Skiing in the Canadian Rockies is sure to create family memories to last your loved ones a lifetime, whether you're learning the fine art of the pizza/french fry technique, or taking a break in the ski lodge, cozied up to a crackling fire with a steaming hot chocolate.
With any family vacation, a few helpful tips and insider info can go a long way in ensuring a fun experience for kids and parents alike. Here’s what you need to know for your next family ski vacation to Banff and Lake Louise.
Before You Arrive
Lift Tickets - Lift Tickets can be arranged pre-arrival, which is highly recommended and means no standing in line while you miss out on valuable slope time. If visiting all three resorts in Banff National Park, SkiBig3 lift tickets are your best bet, which gives access to Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay. If booking at least three days in advance, your tickets will be delivered right to your hotel concierge for pick up. Fasten them to your ski jacket (be sure to keep the ticket stub in a safe place) and you’re good to go!
Gear - Banff and Lake Louise offer several great options for getting the right gear - Snowtips-Bactrax, Soul Ski & Bike, Ultimate Sports, Chateau Mountain Sports, and Wilson Mountain Sports all carry a wide selection of gear to suit all ages and abilities, as do the resorts themselves. Already know what you need? At the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub, you can reserve your gear ahead of time and have it delivered right to your hotel for your arrival.
Clothing - Snow in Banff National Park is typically a light, natural powder, and this is due to our dry and cold Canadian climate. While you won’t need to worry so much about water impermeable Gore-Tex (although this doesn’t hurt) you will want to be adequately prepared for cool temperatures.
COVID-19: Plan ahead - Guest health and safety is a priority for ski resorts in Banff National Park. Operations are a little different this year as a result of COVID-19, with all resorts following Alberta Health Services guidelines. Face coverings are mandatory and to be used indoors, when purchasing tickets, in all line-ups, while riding the gondolas, lifts and magic carpets, shuttle busses, and in any outdoor areas where there will be groups of people.
There are some notable changes for the 20/21 season to be aware of:
- You must pre-purchase daily lift and tubing passes for Mt. Norquay. For Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort, it is recommended to pre-purchase your lift passes before arriving, however, there are options on the mountain.
- Bag storage in lodges is unavailable for the 20/21 season and there are limited lockers available. It is recommended to use your car as your storage facility.
- To ensure the safety and wellness of everyone, all resorts have asked people to remain at home if they are unwell.
You can check each of the mountain resort protocols online with SkiBig3.
Where to Ski
Now we reach the fun part - the best spots to ski with little ones in tow. With so much terrain to navigate (nearly 8,000 skiable acres combined!), it's hard to know where to take the kids, but the SkiBig3 resorts are super family friendly and will build confidence in no time.
Banff Sunshine Village - There are two drop off points after boarding the gondola - Goat’s Eye station first, and the Village second. Stay on for the entire ride to get off at the Village, where you’ll find the hub of amenities and family-friendly runs. Strawberry Chair is a great start for those still testing out their ski legs. For kids at a higher level, Wolverine Express and Jack Rabbit chairs offer a nice transition to shorter yet challenging runs.
Lake Louise Ski Resort - For kids who have graduated from magic carpet to chairlift, the Glacier Express Chair is a great first step. It gives access to a designated ‘Slow Zone’ on Wiwaxy run, a specified beginner run with mandatory slow skiing. Looking for something with a mix of terrain for everyone? The Larch area on the back side of the resort is a great spot to spend an afternoon.
Mt. Norquay - A nice, gentle run to get oriented at Mt. Norquay is the Spirit Traverse to Cascade run, which will get you acquainted with two out of four chairlifts. Ski down from the base lodge to load Spirit chair, and cut immediately lookers left from the top. The traverse will open up into a wide open ski slope beneath Cascade Chair and back to the main lodge.
Learning the Skills
Things are a little different at the ski hills in winter 20/21. With no child minding and group lessons available, it’s the perfect opportunity to sign up for one-on-one time with instructors to set your children up with personalized coaching. Banff Sunshine Village provides options for early starters with private lessons available from the age of two. Mt. Norquay will teach the ropes to kids as young as three in its private lessons and programs this year. At Lake Louise Ski Resort, a certified snow instructor will have the kids enjoy valuable time on the mountain with lessons for ages three and up. Lift passes are free at each of the resorts for children five and under.
Where to Dine
Just as important as where to ski is where to refuel throughout the day. Picky eaters will love the Alpine Grill at Banff Sunshine Village, with a wide variety of international foods, and the Sunshine Burger Company is a tried and true favourite. At Lake Louise Ski Resort, the Lodge of Ten Peaks cafe provides ample sitting room and affordable menu items, if you’re after some unbelievable panoramic views and a treat for the family, Whitehorn Bistro is a must visit. The Lone Pine Pub at Mt. Norquay serves up traditional pub grub sure to please every palate, or for a unique dining experience head up to the Cliffhouse Bistro - just remember to download on the North American chair if you’re with beginner skiers.