Unless you’re Canadian, or a ski bum, you might not have heard of Banff. Banff is a small mountain town in Western Canada, about a 3-hour flight from LA, and an hour and a half from the fifth largest city in Canada, Calgary. While Calgary has its own set of attributes, we’ll cover those later. This travel guide only focuses on Banff and the surrounding area because it’s a place I had never even heard of and subsequently love.
Let’s get one thing straight here: I am not a cold weather friend. I hate being cold, would rather BURN to death than freeze, and do not participate in winter/snow based sports. However, Banff made me reconsider my views.
Banff is actually a resort town within Banff National Park. Banff National Park and the surrounding area is nestled within the Rocky Mountains and offers stunning mountain views along with a seemingly endless opportunity for snow sport, hiking, and camping. The resort town itself is home to shops, restaurants, cafes, and the ever beautiful Banff Springs Hotel. Banff is also nearby the Lake Louise Village and national Park. Lake Louise is a stunning lake snuggled into the mountains with opportunity for ice skating in the winter and canoeing in the summer.
I have been out to Banff twice now. The first time was just to see the town and the mountains because it was absurdly cold. But this second time, I managed to fit in Lake Louise, skiing, hot springs, and some hiking. And despite my abhorrence for the cold, I thoroughly enjoyed all of my time spent in it.
Now for the nitty gritty, if you’re a snow-sport lover, then Banff is not a place to be missed. Easiest ways to get there are to fly into Calgary airport (YYC) and then rent a car to make the drive or book a tour. Luckily my boyfriend drove us, but it is not difficult to get there, with a major highway leading straight from Calgary into the mountains.
As far as accommodation goes, the Fairmont Banff Springs is a beautiful (albeit pricey) hotel with all the amenities one could need and stunning mountain vistas. However, in the event that it is too expensive (like for me), there are numerous lodges, inns, and hotels in the town, although the Fairmont is still worth a visit for its gorgeous interior and/or spa if you feel so inclined.
Alright, once you’ve got transport and lodging squared away, it’s time for the fun stuff! If you’ve got a weekend and some ambition, you can explore almost all of what Banff has to offer. Firstly, I recommend going skiing at Sunshine hill. This was my first time, so I might not be the best person to taking skiing advice from, but I CAN tell you that this ski resort was positively BRIMMING with tourists from all over the world who had come for the skiing. There is a wide variety of hills for all skill levels and the view is just insane. Skiing will probably take the better part of the day, so after that, I recommend going to the Hot Springs in Banff. The springs are naturally heated and even in negative temps, you’ll be comfortable in the outdoor hot pool under the stars.
For the following day, I recommend getting up early and heading a few more kilometers up to Lake Louise. When you get there, you can go ice skating, or you can simply walk around the lake and admire the ice sculptures. Overseeing the lake is the Fairmont Chateau, another gorgeous hotel that deserves a walk through, at least while you’re warming up from all the ice. The park surrounding Lake Louise is also prime for more downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and even dog sledding to my SUPREME DELIGHT! But once you’ve had your fill of the cold for the day, heading back into Banff town to have dinner and explore the shops is a wonderful way to end your stay. Especially since the town is all lit up at night.
I would have never thought to go to Banff on my own, but now that I’ve made it out there, I know I’ll be spending a lot more time in the mountains.