When you are planning your Banff winter itinerary make sure to leave some time for a visit to Lake Louise. There are so many wonderful Lake Louise winter activities that your biggest challenge will be deciding how to fit them all in.
Lake Louise in winter is truly what can be described as a winter wonderland. We’ve always been in awe of how much more snow there is just driving from Banff to Lake Louise. Since we love snow and love winter, taking part in all the things to do in Lake Louise in the winter makes for some incredible winter days!
Whether you spend all your time at Lake Louise or dedicate only a portion of your Banff itinerary to visiting Lake Louise, we are certain you’ll enjoy every minute of it.
What You’ll Find in This Article on Visiting Lake Louise in Winter
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Best Things to do in Lake Louise in Winter
Here is a list of all the best things to do at Lake Louise in winter. These include winter activities at Lake Louise itself but also things to do that are either in the Lake Louise hamlet or very nearby.
If you are spending time in both Lake Louise and the town of Banff, also see all our favorite things to do in Banff in winter. Since Lake Louise is in Banff National Park, you’ll find some overlap but you’ll also see there’s no shortage of winter activities in Banff and Lake Louise.
1. Ice Skating on Lake Louise
Let’s start with the most popular Lake Louise winter activity – ice skating on Lake Louise! Often included in lists of the world’s most beautiful ice skating rinks, skating on Lake Louise offers the most spectacular mountain backdrop. It won’t take long for visitors to see why this is one of the most popular things to do in Lake Louise in the winter.
Besides the surrounding snow-covered mountain peaks, skaters also get views of the Victoria Glacier and on the ice, the Lake Louise ice castle built from large blocks of ice. The team at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise creates this ice castle, which also makes skating at Lake Louise feel even more magical.
Typically open from mid-December to mid-April, this is one of the best things to do in Banff at Christmas.
Once the Lake Louise is frozen, the ice on Lake Louise is cleared daily of any snowfall. The lake needs to be solid enough for skating and for the daily snow clearing, so the exact dates of when it’s safe enough to skate on the ice is different every year depending on the conditions.
It’s rare, but it’s possible that this incredible blue lake will freeze before snow falls on it. If you are lucky enough to skate on a Banff lake under these circumstances, it will be an experience you won’t forget!
The rinks are lit nightly for night skating on Lake Louise (until 11pm). On the ice you’ll find rinks for both leisure skating and for hockey. So there’s really something for everyone.
It seems to change every year, but you will find benches for changing into your skates and places to leave your boots. The best part is you have the Fairmont Lake Louise hotel right there when you need a place to warm up!
If you don’t have your own skates, you can find Lake Louise skate rentals at Chateau Ski and Snow Rentals (opens mid-November) or in the hamlet of Lake Louise at Wilson Mountain Sports. If you are coming from Banff, skate rentals are available at Snowtips-Bactrax. For Canmore, Gear Up Mountain Sports has skate rentals.
Note: Never skate on a frozen lake unless the ice is thick enough. The ice should be 15 cm thick for skating alone or walking on the ice. The ice should be 20 cm thick if more people are skating on it. Refer to this Parks Canada page on skating for more safety information.
2. Cross-Country Skiing at Lake Louise
There are a multitude of cross-country ski trails in Lake Louise and the surrounding area. With almost 20 different trails ranging from easy to difficult, there’s a trail to suit all abilities.
If you are new to cross-country skiing you can give it a try with an easy ski across Lake Louise. You can make it a loop with an intermediate section through the forest on the way back. Just don’t go past the end of the lake as you enter avalanche terrain.
The nearby Great Divide trail is long and mostly-flat. You don’t have to do the full 20 km to the Great Divide (which is the BC/Alberta border) but just turn around at any time. This is one of the best easy cross-country ski trails in the Banff area.
In Lake Louise, the Bow River Loop follows the river and is mostly flat. The Moraine Lake Road is closed in the winter and trackset for skiing. It will involve some climbing and hilly stretches. Don’t venture past the signs at the end as you’ll enter avalanche terrain.
Just past the hamlet of Lake Louise is the Pipestone area which has a mix of easy and intermediate trails.
Regardless of which cross-country ski trails in Lake Louise you choose, you’ll enjoy some spectacular mountain views! It’s one of the best places for cross-country skiing since there is often more snow (especially early and later in the season when the snow is melting elsewhere in Banff National Park).
Note: Dogs aren’t allowed on the Moraine Lake Road, Great Divide trail or Tramline trail.
3. Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival
The Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival is part of Banff’s SnowDays celebration and is always a big draw for visitors to Lake Louise in winter. Once you experience it you’ll know why! We have been going for years to see the incredible ice sculptures at Lake Louise.
The name says it all. There’s something truly magical seeing the giant blocks of ice being transformed into intricately carved ice sculptures all with snow covered mountain peaks as the backdrop.
Lake Louise will become much busier during the Ice Magic Festival. It used to be a completely free Banff activity but with the popularity growing over the years, you now require a ticket to access the event site.
General admission tickets are available for the two weekends from 6pm to 9pm. Banff Hotel guests will receive a 50% off discount on tickets and can also visit during 6pm to 9pm on the two weekends. Louise Ski Resort guests will also receive 50% off admission but can visit from 4pm to 6pm. Tickets are available for purchase starting December 12th. The cost for tickets is $14 for Adults, $7 for Children ages 3 to 12 years old, $9 for Seniors (55+) and under 2 years old is free.
Overnight stays in Lake Louise at the following Lake Louise hotels will include complimentary tickets to the Ice Magic Festival (but tickets must be reserved with your hotel) and can visit from 11am to 2pm on the weekends:
A complimentary shuttle is required for all visitors to the event. For guests of Lake Louise hotels, confirm your shuttle location with your hotel. All other guests will take the shuttle from the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise guest receive complimentary all-day tickets to the event.
If you aren’t there for the actual carving, don’t worry as you have plenty of days following to still take in the Lake Louise ice sculptures. They leave them up for quite some time afterwards (as long as they aren’t melting and it’s unsafe to leave them up), but the best time to see the ice sculptures at Lake Louise is before they get snowed on. We recommend going on a weekday shortly after the ice carving competition if possible.
For anyone visiting Banff in January, this is one event you should take part in. The dates for the 2024 Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival are January 26-27 and February 2-4. Tickets are available for purchase starting December 18, 2023.
A free Lake Louise shuttle on weekends from the Lake Louise Park & Ride will be provided for ticket holders. This shuttle is required to attend the event.
4. Sleigh Ride at Lake Louise
So many of the Lake Louise winter activities get you moving, but sometimes we forget to take in our surroundings. What better way to take a moment to enjoy this winter wonderland than on a Brewster Sleigh Ride at Lake Louise.
The horse drawn sleigh rides at Lake Louise will take you to the end of the Lake Louise lakeshore trail. On it, you’ll have time to sit back and take in all the stunning mountain scenery. You’ll do this all from your cozy seat with a blanket to keep warm.
Like many winter activities at Lake Louise, a horse-drawn sleigh ride is best done between mid-December and mid-April. The sleigh ride lasts 45-60 minutes and cost $52 per adult / $45 per child (under 2 years old is free). There are also private sleigh ride options. You can book your Lake Louise sleigh ride online here.
Looking for the PERFECT Lake Louise Souvenir?
If you love Lake Louise as much as we do, you’ll want to bring a piece of it home with you. This Lake Louise in Winter illustration by Diana Boyle at Rooftop Illustrations is the PERFECT souvenir!
See more Banff Souvenirs by local artists here.
5. Winter Walk at Lake Louise
If horses aren’t your thing, then you can also take a peaceful walk along the same route. The snow covered Lake Louise lakeshore trail is the perfect place for a slow meander with hot chocolate or coffee in hand.
Don’t rush it as you walk through this winter wonderland. The mountain scenery and the Victoria Glacier surrounding Lake Louise is what millions come here every year to see.
Walking along the Lake Louise lakeshore trail will take you to the end of Lake Louise where you can see the frozen Louise falls. Though don’t venture past the end of the lake as you’ll enter dangerous avalanche terrain.
6. Afternoon Tea at the Chateau
After being out in the snow all morning, it’s time to warm up. The Fairview Bar & Restaurant serves afternoon tea daily from 12:00 PM to 2:30 PM. With a huge assortment of teas, pastries and finger sandwiches, this is a fun way to spend a few hours.
Don’t worry, the mountain views are never far away! You’ll still get to appreciate the beauty of the mountain scenery while inside enjoying your Fairmont Lake Louise Afternoon Tea!
7. Dog Sledding in Lake Louise
Dog sledding in Banff a great way to learn about dog sledding and this interesting part of the history of the area. Both the Inuit people and early settlers to the area got around using dog sleds. If you’re an animal lover or just here for the mountain scenery, either way you’ll enjoy a dog sledding tour. This is a truly Canadian experience in winter at Lake Louise.
Kingmik Dog Sled Tours operates the dog sledding in Lake Louise. Their most popular tour takes visitors along the Great Divide trail to the Alberta / BC border.
8. Fat biking in Lake Louise
Fat biking is increasingly becoming a popular winter activity in Banff National Park. Riding a bike in the snow is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
For fat biking in Lake Louise, the Bow River Loop, Tramline, Moraine Lake Road and the Great Divide trails allow winter biking.
All those mentioned are Lake Louise cross-country ski trails that are groomed and trackset for cross-country skiers. If you are new to fat biking in Banff, just remember that you should always stay off cross country ski trails. While the winter trails mentioned above are shared trails, fat bikers should be respectful of the ski trails at all times.
Fat bikes can be rented at Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise for $69 per day.
9. Skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort
If you are here for a Banff skiing vacation, then you are likely well aware of the ski resorts in Banff National Park: Lake Louise Ski Resort, Sunshine Village Ski Resort and Mt Norquay Ski Resort.
Even if you haven’t skied or snowboarded before, you can still enjoy a day skiing at one of the amazing Banff ski resorts. There are plenty of beginner runs at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, making it good for families. With 1 gondola, 6 chairs and 3 carpets plus 160 runs, there’s really something for any ability at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
You can also book a lesson to get the whole family out on skis for the day. Ski rentals at Lake Louise are available at the hill or in town at Wilson Mountain Sports.
10. Tubing at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Skiing might not be your thing and that’s ok! There’s still plenty you can do at the Lake Louise Ski area! Tubing is fun for everyone! And there’s no experience required.
The Sunny Tube Park at Lake Louise Ski Resort opens once there’s enough snow (typically mid-December) and then it’s groomed daily for the maximum amount of fun!
Once open for the season, the tube park at Lake Louise opens daily from 10am to 4pm. Tickets are $35 for adults, $30 for youth and seniors, and $20 for children 6 to 12 years old. Children 0-5 years old are free.
Mt Norquay closer to the town of Banff also has a tube park with night tubing on Fridays and Saturdays.
11. Lake Louise Gondola
If you want something a little slower paced, the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola still operates in the winter. While you won’t get to see grizzly bears and the facilities at the top aren’t open, you’ll still get those incredible mountain views!
You can get a Lake Louise gondola and tubing combo ticket, then spend the entire day at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. Lake Louise sightseeing gondola tickets are $49 for adults, $24 for youth and seniors, and $9 for children 6-12 years old. Children 0-5 years old are free.
Combo gondola and all-day tubing tickets are: $69 for adults, $49 for youth and seniors, and $39 for children 6-12 years old.
12. Snowshoeing at Lake Louise
Snowshoeing has been one of our favorite winter activities for many years. Snowshoeing in Banff is such a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter.
Snowshoeing at Lake Louise is a winter activity that anyone can do. You can choose an easy trail like snowshoeing across the frozen Lake Louise. If there’s enough snow that hasn’t been packed down by winter hikers, you can snowshoe up to Fairview Lookout.
The Mirror Lake snowshoe trail and the Highline Trail to Paradise Creek are also great snowshoe trails at Lake Louise. Make sure not to go past Mirror Lake as you’ll enter avalanche terrain. The Highline trail also passes an avalanche run out.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise also maintains some snowshoe trails in the area. We loved the Blue Square 27 snowshoe trail (it’s unnamed, but the blue square 27 trail marker is the one to follow!).
Nearby, you can snowshoe on the multi-use trails like the Great Divide and Moraine Lake Road (staying off the ski tracks). In the town of Lake Louise, you can snowshoe the Bow River Loop or Louise Creek from the village up to Lake Louise.
Always check the Parks Canada trail conditions (under Lake Louise Area Snowshoeing and Winter Hiking Trails) before heading out for snowshoeing Lake Louise trails. If you plan to enter avalanche terrain, make sure you have the proper training and equipment.
Snowshoe rentals at Wilson Mountain Sports are $12 and $9 for poles. The Chateau Ski & Snow rentals are $23 for 4 hours or $40 for 8 hours (rent junior snowshoes for $15/4 hours and $25/8 hours)
If you like the idea of having a local guide, the Lake Louise Ski Resort also offers snowshoe tours or you can join this Lake Louise Winterland Tour that takes you to Lake Louise from Banff for snowshoeing, sleigh rides or skating.
Interested in a really epic snowshoeing tour? Take a helicopter ride that includes a snowshoe adventure to a frozen waterfall! Just note that this is 1.5 hour drive from Lake Louise to the Rockies Heli Canada location.
13. Tobogganing at Lake Louise
It’s time for some good old-fashioned family fun! Bring your own sled or rent one at the Chateau Ski & Snow, then head out to the tobogganing hill located near the start of the Lake Agnes hiking trail.
14. Winter Hiking at Lake Louise
Whether it’s a nice stroll along the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail or a heart-pumping hike up to the Fairview Lookout, getting out for a Lake Louise winter hike is the perfect way to enjoy the mountain scenery around Lake Louise.
With the amount of snow that falls in Lake Louise, the best trails for Lake Louise winter hikes will be those that get a lot of traffic (like up to the Fairview Lookout or Mirror Lake). Don’t forget your traction devices for your boots. We use and recommend Kahtoola microspikes and this version of microspikes for kids.
15. Visit the Frozen Waterfall at Lake Louise
At the end of Lake Louise, you’ll find the frozen Louise Falls at over 300 ft and a stunning blue color.
To reach the falls, walk across Lake Louise (snowshoes or cross-country skis may be required) or walk along the Lake Louise lakeshore trail. You can’t miss this beautiful frozen waterfall in Banff! It’s likely to be busy with ice climbers. Remember to not go below the falls as there may be ice falling and don’t venture past the end of the lake where you’ll enter dangerous avalanche terrain.
If you can’t get enough of the frozen waterfalls in Banff, you can see more along the Johnston Canyon hike. In Kananaskis, you can see a frozen waterfall at the end of the Grotto Canyon ice walk or on the Troll Falls hike.
16. Ice Climbing
If you’ve seen the climbers on Louise Falls and want to experience it for yourself, Alpine Air Adventures offers an Introduction to Ice Climbing for Beginners with no previous experience required.
17. Lake Louise Pond Hockey Classic
If you are visiting Lake Louise in February and want to experience something truly Canadian, you can’t get a more quintessential Canadian activity than hockey!
While the Lake Louise Pond Hockey Classic hasn’t returned in the past few years, check in later to see if there are any hockey tournaments planned at Lake Louise.
18. Have a Drink at the Chateau Lake Louise Ice Bar
When you are done with skating, head over the Lake Louise Ice Bar to warm up with a hot chocolate spiked with Baileys. Take in the incredible mountain scenery as you sip on your cocktail.
The Ice Bar at Lake Louise takes time to be build (the walls alone take a week), so don’t just grab your drink and run! Take some time to appreciate the amount of effort and the “coolness” of the Ice Bar!
The Ice Bar is found on the Lakeshore Patio at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. It typically opens mid-December until mid-April from 12 – 6 PM.
19. Warm Up at Your Lake Louise Hotel Hot Tub
You’ve spent the entire day outside playing in the snow and now it’s time to relax! Pack your swimsuit so you can ease those tired muscles and be ready for your next day of Lake Louise winter activities. You won’t regret staying in a Lake Louise hotel with a hot tub.
20. Indulge at a Lake Louise Spa
Lake Louise has two spas, the Temple Mountain Spa is at the Post Hotel and the other spa is at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Before you head back home, make sure you are fully relaxed by treating yourself to a massage or one of the other body treatments available.
21. Take a Scenic Drive Around Lake Louise
Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway scenic drive has some excellent stops. This highway starts in Lake Louise and runs parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway almost the entire way to the Banff townsite.
Plan some extra time for this drive to stop at a few Banff viewpoints (like Morant’s Curve) and at the popular Johnston Canyon hike. For Johnston Canyon in winter, make sure you have spikes as the trails are almost always slippery.
If this list isn’t enough or you have more time to explore, take a drive up the Icefields Parkway. There are plenty of stops you can make along the way (Peyto Lake, Bow Lake or Mistaya Canyon for example) and the scenery is nothing short of outstanding! This Icefields Parkway Tour will take you on a journey up the Icefields Parkway stopping at the best places including to see the Abraham Lake ice bubbles!
How to Get to Lake Louise
The easiest way to get to Lake Louise is to drive, but you can expect the parking lots to fill up quickly especially on weekends and even in the winter. Lake Louise parking is free in winter.
Other Options for Getting to Lake Louise in Winter:
Aside from driving, there are plenty of ways to get to Lake Louise:
Getting to Lake Louise from Banff in the winter without a car is best done using the Roam Transit Route 8X: Lake Louise Express. The cost for this bus from Banff to Lake Louise is $20 for adults, $10 for youth and seniors, and children 0-12 years old are free (these are round-trip prices). You can even make reservations.
Getting to Lake Louise from Calgary in the winter without a car is best done using Brewster Express services. The cost for this shuttle from Calgary to Lake Louise is $169 for adults and $85 for children (these are round-trip prices).
Lake Louise Winter Weather
The elevation of Lake Louise is 1,600 m compared to 1,383 m for Banff. It’s the highest town in Canada, so as you would expect it gets snow earlier and the snow sticks around longer than in nearby towns of Banff and Canmore. Lake Louise also gets a fair bit more snow than Banff.
Lake Louise hits its lowest average temperatures in December, January and February. Average daily highs in Lake Louise during December and January is -6 deg C, with February being slightly warmer. Average daily lows are closer to -20 deg C. Keep in mind that these are averages and the temperature at Lake Louise can be much colder on any given day. Sometimes even dropping down to -30 deg C.
The highest average snowfall happens in November, December and January, making it an ideal time for anyone visiting who wants plenty of snow! For anyone visiting Banff in December, most of the activities mentioned above begin mid-December, depending on the snow conditions each year.
Just keep in mind that these are also the days with the lowest daytime hours at 8-9 hours. So plan activities earlier in the day to get the most daylight hours!
While it’s impossible to forecast what the weather will be like in Lake Louise in winter, you can still enjoy warm winter days when the Chinook winds blow through. On a sunny day, the temperatures will feel much warmer – especially if you are out snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
What to Bring for Winter in Lake Louise
Depending on how long you plan to be outside, here’s what we wear and bring for winter activities in Lake Louise:
- Dress in Layers: The best way to dress for winter at Lake Louise is in layers. Start with a wool base layer (top to bottom and including your socks). On top of your base layer add a fleece layer or a warm mid-layer. Finally add a warm winter jacket. Something windproof and waterproof is best.
For bottoms, you can wear snow pants on an extra cold day. Otherwise you might be able to get by with some extra warm fleece tights and a pair of shell pants to block the wind. Depending on the activity, a wool base layer under fleece tights or with a pair of shell pants works well. Kids should be wearing waterproof snowpants or a snowsuit. You can expect they’ll be playing on the ice and in the snow.
- Warm Mitts & Hand Warmers: Warm mitts or gloves are a must! But they don’t always do a good enough job… Hand and foot warmers are the best for keeping those fingers and toes toasty warm. We are big fans of the hand and foot warmers by Aurora Heat (save 10% using TRAVELBANFFCANADA at checkout).
These sheared beaver fur warmers provide natural insulation for the heat your body is already generating. Aside from being eco-friendly, sustainable and so much better than the single-use hand warmers, they will last you years!
- Warm Hat: Don’t forget to keep your head warm. If you have children who will be wearing a helmet skating, make sure they have a hat or toque without a pom-pom. We always struggle with this, since the cutest toques always have a big pom-pom.
- Warm Winter Boots: Your boots should not only be warm but they should be waterproof. Cold wet feet are a recipe for disaster in the winter! You’ll want warm winter boots for your feet regardless of your activity. Add on some foot warmers from Aurora Heat (save 10% using TRAVELBANFFCANADA at checkout) to make sure your toes stay toasty the entire time!
- Sled: When skating with kids, there’s always more to carry. We use a cheap sled to get our gear to the lake.
- Thermos with Hot Chocolate: Don’t forget a thermos with hot chocolate!
- Microspikes: Bring microspikes in case you plan to do a winter hike as well. We like Kahtoola microspikes for adults and these microspikes for kids.
- Daybag for Storing Layers: Bring a daybag to store extra layers. You might want to remove your jacket on a warm sunny day while you’re doing your activity, but you’ll cool off quickly as soon as you stop.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise in Winter
When choosing the best hotel in Lake Louise, choose one that will minimize the amount of driving you need to do. You’ll appreciate having as little winter driving in Banff as possible if the roads are icy! You’ll also want one where you can relax in the evening and even have a soak in a hot tub for those weary muscles.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
The top luxury hotel in Lake Louise is an obvious choice. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is right on the shores of Lake Louise, it offers guests magnificent views of the massive Victoria Glacier, the Lake Louise ice castle and of Lake Louise itself.
A sister hotel of the world-famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the Chateau Lake Louise is renowned for its level of luxury. With over 500 rooms, the Chateau Lake Louise has a guest room for all tastes, ranging from a simple Fairmont Room, to 1 or 2 bedroom suites with a lake view, to opulent accommodations on the Fairmont Gold floor.
With the level of luxury you’d expect at a Fairmont hotel, a stay at the Chateau Lake Louise does not come cheap. Make an informed decision by reading our Chateau Lake Louise review and browsing the current deals at the Fairmont hotel.
HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre
As a budget hotel in Lake Louise, this Lake Louise hostel has shared accommodation with 4-6 beds per room. But, this Lake Louise hostel also offers private rooms ranging from a basic double bed to rooms with a private washroom. HI Lake Louise hostel has private family-friendly rooms with a loft that sleep up to 6!
Lake Louise Inn
The Lake Louise Inn has a heated indoor pool and hot tubs, perfect after a day out in the snow! There are a wide variety of room options available at the Lake Louise Inn. As a family, we appreciated the ability to rent a 1-bedroom apartment, as the extra space helps everyone get a better nights sleep.
There are two restaurants on-site at the Lake Louise Inn: Timberwolf Pizza & Pasta Cafe and the all-day Legends Restaurant.
Skiers will love the many amenities available at the Lake Louise Inn during winter, including a free shuttle to the nearby Lake Louise Ski Resort, along with ski storage and a ski tune-up area.
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Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.
As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.