Things to do in Banff this winter
Visit the Banff Gondola, at night! Night Rise is an interactive winter celebration blending colorful lights, music, and poetic storytelling at the summit of Sulphur Mountain. This fun family-friendly event is back for another winter season and runs nightly through the end of March.
Try tubing at the Mt. Norquay Ski Resort. This tube park is one of the biggest in the Canadian Rockies with Alberta’s longest tube lanes. Families and youth (ages four and older) will have fun here for a half-day outing to Banff or you can enjoy an evening visit to the park. Participants must be at least 42 inches tall, and it’s recommended you pre-book tickets online.
Go ice skating at Lake Louise. You’ll find one of the world’s most beautiful outdoor ice rinks on the lake in front of the Chateau. Parking is free in the winter season and the lake is maintained for skating until early April. Skates can be rented in the Chateau or at Wilson Mountain Sports in the Village.
Discover the wonder of Christmas in the town of Banff. The popular In Search of Christmas Spirit event is back for another season from mid-November through the end of December. Take a walk through the Cascade of Time Garden with your family, where you’ll find colorful lanterns and animals telling the Christmas story. Free tickets are required and can be reserved online.
Take a magical hike through Johnston Canyon. Enjoy a 5km return hike to view two beautiful frozen waterfalls. The trail is much less busy in the winter and the hike is fun for youth year-round with metal boardwalks that you’ll traverse through the canyon. Ice cleats are highly recommended for all winter hikes in Banff and are usually necessary for this trail.
Cross-country skiing near Calgary
Calgary golf courses and parks – Ski close to home at the Confederation Park Golf Course or at the Shaganappi Point Golf Course. Both have regular track setting and grooming through the winter. You’ll also find groomed trails at a few city parks including Bowness Park and North Glenmore Park (bring your skates for a full afternoon of winter fun).
City golf courses and parks are free to use (with donations accepted for the golf courses). Dogs are not allowed on city golf courses. Please refrain from walking on groomed trails if you are hiking.
West Bragg Creek – Conveniently located just west of Bragg Creek, this recreation area has groomed trails for all abilities of skiers that are free to use (donations accepted). Well-behaved dogs are allowed off leash on all trails here, and there are separate multi-use trails for snowshoeing, winter hiking, and fat biking. Make sure to rent skis in the city before heading out.
Canmore Nordic Centre – Rent skis, sign up for lessons (phone ahead), and head out on the trails, all from one convenient spot. Trail fees are in effect, but you’ll find a large network of immaculately groomed trails for all abilities to enjoy. There are also separate trails on site for fat biking and snowshoeing. Dogs are not allowed on the trails at the Nordic Centre.
Kananaskis Village – Rent skis from Kananaskis Outfitters on site and even sign up for a lesson (call ahead). There is a lovely beginner loop that circles above the Village and after, you’ll find many intermediate trails to explore around the Village and the Ribbon Creek areas. Stop in at the Outfitters if you need trail suggestions. There are no fees required to ski here.
Many trails are also designated as multi-use for both skiing and walking, and there are designated snowshoe trails around the Village as well. Bring your skates and sleds for a full day of winter fun. Dogs are allowed on leash.
Lake Louise – Rent skis from Wilson Mountain Sports in the Village and get a trail map from the Visitor Centre. After that, enjoy a beautiful ski across snow covered Lake Louise or ski the Moraine Lake Road (groomed and trackset in the winter.) The Visitor Centre can provide many other suggestions for beautiful, groomed trails around the area. Trails are free to use once you’ve purchased your Parks Canada Discovery Pass, and dogs are allowed on some trails on leash. Check the Parks Canada website before you visit.
Mountain spots to visit in Kananaskis
West Bragg Creek – Located 10km west of Bragg Creek, you’ll find a large trail network with dedicated trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, fat biking, and even equestrian use. Visit the Bragg Creek Trails website to view maps and choose a trail that will suit your chosen activity for the day. Please do not use groomed ski trails for hiking or biking. Well-behaved dogs are allowed on all trails here off leash.
Kananaskis Village off Highway 40 – Park beside the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge where you’ll find multi-use trails for cross-country skiing, hiking, and fat biking. You’ll also find a sledding hill, a hockey rink, and a pond for ice skating. All gear can be rented at Kananaskis Outfitters including youth fat bikes. They can also provide trail suggestions for your chosen activity.
Ribbon Creek and Troll Falls off Highway 40 – You’ll pass the Troll Falls trailhead as you drive up the road towards the Village and the Nakiska Ski Area. The Troll Falls hike is an easy 3km round-trip outing, ending in a beautiful frozen waterfall. Ice cleats are recommended if the trail is icy.
Further up the road towards the Village, you’ll find the Ribbon Creek trailhead. Follow the creek on a well-packed-down snowshoe trail which crosses several snowy bridges. It’s a great family hike, and a loop can be made with other trails in the area. Stop at the Barrier Lake Visitor Centre to pick up a trail map and get hiking suggestions.
Note: Some trails at the Village, Troll Falls, and Ribbon Creek areas are signed for cross-country skiing only. Please respect all signage and choose multi-use trails for walking. Dogs are allowed on all of these trails if they are on leash.
Sandy McNabb Campground, Sheep River Provincial Park – This park is located south of Calgary, west of Diamond Valley off Highway 546. You’ll find a great network of groomed trails for cross-country skiing as well as multi-use trails for winter hiking and snowshoeing. There’s also a skating rink at the south day-use area, and sledding is popular on closed campground roads. Dogs are allowed on leash.
Grotto Canyon – The Grotto Canyon trailhead is located beside Grotto Pond off Highway 1A west of Exshaw. The Grotto Creek Canyon trail is 4km round trip and ends in beautiful frozen waterfalls. Ice cleats or spikes are imperative for this winter ice walk where you walk on the frozen creek. Dogs are allowed on leash.
Visit the Alberta Parks website for trail maps and more information on these featured destinations in Kananaskis. Note: You must have a Kananaskis Conservation pass in order to park at any of these trailheads. Day passes can be purchased online or you can purchase an annual pass.
Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky seven-year-old. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.
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