Banff Summer Arts Festival, August
North American Indian Days, July
Jasper Dark Sky Festival, October
Snow Days, January
Canmore Highland Games, September
Chilly temperatures and crisp snow transform the mountains into an eerily quiet white wilderness, except for the slopes around Banff and Jasper, which are crammed with skiers and snowboarders.
During this annual competition, held in January at the Fairmont Lake Louise, teams of ice carvers battle it out to create sculptures fashioned from 136kg (300lb) blocks of ice.
BanffLake Louise Winter Festival
This winter-themed knees-up has been an institution in Banff since 1916. Street parades, sled competitions and ski contests hit town in January and February, and there’s always a big party to wrap up the celebrations.
Jasper in January
Jasper’s atmospheric winter festival hosts plenty of family-friendly events, including cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, skating and a chili cook-off.
Block parties, snow-sliding events, big-name bands and a huge game of street hockey characterize this celebration of all things snowy in downtown Banff.
Winter holds the mountains in an icy grip, with frequent snowfalls and sub-zero temperatures still the norm.
Canmore Winter Carnival
This boisterous festival attempts to raise the winter spirits with log-sawing, ice-carving and beard-growing contests, but the Trapper’s Ball is the highlight.
Little has changed in the mountains by March: snow and ice still cloak the landscape, with the spring thaw still months away.
Mushers and husky teams compete to claim the fastest time at this annual dog-sledding competition held in Polebridge, MT.
Jasper Pride Festival
Wrap yourself in a rainbow flag and hit the ski slopes for this four-day LGBT–themed party (www.jasperpride.ca). Save time and energy to hit the town afterwards for special outdoor events, film screenings and – to cap it all off – a drag show.
Late April sees the first hints of spring – snowmelt at lower elevations and the odd warm sunny day – but don’t put away the balaclava just yet.
Big Mountain Ski Annual Furniture Races
Settees with skis, beds on sleds and even improvised toilets take to the slopes in this zany downhill furniture race at Montana's Whitefish Mountain Resort in April.
The snows finally begin to thaw and spring creeps into the Rockies in mid- to late May. It’s still cold though; most lakes stay frozen until June.
Canmore Children’s Festival
Pageantry, puppet shows, workshops and magic displays keep young minds entertained at this children’s party (www.canmorechildrensfestival.com).
Summer settles in by July, and everyone starts to look forward to long days of hiking, cycling and other outdoor activities. Colorful blooms blanket mountain meadows, and most trails are open.
Food booths, fireworks and outdoor concerts take place beneath the maple-leaf flag in a hot flush of patriotic pride. Look out for ebullient street processions in Banff and Jasper on July 1.
North American Indian Days
The largest of several celebrations held on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation throughout the year, this July event has displays of traditional drumming and dancing, and the crowning of the year’s Miss Blackfeet.
Canmore Folk Festival
Top folk acts descend on Canmore for this lively music festival (www.canmorefolkfestival.com), held every year since 1978 over the Heritage Weekend. The main stage is in Centennial Park, but there are extra gigs at many cafes and bars around town, too.
The warmest month of the year coincides with a host of special events, as well as the Rockies’ busiest tourist season. The weather is mostly hot and dry, but watch out for thunderstorms.
Banff Summer Arts Festival
Culture takes center stage for this month-long showcase of artistic activity at the Banff Centre, hosting everything from opera, theater and street performance to art exhibitions. It kicks off in late July and runs through August.
Jasper Heritage Rodeo
Since 1926 bull-riders, steer-wrestlers and calf-ropers have been congregating in Jasper for this annual hoedown and rodeo (www.jasperheritagerodeo.com), held in mid-August.
Banff Dragon Boat Festival
Crews paddle elaborately carved dragon boats across Lake Minnewanka in this exciting boat race, while spectators cheer them on from the lakeshore.
Doors Open Banff
Visitors are invited to explore some of Banff Town’s historic monuments and heritage buildings, with special guided tours run by the Whyte Museum.
Fall brings a blaze of color to the mountain parks, making it one of the most spectacular seasons for hiking – especially now the summer crowds have left for home. Days remain warm, but the nights are getting chilly.
Banff International String Quartet Competition
A world-famous contest for the cream of the world’s classical string quartets, held at the Banff Centre every three years.
Canmore Highland Games
Canmore celebrates its Scottish roots with a day of caber-tossing, piping, drumming, sheepdog trials and a traditional ceilidh to round things off (www.canmorehighlandgames.ca).
Lake Louise Fall Festival
Lake Louise hosts a series of events to mark the arrival of fall when its famous larch trees turn a mellow shade of yellow. Happenings include guided walks and photography exhibitions, and many local restaurants present special fall-themed menus.
Winter is knocking on the door in November, which usually sees the first snowfall of the season and the opening of some of the area’s higher ski resorts.
Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival
Since the mid-1970s, this seven-day film and literature festival (www.banffcentre.ca/mountainfestival) has celebrated the spirit of mountain adventure through films, videos, readings and lectures.
This Banff street party is popular with the snowboarding and winter-sports crowd, and includes the Ski Big Three Rail Jam and Santa’s Parade of Lights.
The seasonal interval between the end of summer and the start of the ski season mean less crowds and lower hotel rates.
Jasper Dark Sky Festival
Introduced in 2011, this annual event (www.jasperdarksky.travel) celebrates Jasper's status as a Dark Sky Preserve with classical concerts under the stars and talks at the new planetarium from visiting astronomers and astronauts.
The summer season is usually underway by mid-June, with ski areas reopening to host warm-weather activities such as climbing, hiking and cycling. Alpine flower meadows unfurl their first blooms in late June.
Waterton Wildflower Festival
This nine-day event (www.watertonwildflowers.com) in Alberta's 'hidden secret' park is over a decade old and offers photography workshops and guided walks through the freshly carpeted flower meadows, with accompanying experts identifying the various species.