1. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Sign up for the Heritage Tour of Canada's castle in the Rockies to get acquainted with this venerable hotel, opened three years after Banff National Park, and get a free lesson in Canadian history. To soothe adventure-weary muscles or just thaw out after a day in the snow, head to the Willow Stream Spa and its back-massaging waterfalls, a mineral pool that's like a giant Epsom-salt bath and a steaming outdoor pool that lets you give winter the warm shoulder. Fuel up at Grapes Wine Bar, overlooking Bow Valley and Mount Rundle; the charcuterie platter includes Alberta fare like air-dried beef, pickled baby carrots and sharp cheddar cheese.
405 Spray Ave., 866-540-4406, fairmont.com/banffsprings
Photo: Tony Soluri, courtesy of 21C Museum Hotels
2. Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
As we hack our way up a frozen waterfall on the north face of Mount Rundle, our guide hollers from below: "You'll save energy if you just flick your wrists to dig your axes into the ice!" Peppered with cascades and easily accessible canyons, the Rockies are one of the best places in the world for ice climbing. And with the frozen masses refracting a blue glow, the winter equivalent of rock climbing lets you see the mountains in a whole new light.
3. Nourish Bistro
Alberta may be cattle country, but dare to break away from the herd. Choose classics like the Num Num Nachos (strawberries, dill pickles and cheddar included) or the nutty King Kong Noodles from the all-vegetarian menu. If you're upping your carbo-footprint for a cross-country ski tour, you can't go wrong with the gnocchi and sautéed veggies, or the Mac & Squeeze with quinoa noodles and a coconut and smoked paprika sauce.
211 Bear St., 403-760-3933, nourishbistro.com
4. White Mountain Adventures
Shredding through powder takes on a whole new meaning when you're snowshoeing across a glistening alpine plain. Straddling the Continental Divide at an elevation of 2,200 metres, Sunshine Meadows is surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies. And since you're above and beyond skiers' reach, you're pretty much guaranteed first tracks. (That's if you don't count the ones we saw made by the pine martens.)
5. Spray River Loop
Cross-country ski enthusiasts can choose from a network of impeccably groomed tracks of varying lengths and difficulty. The local favourite takes you over rolling hills along Spray River, and you can duke it out with a friend on the dedicated skate-skiing portion. Don't forget to bring cookies and hot chocolate; there's a picnic table by the bridge at the six-kilometre halfway point where the trail crosses the river.
Access Fairmont Banff Springs or Bow Falls day-use area.
3 good reasons to head indoors
Recover your mojo at Whitebark Cafe with the town's meanest espresso. Call ahead to check the schedule for its free coffee tastings.
Banff Aspen Lodge, 401 Banff Ave., 403-760-7298, whitebarkcafe.com
Thank goodness there's all-day breakfast at the Wild Flour bakery; the frittata sandwich and the mixed fruit and almond crumble, served with steamed milk, hit the spot any time.
211 Bear St., 403-760-5074, wildflourbakery.ca
Siona Gartshore blends some 35 out of more than 100 loose-leaf teas at Banff Tea Co. Warm up with the daily sample – Scottish caramel pu-erh on our stop – while choosing an assortment to bring back home.
208 Caribou St., 403-762-8322, banffteaco.com