The slopes of the Canadian Rockies were made for skiing and snowboarding. Winter revellers have long been carving smooth lines down the perfectly angled fields of powder surrounding Banff and Lake Louise.
Fresh powder aside, Banff National Park has all the ingredients for a perfect winter getaway. It begins at the friendly ski shops with technicians imparting local knowledge as valuable as their ski tuning expertise and finishes with an après-ski scene that’s equal parts inviting and legendary.
With more than 7,000 acres of well-managed ski slopes, the three resorts of Banff and Lake Louise are meant for more than a day trip. To properly sample the diverse ski terrain (and all the accoutrements that come with it), head to Banff and set up your basecamp at the Moose Hotel & Suites, Canalta Lodge, or Banff Aspen Lodge. Each hotel offers ski storage, outdoor hot tubs and are a short jaunt to the restaurants of downtown Banff, making it easy to focus on the powder paradise that drew you to the Rockies.
Day 1: Mt. Norquay
For your first full day in Banff, get the lay of the land and reawaken your ski legs at Mt. Norquay, the playground of resident racers for 95 years. Perfectly-groomed ski runs crisscross the face of the mountain that proudly stands guard over the town of Banff, nestled peacefully in the valley below.
After a morning on the slopes, make the quick 10-minute trip back down the mountain via the free shuttle or your vehicle for lunch in downtown Banff. Stroll the snowy streets and let yourself be drawn in by the holiday spirit overflowing from the shops and galleries of Banff Avenue and Bear Street.
When the sun dips behind the summits, the lifts at Mt. Norquay start spinning again every Friday and Saturday evening. You can book in and head back up the mountain to ski beneath the night sky, where floodlights illuminate the runs below the Cascade Chair and the snowflakes drifting down upon them.
Day 2: Banff Sunshine
Rise early and join the flock of excited early birds at one of Banff’s locally-owned coffee shops to fuel up for your day. Then jump on board the Banff Sunshine shuttle buses for a relaxing ride to this renowned resort, 25 minutes up a picturesque valley road.
After a 20-minute gondola ride, you’ll find yourself at Sunshine Village nearly 1,700 metres high amongst the peaks. From here, a network of 12 chairlifts and 137 ski runs spreads out across three different mountains. The expansive terrain offers captivating vistas and wide-open slopes that welcome up to nine metres of fluffy dry powder every winter.
After a full day on the slopes, you’ll be ready to ease into a cozy booth for a well-earned après-ski session. Make your way to the Banff Ave Brewing Co, Rose & Crown, Melissa’s MisSteak or Park Distillery to share in the vibrant atmosphere that’s unique to a post-powder day in the Rockies.
Day 3: Snowy Spa Day
Ask any local, and they’ll tell you that resting and recharging is the key to a solid ski trip. It may not feel like it when you’re carving your first turns in exquisitely soft snow, but even the most powder-hungry skiers and boarders need a rest day.
If adventure is still on your mind, rent snowshoes from Snowtips-Bactrax, Ultimate Sports, or Abominable Sports in town and head out on the lakeshore trail around frozen Johnson Lake. Once you’ve stretched your legs below a stunning view of Mount Rundle, trade frosty air for a soothing treatment at Cedar & Sage Co. or Remedy Skincare & Spa. Then make your way to dinner at Chuck’s Steakhouse, The Bison, or Block Kitchen & Bar, where the creative forces at work in Banff’s culinary scene await you.
Day 4: Lake Louise Ski Resort
When the sunrise illuminates the peaks with morning alpenglow, make your way 45 minutes west to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. With nearly 1,000 metres of vertical and runs of every level from each chairlift, Lake Louise is a place where powder dreams come true. Make your last run one to remember as you carve down an endless eight-km run from mountaintop to toe.
Check into Deer Lodge and melt into the outdoor hot tub on the roof of the lodge, where snowflakes and powder-laden pine trees are your quiet companions. Then make the short walk to the shores of Lake Louise and the vast natural skating rink on the frozen lake. Gaze up at the snow-covered peaks shining in the moonlight with a familiarity known only to those who have spent time on their snowy slopes.