Things to do in Banff in winter – that don’t involve skiing

Let’s face it, not everyone loves to ski. Even if your crew is pretty hard core, there’s going to be some days during your ski vacation you want off. Luckily, there’s a lot more to Sunshine Village than skiing. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Banff in winter or spring, look no further. Here are 10 fun activities to do on mountain that don’t require you to strap on skis or a snowboard. 

The very best things to do in Banff in winter and spring
Just taking the gondola up to Sunshine Village is an event in itself.

Things to do in Banff in winter

Banff is actually most popular (read crowded) during the summer months. I don’t get it. It’s so pretty in winter and there just so much to do. Weather can be unpredictable anytime of year, but even in winter there’s lots of indoor activities to be found in Banff and more specifically, at Sunshine Village. Here, you can hit the spa, enjoy a family movie night in the games room or hit the hot tub as fat flakes of snow drift by.

So many fireplaces, so little time… (Photo credit: Noel Hendrickson)

Banff spa

You’ve gotta love a ski resort that has a spa on-site. Verde Day Spa is actually my favourite spa in Canmore, and they have a Banff location, too. It’s on mountain at Sunshine Village. At this day spa, you can get either a facial or massage. They offer several different types of both. For skiers, it’s important to get that lactic acid worked out, so a sports massage is what you want in order to slay the mountain again tomorrow. 

For a spa junkie like me, you can tell a lot about the facility by the products they use. At Verde, the facials are all done using the Eminence Organic skincare line. It’s top notch and not all Banff spas carry this luxe product line.

Banff hotels with hot tub 

Philosophical question: If you don’t hit a hot tub after a day on the slopes, can it count as a ski day? Bizarrely, not all hotels in Banff have a tub. Luckily, the hot tub at Sunshine Mountain Lodge is massive and is one of the best in Banff!

It’s super hot too, not one of those lukewarm tubs you get cold in after 10-minutes. Despite it being licensed (yes, they’ll serve you margaritas in here!) it’s also family friendly – especially on Wednesdays and Sundays when hot tub bingo is going down.

outdoor hot tub Banff
Could this be the best outdoor hot tub in Banff? Quite possibly!

Sledding in Banff

There’s more than one way to ride the mountain. If you think skiing and snowboarding is a rush, wait till you try sledding in Banff National Park. Not just anyone can do this at Sunshine Village though. You have to be staying overnight at Sunshine Mountain Lodge.

The lodge has loads of guest activities that range from hot tub bingo(!) to movie nights to my favourite – tobogganing AKA sledding. Don’t forget your helmet and your ski goggles! Sledding takes place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. They provide the sleds.

ski resort hotel room
Loft style rooms are elegantly appointed and you get loads of perks when staying at Sunshine Mountain Lodge.

Live music in Banff

You don’t need to go to a dingy, dark bar to hear live music in Banff. Sunshine’s spring concert series kicks off in March and goes every weekend afternoon until the May long weekend. Situate yourself inside the Coors Light beer garden at Mad Trappers for the best ambiance.

ski resort beer gardens
Head outside Mad Trappers for the beer gardens and killer views of the stage.

Saddle up to Trapper’s saloon

Mad Trappers is a legit rustic mountain cabin circa 1928. It’s kitted out like an original saloon with classic ski paraphernalia dotting the rough hewn walls. Head to Trapper’s for a game of pool and some mighty fine smoked meat.

Around spring break, Trappers will start grilling burgers on the patio. Nothing beats sitting in the sun with a cold beer and burger after you’ve finished an epic run. Open till almost midnight, this saloon is the place to party after all the day trippers have left.

Attend mountain church

Skier’s church takes place on Sundays – usually beginning at the end of January. And they always have an Easter service on Easter Sunday followed by an egg hunt. As you can imagine, it’s pretty inspiring to attend a church service on the top of a mountain. The non-denominational church service begins at 10 a.m., at the top of Strawberry Chair.

Snowshoe tour 

Snowshoe tours at Sunshine are a hoot. The tour begins at the Village, you cross the Continental Divide, head into British Columbia’s Assiniboine Provincial Park, weave your way around some ethereal frozen lakes, before finally crossing back into ski territory. This snowshoe tour takes about two hours to complete the circuit. You’ll finish off with a decadent cheese fondue. For more deets, check out my experience snowshoeing Sunshine Village.

snowshoeing banff
Check out all that powder! You jump off (smallish) cliffs, too!

Straddle the Continental Divide

There’s not many places in Canada where you can ski in two provinces in one hour, let alone one day. A Continental Divide is a ridge that essentially separates which water basin flows into what ocean. On the B.C. side, the water drains into the Pacific Ocean, etc.. It’s a significant geological feature, easily accessible from Angel, Great Divide and Standish chairlifts. You’ll feel on top of the world riding or hiking over it.

Cozy up inside a cafe

As a writer, I know all too well how some days the muse just isn’t with you. The easiest way to tap into creativity is to get inspired by something. Something like, say, the Rockies. Java Lift Coffee Bar is located inside Sunshine Mountain Lodge and serves Starbucks coffee, plus baked goods. The coffee shop is filled with light and all views are framed by the mountains. Writer’s block banished!

Sunshine Meadows hike

When Lonely Planet gives a shout out to a hike AND says it’s the best in Canada, you know it’s going to be great. There are several different routes around Sunshine Meadows, and non are too intense. It’s the perfect hike for families with young children.

You’ll be rewarded with wildflowers, sweeping views of the Rockies and in fall, the intense yellow and lime green hues of the larch trees are on full display. Check out my post on hiking Sunshine Meadows here.

larches lake louise
Nobody knows about the larches at Sunshine, but they’re just as spectacular as what you’ll find in Lake Louise.

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