What To Wear In Banff In Winter

If you need guidance on what to wear in Banff in winter, we have the perfect packing list. It’s best to come prepared because winter in the Canadian Rockies can be frigid. Winter in Banff can alternate between 3C° to -5 C° to -40 C°, the same in both Celcius and Fahrenheit. Temperatures can be extreme here in Alberta, or they can be mild. One thing is certain, though, it’s the mountains, and you never know what you’ll get!

Never fear the most extreme temperatures happen only a few times in the winter. Plus, with proper packing and the right clothes, we rarely let the cold deter us from enjoying the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. You’ve probably heard this before, but the key to staying warm in winter is layers. This means a solid exterior layer in the form of a warm jacket.

The last one is super important as the wind can pull the heat away from your body and leave you feeling much colder. But enough here, read on to learn what we recommend packing for Banff in the winter.

What to Wear in Banff in Winter

My typical Banff winter outfit

Here is a short rundown which includes ski/snowboarding gear and winter fun clothes. We’re active individuals and love winter sports, so you’ll find a good mix of lifestyle clothes and technical apparel for winter weather. This packing list is just to give you an idea of what’s helpful to pack for Banff in the winter. Of course, you know your wardrobe best!

  • Winter Parka
  • Down Jacket
  • Sweater
  • Flannel
  • Casual Pants
  • 1 x Top Base Layer
  • 1 x Bottom Base Layer
  • 2-3 x Wool Underwear
  • 2-3 x Wool Socks
  • 1 x Mid-Layer Jacket
  • 1 x Insulated Jacket
  • 1 x Snow Pants
  • 1 x Mitts or Gloves
  • 1 x Balaclava
  • 1 x Buff Headwear
  • 1 x Goggles (if skiing or snowboarding)
  • 1 x Helmet* (if skiing or snowboarding)

Dress For Your Winter Activities

lake minnewanka ice skating
What to Pack for Banff in Winter

Don’t just think of nice outfits and sweaters when thinking about what to wear in Banff in winter. Just because there is snow on the ground doesn’t mean you can’t be active in the winter. We’re big winter sports fans, and there are many things to do in Banff in the winter. Some of our favorite things to do in the winter are ice skating, snowshoeing, ice climbing, snowboarding/skiing, and even a nice winter hike.

Depending on your Banff itinerary, we lean more toward packing for an active winter holiday than a posh winter holiday. That means technical clothes like down jackets, shells, softshell pants, and thermals. Banff is a small mountain town; locals dress casually or in technical mountain gear. There is no need for trendy jackets, dress shoes, or fur coats here. Everything is a lot more relaxed than the European Alps or

Winter Temperatures in the Rockies


Winter in the Canadian Rockies lasts longer than in most parts of the world, and snow is often on the ground from October to May. Banff is a cold place, and we’ve seen snow every month of the year. Below are the average temperatures in winter in Banff to give you a better idea.

As we stated earlier, these are just the averages; however, Banff is notorious for its Chinook winds which cause wide temperature swings where one day will be a mild 32°F/0°C the next can drop down to a bone-chilling -22°F/-30°C.

Weather is unpredictable much further out than a week or two, so you should pack and plan for freezing cold temperatures in the winter and continue to monitor the weather closer to your trip.

What are Chinooks?

chinook winds

If you’re visiting Alberta in the winter, you should familiarize yourself with Chinook winds or just “Chinooks.” A Chinook is a weather phenomenon in Southern Alberta where warm, dry wind from the Pacific blows eastward over the Rockies after passing through British Columbia. These warm winds can shift the temperature by over 20°C in just one day!

You’ll notice the Chinooks from a rapid change in temperatures and sometimes strong winds that can reach nearly dangerous speeds. However, what I love most about the Chinooks is their ability to create the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the Rockies!

What to Wear in Banff in Winter

Winter Parka Down Jacket

lake louise in winter - what to wear in banff in winter

A winter jacket is great to pack if you have one handy. We wear heavy-down parka jackets with a hood for running errands in town or walking around the neighborhood. It’s great for people who come to Banff to pack at least one heavy winter jacket. These are great for sipping hot chocolate at Lake Louise, a horse sleigh ride, or even going for a dog sled when you’re not very active.

We strongly prefer down jackets as they provide a lot of warmth, but the real key here is a jacket with some weight that will help block the wind and insulate. When we travel with our bulky parkas, we wear them on the plane, as an oversized winter jacket can quickly eat up half your luggage. When we play tourist around town and visit all the popular sights, we love to throw on our big, comfy down parkas.

Down Jacket


We take a light, packable down jacket on almost every trip and use ours all the time around Banff. It’s a really versatile piece of clothing because it can be packed down and travel in your suitcase. It’s great for mild days in the early season, around October/November, or springtime from March to May.

what to wear in banff in winter

We even wear them in the summer as it’s always down jacket season in the Canadian Rockies. If you’re feeling the chill, a packable down jacket can also be an excellent insulator/mid-layer. That’s also great if you go skiing or snowboarding. The versatile coat can also be worn for cross-country skiing, ice skating, or snowshoeing. Our favorite down jackets are the Arc’teryx Cerium Hoody and the Arc’teryx Thorium.

Cute Sweater

Emerald Lake

Every visitor should have at least one sweater on their Banff winter packing list! I wear sweaters between October and May, and go heavy on them around Christmastime in Banff! Bring one or two, and then look for a few when strolling Banff Avenue – they are everywhere!


Baker Creek Cabins

A flannel for men or women is classic in Canada, especially in winter. Flannels here are stylish enough to wear to any dinner at a restaurant or relaxed enough to wear ice skating or hiking. The thick cotton is cozy and provides a lot of warmth.

Casual/Hiking Pants

what to wear in banff in winter

A casual pair of hiking pants for walking around town is great to pair with a sweater or wear during winter activities. If we’re going for an easy hike like climbing up Tunnel Mountain, cross-country skiing, or a snowshoe on a mild day, we rarely wear snow pants and instead use a synthetic pair of pants with thermals underneath.

These pants can vary from basic hiking pants to more technical soft-shell pants. They’re more comfortable and less goofy than bulky snow pants. It’s best to go with whatever synthetic pants you have at home. Ski pants are best reserved for winter activities like tubing, skiing, or dog sledding.


Lake Louise in the winter

A quality base layer is made from a natural fiber like wool, as it has excellent technical advantages. Wool can resist odor, wick away sweat or snow, and provide warmth. If wool is cost-prohibitive, choose thermals from a polyester or nylon blend.

Do not wear a cotton base layer, as cotton pulls body heat away and remains wet for an extended period. After testing, we’ve found Smartwool and Icebreaker to be two of our favorite wool baselayers. They have tremendous comfort and performance. For a more affordable base layer with plenty of longevity, we love the synthetic base layers from Helly Hansen.

Base layers for your legs are great for walking around the town or for any winter activity you may enjoy. You don’t want to wear your ski pants to the bar, but jeans may be too cold. However, if you slip on a pair of thermals underneath, it makes life a lot warmer. Note size charts, as top and bottom sizes can be different when purchasing. Consider your base layers one of the top priorities when packing for Banff in the winter.

Fleece Lined Leggings

what to wear in banff winter

One of my favorite items in the winter is fleece-lined leggings. Regular leggings are far too cold for me to wear here in the winter, but a good pair lined with fuzzy fleece on the inside? I have numerous pairs!

Wools Socks

Wools Socks

For any trip in the winter, it’s a good idea to pack a few wool socks for your days out exploring or skiing. Opt for a material such as wool or synthetic for your socks, like thermals. Do not wear cotton socks when doing any activities out in the snow, like snowshoeing, hiking, or skiing, as they will almost certainly lead to cold feet. For most, any wool or warm synthetic socks will do the job.

However, if you plan to ski, it’s a good idea to try out some ski-specific wool socks as they have attractive features. Opt for a medium or slim sock. Loose or bulky socks can trap moisture and bunch up, which results in cold feet. On that note, do not wear two pairs of socks, as they will also trap moisture. The key to warm feet is dry feet! The last thing we put on before heading out the door are our socks, don’t wear them in a hotel bathroom!

Winter Boots

banff in the winter

You aren’t going to want to trudge around town in a pair of sneakers during your whole trip. Pick up a pair of functional but stylish boots with a high ankle to prevent snow. We have a pair of Sorel Caribou boots for deep snow days in Banff. However, most winter snow depths aren’t bad in town, so sturdy boots will work perfectly.

Casual Gloves or Mitts

skating on lake minnewanka

I suggest bringing at least one pair of casual gloves or mittens for walking around. I personally like the ones that have touchscreen fingertips. It’s also common for many ski-specific mittens and gloves to come with liners that work well for casual use around town.

Toque or Beanie

Banff Christmas
Enjoying the Banff Christmas Market at Warner Stables

You’ll definitely want a way to protect your ears and head from the cold. A hat is one of the best ways to retain body heat. We just got some hats from Toques From The Heart, which makes some tremendously comfortable, warm, and excellent quality hats. The best part is the company gives away a toque to a Canadian in need with the sale of every hat.

What To Wear For Sports & Skiing

What To Wear Skiing In Canada Winter

This is a general overview of what to pack for a trip to Banff for skiing. These items are also good for many winter activities you can enjoy around Banff, like skating, snowshoeing, dog sledding, or ice climbing. If you want a more technical overview of what to wear skiing or snowboarding, check out our post that covers more detail.

We recommend expert riders, skiers, mountaineers, and ice climbers utilize a shell system. However, they likely don’t need our recommendations for shell gear—it’s Arc’teryx if anyone’s curious. Most casual skiers and riders do not need to invest in $2,000 outfits, so we recommend more value-packed insulated jackets for visitors.

Insulated Jacket

Marmot Basin

A jacket is the most critical item to pack for a ski trip. A lightly insulated jacket with a waterproof shell and snow skirt is best for most skiers and riders. We ride with a shell jacket for our resort wear jacket that contains light insulation from Picture Organic Clothing. It has many sweet features, such as wrist gaiters, a snow skirt, and a helmet-compatible hood. The Bio-Sourced exterior shell on the jacket has performed beautifully and kept us dry on deep days in Jackson Hole, WY, and Snowbird, UT.

Another great option is a Columbia Interchange Jacket, which provides excellent value. Granted, it doesn’t have any of the performance or sustainable cred like Picture. We are big fans of Columbia due to its accessibility and reliable products. As a side note, every ski jacket should be helmet compatible and have a snow skirt as a minimum. If it’s your first time, don’t purchase a new jacket. Wear your best winter jacket and accept you’ll probably get some snow down your pants.


bring a mid layer to banff

If you opt for a layering system, a mid-layer jacket is where you’ll get most of your warmth. Mid-layers go on over your thermals and operate as a jacket for when you’re not skiing or snowboarding. Even if you’re not skiing, it’s a good idea to pack a good mid-layer for versatility. These jackets come in various fashions, and we have several types for different conditions.

Down jackets provide excellent warmth in dry conditions but are expensive and lose insulation when wet. Synthetic down jackets provide slightly less heat than traditional down but can handle wet conditions well. The most affordable option is a fleece jacket, which offers plenty of warmth at an affordable price.

It’s not technical enough for extreme conditions, but the average person shouldn’t be in adverse conditions anyway. We both use synthetic down jackets from Arc’teryx as our mid-layers. The jackets are versatile and lightweight, provide excellent warmth, and handle moisture exceptionally.

What Ski Pants to Wear?

There are three basic styles of pants to wear hardshell skiing pants, bibs, and insulated pants. Hardshell pants tend to fetch the highest price tag and offer the most significant technical capabilities but provide little to no insulation.

Bibs come in shell and insulated versions and offer the most outstanding protection from snow. However, they are more expensive than pants and can be too warm for mild ski days. Insulated pants are friendly and generally the most affordable as entry-level pants. The insulation can make these pants the most restrictive or hot on a mild day.

We would advise that you need much less insulation in the legs than you would think. It’s not your core, and it’s where most of your movement comes from when you ski. Everyone’s body is different, so you should dress for what’s comfortable.

Mitts or Gloves

Quality gloves will be your best friend on the slopes because no one likes it when they can’t feel their hands. Seriously, people don’t enjoy winter sports mainly when they get cold. We prefer mittens as they keep your fingers together and allow for less surface area to the cold. This means your hands stay warmer in mitts than gloves.

That being said this comes from two snowboarders. Many skiers prefer glovers to separate their fingers more easily when dealing with their ski poles. It’s all personal preference, but if you’re prone to a chill, I’d suggest some mitts. And at the end of the day, gloves are one of the last things you want to forget about for your winter holiday.


Mt Temple from Lake Louise

It’s always good to pack some snow protection for your face. On sunny days, we’ll go without anything, but more often than not, we expect snowy conditions on the mountain. We generally switch between two different styles of face protection. The primary item for bad weather and cold days is a Merino wool balaclava.

We’ve tried a bunch of different balaclavas and it’s tough to get one that doesn’t collect tons of moisture before freezing to your face. As for the best warmth and performance, we’ve found a wool balaclava can do wonders. Our next choice would be a fleece one that can be bought super cheaply!


Unless you’re on a budget, don’t care, and take a short weekend trip with guaranteed sunshine, I recommend packing a pair of goggles. They are an essential part of your ski outfit, and I consider it a lifeline. Goggles provide protection for your eyes and aid your vision on the mountain.

We have long been fans of Smith goggles for their unrivaled optics quality and low-light performance. Their latest goggles have mag technology in their goggles for easy switches between low light and sunny days. Even if you don’t want to drop $200 on goggles, it is worth picking up a good budget option. For less than $100, you can grab the Giro Roam, which includes two lenses for low light and sunny days.

It’s tough to come by ski goggle rentals so if it’s your first time, opt for the Giro Roams or order a cheap $50 pair off Amazon as it will save you a lot of headaches on the mountain.


revelstoke mountain lodge

Not wearing a helmet is a thing of the past. Do yourself and your noggin a favor and wear a helmet when you ski or snowboard. This applies whether you are a beginner or an expert. The great thing about helmets is they keep your head and ears warmer than hats too!

We rock the Smith Vantage Helmet as it’s considered one of the best helmets on the market. It provides robust protection around our head, plenty of ventilation, and a cozy soft interior.

After receiving a concussion last ski season and wearing a helmet, it’s not something I plan to forgo anytime soon. If it’s your first time traveling with ski gear, carry your helmet onto the plane strapped to the outside of your backpack. Don’t worry if you don’t own equipment. Every ski rental shop should offer helmets.

What You Don’t Need to Bring to Banff in Winter

Banff Gondola

Club Dresses: There are no clubs in Banff or Canmore, besides the Dancing Sasquatch in Downtown Banff where the Aussie workers hang. There is no need for a short clubbing dress. The best thing you’ll find here is a brewery or distillery where you would instantly feel out of place in a short dress.

Heels: There’s absolutely no scenario in the Canadian Rockies where you will need heels. Oh yeah, and don’t go hiking in them – that’s a bad idea.

Super Dressy Clothes in General: Both men and women don’t need to worry about getting super fancy here unless you want to or have a very nice evening planned. A cute sweater and black pants work just fine if you’re going to a nice event.

Bottled Water: The one thing that drives me nuts every summer is the grocery stores that sell cases of bottled water and the visitors who think they need to buy them. Not only is this a waste of plastic, but it’s truly unnecessary with the excellent water quality in the valley. There is no need to worry about the tap water here. It’s SO good and completely fine. Please don’t buy bottled water here.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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