Best Places to Experience the Alpenglow Phenomenon in Banff & Lake Louise

Best Places to Experience the Alpenglow Phenomenon in Banff & Lake Louise

Living and playing in a national park is a unique experience to those that call Banff and Lake Louise home. We love to ski, skate, snowshoe and explore just as our visitors do, but there are some silent everyday phenomenons we never take for granted, like our sunrises and sunsets.

Often, when visitors choose to travel to Banff National Park, it’s because they want to experience the beauty of the mountains. Whether they venture to a peak or enjoy the view from the valley floor, it’s rare to hear a visitor say, “I came for the alpenglow.” However, this phenomenon is often what is most remembered when back home.

What is “alpenglow”? Alpenglow is the rosy-red cousin of golden hour, but if we’re getting scientific: it’s redirected light. The sunrises and sunsets in Banff National Park during winter are some of the area’s hidden gems. Alpenglow provides breathtaking views for a short time at sunrise and sunset, where the clouds and atmosphere act as a giant strobe reflector. Blue light has shorter wavelengths than red, and as a result, our rocky mountain atmosphere strips away the blue and leaves us with reds and oranges on the mountain tips.

We may have shorter, darker days, but the starts and ends of our days are phenomenal. Here are some of our top places to take in that signature alpenglow:

The Banff Gondola

Alpenglow from the Banff Gondola, photo by Pursuit Collection.
Alpenglow from the Banff Gondola, photo by Pursuit Collection.

From the top of Sulphur Mountain, the Banff Gondola provides views of the Banff townsite and six mountain ranges surrounding the Bow Valley like no other. You can ride up on the gondola, stay and enjoy some dinner or a drink and take in those hues!

Mt Norquay

End-of-day views from Mt Norquay, photo by Reuben Krabbe
End-of-day views from Mt Norquay, photo by Reuben Krabbe

Located just 10 minutes from the town of Banff is Mt Norquay, one of the best locations to catch an end-of-day alpenglow photo. After a day on the slopes, head up the North American chair for this million-dollar shot. While the terrain from North American chair may look intimidating, fear not. All riders can grab a photo (and hot chocolate from the Cliffhouse Bistro) before down-loading the chair back to the base area.

Banff Sunshine Village

Banff Sunshine Village alpenglow, photo by Reuben Krabbe
End of day alpenglow at Banff Sunshine Village, photo by Reuben Krabbe

Besides its world-renowned powder and ski terrain, Banff Sunshine also offers Banff’s only ski-in, ski-out accommodation. Sunshine Mountain Lodge delivers the unique opportunity of not having to leave the mountain after a day of hitting the slopes. Once the lifts close, enjoy the quiet of the scenery and experience the alpenglow. Can’t stay the night? Alpenglow views from the gondola when you arrive and depart are sure to leave you breathless. Or, make your final run of the day the Ski-Out and soak in the ambience as you glide your way back to your car or shuttle back to town.

Vermilion Lakes

Wild Ice Skating on Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park, photo credit Tera Swanson
Wild Ice Skating on Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park, photo credit Tera Swanson

This series of marshlands and lakes provide year-round experiences for locals and visitors. In the winter months, you can find wild ice skating as a popular attraction. Be sure to check ice-depth and safety notices before venturing onto any frozen lake. Vermilion Lakes is a favourite star gazing, and sunset watching area as its docks are available for seating all year. Either bring a chair to keep your butt from getting cold or stand and catch the colours.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise Ski Resort, photo by Reuben Krabbe
Lake Louise Ski Resort, photo by Reuben Krabbe

Rise and shine! Sometimes when you arrive at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, you’ll be able to capture some early morning alpenglow. If you aren’t an early bird, you can also catch the sunset with some apres drinks while soaking in the views from the windows of Kuma Yama in the Lodge of Ten Peaks before jumping on your shuttle back to your hotel in Banff or Lake Louise.

Want to see the alpenglow for yourself?

Don’t forget to take a look at our Vacations Specials page to see all the amazing accommodations, dining, and activities Banff National Park has to offer. You can also talk to our in-destination Reservations Team at 1-844-754-2443 to plan a personalized sunset seeker trip. With a flexible change policy and no-risk cancellation options, this might be the vacation you’ve been needing.

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