Banff Winter Travel Guide
When an impromptu long-weekend trip to Canada was placed on my radar for winter sports I quickly snapped into gear researching the best ways to maximize the use of my time in this mountainous paradise.
If you are an iKon pass holder SkiBig3 is an ideal location to visit for a variety of mountain landscapes for all skill levels. And, if you enjoy other winter sports, the Banff and Lake Louise Region is a perfect place to visit.
Please read on to learn my thoughts on each of the mountains, where to stay, how to get around & a few snowshoe hikes worth doing after the lifts close.
3 Minute Read
The nearest commercial airport is YCC located in Calgary which takes approximately 90 minutes to drive from.
Where to Stay
The drive time takes about 90 minutes direct to Banff which has the nearest proximity to all three mountains. While Canmore being a little shorter distance from Calgary, not as walkable and needing a rental car to get to the mountains because there are not shuttles that travel directly from town to the slopes. The third option would be to stay at Lake Louise Village or the Fairmont Lake Louise. This third option is perfect for those who want a more resort, secluded experience with not much hopping from ski resort to ski resort.
So, I chose Banff as our base camp for adventure due to it’s high walkability, access to public transit & shuttles to the mountains. I chose the Banff Park Lodge due to it being the first stop for ski shuttles on their way out of town and the first to drop off once returning.
The Ski Mountains
All three mountains included in SkiBig3 are on the ikon pass so I felt compelled to sample each of them. While all three had fantastic views Lake Louise quickly became my favorite but you need to visit and decide which place speaks to your heart.
Sunshine sits high on the Continental Divide in the heart of Banff National Park and is only a 20 minute bus ride from the town of Banff. Three sprawling mountains provide breathtaking views and over 3,300 acres of skiable terrain.
The season can stretch to up to seven months and considered the longest non-glacial ski season in Canada with a base at 7,200 feet that keeps the snow light and dry. The mountain was open with many lifts and perfect for beginners to experts.
This is a small resort and closest to Banff with short, steep runs on two of their three lift. It certainly has something for every9one and being jus minutes from Banff makes is a perfect stop for both day and night skiing with a fully illuminated terrain park.
Lake Louise is a much farther bus ride (45 minutes) but with a gorgeous view of the Banff National Park mountains and rivers that line the highway the drive goes by quickly. The larger resort with a front and back bowl. So many fantastic runs to choose from that made getting into the grove much more pleasant.
The restort is near 4200 acres with views from all angles so be sure to bring a camera. The runs vary from gentle slopes and long cruising runs to chutes and a large open bowl.
This mountain was by far my favorite when skiing the Big3.
Where to Eat
The slopes all have standard menus for ski slopes with both healthy and naughty options including the famed Canadian Poutine. And, when in Banff we explored a few places that were hearty and delicious after a day of skiing and hiking.
The Bison – An upscale dining experience that needs reservations in advance with a menu that is multi-cultural and well balanced in flavor. Steak tartare with Leone was my favorite item on the menu.
Wild Flour – A yummy breakfast cafe with juices, fresh baked goodies & gluten-free breakfast sandwiches.
Farm & Fire – A large-portion tapas style menu with locally sourced foods that compliment the standard North American palate.
The Balkan – A cozy greek cafe with all the standard favorites. I recommend the greek bowl w/halloumi and falafel.
What Else To Do
Not a ski or snowboarder or need some time off to enjoy other activities? Check out these fun and connveinitently locate adventures
Snowshoe / Hike
- Tunnel Mountain – quick and accessible from Banff downtown
- Sulphur Mountain 4.5 hour hike accessible from public bus from Banff
- Lake Louise Beehive – 6.5 hour trek
- Dog sledding in Banff National Park
- Lake Louise Fairmont Hotel rental shop
- Banff Hot Springs
- Radium Hot Springs
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