The relaxed mountain towns of Banff and Lake Louise sit at the heart of the Rockies and offer wintersports fans the opportunity to ski or board within the limits of a UNESCO World Heritage National Park.

Just 90 minutes from Calgary, both are increasingly well served from the UK with Westjet this winter launching a year-round direct flight from Gatwick to the towns' nearest gateway, Calgary. Departing three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) this new route is in addition to existing direct services offered by Air Canada and British Airways throughout the winter and flights with Icelandair and KLM, which operate regional departures via Reykjavik or Amsterdam into Edmonton and Calgary respectively.

Must-see

Both towns have access to three user-friendly ski areas: Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Village.   Between them they offer 334 runs set across a combined terrain of almost 8,000 acres. They are all due to open on November 10 when visitors can take advantage of the dry ‘champagne’ powder the area is famed for as well as a wide range of off-piste activities from dog-sledding to ice hikes.

The newly-renovated Banff Gondola offers rides to the top of Sulphur Mountain and bird’s-eye views of six mountain ranges – plus observation decks and a Summit Walk great for non-skiers too.

Heading north from Lake Louise, on the stunning Icefields Parkway, the Marmot Basin resort offers a further 86 trails covering 1,675 acres set within Jasper National Park (open from November 11).

Authentic experiences

The tri-area lift ticket for the SkiBig3 resorts in Alberta (covering Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Village) now gives visitors free admission to the historic Banff Hot Springs too. First discovered in 1883 by railway workers, the natural hot springs, with their healing minerals, have been attracting travellers ever since and make a great way to relax and soothe aching muscles after a day on the slopes. Elsewhere Sunshine Village offers great snowshoeing activities, and dog sledding, tubing and skating on the lake are popular options from Lake Louise. Visitors can also take an ice-walk in Johnston Canyon, and the nearby Jasper National Park is one of the world's largest dark sky preserves so star-gazing is spectacular. The choice of dining options across resorts is impressive too.

What’s new?

The Moose Hotel & Suites in Banff National Park, Alberta, is open for its first winter season. The four-star property from the Banff Lodging Company is the first new hotel to open in the park for nine years. Featuring 174 air-conditioned one- or two-bedroom suites, it  has modern mountain elegance with a moose character painted in each room and beautiful views of the mountains. It has  a rooftop health club with two outdoor hot pools and a sauna, as well as an indoor pool.   

In downtown Banff, The Elk & Avenue, formely the Banff International, has completed its refurbishment and options include spacious loft rooms great for families and small groups.

Where to book it

Ski Safari has an eight-night ski holiday staying at the three-star Mount Royal Hotel in Banff from £759pp on a B&B basis. Departing on January 21 2017, the price includes Heathrow to Calgary return flights, transfers and shuttle to the slopes when booked by Dec 2016.