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MOUNTAIN TOP FIVE

Canada’s ski resorts have plenty of the white stuff to keep your discerning little powder hound happy, plus an array of off-snow attractions to entice. We spotlight five of the best.


WORDS Debbie Neilson-Hunter

WHISTLER
Nestled in the Coast Mountain Range, just over two hours drive north of Vancouver via the Sea to Sky Highway , in peak season they call Whistler Australia-on-snow because so many families from down under head that way. There is a good reason for that because the resort offers luxury-loving families some of the biggest and best ski and boarding in North America (over 200 trails to explore in a season that extends from November to June) across two mountains (Whistler/Blackcomb) which are linked by the impressive Peak 2 Peak Gondola (snare one of the 2 silver cabins with glass floors). There is also first-class snow accommodation ranging from hotel (Fairmont, Westin and Four Seasons are here) to deluxe condominiums within strolling distance of great shopping, dining and après ski action in the pedestrian village. www.whistler.com

BIG WHITE
Families enjoy VIP status at this Australian-family-owned Okanagan Valley resort. Not just for its superlative child care and ski school facilities (a ratio of one instructor to four children and pick-up and drop-offs service to your door) but for its attention to the detail on the mountain. Three different runs are zoned off and staffed each day to ensure older skiers and families with small children can safely and comfortably explore more than just the green runs while ‘Mum, Dad and Me’ two-hour ski programs also teach parents to guide shyer children (3-6 years) using games and fun activities. Accommodation-wise the resort isn’t known for its out and out hotel luxury but five star families will easily manage to find a wide range of condominiums that fit the bill in terms of comfort and style. www.bigwhite.com

LAKE LOUISE
This ski area is ideal for families, particularly young novices. Being within Banff National Park (where numbers are controlled) and one of the largest ski areas in Canada means fewer crowds and shorter lift queues. Plus you don’t need to be an advanced skier to enjoy the same postcard vistas of the Rockies as the experts, with a green run off every lift. Yet, while it might be big on million dollar views, it’s not a fully-fledged resort and so lacks the million dollar condos. We think the majestic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will do your family nicely. Its position lake-edge, offers the ultimate room with a view of the opposing Victoria Glacier or ski hills behind. In the winter months, flowering gardens give way to ice sculptures, ice skaters replace canoeists on the lake while snowshoers and horse-drawn sleighs skirt its snowy rim. www.skilouise.com

Main image: Lake louise
Above: Whistler Village and Family lunch at Whistler

 

From above: Ski with a view
Sun Peaks

SILVER STAR
Silver Star charms with its brightly-painted Victorian architecture and strong community- minded atmosphere. It might be smaller on scale, but it rates just as big as its sister resort (Big White) on family fun. There is plenty to be had on the slopes and backcountry as well as a frozen Brewers Pond, adjacent Tube Town and on the mini- snowmobile track (for ages six-12 years). One big advantage for comfort-loving five star familes is that accommodation is all ski-in, ski-out. Choose from larger longer-stay vacation homes to luxury condo/apartments with hot tubs. This is also the place if mum and dad love their wine, the Okanagan Valley produces some of the country’s best. www.skisilverstar.com

SUN PEAKS
The second largest resort in BC (after Whistler) and the third largest in Canada, Sun Peaks’ three mountains fan out from the main pedestrian village providing child-friendly ski-in, ski-out access. There are very few resorts where you can rub shoulders with a true Olympic legend. Champion skier Nancy Greene still takes regular weekend guided tours of her mountain home of Sun Peaks, which is renowned for its good weather and a wide variety of ski terrain. Family Cup Week is always a highlight of the ski season with a variety of family-focussed activities tied in with race events. During the week you can enjoy everything from a moonlight snowshoe and s’mores (chocolate and marshmallow sandwich), to a campfire cookout, fondue dinners and ice skating parties. www.sunpeaksresort.com



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