Ski & snowboard in Banff: Sunshine, Lake Louise & Mt Norquay

Lak Louise Ski AreaThere’s nothing quite as breathing as standing at 8,000+ feet overlooking the majestic snow-capped mountains of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the sun warm on your face, wisps of clouds a couple hundred feet below, mountain ranges extending far into the distance.

It’s like stepping into a panoramic scene from Planet Earth, into a landscape so grand and spectacular, it’s hard to believe that such magnificence exists, let alone your finite human capacity to appreciate it, be in awe of it, or wonder at its grandeur in a way that’s deserving of its prominence.  Photos don’t do it justice.   

Likewise, there’s nothing quite as humbling as the realization that you have to somehow find your way back down all 8,000-something feet of mountain with a waxy laminated-fiberglass-coated wooden board strapped to your feet.  Times like these are a refreshing reminder of your role in the ongoing epic battle between man and nature, raw ambition and the harsh Canadian elements. . . 

“Ready?” interrupted Chris Scharf, my more-than-patient snowboard instructor for the day at Lake Louise – a gentle poke reminding me that I was in Banff for a weekend of snowboarding, not self-epiphanies or personal discovery.  It wasn’t like I was stalling the imminent traverse down the mountain.  After all, I’d woken up at 7am that day, wrenched myself out of my warm bed at the cozy Brewster’s Mountain Lodge in Banff, for this very moment.  There was no turning back.

Here at one of the highest summits of Lake Louise Ski Area in Banff National Park, I could see the Fairmont’s Lake Louise Chateau in the distance – its size dwarfed by the surrounding mountain ranges.  “I’ve been working here for years and trust me, you never get used to these views,” Chris assured me, motioning to the vast mountain expanses around us making up Banff National Park. 

Ski and snowboard getaways to Banff National Park: Mt. Norquay, Sunshine & Lake Louise

Delirium Dive - Image provided by Travel Alberta

Banff National Park is home to three ski resorts, each offering world-class skiing with distinct landscapes all their own.  The area offers a ton of activities year-round for nature lovers, from skiing and snowboarding to hiking and camping.  The park is easily accessed from Calgary International Airport by shuttle or car rental. 

Best of all, Banff is a great option for a long weekend ski getaway in Canada!  Here’s what you need to know about a ski or snowboard holiday in Banff.

Mt. Norquay (www.banffnorquay.com) is just 10-15 minutes from Banff, has a fantastic kids program, and is a favourite for locals who want to avoid the crowds and ski by the hour.  

For something a bit bigger, Sunshine Village (www.skibanff.com), about 15-20 minutes from Banff, is distinct for its high alpine valley landscape, the largest terrain park in the area, and some of Banff’s best extreme skiing (you can’t get more extreme than a run called Delirium Dive where you and your ski partner have to carry a shovel, an avalanche beacon, and have the code to get through the check-in gate).  Sunshine Mountain Lodge is the only ski-in, ski-out hotel in Banff and is the epitome of cozy winter mountain escapes.  Its new two-storey loft suites offer eco luxury lodge living at its finest while its superior/deluxe rooms are a close second. 

Finally, if you’re looking for a huge variety of mixed terrain, never-ending runs, and views that will blow you away, check out Lake Louise Ski Area (www.skilouise.com).  Located just 5 minutes from Lake Louise village or about 45 minutes from Banff, it’s one of the largest ski areas in North America and offers steep chutes for the brave, remote bowls for powder-junkies, and long, winding runs for those who like to cruise their way down the mountain and take it all in. 

With a heave, I strapped my foot in and lifted myself out of the nicely dug-out seat I’d made for myself in the snow – and we were off – carving our way down one of Lake Louise’s four skiable mountains.  It’s nice when you can ski or snowboard all day long and never do the same run twice.

It turned out to be an amazing day of boarding, made even better with only minimal wipeouts, great company from super-cool Chris, great snow conditions typical of Banff’s ski resorts, and a delicious chocolate mousse dome dessert for lunch at the main lodge’s World Cup Alpine Dining Room.  

Like falling in love, it’s hard to see it coming until it suddenly hits you – and the mountains did, in fact, hit me a number of times – that it just doesn’t get better, any more beautiful, or any more perfect than this. My love affair with the Canadian Rockies has only just begun!

For more information on visiting Banff National Park, go to: www.banfflakelouise.com.

Interested in planning a ski trip? Use the tripatlas.com/new Trip Builder to iron out details and get in touch with local travel professionals who are interested in helping you make your dream trip come true!

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