Six Must-Do Things When Visiting Banff in the Winter

Do you ever visit a place after hearing so much about what you should do while you're there, but when you go, you have no idea what you should do? This recently happened to myself over the break when I visited Banff, Alberta. I had spent months doing travel research about Banff and hearing my friends and family tell me about many different places. All of a sudden, I had over 50 things I wanted to do, but only 6 days to do them all. Unfortunately, I was unable to do everything I wanted, so I had to narrow down my choices to a more realistic number. I decided to write this article on what I believe to be six must-do things while visiting Banff, in increasing order, so you won’t have the same issue that I had.

 

6. Bow Falls Trails

Banff is filled with hundreds of hiking paths and trails. Paths range in length and skill, from walking to full-on hiking up cliffs. The Bow Falls trail is one of the easier local paths. Bow Falls is a local walking path that starts at the edge of Downtown Banff, which follows the edge of Bow River. It is 6 kilometres in length and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, but you can start from many different entry points along the path, shortening the hike drastically. The path is open all year round; winter conditions are a little slippery, but still worth every step of the hike. At the end of the path, you will be at a little beach on the river with an amazing view of the forest, the Rocky Mountains, and Bow Falls.

 

 

5. Toque

You might miss this one! Located in Downtown Banff, this little hole-in-the-wall pub is a great place to grab a drink after a full day of Banff adventures. Toque is a Canadian Pub that serves local beers, ciders, and drinks from across Canada. The majority of the drinks they serve are from the BC and Alberta area, but don’t worry, you are still able to order your favourite drinks (but maybe not your favourite beer). The bar is filled with many games such as pool, darts, a variety of board games (including What Do You Meme and Cards Against Humanity), and surprisingly even a slot machine room. My favourite part about this bar was the décor. When entering the bar, the walls are filled with canvases that define many Canadian words not commonly known to tourists. Words like "two-four," "eh?," and even their very own definition for the word "toque" can be found on the walls when entering the bar.

 

4. Upper Hot Spring

The Banff Upper Hot Spring is a very large tourist attraction. The hot spring is a natural heated mineral water that has been visited for hundreds of years, and Banff has the hottest of all of the Rocky Mountain hot springs. Banff Upper Hot Springs has a variation of mineral contents, such as sulfate, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, sodium, and many more. Located on Sulphur Mountain, 1,585 m above elevation, water is pushed through the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault into the pool. In the winter months, the springs water levels fall, but the temperature can rise to 47°C, creating a beautiful steam over the pool and making the already stunning view even more unique. If you want the most relaxing and beneficial experience, follow local’s advice and go to the spring in the morning when the crowd is smaller.

 

Source

 

3. Ticino's

Ticino's is a locally owned and operated Swiss-Italian restaurant attached to the High Country Inn. This family-run restaurant has been operating since 1979, and was opened by Erwin Widmer, a Swiss immigrant, who came to Canada in 1967. The restaurant is decorated in red and blue and is covered in traditional ski wear and art. When entering the restaurant, you are warmly welcomed by the staff, who will continue to make you feel like part of the family all night long. Ticino's is known for their amazing fondue and in-house pastas, but everything on their menu is to die for. If you want my advice, try the Raclette cheese - it may resemble the smell of sweaty hockey socks, but it is the best tasting cheese.

 

2. Jupiter’s Bistro

Located just outside of Banff in the Jupiter Hotel lies Jupiter’s Bistro. Recently named one of Canada's top 100 restaurants, Jupiter’s bistro is a must-see kind of experience. The restaurant is open all year long, with a set 5-item menu and a seasonal option. Everything is made in house that day, and all of their products are bought locally. The recipes are all very innovative and delicious; don’t worry if you have any dietary restrictions, the restaurant will accommodate in any way you need. It is recommended to visit the restaurant during the light hours (preferably dusk). The restaurant overlooks the golf course which is usually crawling with wildlife. You are likely to see goats, deer, elk, wolves, cougars and many other animals roaming the golf course.

 

1. Skiing, Snowboarding or Snowshoeing

Finally, the number on thing you need to do when visiting Banff in the winter is go to the local mountains and hit the slopes! A free shuttle buses will take you from your hotel to the slopes throughout the day so you won’t have to worry about transportation. There are three recommended hills to go to: Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise, and Sunshine Village. Mt. Norquay is mostly over-run by locals, as it hosts the local ski team. This hill isn’t most tourists' choice since it is usually out of the sun, but it is the closest to Banff. If you are up for a 45-minute bus ride, you are heading to Lake Louise. Lake Louise Ski Resort is a lovely hill that looks over Lake Louise. It is composed of many long runs, and you will be skiing this hill from top to bottom. It is recommended that you go here on the warmest and nicest day of your trip. Lastly, my personal favourite hill was Sunshine Village. There is a reason this resort is called Sunshine; even in -30°C weather, you will be warm when the sun is shining. Sunshine Village has 12 different lifts and a wide variety of trails; you can be skiing for 3 full days and still not have done the entirety of the hill. If skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, don’t worry - all of theses ski resorts offer adult lessons and snowshoeing trails. You can take an educational guided trail, historical guided trails, or go and snowshoeing and explore on your own. If you go out on your own, just be careful of wildlife and don’t get lost!

 

 

Banff has a wide variety of things to offer tourist and locals. You won’t be able to do it all in one trip, which isn’t an issue, as it just means you will have to go back. I promise, you will want to go back! This Canadian National Park is full of fun activities, adventure, history, and nature that everyone will enjoy, no matter what age. A trip to Banff is a trip of a life time that will make you fall even more in love with Canada.