Month by Month
Snow Days, January
Canada Day, July
Canmore Highland Games, September
Jasper Dark Sky Festival, October
Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival, November
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 blocks of ice.
Jasper in January
Jasper’s atmospheric winter festival hosts plenty of family-friendly events, including activities such as cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, skating and a chili cook-off.
Snow sculptures, block parties, snow-sliding events, big-name bands and a huge game of street hockey characterize Banff's celebration of all things snowy.
Little has changed in the mountains by March: snow and ice still cloak the landscape, and bears are still in hibernation mode, with the spring thaw still many weeks away.
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.
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.
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.
Live music lights up the mountaintop as the sun goes down over Sulphur Mountain; concerts (free with purchase of a gondola ticket) are held nightly at the top of the Banff Gondola between late June and early September (www.banffjaspercollection.com/attractions/banff-gondola/events).
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, Jasper and Canmore on July 1.
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.
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.
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.
Jasper Heritage Rodeo
Since 1926 bull-riders, steer-wrestlers and calf-ropers have been congregating in Jasper for this annual hoedown and rodeo (www.facebook.com/jasperheritagerodeo), held in early to mid-August.
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 Banff and Jasper, making it one of the most spectacular seasons for hiking – especially now the summer crowds have left. Days remain warm, but nights are getting chilly.
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).
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.
The seasonal interval between the end of summer and the start of the ski season mean less crowds, lower hotel rates and darker night skies for Jasper's favorite festival.
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 planetarium featuring visiting astronomers and astronauts.
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.
Banff Craft Beer Festival
Alberta's best microbreweries team up with Banff's finest pubs and restaurants at this annual food and drink festival at Cave and Basin National Historic Site (www.albertabeerfestivals.com/festivals/banff-craft-beer-festival).
Banff Christmas Market
Banff jump-starts its holiday season with this Christmas-focused event spanning two weekends in late November. Carols, stories and Santa visits entertain the kids, while grown-ups shop for handcrafted gifts, enjoy live music and sip adult beverages from Banff's local distillery (www.banffchristmasmarket.com).
The ski season is getting underway, with snow descending from the mountaintops to the slopes of Banff's Big Three (Sunshine, Mt Norquay and Lake Louise), Jasper's Marmot Basin and Kananaskis Country's Nakiska.
Throughout December, kids enjoy free pre-noon rides on the Banff Gondola, followed by mountaintop visits with Santa, cookie decorating, gift-making and Christmas movie fun.