FRESH TRACKS

Ski re­sort in­sider guide: Banff, Lake Louise, Kananaskis & Jasper

Where Canadian Rockies - - FRONT PAGE - By Where Staff

For nearly a cen­tury, skiers and board­ers have flocked to the alpine par­adise of the Canadian Rock­ies’ ski re­sorts. No won­der. Ours is a land where peaks out­num­ber peo­ple and the ski sea­son is longer than any other in the coun­try.

The im­pres­sive wilder­ness of Canada’s Moun­tain Parks (Banff and Jasper na­tional parks, and Kananaskis Pro­vin­cial Park) boasts an en­vi­able com­bi­na­tion of tree lined and open bowl ter­rain, high-speed lifts and on-hill ameni­ties that sum­mon skiers and board­ers from around the world.

The re­gion is home to five Al­berta ski ar­eas (the two BC re­sorts that of­fer Banff shut­tles are noted on p 20). Be­low, lo­cal ski en­thu­si­asts dish out in­sider de­tails to make your visit mem­o­rable.

BANFF NA­TIONAL PARK

Set in a UNESCO World Her­itage site, Mount Norquay, Sun­shine Vil­lage and Lake Louise are Banff’s Big 3. Tri-area multi-day lift passes with ski bus and op­tional lessons can be pur­chased at Banff Ski Hub (119 Banff Ave, 403-762-4754).

LAKE LOUISE SKI RE­SORT, crowned ‘Best Ski Re­sort in Canada’ at the 2013 World Travel Awards, is the Canadian Rock­ies’ largest. It lies north of the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 across from Lake Louise Vil­lage, 40 min­utes west of the Banff town­site (Map 2, 22E; 1-877-956-8473).

The Lake fea­tures a 991-m/3,250-ft ver­ti­cal rise, four moun­tain faces and so many slopes that skiers can find some sun-lit at all times of day. Ride the Griz­zly Ex­press Gon­dola from the base to an up­per ridge. From mid moun­tain, the re­gion’s only six-per­son high-speed chair­lift (the 6-Pack) rises to the Sad­dle. All our ski ar­eas of­fer child­care, but only Lake Louise hosts in­fants from 18 days old. The Learn­ing & Adventure Cen­tre has three be­gin­ner magic car­pets.

The Lake boasts 10 lifts, 145 marked runs and bowls and some of the best fall line ski­ing any­where. Novice to ad­vanced routes from ev­ery chair make the en­tire re­sort ac­ces­si­ble to all. Pow­der hounds find back­side White­horn slopes, Ea­gle Ridge 1 to 7 runs and Ptarmi­gan Glades es­pe­cially sweet. Ac­cess lifts a half hour be­fore open­ing with a First Tracks Pri­vate Les­son ($99 for 90 min­utes). Ter­rain and jib parks in­clude a Big Air Bag where ex­perts test stunts.

Down­load the Lake Louise Ski Re­sort App to track runs, el­e­va­tion gain, speed and prox­im­ity to lodges. Adult tick­ets are $89.

SUN­SHINE VIL­LAGE is Canada’s high­est ski re­sort, only 8 km/5 mi west of the Banff town­site via Hwy 1 (Map 1, 10A; 1-877-542-2633). It boasts the Rock­ies’ long­est ski sea­son, this year to May 18. From the base, the world’s

fastest eight-pas­sen­ger gon­dola, six high-speed quads and five other lifts rise to the vil­lage. A new lift (with heated seats!) de­buts next year. Built on three moun­tains with a 1,070-m/3,514ft ver­ti­cal rise, many of Sun­shine’s 107 runs are above tree line with views to 80 km/50 mi; look south to Mt Assini­boine, Canada’s Mat­ter­horn. Begin­ners ski Straw­berry while cruisers on Bound­ary Bowl ski in both Al­berta and BC. Free rid­ers tackle “Canada’s most ex­treme off-piste” on Delir­ium Dive and Wild West; an avalanche trans­ceiver, probe and shovel are re­quired (rentals at Snowtips, p 68). Adult tick­ets are $89. MOUNT NORQUAY is the Canadian Rock­ies’ orig­i­nal ski area (est. 1926), just 10 min­utes north of down­town Banff via Norquay Rd over Hwy 1 (Map 3, 10B; 403-762-4421). Norquay has a ver­ti­cal rise of 503 m/1,650 ft, 28 runs, six lifts (the be­gin­ner Spirit chair has a new load­ing con­veyor) and Canada’s orig­i­nal dou­ble black slope. Lo­cals go for a half-day break from work. Norquay is owned by ski en­thu­si­asts who cher­ish the re­sort’s fam­ily-friendly char­ac­ter. World Cup gold medal­ist Ken Read is in­volved, and Giver Grandi run honours Banff Olympian Thomas Grandi. This is the only place in Al­berta’s Rock­ies to of­fer night ski­ing and ter­rain park use (Fri-Sat, Jan-Mar). Adult tick­ets are $65. Al­berta res­i­dents can ski for just $2 on Toonie Days (Jan 14, Feb 11, Mar 11, Apr 8). All-in­clu­sive tick­ets (ski­ing, tub­ing, sight­see­ing) are $75.

KANANASKIS PRO­VIN­CIAL PARK

NAKISKA SKI AREA be­tween Banff and Cal­gary, south of Hwy 1 via Hwy 40, was built to host the 1988 Olympics (Map 1, 8I; 403-5917777). Beau­ti­ful Kananaskis Val­ley views abound and Kananaskis Vil­lage is only min­utes away. Nakiska has a 779-m/2,556-ft ver­ti­cal rise and ex­ten­sive snow­mak­ing. Long runs and nightly groom­ing make it a carv­ing favourite. Be­gin­ner zones are self-con­tained; the new Home­steader By­pass of­fers easy ac­cess to the base area. Mon­ster Glades of­fer the best pow­der stashes; ride the Sil­ver quad to see ter­rain park trick­sters. This sea­son there’s an ex­panded ticket area and an ad­di­tional park­ing lot. Adult tick­ets are $75.

JASPER NA­TIONAL PARK

MAR­MOT BASIN is 20 min­utes south of the Jasper town­site (Map 1, 4M; 1-866-952-3816). From Lake Louise, take the 237-km/147-mi Ice­fields Park­way along the Con­ti­nen­tal Divide with 100 glaciers and abun­dant wildlife (call 511 for road con­di­tions). Moun­tain Con­nec­tor (1-888786-3641) of­fers a bus to Jasper from Cal­gary, Banff and Ed­mon­ton; Mar­mot’s ski bus de­parts Jasper town­site lo­ca­tions three times daily. Mar­mot is home to mogul Olympic medal­ist and World Cup Cham­pion Jen­nifer Heil. The moun­tain is un­crowded; lift lines are vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent. In the past five years, three new chairs have brought the to­tal to seven lifts,

in­clud­ing the Canadian Rock­ies Ex­press, the re­gion’s long­est high-speed quad. Mar­mot boasts 1,675 acres, a 914-m/3,000-ft ver­ti­cal rise and 86 runs, glades and high alpine bowls framed by im­pres­sive pin­na­cles and ridges. Snow­mak­ing, ter­rain park and learn­ing ar­eas are lower moun­tain fea­tures. On the up­per moun­tain, ride the Knob chair to find pow­der. Cross gates to Ea­gle East glades, hike 10 min­utes to Cor­nice Run or take Keefer’s Dream to the ‘hid­den’ gate on skier’s left. Mar­mot’s Snow Host pro­gram is a sure way to find pow­der stashes. Get a free My Mar­mot card with di­rect-to-lift tick­ets at 10% off at ski­mar­mot.com. Passes, lessons and rentals in ad­vance are at Mar­mot Sales Cen­tre (p 115). Adult tick­ets are $85.50.

Mar­mot Basin is un­crowded and has room to ex­plore.

Mount Norquay (est. 1926) is the Canadian Rock­ies’ orig­i­nal ski area. Lake Louise is the 2013 World Travel Awards ‘Best Ski Re­sort in Canada.’ Sun­shine Vil­lage is Canada’s high­est ski re­sort.

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