Skiing in Area; Dining OptionsMy hip is going out as a 60-year old, so most of my comments come from my sons, ages 21 and 13. They liked Sunshine better. Snow was better; skiing is at a higher elevation than Lake Louise. Further problem was lift lines at Lake Louise on Good Friday. Lots of people came up for the Easter holiday. We hadn't been counseled on places to dine, so we ended up staying at the Lake Louise Inn without a lot of dining options. There are far more dining options in Banff, approx. 30-45 minutes away. Beautiful drive on the TransCanada Highway though.
Lake Louise and Sunshine Village offer varietySunshine Village is a bit spread out as it encompasses 3 peaks so some advance planning to pick your way to a different area is do-able but can be tricky. Lake Louise's layout is very easy to negotiate with some very nice, long runs. The snow was a bit lacking when we were there (early/mid-March) which is apparently fairly normal. Being from Michigan we are used to icy, scraped conditions so we were somewhat at home on more than a few runs. We'd expected more powder than what we had.
The shuttle bus service that was included with our ski pass (provided by Brewster Transportation) was very well run and PROMPT. We never made it to Mt. Norquay, the locals told us that they didn't have enough snow to make it worth our while due to their lower elevation. Still overall a gorgeous place to ski
One of the best ski trips ever!The Lake Louise Ski Hill is a nice venue with a healthy mix of runs for all abilities. The back side was fun and some wide open bowl skiing that tested your mettle. Not so large, but plenty of runs and lifts to keep you going. The staff was very accommodating and helpful. We did not ski at either of the Banff resorts, so can't comment there. We did take time to spend a day of heliskiing with RK Heliskiing. They were great, with great guides, very professional and very safe. Watched after all the skiers and handled an emergency incident like pro's. Can't wait to go back!
Banff - RimRock Hotel / Lake Louise ResortRimrock Hotel: excellent rate for quality of room. Beautiful hotel and nice views but a little inconvenient to downtown of Banff - there is a free ROAM bus that comes by the hotel every 40 minutes so one needs to be mindful of the schedule and it's about a 10 minute bus ride to town. For transport to the ski resorts the hotel offers a complementary shuttle to the parking lot behind the Mount Royal hotel where a ski shuttle coach to Sunshine (20 minute drive) or Lake Louise (45 minute drive).
Equipment rental: Ultimate Ski & Ride. They will charge you for damage if you do not purchase the damage waiver and you must not accept skis unless they are in perfect condition. My husband rented high performance skis and they delivered them to the hotel several hours later. Being the end of the season they were a bit scratched up but the bottom of the skis were fine, also they had the bindings set differently for each ski which we remedied at the resort using the tools at the lifts. We are a not aggressive or reckless skiers and were careful to avoid pistes without a lot of coverage, we mainly ski blues and single diamond black runs. My husband grew up in Colorado and has skiied for over 40 years and is an accomplished skiier. When my husband returned the ski's the manager at the shop commented that the side of the ski had a small burr in it, my husband showed him the bottom which was fine and said the skis were not perfect when we got them. The manager said you must have hit something (which he did not) but couldn't explain how the bottoms were without any damage but a slight nick along the edge and he said he would have to speak to his technician. A few hours later he called to say he was charging us $52 for the repair. Since we live in Texas and only ski about 3 times a year my husband rents skis because of the convenience of not having to transport additional equipment and has never had an issue with any damage to skis in any US resort. Also, I did not have time to wax my skis before we left so I had them done at Ultimate Ski and they charge $60 for that.
Sunshine Resort: Runs too short and not a huge variety of terrain.
Lake Louise: Incredible views and even though it was not the best year in terms of conditions we could find pockets of powder. Off the Platter lift the you have to side step uphill for a little bit but the snow fences capture lots of fluffy snow that blows up the hill and on the backside, Boomerang bowl the snow was great, Paradise bowl was full of giant soft marshmallow bumps and Ptarmigan bowl snow also stayed nice. The front side of the mountain was best to be avoided in the morning since it was very icy, it was fine in the afternoon when it was a big slushy mess.
Food: The quality of the food at the resorts was not as good as US resorts and the variety limited along with being a bit more expensive. The food in towns was also more expensive than the usual ski resort prices in the US. We had dinner at the Eden the hotel restaurant and we expected that to be expensive but the experience was worth it to us. However with some of the more casual restaurants in town the prices were higher than expected for a resort and although the food was good, 2 of the restaurants ran out of our first menu choices.
Banff Great/Don't fly Air CanadaBanff is a great little village with plenty of apres ski activities. Lake Louise is a 1st class ski resort. Would have ski'ed Norquay and Sunshine if Air Canada had not lost our board and skis. Do not fly air canada unless you enjoy rental equipment, leaving late, arriving late, and driving in the dark. This was a short ski trip - arriving on Monday and leaving on Friday. None of our luggage arrived with us. Three out of four of our bags arrived Thursday morning. Our fourth bag, my suitcase did not arrive at all so I wore the same clothes all week. We spent $800 buying gloves, goggles, thermals, jacket, boarding pants. Still trying to get reimbursed. On flight back, we left with 3 bags and arrived in Toronto with 2 bags, arrived in Boston with 1 bag. It seems that the standard operating procedure for Air Canada is to not include your baggage on your flight. And we were not alone. Air Canada ruined what would have been an outstanding vacation. Again I say, DO NOT FLY AIR CANADA.
Truly a unique experience!We stayed at Banff and Lake Louise and skied both areas. That's the way to go! Each area is fabulous and unique. Lake Louise has some of the best and most interesting runs I've ever been on. Great for intermediate and advanced skiers. Sunshine has some excellent terrain above tree line, great powder fields. The town of Banff has some of the best shopping and dining in all of ski country. We stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, both in very dramatic settings and both with their own unique charm. Best of all, this area tends to be overrun with tourists and expensive during the summer, but in the winter is not nearly as crazy and is very reasonable. There are no ski in/ski out hotels in this area, but the liveliness of Banff and the beauty of Lake Louise make up for it!
Sunshine Mountain LodgeThis unique resort is the one and only ski-in and ski-out property in the Banff area. Located mid mountain on Sunshine Mountain this older property has been totally renovated. The rooms are on the small side, but really nice with every amenity one would require. This unique property is only accesible via the gondola or by specially equipped vehicles with snowmobile type traks. The views are incredible and you can't get any closer to the slopes! This property is recommended for the adventurous spirit that wants to ski and doesn't require much night life.
Unique Ski Vacation ExperienceBanff is unlike any other resort you will visit, in that there is NO slopeside lodging. All lodging is located 5 to 40 minutes from the slopes depending upon which of the 3 areas you want to ski.
That being said, the town of Banff has a wonderful charm to it. Downtown Banff is lined with wonderful restaurants and shopping. And since winter is the off-season, you can always find a deal on lodging!