North of the Border, Nothing but Powder

Visiting Alberta's Stellar Ski Resorts
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Lake Louise in winter.
Lake Louise in winter.

Alberta is a huge province, "the second from the left" as you look at a map of Canada. Stretching from the vast, rolling plains in the east to the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide in the west, this ice hockey mecca is also one of Canada's prime skiing destinations.

Banff is the first among equals when it comes to Alberta skiing. This highly developed tourist town in the middle of Banff National Park, although geared for summer visitors, boasts three ski areas that offer low winter season rates. A week's worth of lodging in Banff and lifts passes at Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Banff/Mt. Norquay will not break the bank. Shop around for a good package and you're bound to get yourself a bargain.

Many visitors like lift/lodging packages that feature Club Ski and Club Snowboard programs, which include lift tickets as well as escorted group skiing and riding at all three areas. Programs generally start on Mondays and again on Thursdays through April. They welcome all levels of skiers and riders. Programs are available for skiers and snowboarders alike. Best of all, you don't even need a car to get around, because your lift ticket lets you ride a network of free ski buses.

So few dollars buy a great deal of skiing. Lake Louise is the thousand-pound gorilla of Alberta skiing. In fact, it is a contender for king of all Canadian skiing, ranking by many measures as Canada's largest ski area. Sprawled across 4,200 acres, this huge ski center is just a tad smaller than vast Vail and comprises 105 named trails along with ski-anywhere bowls, glades, and chutes. It also boasts one of North America's longest ski seasons, usually cranking up in mid-November and stretching to mid-May.

Sunshine Village has the Banff area's only slopeside lodging, featuring a small high-mountain village surrounded by ski slopes. To reach the village (cars are prohibited), skiers and snowboarders ride a six-passenger gondola from the parking lot. Skiing began back in 1928 in the vast Sunshine Village bowl, which offers all levels of terrain. Today Goat's Eye Mountain supplements the this snow-sure aerie. Served by the world's fastest high-speed chairlift and boasting some of North America's most sure-fire challenging terrain, Goat's Eye has put Sunshine on the map.

Banff/Mt. Norquay, long a local favorite, would be a substantial ski area in any context other than Alberta. Its 1,600-foot vertical encompasses some significant steeps plus some splendid cruising terrain. As the closest of these ski areas to the Banff town center, it is ideal for combining a half day of sliding with a half day of shopping—or for a few quick hours of skiing on a travel day.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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Best Hotels in Banff

$133-$160
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#1
Fox Hotel and Suites
$296-$401
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#2
Rimrock Resort Hotel
$318-$389
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#3
The Fairmont Banff Springs
$93-$118
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#4
The Juniper Hotel

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