Skiing in Banff National Park
Banff National Park is proud home to three challenging and outstanding ski resorts all within easy drive of the Banff townsite. You don’t necessarily have to drive to the hill as most hotels offer a ski bus to take you from the hotel to the mountain of your choosing and then back again at the end of a long day. Perfect, if you have indulged in a little après ski festivities!
- Lake Louise Mountain Resort seems to gain in reputation not just every year but every week. Likely the most well known, it hosts Men and Women’s world cup ski events every winter. Because of this, it is also the busiest and most touristy, a good or bad thing depending on your outlook. The scenery is gorgeous as is the terrain when there is fresh snow.
- A further indication of its growing popularity is that one of its hotels – The Relais & Chateaux Post Hotel & Spa was voted Number one ski hotel in North America by Conde Nast Traveler.
- Emma from skiing in Banff told us to be excited as “Last Saturday, we had the grand opening of our brand new terrain park, which is going to hold some awesome competitions this year.”
- Sunshine Village is located a few kilometers west of the Banff townsite. This mountain is known as the big improver. The hill has increased in quality and variety in recent years. As well as getting better lifts, it has increased in difficulty. It also receives more snow than the other two resorts and benefits from a higher elevation and a generally longer ski season. It is the only resort of the three to have on-hill accommodation, which is fantastic for when all you can manage is to roll yourself off the hill and straight into bed. Buffet breakfast is served in the lodge at the bottom of the gondola but there is not much else until lunchtime once you get to the top so make sure you eat well.
- Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVBLNEMKuMQ to see for yourself.
- Ski Norquay is the closest mountain to the Banff townsite and one of the favorites of the locals. The ski season is a little shorter at Norquay, because it is at a lower altitude than Sunshine and Lake Louise. Snowfall is less consistent but the trails here make up for it. They lean more towards steep and difficult, although there is still plenty of easy terrain. The Lodge is not great for breakfast but it is always good for lunch and beer on the deck. It can also brag that the aptly named Excaliber is North America’s steepest groomed piste.
- Norquay offers the only night skiing in Banff every Friday night. For a video, check out http://www.banffnorquay.com/
All the ski hills are busier on the weekends. Lake Louise can get a bit icier if it hasn’t snowed in a while but with fresh snow is hard to beat. Sunshine Village has gradually provided some competition with their new terrain and improvements however. In early winter especially, pay attention to how many runs are open and how much recent snow has been received in the snow reports – they are better indications of the conditions than the generic conditions ratings given by the hills. (They can’t all always be at least good!) If you only have a few hours and want to ski where the locals ski check out Ski Norquay, it has nice long open runs with great views of the town and is usually less busy.
* Ski Rentals:
If you want to ensure that you get your preferred equipment and sizes, book your equipment in advance. Apart from the regular three categories of equipment, you can also get an Elite Fleet of top end demo skis that will help you ski like a pro or at least look like a pro before getting on the slopes. They also offer professional custom boot-fitting services to create a truly realistic ski boot.