Banff should be on your bucket list.
Not just for winter, but if you are going to pick the snowy season, the three ski resorts located in Banff National Park offer mind-blowing views, and 7,700 acres of skiable terrain. Lake Louise Ski Resort, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay have beginner slopes and big mountain bowls, as well as very accessible out-of-bounds options.
What makes it all so special? As Dan Markham, director of brand and communications for Lake Louise Ski Resort, explained during a coffee stop at Temple Lodge on the mountain this past January, “It’s rare to have a ski resort in a protected National Park to begin with” — and it’s true. Lake Louise, Sunshine and Norquay are all located within the national park, which means the ski terrain, adjacent towns and surrounding wilderness are not in danger of being overdeveloped.
“Everything is protected, nothing’s gonna change,” said Markham. “I think it’s that very untouched kind of environment, a very protected kind of environment, that makes it such a grand and spectacular place to ski.”
The terrain at each of the three ski areas caters to all skiers and snowboarders — beginner to expert — although each has its own stand-out aspects: Norquay is the closest to the town of Banff and caters well to families, with expansive views from spots like the Cliffhouse Bistro; Lake Louise is the largest, with 4,200 skiable acres, and boasts long runs, fun glades, remote bowls, steep chutes and breathtaking mountainscapes; Sunshine has new mid-mountain accommodations at Sunshine Mountain Lodge and some extreme in-bounds terrain like Delirium Dive for those who are seeking extra adrenaline.
Backcountry skiers and riders with skills and knowhow can seek out their own lines, accessible from the ski areas and the popular Icefields Parkway, or check out trips available through heli-ski companies like Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH).
The town of Banff and small village of Lake Louise are worth their own visits, and there are two iconic hotels in both. The historic chateau located on Lake Louise is a resort that rivals any mountain property, sitting right on the edge of its big and beautiful namesake — frozen and dreamy in the winter for ice skating under the stars.
After a day on the slopes, plan to soothe muscles with an après-ski stop at the Fairmont Banff Springs Willow Stream spa. Spa treatments there seem as royal as the property looks and feels — styled after a Scottish Baronial Castle. Before heading to dinner in town at Park Distillery downtown, soak in the indoor and outdoor pools that overlook a runway of untouched wilderness.
The SkiBig3 lift pass also includes daily ski shuttles from Banff and Lake Louise hotels, along with tubing and night skiing access at Mt. Norquay.
And what makes a trip to this magical place even more ideal? The U.S. dollar to Canada’s is currently in our favor.
Kim Fuller is a freelance writer based in Vail, Colorado.