Banff Ski Trip: When is the best time to visit the Canadian Rockies?

Travel to Canada - What to Expect

Banff Ski Trip: When is the best time to visit the Canadian Rockies?

Banff National Park is kicking off strong this year with snow-capped mountain peaks and frozen lakes. If you’re not from the area, you may want to visit the Canadian Rockies for that magic powder you’ve heard so much about. But maybe you’re wondering when is the best time to plan a Banff ski trip?

Many people are unaware of how long the ski season lasts in Banff and Lake Louise.  Did you know you can go skiing for up to 7 months of the year? The ski season in the Canadian Rockies runs from early November to late May.  Hence why so many people around the world consider Banff and Lake Louise to be their favourite winter wonderland destination.

We created this month-to-month Banff ski trip guide to give you a better idea of what to expect all winter so you can book the best time to visitSkiBig3 resorts: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay

When is the best time to visit Banff for a ski trip: A Month-to-Month Guide

This month-to-month guide will help you plan your Banff and Lake Louise ski trip. Our goal is to make it easier for you to decide when is the best time to visit Banff National Park for your dream ski trip. 

Fortunately for you, each month of the ski season in Banff has something unique to offer so anytime is a great time to visit Banff National Park in winter!

November: Start shredding before anyone else

With most Canadian ski resorts opening in December, SkiBig3 resorts (Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay) can be the first ski resorts to open in Canada! Their season starts in early November, opening as early as late October in exceptionally good snow years. For the 2022-2023 ski season, SkiBig3 resorts are scheduled  to open on:

  • November 3rd, 2022 for Banff Sunshine
  • November 4th, 2022 for Lake Louise Ski Resort
  • November 10th, 2022 for Mt. Norquay

Visiting Banff for a ski trip in November allows you to have an early ski season. Not only will you ski before most of your friends, but you’ll also escape the peak winter season crowds. The slopes are slowly opening. The skiers are slowly getting ready to hit the slopes. Banff and Lake Louise ski resorts in November are perfect to tune up your skiing and snowboarding skills.

Plus, there are still many great trails to hike in November, such as Johnston Canyon or Sulphur Mountain. You can combine skiing with low-elevation winter hiking on the same trip. There is also the Banff Craft Beer Festival at the end of the month.

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SkiBig3 resorts are known for having the longest winters in the Canadian Rockies. The ski season can last from early November to late May. | Photo at Banff Sunshine by Josh Segeleski

December: Experience holiday season magic

By December, nearly all 8,000 acres (3237 hectares) of skiable terrain should be open. On the last weekends of December, SkiBig3 resorts are ready for the holiday celebrations with unique activities such as skiing with Santa, holiday photoshoots, and torchlight parades. 

Plus the Town of Banff and Lake Louise Village are showing off their holiday magic. With events like Christmas at the Castle, the Banff Christmas Market, the Hot Chocolate Trail, and In Search of Christmas Spirit it’s easy to get into the Holiday spirit when visiting Banff and Lake Louise in December.

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In December, you can ski or ride with Santa at all three SkiBig3 resorts! | Photo at Banff Sunshine

January: Try night skiing and snowboarding

January may be one of the coldest months, but it’s a wonderful month for a Banff ski trip. With the proper winter gear, there is no bad weather! The key to getting dressed for Canadian winters is wearing layers (and keeping your fingers/toes warm with hand and toe warmers – available for purchase at the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub).

It’s around this time of year when the snowfall is most consistent and most natural features and freeride zones have been filled in – making for great ski conditions! It’s also when night skiing starts at Mt. Norquay, the only night skiing in the Canadian Rockies. 

On Friday and Saturday nights, skiers of all abilities can enjoy an evening at Mt. Norquay. The ski runs and tubing lanes are open and illuminated from 5PM to 9PM. The shuttle from Banff to Mt. Norquay also runs on those evenings until 10pm which means you can cut a few laps and then relax at the Lone Pine Pub for a well-deserved apres.

January is also known for the annual  SnowDays and Ice Magic festivals in Banff and Lake Louise (from January 18th to January 29th, 2023). During these winter festivals, artists from around the world carve huge 4-metre (15-foot) tall sculptures of snow and ice that stay out (and get lit up) for display along Bear Street (in Banff) and along the shores of the famous Lake Louise.

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Night skiing starts in January at Mt. Norquay on Friday & Saturday nights. | Photo at Mt. Norquay

February: Watch the Northern Lights

Banff National Park is a wonderful place to admire the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, and February is an ideal month to see them. The skies in Banff National Park are especially dark, due to the limit on human development, and Alberta is known for its exceptionally clear star-lit skies all winter long. So why not bundle up after a day skiing and go “Aurora chasing”? ? Don’t forget to bring hot cocoa to keep you warm! 

There are a few different places in Banff where the Northern Lights can be seen, such as Vermillion Lakes and Cascades Ponds.

February is also the perfect time to skate on the iconic Lake Louise. By that time of year, the ice is nice and thick to skate directly on the lake and there are even small hockey rinks carved out for a game of pond hockey (or “shinny” as we say in Canada).

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Did you know that Banff Sunshine Village has a ski-in/ski-out hotel, the Sunshine Mountain Lodge? | Photo of Banff Sunshine

March: Pack your snorkel – it’s powder time!

The days are getting longer, it’s officially spring. 

March in the Canadian Rockies is a great time to visit and enjoy the amazing powder skiing with numerous snow storms rolling into the Canadian Rockies throughout the month. Banff and Lake Louise historically receive a lot of snow throughout the month of March. At Banff Sunshine, the first week of March is the snowiest week of the entire season with an average of 4.9 snowy days a week with  24 cm (9.4 in) or more of snowfall.

In March, the weather also gets warmer with an average temperature of roughly 1°C (33°F). Warmer temperatures are ideal for guests travelling with young children, milder air temperatures mean you can stay out longer with the whole family. 

If you’re staying in the Town of Banff, soaking in Upper Banff Hot Springs is a great way to end a ski day.

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Deep powder turns at Mt. Norquay off the North American Chair. March is known for getting lots of big snow storms. | Photo at Mt. Norquay

April: Soak up spring skiing vibes

April is all about sun, soft turns, and spring skiing vibes. 

Spring in the Canadian Rockies arrives a little later than other North American ski areas which means that visiting Banff and Lake Louise in April is a great way to extend your ski season. Spring skiing in Banff is a great time to use your Mountain Collective pass or Ikon pass for one last ski trip to Canada and a few more turns before winter is over.

At this time of year, you’ll get to experience winter at the top of the mountain while enjoying the warmer weather in the ski towns. Known for its dry climate and blue skies, it’s not uncommon to walk around Banff and Lake Louise in a light shirt (or even a t-shirt) in April. But be sure to pack some layers just in case, temperatures can always change in the mountains and it’s not uncommon to get all four seasons in one day!

Having some drinks on a patio overlooking the mountains is also a must-do in April. The patios are crowded with visitors taking advantage of the long spring days and soaking up as much sun as they can. 

You’ll see happy skiers and snowboarders enjoying the end of a long day with a pint and some snacks at the Lone Pine at Mt Norquay, the Banded Peak Base Camp at Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mad Trapper’s at Banff Sunshine. The Lookout Patio at the Fairmont Banff Springs is also a great pick for an Après Ski. The view over the valley is breathtaking!

banff-ski-trip-skibig3-blog-spring-skiing-lake-louise-ski-resort-patio-banded-peak-basecamp
Banded Peak Base Camp at Lake Louise Ski Resort is THE spot to grab a frosty pint or tangy Ceaser and sit in the sunshine. | Photo at Lake Louise Ski Resort

May: Send off the season at Slush Cup 

Did you know you could still plan a ski trip to Banff and Lake Louise in May? Banff Sunshine stays open until Victoria Day weekend (usually the third weekend of May) while Lake Louise Ski Resort remains open until the first week of May. Both resorts host pond-skimming “Slush Cup” events in May – parties not to be missed!

If you love skiing as much as you love hiking or cycling, planning your trip to the Canadian Rockies in early May is ideal. Snow has melted away from most hiking trails and bike paths, while still providing skiers and snowboarders with enough snow to hit the slopes. Locals here are known to ski, bike, and hike all in one day – and you can too!

Snowfall is not as heavy in May, but there is still the chance of a late storm or two. On the slopes, you can expect perfectly-cut corduroy in the mornings and then fun, soft turns in the afternoon as the sun heats the slopes. 

May is also a great time for wildlife sightings, including elk and black bears. When hiking or exploring trails this time of year, you’ll want to make sure you carry bear spray. For travellers who are flying in to visit Banff and Lake Louise, you can rent bear spray at SkiBig3 Adventure Hub.

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If you travel to Banff and Lake Louise in May, you have to check out Slush Cup at Banff Sunshine! It’s a total party with pond skimming, wild costumes, and the best spring vibes. | Photo at Banff Sunshine

Final Thoughts: When is the best time to visit Banff for a ski trip?

The ski season runs from early November to the end of May in Banff and Lake Lousie making it a prime destination for a ski trip. Banff National Park offers unique winter experiences over 7 months of the year, with ideal snow conditions from December to mid-April

For skiers who want to enjoy skiing as long as they can, visiting Banff and Lake Louise in November and May is best. January and February are the time of year when all winter activities can be done including night skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice climbing and spotting the northern lights. 

To experience fresh powder, booking your ski vacation in March is a must. But for an introduction to skiing and the Canadian winter weather, a visit in April will likely be a bit milder. And, if you’re dying to get one last run in before the season ends, grab a few light sweaters and some fun sunnies for spring skiing in May.

But remember, one of the most magical times to visit will be the holiday season when there are many activities for the whole family. It might be a bit busier than November or March, but will gift you and your family with life-long memories and become your new favourite destination. 

Will you be skiing in Banff, Canada this 2022-2023 winter season?

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