My family and I love skiing Canada we’ve returned a number of times to different resorts but have always found the same friendly welcome wherever we’ve been. In this issue we’ve profiled Big White and Silver Star. Here is the best of the rest.
One of the joys of Whistler is that the ski resort is only just over a two hour drive from Vancouver via the scenic Sea to Sky Highway. Almost every other accent you hear in Whistler village is Australian, and no wonder Aussie families head here because there are over 200 trails to explore in a season that runs from November to June. Not to mention a family friendly pedestrian-style village which means everything from restaurants to shopping is in ski-boot clomping distance. Within the village is an impressive range of family-friendly accommodation from the luxurious Fairmont to more budget style condominiums. There is also a huge range of slopes covering the two interconnecting mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb. The mountains are linked by the Peak 2 Peak Gondola and kids will love the ride across on the two with glass floors, (although there is often a queue to secure one).
Basing yourself in the ski town of Banff with its lively restaurants and shops means that you can ski both the popular Sunshine Village, and tiny Mt Norquay as well as Lake Louise. A tri-area lift ticket makes it easy to ski all three resorts. At Sunshine we found wide open runs and a kid-friendly feel. The resort has one of the highest elevations in Canada hence the fact that you can ski above the tree line. There is a good ski school and daycare is available for kids 19 months to 6 years.
Mt Norquay calls itself “the best kept secret in the Rockies” with good reason. Because skiing here is like skiing at a club field there is not a huge variety of runs but there is a laid back feel with everyone converging on the one and only base station lodge for food and après ski. This is a great place for a lazy day’s skiing out of Banff as it is only a few minutes’ drive out of town. Fewer punters mean that kids’ group lessons are often private by default. Mt. Norquay offers the only night skiing in Banff-Lake Louise, including a fully lit terrain park for snowboarding kids who just want to keep going.
This ski area is within Banff National Park (where numbers are strictly controlled) which means less people and shorter lift queues. The fact that there is no dedicated ski village at Lake Louise also keeps crowds down although the imposing Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise just nearby will fit luxury loving families. On the plus side that doesn’t mean a small skiing area - there is plenty to keep the whole family occupied on Lake Louise’s slopes. For younger children and learners it is comforting to know that off each lift there is a green run, so everyone can ride the gondola together and then split off according to skill level. Even if you don’t stay at Chateau Lake Louise it is worth going there to take a look at the ice sculptures, or to take a horse drawn sleigh ride around its rim.
Skiing at Fernie is like skiing on your own personal mountain because there are so few people sharing the slopes. Fernie was once a local skiers’ mountain and we’re sure they would have liked to keep the wide slopes and pretty downhills all to themselves. However, new facilities and a base station have changed all that. Now the rest of the world is finding out about Fernie.
Sun Peaks pretty pedestrian village is presided over by Olympic legend Nancy Greene who still runs regular guided mountain tours of her home resort. Sun Peaks lives up to its name with plenty of sunshine to enjoy those bluebird days. This is second largest resort in BC (after Whistler) and its three mountains come right to the edge of the village so there is plenty of ski in-ski out accommodation. Sun Peaks is known for its family-friendly nature and kids will love Family Cup Week which is held each January, tying in nicely with Australian school holidays. Expect a variety of race events as well as other icy activities such as snowshoeing and ice skating. Best of all, kids can toast s'mores (chocolate, marshmallow and biscuit) on a campfire.