SKI RESORT HOT TIPS
Enhance your experience with insider knowledge.
Our Canadian Rockies paradise has beckoned those who crave incredible skiing for nearly a century. We boast an enviable combination of deep dry snow, tree-lined and open bowl terrain, highspeed lifts and on-hill amenities. Peaks outnumber people, and the ski season is the longest in the country.
Canada’s Mountain Parks (UNESCO World Heritage sites Banff and Jasper national parks, plus Kananaskis Country) are home to five Alberta ski areas. Read on for our insider insights.
BANFF NATIONAL PARK
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 the Banff Ski Hub (p 68).
Sunshine Village is hot — literally.
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), is now home to Canada’s first chairlift with heated seats. The new TeePee Town LX high-speed quad’s orange bubbles cover riders to provide respite from inclement weather and wind chill.
Built by Austrian manufacturer Doppelmayr, TeePee Town LX is twice as fast as the chair it replaced. “We’re thrilled to have the hottest chairlift in Canada," says Sunshine’s Dave Riley.
The new, cozy lift isn’t the only reason we love Sunshine. This resort boasts the Rockies’ longest ski season, this year to May 23. Encompassing three mountains and a 1,070-m/ 3,514-ft vertical rise, many of Sunshine’s 115 runs are above tree line. Stellar views extend to 80 km/50 mi. Tip: look south to Mount Assiniboine, Canada’s Matterhorn!
From the base, the world’s fastest eight-passenger gondola rises to the village, seven highspeed quads and four other lifts. Beginners ski Strawberry and Wolverine, 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 (rentals at Snowtips p 68), and partner are required.
Locals’ Tips (more p 22): Prime Parking: Avoid a ski boot walk. Arrive at 8:30 am to snag a good parking spot. Best Light: Ski Goat’s Eye in the morning when traffic is low and Standish in the afternoon.
Delirium Dive: Stay right at the bottom of the bowl for great Hays Hills glades. If you want a guide and need the prerequisite avalanche gear, book Sunshine’s Full Day in the Dive. Ski School Guarantee: Sunshine’s expert instructors and innovative programs develop better skiers and riders. Participants get a second lesson free if they disagree. Test Centre: Sample Salomon skis and boards to see how they enhance your skiing or riding. Day Spa: Ride the gondola to a Verde Day Spa 1-403-678-0306 massage, hot stones or facial.
Mount Norquay celebrates 90 years.
The Canadian Rockies’ original ski area (est. 1926) is just 10 minutes north of downtown Banff via Norquay Rd over Hwy 1 (Map 3, 10B; 403-762-4421)—locals often go for a fewhour break from work. The resort is owned by Alberta ski enthusiasts who cherish its familyfriendly character. Budding local ski racers train here, World Cup gold medalist Ken Read is involved in operations and Giver Grandi run honours Banff Olympian Thomas Grandi.
Norquay has a vertical rise of 503 m/1,650 ft and six lifts. This year the terrain has expanded by 10 acres. The new trail map identifies 60 runs, including some that were previously unnamed.
Adult lift tickets are $65; with tubing and sightseeing they’re $75. Quality Time family passes for two adults and two youth are $149 online. Locals’ Tips (more p 22): Fresh Corduroy: Arrive before opening (9 am) to get first dibs at groomed Giver Grandi, Banshee and Night Flight cruisers. Best Route from Cascade to Spirit Chair: Go left two thirds of the way down Valley of Ten onto a trail through the trees to Rob’s Run. Steep Lines: Tackle Canada’s first double black runs off the old school North American chair after the sun has softened the bumps. Ski for 90¢: 90 Cent Days for Alberta residents are Dec 9, Jan 13, Feb 10, Mar 9, Apr 6. Night Skiing: The region’s only lit runs and terrain park (with new boxes and rails) operates Fridays and Saturdays, January through March. $5 off Tubing and Sightseeing: You don’t have to ski to experience Norquay fun and ride a lift. See p 22; clip the coupon on p 50.
Lake Louise Ski Resort is the Canadian Rockies’ largest.
The 2014 World Ski Awards ‘Best Ski Resort in Canada’ is north of the Trans-Canada Hwy
near Lake Louise Village, 40 minutes west of the Banff townsite (Map 2, 22E; 1-877956-8473).
The Lake (as locals call the ski area) features a 991-m/3,250ft vertical rise and four mountain faces. Plan your runs to ski sun-lit slopes 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.
The resort boasts 10 lifts, 145 marked runs and bowls, terrain and jib parks, and some of the best fall line skiing anywhere. Novice to advanced routes from every chair make the entire resort accessible to all.
Locals’ Tips (more p 22): Powder Stashes: Backside Whitehorn slopes, Eagle Ridge 1 to 7 runs and Ptarmigan Glades are especially sweet. Freshies: First Tracks private lessons let you access the lifts a half hour before the public. Kids’ Favourite: They love the animal cutouts at the Wilderness Adventure Park. Daycare for Newborns: All our ski areas offer childcare, but only Lake Louise hosts infants from 18 days old! Lake Louise Ski Resort App: Download it to track your runs, elevation gain, speed and proximity to daylodges. Snowcross: Challenge friends on cambered turns, gap jumps, berms and drops. KANANASKIS COUNTRY Nakiska Ski Area is an Olympic mountain. Between Banff and Calgary, south of Hwy 1 via Hwy 40, this resort was built to host the 1988 Olympics (Map 1, 8I; 403-591-7777). Beautiful Kananaskis Valley views
lower mountain has snowmaking, two terrain parks and learning areas.
Powder Stashes: On the upper mountain, ride the Knob chair. From Eagle Ridge chair, 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. Join a Marmot Snow Host (free) to access more secret slopes. Best Tan: Sunshine saturates Kokanee Glacier Deck off Caribou Lounge with bonus views. Expert Runs for Intermediates: Try black rated Showoff and Highway 16 if they’re groomed. 10% Off Lift Passes: Get a My Marmot card at skimarmot.com with direct-to-lift access. Marmot Sales Centre: Maximize slope time. Get lift passes, and reserve lessons and rentals days before you ski in downtown Jasper (p 115). Ladies’ Day: Grab a friend and call the ski school (1-866-952-3816) for two-for-theprice-of-one lessons and girls-only fun.
TIP: SIGHTSEEING LIFTS FOR NON-SKIERS
At Norquay, ride historic North American chairlift to Cliffhouse Bistro (Marilyn Monroe ate here) and incredible Banff and Mt Rundle views ($20, yth/sr $15, ch $10; $5-off coupon p 50). Ski Big 3 Tri-Area Sightseeing Ticket ($42, yth/sr $38, ch $32) covers shuttles and $12 off food.
TIP: BEST BETS FOR A DECENT LUNCH
Sunshine: Mad Trapper’s Saloon serves smokehouse fare in the resort’s original 1928 log cabin. At Chimney Corner Lounge, sit by the fireplace or glass view wall. Friday Taste of Sunshine dinners at Eagle’s Nest include gondola access to 10 pm (plus oysters and caviar). Norquay: For fresh fare and a superb view, ride the lift to historic Cliffhouse Bistro; toast Norquay’s 90th with Norquay 90 Kolsch from Banff Ave. Brewing Co. Full moon Fireside Moonlight Dining events are Jan 22, Feb 19 and Mar 25. Lake Louise: Mid-mountain, Whitehorn Lodge Bistro serves bison short ribs, seafood risotto and Victoria Glacier cocktails with a view. At the base, try Powder Keg Lounge for flatbread or new Kuma Yama for sushi. In the loft of backside Temple Lodge, Sawyer’s Nook trademarks include gourmet sandwiches and shot ski shooters. Marmot: Mid mountain, Eagle Dining Room and Charlie’s Lounge offer historic ski memorabilia and new menu items made from fresh local ingredients. Lower chalet Caribou Lounge has stunning views and table service.
TIP: HIGH ALPINE SNOWSHOEING
You don’t have to ski or snowboard to explore our resorts. Sunshine Village Top of the World Tours ($75) with Banff shuttle and gondola/ chairlift rides are run by White Mountain Adventures (p 51). Sunshine’s Historical Snowshoe & Fondue Tour ($120, min seven people) traces a First Nations route and includes a Swiss cheese fondue. Lake Louise offers four new guided interpretive tours with gondola ride (90 min to full day, from $39). At Norquay, explore three snowshoe trails (rentals $15, ch $10).
TIP: TUBE PARK FAMILY FUN
Enjoy the thrill of speeding down slopes on an inflatable tube; groomed lanes ensure safety. Norquay’s Tube Town ($30, $25 yth/sr, ch $20; $5-off coupon p 50) with six chutes, two lifts and play zone is the Canadian Rockies’ biggest and longest established tube park. It is night-lit on weekends. Lake Louise has Sunny Tube Park ($25, yth $20, ch $15), while Nakiska’s Wanido Tube Park ($19, ch $15) is newly expanded.
TIP: ONLY ON-MOUNTAIN LODGE
At 2,200 metres (7,200 feet), Sunshine Mountain Lodge (1-877-542-2633) is both the highest and the only ski-in/ski-out accommodation in Canada’s Mountain Parks. Ask for a mountainthemed room in the new west wing with infloor heating, jetted tubs and large HDTVs. The lodge offers pub-style and fine dining, a huge hot tub and family activities. Get first tracks each morning, and terrific stargazing at night.
TIP: SKI BUS TO THE RESORTS
You can ditch the car; all our resorts offer ski bus service. From the Banff townsite, return shuttles are $15 (ch $10) to Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise; it’s free with a Big 3 lift pass. The Jasper-Marmot shuttle is $14 return.
abound, and Kananaskis Village is only minutes away.
Nakiska has a 779-m/2,556-ft vertical rise and the largest snowmaking system in western Canada. Long runs and nightly grooming make it a carving favourite, while beginner zones are self-contained. This season there’s an expanded ticket area and an additional parking lot. Adult tickets are $77.
Locals’ Tips (more p 22): Watch Tricksters: Ride the Silver quad for rail park views. Best Powder: The Monster Glades are improved thanks to summer 2015 grooming. Long Run: Take Gold Road to Lower Homesteader for a relaxing, scenic 3.3-km ride.
JASPER NATIONAL PARK
To reach the town of Jasper and Marmot Basin ski area from Lake Louise, drive the 237-km/147-mi Icefields Parkway where wildlife resides and 100 glaciers adorn the eastern flank of the Continental Divide (call 511 for road conditions). Mountain Connector (1-888786-3641) offers a bus to Jasper from Calgary, Banff and Edmonton, while Marmot’s ski bus serves the Jasper townsite.
Marmot Basin lift lines are almost non-existent.
Jasper’s only ski area is 20 minutes south of town via the Icefields Parkway, Hwy 93 (Map 1, 4M; 1-866-9523816). Marmot Basin is big, uncrowded and sports sublime Athabasca Valley views.
This 1,675-acre resort has a 914-m/3,000-ft vertical rise; 86 runs, glades and high alpine bowls are framed by pinnacles and ridges. Seven lifts include the Canadian Rockies Express, the region’s longest high-speed quad. The
TIP: FAST & FUN RACES
The speediest skiers on the planet meet for the annual WinterStart World Cup Downhill and Super-G at Lake Louise (men’s Nov 28-29; women’s Dec 4-6). Our best local freestylers strut their stuff at Marmot Basin’s Alberta Winter Games Freestyle Ski Qualifier, Jan 8-10. International racers compete on the four-lane course with jumps and turns at Nakiska during the Skicross World Cup, Jan 22-23. On Apr 2 Norquay hosts the 50th Bruno Engler Memorial; at Canada’s longest running ski race retro dress is encouraged. At Norquay’s Bozo Cup dual slalom, Apr 16-17, many racers compete in drag. Cardboard Box Downhill Derby (the name says it all) is at Lake Louise, Apr 17. Sunshine’s Slush Cup (also called Pond Skimming World Cup) on May 23 is tons of fun for spectators watching contestants fail to cross the icy water.
TIP: SLOPESIDE PARTIES
Make your own party anytime at our ski areas; all have fun bars. But weekends in April are your best bet for live music, DJs and dancing. Attend Nakiska Spring Fiesta; Marmot Aloha Cup and Kokanee Freeride; Sunshine Snowchella concerts; as well as Spring Music Sessions and Shake the Lake (Apr 30) at Lake Louise. Good times are also had at Lake Louise Torchlight Dinner & Ski mid-mountain drinks, torch-lit night ski, buffet and band Dec 25, 31; Feb 14, and Ski Louise Stampede buffet and dance Mar 19. Live music is a weekend staple at Marmot during Jasper in January Jan 16Jan 31. Single? Try Lifts of Love chairlift speed dating Feb 14 at Mount Norquay.
You’re in the hot seat on Sunshine’s new lift
Celebrate Norquay’s 90th
Going downhill fast