Other winter activities include ice skating, dog sledding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.
The drive between Calgary airport and Banff or Lake Louise is on major highways the entire way - if you happen to land and drive during or immediately after a snowstorm, road conditions may not be great, but the route is a major one and maintained regularly.
Re: Lake Louise vs. Banff - this TA article compares them, along with other locations: tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g154910-c14815/Banff-N… It's written more about summer visiting, but the same principles apply: if you want nightlife, town amenities and a lot of choices for dining and accommodation, choose Banff.
If you do decide to drive, make sure you ask your car rental company for winter tires. While they are only mandatory on certain roads inside the National Park, they really are necessary especially if we have any snowfall while you are here.
As krp329 mentioned above, there are a variety of activities other than skiing available in the Lake Louise area. Another activity worth mentioning is snowmobiling; however, the companies are all located outside of Banff National Park so it would require a short drive if you decided to do this. Two resorts in the area also offer tubing which would be a fun alternative to skiing.
The town of Banff offers dining and nightlife, hot springs, museums/galleries, and a lively atmosphere. Lake Louise offers more of a peaceful mountain escape. The drive between the two takes about 45 minutes.
Hope you enjoy your visit to Banff National Park!
From Lake Louise, as long as the weather is good, Emerald Lake and Canmore are easy day trips. To Canmore is about 60 minutes, depending on traffic and roads - I'll probably be doing that commute this weekend to hit the slopes. Usually plenty of free parking and a fun winter atmosphere that's less touristy. BTW, snowmobiling is not allowed in most provincial park areas either, so it's likely more than a short drive- i.e. out to Golden area or to crown land in the Kananaskis area. Tubing is a great suggestion.
To Emerald Lake is probably closer to 45 minutes - you want to do this during daylight and in good weather because it requires going through Kicking Horse Pass where the road is not divided and also up the side road to Emerald Lake. Because it's in BC, M+S tires at a minimum would be required for the drive.
The lake is great in winter - there's a little shop/rental store there where you can rent xc skis and snowshoes as well as get snacks & fun stuff including a eclectic selection of gifts, crafts & second hand books.. You do have to be aware of the rental hours - 10-4pm weekends, 12-4pm weekdays. Please note that the winter trails go across the lake on the left side (as you face the lake) - there's a major avalanche slide path across the summer paved trail, so it's not safe to walk around the lake that way. You need to snowshoe/xc ski on the lake to bypass that section. The folks at the shop can help you with trail selection.
Note that Lake Louise Ski Resort offers guided snowshoe tours each day - look on their website. You can rent gear right at the resort, so it's an easy way to get out if you have little or no experience.
If you're considering the drive to Emerald Lake Lodge - which is drop dead beautiful in the winter, consider going about 45 minutes past Emerald Lake/ Field B.C. to just outside of Golden B.C., where you will find this -> www.northernlightswildlife.com/index.php. Check out the BlackWolf photo walks - absolutely amazing. I recommend this tour to all my friends who are visiting the area. A little on the pricey side, but we ARE talking puny Canadian pesos vs. big ole U.S. dollars. I've done the tour in the winter time, and it was one of the most memorable days I've ever spent in the mountains. just a suggestion...
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