When it comes to vertical relief, dramatic mountains, and world-class skiing and snowboarding, perhaps no place in North America is more impressive than the Canadian Rockies and specifically, the three resorts surrounding Banff.
What To Expect
When traveling to the Canadian Rockies, the first thing any traveler will notice is how the three premiere ski resorts lie within the Banff National Park domain. Unlike in the United States, where national parks almost entirely forbid ski area development, Canada actually allows lifts and world-class resort skiing within park boundaries. Pretty nice, eh?
In addition to picturesque positioning beneath legendary mountains like Mt Robson, Mt Rundle, and Mt Assiniboine, the town of Banff hosts a plethora of lodging options and offers easy access from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) via a stunning hour and a half drive from the high plains into the mountains via the Trans Canada Highway. Once there, visitors can revel in Banff’s beautiful downtown, which offers everything from gondola accessed fine dining to one-of-a-kind off-mountain activities for the whole family.
One thing to keep in mind is that a park entrance fee is required for every vehicle coming into the park. For one day, the entrance fee is $20 for a family or group. You can also buy an annual pass for a group that is $139.40, making seven days the break even point.
You can find a complete layout of the Banff National Park entrance fees here.
The mountains themselves, Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Mt Norquay offer everything from long groomers to some of the steepest inbounds terrain in North America (see Delirium Dive), making Banff a must-visit for beginner and veteran skiers alike.
Those who struggle with altitude will be delighted to know that the highest base area is Sunshine Village, which lies approximately 5,466 feet above sea level. After skiing, revel in the lively downtown scene of Banff or relax at the world-famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
When booking a Banff ski vacation or any ski trip for that matter, it’s important to remember that traveling during the winter can prove difficult. Flight delays, cancellations, and road closures are common. It’s all part of the ski-trip experience.
When something does go wrong, Ski.com’s Mountain Travel Experts will do their absolute best to help get clients to their destination and into the fresh snow as quickly and safely as possible.
WHEN TO GO
Banff and specifically Lake Louise and Sunshine Village offer some of the longest ski seasons in all of North America. Typically, their season starts in early-mid November and lasts well into May.
In a typical year, mid-winter months of January and February bring frigid temps and clear skies with plenty of sunshine. The result is picture-perfect corduroy that pervades the slopes in between storms.
WHERE TO GO
Lake Louise is the largest and most storied ski area of Banff’s SkiBig3. The resort itself is served by a gondola ride that delivers skiers and riders to the upper reaches of the mountain in just 14 minutes. From there, experts can drop into the back bowls or explore the vast and abundant groomers on the front side of the mountain.
Besides skiing, Lake Louise offers ice skating on its namesake lake as well as snowshoe tours and a variety of other off-mountain adventures. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is also home to a luxurious spa for those looking to relax.
Daily shuttles depart from a series of hotels in Banff before taking skiers and riders the 40 minutes to the hill, making commuting to/from the ski hill a cinch.
You can find the Banff > Lake Louise bus schedule here.
- Average Annual Snowfall — 150″
- Vertical Drop — 3,250′
- Skiable Acreage — 4,200 acres
- Lifts — 10
- Distance From Banff — 35 miles (56km)
At Sunshine Village the main attraction is powder. Located to the southeast of Lake Louise, Sunshine receives significantly more snowfall than the other two resorts in the Bow River Valley.
While headlines often capture Sunshine’s expert-only Delirium Dive, whose slope measures anywhere between 30-50 degrees, this ski area is also home to a great deal of rolling, beginner, and intermediate terrain that is perfect for families and first-timers.
You can find the Banff > Sunshine Village bus schedule here.
- Average Annual Snowfall — 360″
- Vertical Drop — 3,514′
- Skiable Acreage — 3,358 acres
- Lifts — 12
- Distance From Banff — 11 miles (18km)
The closest ski area to the town of Banff, Mt Norquay is a local’s favorite for its easy access, playful runs, and magnificent views of the iconic Mt Rundle that soars high above downtown.
On average, Norquay typically sees less snow than its two neighbors but it more than makes up for that fact via sophisticated snowmaking systems. In terms of skiing, Norquay is the perfect option for those looking to make some turns without having to travel the distances required by Lake Louise or Sunshine.
You can find the Banff > Mt Norquay bus schedule here.
- Average Annual Snowfall –118″
- Vertical Drop — 1,650′
- Skiable Acreage — 190 acres
- Lifts — 6
- Distance From Banff — 4.5 miles (7.5km)
FIND THE RIGHT DESTINATION – Banff – Lake Louise
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