First Timers Guide

First Timers' Guide

Discover Banff & Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies

QUICKLY DISCOVER THE BEST OF THE CANADIAN ROCKIES!

Everything you need to know to experience the 3 ski resorts of Banff National Parks and what to expect when staying in the town of Banff or the village of Lake Louise. Easy trip planning tips to make the most of your next ski vacation.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET TO THE CANADIAN ROCKIES?

It's Closer Than you think

CALGARY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – GET TO THE ROCKIES SOONER!

If you want to fly to Banff or Lake Louise, the closest airport is the Calgary International Airport (YYC),  which enjoys many direct flights to cities cross Canada, the US, UK, and the rest of the world. From there, 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.

Airport transfer services are available between airport and Banff and Lake Louise hotels – this shuttle service can be booked with your package with our reservations specialists.

REASONS YOU'LL LOVE YOUR VISIT TO

Banff & Lake Louise

VARIETY OF SKI TERRAIN

Collectively boasting a staggering 8,000 acres of accessible terrain blanketed annually with an average of 30 feet of feather-light, dry Canadian Rockies powder. the 3 resorts of SkiBig3 include Banff Sunshine Village, The Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt Norquay offer skiers and snowboarders virtually unlimited variety. 

With two gondolas and 26 chairlifts accessing everything from super-wide groomers, gladed runs to steep and deep chutes and black diamond mogul thrill rides, there’s a run for everyone.

WILDLIFE

Home to over 50 mammal species, including deer, elk, moose, cougar, lynx, wolverine, northern river otter, wolves and grizzly and black bears, Banff National Park offers once in a lifetime wildlife viewing opportunities. 

Exploring Banff’s over 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of wilderness trails, chances are good that you may spot some of them, especially elk, which number in the thousands and are commonly found in the valleys of the park with mule deer and white-tailed deer. Remember to pack your binoculars and a healthy capacity for wonder.

ACTIVITIES & EXPERIENCES GALORE

While skiing has long been a way of life in Banff and Lake Louise, many other iconic outdoor winter activities and experiences can be enjoyed. From snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to dog sledding, ice walks and horse-drawn sleigh rides, a winter vacation here can be as active as you like. 

Add shopping, dining, museums, galleries, nightlife and a mandatory soothing soak in our famous hot springs to the list of can’t miss memories and you’ll be left wondering where the time went.

BANFF NATIONAL PARK

Canada’s first, oldest, and most iconic national park, Banff is the very definition of pristine wild beauty. Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this pristine paradise of unspoiled wilderness and mountain lakes is a dream destination for travellers the world over. 

Banff is everything a national park should be – majestic, welcoming, wild and fabulously photogenic – overflowing with adventures and memorable moments for the whole family.

TOWN OF BANFF OR LAKE LOUISE

While skiing has long been a way of life in Banff and Lake Louise, many other iconic outdoor winter activities and experiences can be enjoyed. From snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to dog sledding, ice walks and horse-drawn sleigh rides, a winter vacation here can be as active as you like. 

Add shopping, dining, museums, galleries, nightlife and a mandatory soothing soak in our famous hot springs to the list of can’t miss memories and you’ll be left wondering where the time went.

MAP of area

Lodging Choices

Where to Stay

ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS – WHERE TO STAY

Luxury Accommodations

Historic fairy-tale castles set amid spectacular mountain scenery, like Fairmont Banff Springs and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Breathtaking views from the luxurious Rimrock Resort Hotel, nestled in a pristine setting above the Banff Townsite. The Rundle Rock fireplace and soft chandelier glow of the Royal Canadian Lodge. Complete with award winning dining, spas and outdoor activities. Dare to dream.

Experiences & Adventures

ON-MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCES

OUTDOOR ACTIVE ADVENTURES

TOURS & SOFT ADVENTURES

CULINARY EXPERIENCES

FITNESS & WELLNESS

ARTS, EVENTS & ENTERTAINMENT

GETTING AROUND

SHUttle Services

EASY ACCESS TO SKI HILLS AND AROUND TOWN!

Banff and Lake Louise offer a variety of shuttles and a user-friendly public bus system. All three ski areas offer daily shuttle service that run from Banff with pick up points conveniently located throughout the town. Daily Ski Shuttles are free for guests with a SkiBig3 Lift Ticket.

The town of Banff is easy to navigate on foot but, if you aren’t feeling up to it, traveling within town is made easy with a public transit system (ROAM) that runs 3 different lines as well as a regional service to the neighbouring town of Canmore.  Fares are between $2 and $6 per ride depending on your destination.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Average daytime temperature in Banff:

November: 33° F / 1° C
December: 24° F / –5° C
January: 21° F / –7° C
February: 31° F / –1° C
March: 37° F / 3° C
April: 46° F / 8° C
May: 57° F / 14° C

Once you arrive in at the Calgary International Airport, the town of Banff is an easy 90 minute drive, with Lake Louise a further 35 minutes beyond.

Distances:

Calgary to Banff:  126 km (78 miles)
Calgary to Lake Louise: 185 km (115 miles)
Banff to Lake Louise: 59 km (37 miles)
Edmonton to Banff: 459 km (259 miles)
Vancouver to Banff: 850 km (528 miles)
Jasper to Banff: 292 km (181 miles)
Revelstoke to Banff: 283 km (175 miles)

There are three central locations which provide easy access to skiing in Banff National Park and SkiBig3 resorts. The town of Banff and the hamlet of Lake Louise are both located inside the boundaries of Banff National Park. Canmore is a neighbouring community located just east of the national park. 

Depending on what you are looking for, each location provides a completely different experience. The town of Banff is the busiest hub, providing the largest selection of lodging options, restaurants and activities. Lake Louise offers a quieter experience for those seeking a spot a little more off-the-beaten path. Located just outside the park, Canmore offers more condo options, but you will require a rental car. If you have any questions about where to stay, our SkiBig3 Reservations Team are happy to guide you through the many options, finding you the room that best suits your unique vacation needs.

 

Banff and Lake Louise are within the Banff National Park boundary, so you are required to pay a user fee for the duration of your stay. This means that every time you visit, you’re investing in park services, preservation and legacy building for future generations. Passes can be purchased at the park gate as you enter or advanced purchase online.

$10.00 CAD per day for an Adult (annual $69.19 CAD)
$139.40 CAD Group/Family Discovery Pass (annual pass valid for 7 people)

While there is no guarantee you will see wildlife (the animals roam free here), wildlife sighting are common sometimes even occurring within the townsite. You can tell who the locals are because they won’t stop or pause for an elk or deer sighting. It is simply too commonplace!

The most frequently spotted animals are elk, bighorn sheep, deer, and mountain goats. Bear, cougars, wolves and many other critters also call the park home.

Bringing your own gear can be expensive and cumbersome. With airlines charging extra for boot bags as well as skis or board bags, it is often more convenient and economical to rent gear once you have arrived.

The SkiBig3 Adventure Hub located right on Banff Avenue, in the centre of town, has knowledgeable techs available to fit you to either mid-range or high-performance gear and will deliver it to you hotel once you have selected the equipment that best suits you.

FROM OUR BLOG

More about Banff & Lake Louise

Skier in Delirium Dive. Photo by Will Lambert.|||

How to SkiBig3: 4 Easy Arrival Steps

|Guided Adventure program participants enjoy a day at Banff Sunshine Village

The Ultimate Family Guide to SkiBig3 Resorts

Skaters at Chateau Lake Louise at night|Skiers at Lake Louise Ski Resort

Insider’s Guide to Staying in Lake Louise

The town of Banff is known for its variety of amenities and proximity to Banff Sunshine and Mt Norquay. Photo: Paul Zizka.|Banff National Park is home to a variety of dining options

Banff and Lake Louise: Why You need to Experience Both