A winter vacation in the Canadian Rockies sparks images of world-class skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing. Alongside adrenaline-fueled activities, wintertime in the Rockies also means snowy train tours with other adventurers and peaceful sleigh rides through stunning vistas. Here are four picks for must-visit snowy destinations.
A Majestic Setting
If pressed, exhilarating is the best way to describe a winter visit to Lake Louise. Dwarfed by soaring mountain peaks and the majestic Victoria Glacier, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a grand setting for a winter holiday. The fairytale setting swathed in white is perfect for a sleigh ride along frozen Lake Louise. As you traverse beneath the mountain rises, listen to the jingle of the sleigh bells from beneath a cozy blanket and catch glimpses of spectacular ice falls.
Lake Louise receives an average of 3.9m (over 12 feet) of snowfall each winter. That’s an excellent reason to book a private or group excursion with one of the hotel’s qualified Mountain Adventure Guides. Excursions can be arranged for a half or full day of snowshoeing, hiking or cross-country skiing.
Summer visitors love Lake Louise for its amazing color. Winter visitors know it as the world’s best skating rink. Lace up a pair of skates to skim the ice as you savor the crisp air and picturesque views. Glide your way in and around the Fairmont-created ice castle designed to highlight this spectacular rink each winter. An evening spent skating under the stars offers a delightful, and often uncrowded experience as you take in the expansive night sky.
World-Class Snow in Banff National Park
Winter is a special time to explore Banff National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Set amid the splendor of the park, Fairmont Banff Springs has been practicing the art of hospitality for more than 130 years. There’s no better way to experience winter in the Rockies than by choosing a fully immersive experience that combines adventure, history, and culture in an immersive outing in the park. Book an exclusive guided adventure for up to six people to either snowshoe or hike through Banff National Park. On your way through serene forests, your guide will tell fascinating stories about the area’s history.
The Banff National Park is home to world-class skiing in a wonderland setting of pristine wilderness. No matter which of the three mountains you choose to ski, you’ll discover an array of runs for every skill level. After a fun-filled day of skiing, save time to experience the memorable alpenglow. Alpenglow is that ‘golden hour’ at sunrise and sunset when there’s rosy glow in the sky as the clouds and atmosphere act like a giant reflector shining a reddish glow on the snow-capped mountain peaks and providing a ruby hued sunset or sunrise sky. If you prefer to play in the snow with more power, book a guided snowmobile adventure for a backcountry adrenaline rush. If your speed is a little slower, then ride the slopes with a tubing experience Norquay Banff. And if you want to leave the work to others, a 45-minute sleigh ride. You’ll feel like Santa himself.
Star-filled Skies in the Rockies
There’s nothing quite like a luxury lodge as your home-away-from-home during a winter vacation. That’s why we recommend booking 1 of 13 Signature Cabins at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for your stay. Designed for gracious living for up to eight guests, each cabin includes the dedicated services of a butler. When you can tear yourself away from the swanky fireplace, head over to the hotel’s Winter Activity Centre to pick up skates, a puck, and sticks for an impromptu hockey game on the lake. You can also rent skates for ice skating on Lake Mildred, toboggans to sled our groomed hill, and other wintry equipment.
Did you know that Jasper National Park is the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world? That means it’s the ideal place for a rich experience discovering the beauty of the night sky at JPL’s onsite planetarium. The experience offers an interactive tour of the most powerful and largest telescope in the Rockies. Imagine seeing an “instant-replay” of the Whirlpool Galaxy “eating” a small galaxy. Bring your DSLR camera and learn how to photograph the Northern Lights and the Milky Way.
While there’s terrific skiing available on the 86 named trails and the five new Tres Hombres 45-degree slopes at Marmot Ski Basin, why not test your skills with fat tire biking? This growing winter sport is a natural at Jasper Park, where you’ll find trails to town or one that take you to Lake Annette with a return by way of Trefoil Lake.
Photo Credits Header Image: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism, Noel Hendrickson