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

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

Winter is officially on its way in the Canadian Rockies. With a refreshing chill in the air and snow-capped mountain peaks starting to arrive, we are super excited for the winter ahead. If you’re not from the area, you may have heard of the magical destination of Banff and Lake Louise. But maybe you’re wondering when is the best time to plan a Banff ski trip?

When is the best time to visit Banff for a 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 Banff National Park runs from early November to late May. Which is why so many people around the world consider Banff and Lake Louise to be their favorite winter wonderland destination.

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 2023-2024 season, SkiBig3 resorts are scheduled to open (weather conditions dependent) on:

  • Banff Sunshine: November 9, 2023
  • Lake Louise Ski Resort: November 10, 2023
  • Mt. Norquay: November 3, 2023

 

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 and skiers are 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.

Skier at Lake Louise ski resort on a sunny day
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 by Reuben Krabbe

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, Banff Christmas Market, 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.

Santa skiing at Banff Sunshine in the Canadian Rockies
In December, you can ski or ride with Santa at all three SkiBig3 resorts | Photo by Jillian Tester

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 Festival in Banff and Lake Louise (from January 19 to January 4, 2024). 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.

banff-ski-trip-skibig3-blog-norquay-night-skiing-january
Night skiing starts in January at Mt. Norquay on Friday & Saturday nights. | Photo by Reuben Krabbe

February: Watch the Northern Lights

Banff National Park is a wonderful place to admire the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. 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 clear star-lit skies all winter. 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. Keep an eye on Banff Sunshine’s aurora cam, and be sure to catch those dancing lights. 

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).

Group of people ice skating on lake louise
Ice skating on Lake Louise surrounded by mountains | Photo by Travel Alberta

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. The weather starts to get warmer too, which is ideal for guests traveling with young children and family-filled adventures. 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.

banff-ski-trip-skibig3-blog-march-powder-norquay-skiing
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 the 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 the perfect sports to take advantage of the long spring days and soak up as much sun as possible. 

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 Trappers 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!

 

Three people enjoying apres in the sun at Banff Sunshine
Patio season officially arrives in April. Enjoy a frosty pint in the sun for aprés at Banff Sunshine outside Madd Trappers | Photo by Rueben Krabbe

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 travelers who are flying in to visit Banff and Lake Louise, you can rent bear spray at SkiBig3 Adventure Hub.

Banff Sunshine Slush Cup, skier gliding over the water
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?

Book your winter wonderland escape to Banff and Lake Louise this winter. Our friendly reservations team will be able to help you organize your ski vacation by calling 1-844-754-2443. Or, go online to access some exceptional Ski & Stay Package deals.

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