Planning a ski trip to the Canadian Rockies from the United States can be a daunting task, but with a little bit of planning and foresight, it can be the trip of a lifetime.
Banff is located in the Canadian Rockies and is known for its stunning scenery and world-class skiing. With three ski resorts to choose from, a plethora of restaurants to dine at and a bounty of winter activities to choose from, you’re sure to return home with a few items checked off the bucket list.
Here are the most important steps in planning the ultimate ski trip to the Canadian Rockies including when to visit, where to stay, where to ski and where to eat.
Choose your dates wisely
Banff and the surrounding area is a popular ski destination and can get crowded during peak times, especially on weekends. If you can, try to plan your trip during the middle of the week. Not only will you be treated to less crowded streets, you’ll also experience much shorter lift lines at the resorts and most likely score some savings on accommodation and lift tickets!
Although the ski season runs from November to May, the best conditions can usually be expected between December and April. At any time during this period, the chances of experiencing that champagne powder (light and fluffy snow) that the Canadian Rockies are known for are pretty high.
Decide on your accommodation
Banff and Canmore have a plethora of options when it comes to accommodations. Luckily Basecamp Resorts has 7 properties spread out between both cities with options that will have you covered no matter your budget. Consider what type of experience you're looking for and book well in advance to ensure availability.
Our newly opened Basecamp Suites Banff offers guests a home away from home right in the heart of Banff. Not only is your front door steps away from numerous shops and restaurants but each one of our units feature fully stocked kitchens, a dedicated living room to unwind and space to store ski equipment. This spring the rooftop hot tub will be opening which will be the ultimate apres-ski destination with epic views of the peaks of the Bow Valley.
Meanwhile in Canmore, we have a variety of properties ranging from full stocked suites featuring multiple bedrooms to your more classic boutique hotel experience. No matter where you’re staying, know that you can access all resorts with shuttle access (most times this is included with your lift ticket!). With multiple stops throughout the town, there's bound to be a bus stop a short walk away from your accommodation
From Canmore, you can hop on the short 20 minute bus ride to Banff offered by Roam Transit to catch the same resort shuttles.
One of the most popular ski resorts in Banff is Lake Louise Ski Resort. So popular it’s considered one of Canada's best places to ski. The resort boasts an impressive 4,200 skiable acres of terrain, offering a wide range of runs for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Additionally, Lake Louise's breathtaking scenery, including the famous frozen lake and the surrounding mountains, provides a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Definitely one for the bucket list! The resort also offers top-notch facilities, including modern lifts, cozy lodges, and a variety of dining options (our favorite is their new sushi bar; Kuma Yama). Furthermore, Lake Louise is known for its exceptional snow conditions, with an average annual snowfall of over 9 meters.
There are also two other world class resorts in the area; Mt. Norquay and Banff Sunshine Village. Mt. Norquay is known for its diverse terrain featuring some cruisy groomers to some of the steepest runs in North America. Mt. Norquay also offers night skiing which offers an experience of skiing in the dark with a birds eye view of the town of Banff.
Banff Sunshine Village is tucked away in the heart of the Rockies (you actually have to take a gondola ride up from the parking lot to reach the base of the resort!). Once you reach the alpine village, you’ll immediately be treated to panoramic views and a plethora of options of different mountain faces to ski on.
For the more eager skiers and snowboarders, Ski Big 3 offers a multi-day lift pass that gives access to all three resorts. With this pass you’ll have access to over 8,000 acres of skiable terrain which allows you the flexibility of following wherever the snow hits the most.
If you're looking for a more unique skiing experience, Banff National Park is a mecca for backcountry skiing. Skiers and snowboarders can explore the untracked slopes and deep powder of the surrounding peaks, while taking in the stunning views of the Canadian Rockies. Experienced guides are available to lead backcountry tours and provide essential safety information. Do note, the second you leave resort boundaries, you are entering avalanche territory to be sure to have the right knowledge, training and equipment. Learn more at avalanche.ca
Pre buy lift tickets
Now that you are familiar with the resorts, it’s time to buy your tickets. Although it’s possible to buy lift tickets when you roll up in the morning, know that buying tickets online and ahead of time can save you money! Not only will you avoid standing in line upon arrival, but depending on the ticket you purchase you may qualify for some exclusive benefits such as free shuttles to the resorts, risk free bookings and hotel delivery.
If you don't have your own ski or snowboard equipment, there are numerous rental options throughout town. Renting equipment in advance can save you time and money. Many ski rental shops in Banff offer online reservations, so you can reserve your equipment before you even arrive and some will even deliver the equipment to your hotel!
Do note that like most ski resorts in North America, rental packages do not include goggles, so either plan to bring your personal pair or be prepared to purchase some.
Check out these rental shops for all your gear needs:
Banff is located about a 1-hour drive from Calgary International Airport. You can rent a car, take a shuttle, or book a private transfer. Be sure to plan this in advance. Keep in mind that if you're planning on renting a car, you'll need to purchase a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which grants you access to all national parks in Canada, including Banff. If you're taking a shuttle, be sure to book in advance, as they can fill up quickly during peak season.
Situated in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff can get quite cold during the winter months, so be sure to pack accordingly. Stay warm and comfortable with essential items such as a thick coat, hat, gloves, and waterproof boots designed to handle the cold temperatures and snow. Opt for layering, including long johns or thermal underwear, a sweater, and a scarf, neck gaiter, or balaclava to protect your face from the wind. Protect your eyes from the sun's reflection on the snow with sunglasses or goggles.
Plan your Après-Ski
It’s never too early to start planning your after ski activity. Unwind and celebrate after a day of skiing in Banff with the best après ski spots. Take in the stunning mountain views while sipping on a drink at the mountain top Sky Bistro. Indulge in delicious food and drinks at the Bear Street Tavern. For a lively atmosphere and really good beer (like really good), head to 3 Bears Brewery & Restaurant. If you're looking for a more laid-back experience, check out the Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar. No matter your après ski style, Banff offers a range of options to satisfy your cravings and end your day on a high note.
Canmore, Alberta is a food lover's paradise, offering a wide range of dining options to suit every taste and budget. For all beer lovers, visit Tank 310 by Grizzly Paw, a contemporary restaurant and brewery that serves up innovative dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients. Another must-try is Iron Goat, known for its delicious pub-style fare and welcoming atmosphere. If you're in the mood for a more upscale dining experience, the Blake is the place to be. Their menu features a range of classic dishes with a modern twist, using only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients.
You can find a full list of Banff restaurants, bars and grills here. If you’re in Canmore, find a list of all dining options here.
Find good coffee
Experience the best coffee in the charming mountain town of Banff with a visit to these top-rated destinations. Indulge in the artisanal brews and cozy atmosphere at Evelyn’s Coffee Bar, a must-visit for coffee lovers. Treat yourself to the creamy lattes and fresh pastries at the Wild Flour Bakery. Discover the unique coffee blends and friendly vibe at the Whitebark Cafe.
With these tips, you'll be well on your way to planning the ski trip of a lifetime in Banff. The Canadian Rockies are a beautiful place to ski and Banff offers a variety of slopes and an excellent ski experience for all skill levels. So, pack your bags and head for the mountains!
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