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Banff’s SnowDays Festival Is Winter Magic and Family Fun

Banff National Park’s pristine turquoise lakes and snow-slathered jagged peaks look like something from a picture-perfect painting. Such beauty is nearly beyond comprehension. 

Although you do not need another reason to visit, the magical park gives you one. Banff and Lake Louise invite you to SnowDays, a fun-filled outdoor winter festival. Here is what you need to know about the quintessential Canadian winter experience.

Banff National Park

Close view of a bighorn sheep in Banff
Bighorn sheep in Banff. Photo credit: naticastillog via Deposit Photos

Located west of Calgary in Alberta’s Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park harbors hundreds of glaciers, giving its lakes a surreal bright blue color. Guests regularly savor the views by skiing the legendary slopes, hiking, biking, kayaking, or soaking in hot springs. No matter how you prefer to recreate, the breathtaking views promise to soothe the soul.

While admiring the alluring landscapes, guests may encounter some unique residents. Various animals inhabit Canada’s first national park, including wolves, moose, deer, elk, bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bison. It is also an excellent birding destination with over 260 species.

The park comprises two primary townsites, providing accommodations, restaurants, shops, and recreational opportunities. Beyond these amenities, their primary function is to preserve the park and educate visitors.

Banff

View on Banff Avenue
View along Banff Avenue. Photo credit: njarvis via Deposit Photos

Located in the park’s southern region, Banff is the key townsite, housing the park’s headquarters. It is a lively commercial and cultural hub, nestled between soaring mountains on all sides, offering a unique blend of nature and entertainment.

Guests will discover many eateries, shops, galleries, and museums along the vibrant streets. Due to its small size, visitors can easily explore Banff on foot or bicycle. The townsite provides a convenient public transit system as well.

Lake Louise

Guests play in the snow at SnowDays Festival in Lake Louise in Banff National Park
Visitors admire ice sculptures and play in the snow at Lake Louise. Photo credit: jewhyte via Deposit Photos

Smaller and quieter than Banff, Lake Louise sits in the park’s northern region. Its name honors the nearby glacier-fed lake ringed by soaring peaks. The hamlet provides various restaurant and lodging options and quick access to ski slopes and hiking trails. Although less extensive than the park headquarters, Lake Louise has a visitor center where guests can obtain information and learn about Banff National Park.

SnowDays Festival Dates

Moraine Lake in Banff
Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. Photo credit: surangastock via Deposit Photos

From January 19 to February 4, 2024, the SnowDays Festival delivers family-friendly winter activities, attractions, and more. What kind of activities can you expect?

Ice Magic

Guests look at an ice sculpture at SnowDays
Ice magic. Photo credit: Travel Alberta / Noel Hendrickson

Watch Canadian and international sculptors magically chisel masterpieces from ice blocks during the festival’s first weekend. On the second weekend, the frozen art gallery is brought to life by illumination against the stunning backdrop of Lake Louise’s snowy mountains. Guests with a ticket can stroll through the ice sculptures for a gallery experience unlike any other.

Snow Sculptures

Snow flake sculpture at SnowDays Festival in Banff
Snow sculpture. Photo credit: Travel Alberta / Josh Segeleski

During the festival’s first week, watch sculptors bring their visions to life by expertly carving, cutting, and smoothing massive, dense snow blocks. Guests can admire the larger-than-life creations in four spots throughout Banff for the remainder of the festival. The works of art will draw smiles from adults and children.

Skijoring

Guests watch skijoring in Banff
Skijorning. Photo credit: Travel Alberta / Josh Segeleski

What happens when you combine Alberta’s wrangler roots with its world-renowned ski culture? Skijoring with style! One of the event’s most popular activities is on Banff Avenue on January 20, 2024. Jaws drop as guests witness horse-drawn ski jumpers perform aerial stunts. The combination of horse-riding, trick-riding, and ski stunts may leave your face frozen in awe.

Play Zone

SnowDays Festival Play Zone for kids
Play Zone. Photo credit: Travel Alberta / Josh Segeleski

Families can make lasting memories at the festival’s Play Zone, where kids can try unique winter activities like tobogganing and fat biking. The area is open each week from Wednesday through Sunday. You likely have not seen so many rosy cheeks, broad grins, and giggles.

Live Entertainment

Guests warm up by huddling around a fire pit at night at the SnowDays Festival in Banff
Bear Street. Photo credit: Travel Alberta / Josh Segeleski

As night steals the day, grab a cup of hot cocoa, huddle around a flickering fire pit, and enjoy live entertainment. You may encounter anything from live music to street performers and stilt walkers. Share tales of the day’s adventures as the town glows with excitement.

Beyond the Festival

Popular activities in Banff National Park include snowshoeing
Snowshoeing. Photo credit: MarinaPoushkina via Deposit Photos

Banff, Lake Louise, and the surrounding area offer plenty of family adventures all winter. Guests can enjoy top-notch skiing and snowboarding in the Canadian Rockies. Tubing promises plenty of family fun. 

Other popular winter activities include ice skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and dog sled excursions. For something different, experience the thrill of gentle climbs and smooth downhill rides along tree-lined paths on a guided e-fat bike tour. 

Banff is also renowned for warm-up activities and wellness offerings. Feel rejuvenated after soaking in mountain views and the soothing mineral-rich waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs.

Plan Your Family Adventure at SnowDays Festival

Ice sculpture at Banff SnowDays
Ice sculpture at SnowDays Festival. Photo credit: pictureguy via Deposit Photos

Days of outdoor recreation coupled with nights of circus acts and illuminated larger-than-life snow sculptures at one of the world’s most beautiful places is a memorable experience for the whole family. If you have been thinking about a trip to Banff National Park, now is the time. Although you do not need another reason to visit, the SnowDays Festival is a nudge to plan your bucket list trip.

Featured image credit: martinm303 via Deposit Photos

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Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!
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