9 reasons the Rockies are way better in the winter
Yeah, we get it, the Rockies are a must-visit on a summer trip, but they don’t shut ‘em down in the winter. Ask some Canadians and they’ll tell you the Rockies are even better in the winter. Check out some of the best ways to see a totally different side of Banff and Jasper once the snow flies (and snag a deal on wintertime travel, too).
You can walk on the bottom of a river
Lots of the Rockies’ raging rivers slow down in the winter and even completely freeze over. At Maligne Canyon, you can walk around on the bottom of the deep canyon, which is normally filled to the brim with water in the spring and summer. Walk past towering frozen waterfalls and into ice caves.
The night skies are darker and last longer
Not only are winter nights longer, the skies in the winter are clearer. Crisp winter air is dryer than the more humid summer air that can disperse starlight and moonlight. Jasper National Park is a Dark Sky Preserve, which means artificial light pollution is restricted. Bundle up and head outside to enjoy the show.
Two words: hot springs
The hot springs run all year long but they’re extra-special in the winter when the air is chilly but the pools are so, so steamy. Try the Banff Upper Hot Springs in Banff.
Climb walls of ice
Descend like a White Walker on one of the parks’ many ice walls (no dragons, please). In the winter, mountainside waterfalls throughout the Rockies freeze over leaving towering walls of ice. What do you do with those? Climb ‘em. For more seasoned climbers, Weeping Wall is super close to HI Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel and offers a bunch of different routes. There’s also lots off-the-beaten-path climbing in Nordegg.
Where there are mountains, there is good skiing, and Banff and Jasper have some of the world’s best. Ski the Big 3 in Banff at Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mount Norquay, or head up to Marmot Basin in Jasper. The World Cup makes an annual appearance at Lake Louise, so even if you’re not much of a skier, you can watch the world’s best compete at the end of November and early December―admission is free!
Skating on an outdoor rink is one thing, but skating on an outdoor rink surrounded by some of the most iconic mountains in the world is tooootally different. Rent skates and go for a twirl on Lake Louise, and check out the ice sculptures during the Ice Magic Festival.
Way smaller crowds
So apparently word is out that Banff and Jasper are beautiful spots, and they’ve got the crowds to show it. But summer is by far the busy season, and the crowds start to thin out as the temperatures drop. So you can get the perfect snowy shot of Lake Louise without 45 heads in your way, and cruise up to the front of the Banff gondola line with ease.
While the bears hunker down for a full-season hibernation, plenty of other wildlife stay out year-round and without bears around to scare them off, you’ll get a better chance of spotting them in the wintertime. Look out for moose, elk, wolves, bighorn sheep, but as always, keep a safe distance.
Christmas done fancy
Even if you don’t have the cash flow to splurge on spending the holidays at a Fairmont, you can still head to one of the three majestic hotels in the parks to see them decked out in their Christmas best. With the snow, the mountains, the lakes and rivers in the background and all the evergreens and ornaments, it can warm even the Scroogiest of hearts.