Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway in Banff, Alberta at -20 Degrees

February 16, 2017

When the hubs asked me to do a short winter getaway over the weekends, my immediate reaction was "Heck ya!". I'd always love an escape away from the cold to where the sun and beaches are, like that time I went to Punta Cana or Cuba! I did some snorkelling, partying on a catamaran, and horse back riding. So much fun!

Until I realized that our wavelengths weren't in sync this time. He was actually thinking of heading over to the Rockies to do a snowboarding trip together...! Even though, it was a complete opposite to what I had in mind, but boarding on top of the Rockies had always been on my bucket list. It's one of the things I wanted to check off before having a baby. So, without whining for too long, I agreed to the trip. And we decided to head to Banff, Alberta!

Our short four-day trip included visiting city of Calgary. And it was jam-packed with sight seeing, fun activities and of course, GREAT FOOD!

We also learned a few interesting things from our trip:

Pack layers to keep warm

First thing before anything and it's the most important tip I could give you for having a fun and comfortable trip in Alberta is to pack warm layers. Toronto was -5 degrees when we left to Calgary early morning. If you think that was cold already, Calgary was -15 when we arrived! And Banff was -20! Brutally cold. Luckily, my motherly hubby went over my luggage (seriously he did!) to make sure I packed some thermal layers, thick socks and warm boots. Here's to give you some insights of what I wore to stay warm:

Our Winter Getaway in -20 Degrees at Banff, AlbertaFor snowboarding I wore:

  • Two pair of socks (one as a under layer and a pair of snowboarding socks on top)
  • A pair of yoga pants and my sweatpants under my snow pants
  • Layers with a breathable dry-fit t shirt, a thermal fleece, a hoodie under my ski jacket
  • Mittens underneath my gloves
  • Helmet
  • Face mask

For sightseeing I wore:

  • Two pair of socks (one thicker and longer than the other)
  • Leggings underneath my jeans
  • Layers with tank top, sweatshirt, knitted cardigan under my down jacket
  • Knitted toque
  • Gloves
  • Uggs
  • Scarf

To be honest, I actually felt pretty warm for the most part, so I thought I was pretty successful this trip.

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta - Frozen Lake Minnewanka Banff AlbertaOn frozen Lake Minnewanka 

Rent a car with winter tires

To make our trip flexible, we rented a car through Enterprise to get us around for four days. As soon as we picked up our baggage, we went to get the car at the airport. It was very convenient! Because we were carrying our snowboarding gears, we booked a full-sized vehicle. That meant more space to fit our bags. Enterprise gave us a few options to choose from: a Hyundai Sonata, a Volkswagen Jetta, an Infinity Maxima and an Audi Quattro. But we realized none of these vehicles had winter tires on! Like seriously?! It snowed for the majority of the time while we were there. And we knew that the road conditions could be worse going up and down the mountains in Banff. So at the end, we chose the Audi. At least it was an all-wheel drive, for more control on slippery roads. But still, it was scary driving uphill and downhill on unplowed roads. Another thing we weren't aware of was that the Audi was considered as a premium luxury car. And we had not been told that the car would cost us extra on top of our agreed rental fee. Luckily, we managed to reason them but we learned how to avoid surprises next time.

Our Winter Getaway in -20 degrees at Banff, Alberta
Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta

En route to Banff from Calgary

Public parking is expensive in Calgary

We earned two extra hours back in Calgary because of the time zone difference. Gotta love that! So, it was still breakfast time when we arrived to the city. But we didn't realize parking in the financial district is that much more expensive compared to Toronto! We paid $14 for parking! And that wasn't for the whole day, it was only for AN HOUR! If we didn't have a tight schedule, we'd probably park somewhere else and walked to the restaurant. Oh well!

Frozen lakes and waterfalls are insanely beautiful

On our way to Banff from Calgary, the breathtaking view was hard to miss. We stopped over at Lake Minnewanka and experienced what it was like to be walking on frozen lake. I felt minuscule standing in the middle around the rocky mountains. We also did a little hike up the icy trail to Johnston Canyon lower falls. It was a challenging hike because of the trail conditions but it was well worth it. I mean, just look at these photos!

Our winter getaway in -20 degrees in Banff Alberta, Johnston Canyon
Frozen lower waterfall at Johnston Canyon

Our winter getaway in -20 degrees in Banff Alberta, Johnston Canyon
Hiking trail at Johnston Canyon

Moraine Lake is inaccessible by car

After visiting Lake Minnewanka, the hubs wanted to take me to Moraine Lake. Being a passenger, I only had one job and that was to enter destination spots on the GPS. I typed in Moraine Lake on Google Maps and it said no route found. I entered the same in Apple Maps, and it led us to a road block. We realized the only way to get to Moraine Lake was by walking or skiing.

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta
Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta

Locals speak with an Aussie accent 

We found it very interesting when we learned that locals in Alberta speak with an accent. As fellow Canadians, we were curious and unaware of the different dialect. Whether it was the waitress from Calgary, or the staff member at Lake Louise, or the bartender in Banff, they all speak in an Australian-esque accent. On our last day before leaving Banff, I finally asked the concierge about it. Apparently a lot of the early settlers were from Australia. They fell in love with the province and viewed Banff as a dream working destination. And eventually the dialect evolved with an Aussie accent, and now known as an Albertan accent.

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta

View on Lake Louise is subjected to weather

Visiting Lake Louise was a definite must. We couldn't really say we've been to Alberta without taking a picture and stepping onto Lake Louise. Yes, we actually stepped onto the frozen Lake Louise. In fact, we even skated on the lake! Being one of the the most beautiful outdoor skating rinks in the world, we did not think twice about skating there despite the extreme cold alert. But, it was a snowy day when we were there, we could barely see the picturesque Rockies behind the flurries. So, we came back again on another day to catch the view.

Our winter getaway in -20 degrees in Banff Alberta - Skating on Lake Louise
Skating on frozen Lake Louise

Perfect place to improve my snowboarding

We went to Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort on two separate days to snowboard. And boy! What an experience! The gondola ride up the mountains took probably 20 minutes or so before we could finally start to ski/snowboard. It took another ski lift to get to the peak of the mountain! That was how big and high the mountains were! But because of its sheer size, there were so many different runs for different skill levels. And all the runs were long and wide, so I didn't have to worry about crashing into other boarders or skiers and could concentrate on perfecting my technique.

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees {My Bucket List} Snowboarding on the Rockies at Banff, Alberta

Banff Upper Hot Spring could close due to extreme cold weather

After we spent two days snowboarding, we wanted to take a dip into the hot spring to relax our muscles on the last day. But, the funny thing was even the hot spring had to close because it was too cold to operate! Too bad we didn't get to try the hot spring otherwise it would be an experience doing it under -22 degrees weather.

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta - driving without winter tires
Driving in snowy condition without winter tires

Meat in Alberta is mouthwatering delicious

Alberta is known for their meat particularly their beefs. Most restaurants catered to bringing the farm-to-table concept. While we were in Banff, we planned a steak night to reward ourselves after conquering the mountains. We went to Melissa's Missteak Restaurant as recommended by the locals there. The restaurant was built as a homestead hotel in the 30s so it had a rustic homey feel to its interior. The staff showed us a case of the different cuts of the beef to help us order our food. But, we both didn't want to settle for anything else other than the prime ribs. And I was glad we didn't! The steaks were super tender, perfectly cooked and juicy. It also came with sourdough bread, yorkshire pudding, roasted veggies and a choice of baked potatoes, mashed potatoes or French fries.

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta - Melissa's Missteak
The sourdough bread was soft on the inside and crispy on the outside! Their French onion soup was one of the best I've had!

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta - Melissa's Missteak
This 8oz medium rare prime rib was cooked to perfection with yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes and roasted veggies

On another night, we tried some great baby pork ribs at Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar. The restaurant specialized in campfire-inspired cooking. So, their ribs had a very strong smokey flavour like you would expect from a campfire. Super tasty and the meat came right off the bones. Be sure to try their pulled pork fingers too. They were addictive!

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta - Park Distillery

Smokey-savoury barbecue baby back ribs and Bubba's mac n' cheese with buttermilk fried chicken

Food is surprisingly good

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta - Food is surprisingly Good

We had breakfast at Holy Grill in Calgary upon arriving. It took us roughly 15 minutes walking in circle on the street to find this restaurant. Until we got help from a security guy inside an office building, we then realized the restaurant was actually on the 2nd floor. As a tourist, I thought this was a true hidden gem. So hidden, we almost missed it. Their hash browns (or they call it, Smash browns) were so crispy that I'm still thinking about them today.
Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta - Holy Grill

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta - Brunch Holy Grill
Pacific Benedict with Smoked Salmon and Wakey Wakey breakfast with smash browns at Holy Grill

We also had a great breakfast at Tooloulou's in Banff. We just skipped the lineup before the crowd started to form around 9:30. We had pork belly egg benny and a breakfast poutine that came with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, potatoes, bacon, caramelized onions... Gosh, I wished we had these in Toronto!

Things We Learned from Our Winter Getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta - Breakfast at Tooloulou's
Breakfast Poutine and Eggs Benny with pork belly at Tooloulou's

All in all, we had a blast in Banff, Alberta, despite the fact that we went right after a snowstorm and the city was stuck at minus 20 degrees for the entire span of our trip. We learned a great deal from this getaway and we can't wait to go back again to enjoy the scenery better in Summer time!

Pin this for later!

Things we learned from our winter getaway at -20 Degrees in Banff, Alberta

You Might Also Like


  1. I love this! The Rocky Mountains have been on my bucket list for ages and for me there's nothing better than snow and mountains! Would love to visit Banff in winter. Thanks for giving me some major wanderlust :)

    1. Thanks! Banff is so different in winter but it's just as gorgeous. We had a great time there!

  2. Wow! Just wow! Your pictures are gorgeous! Sounds like you had a wonderful time. But isn't 4 days too short? Alberta sure looks like a dream destination during winter. I wonder how it would look like in autumn. :)

    The Pink Lemonade Girl

    1. Thanks, ya we only spent 4 days there. It was really meant to be a snowboarding trip :) We'll be back in summer time because the view is also splendid without the snow!

  3. I'm more of a sunshine and warm lands person but you can't argue that those photos are stunning. Just look at the beauty of it all!

    1. Yes! The scenery and experience are so different in wintertime :)

  4. I'm not typically a fan of "ski holidays" per se, but your photos have convinced me otherwise! Everything looks so incredibly beautiful. I have vague memories of visiting Banff in the summer as a child, but I'd love to go back sometime. It's fascinating what you said about the accent as well - I'm going to look out for that if I go! Loved this post.

    1. Thanks girl!! I'm happy to have convinced you :) It was definitely one of the more memorable moments for me. I also plan to go back in summertime soon.

  5. Beautiful winter shots.

  6. Banff is so stunning! I work for a travel company who do tours that include it, so I'm always lusting over pretty pictures - I need to go myself, I think! #citytripping

    1. Thanks Milly! I'd travel all the time if I work for a travel company LOL!

  7. I'd love to visit Banff, but probably not when it's -20*! I used to live in Montana, so I've had my extreme cold before. #CityTripping

    1. haha I know! It was actually -30 if I included windchill LOL!

  8. What a fabulous holiday and brilliantly described. Banff is somewhere I have always wanted to visit - maybe one day!! Interesting about the Aussie accent. I know a lot of my fellow teachers went to British Columbia to teach back in the 60s when we were a lot younger. Quite a few stayed on. Canada was actively recruiting Aussie teachers at that time. Thanks for the Aussie touch.

    1. Thanks for sharing that bit of history, Liz! Always fascinating to learn some background about a place I've been to. It helps connect dots and build a better picture!

  9. What a fabulous holiday and gorgeous winter scenery. Your pictures are truly good!

  10. I actually hate cold weather, I cannot even imagine -20°!!! But your pictures are so beautiful I'd like to have the same getaway! ;)

  11. Such gorgeous scenery. Mind you I would go for that food alone, it looks delicious! :D #citytripping

  12. Wow that sounds cold! Such a beautiful place though and I would love to see Lake Louise... maybe when the ice has melted though! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  13. What an awesome getaway. The Rockies are so beautiful. I went to Lake Louise and Banff in Spring it looked quite different but equally as stunning in all seasons. #citytripping


I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments! Come back soon :)

About Me

About [span]me[/span]
Hello, I'm Lorita. Hoping to inspire you to explore and create things that make life a bit more fun and beautiful.