The Crystal Ski Holidays Blog

An essential guide to Banff

Banff is Canadian skiing at its most natural – three ski areas and a proper little railway town, all set in Canada’s first national park. Your whole trip is spent in parkland, surrounded by untouched scenery and wildlife. Transfers to the mountains are by coach, but it’s likely to be the most beautiful coach trip you’ve ever taken. And you’ll get to meet some of the locals along the way bighorn sheep, elk or even the elusive moose.

Mountain stats

Ski area size: 7,748 acres
Snow range: 1,476-2,730m
Resort height: 1,476m
Beginner pistes: 62
Intermediate pistes: 132
Advanced pistes: 80
Transfer time: 2 hours (from Calgary)

What’s the skiing like in Banff?

Put simply, brilliant. Your lift pass covers you for three superb ski areas, each with its own charm. You can choose your favourite early on or mix them up through your holiday.

Banff Sunshine Village: This bowl-shaped moonscape is known for its feather-light powder and forgiving improver runs that criss-cross its three mountains. Up for a challenge? Get a guide and head for Delirium Dive. You drop in from the ridge line to an exhilarating 40-50-degree pitch, with verticals either side of you.

Lake Louise: We’ll keep saying it – this is some of the prettiest skiing you’ll ever do. There are runs for all abilities, from scenic cruisers to glades and chutes, all across four mountain faces. The views from the Front Side will take your breath away.

Mt Norquay: Head here for a true local mountain feel, right next to Banff itself. Smaller than its siblings, it’s still got a great mix of slopes, mogul fields, Olympic and World Cup training runs, and night skiing.

Cascade Mountain from Banff Avenue

Things to do in Banff

Ice hockey: It’s the national obsession – go big with the Calgary Flames or get the real rinkside experience at a Canmore Eagles home game.

Banff gondola: Views, views, views. You’re surrounded by staggering glacial scenery, and this is a great way to see it. Swoop up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain for the best sunsets in town.

Things to see in Banff

Lake Louise: Rent some ice skates and skim across the jewel of the Rockies, Lake Louise. Or take tea with one of Canada’s most famous lake views at the elegant Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Johnston’s Canyon: This winter walk crunches through a sparkling cathedral of ice, passing frozen waterfalls and views into the airy gorge below.

Where to eat in Banff

Melissa’s Missteak: Gooey French toast, slow-roasted prime rib glazed with jus, or AAA-grade steaks and all the trimmings. This wood-panelled spot is the full Canadian family dining experience, all day. And it’s not pricey. Try the Brownie Conspiracy – don’t ask, just order it.

Park Distillery

Park Distillery: The name might come from their award-winning small-batch spirits, but it also sums up what this restaurant’s all about – the spirit of Banff National Park, distilled. Big-sky campfire cooking, smoky flavours and being with friends. The food’s excellent and the atmosphere is spot-on.

Nightlife in Banff

Rundle Lounge, Fairmont Banff Springs: Sophisticated pre-dinner drinks at the historic Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. Pose for a photo like a ’30s film star, gazing out over the Bow River, cocktail in hand. 

St James’s Gate: At the weekend, this friendly favourite floods with Calgary locals, there to enjoy the live music, Irish whiskeys and warm welcome.

Banff Ave Brewery Co: Delicately hoppy or herby and light? See how your favourite Banff ale or pilsner is made and then taste them all with a burger while watching the game. 

Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon: Wings, ribs, beers, live bands and a mechanical bull. Nights out in Banff don’t get more North American than Wild Bill’s. Go for dinner and drinks, and if the music takes you, you’ll be there ‘til late.

Price of a drink in Banff
Small beer $7
Bottle of house wine $45
Glass of coke $3

Where to stay in Banff

Outdoor hot tubs at Banff Aspen Lodge

Banff Aspen Lodge: There’s so much to love at the Banff Aspen Lodge, a mid-range hotel with high-end perks. Start with breakfast – homemade granola, crisp maple bacon and everything in between. It’s all included, so you can fuel up each day, guilt-free. The rooms are spacious, with modern décor that gives the hotel a luxury feel. Best of all, you can end each day in the outdoor hot tubs, chit-chatting under the stars beside a roaring fire. Once you’re soothed and soaked, step right out onto the main street and take your pick of Banff’s restaurants.

Start your next adventure on a Banff ski holiday or browse our latest Canada deals.

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