Banff & Lake Louise visitor checklist: 11 easy steps to plan your ski trip

Whether you’re a diehard, intermediate, or beginner skier or rider who’s never seen snow before, the ski vacation of a lifetime awaits in Banff National Park!

Planning your ski trip can feel daunting, especially for first-time visitors. Here’s a list of things to remember to ensure you have a seamless and memorable Canadian ski experience!

1. Ensure you have a valid passport

When entering Canada from the US or overseas, you’ll need a passport that’s valid for the duration of your stay. If you haven’t used it in awhile, don’t forget to check the expiry date! 

Remember your Passport

2. Book your airline ticket to Calgary (Banff’s closest airport)

Getting to Banff & Lake Louise is easy. Calgary (YYC) is the closest airport to access Banff National Park. Frequent direct flights connect the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to many cities across Canada, the US, UK, and the rest of the world.  Calgary is an easy-to-navigate modern airport, so you’ll clear customs quickly here.

Insider tip

A new International Terminal opened in Calgary in 2017! Need directions? Upon arrival watch for White Hatters, a group of volunteers who are easily identifiable by their red vests and white cowboy hats. These friendly locals can answer all your questions and point you in the right direction.

Ski Big 3 map to Banff

3. Two towns to pick from in Banff National Park

Banff National Park has two district areas to call home-base during your ski trip: the town of Banff and the hamlet of Lake Louise. From Calgary, the town of Banff is an easy 90-minute drive along the all-weather, four-lane Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy #1). Lake Louise is a scenic 45 minutes further west.

The larger of the two is Banff, offering visitors a multitude of services and amenities including shopping, spas, attractions, dining and nightlife.

The hamlet of Lake Louise is much smaller and is perfect for those looking for a quiet, winter wonderland experience.

Both locations offer a variety of accommodation choices, from grand castles to cozy condos, comfy lodges to budget-friendly hotels.

Insider tip

The friendly team in our Call Centre is always happy to share their local knowledge and experience, helping you find the best accommodation to suit your style and budget. Our online booking engine is also easy to navigate, giving you options and accommodation ratings.

4. Choose the transport that suits your needs

Getting around is easy. Frequent airport shuttle service is available between Calgary International Airport and Banff & Lake Louise hotels. You can simply book this with your online package or directly through our reservations team. Once here, ski shuttle transportation is included with your tri-area lift ticket.

Want the flexibility of your own vehicle? Rental car agencies are available at the Calgary International Airport and in town so you can explore the area on your own terms. Enjoy free parking throughout Banff & Lake Louise, but remember to purchase your Park Pass.

Insider tip

Banff & Lake Louise and the three ski resorts are located within the boundaries of Banff National Park, a protected area which requires an entry fee. In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, this Park Pass fee has been waived by the Canadian Government until the end of the year.

Trans Canada Highway Animal Overpass

5. Purchase your lift ticket in advance

Purchasing a SkiBig3 Lift Ticket is the easiest way to sample all three of Banff’s iconic ski resorts: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt Norquay. Your lift ticket includes free ski shuttle service to all three resorts, exclusive local dining specials, and a complimentary pass for the Banff Hot Springs when you purchase a multi-day lift ticket for 3 or more days.

Insider tip

Purchase your SkiBig3 Lift Ticket a minimum of 21 days in advance of arrival and get the best online price.

Lake Louise Chairlift

6. Rent your ski gear for easy travel

Why pay extra luggage fees? It’s easy to rent your ski or snowboard gear online so it’s ready for your arrival.  The Banff Ski Hub offers a wide range of quality brands and styles for all ages. Centrally located in downtown Banff, the team at the Ski Hub will have your gear waiting for you, and once your sizing is complete, we’ll deliver your gear to your hotel. 

Insider tip

When renting gear at the Banff Ski Hub, your rental contract matches your lift-ticket purchase. So, if you select a 3-day lift ticket which includes two grace-days, we’ll match that with your rental agreement.  This means you can take your rest day and not worry about paying rental charges while your equipment sits in hotel storage (subject to availability during peak holiday periods).

Visit the Banff Ski Hub at 119 Banff Ave, downtown Banff, for a variety of quality rental gear.

7. Organize your cellphone plan

If staying connected is serious business for you, talk to your cell phone provider to organize a data plan for use in Canada. This will allow you to avoid costly roaming charges.

Insider tip

There is plenty of WiFi available here! Many hotels, coffee shops, businesses, and the day lodges at all three ski resorts offer complimentary WiFi. We promise that your Instragram feed won’t suffer here!

Stay Connected

8. Exchange your currency for Canadian dollars

If you’re visiting from outside Canada, change some money at your nearest currency exchange store or bank in your home city, so you’ll have some cash upon arrival. Once you get here, there are many currency exchange facilities and banks available at Calgary International Airport and throughout the towns of Banff & Lake Louise.

Insider tip

You get the best exchange rates from banks, and bank-owned ATMs, both of which are plentiful throughout Banff & Lake Louise. Major credit cards are welcomed everywhere, but be aware of service fees that may be applied by your local bank back home.

Currency Exchange

9. Know your Canadian tipping customs

In Canada it’s customary to leave a gratuity in restaurants and with taxi service. It’s optional for extra services like hairdressers, spa services and front-line hotel employees. A standard tip in a restaurant is 15 per cent of the total bill before tax. It’s all about service, so you have the flexibility to decide what is appropriate in each and every case.

You're spoiled for choice for decadent dining options in Banff & Lake Louise. Photo by Paul Zizka at The Block Kitchen + Bar, Banff.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Canadians are renowned for their friendliness – wherever you go, locals will be more than happy to answer any questions you have. All you have to do is ask!

Visitor Centres are located in downtown Banff & Lake Louise which are well equipped to help you with free maps and advice. Your hotel front desk and concierge teams are also great sources of knowledge.

Winter ice skating Lake Louise

11. Have fun and don’t forget to take photos!

Think about how you’ll take photos on your trip. Will you use your camera, or cell phone? Don’t forget to pack your chargers and ensure you have enough storage space on your devices – there are plenty of photo opportunities that you won’t want to miss! The electrical supply is 120 Volts and 60 Hertz – so if you’re visiting from the US, your adapters and plugs will look the same.

Don’t forget to share your adventures with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by tagging #SkiBig3 and #MyBanff!

The SnowDays Festival Kick-Off Party in Banff is not to be missed! Photo: Kelly MacDonald

To book your next ski vacation with SkiBig3, check out our featured ski and stay vacation packages or call us at 1-844-762-7190.

Ski & Stay Packages - Save up to 20%
Showing 2 comments
  • Barbara
    Reply

    Well, Bonnie, I’m impressed… Would love to visit, seeing you give it such a good wrap!

  • Manny
    Reply

    Awesome photos , scenery absolutely stunning. Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply to Barbara Cancel reply

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