Inspiration Destinations Canada Why Canada's Banff & Lake Louise is the Ultimate Winter Wonderland

Why Canada's Banff & Lake Louise is the Ultimate Winter Wonderland

November 10, 2023

Why hibernate when you can embrace Canada’s ultimate winter wonderland, Banff National Park?

Horse-drawn sleigh rides, snow-dusted landscapes and epic ski runs: this trifecta has all the makings of a winter wonderland, just like the one you’ll find at Canada’s Banff National Park. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed site is just a 1.5-hour drive from Calgary, in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and is home to some of Canada’s most iconic natural landmarks, including Lake Louise. And while there is no denying that the park is a stunner in summer, it’s a winter visit that will really take your breath away.

Grab your mug of hot chocolate, crank up the Christmas carols and get ready to discover Banff and Lake Louise’s winter wonderland experiences.

Explore the fairytale landscape your way

Views from the top of Sulphur Mountain.

Banff National Park’s landscape of glacial lakes, Rocky Mountain peaks and alpine forests dazzles during summer, but when dusted in snow, the region is a scene straight out of a fairytale. In winter, a visit rewards with an opportunity to spot some of Canada’s most famous locals – furry, feathery or otherwise. Look out for elk, distinguishable by their huge antlers that can grow up to four feet in length, and also keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, deer, mountain goats and even a hulking moose.

One of the best ways to take in the spectacular wintery views is aboard the Banff Gondola. Board the gondola at the base of Sulphur Mountain, located at the end of Mountain Avenue, where it operates daily between from 10am until last ride up at 8.30pm. The snowy terrain unfolds as the gondola reaches the summit and from the peak of Sulphur Mountain, visitors are treated to sweeping panoramas of the six mountain ranges, plus Bow Valley and Banff town. It’s highly recommended that you book your tickets in advance and check the official Facebook page for up-to-date information ahead of your visit. If you prefer to stay at ground level, don your snowshoes for a winter walk through the forest, lace up your ice skates and skirt across a frozen lake, or climb aboard an e-fat bike custom-made for cycling across snow.

Discover activities that are snow much fun

Shred it up on Banff's pure-white slopes

With an average snowfall of 200cm per year and a quality that’s world-renowned, the falls around Banff National Park is perfect for seasoned snow bunnies as well as beginner skiers and snowboarders. Visitors can tackle the ski slopes at any of the three mountains in the park with one convenient ski pass, which also includes free shuttle bus transportation from downtown to all three resorts. The SkiBig3 are considered some of the world’s finest and include Banff Mt. Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort. There are 362 runs in total, many of which are beginner friendly with magic carpets, easier lift access to blue beginner runs and warm up huts. Not a skier? No problem. The Johnston Canyon boardwalk tour takes you into the canyon walls and passed frozen waterfalls. You might even see ice climbers ascending the frozen canyon faces.

Those visiting in January should add SnowDays Festival to their calendar. The streets of downtown Banff are transformed with epic snow sculptures and carved ice magic exhibitions, live music, street performers, stilt walkers and circus acts. On days you prefer to stay in and admire the views from afar, indulge in a traditional afternoon tea at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Homemade scones with wild berry jam, salted egg tarts and finger sandwiches are served alongside Devonshire tea and pristine Lake Louise views.

Experience the magic of a white Christmas

Christmas at Fairmont Banff Springs.

If it’s the quintessential white Christmas you seek, look no further. Upon the arrival of the season, the streets of downtown Banff are bedazzled in festive lights, Christmas carols echo into the night and steaming mugs of hot chocolate are in abundance. Be wowed by holiday lights at In Search of Christmas Spirit, an outdoor festive experience in the Cascade of Time Garden, and get lost in Canada’s largest year-round Christmas store (and pick up a hand-carved ornament along the way). Don't forget to visit Santa’s North Pole at Fairmont Banff Springs for arts and crafts plus a photo with Santa Claus.

The hot chocolate trail across 20 participating restaurants means you’ll never need to go without a warm mug of chocolatey goodness. From boozy hot chocolates to traditional recipes topped with whipped cream and a toasted marshmallow, sweet tooths won’t be able to resist a tasting. Sip while strolling past festive shopfront displays along Bear Street, a guaranteed way to send your Christmas spirit sky rocketing.

Stay in a hotel with a famous facade

Enjoy a memorable stay in Canada's "Castle in the Rockies", Fairmont Banff Springs.

One of Canada’s most iconic five-star properties is Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Fringed by forest-covered mountains, this palatial hotel looks like a scene out of a snow globe. A perfect spot for a winter escape, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise embraces the romance of winter with horse-drawn sleigh rides, mulled wine at the Ice Bar and ice skating on Lake Louise. 

Fairmont Banff Springs is a Scottish Baronial-style castle in the heart of Banff National Park and has been dubbed Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies”. Rooms and suites feature original architectural features like fireplaces and crown moulding. The indoor-outdoor spa is a must while you’re here too, especially after a day in the snow when the spa’s mineral pool and waterfall whirlpool await to soothe slope-weary muscles. 

Discover more about Banff and Lake Louise's winter wonderland on Luxury Escapes' brand-new podcast, Travel in 20. Listen now on SpotifyApple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

This article is produced in partnership with Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.

About Felicia Arhontissas
A keen traveller and a margarita enthusiast, Felicia is all about getting to the nitty gritty of each destination she visits and discovering its hidden gems (and then running home to write about it).

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