50 Things to do in Banff National Park

Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest Park and was established in 1885. It consists of 6.641 square kilometres of craggy mountain peaks, glacial lakes, Icefields, glaciers and small alpine villages visited by over 3 million visitors annually.

With this much park to explore, there are so many reasons to visit this paradise in the Rocky Mountains.

50 Things to do in Banff National Park

1. Skiing the Big 3, Sunshine Village,

Lake Louise and Mount Norquay

2. Hiking an hour to the summit of Tunnel Mountain for amazing views of Banff and the Bow Valley

3. Indulging in Fondue at the eclectic Grizzly House restaurant

4. Exploring the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel grounds and having a stein at The Waldhaus Pub

5. Taking the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain and walking to the old weather station

6. Having a soak in the 40-degree waters and enjoying the views at the Banff Upper Hot Springs

7. Strolling around Cascade Gardens looking at flowers, waterfalls and the Parks Canada building

8. Exploring the Cave and Basin historical sight and learning about the history of the National Park

9. Eating chicken wings on wing night at Mel’s bar. ($2 for 6 wings and cheap beer)

10. Taking a quick walk up to Surprise Corner for the wonderful views of the Banff Springs Hotel

11. Seeing an adventure film at the annual Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival in the Fall

12. Visiting the Parks museum, Buffalo Nation Luxton museum and Whyte museum in Banff town

13. Watching the waters of the Bow River cascade over Bow falls

14. Walking along Bow River Trail from Buffalo St to the Canoe docks trying to spot Elk

15. Eating traditional Poutine at Eddie Burger

16. Going down to Vermillion Lakes to catch the sunrise over Mount Rundle and the lakes

17. Chowing down on a Mac & Cheese pizza at High Rollers and getting in some pool and bowling

18. Ice skating on the free outdoor rink at the Banff Community High School

19. Driving out to Lake Minnewanka to see the Northern Lights dancing behind the mountains

20. Walking around the old mining town of Bankhead and admiring the views of Cascade Mountain

21. Picnicking at Cascade Ponds or Two Jack Lake and taking the kayak or paddleboard out

22. Driving around the Fairmont Golf Course loop trying to spot Elk and Black Bears

23. Heading to Earls for happy hour (3-6 & 6-close) and ordering their amazing $7 dry ribs

24. Hiking the Fenlands trail and watching the birds and animals

25. Getting your photo taken with the new BANFF sign on Lynx Street

26. Driving up to the Norquay Lookout on the ski hill access road for a magnificent view of Banff

27. Learning to Curl and catching a local ice hokey game at the Fenlands Recreation Centre

28. Hiking Johnston Canyon to see the amazing waterfalls and cascading Johnston Creek

29. Driving the Bow Valley Parkway all the way to Lake Louise and spotting wildlife

30. Hiking Sunshine Meadows up at Sunshine Village ski area and seeing the larch trees in Fall

31. Visiting the famous Lake Louise and hiring a Canoe and paddling across the lake to the glacier

32. Hiking up to the Lake Agnes teahouse and continuing to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

33. Cycling or Cross-Country skiing to the incredible Moraine Lake and the Valley of the 10 Peaks

34. Taking the short hike to the Peyto Lake lookout

35. Stopping at Castle Mountain Lookout for stunning views of this incredibly shaped mountain

36. Having an Ale brewed in Banff and watching a game of ice hockey at the Banff Ave Brewing Co

37. Taking a horse drawn sleigh ride in Banff town or along the shoreline at Lake Louise

38. X-country ski or hike the 11km to Skoki Lodge in the backcounty beyond Lake Louise Ski Resort

39. Rocket down the hill on a snowtube at Mount Norquay or Lake Louise ski areas

40. Rent a bike and cycle along the bow river to Sundance Canyon

41. Enjoy a stroll on horseback to the remote Sundance Lodge

42. Try a Beavertail at one of Banff’s two store locations

43. Enjoy a jug of beer and Thursday Night Bingo at the Banff Legion

44. Visit one on the many Galleries in town with art and craft from local artists

45. Try a relaxing float trip down the Bow river in Summer

46. Climb the hair rising Via Ferrata up above Mount Norquay’s ski runs

47. Climb the switch back trail up Sulphur Mountain and get the Gondola back down

48. Ride the mechanical Bull and do some line dancing at Wild Bill’s Saloon

49. Enjoy Banff’s Parade of Lights at Christmas and visit the Christmas markets at Warner Stables

50. See the New Years Eve fireworks while partying on Banff Avenue.

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The Ski Hills are OPEN!

May 22nd, 6 months, since the last Banff based ski hill closed for the 2016/17 season. That doesn’t sound very long to someone who comes for a ski holiday once a year, but to those of us who live and work in Banff over the Winter and ski 3-4 times a week, when the season is over it feels like an eternity to wait for the next Winter.

It’s always a fun but expensive time leading up to the ski season. Firstly, you need to purchase your season’s pass and can either choose to go for just 1 mountain at around $1000 or go for The Big 3 pass which is a staggering $1600. Suffice to say it’s a quiet time of year in town for the bars and restaurants as everyone is broke for a few weeks after purchasing their passes.

Any newcomers doing the season ahead also need to get all the gear which can be very expensive, but we are lucky enough to have the Banff, Canmore and Calgary ski swaps where you can buy second hand gear for a lot less. Once you are all kitted up and have your pass, doing a whole season can be relatively cheap per day as compared to coming for a week’s holiday.

This year Mount Norquay opened on Saturday the 4th of November, the first ski hill in Canada to open its gates to the public. I went up for a few runs on the Sunday, but they only had one of their shorter lifts open, so we didn’t stay for long. Lake Louise opened on the 7th and Sunshine Village on the 8th.

FullSizeRender (010)The sun coming through the clouds above Strawberry Express

On the 8th on November I was awake at 5:30am, like a child at Christmas, I was so excited for Sunshine’s opening day and lay awake until my alarm went off at 7:30.

Normally I get the free ski shuttle from the Fairmont Hotel but on that morning, I got a lift with my flatmate and his friends. I think everyone from Banff who had the day off or was starting work later was heading up to Sunshine Village.

After a 20-minute gondola ride I was back in the surrounds of Standish, Lookout and Goat’s Eye Mountains. It felt like I’d never left and many of the people I spoke to on the various chairlifts I rode that morning said the same.

FullSizeRender (00F)Looking out over Sunshine Village and Wawa chair.

I started my day doing a few runs on Strawberry Express which is Sunshine’s beginner chair. It has a few greens and gentle blues to get your ski legs back after a long time away from the slopes. From the top of the chairlift you get an amazing view over towards Sunshine Meadows and the peaks surrounding Mount Assiniboine as well as Lookout Mountain where Angel, Teepee Town LX and the Divide chairs rise up into the clouds.

Moving on to Wawa, a more intermediate chair with long, wide blue runs and a few technical blacks I felt like I truly got my technique back as I powered down the hill executing short sharp turns over the beautifully groomed runs. I did about 7 runs off Wawa in the bright sunshine before heading down the mountain to the lower chairs.

Jackrabbit and Wolverine chairs are on the lower part of Goat’s Eye Mountain and have a variety of runs off them. I did a few of my favourite short black runs off Jackrabbit before cruising down the blues and blacks off Wolverine.

The crunching sounds of the snow being pushed aside by my skis, the whoosh of the chilly air on my face and the almost bluebird day was just what I was hoping for and Sunshine always delivers.

FullSizeRender (00D)Jackrabbit chair and one of my favorite Black Runs.

By midday I was really starting to feel the burn so returned to the Gondola mid station and headed home.

Sunshine Village, like Coronet Peak in my native New Zealand has a special place in my heart. I have skied 14 different resorts in Canada, New Zealand, France, Switzerland and Bulgaria but Sunshine has the best snow of them all.

I know the mountain so well and spent so much time there last season. It’s a mountain with something for everyone and the staff are always so happy and friendly. My boyfriend learnt to ski there and one of my best friends even got married there.

I wonder what exciting things will happen at Banff Sunshine Village this ski season.

Winter has arrived…..

This Winter has arrived quite suddenly. Banff pretty much went from Fall sunshine to snowy Winter skies in a week. 

The temperature has plummeted down to -15 and the town has a carpet of white that should last the next 6 months. 

The first ski hill has opened and the other two are due to open next week.

It’s beautiful. 

Bow River starting to freeze over, soon people will be walking over it.

Mount Rundle

Cascade Mountain towering over the town.