Banff Avenue in the town of Banff.
Paul Zizka/Banff Lake Louise Tourism
Sunshine Mountain Lodge’s unique ­position as Banff’s only ski-in/ski-out lodge may surprise some alpine enthusiasts, but every dedicated Nordic skier longs to stay at Skoki Lodge. Located seven miles into the wilderness from Lake Louise via the Skoki Lodge Nordic Trail, this National Historic Site reveals more than 150 miles of Nordic trails. The rustic accommodations remain fit for a prince, as witnessed when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — Prince William and his wife Catherine — visited the lodge during their honeymoon.

I never feel guilty taking a cloudy ski day off during a visit to Banff because I know I’ll still find plenty of reasons to go outdoors. The Johnston Canyon Icewalk follows a path beneath an array of frozen waterfalls (and the adventurers who climb them). In addition to sleigh rides, Chateau Mountain Sports at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise rents ice skates and hockey sticks for play beneath the Victoria Glacier on Lake Louise, the most spectacular, natural ice rink in the world.

An evening fire draws us close after playing a casual game of shinny (pickup hockey) on the lake, one of several warming sites I recommend in the region. The Post Hotel & Spa features the area’s deepest wine list, the baronial Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel’s Willow Stream Spa offers a series of sublime pools, and the Rose & Crown restaurant and pub features live music 364 days a year to fend off any outdoor chill.

I’ve rafted the Bow River in spring, cycled Banff’s trails in summer and played golf among rutting elk well into the fall. But to me, winter paints this park most brilliantly, especially when I gaze upon the Canadian Rockies vista, point my skis downward and dive, tips first, into the cream. 

When not writing, photographing or broadcasting about travel for more than 30 outlets, CRAI S. BOWER can usually be found outdoors skiing, gardening or participating in some other adventure. He reads, drinks tea and monitors the weather when inside.