Banff National Parks & Northern Lights in Yellowknife
The Canadian ski trip to beat them all
Skiers and snowboarders wanting to up the ante on their Banff and Lake Louise ski holiday can now include the spectacular Northern Lights in Yellowknife dancing through the sky with an epic arctic expedition to the Northwest Territories.
The ultimate ski and northern lights itinerary
Start in the heart of Banff National Park. Originally established in 1884, this national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Banff is the kind of alpine town that makes you want to give up your day job and take on a new life in the heart of the mountains.
Fly into Calgary, transfer from the airport just over an hour to Banff National Park, and have your camera ready as the surrounding mountain ranges come into view. Then get ready to explore the landmarks of the area, including the famous Fairmont Banff Springs, also known as the “Castle in the Rockies”.
This incredible building has been around for over 125 years and provides easy access to the nearby hot springs and the surrounding town, full of fun shops, restaurants serving up Canadian fare and plenty of activities to choose from.
The best part? Once you’re in Banff National Park you have three ski areas to choose from Banff Sunshine, The Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay. All accessible on one tri-area lift ticket which includes transfers to and from the resorts.
Next up, head to the world-renowned hamlet of Lake Louise, just 40 minutes from Banff. Here you can walk, ice skate or play hockey on on the famous lake, or just sit back and take in the views at the ice bar. If you visit between 16 and 27 January you can get to experience Ice Magic, featuring the world’s best ice carvers creations frozen in time displayed on Lake Louise.
Stay at the Fairmont Lake Louise, the picture-perfect castle on the shores of the lake, and enjoy nearby Lake Louise Ski Resort, which is just a 5 minute shuttle away. At Lake Louise, you’ll experience some of the best views you’ll ever see from the top of a ski resort. Then head back to the Fairmont for an evening snowshoe expedition to take in the night sky glittering over the snow.
Now it’s time to go north in search of those Northern Lights. Your best bet is to head to the Northwest Territories, where the Aurora is visible for at least 200 nights of the year. It’s surprisingly easy to get from Calgary to Yellowknife, with Air Canada and Westjet both offering several flight options daily throughout the winter.
From there, choose your favourite option for spotting this incredible phenomenon. Opt to go dog-sledding, sit in a hot tub, head out to a rustic cabin, bunker down in a comfortable hotel, or mingle with the crowds downtown and look up to the sky when it starts to dance.
The best viewing times are from December through to April, between 11pm and 4am. Opt to stay between three and five nights to maximize your chances of seeing the lights. Keep your fingers and toes crossed in their heavy-duty mittens and boots, load your camera or your phone up with an extra battery or external phone charger, and enjoy the magic from there.
During the day, sign up for snowmobiling, ice cave walks and ice fishing; or just take in the opportunity to see this part of Arctic Canada, which very few people in this lifetime are ever lucky enough to be able to experience.
Our tip is to stay at the Explorer Hotel, which is where Prince William happened to stay with wife Duchess Catherine back in 2011; it’s also hosted Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and plenty of other lesser mortals over the years.
Skimax offers Banff, Lake Louise & Aurora packages – request a quote below.