Downhill skiing easily comes to mind when thinking of Banff National Park, but the sheer amount of snow this Canadian gem receives makes for epic cross country skiing, too. Whether you’re into classic or skate skiing, Banff offers cross country skiing opportunities that are unparalleled in the rest of Canada. Best is, I just found an easily accessible, newly opened trail!
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Banff cross country skiing
Now there are plenty of places to go for Banff cross country skiing. The majority of them are well known, which means well trafficked. And with provincial cut backs, many popular trails in Alberta Provincial Parks are now multi-use trails, so they’re no longer track set and you’ve got snowshoers wrecking your lovely lines.
But up Tunnel Mountain – technically part of Banff townsite and less than a five-minute drive from Banff’s main drag – lies a new, fabulous cross country ski trail. And because it’s in Banff National Park, Parks Canada is in charge of maintaining it.
Tunnel Mountain Cross Country Skiing
You may have been camping up at Tunnel Mountain or perhaps you’ve hiked it, but I’m betting most have never taken a trip up here for winter fun. Apparently cross country skiing at Tunnel Mountain isn’t new, but this year Parks Canada has expanded the trail system.
Where you want to go is to Tunnel Mountain Village II. This is where you’ll find ski trails running parallel to where the RVs park. Yes, right in the campsite!
To get more folks enjoying the great outdoors, Parks has expanded the cross country trails deeper into the campsite. They’ve set up 8 km of loops that are perfect for beginners.
There’s 2.6 km of flat, straight ski trails through the trailer court (no camping at the site in winter though) and there’s a further 5.4 km that lace through the snow quilted forests of Village 1.
You’ll begin by going down the length of the RV campground, past about 25 empty camping spots per side. That’ll take you about 10-15 minutes, but if you’re a pro, likely faster.
In fact, I’m told many teams practice sprint runs (on skis) along this stretch. Because it’s so flat, you’ll notice both Classic and Nordic skiers using this trail.
After the long stretch, you’ll see a perpendicular road (snowed over, no cars allowed). You can venture up that road to get into the forested trails or head straight for the trees and go on a little adventure to find the new trails.
Don’t worry, that second recommendation isn’t difficult and it’s actually quite fun to forge your own way through the woods for the 5-10 minute it takes to find the new paths.
Once you’re on the new 5.4 km section of forest loops, you’ll glide underneath towering pines, beside mounds of fluffy white snow and gaze up at a mountain or 10 as you work your way through the trail. The views of Cascade Mountain are particularly spectacular.
This section is pretty much flat, with a few small ups and downs (nothing I’d call a hill). Essentially, Tunnel Mountain is the perfect trail for beginner skiers as there’s zero elevation gain. And with its proximity to Banff townsite, you can’t beat the travel time.
Logistics for Tunnel Mountain skiing
- There’s not a lot of parking, maybe a dozen spots, so like everything else during this pandemic, you want to time it right.
- Better yet, use Banff’s efficient pubic transportation system. Take the Roam Bus Route 2 to get to the site.
- Dogs aren’t allowed.
- There are literally hundreds of picnic tables here! Clear one of them off and set up your own winter picnic. Amp up your alfresco adventure with this portable, lightweight Casus Grill that fits in a day pack.
Other sites in Banff National Park for cross country skiing
For cross country skiing outside of town, there’s even more options. Lake Louise is a popular spot – especially since there’s quite a few trails within steps of the famed Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Also in Lake Louise, Moraine Lake Road is rated as easy with a double trackset and skating lane.
At Castle Junction, you’ll find 3.9 km of minimal elevation trails. Just outside of Banff, the Canmore Nordic Centre is another popular choice.
For more cross country skiing options in the Banff and Lake Louise areas visit here.
Banff cross country ski rentals
There are a few places in Banff to score cross country ski rentals. Bactrax and Banff Adventures are both on Bear Street. You can also nab skis at Chateau Mountain Sports inside Fairmont Banff Springs.
In Lake Louise, you can rent from Wilson Mountain Sports. And inside Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, head to the basement to get your gear from Alpine Social Rentals.
We usually get our rentals from Trail Sports at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Every time we do, I’m thrilled with the customer service.
Where to stay in Banff
Make a full day of it by staying overnight in Banff. If you’re skiing Tunnel Mountain, you can’t get much closer than overnighting at Tunnel Mountain Resort.
You could splash out at the Rimrock Resort which offers some of the best views in Banff National Park.
And right in Banff townsite is The Fox, which is ideally situated for easy access to all the shops and restaurants along Banff Avenue.
Where are your favourite spots to go cross country skiing in Banff National Park?
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