Image © Reuben Krabbe. Lake Louise.
From Banff to Revelstoke, Helen Hayes discovers four world-class ski resorts across Canada.
How can one place have so much going for it? On the drive from Calgary to Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway – the lifeline of Canada along with the Canadian Pacific Railway that played such a big part in the rise of Banff as a tourist destination – our jaws hang open and the word ‘wow’ pops out of our mouths with monotonous regularity. Around every corner another spectacular mountain view takes centre stage, snow-topped and majestic.
Driving into Banff, even our ‘wows’ are silenced, as we are rendered speechless by the sheer magnificence of this town and its environs. Let alone the tumultuous beauty of the Fairmont Banff Springs – known as the ‘Castle of the Rockies’ and our fairytale home for the next few days.
Image © Reuben Krabbe. Norquay.
But we are here to ski, and there are three resorts to choose from in this part of Alberta. Norquay is the closest to Banff and has a history dating back 90 years. It has excellent beginner areas around the Cascade and Spirit chairs, with easy progression to the mostly intermediate runs off Mystic and the advanced playground of black diamond runs around the North American chairlift. Even if you are not advanced, take this lift up the top and have lunch at Cliffhouse Bistro – the views over Banff and Tunnel Mountain are not to be missed.
Kids of any experience can have an adrenaline rush at Norquay’s tube park, which has seven lanes so you can all race each other. The night skiing is also fantastic with great terrain and spectacular views over Banff. Take a run down the green hEaD Hunter run off Spirit and you might just meet the man it is named after – Ed Hunter – who still skis at Norquay aged 91!
Walking on sunshine
Sunshine Village is surprisingly vast with the three mountains – Goat’s Eye, Lookout and Standish – delivering more than enough runs to keep the family busy for a week. It has great terrain for all ages and all levels and the ski school takes kids as young as two for skiing and three for snowboarding! We are beside ourselves with blue skies, beautiful snow, and pinch-yourself views. Throw in a wonderful fireside lunch at Chimney Corner, free Wi-Fi at the top of every chair and did I mention those views? At the end of the day, we finished with the thigh-tingling eight-kilometre-long run from the top of Lookout all the way to the base.
Superlatives just dry up as Lake Louise proves to be just as spectacular, with its grab-the-iPhone moment being the views of the granite-sculpted Mount Temple. Our heads spin with the choices that four mountains and 1700 hectares of droolworthy terrain offers, but we do our best to explore it all. We love the pretty runs through forests of spruce trees around Larch, we ride Paradise, Top of the World Express and Ptarmigan chairs, and ascend to the Summit, hearts and minds happy as we glide through blissful snow under a blue Canadian sky.
Image © Reuben Krabbe. Sunshine Village.
A mountain known for its steep terrain is Revelstoke, an eye-poppingly beautiful drive over the Rogers Pass. It is a great little town so you have a lot of choice for accommodation, dining and attractions like the kid-friendly Railway Museum.
Revelstoke – which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next season, adding lift capacity on the Revelation Gondola and The Stoke Chair – has the biggest vertical drop in North America: 1713 metres. It is also the only resort in the world to offer lift skiing, cat skiing, heli-skiing and backcountry from the one village base. It also has a great range of intermediate runs and the Turtle Creek beginner area at the base. We explore around The Stoke Chair then go over to the North Bowl, which has some gorgeous intermediate tree runs around The Ripper Chair. We head back to the sunny side and wear out our legs doing the Snow Rodeo from top to bottom, and finish our Canadian stint doing the longest run at Revelstoke – The Last Spike – a whopping 15.2 kilometres long. Stoked, indeed.
This article appeared in volume 10 of Ski & Snowboard with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
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