Experience the Best of Banff in the Winter
The Canadian town of Banff boasts magical scenery and natural beauty aplenty. It’s like this town has been taken straight from your favourite fairy tale: snow-tipped mountains devour the skyline and adorable wooden chateaus line its snowy streets. Each wood log cabin looks just like a gingerbread house, with their snow-covered roofs resembling sweet icing, and the distant Fairmont Hotel looks more like a castle fit for a princess than a luxury hotel. Situated within Banff National Park in Alberta, this winter wonderland is the perfect base for exploring Canada’s ski fields, lakes and frozen waterfalls.
Sightseeing at Sulphur Mountain
Stand atop Sulphur Mountain’s dramatic edge and view Banff from above. This lookout provides an uninterrupted view of the encircling Rocky Mountains. Ride the gondola all the way to the summit at 2,281m or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, hike your way to the top. Sulphur Mountain also has a range of impressive eateries, shops, observation decks, interpretive boardwalks and hikes. Grab yourself some Canadian memorabilia (we opted for a toque hat and scarf with 'Banff' proudly embroidered in red) and head on over to the edge at sunset for the perfect photo opportunity.
Skiing at Sunshine Resort
Banff is uniquely situated between three nearby ski resorts, including Mount Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. Lake Louise’s steep slopes mean it’s the go-to for advanced skiers and snowboarders, whereas Mount Norquay’s terrain park is an adventurer’s paradise. We opted for Sunshine Village, first for its 3,300 acres of skiable terrain, spread across three sprawling mountains, and secondly, as the name suggests, for the sunny weather. The resort is a quick and scenic 15-minute drive from Banff, with shuttles operating daily. Skiers will appreciate its long, wide slopes and snowboarders will love Sunshine’s thrilling tree runs. Be sure to head to Lookout Mountain where you can ski between Canada’s two provinces, British Columbia and Alberta, on the one run. Ever wanted to be in two places at once? Well, now you can.
Ice Skating at Lake Louise
One of the most photographed lakes in the world during summer, Lake Louise's turquoise waters lure travellers from all over to kayak or wade in its waters and hike around its banks. Come winter, Lake Louise freezes over and snow settles atop the surface. Winter is a quieter season for this attraction but its beauty is no less striking. Wander as far as you can see towards the mountains and marvel over the fact you’re literally walking on water. Next, pop into the luxurious Fairmont Chateau and hire some ice skates so you can glide across the lake’s surface. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Lake Louise in January you’ll be greeted by towering ice sculptures of castles, elephants, snow leopards and more for the Ice Magic Festival. The Fairmont also set up an outdoor ice bar where you can indulge in a steaming coffee, spiked with Bailey’s, next to the fire.
Chase frozen waterfalls at Johnston Canyon
Pack your hiking boots, because Johnston Canyon’s 1.6-mile ice walk to frozen waterfalls is a must-do. Wind your way amongst towering trees, through limestone caves and over bridges to discover seven sets of frozen waterfalls. The lower falls is close to a 30-minute hike or allow up to 45-minutes to reach the upper falls. Getting to Johnston Canyon is simple, drive just 25 minutes west of Banff or hop onto a shuttle.
Eat your way through Banff
Dip into Banff’s world-class eateries and watering holes and enjoy a meal served with a magical mountainous backdrop. Love burgers? Good, because so does Eddie. Pop into The Eddie Burger + Bar in Caribou Street for one of Eddie’s favourite burger combinations. You can even customise your own! Eddie will tell you his burgers should always be washed down with one (or three) of his world-famous trashcan cocktails, and we totally agree. It's a sweet combination of vodka, gin, rum, triple sec, blue curaço, lime juice and a full can of red bull crushed into the glass. This drink will give you the energy after a long day of skiing and sightseeing to hit the dancefloor at the HooDoo Lounge, one of Banff’s popular nightclubs, which is conveniently located just next door. For a more relaxed watering hole, pop into Park Distillery. They pour spirits that have been distilled in-house and serve campfire-inspired cuisine. The cheese and whisky fondue is as good as it sounds and I also recommend tucking into their gourmet Bubba’s Mac n Cheese. If you're hitting the slopes at Sunshine Village, skip the cafeteria food and head straight to Mad Trapper’s Smokehouse for a jug of Canadian beer and poutine tossed in gravy and cheese curds.