International Travel

How to Spend 3 Days in Banff, Canada on a Winter Vacation at Ski Big 3

Banff is one of my favorite places on the planet. It’s magical. This is my second time to Banff, with both visits being in winter. Banff has some of the best skiing in Canada and arguably in the world. With three resorts within Banff National Park, Ski Big 3 is a skier’s paradise, but it’s also great for non-skiers.

Here’s how I spent three days Banff on this trip. But first, here’s the details on my arrival day.

Getting Here: I flew non-stop on United from Denver to Calgary. I rented a SUV with winter tires from Enterprise at the airport and made the easy 90-minute drive to Banff.

Home Base: Peaks Hotel and Suites is one of the newest hotels in town and ranked #1 hotel in Banff on Trip Advisor. My room is their Loft Suite with comfy seating area, kitchenette and bathroom downstairs and a king size bed upstairs. There are two tvs and tons of storage and seating space. One the bed was the best towel art ever of two dogs. It’s in a fabulous location too.

Rentals and Welcome Dinner: After I settled into my room, I headed over to BigSki3’s Adventure Hub to get rental skis, poles and boots. I brought my ski helmet with me. Great service and at the end of my last day skiing I turned in my rental gear to the front desk at Peaks. Super easy! My rental boots were Head and skis were Nordica and I wish I could have bought both. For dinner I met a friend at Three Bears Brewery and Restuarant. Banff’s newest brewery is a hot spot with great food and sips. I went for a Honey Bear served with sesame seeds and pollen on the glass for a cocktail. We noshed on delicious roasted cauliflower to start. After debating between tuna poke bowl and confit ahi tuna melt, I went for the hearty melt. It’s served with a small Three Bears Salad filled with all sorts of yumminess.

Day 1: Skiing Two Resorts in a Day – Mt. Norquay and Sunshine

I did something I’ve never done. I skied two resorts in one day and it was a powder day! Mt. Norquay is only about 7-minutes from Banff up a scenic road. On the drive up to Mt. Norquay, I had to stop twice for two sets of big horn sheep crossing the road. At Mt. Norquay I found a powder paradise thanks to 19cm of snow overnight. The snow in the Canadian Rockies is dry and light. It’s almost feathery and like powdered sugar. It’s the kind of morning every skier or rider dreams about.

Instead of driving back into town for lunch, I squeezed in an extra run and had a protein bar for lunch, aka skier’s lunch, before heading over to Sunshine Village Resort for the afternoon. Sunshine is on the Continental Divide and is about 15 minutes from Banff. You access the resort via a gondola ride. The first time I went to Sunshine it was snowy, but this day was filled with sunshine and light wind. I headed up Goat’s Eye to meet with the Trail Crew to learn about snow farming. Sunshine is the leader in snow farming in the world and I was super intrigued with the process.

After jumping in the trenches and rolling fences, I put my skis back on for fun in the late day sun as I skied into a sparkly natural glitter I dubbed “Sunshine Sparkles.”

Before taking the gondola back down, I headed over to Mad Trapper’s for apres. Mad Trapper’s is in the Old Sunshine Lodge and was established in 1928.

I left Sunshine about 5pm and retreated to my room ordering in-room dining of minestrone soup and a Caesar salad. I was beat after a great day.

Day 2: Ice Walk to Nightrise

I spent the morning in an ice and snow wonderland on an ice walk in Johnston Canyon with Discover Banff Tours. In summer this canyon is one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park. In winter you walk the steel catwalks and through the forest as you follow Johnston Creek to see the iced over Lower and Upper Falls. Round trip hike is 3 miles.

Afterwards I grabbed a soup and sandwich at JK Bakery, a locals’ favorite then enjoyed an afternoon of exploring the town of Banff. A couple of my favorite shots are Jolene’s Tea House and Paper Den. Both have local artisan wares.

The annual SnowDays started while I was here so I enjoyed walking around to see the incredible snow sculptures that are part of the exhibition. My favorite is one called “Spreading Joy” of a girl blowing bubbles.

For the evening I headed over to the Banff Gondola for a ride up Sulphur Mountain to Nightrise, an immersive experience to tantalize your senses. Plus the night views are spectacular.

Back in downtown Banff, I headed to Nourish Bistro. I had to try the 27-ingredient world famous nachos pilled with everything from quinoa to strawberries. They deliciously paired well with a rosebud cocktail.

Day 3: Lake Louise

Lake Louise Ski Resort is about a 40 minute drive from Banff. I met my all-time favorite instructor, Jamie Robinson, for some turns on a snowy day. We had a ball skiing for four hours with a stop for lunch at Powder Keg Lounge at the base.

On my way back to Banff, I stopped at Fairmont Lake Louise to see Ice Magic at the famed lake. It was a great end to three days in Banff!