in Banff in winter! In 1926 the hotel experienced a fire, and after burning down, being rebuilt, and reopening, this hotel now experiences hauntings– particularly in room 873! Several people visit this “Castle on the Rockies” for a spooky experience! You may even want to check out Banff Ghost Walks if this is something that really interests you!
Book now: Banff Ghost Walks
Where to Stay in Banff During Winter
While Banff is known as being a resort town, it can be a bit overwhelming when you are looking and planning for places to stay! No worries! We’ve got you covered and are providing a few locations below, ranking them by price, so you can have the ultimate list of where to stay in Banff in winter. These locations and suggestions really can’t be beaten, and they are some of the best places to stay during your Banff winter experience!
Affordable: Banff Inn
Featuring a hot tub, steam room, and sauna to keep you warm, the Banff Inn is located only 12 miles from one of the most popular ski resorts in the area! Johnston Canyon is only a 26 minute drive away and the Fairmont Banff Springs golf course is 2.5 miles away.
This hotel is well equipped for visitors, offering travelers private rooms, private bathrooms and Carliot’s Pizzeria that is open for dinner. With 24 hour concierges at the front desk, ski storage rooms and more, this location offers a huge bang for its buck!
Check Rates: Booking.com
Affordable: King Edward Hotel
King Edward Hotel is located in the heart of Banff and is, in fact, Banff’s second oldest hotel! The European-styled rooms feature cable TV, free WiFi, and a min fridge. With a great location– the Upper Hot Springs are only 2.5 miles away– this is THE place to stay when visiting Banff in winter.
The location is fantastic, the rooms comfortable and well-kept, and the history of this hotel is alive! From being a 5 minute drive to Fairmont Banff Springs and a 15 minute drive to Banff Gondola, this is one of the best areas to stay, especially for your Banff winter vacation!
Check Rates: Booking.com
Mid-Range: Banff Boutique Inn
Located in Banff National Park, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, the Banff Boutique Inn is one of the best places you can stay when visiting Banff in winter, as its prime location to the city center offers plenty of things to do in Banff in winter! With the city center only being a 5-minute walk away, to being a 10 minutes drive to the Banff Gondola and Sulfur mountain, there are plenty of Banff winter activities you can do thanks to this hotel’s location!
What makes this hotel wonderful isn’t just where it is located. The guest rooms are docketed and offer high ceilings and modern conveniences. Guests are provided with a basic start to their day, which includes coffee, tea, and breakfast. They also have access to a full kitchen, a cozy fireplace, a living room that features books and board games, as well as complimentary on-site parking! Wow!
Check Rates: Booking.com
Mid-Range: Holiday Lodge Bed and Breakfast
Also located in central Banff, the Holiday Lodge Bed and Breakfast is only one block from downtown and features shared kitchen facilities and private bathrooms. From hardwood floors to furnished rooms, each area of this hotel is comfortable, homely and warm!
Lake Louise is a 40 minute drive away, and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is 1,650 feet from this property! People seem to really enjoy staying here, as the common lounge and barbecue area provide great relaxation options. Free parking is also available, making this one of the best hotels to stay at in Banff in winter!
Check Rates: Booking.com
Expensive: Douglas Fir Resort and Chalets
The Douglas fir Resort and Chalets is surrounded by the beautiful environment of Tunnel Mountain and is a short distance from Banff town center. It is a family-friendly restore and provides guests with a variety of activities– both Banff winter activities and more! With 2 indoor waterslides, a pool, and an indoor play area, saunas, and fitness centers, there is something for everyone.
You can also enjoy ski trails, scenic hikes and more! Since this resort is so close to the town center, tourists typically love going to the center during the evenings to enjoy quaint shops, galleries and restaurants. This hotel is well-reviewed and seems like a lush way to spend Banff in winter!
Check Rates: Booking.com
Expensive: Sunshine Mountain Lodge
Located in Banff National Park, the Sunshine Mountain Lodge is only 20 minutes west of the Banff city center. This hotel offers multiple restraints, an outdoor hot pool, spa services, ski storage and more. Each room in this hotel is spacious and features granite countertops or slate floors!
Guests are welcome to relax or work out when visiting, as the lodge’s facilities are easily accessible. IT’s prime location also makes for a great place to stay when visiting Banff in winter, as the Banff paper hot springs are only 25 minutes away! The lodge also schedules regular move nights, snowshoe tours and tobogganing adventures, offering tourists plenty of Banff winter activities!
Check Rates: Booking.com
Photo Credit: Booking.com, Douglas fir Resort and Chalets
There is so much to see and do when visiting Banff during the colder times of the year! We could probably write an entire novel on what this beautiful resort town has to offer, but we had to narrow it down to the suggestions above so we don’t completely bore or overwhelm you! Keep this guide handy when you are planning your itinerary and you will be well on your way to planning a dream, winter trip to Banff! If you have any questions about planning your vacation to Banff in winter, please make are to let us know in the comments and we will try to answer the best we can! Happy travels!