The Complete Guide to Skiing in Banff & Lake Louise, Canada

Banff and Lake Louise are two popular skiing destinations located within the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, Canada. Banff is a small town situated within Banff National Park, which happens to be Canada’s first and oldest national park.

Banff National Park of Canada

Banff National Park

Best Months: September, July, June & August
Hours: Open year round
Entrance Fee: $21 per family daily

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Banff is known for its stunning mountain views, vast outdoor recreational opportunities, and cultural attractions. Lake Louise, a town located about an hour northwest of Banff, is also located within Banff National Park. The town is named after Lake Louise, a glacial lake known for its turquoise waters and mountain backdrop. Both Banff and Lake Louise are popular tourist destinations in the winter due to the fact that it is also home to some of the best ski resorts in Alberta!

The Banff & Lake Louis Ski Season

The ski season in Banff and Lake Louise typically runs from November to April, depending on the weather cooperates or not. The area is known for its massive snowfall amounts, which can reach up to 300 inches per season. The type of snow that falls in the Banff and Lake Louise area is typically dry and powdery, which is exactly what skiers and snowboarders crave.

During the winter in Banff, the weather can be cold and snowy, with average temperatures ranging from the low 20s to low 30s Fahrenheit. The region can also experience strong winds and extreme cold, particularly at higher elevations, so it is important to dress in multiple layers and be prepared for changing weather conditions.

Overall, Banff skiing is highly dependent on the weather and can vary from year to year. However, the region’s consistent snowfall and state-of-the-art snowmaking systems help to ensure a long and enjoyable ski season for visitors.

Visiting the Banff Ski Resorts

Coming into Town

If you aren’t able to drive, the closest airport is Calgary International Airport (YYC). It is about a 1.5 hour drive (89 miles / 142 km) from the airport into downtown Banff. You will want to rent an All-wheel or 4-wheel drive vehicle if you plan on driving yourself. The main roads may be clear, but the side roads once you start visiting Lake Louise Ski Resort or Mt. Norquay may get a bit treacherous.

Where To Stay

There are several options for accommodation when skiing at the ski resorts located around Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta. One option is to stay in the town of Banff, which offers a variety of hotels, bed and breakfast inns, vacation rentals, and other accommodation options. Banff is a popular tourist destination with a variety of amenities and activities, and it is located within easy driving distance of all the ski resorts in the area.

Another option is to stay at one of the ski resorts themselves. Many of the ski resorts in the Banff and Lake Louise area offer on-mountain accommodation options, such as hotels, condominiums, and vacation rentals. This can be a convenient option for skiers and snowboarders, as it allows for easy access to the slopes and other resort amenities.

It is also possible to stay in the nearby town of Lake Louise, which offers a variety of accommodation options and is located within easy driving distance of the ski resorts in the area. No matter which option you choose, it is important to book your accommodation in advance, as the ski resorts and towns around Banff and Lake Louise can be busy during the ski season.

Use the IKON Pass

The IKON pass allows skiers and snowboarders unlimited access to a network of ski resorts, including the top three ski resorts in Banff (all except Nakiska).

The IKON pass comes in several different versions, including the IKON Base Pass, the IKON Base Plus Pass, and the IKON Day Pass. The IKON Base Pass offers unlimited season-long access to their network of resorts, but unless you live near one of their resorts, this pass won’t be for you. However, if you’re taking a trip to Banff to ski, we would recommend buying a 3-day IKON pass, which should save you around 20% on lift ticket prices when compared to the same-day gate prices.

The Ski Resorts of Banff

The region around Banff and Lake Louise is home to a number of fantastic ski resorts. The most popular is Banff Sunshine, but there are others including Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay.

Banff Sunshine Village

Banff Sunshine Village – Unsplash/@vladyslavaandriyenko
Banff Sunshine Village

Banff Sunshine Village is one of the hardest ski areas in the country. It ranks in the top 10% of most-difficult ski resorts in all of North America, mostly due to the fact that it has 56% of its trails rated as expert-level, and a vertical drop of 3,510 feet.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  8,957′
Vertical:  3,510′
Base:  5,447′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  145
Lifts:  11
Acres:  3,358

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  18%
Intermediate:  26%
Expert:  56%

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Located in Banff National Park, Banff Sunshine Village is a popular ski resort known for its wide range of terrain and stunning mountain views. The resort has almost 3,400 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of over 3,500 feet. It features three terrain parks, the Goat’s Eye, the Delirium Dive, and the Little Red Riding Hood, which offer a range of features and challenges for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

Lake Louise Ski Resort

Lake Louise Ski Resort – Unsplash/@exploromann
Lake Louise

Lake Louise is more difficult than the average ski slope. 75% of its trails rated as either intermediate or expert-level, which doesn’t leave much for the beginners.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  8,652′
Vertical:  3,251′
Base:  5,401′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  160
Lifts:  10
Acres:  4,200

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  25%
Intermediate:  45%
Expert:  30%

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Located about an hour northwest of Banff, Lake Louise Ski Resort is a popular ski destination known for its wide range of terrain and stunning views of Lake Louise. The resort has over 4,200 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of 3,250 feet. It features five terrain parks, the Banff Avenue, the Top of the World, the Little White Rail, the Whitehorn Bumps, and the Easy Rider, which offer a range of features and challenges for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

Mt. Norquay

Mt Norquay – Flickr/@cuppojoe_trips
Mount Norquay

Mount Norquay can be beginner-friendly, but it depends on the ski trails you ride. While it ranks in the lower half of all North American ski areas in terms of overall difficulty, it still has 62% of its trails rated at or above intermediate ski level.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  8,038′
Vertical:  1,650′
Base:  6,388′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  60
Lifts:  6
Acres:  190

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  38%
Intermediate:  25%
Expert:  37%

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Located in Banff National Park, Mount Norquay is a smaller ski resort known for its intimate mountain setting and wide range of terrain. The resort has almost 200 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of 1,600 feet. It features one terrain park, the Luge Terrain Park, which offers a range of features and challenges for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

Nakiska Ski Area

Nakiska Ski Area – Photo courtesy Nakiska Facebook Page
Nakiska Ski

Nakiska Ski is more difficult than the average ski slope. 87% of its trails rated as either intermediate or expert-level, which doesn’t leave much for the beginners.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  7,415′
Vertical:  2,412′
Base:  5,003′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  71
Lifts:  6
Acres:  1,021

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  13%
Intermediate:  59%
Expert:  28%

More Information…

Located about an hour west of Banff, Nakiska Ski Area is a popular ski resort known for its wide range of terrain and stunning mountain views. This small ski hill has over 1,000 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of 2,400 feet. It features two terrain parks, the Main Park and the Tube Park, which offer a range of features and challenges for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

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Chris Cagle

I love traveling the United States. I hunt down fantastic places to visit in the summer and great slopes to ski down in the winter. The first national park I ever visited was the Smokies, but since then, I've been to dozens. However, my favorite by far has been Zion.