Skiing in Banff – Everything You Need to Know

Author: Celine Brewer

Last Updated:

If you are a skier, snowboarder or mountain enthusiast there may be no finer place for a ski holiday than skiing in Banff, Alberta. Located in Banff National Park, and in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is a vibrant little mountain town and the adventure hub for three world class ski resorts – Mt. Norquay Ski Resort, Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort.

The three ski resorts, known as the Big3, are easily accessible from the Town of Banff allowing you to explore a massive array of terrain and a unique ski experience at each of the ski resorts near Banff.

Banff and area have a long history of being a mecca for skiers of all types and abilities. Boasting some of the best snow in the world, beautifully varied terrain, spectacular views, and one of the longest ski seasons anywhere, make Banff THE destination for the ultimate ski vacation.

Family on chairlift at Lake Louise Ski Resort - Banff Skiing
Photo Credit: Lake Louise Ski Resort & Philip Forsey

The ski hills near Banff offer unlimited access to perfectly groomed green and blue runs, soft moguls on intermediate and expert pitches, wide open alpine bowls, and even those steep-and-deep shoots for the expert adrenaline seeking skiers and boarders. Whatever your idea of skiing-fun is, these great ski resorts near Banff have it all.

Kids skiing in Banff at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Photo Credit: Lake Louise Ski Resort & Philip Forsey

The three Banff ski resorts combined boast a staggering 7,748 acres (3,100 hectares) of skiable terrain, two gondolas, 26 chairlifts and 357 runs – the longest being 8 kilometers (5 miles). The slopes are blanketed in over 9 metres (30 feet) of snow each winter.

All three mountains are just a short drive from the Town of Banff and all offer free shuttle service to get you on the slopes quickly, safely and hassle free. Due to their close proximity to the city of Calgary, the hills are moderately busy on weekends but during the week you can enjoy Banff skiing without the crowds.

Woman Skiing at Banff Sunshine Village - banff ski areas

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The Town of Banff

The Town of Banff the perfect home base for skiing holidays in Banff National Park. Banff is an authentic mountain town, with all its many amenities focused on giving visitors a great mountain experience. It’s two main streets, Banff Avenue and Bear Street, are lined with fantastic restaurants, warm cafes, sporty winter gear stores, fun touristy boutiques and friendly bars.

There is an unmistakable feeling of welcoming here.

Banff Christmas Lights on Banff Avenue (2)

Wherever you go you will find Banff locals and visitors mingling together, sharing stories and their passion for skiing and snowboarding in Banff. You will quickly notice that many of the staff working the front lines have come here from far away places like Australia, New Zealand and the U.K to live and play in this mountain paradise.

Banff is located at an elevation of 1,383 metres (4,537 feet), making it the highest town in Canada. What that means for skiers, is Banff is high enough and cool enough that it almost never gets rain in the winter and all that precipitation falls as lovely snow.

Even if you aren’t enjoying the best skiing in Banff, there are so many things to do in winter in Banff!

View from Hoodoo Viewpoint - banff hiking winter

Nestled at the foot of Tunnel Mountain, Banff’s skyline is dominated by awe inspiring views of Mount Rundle, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Norquay, and Cascade Mountain. This charming town is just under four square kilometres (1.5 square miles) and is home to approximately 8,000 locals, most of whom are employed in the tourism industry.

The town is surrounded by 6,500 square kilometres (1.6 million acres) of pristine national park, which limits Banff’s growth beyond its current borders.

A Little Banff History

Indigenous peoples have lived in this area for well over 10,000 years. In the early 1880s, as settlers and the Canadian Pacific Railway expanded west, railway workers came across the natural hot springs in the area and realized the potential.

The president of the Canadian Pacific Railway named the area Banff after his birthplace of Banffshire, Scotland, and the Banff Springs Hotel quickly became one of the railway’s most prized properties and destination for wealthy travelers.

The Banff Springs Hotel is a pet friendly hotel in Banff National Park

The realization of the natural beauty of Banff’s surrounding lakes and mountains quickly led to it becoming Canada’s first National Park (and the world’s third national park refuge), and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As a four season destination, more than 4 million people from around the world visit Banff National Park every year – most visiting in the summer months. While the Town of Banff had been in existence for over a century as a service centre for visitors, it was officially incorporated in 1990, making it Canada’s first municipality within a National Park.

Banff Ski Resorts

Lake Louise Ski Resort

A 40-minute drive from downtown Banff, Lake Louise Ski Resort is the furthest of the Big3 ski resorts near Banff, but certainly worth the additional travel time. Located just outside the Hamlet of Lake Louise, the tiny village offers some basic amenities and hotels for guests wanting to stay closer to the mountain, not to mention plenty of things to do at Lake Louise in winter (for skiers and non-skiers).

When visiting “The Lake”, as it’s known by locals, be sure to take your camera. On top of sensational skiing, Lake Louise is known for its spectacular scenery. Atop of every lift you are treated to spectacular views of mountains, glaciers and forests.

skiing in Banff at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Photo Credit: Reuben Krabbe / SkiBig3

Lake Louise is the biggest of the Big3 Banff resorts and one of the largest ski resorts in North America. Lake Louise terrain has great variety – from gentle slopes and long cruising runs to glades, chutes and some of the Canadian Rockies most exciting wide-open bowls.

The runs are well planned and allow skiers of all abilities to enjoy Lake Louise skiing together. You’ll find beginner ski runs at Lake Louise, along with intermediate and expert runs from every chair. If your partner wants to ski a black diamond, and you are in the mood for a blue/intermediate run, just pick your trail and meet back at the bottom of the lift.

mother and son skiing in Banff at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Photo Credit: Lake Louise Ski Resort & Philip Forsey

Lake Louise Ski Resort Specifics:

  • Vertical rise: 991 metres (3,250 feet)
  • Top elevation: 2,637 metres (8,650 feet)
  • Skiable area: 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres)
  • Number of runs: 160 across four mountain faces + the back bowls
  • Longest run: 8 kilometres (5 miles)
  • Number of lifts: 11 (1 gondola, 7 chairlifts, 3 carpet lifts
  • Average snow fall: 455 centimetres (180 inches)
  • Terrain breakdown: 25% beginner | 45% intermediate | 30% advanced

What’s New at Lake Louise Ski Resort?

Over the past couple years Lake Louise has continued to improve the skier experience and has added news chairlifts and ski terrain. In 2021, over 480 acres of new terrain were added on the west side of the resort. West Bowl is a vast area capped by the summit of Whitehorn Mountain, on the front face of the resort. The expansion offers even more breathtaking views and vast array of ungroomed gladded runs and open bowls.

Family walking with skis at Lake Louise Ski Resort - Banff Skiing
Photo Credit: Lake Louise Ski Resort & Philip Forsey

Also new in 2021 was the addition of a quad chairlift that starts from the saddle below the top station of the Top of the World chairlift. In just four minutes, the new Summit Chair whisks skiers and riders up the ridge of Whitehorn Mountain, giving easy access to the new West Bowl terrain, the back bowls and the existing runs previously accessed by the now defunct Summit Platter.

In 2022 Lake Louise added the Juniper Express Quad. The chair’s base is located near the main lodge and provides a third option to get skiers out of the base area and into the powder.

These ski hill improvements did not go unnoticed by their loyal fan base. In 2023 Lake Louise was voted Canada’s Best Ski Resort at the World Ski Awards, as voted on by their guests.

Getting From Banff to Lake Louise Ski Resort

Anyone looking to enjoy Lake Louise skiing will has a few options to get to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. By car, it’s a 40 minute drive from the town of Banff to Lake Louise Ski Resort.

There is a daily shuttle to Lake Louise Ski Resort from the local hotels in Lake Louise or Samson Mall in the village, which is free for anyone with a lift ticket.

For skiers coming from Canmore or Calgary to Lake Louise Ski Resort, the Lake Louise Ski Bus has departures from both cities. If you are driving from Calgary, make the 2 hour drive more enjoyable with this self-guided audio driving tour.

Mount Norquay Ski Resort

The Mount Norquay Ski Area is the closest of the Banff ski resorts and may be one of areas best kept secrets. While not as big as the other resorts it offers excellent beginner terrain, and is the perfect spot for family-friendly skiing and boarding. Just a five minute drive from the town of Banff, Mount Norquay is steeped in local history and is a great option for quick access to the slopes.

girl taking Ski lessons at Mount Norquay - Banff Ski Resorts

A pioneer ski resort, Norquay was home to the first chairlift in western Canada. Since its opening in 1926, Mt. Norquay Ski Resort continues to be a locals favorite. Famous for its pristine grooming, these slopes are the training ground of many Olympic and World Cup athletes.

A few extra bonuses; Mt. Norquay offers tubing and the only night skiing in Banff National Park, including a fully lit terrain park, and expert snowmaking on 85% of the mountain.

snowboarding in Banff at Mount Norquay
Photo Credit: Reuben Krabbe / SkiBig3

Mount Norquay Ski Resort Specifics:

  • Vertical rise: 503 metres (1,650 feet)
  • Top elevation: 2133 metres (6,998 feet)
  • Number of runs: 60
  • Longest run: 1,167 metres (3,828 feet)
  • Number of lifts: 6 (4 chairlifts, 2 carpet lifts)
  • Average snow fall: 300 centimetres (120 inches)
  • Terrain breakdown: 31% beginner | 25% intermediate | 44% advanced

What’s New at Mt. Norquay Ski Resort?

Norquay’s tube park is bigger and better than ever. With added lanes, Norquay boasts the longest (i.e. speediest) tubing lanes in Alberta. A great way to spend an evening, night tubing is the perfect way to start your Apres Ski.

In keeping with the values of being in a National Park, Norquay is the first ski resort in Canada to make the switch to 100 per cent clean, green energy generated from a blend of wind and low-impact hydropower. The Norquay ski resort also recently installed a new variable frequency drive (VFD) on its Cascade Chairlift.

What’s meaningful about the upgrade is it will significantly reduce the amount of electricity needed to run the lift and will reduce over 900 tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over its lifetime. Way-to-go, Norquay!

Skiing at Norquay - Banff
Photo Credit: Reuben Krabbe / SkiBig3

Getting from Banff to Norquay

The easiest way to get from Banff to Norquay is by car. It’s only a 10-15 minute drive. If you are visiting Banff without a car, you can still easily get to Mt. Norquay Ski Resort from Banff by a free shuttle. The free shuttle to Norquay leaves from several locations in Banff with a few pickup times each day.

Banff Sunshine Village Ski Resort

Banff Sunshine Village Ski Resort sits high on the Continental Divide and just a 20 minute drive from Banff. Three sprawling mountains provide breathtaking site lines, and some of the best powder skiing in Banff.

Sunshine can receive up to nine metres (30 feet) of snow within the Banff ski season and boasts 100 per cent natural snow with no need for snowmaking. With a base-area altitude of  2,195 metres (7,200 feet) the snow stays light, dry and incredibly skiable. It’s elevation and incredible snowpack means Sunshine’s ski season stretches from early November until late May – the longest non-glacial ski season in Canada.

This is ideal timing for anyone visiting Banff for Christmas or spending time in Banff National Park in December!

Sunshine Village - Banff Ski Hill

Banff Sunshine has Canada’s only heated chair lift and features more than 3,300 acres of skiable terrain, ranging from gentle beginner runs all the way up to big mountain terrain for expert skiers.

Sunshine’s highlights include the most expansive intermediate terrain of the SkiBig3 resorts and their extreme ski zone, The Delirium Dive. Delirium Dive has been named one of the 10 top off-piste destinations in the world, and was awarded “Best View from the Best Off-Piste Run” by Ski Canada magazine.

Teepee Town Heated Chairlift at Sunshine Village Banff Ski Hill

Arriving in the base area, skiers and boarders must hop onthe gondola to access the upper mountain areas of Goats Eye and the main Village. The gondola is optional for your trip back down and you can take the long winding ski out, a green run, that will take you all the way back to the base area.

gondola at sunshine village ski resort banff
Photo Credit: Banff Sunshine Village

Banff Sunshine ski resort is the only resort in Banff National Park with on hill/ski-in-ski-out accommodations. While lacking all the amenities you will find in town, staying on the mountain at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a luxurious option that will have you waking up to excellent skiing right out the door of your Banff hotel.

Skiing at sunshine village Banff
Photo Credit: Reuben Krabbe / SkiBig3

Banff Sunshine Village Ski Resort Specifics:

  • Vertical rise: 1,070 metres (3,514 feet)
  • Top elevation: 2,730 metres (8,954 feet)
  • Skiable area: 1,359 hectares (3,358 acres)
  • Number of runs: 137
  • Longest run: 8 kilometres (5 miles)
  • Number of lifts: 12 (1 gondola, 9 chairlifts, 2 carpet lifts)
  • Annual snow fall: Up to 9 metres (30 feet)
  • Terrain breakdown: 20% beginner | 55% intermediate | 25% advanced
Kids riding Gondola at Banff Sunshine Village - Banff Ski Resort

What’s New at Banff Sunshine Ski Resort?

Sunshine Village has added 250 new parking spots, helping alleviate base area parking woes on those busy ski days. By expanding the surface lot at the gondola base, Sunshine has increased it’s parking capacity by 15 per cent.

On this Banff ski hill, you will find improved food and beverage options with more remote kitchens. In 2021 Sunshine opened Ten Roof Co. Outdoor Taco Kitchen in the Village area, and for the 2022 Banff ski season added two new remote kitchens: A Southern Style Remote Kitchen and a Beaver Tails, located at Goat’s Eye Lodge.

Getting From Banff to Sunshine Village

Getting from Banff to Sunshine Village is a 20 minute drive along the Trans-Canada Highway and the Sunshine Road. Without a rental car, skiers can take a free shuttle from Banff to Sunshine Village which has several departures daily from a number of locations in Banff. See the Banff Sunshine Village shuttle info here.

The Sunshine Coach will take skiers from either Calgary or Canmore direct to Sunshine Village. Reservations must be made in advance and cash payment is required.

Groomed Run at Sunshine Village - Banff ski resort
Photo Credit: Banff Sunshine Village

Purchase the SkiBig3 Pass

You will want to experience all three Banff ski resorts to get the full experience. Banff skiing packages and multi-resort lift tickets can be purchased through SkiBig3, the joint marketing venture for Mt. Norquay Ski Resort, Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Sunshine Village - Banff Ski Hill

SkiBig3 works in conjunction with all three ski resorts within Banff National Park to allow visitors access to everything this winter destination has to offer as well as a wide variety of added value discounts with local partners. SkiBig3 Vacation Planning services provides access to Ski & Stay Packages with over 30+ accommodation partners in Banff and Lake Louise.

Man riding Chairlift at Banff sunshine ski resort

The SkiBig3 lift tickets gives you the flexibility to choose where and when you ski each day. The tickets can be used at any of the SkiBig3 resorts and even allow you to ski at one resort in the morning and another in the afternoon. (Although, with all the terrain to explore it is better to stick to one resort for the day.)

The pass is also great as it offers a discount when multiple days are purchased. The most common package is the three-day lift ticket pass which can be used over five days.

Skiing at Norquay - Banff Ski Resorts
Photo Credit: Dan Evans / Mt Norquay

For an added experience you can hire a SkiBig3 ski instructor who will give you a guided experience and Private Lessons at each of the three ski resorts in Banff. They also offer a full-service rental & retail shop on Banff Avenue, The SkiBig3 Adventure Hub.

If you happen to be an Ikon Pass holder you can take advantage of seven free ski days at the Ski Big 3 resorts. This means you get a combined total of seven days between the Banff ski areas.

Banff ski hill - Sunshine Village

Where to Stay in Banff

Given the sheer size of Banff National Park, it’s no surprise that the ski hills are spread out geographically. So, the decision on where to stay in Banff to go skiing depends a lot on which of the Big3 you plan on skiing the most.

With so many things to do in Banff in winter, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to enjoy other activities besides skiing. If this describes you, we recommend staying at one of these hotels in Banff with a private hot tub.

Enjoy a warm soak after a long day on the slopes, then head out to enjoy the close proximity to the shopping and restaurants around the Town of Banff. Plus, all the hotels in the Town of Banff provide easy access all the ski shuttles to the slopes.

Skiers coming to Banff will never forget a stay at the Banff Springs Hotel, the Castle in the Rockies. The ski package at the Banff Springs Hotel includes luxury accommodation, daily à la carte breakfast, two ski passes per room, per night, shuttle service from the hotel to the ski hill and self parking for one vehicle.

The Banff Springs Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Banff in December

The only on-hill hotel in Banff National Park is the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. There’s no better feeling than waking up knowing that you are already on the ski hill. No driving, no parking stress…. just relax and enjoy a great day of skiing at Sunshine Village.

Where to stay while skiing at Sunshine Village in Banff, Canada

The Lake Louise ski resort is the furthest ski hill from Calgary and the Town of Banff. If you plan on spending most of your time at Lake Louise, we recommend you check out these top Lake Louise hotels, including the incomparable Chateau Lake Louise. Get all the details in our Fairmont Lake Louise hotel review.

Lake Louise skating rink with Chateau Lake Louise in backgroud

Getting to Banff

Getting to Banff to start your ski vacation is a breeze. The Town of Banff is just a 90-minute drive from Calgary International Airport (YYC) which has direct flights from all major Canadian airports, Europe, UK, and many U.S. cities.

A passenger enjoying transportation from Calgary to Banff

Once you land in Calgary, there are many options for rental cars and regularly scheduled shuttles that will take you from the airport to the front door of your hotel. The trip is a beautiful and easy drive along the four-lane Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy #1), through the foothills and into the Bow Valley and surrounding peaks.

Once you have arrived in Banff it is easy to get around Banff without a car. Banff is very pedestrian friendly and offers exceptional public transit and shuttles to all the Banff ski resorts. Most Banff hotels are within a 15 minute walk to all the downtown Banff action allowing visitors to make the most of Banff ski vacations

More Banff Trip Planning Resources

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Skiing in Banff - Here's everything you need to know. From a full run down on each of the Banff ski resorts to planning your best Banff ski holiday!
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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.