Skiing the Rockies
By Julie Baxter | October 2016 | 5 minute read
Alberta has one of the longest ski seasons in North America, with resorts open from November to May. All have a fabulous reputation for their powder snow and the reliability of the conditions.Wise up to what's on offer and prepare to sell, sell, sell.
Relaxed, well-equipped resorts and relatively few crowds ensure the hills of the Albertan Rockies make a compelling wintersports choice for families, beginners and experts alike.
With 65 ski hills across the province, there is plenty of choice and although some clients may think a long-haul wintersports holiday is financially beyond their reach, the Canadian slopes have become increasingly competitive.
Euro-zone destinations are no longer a cheap option when you add in the costs of après-ski and dining out, but the value of the Canadian dollar, competitive airfares and many added-value offers on passes, lessons and equipment really can make Alberta doable without breaking the bank. The province does not charge any sales tax which also helps keep in-resort costs down.
Skiing the Rockies is a 'must-do' for many, with considerable kudos. The fact that there are many activities beyond the slopes – from dog-sledding to ice walks – gives Alberta broad appeal to mixed-generation and mixed- ability groups. Alberta also offers the rare opportunity to ski in a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Banff and Jasper.
Banff National Park
Three resorts sit within Banff National Park. Mt Norquay is just 10 minutes from the town of Banff and is popular with families; while the Lake Louise Ski Area, 40 minutes from Banff has 'wow' factor appeal (set to open November 10). The layout here allows beginners, intermediates and experts to all set off from the top of every chairlift.
Sunshine Village (opened November 3) offers ski-in, ski-out accommodation right on the mountainside with the added excitement of Delirium Dive, one of the Top 10 off-piste destinations in the world. The resort opened the first heated chair-lift in Canada last season. It moves 1,200 people per hour uphill at speeds of 1,000ft per minute – more than double the speed of the previous lift.
Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is a well-known wilderness destination of lakes and mountains with the friendly town of Jasper at its heart. The wintersports scene is based around Marmot Basin where there are 86 marked trails. The ski and snowboard runs are split evenly between easy, intermediate and advanced so its a great choice for mixed ability groups. It's famed for its large snow-filled bowls.
For those looking for somewhere less well known, Castle Mountain is a resort area two-and-a-half hours drive from Calgary with two mountains offering over 3500 skiable acres with 78 trails, eight alpine bowls, six lifts and three terrain parks. The mountain summit sits at 7463 feet, with panormaic views of the Rockies.
Beyond the slopes
Alberta's hills have plenty of exciting and memorable experiences for non-skiers too from snow-shoeing hikes in stunning scenery to exhilarating dog-sledding adventures and adrenalin-fuelled snow-mobiling. There are ice-skating opportunities surrounded by the mountain backdrop, ice walks in glistening canyons and passed frozen waterfalls, and fun sleigh rides through snowy forests. They’ll love the mountain town shops, cafes and spa opportunities too and, of course, the historic Banff Upper Hot Springs. Regular winter festivals add further local colour and the chance to party with the locals!