Activities in the Rockies for Non-Skiers

When it comes to winter mountain sports and the Rocky Mountains, the two go hand-in-hand, but what if skiing or snowboarding at top speeds down a frozen slope isn’t really your thing? Don’t fret, the Rocky Mountains are still a great winter destination for non-skiers with plenty of activities to keep you entertained during your getaway. Just like those finding their fun on the slopes, there are a number of exhilarating activities, gorgeous mountain vistas, crunchy snow and fresh, crisp air that are waiting right outside your doorstep.

Along with snow-covered peaks and breathtaking scenery, winter in the mountains brings with it a number of exciting non-skiing activities, such as skating, sightseeing, dog sledding, snowshoeing and so much more. Whether you are exploring in Lake Louise, Banff or Yoho National Park, each destination offers new and exciting opportunities to fully embrace your time in this winter wonderland.

Follow along to learn more about our top activities for non-skiers when the snow starts to fly.

1. Ice Skating in the Rockies

Photo credit: Christopher Amat

One of winter’s greatest treasures is in the form of ice skating. Glide across the ice as the crisp winter air nips at your cheeks. Combined with the stunning Rocky Mountain scenery, this is a must-do activity for all visitors to the area. There are many skating rinks near our lodges that will have you performing triple-sow-cows in no time!

2. Indulge in Rocky Mountain Cuisine

Photo credit: Roth and Ramberg

You may be asking, “what is Rocky Mountain Cuisine?”. Well, it’s best described as an artful assemblage of fresh Canadian ingredients such as game meats like bison, elk, caribou, wild boar, venison and pheasant. It also includes Pacific halibut, Arctic char, Alberta lamb, AAA beef, prairie-grown grains, fresh indigenous berries, and locally sourced vegetables.

If you have stopped in at any of our lodges, you may already be familiar with the delicious options that change with the seasons. Even in the winter months, our menus feature the finest in regional and seasonal ingredients, including meat that is sourced from our family-owned Canadian Rocky Mountain Ranch.

The Canadian Rocky Mountain Ranch, located 20 minutes South West of Calgary, provides our restaurants with high-quality Elk and Bison products, raised in a natural, humane and sustainable manner without hormones or antibiotics. For those with dietary restrictions, simply speak with your waiter or waitress who will ensure that you receive a meal that meets your standards. Be sure to check out the delicious menus at Buffalo Mountain Lodge, Deer Lodge and Emerald Lake Lodge.

If you’re looking for a unique culinary experience be sure to try our Chef’s Table at Deer Lodge. Featuring local and seasonal ingredients, enjoy a deliciously interactive three-course dinner prepared by Chef Tyler Tays, with unique wine pairings selected by CRMR’s Wine Director, Brad Royale. There are only 20 tickets available for each the intimate dinner taking place in the Mount Fairview Dining Room. Make a weekend trip out of the experience and save 40% off your room rate, when you book our Chef’s Table Dine & Stay Package. Email our reservations team for more info:

3. Tubing at Mt. Norquay

Located just minutes from the Banff Townsite, the Tube Park at Mt. Norquay boasts 8 lanes of high-speed fun, making it the largest park in Alberta! The resort supplies the tubes, and the purpose-built magic carpet towing system will pull you to the top of the specially groomed tubing lanes, so there’s no need to walk uphill after each ride. Just take a seat, hold onto the handles and get sliding!

4. Snowshoeing popular Trails around the Lodges

Photo credit: Lori Andrews

Snowshoeing is a great choice for a fun winter activity because it’s easy to learn, inexpensive, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages, fitness levels, and experience. There are many options for routes and trails ranging from short, easy walks around town to backcountry epics.  Some special highlights near our lodges that we encourage you to explore include:

For a full list of fantastic trails in the Banff and Yoho National Parks, visit Parks Canada’s website.

Where to rent snowshoes near each lodge:

The Boathouse Trading Co. is located directly across from Emerald Lake Lodge and offers snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals.

Chateau Mountain Sports is located in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a 5-minute walk from Deer Lodge in Lake Louise.

Snowtips – Bactrax is located on Bear Street in Downtown Banff, a 20-minute walk or 10-minute drive from Buffalo Mountain Lodge on Tunnel Mountain.

5. Experience the majestic views from the Banff Gondola

Photo credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism & Noel Hendrickson

Perfect for those passing through the Town of Banff, or a day activity during a longer stay, the Banff Gondola is an experience that truly makes you feel on top of the world. With six stunning mountain ranges and the sweep of the Bow Valley before you, views from the Sulphur Mountain summit are nothing short of breathtaking, especially when there is a coat of snow over the landscape. The Banff Gondola offers much more to discover in a state-of-the-art building that will heighten your senses at every turn and take in the views as you descend from the summit.

6. Cross-Country skiing in mountainous forests & valleys

Photo credit: Jason Dziver

You glide silently on freshly-made tracks alongside trees laden with snow, their branches bowing under its weight. The snow is lit up by the sun, creating a sparkling path before you. Rounding a bend, the forest opens up to a breathtaking view of a frozen lake and snow-covered peaks. Cross-country skiing offers a special combination of pure, serene wilderness, and energizing outdoor discovery.

Our favourite cross-country skiing trail near Buffalo Mountain Lodge:

Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court
Two seasonally closed campgrounds offer first-time skiers the perfect place to try out a new sport. Get your evening fitness fix with 2.6 km of lit trails in the Trailer Court or explore the 3.1 km quiet, forested loops of Village 1. The trailhead is within walking distance of the lodge and Roam transit.

See this printable brochure for a full list of cross-country ski trails in Banff.

Our favourite cross-country trails around Deer Lodge in Lake Louise:

Lake Louise Loop
This loop features a wide-open trail across frozen Lake Louise, followed by a fun up & down trip back through the frozen woods – just 100 metres uphill from the lakeshore walking path. Use the Fairview – Lake Louise connector trail to ski directly from the parking lot onto the lake. Track setting ends at the back of the lake, as the trail up the valley crosses large avalanche paths.

See this printable brochure for a full list of cross-country ski trails in Lake Louise.

Our favourite cross-country trails near Emerald Lake Lodge in Field, BC:

Emerald Lake Horse Trail
This trail follows the western side of the lake, connecting the parking area with the Emerald Alluvial Fan Loop. Please follow the groomed trail and directional signs.

See this printable brochure for a full list of cross country ski trails around Emerald Lake Lodge.

Where to rent cross-country skis near each lodge:

The Boathouse Trading Co. is located directly across from Emerald Lake Lodge and offers snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals.

Chateau Mountain Sports is located in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a 5-minute walk from Deer Lodge in Lake Louise.

Snowtips – Bactrax is located on Bear Street in Downtown Banff, a 20-minute walk or 10-minute drive from Buffalo Mountain Lodge on Tunnel Mountain

7. Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides

Photo credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism/ Paul Zizka Photography

The sound of jingling sleigh bells and the sights of the magical snowy landscape make you feel like you are a character in your very own fairy-tale. The seemingly tireless horses maintain a steady rhythm and the sleigh glides on, swiftly and silently while you sit cozily under a warm blanket. Sleigh rides are a classically romantic way to enjoy the winter wonderland of Banff and Lake Louise. Join a public tour or indulge in a private ride, either way, it’s sure to be a memorable experience. Sleigh rides are available both in the town of Banff and in Lake Louise and reservations are recommended as this is a very popular activity during the winter months!

8. Tobogganing is the new Skiing

Photo credit: Scott Bakken

Exchange your skis and snowboard for a toboggan or inflatable tube and let gravity work in your favour. Originally used as transportation by the Inuit and First Nations groups of Canada, tobogganing and tubing have been adapted into a thrillingly fun winter activity.

If you’re in search of the ultimate places to visit, locals will tell you to visit the Cascade Ponds on Minnewanka Road. This site is unsupervised, so please have fun but take care.

9. Ice Walks

In the winter season, Banff National Park and Yoho National Park’s sub-zero temperatures turn mighty waterfalls into glittering pillars of ice. Suspended in time, these frozen falls look almost otherworldly. It’s an experience that’s truly unique to the Canadian Rockies and can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Johnston’s Canyon, Banff

Photo credit: Noel Hendrickson / Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Johnston’s Canyon is one of the most popular attractions in Banff National Park and has a network of steel catwalks built into the canyon walls allowing you to walk along this cathedral of ice with airy views into the gorge below. Continue onto the awe-inducing upper falls — a glittering tower of ice that rise 30 metres above your head. These gigantic pillars of ice are the tour highlight and ice climbers can often be seen scaling the frozen columns.

  • If you don’t feel comfortable doing the hike on your own there are several companies offering tours through the canyon including Discover Banff Tours and Banff Adventures. They provide ice grips for your shoes and a guide will talk about the habitat, plus how the canyon was formed. Most tours do offer shuttle services.
  • If you choose to go with the self-guided option, you will need to rent crampons from a local sports rental shop like Snowtips Ice Track Rentals in Banff for approximately $14/day. There is no public transportation to the Canyon.

Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park  

Photo credit: Mark Jinks

You’ll see a small pull out with a sign for the Natural Bridge as you drive up the road from the TransCanada Hwy to Emerald Lake. You will be completely blown away and surprised by how memorizing this destination is in the winter. With the Emerald River frozen you can descend down to the river and walk under the pedestrian bridge that is normally used in the summer for viewing the Natural Bridge. You can even walk under the natural bridge which is a surreal experience that will put this location on your “must see again” list. Please be advised that doing this activity is at your own risk.

10. Dog Sledding

Photo credit: Noel Hendrickson / Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Travelling by the power of dogs is a remarkable experience. Originally used as a method of transportation by the Inuit people of the Canadian Arctic and early Banff settlers, dog sledding has since been adopted as a recreational activity that draws in people from around the world. There are many options for planning that perfect dog sledding adventure in Banff National Park. There is no dog sledding directly in the town of Banff but there are many packages that include transportation. For the best dog sledding packages in the park visit Discover Banff Tours or Adventure Banff.

  • If you plan on staying at Emerald Lake Lodge in Yoho National Park or Deer Lodge in Lake Louise, try sledding with Kingmik Dog sled Tours located near Lake Louise.

11. Shop Locally

The towns of Banff and Lake Louise are alive with people, wandering along the streets, admiring the sights, and meeting for coffee. Guests can take the complimentary shuttle from Buffalo Mountain Lodge or Deer Lodge to explore the main avenues, window shop and indulge in a tasty treat or warm beverage for a number of bakeries and coffee shops.

Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff, Alberta

Photo credit: Kelly MacDonald / Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Spend time on Banff Avenue browsing the latest in men’s and women’s fashions or make a quick stop to pick up some new gear on the way to your next adventure. Explore the shops selling genuine Canadian goods, sports equipment, and gifts for everyone on your list and don’t miss Canada’s largest, year-round Christmas store for a festive experience in any season.

Deer Lodge in Lake Louise, Alberta

While Banff offers the greatest variety and number of stores, the village centre of Lake Louise has excellent ski and snowboard shops in the resort and a small shopping mall in the village for groceries, liquor, gifts and souvenirs.

Emerald Lake Lodge in Yoho National Park

Photo credit: A Couple of Men

Although Emerald Lake is driving distance from the nearest town, there is one very special location with lots of great treasures, just steps from the door of Emerald Lake Lodge: The Boathouse Trading Co. Be sure to check this little store out for a unique array of gifts and more, including cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals!

12. Tour the Park Museums

Canada’s oldest national park, Banff National Park has preserved its classic historic and cultural sites for visitors to explore. Immerse yourself in history just as rich and complex as the landscapes of Banff and Lake Louise by visiting some of the many museums. Some of them include:

Banff Park Museum

The Banff Park Museum is housed in a log cabin constructed in 1903 and is the oldest museum of natural history in western Canada. Displaying historical collections of the diverse flora and fauna of Banff National Park, including an impressive taxidermy exhibition, it has been designated a Heritage Site of Canada.

Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies seeks to preserve and make accessible the history and culture of the Rocky Mountains. The museum hosts ongoing events, seasonal art exhibits, and a comprehensive collection of original artworks, photographs, and other archives. Open daily and located on Bear Street in the town of Banff.

The Historic Luxton Museum

The Home Museum of the Luxton family features a glimpse into the life of this pioneer family and of Banff over a period of nine decades. It houses stunning collections of First Nations artifacts, paintings, china, furniture, and more. The Luxton Garden is also part of the historic footprint, with 120-year-old lilac trees and a garden designed in the Arts and Craft Style ca. 1910.

13. Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival

Photo credit: Kelly MacDonald / Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Set in the spectacular surroundings of Lake Louise, the Ice Magic Festival is a world-class event with over 25 years of history. Watch as talented ice artists from around the world skillfully combine gruelling physicality with precision artistry in an ice carving competition. Free tickets to the festival with an overnight stay at Deer Lodge. Festival dates are from January 16 to 27, 2019.

14. Banff Snow Days Festival

In the heart of the winter months, Banff National Park invites visitors and locals to embrace the cold, vigor, and fun that winter brings. The silence that comes with falling snow, the glowing crackle of a fire, and the joy of snowball fights: it is a magical time of year. Come see winter artistry in action during Snow Days, the festival of snow in Banff National Park.

15. Soak in the Natural Hot Springs

Photo credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson

Like gourmet blends of coffee, a hot spring’s water features a signature mix. Each Rocky Mountain Hot Spring has its own unique blend of minerals, gases and temperature. The closest mineral hot spring to all three of our lodges happens to be the Banff Upper Hot Springs in Banff, Alberta. The facilities at the Banff Hot Springs are universally accessible and includes a large pool and café. Swimsuits, towels, and lockers are available to rent. Banff National Park’s only hot springs pool welcomes you year-round for an authentic heritage experience that is a favourite amongst visitors.

*Insider Tip * When in Banff do as the locals do – come in the morning for the most relaxing visit.

16. Night Sky Photography

Photo credit: Paul Zizka / Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Cold winter nights lend to fantastic conditions for capturing the night sky. Bundle up, grab a camera and check out Paul Zizka’s workshops that boost your Instagram feed with a few stunning long exposures from around Banff and Lake Louise.

17. View the Northern Lights at Lake Minnewanka

The Northern Lights are one of our Earth’s most spectacular phenoniums and will surely be the highlight of your winter escape to the Canadian Rockies.

Although it’s hard to forecast, the site which best predicts the whether the Aurora will happen is the Aurora tracker. You can check it daily or subscribe to notifications on Twitter from @Aurora_Alerts  which will send you a message every time the status of the Aurora changes.

18. Unwind in our Hot Tubs & Sauna

Photo credit: Scott Bakken

After a long drive through the mountains, your only plan should be unwinding and soaking in any of our outdoor hot tubs. Embrace in the ultimate relaxation moment as you step into our state-of-the-art steel hot tub, take-in a deep breath of the fresh mountain air and say “Ahhhh”. At each of our, you can bask in the idyllic mountain views as snow quietly falls around you, creating an instant retreat into relaxation.