Don’t just show up in Banff National Park during summer’s peak season and expect to find a room. You’ll need to book well in advance and will pay a premium for lodging, especially if you want to stay at one of the historic Canadian Pacific Railroad resorts, now the Fairmont Banff Springs and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. That said, summer is sublime at Banff, with temperatures in the 70s and close to 17 hours of sunshine daily. Because the park covers nearly 2,600 square miles—making it more than half the size of Yellowstone—it’s easy to get happily lost in the vast network of trails.
If you can delay your trip to September and October, the weather is warm enough to savor the landscape, the leaves on the aspens turn gold, and the summer's congestion thins. In late October, the world-famous Banff Mountain Film Festival brings premieres of top adventure documentaries, intriguing lectures, and photography exhibitions.
Home to many events during the 1988 Winter Olympics, Banff claims three superlative ski areas: Lake Louise, Norquay, and Sunshine Village. Surrounded by the serrated peaks of the Rockies, massive Lake Louise and its four separate mountains is regularly voted the ski area with the finest scenery in North America by Skiing magazine. It’s also home to the men’s and women’s World Cup downhill and Super-G races in late November and early December. Sunshine Village is smaller but has a variety of terrain that will please experts and beginners alike. Norquay, the closest to the town of Banff, is smaller and more suited to beginners. The snow really gets heavy around January and, due to Banff's northern locale, stays excellent through spring, with resorts closing in April or May.
If you’re searching for a bargain, come to Banff in April or May, when hiking trails are muddy or still snowed over and hotel prices are significantly less.