Banff is located in the province of Alberta, in Western Canada. This vast and varied area is the home to the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Icefields, spectacular mountains and lakes, and even deserts. The city of Calgary is the best access point by air, and only an hour and half drive out to Banff. Inside the dramatically beauty of the Banff National Park, with stunning sights accessible from Banff such as Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, and Moraine Lake (yes – it’s worth visiting all three!) the Icefields Parkway and Johnston Canyon. There is no shortage of natural beauty! The town of Banff is surrounded by rugged mountain peaks, and perfectly orientated to best take in the views, making the historic main street a feast for the eyes, while enjoying dining and nightlife, shopping, culture and even wildlife! Easily accessible from Banff are the surrounding ski resorts of Ski Big 3; Mt. Norquay, Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise ski resort with a combined total of more than 8,000 acres of terrain. These three resorts are on the one lift pass, and offer varied terrain, spectacular views and unique experiences. These 3 ski resorts are accessible from Banff via a free shuttle to passholders.
Where to stay in Banff & Lake Louise
Where to stay in Banff:
A variety of accommodation is on offer in the town of Banff, catering to the all styles of ski holiday; from budget skiers and snowboarders, to those with a taste for luxury, Banff will not disappoint. The area also provides a selection of moderately priced options and larger apartments or townhouses to suit a family or group ski trip. Most accommodation is situated around the main street, Banff Avenue. It is important to note that all accommodation in Banff is off mountain, meaning a short transfer is required to arrive at the ski resorts.
Skiing Banff & surrounds
The town of Banff is a great base for 3 major ski resorts. Mt Norquay is the closest ski resort to Banff town, only a 10-minute shuttle away. The smallest of the Ski Big 3 resorts, visitors love Mt Norquay for its convenience location close to town. Many skiers and snowboarders visit this peak for half a day before or after another local activity, so it’s great for getting a little more snow time.
Banff Sunshine is famous for its natural snow quality, Sunshine is a favourite for all skier and snowboarder levels with a great variety of terrain to choose from. The mountain can be easily accessed at the base area via the gondola from the carpark, giving you 8 minutes to kit up and get ready to hit the slopes! Boasting Canada’s first heated chairlift, Banff Sunshine is the perfect destination for chilly winter days.
Lake Louise ski resort holds the title as Ski Big 3’s largest ski resort covering a huge 1700 hectares. Soak in the best views in Banff National Park as you soar up the lifts, or as you make wide open turns on your way down the mountain. Lake Louise also has a sightseeing gondola for the non-skiers who still want the opportunity to take in the breathtaking views from the peak.
Getting Around in Banff
Banff is a small village designed especially for tourism, and very easy to get around for visitors. The main street is fairly flat and easily walkable. Alternatively, there are local buses to get you a little further, or when you need to save your legs for skiing!
Getting between your Banff accommodation and the ski resorts is easy, warm and comfortable. Mountain shuttles operate regularly to each of the three ski resorts and are free with your Ski Big 3 lift pass.
How to get to Banff
From Australia, there are lots of different entry points into Canada and your best option does depend on what you do for your entire holiday, is quite common for visitors to visit more than one place! The city of Calgary is the best access point by air for those flying into this part of Alberta, and only an hour and half drive out to Banff.
Top things to do in Banff in Winter
There are countless activities to enjoy in the Banff area, the hard part is fitting everything into your holiday! Here are a few favourites for you to try and squeeze in between days on the slopes. The Banff Gondola is a scenic 8 minute ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain, to take in the spectacular views of the surrounding Canadian Rocky Mountains. Our tip; enjoy a drink while taking in the sunset over the mountains. Being the winter wonderland that it is, there are plenty of activities to do outdoors in the snow and ice. Rug up, and try ice skating, a horse drawn sleigh side and dog sledding!
Take some time to thaw out and jump in the Banff Hot Springs, flowing out from the depths of the aptly named Sulphur Mountain, to sooth and heal sore muscles after big days on the big mountain slopes! If it’s just a bit too cold for anything outdoors, try ten pin bowling, indoor climbing or water park, curling or pamper yourself at one of Banff’s day spas!
Cross-Country Skiing is a great option for those that prefer to take in the surrounding scenery under your own leg power. Hiking is a year-round favourite in Banff, and there are routes available to all ages and abilities, tours are available to take in different sites in the region, or make your own way. Johnston Canyon is a ‘must-do’, make sure to head back in Summer sometime too and note the incredible difference between the seasons!
Shopping on Banff Ave has something for everyone! Remember to look up and take in the surrounding mountains while you hunt for Canadian Souvenirs, fashion (stock up on flannos at Rocky Mountain Flannel Company), specialty chocolates, sweets and treats, toys and children’s clothes, local artist galleries and jewellery, and of course ski and snowboard specialist gear and hardware.
The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is located on the side of Tunnel Mountain. Take in the current exhibition at the Walter Phillips Gallery, and dedicate some extra time to one of the three restaurants on site, all offering spectacular views.
Visiting the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louse is an experience in itself and is recommended to any visitors of Banff and Lake Louise. The Chateau sits on the edge of the spectacular Lake Louise, and the experience changes with the seasons. In Winter, the Lake will freeze over, offering ice skating and ice hockey around the spectacular ice castle, and sleigh rides and cross-country skiing around the Lake.
Dining & Après in Banff
Best Après in Banff:
Après ski is an important part of any snow holiday, below we have included a few recommendations while you are in Banff. For travellers that like more beer for their buck, visit the Banff Ave Brewing company and take advantage of $4 Pint night or $6 Stein night! What is better than beer? Beer and bowling, try High Rollers where they have more than 30 different beers on tap. Another great pub is Rose and Crown for hearty food and a great selection of drinks.
For the cocktail lovers we recommend La Terraza Bar or Elk and Oarsman. If you are in the mood to treat yo’self, take a trip to the Fairmont Banff Springs and visit The Rundle Bar for their signature Moscow mule while you take in the incredible views overlooking the Bow River.
For the night owls who want like to stay up late and dance the night away, head to The Hoodoos or The Dancing Sasquatch to show of your dance moves.
Best Restaurants in Banff:
A foodie’s paradise, Banff has an incredible array of dining options! Let’s start our food adventure with some hearty Albertan beef at Chucks Steak House, a must dine option for any visit to Banff.
For bougee bites you will love the high-end Canadian fare at The Maple Leaf, we highly recommend the signature Wild BC salmon and a chocolate souffle for dessert. Another exquisite dining option is The Bison, have a quack at their duck dish or try the Elk Tartare if you’re game.
A few other favourites are Juniper Restaurant for breakfast and Sky Bistro at the top of the Banff Gondola. If it’s your birthday and you are looking for a memorable experience, the Balkan is a delightful Greek restaurant that will allow you to partake in plate smashing! Another experiential dining option is the Grizzly House, they have weird and wonderful exotic fondue.