Global Traveler

Warm Up to Winter on a Snowy Break in Banff

By Kristy Alpert

I was still sore from a grueling fat tire bike ride up to a mountaintop backcountry cabin with Discover Banff Tours as I strapped on my crampons and prepared for my next wintry adventure. I had come to Banff while the roads were still powdered with freshly fallen snow, determined to transform myself from a summertime beach bum into a full-fledged winter lover. Timely encouragement from experienced guides helped warm my hesitations during activities like winter hiking and ice climbing, and it wasn’t long before I found myself smiling ear to ear, ice axes in hand, as I made my way up a frozen canyon wall to discover my newfound love of chilly elements.

“We consistently hear that our ice climbing lessons are a highlight of a trip to the Canadian Rockies,” said Jesse de Montigny, IFMGA/ACMG mountain guide, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. “Using ice axes and crampons for waterfall ice climbing may sound daunting, but people of all ages and physical capabilities can try this fun sport without feeling like they need brute upper body strength. If done properly, beginner pitches should feel very similar to climbing a ladder.”

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures offers intro- and expert-level ice climbing courses. The beginner programs generally run December through mid-March; guests are outfitted with everything they need for an enjoyable climb with experienced guides.



Ice climbing, like many of the winter activities around Banff, puts visitors in the heart of some of the most spectacular scenery in the Alberta region, where active adventures lead to moments in which visitors find themselves both catching their breath and losing it at the sight of something beautiful. The company also offers backcountry skiing tours and intro lessons to ski mountaineering, where guests are armed with the latest equipment before carving through deep powdered runs.

Winter activities in Banff range from leisurely strolls atop frozen lakes to heli-skiing, and there’s truly a tour for every activity level. The Banff Gondola offers some of the most stunning views in the region without much physical effort involved, and the tour culminates in a mountain- top experience where panoramic views extend over Banff town center, Mount Rundle and the mountains of the Bow Valley. Even during the warmer months, animal afficionados can mush their own sleds (or carts in summer) with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours, while aviation enthusiasts go to great heights aboard the Alpine Heli Tours scenic flights through the mountains. Although Banff is a true all-season destination, its wintry adventures are capable of converting warm- weather devotees into winter warriors.