Skiing Banff Lake Louise.
Banff’s “Big Three” resorts provide 7,748 acres of varied ski terrain suitable for every level of skier from novice to expert. Lake Louise Mountain is the largest single ski area. With plenty of tree-lined trails for all levels of skier on the Front Side, and the Powderbowls area – a free-riders’ paradise of ungroomed bowls on the back of the mountain. It’s also home to a World Cup downhill slope and an excellent terrain park. Sunshine Village encompasses three mountains that typically get more than twice the amount of snow of other resorts in this part of Canada: over nine metres each year. While it offers some of the most challenging expert terrain in North America, its 107 trails also provide plenty of skiing for beginners and intermediates. Mount Norquay is the closest ski area to Banff town and is popular with families due to its predominantly gentle, tree-lined slopes and good children’s facilities.
The dry, light snow that falls so generously in the Canadian Rockies typically contains only seven per cent water and is referred to as “Champagne powder” – lap it up on Lake Louise’s wonderful Powder bowls and Sunshine Valley’s free-riding areas.
Front Side and Larch Area, Lake Louise Mountain.
The south-facing Front Side of Lake Louise offers varied skiing for all levels. Novices can find their feet at the base, where the nursery slopes are sited, and the Grizzly Express gondola whisks beginners up to the start of the long, tree-lined green Eagle Meadows run. Intermediate skiers will enjoy building confidence on the blues off the Summit Platter chair and can then head for the Larch Area, accessed by taking the Grizzly Express and dropping off the back of the mountain. It’s served by one high-speed chair and, being further from the main ski area, is invariably quiet. A great spot for intermediates with greens, blues and some blacks to progress to, it’s also ideal for bad weather days with plenty of trees.
The Powderbowls, Lake Louise Mountain.
Also on the back of Lake Louise mountain lie the Powderbowls (2,500 skiable acres). While beginners and intermediates can explore the bowls by following the green and blue pistes that circle them, this is really a winter playground for advanced skiers, with a vast choice of single- and double-diamond black runs down five bowls and off three ridges. Although the runs are not always groomed, they are skied so much that they’re more like challenging pistes than genuine off-piste terrain.
Mount Standish, Sunshine Village.
Mt Standish is a good place for beginners and intermediates to start exploring Sunshine Village with plenty of long green and blue trails. The Wawa and Strawberry chairlifts catch the early morning sunshine and provide access to the gentle green warm-up run Meadow Park and to the wide Dell Valley green. As the sun works its way round the bowl, join the locals and cruise down the long blue Angel Flight run.
Lookout Mountain and Goat’s Eye Mountain, Sunshine Village.
Delirium Dive and The Wild West are two of the toughest off-piste areas in the world (unpisted but marked and patrolled) – separated only by the face of Goat’s Eye Mountain, which comprises mostly steep, challenging black slopes. Delirium Dive alone provides expert skiers with over 600 acres of challenging terrain on the mile-wide cirque on the back of Lookout Mountain with an average pitch of 40˚. You must be equipped with avalanche transceivers and shovels and be skiing with at least one other person to be allowed through the gates to access either of these areas.
Mount Norquay is the smallest mountain of the “Big Three”. Although its signature run is the double black diamond Lone Pine, a long, unrelenting bumps run, there are plenty of gentle, predominantly tree-lined pistes for beginners and intermediates. Novices will enjoy finding their feet in the slow skiing area at the base village before progressing to the greens and blues accessed by the Spirit and Mystic Express chairlifts