With all the early season snow in Banff National Park, skiers and snowboarders are eagerly anticipating the hills opening. But if downhill thrills aren’t your thing, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy winter in and around Banff.
Hit the Ice
Banff’s mountain lakes are an attraction all year round, but as temperature drops and the crystal blue waters freeze over they take on a whole new magic. There’s a brief window of time, usually in early November, when the ice is thick enough to be safe but not yet covered with snow. Skating over the clear ice on a sunny day, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, is an experience not to be missed. Popular spots for outdoor skating include Two Jack Lake, Vermilion Lakes and Carrot Creek. Later in the season, scenic outdoor rinks are cleared at a few spots around town, including the High School field in the centre of Banff. Check out banff.ca for more details and tips for staying safe on the ice.
If you’re a little wobbly on skates, ice cleats are another option for exploring Banff’s frozen wonders. Just slip them over a pair of warm boots and you’re ready to discover destinations like Grotto Canyon, where a walk along the creek bed will lead you to frozen waterfalls and ancient petroglyphs on the canyon walls. Looking for that lake with all the frozen bubbles that you saw on Instagram? They’re most commonly found at Abraham Lake, around 1.5 hours’ drive from Lake Louise. The best time to see the bubble effect, which is caused by methane released from decaying plants on the bottom of the lake, is December to January. Be warned that driving conditions in this remote part of the mountains can be challenging in winter and ice conditions are variable. Guided experiences at Abraham Lake are also available through Travel Alberta. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of the bubble phenomenon at Banff’s own Lake Minnewanka, though the amount of bubbles varies from year to year depending on the conditions.
For the freedom to explore anywhere, a pair of snow shoes can’t be beaten. Banff’s most popular trails can be crowded in the summer season, but they’re just as picturesque in the snow and with far fewer visitors. Starting at Moose Meadows on Highway 1A, you can hike up to the famous Ink Pots, then return via the busier Johnston Canyon trail. There are also plenty of fun spots to explore around the Banff townsite. Check out Parks Canada’s Winter Trails Guide for more trail inspiration and important safety guidelines.
If you’re fired up to get out and explore our winter wonderland, you might be interested in our Choose Your Own Adventure package. It includes accommodation, a voucher for skate, snowshoe, boot or ice cleat rentals and dining credit in the Juniper Bistro to indulge after your day of adventures. Need more help planning your winter experience in Banff? Our friendly front desk team are happy to recommend their favourite cold weather activities – call us toll free on 1 866 551 2281.
Get ready to experience winter your way!
–The Juniper Team