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Banff

With a slightly different ski holiday on the cards, spend your days out and about exploring the sights and ski areas of the magnificent national park (featuring some of the best scenery and slopes on the planet) – before heading downtown for hearty Canadian grub, friendly nightlife and world-renowned accommodation in one of North America’s legendary mountain towns.

Beginner

Intermediate

Advanced

Snowboard

At a glance: • 3 ski resorts • Cosy mountain town • Stunning sights of the Rockies

Great for: • Long ski breaks • Non-skiers • Varied terrain

With a slightly different ski holiday on the cards, spend your days out and about exploring the sights and ski areas of the magnificent national park (featuring some of the best scenery and slopes on the planet) – before heading downtown for hearty Canadian grub, friendly nightlife and world-renowned accommodation in one of North America’s legendary mountain towns.

Banff Resort

Downtown Banff is made up of traditional timber and stone buildings that make up a simple grid system, meeting up on the main road – Banff Avenue - that’s been purposely positioned to open up a fabulous view of the Cascade Mountain.

Unlike your average ski resort, winter is low season here (good news if you’re staying in town as this usually means better deals). Accommodation mostly comes in the form of classic lodges and inns, the cream of the crop being the Fairmont Springs Hotel. This ‘castle in the Rockies’ has had the likes of Marilyn Monroe and the Queen amongst its guests and was built by some of the area’s first tourists - flush Victorians who spotted the potential of the local hot springs. Over time, the whole town has been carefully crafted as somewhere that visitors can have an authentically Canadian experience in some of North America’s most spectacular surroundings.

…and they jolly well are spectacular: Banff National Park is the oldest National Park in Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage site – where strict building restrictions have kept the town itself small and intimate.

Over the park’s 6641 square km, you’re not only treated to some awesome views of the Rockies but also three seriously good ski resorts: Nicknamed The Big 3, all have their fair share of accommodation and are easy to reach by public transport, though lots of visitors choose to rent their own wheels.

Five minutes from the town is the ‘local hill’ Mt Norquay: small and family friendly with some lovely sheltered skiing.

About 15 minutes away is Sunshine Village, with famously good snow and one of the top snowparks in the country. Last but quite the opposite of least is Lake Louise, 40 minutes away and famed for its whopping ski area (the biggest single ski area in Canada) and drop-dead-gorgeous scenery.

Stats & FAQ

Location: Alberta, Canada

Established: 1948

Open: Nov - May

Downhill: 8000 acres / 274 runs

View our detailed Banff snow forecast or snow report and see all live webcams, piste maps, road and travel maps and lift pass prices. For a picture of historic snow conditions see the snow depths month by month with our Banff snow history.

Nearest Airport & Transfer Time:
Calgary126 km (78 miles)
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • 6runs 20%

  • 10runs 36%

  • 12runs 44%

Top Altitude:
Bottom Altitude:
Resort Altitude:1,630 – 2,133m
Longest run:1,167m
Slope Orientation:N S E W
Vertical Drop:
Skiable Vertical:503m
Night Skiing:Yes (Mt Norquay)
Glacier:Yes (Lake Louise)

Snow Report

  • Top
  • 3cm
  • Base
  • 20cm
  • Forecast
  • 36cm

Web Cam

Banff web cams
Downhill Runs:8000 acres / 274 runs
Beginner slopes:20%
Intermediate:36%
Advanced slopes:44%
Lift Pass Price: $477.12 (Adult 6 day)
Nearby resorts: Lake Louise

Skiing/BoardingSkiing in Banff

Mt Norquay’s runs are sheltered by trees - head up on the Cascade chair for wide and easy-going greens like Temptation and Speculation. Intermediates can take the Mystic Express to a number of blues like Bruno’s gully, where you have the opportunity to dabble in a bit of powder. The North American Chair serves some exhilarating black diamonds (don’t miss the bumps on the Memorial Bowl) and a double diamond - Lone Pine. If you’ve been skiing elsewhere in the day, return to Norquay in time for the night skiing, which takes place most evenings – if only to experience the views over a lit-up Banff.

Sunshine Village is the people pleaser of ski areas. Beginners will love the twisty greens from the Angel Express, while intermediates and above can ski two provinces (Alberta and British Columbia) in one trail on Lookout Mountain. The Goats Eye Express leads to some super double diamonds and gladed trails, while ungroomed legends like Delirium Dive and Wild West require you to have avalanche safety equipment. If you’re crossing the pond for some park time, the Rogers Terrain Park (accessible via the Continental Divide Chairlift) has some of the best features around.

Lake Louise’s real credit for beginners is that there’s a green from every lift, so you can get a taste for the whole mountain (favourites include Wiwaxy from the Glacier Express chair and Eagle Meadows from the Grizzly Express). Intermediates who like wide open cruisers should head to the top station for the Skyline trail or for something a little more challenging, the Boomerang on the back bowl. Experts can test their mettle on the black diamond trails of Mount Whitethorn’s Diamond Mine. For powder, head to the Top of the World Chairlift and ski between the pistes or check out the area around the ladies downhill. If you’re skiing the Paradise Bowl, watch your step! It’s locally known as ‘Comedy Bowl’ and the natives are always on the lookout for entertaining tumbles from the chairlift above…

Banff Apres Ski

The whole area is known for its laid back après and friendly locals. In Norquay, the Cascade Lodge has a fabulous sun terrace - you could head inside to the Kika Café for a warming cuppa but make sure you stay out to watch the sunset at least once…

After a day in Sunshine village, grab a quick eat at the Burger Shack or go fine dining at The Eagle’s Nest (the fantastic Alberta beef is their specialty).

At the base of Lake Louise, Kokanee Kabin often has live music and even sells Starbucks Coffee. Another good ‘un is Buffalo Paddock, which has video games, pool tables and darts.

Back in town, Bruno’s has a special place in our hearts for its incredible Alberta beef burgers - try the Mac & Cheese one (they also do amazing breakfasts). Instead of settling for a Subway, go next door for another of our favourites, Maple Leaf Grille, where they have over 600 different wines on the menu.

Later on (if you dare), Wild Bill’s Saloon on Banff Avenue has a karaoke night. Take your dancing shoes to Dancing Sasquatch and ask the barman for a Time Machine: a unique Sasquatch creation that will leave you cutting some moves and feeling delicate on tomorrow's gondola. Alternatively, head to the Hoodoo Lounge, which is smaller and more intimate.

This is a place that’s busiest in the summer, so you can expect lots to do away from the snow. Visit the natural hot springs or explore the town - it’s a simple, easy to navigate grid where the blocks are lined with souvenir shops as well as familiar stores like Helly Hanson, GAP and The Body Shop.

If the white landscape is just too tempting, explore the walks through Bow Valley for terrific day out (best accompanied by a camera and pockets filled with goodies from Banff Sweet Shoppe). Whether you’re here with children or not, head over to Mt Norquay for the Tube Park – you might be almost tempted to abandon your skis altogether and go everywhere by tube. Almost… There’s usually an ice rink on the school playing field in town but don’t head home without skating on one of the frozen lakes – our favourite is Lake Louise but Lake Minnewanka, Lake Johnson and the Vermilion Lakes usually have skating too.

Best time to go

Best time to ski Banff

When is the best time to ski Banff?

Banff is set on the continental divide which means you can usually expect soft powder until the last days of the season (often towards the end of April). Sunshine Village’s name could fool you into thinking that conditions are mild but they’re actually anything but slushy- it’s said to have the longest ski season in North America. While this is fantastic, it also means that conditions are a lot colder than Europe, sometimes reaching -30 degrees, so good quality layers and gloves are a must. If you’re looking for something a little special, plan to be in Banff in January – if past years are anything to go by, you’ll catch the month-long SnowDays Festival which usually includes an ice playground, a 40ft ice climbing wall in Banff Town and the International Ice Carving Competition in Lake Louise.

Peak Dates

Christmas in Banff is alight with decorations and Canadian cheer - take a peek at the interior of Fairmount Springs Hotel for the ultimate festive atmosphere. It’s a local tradition to ski on Christmas Day, so look out for Santa on the slopes! Browse Banff Christmas ski holidays ‣

New Year in Banff traditionally features an awesome fireworks display. Rumour has it the best place to gather is on the corner of Banff Avenue and Caribou Street… mix with the locals and then head to some of the livelier bars in town. Browse Banff New Year ski holidays ‣

Let the masses head to France, get the homework done on the plane and spend Half term in Banff. The area is perfect for kids who can try their hand at dog sledding, tobogganing, ice skating, and ski some lovely confidence-boosting groomers. Browse Banff Half Term ski holidays ‣

Easter in Banff is known to be celebrated in style. Some eateries will put on a special Sunday brunch before you join one of the traditional Easter Egg Hunts. Browse Banff Easter ski holidays ‣

Banff Ratings & Customer Feedback
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Average Rating 5 out of 5
Our holiday was absolutely brilliant; myself and my sons thoroughly enjoyed it and there’s not one negative point I can think of! It’s the best place I’ve skied in the world and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back - we had one of those holidays you fondly remember. The access to the ski areas and the actual skii... + more
Adam Souness, Midlothian
5 out of 5
Banff is amazing – I’ve stayed here as a group twice and with my wife loads. It’s as equally good for couples as for groups, not so great for families as you have quite a lot of shuffling back and forth but on the slopes themselves there’s lots on for children. Personally I’d take teenagers here but not li... + more
Gary Davis, Kendle
5 out of 5
Really beautiful, you wake up on Banff Avenue in the morning and from your window or veranda, you look out and there are snow-capped mountains as far as you can see. The town centre probably has enough if you’re there to hike or ski for a couple of weeks, but you wouldn’t go there just for designer shopping…... + more
Sharon Hammond,
5 out of 5
Our holiday went fantastically well. We went in March – it wasn’t overly sunny this time, they had had some really, really cold snaps a few weeks before we arrived. We had beautiful weather though and perfect conditions. We’ve been before in March and it’s been very sunny. The town of Banff is beautiful. Th... + more
Vicky Lacey-Freeman, Essex
5 out of 5
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Families in Banff

Banff’s small town and world-away-from-home feel makes it great for families… and with 3 ski areas, whether you’re skiing for the first time or have been hitting the slopes for years, there’ll be slopes to suit here.

Families with younger or less experienced skiers can start off on the closest slopes in Mt Norquay, is great for easy-going, tree-lined skiing. Sunshine Village’s snow park should do the trick when it comes to keeping teens happy, and the slopes here are varied enough for all kinds of skiers to have a whale of a time. While it’s requires the longest commute, we love that Lake Louise has a run of each level from every lift – so you get to spend quality time together and keep track of the brood rather than splitting up all over the place. SNO man’s top tip for families is to remember that it gets pretty nippy in this neck of the woods (more so than the Alps) so pack lots of layers and schedule in hot chocolate stops to keep everybody warm.

If you’re with children who aren’t old enough to ski yet, the childcare experts at Banff Day Care have a specialised program for children aged 18 days to 6 years which includes indoor and outdoor play. They also throw in an introduction to the slopes for slightly older children, to ease them in to their skiing journey.

There are oodles of activities for young children, teens and parents - snow tubing, ice skating, and dog sledding to name a few. If you’re not planning to ski or just fancy some time out, head to the hot springs for a relaxing break or tread the walking paths in Bow Valley. Don’t miss out on all the shops, restaurants, and attractions in the town itself – a promised trip to The Fudgery could see everyone on their best behaviour for the week and there are some lovely family restaurants like Athena Pizza and Spaghetti House on Banff Ave.

GroupsGroup Holidays Banff

You’re unlikely to find any member of the party at a loose end during a holiday in Banff.

The main town has three ski different ski areas to explore together or in smaller groups – all are definitely worth a ski at least once. The closest to the town is Mt Norquay, the ‘local’ hill, which has some fantastic sheltered skiing if you want to gently introduce any newbies to the slopes. Sunshine Village has a good mix of runs as well as a great snow park, as does Lake Louise. Lake Louise’s real credit for a mixed ability group is that it has a slope of each difficulty from every lift - so everyone can stay in their comfort zone without having to disperse all over the area. If you do split up around the three resorts, meet for some night skiing at Mt Norquay to catch up on the day’s thrills and spills and enjoy the view over Banff Town at night.

What we love about holidays here is that they’re not exclusively for mad-keen skiers; non-skiers will have a cracking time here too. You’ll find some great opportunities for a laugh at the Mt Norquay Tube Park or for something a little more relaxed, have a soak in the hot springs. There are more than enough shops and cafes to enjoy a whole day in town, from GAP to The Fudgery (which we challenge you not to return to at least once…).

Canada doesn’t have the same après ski we’re used to in the Alps, but there are some terrific restaurants, bars and nightclubs here. The crowd at St James’ Gate Irish Pub is always up for a good time and we love a beer on the roof top patio at The Rose and Crown, Banff’s oldest pub.


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"Brilliant holiday in Sunshine Village"

Adam Souness, Midlothian
5/ out of 5
Our holiday was absolutely brilliant; myself and my sons thoroughly enjoyed it and there’s not one negative point I can think of! It’s the best place I’ve skied in the world and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back - we had one of those holidays you fondly remember. The access to the ski areas and the actual skiing was superb - both in Sunshine Village (where we stayed) and in Lake Louise. The sheer amount of powder is fantastic and the groomed runs are immaculate all the time – the amount of snow ploughs and bashers they have means every run is groomed. Because of the whole ensemble of different slopes there’s a mix for everyone – we met complete beginners, expert borders and skiers who were miles beyond our capabilities. There was no shortage of runs. The scenery is stunning in both resorts. The whole time we were there it snowed every day – not so heavy that you couldn’t see but so it was incredibly picturesque. On some of the gondolas the views go on for miles. We didn’t have a bad meal and the people were incredibly nice. I spoke to someone who had stayed in Whistler while we were in Sunshine Village, and they said Whistler had been ridiculously busy with long queues. Whilst the slopes were brilliant, the time you spent off them waiting in queues wasn’t great… Which is why we went to Sunshine – while Whistler is known as the best, it’s also the busiest. When the weather is that cold (it was -18 when we arrived in Calgary and -30 up at Goat’s eye on the first day) you don’t want to be standing about waiting for lifts. The one and only thing of the whole holiday was the car rental from Alamo – we picked the car up at 6pm and set off, to realize that there’s no antifreeze in the windscreen. It was snowing and very cold and we had a long drive ahead, but it would freeze instantly.

"Banff is amazing - been twice in group & loads with wife"

Gary Davis, Kendle
5/ out of 5
Banff is amazing – I’ve stayed here as a group twice and with my wife loads. It’s as equally good for couples as for groups, not so great for families as you have quite a lot of shuffling back and forth but on the slopes themselves there’s lots on for children. Personally I’d take teenagers here but not little kids. You have to catch buses to the ski areas but the buses are comfortable and well organised, you never have to wait long if the first bus is full. Always good snow and great skiing, awesome off piste. Ski in Lake Louise for the best scenery or for nice open area skiing ski in Sunshine. For the best runs, go to Goats Eye in Sunshine. Worth knowing that Banff can be very cold and if you’re here on a Canadian holiday or over the weekend its quite busy. As well as skiing we’ve done loads of other things here like snow shoeing, skidoing and wildlife walks. The food and drink on the mountain is reasonably priced and good value for money. In Banff itself, Wild Bills is great but not as good as it used to be. Still has a lively atmosphere and great pub grub. Magpie and Stump do a great Mexican and my favourite place to eat is Caribou – great bar at the front, a sort of no frills sports bar that shows all the big games like ice hockey and a restaurant at the back where the food is really good with a lively atmosphere with everything from pizza to elk steak.

"Banff 2016"

Sharon Hammond
5/ out of 5
Really beautiful, you wake up on Banff Avenue in the morning and from your window or veranda, you look out and there are snow-capped mountains as far as you can see. The town centre probably has enough if you’re there to hike or ski for a couple of weeks, but you wouldn’t go there just for designer shopping… It has shops galore in terms of trinkets, Banff T-shirts and keyrings though. Everything is moose and caribou themed, they really promote the wildlife they have there. There are the hot springs as well. Buses are about $2 which is nothing, and they take you quite far. I did 3 days of skiing and was lucky in the sense that there wasn’t a massive amount of people wanting lessons – one day there were 2 of us, another day 3, then the last day a few people dropped out. If I was to go again I would definitely take my own boots – the hire boots are horribly painful. The initial ski package I had included 3 days in the 3 resorts, Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. However I wasn’t keen on skiing lots of different places and the rep advised that Lake Louise was best for beginners as it has lots of wider, easier slopes.

"A beautiful town"

Vicky Lacey-Freeman, Essex
5/ out of 5
Our holiday went fantastically well. We went in March – it wasn’t overly sunny this time, they had had some really, really cold snaps a few weeks before we arrived. We had beautiful weather though and perfect conditions. We’ve been before in March and it’s been very sunny. The town of Banff is beautiful. There are lots of restaurants and bars. The lift passes for the areas are quite expensive, but they are the same price across the board, no matter where you buy them from. So don’t waste your time looking for cheaper lift passes. You can just buy your pass in the shop if you are hiring your equipment.
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Adam Souness
Gary Davis
Sharon Hammond
Vicky Lacey-Freeman