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Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Travel Hacks For Visiting Banff In Winter


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Janine Shuck



Welcome to Banff, the picturesque winter wonderland nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. With its breathtaking landscapes, stunning snowy peaks, and charming town, Banff offers a truly unforgettable winter experience. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply looking for a cozy getaway, Banff has something for everyone.


As you plan your visit to Banff, it’s important to be prepared for the unique challenges and opportunities that come with winter travel. In this article, we’ll provide you with some essential tips and travel hacks to make the most of your winter adventure in Banff.


From navigating the snowy roads to finding the perfect accommodation and discovering the best winter activities, we’ve got you covered. Get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty of Banff and create memories that will last a lifetime.


So grab a warm cup of hot chocolate, bundle up in your coziest winter gear, and let’s dive into the ultimate guide to exploring Banff in the winter.


Getting to Banff

Getting to Banff is relatively easy, with several transportation options available.


If you’re flying to Banff, the most convenient airport is Calgary International Airport (YYC), located approximately 90 minutes away. From the airport, you can rent a car, take a shuttle service, or hire a private transfer to get to Banff. The drive from Calgary to Banff is incredibly scenic, offering stunning views of the mountains along the way.


If you prefer not to drive, you can opt for one of the shuttle services that provide transportation from the airport directly to Banff. This is a convenient and cost-effective option, especially if you don’t plan on exploring the surrounding areas.


If you’re already in Canada and prefer to travel by train, you can take the Rocky Mountaineer train to Banff. This iconic train ride offers breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies as you make your way to your destination. It’s a fantastic way to start your Banff experience and provides a unique and memorable journey.


Once you arrive in Banff, it’s best to have a car if you plan on exploring the surrounding areas and accessing the various winter activities. Having a vehicle gives you the freedom to go at your own pace and make the most of your time in the area. Rental car options are available in Banff, and it’s recommended to book in advance, especially during peak winter season.


If you prefer not to drive or don’t have a car, don’t worry! Banff has a reliable public transportation system that can take you around town and to popular attractions. The Roam Transit buses operate throughout Banff, offering easy access to downtown, local ski resorts, and various points of interest.


Whether you choose to drive, take a shuttle, or use public transportation, getting to Banff is the first step towards an unforgettable winter adventure.


Packing for Winter in Banff

When it comes to packing for winter in Banff, it’s important to be prepared for cold temperatures, snow, and changing weather conditions. Here are some essential items to consider packing:

  1. Warm Layers: Pack thermal base layers, wool or fleece sweaters, and a quality down jacket to keep you warm in freezing temperatures. Don’t forget gloves, hats, scarves, and thick socks to keep your extremities cozy.
  2. Sturdy Winter Boots: Ensure you have waterproof and insulated boots with good traction for walking in snow and icy conditions. These will keep your feet warm and prevent slips and falls.
  3. Ski/Snowboard Gear: If you plan on hitting the slopes, bring your own ski or snowboard gear if you have it. Otherwise, you can easily rent equipment in Banff.
  4. Snow Gear: Don’t forget essentials like snow pants, waterproof jackets, and goggles for outdoor activities like snowshoeing or snowmobiling.
  5. Sun Protection: Even in winter, the sun can be intense. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a lip balm with SPF to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
  6. Trekking Poles: If you plan on hiking or exploring snowy trails, consider packing trekking poles for stability and safety.
  7. Camera Gear: Banff is a photographer’s paradise, so make sure to bring your camera, extra batteries, and memory cards to capture the stunning winter landscapes.
  8. Portable Charger: Keep your electronic devices charged while you’re out and about by packing a portable charger. Cold temperatures can drain battery life more quickly, so having a backup power source is essential.
  9. Medications and First Aid Kit: Bring any necessary medications, as well as a basic first aid kit for minor injuries or ailments that may occur during your trip.

Remember, it’s better to overpack and be prepared for various weather conditions than to be caught unprepared in the cold. Layering your clothing is key, as it allows you to adjust your outfit based on the temperature and activity level. Banff’s winters can be extremely cold, but with the right gear, you’ll stay warm and comfortable throughout your stay.


Finding Accommodation in Banff

When it comes to finding accommodation in Banff, you have a range of options to choose from, catering to different budgets and preferences.


One popular choice is to stay in one of the hotels or resorts located in the town of Banff. These establishments offer comfortable rooms, amenities, and convenient access to the town’s shops, restaurants, and attractions. From luxury resorts to cozy boutique hotels, there’s something for every traveler.


If you prefer a more secluded and nature-oriented experience, you can opt for a cabin or chalet rental in the surrounding areas. These accommodations provide a cozy and rustic atmosphere, often nestled in the midst of the stunning mountain scenery. It’s the perfect option for those looking to disconnect and immerse themselves in nature.


For travelers on a tighter budget or those seeking a social atmosphere, hostels and budget accommodations are available in Banff. These options provide shared dormitory-style rooms or private rooms at affordable rates. Many hostels also offer communal spaces where travelers can meet and connect with fellow adventurers.


Another option to consider is renting a vacation home or condo. This is a great choice for families or larger groups, as it provides more space and the convenience of a fully equipped kitchen. Renting a vacation home allows you to have a home-away-from-home experience and gives you the flexibility to cook your own meals and relax in a private setting.


When searching for accommodation in Banff, it’s recommended to book in advance, especially during peak winter season. This ensures that you have a wider selection of options and secure the best rates. Online travel platforms and booking websites are great resources for finding and comparing accommodations in Banff.


Regardless of your choice, be sure to check the facilities and amenities offered by the accommodation, such as parking, Wi-Fi, and any additional services or activities. It’s also helpful to read reviews from previous guests to get a better understanding of the quality and experience provided by each establishment.


With its variety of accommodation options, Banff caters to all types of travelers, whether you’re seeking luxury and comfort or a more budget-friendly experience. Choose the option that best suits your preferences and make your stay in Banff unforgettable.


Preparing for Cold Weather Activities

When visiting Banff in winter, there are a plethora of cold weather activities to enjoy, from skiing and snowboarding to ice climbing and ice skating. Being prepared for these activities is essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Dress in Layers: Layering your clothing is crucial in cold weather. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add a warm insulating layer, and finish with a waterproof outer layer. This allows you to adjust your clothing based on the activity level and temperature.
  • Protect Your Extremities: Keep your hands, feet, and head warm with hats, gloves, and thick socks. Consider investing in quality thermal socks and waterproof gloves to keep your extremities cozy.
  • Wear the Right Footwear: Choose insulated and waterproof winter boots with good traction for activities like snowshoeing or hiking. If you’re skiing or snowboarding, make sure your boots are properly fitted for comfort and performance.
  • Stay Hydrated: Cold weather can cause dehydration, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Pack a water bottle that won’t freeze in low temperatures or consider using an insulated flask.
  • Protect Your Skin: Even in winter, the sun’s rays can be strong, and the snow can reflect them, increasing the risk of sunburn. Apply sunscreen with a high SPF to exposed skin and wear sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Carry Essential Gear: Depending on the activity, you may need additional equipment like helmets, crampons, or ice axes. Make sure to check with activity providers or rental shops in advance to ensure you have all the necessary gear.
  • Know Your Limits: Outdoor winter activities can be physically demanding, so be aware of your fitness level and capabilities. Take breaks when needed and don’t push yourself too hard, especially if you’re not used to the cold or high-altitude conditions.
  • Check Weather and Avalanche Conditions: Stay updated on weather forecasts and avalanche conditions before heading out for any backcountry activities. Be aware of any warnings or advisories and adjust your plans accordingly.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on your cold weather adventures in Banff. Remember to always prioritize safety and listen to the advice of experienced guides or instructors. The breathtaking landscapes and thrilling activities await you, so embrace the winter wonderland of Banff with confidence.


Exploring Banff National Park

Exploring Banff National Park in the winter is a truly magical experience. With its pristine snow-covered landscapes and stunning natural beauty, there’s no shortage of things to see and do. Here are some must-visit destinations and activities within Banff National Park:

  • Lake Louise: Start your exploration at Lake Louise, one of the most iconic spots in Banff. In winter, the frozen lake becomes a sparkling winter wonderland, perfect for ice skating or simply admiring the breathtaking scenery.
  • Moraine Lake: Another must-visit lake in Banff is Moraine Lake. Surrounded by towering mountains and thick forests, this turquoise gem is a sight to behold. While access may be limited in winter, the view from the shoreline is still well worth it.
  • Johnston Canyon: Lace up your winter boots and embark on a journey through Johnston Canyon. The frozen waterfalls and icy walls make for a stunning winter hike. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear and use caution on the often-slippery trail.
  • Sulphur Mountain: Take a scenic gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain for panoramic views of Banff and its surrounding peaks. In winter, the mountain is a popular spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
  • Bow Valley Parkway: Drive along the picturesque Bow Valley Parkway, which connects Banff and Lake Louise. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as elk, bighorn sheep, and even the occasional wolf or bear.
  • Icefields Parkway: Experience the majestic beauty of the Canadian Rockies on the scenic Icefields Parkway. This iconic road takes you through towering mountains, glaciers, and pristine alpine lakes, offering countless photo opportunities along the way.
  • Winter Wildlife Viewing: Banff National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, and winter provides a unique opportunity to spot them in their natural habitats. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, elk, mountain goats, and maybe even a glimpse of a wily fox or elusive lynx.
  • Photography and Stargazing: Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur with a smartphone, Banff’s winter landscapes provide a picture-perfect backdrop. Capture the snowy peaks, frozen lakes, and starry night skies for incredible memories.

Remember to stay on designated trails, respect wildlife and keep a safe distance, and always practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the park’s natural beauty.


Exploring Banff National Park in winter is a true feast for the senses. From the stunning vistas to the exhilarating outdoor activities, you’ll be captivated by the park’s pristine beauty. Embrace the winter wonderland and let Banff National Park take your breath away.


Navigating the Town of Banff

The charming town of Banff is not only a great base for exploring the beauty of the Canadian Rockies but also offers its own unique attractions and amenities. Here are some tips for navigating the town:

  • Pedestrian-Friendly: Banff is a compact town that is easily walkable. Most of the main attractions, shops, and restaurants are located within a short distance of each other, making it convenient to explore on foot.
  • Banff Avenue: The main street of Banff is Banff Avenue, lined with shops, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. Take a stroll down this bustling street, browse the various shops, and stop for a meal at one of the many eateries.
  • Parking: If you’re driving into Banff, there are several paid parking options available throughout the town. Be sure to check parking restrictions and rates beforehand, especially during peak times, as parking can fill up quickly.
  • Roam Transit: Banff has an excellent public transportation system called Roam Transit, which operates throughout the town and surrounding areas. The buses are a convenient and eco-friendly option for getting around, especially if you don’t have a car.
  • Taxi and Shuttle Services: If you prefer not to drive or use public transportation, there are taxi and shuttle services available in Banff. These can be useful for getting to specific attractions or for airport transfers.
  • Bicycle Rentals: Banff is also bike-friendly, with several rental shops offering bicycles for exploring the town and nearby trails. Biking is a great way to enjoy the scenery and get some exercise while getting around.
  • Visitor Information Center: Located on Banff Avenue, the Banff Visitor Information Center is a valuable resource for maps, brochures, trail updates, and information about upcoming events and activities. The friendly staff can provide recommendations and help plan your itinerary.
  • Winter Events and Festivals: Check for any winter events or festivals happening during your visit to Banff. From ice carving competitions to winter markets, these events add an extra layer of excitement and entertainment to your stay.

Whether you’re exploring the shops and restaurants on Banff Avenue or using public transportation to reach nearby attractions, navigating the town of Banff is a breeze. Embrace the small-town charm and let yourself get lost in the beauty of this Canadian Rockies gem.


Enjoying Winter Activities in Banff

One of the main reasons people visit Banff in winter is for the incredible array of winter activities available. From thrilling outdoor adventures to relaxing indoor experiences, Banff has something for everyone. Here are some of the top winter activities to enjoy in Banff:

  • Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding: Banff is a haven for skiers and snowboarders, with three world-class ski resorts in the area – Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise Ski Resort. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced skier, the slopes offer a thrilling experience amidst breathtaking mountain scenery.
  • Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing: Explore Banff’s winter wonderland on cross-country skis or snowshoes. With an extensive network of trails, you can glide through serene forests, over frozen lakes, and enjoy the tranquility of the snowy landscapes.
  • Ice Skating: Lace up your skates and glide across the frozen surfaces of Lake Louise or the indoor rinks in the town of Banff. Ice skating is a fun and classic winter activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels.
  • Sleigh Rides: Experience a magical winter tradition with a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Snuggle up under warm blankets as your guide leads you through snowy trails, offering a peaceful and romantic way to enjoy the winter scenery.
  • Ice Climbing: For the adventurous souls, ice climbing is an adrenaline-pumping activity. Banff offers ice climbing opportunities for all skill levels, with experienced guides to ensure your safety and provide an unforgettable experience.
  • Hot Springs: Take a dip in the soothing natural hot springs in Banff. These warm pools surrounded by snow-covered landscapes offer a relaxing and rejuvenating experience, perfect for unwinding after a day of outdoor activities.
  • Dog Sledding: Embark on a thrilling dog sledding adventure where a team of energetic huskies pulls you through the snowy trails. Experience the thrill of mushing and connect with these incredible canine athletes.
  • Indoor Attractions: If you need a break from the cold, Banff also offers a variety of indoor attractions. Visit the Banff Park Museum, indulge in spa treatments, enjoy live performances at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, or simply cozy up near a fireplace and relax.

Whether you’re seeking excitement and adventure or a peaceful and relaxing winter experience, Banff has it all. Remember to plan and book your activities in advance, especially during peak times, to ensure availability. Embrace the winter spirit and create unforgettable memories in this winter wonderland.


Staying Safe in Banff’s Winter Conditions

When visiting Banff in winter, it’s important to prioritize safety to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. The mountainous terrain and cold weather conditions can present unique challenges, so here are some tips to help you stay safe:

  • Check the Weather: Before heading out, always check the weather forecast and be aware of any weather warnings or advisories. Extreme cold, blizzards, or avalanche risks can impact your plans, so adjust accordingly and stay informed.
  • Dress in Layers: Layer your clothing to protect yourself from the cold. Make sure to wear moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and waterproof outer layers. Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and warm socks to keep your extremities cozy.
  • Stay Hydrated and Nourished: The cold weather can dehydrate you faster, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Carry a water bottle and pack energizing snacks to fuel your body during outdoor activities.
  • Use Proper Equipment: Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, or participating in other winter activities, ensure your equipment is in good condition and properly fitted. Follow safety guidelines, wear a helmet, and use proper protective gear.
  • Stay on Designated Trails: When hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing, stick to designated trails and obey all signage. Venturing off-trail can increase the risk of accidents or getting lost in unfamiliar terrain.
  • Avalanche Safety: If you plan to explore the backcountry, learn about avalanche safety and carry essential safety gear, such as avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels. Consider hiring a certified guide for any backcountry adventures.
  • Travel in Groups: When possible, travel with others. It’s safer and more enjoyable to explore Banff’s winter landscapes with a group. If you’re venturing into remote areas, inform someone about your plans and expected return time.
  • Stay Informed: Keep track of park advisories, trail closures, and any wildlife sightings in the area. Visit the Banff Visitor Information Center for up-to-date information and advice from knowledgeable staff.
  • Drive Safely: If you’re driving in Banff, ensure your vehicle is equipped for winter conditions. Check road conditions, drive cautiously, and carry emergency supplies, including blankets, a shovel, and a fully charged cell phone.
  • Know Your Limits: Be aware of your own physical abilities and limitations. Don’t attempt activities beyond your skill level or comfort zone. Take breaks when needed, listen to your body, and avoid pushing yourself too hard.

By following these safety tips and being prepared, you can greatly enhance your safety while enjoying all that Banff has to offer in the winter. Remember that nature can be unpredictable, so always prioritize your well-being and make responsible choices to ensure a memorable and safe experience.


Trying Local Cuisine in Banff

Exploring Banff goes beyond its natural beauty; it’s also an opportunity to indulge in the local cuisine of the Canadian Rockies. Banff offers a diverse culinary scene, ranging from hearty comfort food to innovative fine dining. Here are some must-try local dishes and dining experiences:

  • Poutine: A Canadian classic, poutine is a dish of crispy French fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in rich gravy. Look for variations that include toppings like bacon, pulled pork, or mushrooms for an extra savory twist.
  • Wild Game: Banff is known for its wildlife, and many restaurants offer dishes featuring wild game meats like bison, elk, or venison. These meats are lean, flavorful, and often prepared in unique and delicious ways.
  • Alberta Beef: Alberta is famous for its high-quality beef, and you can savor juicy steaks and prime cuts at various steakhouses and restaurants in Banff. From tenderloin to ribeye, these dishes are sure to satisfy meat lovers.
  • Maple Syrup Treats: Canada is renowned for its maple syrup, and you’ll find it infused into various dishes and desserts in Banff. Try maple syrup-glazed salmon, maple caramelized bacon, or indulge in a sweet maple syrup drizzled over pancakes or waffles.
  • Local Craft Beer: Wash down your meal with a glass of locally brewed craft beer. Banff has its own craft breweries, offering a variety of unique and flavorful brews that pair perfectly with the mountain atmosphere.
  • Indigenous Cuisine: Experience the rich heritage of Indigenous cuisine by trying dishes inspired by local Indigenous tribes. Look out for menus featuring ingredients like bannock bread, wild berries, or cedar-planked salmon.
  • Afternoon Tea: Treat yourself to a traditional afternoon tea experience in one of Banff’s charming tea houses. Savor finger sandwiches, fresh scones, and a wide selection of teas while enjoying the cozy ambiance.
  • Farm-to-Table Delights: Banff is surrounded by fertile lands, and many restaurants emphasize farm-to-table dining, featuring locally sourced ingredients. Discover the flavors of the region through dishes highlighting fresh produce, meats, and cheeses.
  • Dessert Delights: End your meal with a sweet treat. Try the famous “Nanaimo Bar” – a layered dessert made with chocolate, coconut, and custard. If you’re a chocolate lover, indulge in rich and creamy hot chocolate topped with marshmallows or whipped cream.

Whether you’re looking for a casual dining experience or a lavish feast, Banff’s culinary offerings will delight your taste buds. Don’t shy away from trying new flavors or asking locals for recommendations. Explore the unique blend of traditional Canadian dishes, international cuisine, and local ingredients, and create unforgettable culinary memories in Banff.


Shopping and Souvenirs in Banff

While exploring the beautiful town of Banff, you’ll come across a variety of shops and boutiques that offer a wide range of unique items and souvenirs. Here are some popular shopping experiences and souvenir ideas to bring back a piece of Banff with you:

  • Native Art and Crafts: Banff is surrounded by Indigenous communities, and you can find a rich assortment of authentic Indigenous art, crafts, and jewelry. Look for intricate beadwork, hand-carved wooden sculptures, or locally-made dreamcatchers.
  • Canadian Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is a beloved Canadian treat, and you can find a wide selection of maple syrup products in Banff. From maple syrup candies to infused syrups, these sweet delights make for a tasty and quintessentially Canadian souvenir.
  • Outdoor Gear: Banff is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, and you’ll find a variety of stores offering high-quality outdoor gear and apparel. Whether you need a new pair of hiking boots, thermal clothing, or camping equipment, you’ll find it all here.
  • Local Artwork: Support local artists by purchasing unique pieces of artwork inspired by Banff’s stunning landscapes. Look for paintings, prints, or photographs that capture the beauty and essence of the Canadian Rockies.
  • Handmade Crafts: Banff is home to talented artisans who create beautiful handmade crafts. Browse through shops to find pottery, hand-knit scarves, candles, or other locally-crafted items that will add a touch of Banff’s charm to your home.
  • Canadian Souvenirs: Take home a piece of Canadiana with iconic souvenirs like Mountie figurines, maple leaf keychains, or moose plush toys. These fun and kitschy items are a great way to remember your time in Banff.
  • Books and Guides: Dive deeper into the history, culture, and natural wonders of Banff with guidebooks, photography books, or literature written by local authors. These books make for informative and educational souvenirs.
  • Local Food Products: Indulge in the flavors of Banff by bringing home local food products. Look for locally-made chocolates, teas, spices, or jams that reflect the region’s culinary offerings.
  • Jewelry and Gemstones: Adorn yourself with a piece of Banff by purchasing jewelry featuring local gemstones like ammolite or jade. These unique and colorful stones make for beautiful and meaningful mementos.
  • Christmas Ornaments: If you’re visiting Banff during the holiday season, consider picking up a Christmas ornament that represents the area. Hang it on your tree each year to remind you of your winter adventure.

When shopping in Banff, take the time to explore the local stores and boutiques. Talk to the shopkeepers and learn about the stories behind the products. Whether you’re looking for a keepsake for yourself or a gift for loved ones, shopping in Banff is a truly immersive experience that allows you to bring home a piece of this enchanting destination.



Banff, with its breathtaking landscapes and winter wonderland charm, offers a truly unforgettable experience for travelers seeking a winter adventure. From the stunning snowy peaks of Banff National Park to the cozy town atmosphere, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


As you plan your trip to Banff, remember to pack appropriately for the cold weather, allowing you to fully embrace the outdoor activities that the region has to offer. Whether you’re skiing down the slopes, snowshoeing through serene forests, or enjoying a horse-drawn sleigh ride, the possibilities are endless.


Exploring the town of Banff is just as exciting, with its pedestrian-friendly streets, unique shops, and delightful dining experiences. Don’t forget to savor the local cuisine, indulge in Canadian treats like poutine and maple syrup, and bring home souvenirs that capture the essence of Banff.


While immersing yourself in the beauty of Banff, safety should always be a top priority. Stay informed about weather conditions, dress appropriately for the weather, and follow safety guidelines for outdoor activities. By doing so, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience throughout your stay.


In conclusion, a winter visit to Banff is a magical and memorable journey. The stunning landscapes, exciting activities, and warm hospitality of this Canadian gem will leave you with lifelong memories. So, embrace the winter wonderland of Banff and create an extraordinary winter adventure in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.