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Banff & Lake Louise Ski Resort and Ski Holidays

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Banff & Lake Louise
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  Resort Information
Season Nov - May
Nearest Airport Calgary (90 minute transfer)
Ski Area 260km or 560km for area
Ski Lifts 29
Ski Runs 135
Longest Run 8km
Resort Height 1476m
Snowball Ratings
Beginners 3.5 / 5
Intermediates 4 / 5
Experts 4.5 / 5
Families 4.5 / 5
Nightlife 4 / 5
Affordability 5 / 5
Non Ski Activities 4 / 5

Banff Lake Louise

Banff Lake Louise is the second largest ski area in Canada and has some of the most beautiful ski scenery in the world, featuring the breath-taking blue-green Lake Louise, awe-inspiring summits and endless pristine powder. This is also where heli-skiing first took off and the ultimate alpine downhill adventures are a chopper ride away.
 
One of three friendly rival resorts near Banff, Alberta, Lake Louise is promoted as an “ensemble” world-class ski destination (via a tri-area lift ticket) along with Norquay, and Sunshine Village. It began with Mount Norquay in the early 1920s, Sunshine Village opened in the 1930s, and the Lake Louise ski area that exists today dates back to the 1930s. Mechanical lifts began appearing at the resorts in the early 1940s, with the first chairlift installed at Norquay in 1948.  Now there are over a million skier visitors each season, who are drawn by the jagged, majestic peaks, unforgettable natural beauty, and exceptional skiing and snowboarding.

Lake Louise has the largest and most varied terrain of the three resorts, with four mountain faces, thousands of acres of wide-open bowls and, critically, a beginner trail off every chairlift. Its centrepiece is the 1.5-mile (2.5-km) long, icy, blue-green lake fed by springs from the Victoria Glacier. Originally settled in 1884 as a Canadian Pacific Railway logging camp and later designated Canada’s first National Park and a U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage Side—Banff National Park—Banff is today consistently voted North America’s Most Scenic Ski Area.

Sunshine Village, the highest resort, typically offers a blanket of superb powder snow on its wild and wide-open terrain and in 1999–2000 it pipped arch-rival Lake Louise as the No. 1 resort by attracting a record 595,000 visitors. Not to be outshone, Mount Norquay is the locals favourite, relying on its very easy reach from Banff and its very family-friendly image. It’s also the only resort in the Canadian Rockies to offer night skiing.
 
Lake Louise, the largest resort in the Canadian Rockies, and nearby Sunshine and Banff Norquay have a great mix of trails for every level of skier, and Champagne powder, of course! It is the largest resort in the Canadian Rockies and the three ski resorts encompass 7,748 acres (550km) and 248 trails. And if you include the mountainous terrain reached only by helicopter then the skiable terrain is infinite. Lake Louise itself covers a vast 11 square miles (28 sq km). These are crisscrossed by 113 named trails and over 80 miles (128 km) of trails across four mountain faces covering 4,200 acres of ski area. That’s not forgetting the six Back Bowls laying claim to the driest, lightest powder in the world in 2,500 acres of pristine, natural, wide-open wilderness.

The dry, light snow that falls in the Canadian Rockies is classic Champagne Powder. The best snow is usually found at higher elevations, in the Back Bowls, and on the trails with snowmaking. Most major front side trails have snowmaking and are generally in good shape throughout the season. Green and blue trails are groomed daily.

A key ingredient to Lake Louise’s appeal is that there is a green, or easy trail, from every chairlift on the mountain: in other words all chairs have an easy and difficult way down and the varied terrain above and below the treeline appeals to all types of skiers. Even when visibility is poor, Lake Louise’s long, tree-lined trails (making up 66 percent of the resort) offer protection and visibility. Boarders and freeriders will be impressed by Showtime, the largest terrain park in North America, which features a superpipe along with all the bumps, jumps, and lumps you can handle on this 2,000 feet (650 m) vertical ride.
 
Sunshine is a three-mountain resort offering everything from easy beginner slopes to some of the toughest expert terrain in North America. Mount Standish and Lookout Mountain are Sunshine’s original two mountains, the latter having the ultimate hardcore backcountry face, Delirium Dive —40˚ or more at its gentlest—a mile-wide (1.6 km) cirque that is patrolled by the park service who won’t let you in if you don’t carry transceivers and shovels.

But there are plenty of thrills on Sunshine’s 107 trails without going near the Dive. Tons of snow, wicked freeriding and a natural terrain park on Mt. Standish make this a boarders’ mecca. At Sunshine Village the vertical drop is 3,514 feet (1,072 m)—the biggest in the Canadian Rockies. The third and newest addition to the resort is Goats Eye Mountain via a new 8-seat gondola taking skiers to the top in just six minutes. With 396 inches (10 m) of snow each winter, more than Lake Louise and Banff Mt. Norquay combined, Sunshine does not need snow machines.

Mount Norquay
is a much smaller and more straightforward proposition: one mountain face, five lifts, 190 acres and a fair mix for all levels, 28 tree-sheltered trails. Designed by skiers for skiers, it has plenty of carving and freeriding options. Night skiing and boarding are now on offer every Friday as well.

The ski season here is from the first week of November to first week of May, but be warned, the region is cold in winter, much colder than, say Colorado, with extreme lows in December and February of -22˚F (-30˚C) rising to 19˚F (-7˚C) in January. This can be tough on the less-seasoned skier and difficult for kids to handle—and when your not in the sun, it’s even tougher.The corollary though is that the snow is consistently good.
 
Lake Louise village grew around the railroad station and the majestic Chateau Lake Louise Hotel still dominates. The station is no more but the hotel certainly is. Development is tightly controlled by the Parks Service so the village is compact but has most amenities—gas station, bakery, grocery, liquor store, bus station, a wide range of lodgings, and over 20 restaurants and bars all linked by free shuttle buses.

The upper alpine Sunshine Village lies at 7,082 feet (2,159 m). Lodgings are found at the Sunshine Inn, and the village also has two licensed day lodges, nine food outlets, cocktail lounges, ski & snowboard school, rental store, daycare, snowboard park, outdoor hot pool, and reputedly Canada’s best snow, and lots of it—396 inches (1,006 cm) a year!

At Mt. Norquay families come out to play, but it is not a village per se. Because it’s so close, you stay in the bustling town of Banff, with its hotels, B&Bs, lodges, restaurants, bistros, stores, galleries, boutiques, museums, and plenty of activities such as soaking in the natural hot springs. Mt. Norquay has a new base lodge with licensed lounge, dining, daycare, ski and snowboard schools, and rentals.Nighlife is varied and very lively, with lots of dancing and live bands.Keeping sober can be difficult for many and its generally not an expensive resort compared to many in Europe.

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