The Ultimate Guide to Resort Skiing and Snowboarding in Banff National Park for Beginners
- Jun 29, 2022|
- Sports, Adventure
Endless mountain ranges, featherlight snow, and a sense of off-the-grid wilderness make winter in Banff National Park magical. With three world-class ski resorts - Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay - and a seven-month season, this is the perfect place to start your ski and snowboarding journey. All three ski resorts within Banff National Park are great for beginners, yet each has a unique character. You’re sure to find a slope to suit your style.
Resort skiing in Banff and Lake Louise offers convenient access to beginner runs through gondolas, chairlifts, and magic carpets. In Banff National Park, you’ll find 29 total between all three resorts! On resort signage and trail maps, you’ll find terrain difficulty is marked by ability - green circles, blue squares, and black diamonds. Green runs are the sweet spot for beginners! They are “groomed” every night by snowcat machines, ensuring smooth terrain to make your first turns. Visible roped resort boundaries indicate the area where the mountain is managed and monitored for safety. Keep reading for helpful tips for your first ski vacation to Banff and Lake Louise.
Each resort in Banff National Park offers plenty of beginner runs to explore over several days. They all share breathtaking views and accessible terrain, each with a distinct style worth experiencing.
Banff Sunshine Village
Banff Sunshine Village has a unique location high on the Continental Divide, where you can ski in both Alberta and British Columbia. “The Village” is accessed via colourful gondola cabins, bringing you up 500 metres from the parking area and into the alpine. The village area is a central hub of activity for snow school, dining, chairlifts, and Sunshine Mountain Lodge - the only ski-in/ski-out accommodation in the national park. Banff Sunshine Village spans three mountains full of terrain - Goat’s Eye Mountain, Lookout Mountain, and Mount Standish - with the latter two offering excellent beginner-friendly runs. Banff Sunshine Village is a 20-minute journey from the town of Banff.
Lake Louise Ski Resort
Known to locals as the “gentle giant,” - Lake Louise Ski Resort offers four mountain faces to explore. The gondola and all chairlifts have a green run accessible from the top, except for the Summit Chair. This gentle terrain allows you to fully explore the resort while taking in breathtaking vistas for miles on end. Don’t forget to take a selfie with iconic views of Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier! Lake Louise Ski Resort is a 45-minute journey from the Banff townsite and 10 minutes from the village of Lake Louise.
The closest resort to the town of Banff, Mt. Norquay, is a family-friendly local favourite. Banff’s first resort is rich in history - it was the second resort in western Canada to offer a motorized chair lift, and the historic, mountain-side Cliffhouse Bistro gives you views towards Mt. Rundle. From the base lodge, beginner runs and the ski school area are all conveniently nearby. To give your legs a break, check out their extensive tube park and go for a thrilling ride!
How to Get Started
There are a couple of simple logistics to sort out before you’re happily shredding the slopes. With a bit of planning, they can be arranged before you arrive!
Depending on the length of your visit, you may want to check out all three ski resorts or only one or two. If visiting all three, book your tickets ahead of time through SkiBig3, which offers one multi-mountain lift ticket with access to all resorts. Booking more than three days in advance ensures they’ll be delivered to your hotel 24 hours before your first day of skiing. You can also purchase individual resort lift tickets directly at Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay.
Local's tip: Try hitting all three slopes in one day to complete the SkiBig3 Trifecta Challenge and win select rewards.
Each resort offers on-site rentals, which is convenient if you only visit one location. If visiting multiple resorts, consider booking multi-day gear rentals from any of the locations below. This will cut down on time spent with drop-off and pick-up between resorts. You can often reserve your rentals ahead of time to ensure your preferred gear is available on arrival. Some even offer delivery direct to your hotel.
• SkiBig3 Adventure Hub (offers gear delivery)
• Black Tie Ski Rentals (offers gear delivery)
• Chateau Mountain Sports
• Banff Adventures
• Ultimate Sports
• Wilson Mountain Sports
What to Wear
Banff National Park is famous for its fluffy snow, thanks to a dry, cold climate. While sunny ski and snowboard days abound, it’s also essential to be prepared for chilly weather. Layering is key! Moisture-wicking base layers (avoid cotton), a warm mid-layer (down is great for cold days), and waterproof outerwear will keep you dry and toasty. And don’t forget these must-have accessories - high-cut ski socks, waterproof gloves, goggles, and a helmet are all essential. Missing any of these items? Many are available for rent or purchase at the shops listed above and at the resorts.
While the three ski resorts are up to 45 minutes from the Banff townsite, they are conveniently accessible through a bus shuttle running throughout the day, included in the cost of your lift ticket. Find the bus schedule and pick up points here.
Parking is limited at the hills and can fill up on busy days. To ensure you can get on the slopes, take the shuttle. This also saves you driving on Canadian roads in the winter, which can be an icy endeavour.
With your gear and lift ticket in tow, the next step to ensure a fun-filled day is to learn the basics of skiing and snowboarding. Nobody likes a day bum-scooting through the snow, so it helps to have a couple of pointers from the pros! Book your lessons ahead of time with certified ski and snowboard instructors at Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Mt. Norquay, and SkiBig3. Both group and private bookings are available for all ages and skill levels.
Where to Eat
Learning a new skill works up an appetite, and all three resorts offer great eateries to kick back for a break. Here are a few of our hand-picked favourites at Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay - but be sure to take some time to explore them all!
Banff Sunshine Village
There’s something for everyone at Banff Sunshine Village, with eight eateries on location - including three full-service Village restaurants. Mad Trapper’s Smokehouse is a must-visit! Originally built in 1928, the building is steeped in history and serves tantalizing pub-style dishes amongst ski relics of a bygone era.
Lake Louise Ski Resort
From cafeteria-style grab-and-go options to on-mountain fine dining, the possibilities are endless at Lake Louise Ski Resort. Located on the back side of the resort in Temple Lodge, Sawyer’s Nook offers both a casual après atmosphere alongside unique fine dining options. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in their traditional alpine fondue!
Lone Pine Pub is conveniently located in the cozy main lodge, with a welcoming atmosphere inviting you to kick back your ski boots. Their full-service, après venue serves traditional dishes with a modern flair and their own Norquay ‘94 brew on tap, brewed locally by Banff Ave. Brewing Co.
So what are you waiting for? It’s never too early to try skiing or snowboarding in Banff National Park. Plan your first ski vacation today using our intuitive trip planner for Banff and Lake Louise.