Main Travel Destination
Photo: Courtesy of the CTC
Skiing Lake Louise,
Banff National Park.
In Banff National Park, you can choose to ski at Norquay, Sunshine or Lake Louise, but great skiing can also be enjoyed off-piste under Crowfoot Glacier.
• Banff Ski Resort Web Cams
• USA Ski Resorts
Air Canada (1-888-247-2262),
Air Canada Jazz (1-888- 247-2262),
all serve Calgary - just over an hour by road from Banff National Park.
VIA Rail (1-888-842-7245) and Greyhound (1-800-661-8747)
also serve Banff National Park.
Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine:
You can ski one or all of Banff National Park's ski areas, thanks to a pass that provides admission to all three resorts. Ski season generally runs from November to May. (1-877- 754-7080).
45 minutes from Banff, with 105 runs totalling 100 kilometres. Terrain: 30% expert, 45% intermediate, 25% novice
18 km from Banff, with 91 runs totalling 82 kilometres. Terrain: 10% expert, 20% advanced, 50% intermediate, 20% novice.
A couple of good bets:
Buffalo Mountain Lodge:
More than 108 guestrooms, many in comfortable log-cabin villas, with fireplaces and balconies looking onto the mountains.
(Tunnel Mountain Road, Banff,
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel:
A stay at this century-old Scottish-style chateau, with 600 sumptuous rooms and an unmatched setting in a gorgeous valley, is de rigueur. (Spray Avenue, Banff,
Where to Eat:
Chic establishment serving fine French cuisine.
(corner of Banff/Buffalo, Banff,
The Banffshire Club:
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel's upscale restaurant, whose chef is exceptionally innovative.
Buffalo Mountain Lodge:
Excellent game dishes in deluxe log-cabin surroundings.
Travel Alberta: 1 800 661-8888
IF YOU GO
For more information on this or other Canadian destinations, visit the Canadian Tourism Commission's website at www.travelcanada.ca.
The Powder & The Glory...
Home to three gigantic ski resorts that rise amid the breathtaking splendor of the Alberta Rockies, Banff National Park is a Mecca for skiers and boarders from around the world.
It's a gloomy April day and all is not right in Banff National Park. The sky is grey, the air feels damp and I must leap across large puddles on my way to pick up a lift ticket. It's pouring rain. In fact it's been pouring rain since dawn. "No problem!" my friend Jet, who skis here regularly, announces cheerily. "Up on the mountain, it'll be windy and all this precipitation will be snow."
Sure enough, emerging from a quick, dry ride on the world's fastest and longest ski gondola, we discover the sky is still dappled with grey but the rain has stopped. After another few minutes aboard the Angel Express chairlift on Lookout Mountain, we find ourselves amid furiously flying flakes. Welcome to the snow paradise of Sunshine Village!
Sunshine, one of a trio of stellar ski resorts in Banff National Park (the others are lake Louise and Norquay), has a top elevation of 9,308 feet, making it Canada's highest ski area. So even when there's torrential rain in the nearby town of Banff, that's not so at Sunshine.
In fact, Sunshine is usually drenched with sunshine - hence the name. With three different mountain faces, it boasts the longest season and most abundant snow in the region, and that's without a stitch of snowmaking. There's so much powder it can be rather overwhelming for the uninitiated.
Powder, Powder Everywhere
"Hey!" I call to Jet. "How are you supposed to ski in this stuff?"
"Simple - just hold out your arms as if you were holding the steering wheel of a bus..."
When you grow up in Quebec, your knowledge of powder is limited to the fluffy layer of loose snow left behind by big storms. But at Sunshine, powder is part of daily life. Unless you're content with fairly easy runs down the gentle trails designed for less daring skiers, you need to bone up on how to carve a route through Sunshine's deep carpets of snow. Some experts at Sunshine go straight for the steep flanks of Goat's Eye Mountain and Lookout Mountain. Others practically freefall down the aptly named Delirium Dive.
Viewed from a distance, this extraordinary gauntlet looks like a pristine curtain hanging between Lookout Mountain and The Eagles, two of Sunshine's highest summits. Viewed from up close, the Dive's 2,132 vertical feet and slopes of up to 45 degrees are enough to give the most seasoned adventure-seekers pause. But every day, about 100 fanatics in quest of heady heights and adrenalin rushes give Delirium Dive a go.
I considered tackling Delirium Dive, but I decide I'm quite happy with the appealing Bye Bye Bowl, accessed via the Continental Divide High Speed Quad - which should be renamed the Fundamental Divine High Speed Quad because it offers such an awesome panorama of Mount Assiniboine, the Matterhorn of Canada.
Instead of plunging down Delirium Dive, I stay up high and spend the day admiring the ocean of mountains that flows away to the horizon, like a sea of giant white waves buffeted by the wind.
Largest Ski Area
The next morning, still groggy from yesterday's delights, I head for Lake Louise. Here, at the long-time international star of Canada's ski resorts, the sun sparkles brightly all day upon each of four mountain faces.
At the summit of Canada's largest ski area, I can only gaze in awe at the surrounding scenery. There is so much beauty to absorb that it takes awhile to get around to actual skiing. This is Canada's rooftop, and it imparts an amazing sense of freedom. The resort swarms with thousands of skiers and boarders, but it's so huge - more than 100 trails and 4,150 acres of skiable terrain - you pretty much feel like you have it to yourself.
Renowned, like Sunshine, for dry powder, Lake Louise is always blanketed with fabulous fresh snow, especially in the immense Back Bowls, awash with so much dazzling powder that you lose all points of reference.
The Paradise aspect, although shorter, also offers lots of fluffy snow, along with mind-boggling vistas of the surrounding peaks. And the dizzying bluffs of the Ptarmigan area are woven with lovely gladed areas for the bold and the brave.
Overlooking the Bow River Valley, Lake Louise's South Face offers an infinite variety of trails for skiers of all abilities, not to mention boarders with a penchant for acrobatics. They blast through The Jungle Terrain Park, an enormous snow playground - the biggest of its type in North America - complete with jumps and two halfpipes, including the monumental Super Pipe.
Here again, the vistas are utterly magnificent. Over on the other side of the valley, colossal Temple, Fairview and Victoria mountains march across the horizon, with a timid white splotch tucked at their bases. This is the world-famous Lake Louise, on the shore of which rises the equally famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Along with the splendid Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the Chateau is one of the few large structures in Banff National Park. Canada's oldest national park, Banff is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which in effect makes it a doubly protected area. There's no question hereabouts of Whistler- or Tremblant-style mega-development, which is all to the good.
Standing at the top of Mount Whitehorn, I ponder all this as I gaze at the valley below, curling away into the distance like a long river dotted with evergreens. I think especially about all those skiers who, like me, have hada chance to commit this scenery to memory, and to the millions of others lucky souls who will follow in our tracks.
About The Author...
Source: Canadian Tourism Commission