Skiing in the Canadian Rockies is sure to create family memories to last your loved ones a lifetime. From the first moment it ‘clicks’ when learning the fine art of the pizza - french fry technique, to catching crisp snowflakes on your tongue, to taking a ski break in the ski lodge, cosied up to a crackling fire with a warm 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 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 Ski Rental, Soul Ski & Bike, Ultimate Ski & Ride, 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.
Where to Ski
Now we reach the best part - the best spots to ski for yourselves with little ones in tow. With so much terrain to navigate (nearly 8,000 skiable acres combined!), it may be a little intimidating to set those first ski tracks. 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 newly 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 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.
Lessons & Child Care
All three resorts provide exceptional services in teaching kids the ropes on the hill, and making sure they still have a great time if they’re still a few years away from ski boots. Tiny Tigers and Kids Campus programs at Banff Sunshine Village take care of little ones from 19 months to 12-years-old. Mt. Norquay will take care of little ones as young as 19 months, and teach the ropes to kids as young as three. At Lake Louise Ski Resort, daycare includes optional skiing with a certified snow instructor, or have the kids get more time on the mountain with lessons for ages five and up.
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 Whitehorn Bistro offers a hearty Whitehorn Bistrobreakfast buffet to start off on the right foot, while the Lodge of Ten Peaks cafeteria right next door provides ample sitting room and affordable menu items. The Lone Pine lodge 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.