Calgary

Visitors urged to plan ahead before visiting Banff National Park and stay out of townsite

It's a beautiful time of year to visit Banff — but unfortunately, like everywhere else, activities in the national park this year are not business as usual.

Town of Banff discourages visitors altogether, while Parks Canada staff hope hikers, skiers come prepared

Banff locals can enjoy a new outdoor light experience: In Search of Christmas Spirit. Parks Canada is asking people to plan ahead this year before visiting the mountain park. (Shannon Martin/Banff & Lake Louise Tourism)

It's a beautiful time of year to visit Banff — but unfortunately, like everywhere else, activities in the national park this year are not business as usual.

The Town of Banff has closed bars and restaurants, discouraged out-of-town travellers from visiting, and prohibited them from staying in people's homes.

Meanwhile, Parks Canada is asking hikers and skiers heading to the trails to plan ahead, as COVID-19 restrictions may force plans to shift, especially during the winter holidays. 

And Daniella Rubeling, visitor experience manager for the agency's Banff field unit, says one of the most important things to prepare for is the weather. 

"Winter weather conditions can change quickly. And as we can see today, you know, the weather conditions can be quite extreme sometimes. And so we want to make sure people are prepared with the right clothing, the right gear, checking the conditions before they go and making sure that they have some alternative plans in place," she said on Tuesday.

"So should weather conditions change or parking lots be full … have some backup areas to visit."

Some parts of the Rockies received between 20 and 70 centimetres of snow on Tuesday, causing road closures and putting many areas at high risk of avalanches.

Another concern, Rubeling said, is people who are new to winter outdoor recreation.

  • WATCH | This sold-out lantern walk in Banff only available to locals is expected to be offered again in the New Year when there are fewer COVID-19 restrictions

On the In Search of Christmas Spirit trail

CBC News Calgary

4 months ago
3:26
This immersive art exhibit in Banff is helping locals find the Christmas spirit. Find out what you're missing if you live outside the Bow Valley. 3:26

She said this summer, there was an increase in calls from people who were unprepared for the conditions and did not have the appropriate clothing or gear. 

"We would really encourage people … to do their research before they head out," she said. 

Visitor centres are closed to the public, but staff are available by phone or email. 

While there are some closures, there's still plenty to do in the mountain town and park — like winter walks, cross-country skiing and fat-biking.

There is also downhill skiing, but some hills like Lake Louise have moved toward a reservation system.

People can visit the Parks Canada website for details on what's open, what's closed, what parking lots are full and how to enjoy the park safely, Rubeling said. 

With files from Diane Yanko.

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