Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Edmonton skyline, Alberta
Banff National Park, Alberta
Herbert Lake, Alberta
Lake Anette, Alberta
Lake Louise, Alberta
Calgary skyline, Alberta
Twilight Spirit Island, Alberta
Two Jack Lake, Banff National Park

The Wonders of Alberta in the Winter

In the winter, Alberta transforms into a magical wonderland of snowy landscapes, with the peaks of the Rockies soaring majestically above frozen lakes and icy landscapes. It’s a fabulous time to visit this western province of Canada, and we’ve compiled some suggestions of the great things there are to experience at this time of year.

Snowshoeing is our starting point as it’s such an iconic Canadian activity and not something we can easily experience in the grey winters of the UK and Ireland. You’ll master the basics in just a few minutes, helped when you realise that it’s a bit like walking in flippers that you’ve put on backwards (trust us, it’s true!). Undoubtably it’s easiest to follow in someone’s footsteps but nothing beats finding some virgin snow to make your own tracks through the woods. If you stay at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise you can enjoy a lovely trail around the mystical frozen lake. There are also various guided options in either Banff or Jasper to take you through beautiful countryside with a local guide sharing stories about the history and geology of the area.

What could be more magical than a sleigh-ride through snowy meadows with a backdrop of the Rockies – just sit back and enjoy the view. One of our most popular winter activities is with Banff Trail Riders who take daily sleigh rides in Banff National Park.

A little more high-octane is ice-climbing. It’s not for the faint-hearted and you might prefer to simply spot daredevils in the distance on the icy slopes. But you can book a private ice-climbing tour and you’ll learn the basics of ice axe and crampon use, then you’ll be off on an experience of a lifetime ascending frozen waterfalls.

Slightly more sedate but definitely still thrilling is the icewalk through Maligne Canyon. A guided walk of three hours takes you through the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park. You’ll make your way along the frozen floor with cleats strapped to your boots, and take time for photos at the Maligne and Angel Icefalls. A magical experience!

Remaining with the ice theme but this time staying on the horizontal, ice-skating is very much a Canadian pursuit. Throughout Alberta you will find the locals enjoying this fun past-time, with outdoor ice-rinks in the majority of towns and cities, so if you’re staying in Calgary or Edmonton seek them out and hire a pair of skates …  or pick up a hot chocolate and just watch the townsfolk whizz around. Out in Banff National Park, ice-skating on Lake Louise is an iconic activity to include in your holiday, after all there’s plenty of room on the lake for you to skate at your own pace. Afterwards, enjoy a mulled wine from the outdoor bar and take time to admire the ice sculptures.

Banff Hot Springs is where you can go to warm up, as the water temperature reaches 45 to 50 degrees in the outdoor pools, surrounded by snow and ice - the highest hot springs in Canada.  It’s relaxing and beautiful and very much a “must-do” item on any Banff holiday itinerary.

In the same locale is Banff Gondola which will take you up Sulphur Mountain for panoramic views of six mountain ranges. It’s a magical ascent in the winter, and we recommend that you time your visit to experience the sunset. You can enjoy a drink or a meal in one of the restaurants or cafes at the top, explore the art installations of Nightrise and then admire the lights of Banff township twinkling as you descend in the gondola in darkness.

Wildlife spotting takes on another viewpoint in the winter. Join a tour in either Jasper or Banff national parks and you’ll learn how the inhabitants adapt to survive. You may spot elk, moose, big-horned sheep, coyotes or wolves, you’ll certainly see myriad birds and maybe owls. You won’t see any bears as they will be hibernating, but you will enjoy an entertaining commentary from your expert guide.

Walking the trails around Banff is a wonderful way to enjoy the scenery and surroundings at your own pace. There are many well-marked trails so you won’t get lost. You can follow the Bow River, criss-crossing on the various bridges to admire ice formations and occasional glimpses of the flowing water. You can stroll up to the fairytale castle of Fairmont Banff Springs and enjoy some lunch or afternoon tea. Or walk up to Surprise Corner on the junction of Buffalo Street and Tunnel Mountain Road to see hoodoos (rock formations) and gorgeous views of the river below.

Our final recommendation is a helicopter tour of the Rockies in winter. A tour lasting 20 minutes will take you over the Three Sisters Peaks then along the Spray Valley where you will see the extraordinary hues of the Spray Lakes, returning along the Goat Range and Bow River. The trip of a lifetime!

Suggested Holidays:

We will tailormake your Alberta Winter Wonderland holiday so check out these two itineraries for ideas - Banff and Lake Louise Winter Experience or the Rockies Winter Wonderland Experience


Yvonne Knott
Call our travel experts now
01 6649910 Call us 9am-7pm Mon-Fri / 9am-5pm Sat-Sun

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Yvonne Knott
Call our travel experts now
01 6649910 Call us 9am-7pm Mon-Fri / 9am-5pm Sat-Sun