10 things to do in Banff and Lake Louise this winter

Winter in the city is a season to be endured, a time to put your head down and plow through…”just make it until spring” we mutter to ourselves as we trudge through dirty snow on side streets and slowly make our way on slippery roads to work and school, “just make it until spring…”

Winter in the Canadian Rockies, on the other hand, is a time of celebration and activities galore! People revel in the snow, excitedly awaiting a big snowfall and fresh powder like kids waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.

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Photo Credit: Isobel Springett

Banff and Lake Louise embrace the season with an abundance of things to do, from SnowDays events to the multitude of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing trails that are all over the area, and cater to everyone, from beginners to advanced snow sport participants.

Since there are so many things to do in Banff and Lake Louise, we thought it was time we compiled a list of fun activities and events for you to reference. We hope this helps with the decision of when to visit the Canadian Rockies.

Best of all, most of these activities are just minutes from Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts lodges! So take a look, pick a few, book your getaway from the winter drudgery of the city and #SeizetheRockies.

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Photo Credit: Isobel Springett

Events Happening in Banff, Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies in January & February:

1. Snow Days – January 10-February 8, 2015: This month-long festival features guided evening walks, GPS adventures for families, a heritage scotch tasting, ice skating lessons and more! Closing the festival will be the exciting event ‘The Big Bear’ – a chance for you to watch ski and snowboard pros try out tricks on custom-designed rails and ramps. Learn more about this exciting celebrating of winter.

2. MEC Ice Climbing Festival – January 30-February 1, 2015: Held during Snow Days, but worthy of its’ very own mention, MEC Ice Climbing Festival is being held in downtown Banff for the second year in a row. There will be a wide range of activities designed to celebrate and showcase this exciting sport. Check out the 40 foot Banff Avenue Ice Walk, participate in Public Climbing time, or enter the Ice Climbing Competition and see how you measure up!

3. Ice Magic Festival – January 16-25, 2015: A local and international visitor’s favourite, this Lake Louise festival has been happening every year for the last 20 years, and never disappoints. Visitors of all ages are awed by the beauty of the masterpieces that the international ice carvers create over a 34 hour competition. There are a mix of ticketed events and free activities. Kids will love the Little Chippers Ice Zone, where they can meet a sled dog, try out ice carving, or listen to a story by a roaring fire!

4. All Star Curling Skins Game – January 16-18 2015: TSN’s premiere curling event returns to Banff this year, and is not to be missed for all the curling fans out there! For the first time since 2003, there will also be a women’s competition. So come on down and cheer on Sochi Olympic favourites like Brad Jacobs and Jennifer Jones. Learn more.

Activities to do in Banff, Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies in January & February:

5. Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding: This one is a no-brainer. Between Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay, the Canadian Rockies have some of the best downhill skiing and snowboarding in the world. Catered to beginners and experienced skiers alike, there is truly something for everyone and the views alone are worth an outing. Not to be missed. Book a ski and stay package with Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts. 

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Photo Credit: Paul Zizka/BLLT

6. Snowshoeing: Truly the perfect sport for everyone, snowshoeing is one of those activities that is easy to master, fun to do and keeps your heart rate up! A great outing for families and anyone at any age, Banff, Lake Louise and Yoho National Park have some serene and gorgeous snowshoeing trails. A satisfying way to spend an afternoon out in the Rockies. Learn more about snowshoe rentals and trails.

7. Tubing: Awesome fun for the whole family! Just like tobogganing, except the hill is bigger and the ride is more comfortable. Mount Norquay and Lake Louise Ski Resort both offer this very fun activity, and best of all, a towing system pulls you to the top of the hill! Woohoo!

8. Cross-Country Skiing: Another one of those sports that is fairly easy to master, a ton of fun to do, and a great work out. The trail around Emerald Lake Lodge is perfect for beginners, and so gorgeous that experienced cross country skiers will love it too. There are a ton of trails around Lake Louise and Banff too. CRMR loves cross country skiing so much that we couldn’t let the trails around Emerald Lake be neglected after Parks Canada was going to be forced to stop laying the tracks due to budget cuts, so we reached an agreement to continue track setting the tracks so everyone could enjoy them. Definitely worth checking out.

9. Ice Skating: Pack your skates, because there are literally ice rinks around every corner in Banff and Lake Louise. Try out skating right on stunning Lake Louise, and on a rink in downtown Banff surrounded by the charming town. Either way, the rinks are well-maintained and not very busy. Whether you are a pro or can’t remember how to stop, these are the rinks to test your skills on.

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Photo Credit: Paul Zizka/BLLT

 10. Dog sledding: Everyone’s favourite activity! Once you go dogsledding, you can’t help but fall in love with the enthusiasm and energy those dogs have. Their enthusiasm is contagious, so don’t be surprised if you spend the whole ride grinning ear to ear as you rush through the gorgeous forested paths of Banff and Lake Louise. Dog sledding is one of those activities, that once you do it, you will be raving about it to friends and family for years.

Other Activities: Skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, skating and dog sledding are all amazing fun, but sometimes you want to take a break and relax. Soak in one of CRMR’s outdoor hot tubs and rest those weary muscles as you recap all the adventures you had that day. Or sit in Deer Lodge or Emerald Lake Lodge’s sitting areas in front of a roaring fire and sip a specialty coffee. Play a little pool, foosball or challenge a friend to a board game in Deer Lodge’s games room. Set up some snooker on Emerald Lake Lodge’s snooker table, or sip a cocktail and nibble on a charcuterie platter at Buffalo Mountain Lodge’s Sleeping Buffalo Lounge.

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Need we say more? The fires are roaring, the seats are cozy, and there’s a spot waiting for you -so book your stay now. Be sure to make time for the amazing winter activities, events and festivals that Banff, Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies have to offer this January and February. Escape the winter drudgery of the city and head to the mountains this winter!

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Photo credit: Isobel Springett