We visited Banff National Park in Canada a couple of summers ago and fell in love with the nature and landscape. Being avid skiers, we knew we had to make a trip back to experience their amazing ski terrain and to see the park in the wintertime.
This time we traveled with baby Nora in tow, making logistics a bit more difficult, but that is life these days! A direct flight from SFO to Calgary takes just under 3 hours, making it a rather painless. As far as baby equipment goes, we tried to travel as light as possible and just brought our Baby Tula carrier and Maxi Cosi infant car seat. Since we wouldn’t be able to carry our skis and poles along with baby Nora and her belongings, we decided to just bring our ski boots and rent our skis in Banff.
After renting an SUV, we drove 1.5 hours to Banff. We checked into our hotel, then headed into town to get set up with rental skis at the Ski Big 3 Adventure Hub. They conveniently delivered our skis to the hotel that night and we picked them up at the lobby desk in the morning. Our plan was to ski one day at each of the Ski Big 3 resorts: Mt. Norquay, Banff Sunshine, and Lake Louise, and then one additional day at our favorite. Ski Big 3 is composed of three privately owned resorts that all have unique terrain and amazing views. Mt. Norquay and Banff Sunshine are both only 10-20 minutes from Banff; Lake Louise Ski Resort is about a 40 minute drive away.
Our first day we drove up to Mt. Norquay for a day of skiing. We arrived around 10am and got third row parking! Being a weekday it was less busy, and we also happened to visit during the polar vortex so it was particularly cold! Mt. Norquay is a smaller resort and the lodge is located right next to the parking lot, with chair lifts just outside. It’s super easy to just get on the mountain right away without wasting any time. Mt. Norquay does have a daycare, but being that Nora is under 18 months she was unable to attend. My husband and I took turns skiing and the other camped out with Nora and stayed toasty in the lodge. If you get a chance to ski here, make sure to take the North American chairlift up for the most gorgeous views of Banff and the surrounding mountains.
The following day we headed out for a day of skiing at Banff Sunshine. Banff Sunshine is a large resort with over 3,300 acres of ski terrain at high elevations. From the base parking lot, everyone takes a gondola up to get to the main ski area. Here you will find a big ski lodge, as well as a whole hotel and restaurant. Try your best not to be jealous of the hotel guests you can see enjoying the hot tubs! Like, Norquay, Banff Sunshine has a daycare, but only for children 18+ months old. Since our plan was to trade off watching baby, we found a comfy spot in the Centennial Lodge to park it for the day. For lunch, we met up at one of Sunshine Mountain Lodge’s restaurants, The Chimney Corner. They had high chairs and kids menus available, which was a bonus. Many of Banff Sunshine‘s ski runs are above the tree line, making it a wide open space for riding with vast views of the Canadian mountains. A unique feature is that one of the chair lifts, The Great Divide, straddles the continental divide. During your ride up you will leave Alberta, enter British Colombia, and then reenter Alberta! Our favorite lift was TeePee Town LX, Canada’s first and only heated chairlift with an orange bubble and heated seats! Since temperatures were well below freezing during our visit, it is safe to say that I spent most of my time here.
Last, but not least, we spent our last two ski days at Lake Louise Resort. They have a main lodge located at the base of the mountain by the parking lot, in addition to a couple of others on the mountain. They also have a daycare that is licensed to take care of children as young as 18 days old, which we certainly took advantage of. We loved Lake Louise‘s long and wide ski runs, as well as varying terrain. They are famous for their World Cup Downhill race, so you can get an idea of how long their runs really are. It’s a great family friendly resort as well, because every chairlift has an easy green route down. They have multiple dining options and we enjoyed a sushi lunch at Kuma Yama Ramen & Sushi Bar. It was a nice option versus the typical ski resort food. How many ski resorts have a sushi bar?!
In addition to skiing, we also spent some time sight-seeing. On the top of my list of things to do was see the frozen Lake Louise. When we visited, there was an ice castle that was built on the lake with ice skates available for rent! Seeing the lake in the wintertime versus the summer is so different–much more quiet and serene.
In Banff, we checked out the Minnewaka Loop scenic drive, stopping at Two Jack Lake and Minnewaka Lake to check out the views and wildlife. During the wintertime some roads are closed, so it is more of a there and back drive versus an actual loop. There were hardly any other people there when we went, and the views were spectacular. The National Park as a whole is much less busy in the wintertime, making it easier to enjoy the quiet beauty. We also spent lots of time in downtown Banff just perusing the shops and eating out.
I would definitely recommend a ski trip to Banff for ski and snowboard enthusiasts. The wintertime is low season for the park, so hotel accommodations are very reasonable and easy to come by. The travel time from the Bay Area to Calgary is not long at all, making it an easy wintertime destination. We definitely would like to return when little Nora is old enough to ski on the hill with us! If you are interested to see what Banff is like in the summer make sure to check out our previous travel guide.