Photo: Tomas Kulaja/Shutterstock

How to Plan a Banff Winter Weekend to Get Pumped for the New Year

Banff Wellness Ski and Snow
by Suzie Dundas Nov 28, 2022

The start of a new year may be exciting for some people, but for others, it’s stressful, or even depressing. It’s another year where perhaps you haven’t achieved all you wanted, or maybe yet another year in which you didn’t make that career change you were thinking about or didn’t move across the country to the dream small town you’ve always wanted to live in.

But hey — that’s okay. If you spent the last year feeling like you were just “getting by,” give yourself a break. Finding happiness day-to-day, being a good and helpful person, and maintaining a job and friendships is no small feat. So if that’s  “all” you accomplished in 2022, that’s still a huge success.

But let’s say you do want 2023 to be your year — the year where you are going to take a risk and make a big move. That’s going to be hard to with without something to push you to take that final step — and a super-active outdoor weekend focused on health, building confidence, and taking smaller risks may be just what you need to help you take a much bigger risk.

I planned a Banff winter wellness to kick off the new year last year, and it was super helpful for getting me excited and feeling good about the coming year. These are TK tips I learned about planning a long weekend totally focused on gaining the confidence and excitement needed to make 2023 the year of you. 

Pick the right winter destination

Choosing the right winter destination is key to a good wellness weekend. Sunrise shot of poeple walking in Banff

Photo: Banff Lake Louise/Noel Hendrickson

This part is tricky, since it depends on so many factors. I chose to do a Banff winter trip, because it ticked plenty of the boxes I was looking for: it’s relatively easy for me to reach, it was a place with intense weather that posed a bit of a new challenge, it has enough recreation that it was easy to find an activity I had never tried before, and it had a variety of indulgent experiences (like hotels, spas, and high-end restaurants) that it was easy to practice self-love — something else critical to feeling strong enough to make big changes.

If you don’t want to do a Banff winter trip, you could consider another Canadian town closer to you. You definitely want to go somewhere you haven’t been, and ideally, somewhere with a climate or geography that will force you to challenge yourself physically. Miami is quite nice in December, but it’s not exactly a challenge to sit on the beach all day. Personally, I think it’s best to choose a winter destination to show yourself that winter can be a time for big change and big decisions,instead of picking a warm-weather destination that may make you think “well, maybe I won’t bother making any big life changes until summer 2023 rolls around…”

Do something that scares you

ice climbing on a banff weekend focused on wellness. Person in red jacket on ice column

Photo: Suzie Dundas

Or if it doesn’t scare you, at least make sure it’s a challenge. For my challenging new adventure, I chose ice climbing. Though I’ve rock climbed plenty, I’ve never done it in freezing-cold weather, climbing up columns of ice using sharp, metal picks. It’s a physical challenge and is not for the faint-hearted. However, it can be an exhilarating experience for those who are up for the challenge.

The best part is that anyone can ice climb, and it’s really, really easy to tell when you’re making progress: each time you climb a foot higher or manage to stay on the frozen waterfall for a minute longer, you’re developing your skills. Ice climbing — one of the most popular Banff winter activities — is a really good way to show yourself that you can learn new skills in just a few hours, which will hopefully give you the confidence to feel successful about trying something new in 2023.

And even if you barely manage to climb at all, just putting yourself out there and signing up to do something that scares you will lead to a confidence boost. And that’s a fact: several studies have shown that overcoming fear boosts confidence. And fear is relative, so as long as you feel like you’ve done something outside of your comfort zone, you’re doing it right.

If you want to do a Banff winter ice climbing trip, go with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. They can also recommend other guides and companies across Canada. If you’re doing a trip outside of Canada, looking for climbing schools or hiking guides in the area and ask them for recommendations. Companies like 57Hours can also help you find local guides for day trips.

Work in meditation or another brain exercise

close up of person doing yoga and meditation

Photo: Fizkes/Shutterstock

Even if it sounds cheesy or non-scientific, it’s worth spending at least a few hours on your get-ready-for-2023 weekend strengthening your brain and learning to center your thoughts and focus — something especially helpful if it feels like you can never turn your brain off.

Meditation is a practice in which an individual trains the mind and body to be more aware of their thoughts and feelings. It has been proven to help with mental clarity, focus, anxiety, and depression, so it’s a really helpful practice for controlling your stress and negative thoughts as you go into 2023. There are many different types of meditation practices including mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, yoga nidra, and vipassana.

During my Banff winter trip, I took a yoga class at a new studio focused on controlling one’s ever-wandering brain. But I also considered a forest bathing walk which, while it does seem a little cheesy, is something many people swear by — and hey, trying something new was the point of the weekend.

Even if you normally scoff at yoga and mental wellness, put that aside during your weekend and force yourself to try something new. According to Yoga Journal, just five minutes of mediation a day in 2023 could give you the confidence and calmness to seize 2023 by the metaphorical horns.

Do something just because it’s fun

Person in purple jacket ice skating on a banff winter weekend because it's fun

Photo: Suzie Dundas

During your weekend, be sure to do something fun you already know you’re good at. It’s important to make time for fun in 2023 and there’s absolutely no shame in doing an activity just because you enjoy it — not everything you spend your time on has to have a bigger goal. During my Banff winter wellness weekend, I spent a day snowboarding at Lake Louise, a resort I’d always wanted to go to, and stopped to go ice skating on frozen Lake Louise on the way home. There was no goal other than “have a good time,” which is an especially good goal to balance out the new, likely more challenging activities you’ll be packing into the weekend.

Have a guilt-free meal

Close up of fondue and potatoes

Photo: Ekaterina Iatcenko/Shutterstock

You may think a wellness weekend means only eating organic, cutting out sugar, and detoxing with kale smoothies. But a big part of wellness is self-love, and that means loving yourself and not feeling bad if you have a high-calorie or unhealthy meal. While this is especially true for women, more than half of whom already feel bad about their bodies by age 13, it’s an important thought for everyone to keep in mind.

Yes, it’s good to generally eat healthy foods. But you don’t have to constantly deny yourself of everything that isn’t a leafy green. As long as you eat healthy most of the time, having a decadent meal once in a while is just fine. So on your winter wellness weekend, order whatever you want, and don’t feel bad about for one second. And if guilty thoughts start to creepy in, channel the meditation skills you just learned to quickly banish the thoughts.

If you happen to be doing a Canadian wellness weekend, I particularly loved Hello Sunshine Sushi (which has private karaoke rooms) and Farm & Fire (both in Banff), and Il Caminetto is one of the best Italian restaurants at any Canadian ski town (in Whistler).

Dedicated time to caring for your body

Two people relaxing in a hot spring during a banff winter wellness weekend

Photo: Banff Lake Louise/Noel Hendrickson

If you’ve had an active weekend, prioritize an activity to care for your body. After all, if you’re going to make big changes in 2023, you’ll probably encounter some stress and sleepless nights, which can be tough on your physical health. So practice prioritizing your body now, keeping it healthy and functional for the new year. As someone who is over 30 and leads an active lifestyle, I can tell you that having a pain-free body makes everything in life a lot easier, from sitting at a computer desk to running errands.

Depending on where you go, this activity could be different. Massages at upscale spas are always nice but often pricey, so alternate activities could include soaking in a hot spring, treating yourself to a lengthy aromatic bubble bath in your hotel, or trying something new, like reiki healing. Not to encourage Canadian travel too much, but if you do happen to choose a Canadian town for your trip, you be able to visit a nearby Scandinave Spa and try a nordic spa experience (usually under $100 US).

Leave time for nothing

Feet and furry socks against a window

Photo: Svetlana Lukienko/Shutterstock

There’s a common misconception that doing nothing will make you lazy, unmotivated, and unproductive. However, it’s actually the opposite. By taking breaks and letting your mind wander, you can actually find new ideas, solve problems more effectively, and be more creative. So leave time for that on your trip. On my Banff winter weekend, I spent a few mornings just walking around town with a coffee, not particularly doing anything. I went to a local art museum, and found what I considered the best poutine food in Banff. None of that advanced my career, built my confidence, or even resulted in any real person gain — but it gave me time to physically and mentally wander in between the more active adventures.

Don’t forget that after you get back from your trip, you’ll still need to prioritize time for nothingness. It doesn’t really matter what nothing is, be it window shopping, walking your dog, or sunset walks around the neighborhood, as long as you have time to yourself for judgement-free thinking.

Pick the right date

If you’re planning on seizing the day come January 1, plan your winter wellness /get-pumped-for-the-future weekend as soon as possible. But if there’s a specific date in the new year when something big is going to happen — for example, the day you’re going to move to a new city, the day you plan to quit your job, or the first day of you going back to school as an adult, plan your trip for about six weeks before that. That way, you’ll still have the trip fresh in your mind, but you’ll have a few weeks before the big jump to focus at home (or pack, if you’re moving). It’s best not to plan a busy trip full of new activities just before making a big life change (unless you love being stressed, that is).

By the way, picking the right date also means picking the right person. Either go by yourself (which can be challenge unto itself if you’re shy) or go with someone who has similar wellness goals in mind. Otherwise, it’d be too easy to get distracted and make it into more of a party weekend than a self-discovery weekend. 

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