You’re in one of the world’s best ski and snowboard resorts, but skiing or snowboarding are not on your agenda. Maybe you’re not ready to conquer the snow just yet, perhaps bad weather’s coming in and you want to avoid the slopes, or you want to save some pennies on expensive lift passes and do something different for the day. Here are 8 super-fun options that will definitely keep you busy for more than a few days this winter…
1 | Snowshoe to Skoki
Snowshoeing is a fun form of winter hiking where you wear your regular snow boots and clip in to a racquet-shaped base, that stops you sinking into the snow. They take just a few minutes to get used to, but other than that, you’re good to go. You can hire snowshoes from Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise village for just $10 per person with snowshoeing day trails and conditions here.
While a few hours in snowshoes is good fun, if you’re looking for a bigger winter adventure that will be the highlight of your holiday, book a night at the beautiful and authentic Skoki Lodge.
Skoki Lodge is a true winter escape. A rustic but cosy collection of quaint cabins, nestled in the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park. The remote lodge is only accessible via an 11km trail but once you have arrived, you won’t need to leave. A crackling fire will keep you warm and delicious, hearty food, including afternoon tea on arrival, will keep you full. Kate Middleton and Prince William visited on their Canadian Tour in summer 2011, so if it’s worth a royal visit, it’s one not to miss.
2| BE IN AWE AT THE Ice Magic Festival
The Ice Magic Festival features world-class ice carvings and is hosted at the grand Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for 12 days, at the end of January each year. The carvers create their masterpieces out of giant stacked blocks of ice to create spectacles including mammoths, castles and even bars. It is free to attend Monday to Friday and on the weekends before 10 am or after 5:30 p.m, but for other times you need a ticket, costing $12.50 for an adult.
3 | CHECK OUT A Ski and Snowboard Competition
Enjoy the slope-side action, without even needing to put on a pair of skis. Hold an ice cold beer and be upstanding as kids, ski-bums, locals and pros showcase their best tricks on the rails and jumps at the different resorts and around town. There’s the Heavy Metal Rail Jam and Freeriderz Challenge at Lake Louise Ski Resort and then the Big Bear Ski Competition at Banff Railway Station in February. And all are free to attend!
4 | HIKE TO THE GIANT FROZEN WATERFALL THAT IS JOHNSTON CANYON
Hiking to the wintry waterfalls of Johnston Canyon is a fantastic few hours. See the giant icicles that cling to the canyon walls, the 30m tower of glistening frozen ice at the Upper Falls and the aqua-blue water that thunders under the icy shell.
Without doubt, hike the entire 5.2 kilometers so that you get to see the most impressive features located at the Upper Falls, which takes about 2 to 3 hours for the whole round trip. At the end of the trail, close to the Upper Falls, you'll likely see ice climbers adventuring over the frozen waterfalls.
The only absolute must is hiring ice cleats to put on the bottom of your shoes, as the trail has a lots of very icy spots. We thought people were over-reacting, insisting that we needed them, but having them really was a huge help. We got ours at Wilsons in Lake Louise for $5 for the day.
5 | GET YOUR ICE SKATES ON
Glide along the ice at one of the most scenic ice rinks in the world, against the backdrop of the impressive Victoria Glacier on one side, and the grand Chateau on the other. Skating on the lake is not just for hotel guests - anyone can use the rink for free. You can hire skates inside the hotel, or down in the village from Wilsons.
6 | WATCH A LIVE ICE HOCKEY GAME
While you’ll have to leave Banff National Park for this one, going to a cheer on the local ice hockey team is a big part of winter Canadian culture. It’s an intense, action-packed 60 minutes and like no other sport you’ve seen before! The Calgary Flames are the most local team to Banff (its about a 90-minute drive) with games scheduled between mid-September to early April. Even if you can’t get a ticket, go to the Elk & Oarsman, in Banff town, where you can have a few drinks and watch all the action on the big-screens.
7 | RELAX AT Banff Hot Springs
Just a few kilometers outside of Banff lie the historic hot springs. While the water is heated naturally, the hot springs themselves are more a large swimming pool, just to set your expectations. That said, with the stars shining in the night sky, illuminating the views of the mountains and at only $7 per person, its a real nice and relaxing way to spend an evening - it also goes especially well after hiking to Johnston Canyon earlier in the day to soothe any aches and pains from slipping on the ice!
8 | WALK THE WINTER TRAILS
The Bow River Trail and Bow Falls are two easy, scenic walks close to downtown Banff that offer a good leg-stretch and the opportunity to spot elk and deer grazing in the woodland next to the trail. It’s only a few kilometers each way and you can warm up with a hot drink in the grand Banff Springs hotel before heading back. Dress in layers and wear your sturdiest footwear as it can still be snowy and icy on the paths.