Know COVID protocols at area's ski resorts before heading out
It's first-come, first-served at Sunshine Village. The Banff resort isn't taking reservations for time on the mountain right now, and the rules are straightforward. Once the parking lot fills up, there's no parking on the access road and you'll have to grab a shuttle bus from Banff to ride up the gondola and then rip down the mountain. Getting to Sunshine early or visiting on an off-day — not Saturday, essentially — is the best way to guarantee you can take in all the resort has to offer.
There's a lot to be excited about on the mountain, though. After getting absolutely dumped on a week ago, Sunshine saw a further 9 cm of snow fall in the past week and the season total is now at 471 cm.
All that powder is going to be enticing for any skier and snowboarder, but it's also important to do some homework and read the Sunshine's COVID-19 safety protocols. In keeping with provincial regulations, the only food options are grab-and-go. There are warming shelters set up around the mountain, but no food and beverage service provided in those spaces.
You're going to need to wear masks on lifts, in lineups and anytime you're indoors or unable to socially distance. www.skibanff.com @Sunshinevillage
If you're planning on spending a beautiful early-january day ripping down the sweet slopes at Lake Louise, you're going to need to reserve your lift ticket in advance. It's true that the resort will be selling day tickets on days where it's not at capacity, but why risk getting turned away? Pro-tip: That's especially important for Saturdays, when the crowds are significantly larger than they are mid-week.
But if you're going to do the smart thing and spend a few minutes reading up on the extensive safety protocols that have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Lake Louise, you might as well just reserve your tickets so you can drive out to the Banff National Park resort without having to worry about whether you might get turned away.
Conditions on the mountain are terrific, too, as the 7 cm of new snow that fell in the last week has brought the season total to 337 cm. Looking at the forecast, there's more powder on the way, too. www.skilouise.com
Like so many of resorts across the province, Nakiska has been constantly updating its safety protocols to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We really can't emphasize enough how important it is to take some time to familiarize yourself with what to expect at the resort before every visit, because the policies really are evolving and changing constantly.
Early in the season, for example, Nakiska was only selling lift tickets in advance and online. That's changed now, and lift tickets can be purchased at the resort, but they're still recommending the online option because it guarantees you a place on the mountain and there's a limited number of tickets available on any given day.
The colder temperatures that have descended on the region are perfect for Nakiska's substantial snow-making facilities, and the Kananaskis resort also got 2 cm of new snowfall in the last week and has seen 155 cm fall so far this season. www.skinakiska.com
Opportunities to get outside and enjoy the winter are few and far between right now, especially if not everyone in your family knows how to ski or snowboard. Fortunately, Norquay's got you covered if you're in that situation. The Banff resort's incredible tubing park opened a couple weeks ago and boasts the longest lanes in Alberta.
Capacity is limited and guests do need to book their time in advance, which is also true of getting a lift ticket to ski or snowboard at Norquay.
Like every other resort in the Snow Scene section, it's imperative that guests heading to Norquay take time to review COVID-19 protocols before making their way west. A lot of it is what you'd expect — mandatory face coverings, social distancing — but it's essential to know what to expect.
Norquay saw 6 cm of new snow fall in the past week and 184 cm so far this season. www.banffnorquay.com @Mtnorquay
As of now, Marmot Basin is still allowing guests to buy their lift tickets on-site. If you're driving up to Jasper from the Calgary area, though, it makes sense just to buy your tickets in advance and online. That allows you to familiarize yourself with the resort's COVID-19 protocols, too, which is definitely a good idea before you visit and ski and snowboard area.
All the normal mask requirements are in place in indoor spaces and on lifts — and in lineups. Physical distancing is expected, and capacity at the chalets is limited. There's no table service available, but there are grab-and-go options that can be eaten outside, at your vehicle or inside chalets, apparently, if physical distancing requirements are adhered to.
Marmot has seen 4 cm of fresh powder fall in the past week and 226 cm so far this season. www.skimarmot.com @Marmotbasin
If you've read this far, you'll know that just about every resort in the province is recommending that guests buy their lift tickets in advance and online. That's absolutely true at Castle Mountain, too.
The Southern Alberta resort has instituted a cap on daily ticket sales to help ensure a safe experience for everyone who visits the mountain, so the best way to absolutely guarantee that you'll be able to spend a sweet, sweet day cruising down the slopes at Castle is to buy your ticket online. That also allows you to review the rest of the resort's COVID-19 protocols.
Conditions at Castle are fantastic, too. The mountain's been hit by 357 cm of snow so far this season after seeing 6 cm fall in the last week. www.skicastle.ca
ACROSS THE B. C. BORDER
The B.C. government is discouraging non-essential travel across the B.c.-alberta border.
Kicking Horse: Open
Big White: Open
Sun Peaks: Open
Silver Star: Open
Red Mountain: Open
Whistler Blackcomb: Open