What is the best Canadian ski vacation

Skiing in the Rocky Mountains (Canada)

Champagne powder and empty ski slopes!

Skiing in Canada on vacation? Once in a lifetime in Canada to ski in winter is a dream of every snowboarder or skier! Because the Canadian Rocky Mountains really offer the best conditions for this.

Even as a small child, I dreamed of hitting the ski slopes in North America once in my life. I was four then and marveled at the professionals on TV. Marveled at the grandiose landscapes of North America, in which they were allowed to practice their profession. I kept asking myself questions like:

What would skiing be like in Canada? Is the snow there really as different as everyone who has been “over there” says? Is there hearty food in ski huts or even après-ski, as we do with us?

I imagined what it might be like to sit in a quaint Canadian log cabin by the open fire and in the evening to look back on the day of skiing ...

Many years later, I have now fulfilled this great dream. I visited Canada in the winter. A road trip from Calgary to the ski areas around Banff and Jasper with the drive over the legendary Icefields Parkway. A year later I visited Edmonton and Jasper, as these places were neglected on the first trip.

I have combined snowboarding with many other adventures like ice climbing, dog sledding, snowshoeing and many more activities.

Here I summarize my experience “Skiing in the Rocky Mountains” for you. From my experience, the differences, my highlights to the ski resorts I visited and planning to ski in Canada.

More travel reports from my Canada trip in winter:

Ski vacation in the Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies in Alberta are among the best ski regions in Canada. You don't often find ski areas in national parks.

There are three in Banff National Park Ski areas - the so-called "SkiBig3":

Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay. These ski areas are mentioned again and again when the best places in the world for skiing are to be mentioned and together they form the area association "SkiBig3".

Looking for the famous "Champagne Powder" So I went to the famous ski resorts in Jasper and Banff National Park. I should find the best conditions and the fluffiest snow here!

In four ski areas that are on the route between Calgary - the gateway to the Canadian Rockies and often the starting point for ski travelers from overseas, because the best way to get there is by plane, Banff, Jasper and Edmonton were each snowboarding for a day to discover the superlatives and the “Champagne Powder” Alberta to experience:

One highlight followed the next.

Whether dog sledding, an ice walk in the frozen canyon, a drive on one of the most beautiful roads in the world - the Icefields Parkway - or a snowshoe hike in fresh snow. It was amazing!

Ski resorts in the Canadian Rockies

Which ski areas are there in the Canadian Rockies? Here is my overview:

The SkiBig3 Resorts - Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay

The ski areas Sunshine Village, Mt. Norquay and Lake Louise together form the association of SkiBig3 resorts. You can buy a joint ski pass for these ski areas, which is valid for all three resorts.

More information at: skibig3.com

Banff: Sunshine Village - my 1st favorite

Sunshine Village is Alberta's largest (3358 ha) and highest (2,730 m altitude) ski area. It's world class when it comes to guaranteed snow. The longest ski season (196 days) - and all without a glacier, on average over 9 meters of champagne powder and the only one “Ski-in and ski-out” lodge in the middle of Banff National Park.

From March to May it's “busy season”, so there's really something going on! Bands play here, there is even a beer garden and the lifts run until 4:30 p.m., one of them until 5:00 p.m.

It takes 15 minutes to go up with the 8-seater gondola to the plateau. Then you have the choice between several star-shaped runs. While most of the downhill runs are rather short, an 8 km long downhill run provides the finest in burning thighs.

The slopes are empty and the runs are suitable for everyone. No matter if you are a beginner or a professional - everyone will be happy here! For the intrepid among you there is the "Delirium Dive". With an average gradient of 39 degrees - in some places even 50 degrees - you will find one of the steepest runs in the Rocky Monutains here.

By the way, there is a real rarity in Canada's ski resorts in Sunshine: A heated 4-seater chairlift with hood and footrests. Yes you read correctly. In Canada, there is really only one thing that matters when you are in the ski area: pure skiing! No luxury, no frills - just high up the mountain and the wide runs and everything that goes with it - in Canada it is expressly allowed to ride off-road - enjoy to the fullest. This is also due to the fact that the ski area is located in the national park and therefore leaves little development opportunities.

Sunshine is only 20 minutes southwest of Banff, so the lively town in Banff National Park is ideal as a starting point for unforgettable days of skiing and one or two drinks in the evening. Isa, for example, was housed there in the "Banff Park Lodge". In Sunshine Village, if you want, you also have the unique opportunity to spend the night directly at the mountain station in the lodge.

Of course we stayed here. With a view of the ski lifts and Canada's largest open-air hot tub, where you can relax with a beer after skiing. Aprés ski in Canadian. Too bad that we beginners didn't know that and were left with the "dry". Everyone brings their own drink with them.

Information about Sunshine Village

  • 196 days of skiing season - the longest in Canada
  • 137 runs and 12 lifts (1 gondola, the rest chair lifts)
  • An average of 9 meters of fresh snow per year
  • The longest slope is 8 km long
  • Ski equipment rental in Banff (Check prices)

How much does a ski pass cost in Sunshine Village?

  • Adult day pass (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.): $ 109
  • Adult Half-Day Pass (12:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.): $ 89
  • See more information about ski passes on the website.

Tip for a place to stay in Banff:

Sunshine Mountain Lodge right in the ski area

The Sunshine Mountain Lodge is Canada's only accommodation directly on the lift. You can make your first turns in the snow in the morning before the lifts start operating. There is food in two different restaurants: Eagle’s Nest (upscale) and Chimney Corner Fireside Dining.

You will also find Canada's largest heated outdoor pool here, where you can use the time to relax after skiing.

You can drop off your luggage directly at the valley station of the gondola. It will be brought up for you. You will also receive a lift pass so that you can go up.

The gondola runs from Saturday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. and on Friday from 8 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. The lifts run daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in winter.

Tip:Snowshoeing through Sunshine Meadows

Banff: Mount Norquay

Located just 6 km outside of Banff, Mount Norquay is the town's local mountain. Locals love Mount Norquay as it is the smallest of the three “Big 3” ski areas. The journey is short, as are the lift queues - the best conditions for a few quick runs on empty slopes! In addition to demanding, steeper slopes and mogul slopes, beginners will also find their luck on flat slopes and pull paths, which are also easy to ride for snowboarders.

The absolute highlight for locals is the “North American” 2-seater chairlift. Numerous Black Diamond and Double Black Diamond runs start from here, the most difficult slope categories in North America. Steep mogul slopes are waiting to be skied by experts. But even as a less experienced skier you shouldn't miss the ride up (and later with the lift down again), because at the mountain station you can expect the best view in the ski area with an incredible view of the mountains around the 8,000 Residential place Banff.

My favorite slopes in this ski area were around the “Mystic Express” ski lift. Very long runs on mostly wide slopes. Small branches lead through the dense forest, others are more straightforward. There are countless ways to get down here and you discover something new with every descent.

By the way - it is not uncommon to see America's ski elite driving past preparing for a competition!

Information about the Mount Norquay ski area

  • 1,645 m altitude (valley station) - 2,450 m (mountain station)
  • 74 runs spread over 190 hectares of ski area
  • 4 chair lifts and 1 drag lift on the beginners slope
  • The longest slope is 1.2 m long
  • Around 44% are black slopes, the rest for beginners.
  • Annual snowfall: 300 cm

Rental of ski equipment at the valley station (see prices)

What does a Mount Norquay ski pass cost?

  • Adult day pass (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.): $ 74
  • Adult Half-Day Pass (12pm - 4pm): $ 60
  • All Inclusive Ticket with Ski / Tube / Sightseeing: $ 94
  • Floodlit skiing (Friday & Saturday, 5pm - 9pm, depending on the month): $ 30
  • Last Hour (before closing): $ 28

See more information about ski passes on the website.

The view is wonderful, isn't it?

Lake Louis Ski Resort

The Lake Louis Ski Resort is the largest ski area in the Rocky Mountains and advertises with 145 unprepared powder snow slopes:

"Located in the heart of the magnificent Canadian Rockies, we let our legendary 4,200 skiable acres of world-class terrain speak for itself, while Mother Nature does the rest."

The best thing about it? The longest run is 8 km long (!!!). If you do these in one jolt, you'll know what you've done (or your thighs). After that, you've earned a lunch break. We enjoyed this in the sushi restaurant of the Lodge of Ten Peaks.

Of course, as in the other ski areas, there are burgers, fries and pizza here. But you shouldn't miss this sushi. An open fireplace should not be missing here either.

Even if the winter wasn't quite as snowy, I only had a little ice on the slopes on the men's World Cup descent (Diamond 1). On a black slope with an incline of more than 45 degrees with World Cup class, however, this is completely normal - right?

The Lake Louise Ski Resort is 4200 hectares in size, offers you 10 lifts and 145 signposted ski slopes for pure skiing pleasure.

Information about the Lake Louise Ski Resort

  • More ski slopes than you can ski in a week (says the resort)
  • 6 months ski season: beginning of November - May
  • One of the largest ski areas in North America
  • The longest slope is 8 km long
  • Annual snowfall: 300 cm
  • Ski equipment rental in the basement of the Lodge of Ten Peaks (see prices)

Directions to Lake Louise

Lake Louise is located at an altitude of 2,673 m in the middle of Canada's oldest national park, Banff National Park. The ski area is only 45 km from Banff and can be reached quickly via the Trans Canada Highway.

If, like us, you'd rather take the scenic route to Lake Louise, take this one Bow Valley Parkway. Here you get fantastic views of the national park and the Rocky Mountains.

What is the price of a ski pass in Lake Louise?

  • Adult day pass (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.): $ 99
  • Adult Half-Day Pass (12:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.): $ 81
  • After 2pm ticket: $ 50
  • See more information about ski passes on the website.

Jasper: Ski Marmot Basin (My 2nd Favorite)

After driving on the Icefields Parkway you will come to after about 250 km from Banff Jasper in the northern Rocky Mountains. Marmot Basin offers us a fascinating world of snow in its secluded location high up in the mountains around Jasper. Hardly any trees, slopes as far as the eye can see, one next to the other so that orientation is difficult, embedded in lonely mountain valleys.

The runs here are very long, there are a lot of black (mogul) slopes that are not so good for me as a snowboarder. Some lifts also have quite steep exits that I don't like at home either.

I found that for the 1st visit Marmot Basin ski area okay, I was more than thrilled on the second visit. The conditions were perfect, there was a little fresh snow and the seclusion of Jaspers and our accommodation Pyramid Lake Resort were awesome!

I have to come back here!

One should note here: The parking lot is located directly on the ski slope a few hundred meters above the valley station. If you already have ski equipment with you, you can start right away. Otherwise there is a loading and unloading zone at the valley station. You can stop here to rent your equipment at the Ski Hub.

We didn't know that before and had to drive back from the parking lot again, which cost us at least 30 minutes.

Information about Marmot Basin

  • Canada's highest valley station (1,698m)
  • 7 lifts, but 86 ski slopes
  • Slopes vary from groomed slopes, through forests and trees, valleys, and wide, flat highways.
  • On average more than 400 cm of fresh snow per year
  • The longest slope is 5.8 km long
  • Rogers Terrain Park: Fun park with rails, jumps, boxes of all sizes
  • Season from November to May
  • Rental of ski equipment at the valley station

What does a ski pass cost in Marmot Basin?

  • Adult Day Pass (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.): $ 102 (cheaper in January)
  • Adult Half-Day Pass (Morning or Afternoon): $ 72
  • See more information about ski passes on the website.

Castle Mountain

Halfway between Banff and Lake Louise near the Waterton Lakes National Park is a real insider tip: the ski area with the plaintive name "Castle Mountain".

Here I had the feeling that time has stood still. The ski area is one of the few independent exceptions. There is no company, no profit company behind it, but it belongs to people who really use the area for their own purposes: for skiing! This is really all about sport. Granted, the lifts are far from European standards, but fantastic snow and unparalleled runs make up for it 100 times.

And the area's slogan could be more fitting: Closer to heaven, down to earth!

Here I (Isa) really experienced the skier's heaven on earth. Skiing in Castle Mountain is relaxed, the slopes are deserted and the terrain is guaranteed to offer something for everyone, but for me personally it was almost the highlight of the trip, because we were able to Skiing meter-high fresh snow in the backcountry all day without taking the same run once - a dream for every skier.

You won't find any houses or resorts here, by the way, the only place to stop for refreshments is in the valley, where you can recharge your batteries for the return journey after a long day of skiing!

Information about the Castle Mountain ski area

  • 1,410 m altitude (valley station) - 2,273 m (mountain station)
  • 94 runs
  • 7 lifts
  • The longest slope is 1.167 m long
  • Annual snowfall: 900 cm

How much does a Castle Mountain ski pass cost

  • Adult day pass (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.): $ 95
  • Adult Half-Day Pass (12pm - 4pm): $ 80

See more information about ski passes on the website.

Fernie Ski Resort

In the state of British Columbia, very close to the border with Alberta, is the ski resort Fernie, which we visited during our ski safari with Stumböck (Isa).

On over 2,500 hectares, every skier is guaranteed to find the right thing in the "5 Alpine Bowls" - the slopes converge here in a star shape and from below we see bowls - the right thing.

In addition to many challenging slopes for experts, the area with its large beginners' area is ideal for beginners. This makes Fernie the perfect area for families. In addition to the slopes, Fernie's infrastructure offers everything a skier's heart desires: In the valley there are many refreshment stops that can be reached directly on skis and there are restaurants on the mountain.

It is also rather untypical for Canadian ski resorts that resorts are located directly on the slopes. We were accommodated directly at the lift in the Lizard Creek Lounge - exactly as you would imagine: with a cozy open fire and a view of the snow-covered slopes. A winter dream!

Information about the Fernie Ski Resort

  • 1,052 m altitude (valley station) - 2,134 m (mountain station)
  • 142 runs
  • Longest run: 5 kilometers, the falling star
  • 10 lifts, including 7 chair lifts
  • Rental of ski equipment in the ski area (see prices)

How much does a ski pass cost in Fernie

  • Adult day pass (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.): $ 105
  • Adult Half-Day Pass (12:30 pm-4pm): $ 84
  • See more information about ski passes on the website.

More information and questions about skiing in Canada

What are the differences in skiing in Canada and Europe?

In a nutshell, here are the differences to ski areas in Europe:

- The ski slopes are not groomed
- You can drive through forests and trees
- The snow is drier and therefore ideal for powder rides "Champagne Powder"
- The ski areas of the Rockies are all over 1,600 m and are considered to be snow reliable.
- The ski season even goes until May. In Sunshine Village, the season even lasts 196 days!
- No queues at the ski lift
- The slopes are empty! The names of the ski slopes are innovative and often funny too!

Take ski equipment with you or rent it on site?

When you fly with Air Canada, you can take your equipment with you as a 2nd piece of baggage for free. You can rent good and new equipment in all ski resorts. We rented our equipment (snowboard and boots, I had my own helmet with me) in Banff in the Ski Hub (directly on the main street Banff Avenue) and returned it to the valley station in Lake Louise. You can also buy lift passes at the Ski Hub.

Differences to Europe?

Of course, right after my return I was asked this question: “Is skiing really that different from ours?” My answer was not only accompanied by a big grin, it came like a shot from a pistol.

I didn't have to think about it for long: "Absolutely, it was unbelievable" - to add with a dreamy look - "The experience and also the snow - all of this is a much more intense experience, so different, so indescribably ingenious!"

Isa, who has already seen many ski areas in Europe, agrees with me! “It is also incomparable that skiing here is not limited to the signposted slopes, but can be used anywhere! So you don't do a run twice, you have that indescribable freeride & backcountry feeling right next to the lift and simply experience a completely different skiing than in Europe! "

In a nutshell, here are the differences to our ski areas in Europe:

The ski slopes

Only a few of the ski slopes are groomed (they say about 30%). Pistenbullies are a rarity. The same applies to the icy furrows and pieces of ice that are created by their journeys. This makes driving a natural experience where you can leave your mark in the fluffy powder snow. Because the ski slopes are almost deserted.

Incidentally, the slopes are lined with trees and offer wonderful descents through the forest. Sometimes you are surprised that the number of lifts seems to be very few at 12. But you don't need that, because there are countless descents from each lift that you can hardly decide which one to take. That's the cool thing about Canada: Here, the fun takes place next to the slopes - here you can ski next to your heart's content, discover new runs and discover freeride in its most beautiful form!

How many runs do you see here?

The snow

The snow crunches gently under me when I take a turn on my snowboard. No scratching sound from icy snow. This is the famous “Champagne Powder” in the Rocky Mountains. I drive so easily and carefree, I don't need any strength to slide down over the snow. Sure, there are also many people here, but on how many days a year? Rarity right?

Especially for beginners you will find the best snow conditions here - who likes to fall on ice sheets?

The snow is dry and fluffy! Hence the name "Champagne Powder"

The Rockies ski areas are all over 1,600 m and are considered to be snow reliable. The ski season even goes until May. In Sunshine Village, the season even lasts 196 days!

The Rockies ski areas are all over 1,600 m and are considered to be snow reliable. The ski season even goes until May. In the Sunshine Village, the season lasts 196 days!

The prospects when skiing

With us you have wonderful views of the mountains. I enjoy every moment. But the panoramas that are offered in the Rockies are different.

We often make a stop on the slopes to just let the view work on us. Wide, endless expanse. But at the same time a mountain massif with hard edges and enormous dimensions rises. It's incredibly beautiful, I can't get enough of it.

Relaxed skiing on almost empty ski slopes

I don't know how I'll ever go snowboarding in Germany, Austria or Switzerland again. The ski slopes in Canada are so empty that I was annoyed when only five other skiers could be seen on the long slope. Incredible and almost sounds arrogant.

It's really great not to have to be afraid that another piste rogue will come racing from behind and not get the curve in time. Skiing is simply more relaxed here.

Champagne Powder - the snow is much finer and fluffier!

I think I've already mentioned it several times: The snow is dry, light and absolutely fantastic to drive on! Even if we were in the Rockies in a snow-poor winter in mid-March and hardly found any deep snow - the snow was fluffy and great to drive on!

The season is long, very long (November - May)

Where can you go skiing from November to May? Isn't that awesome? There are 6 months of fun on the slopes in all of the ski areas I have visited! In Sunshine Village there are 196 days a year!

No queues at the ski lift

No queuing at the lift saves time and you can make more use of your day of skiing. When you arrive at the lift, you can get on straight away. Even on weekends. The maximum waiting time was 3 minutes!

Instead of après-ski, relax by the open fireplace or in the hot tub

Aprés ski is not a thing in Canada. Except in Lake Louise, I saw two huts with (bad) music on. The rest? Open fireplace, chilled music, hot tubs and simply relaxation!

I'm not a fan of après-ski, so I like the Canadian version a lot better!

The ski slopes and lifts just have cool names!

The ski slopes in Canada don't just have numbers and colors to identify them, they have pretty cool names. Hobbits Hollow, Abracadabra, Mystic Chair (name of a ski lift), and many more. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember all of them.

Ok, there are a few cons to skiing in Canada, if you value it - I don't care about these points:

  • No après-ski (if you're into après-ski).
  • Older lifts than ours - one in Marmot Basin had neither footrests nor a safety bar to close it.
  • Slope markings and routes - I didn't look, but whatever, we always got where we wanted to go.

More information and tips for a ski holiday in Canada

Arrival to the ski vacation in the Rocky Mountains

The largest city in the province of Alberta is Calgary. Calgary is the best place to start your ski adventure. Check out my article on Calgary for tips on places to stay, bars, and attractions.

For example, Air Canada offers direct flights to Calgary from Frankfurt / Main. We also flew with Air Canada.

If, on the other hand, you plan to only go skiing in Jasper (now my favorite), then I advise you to fly to Edmonton.

Katrin's tip: Go on a ski safari through the Rocky Mountains with a rental car

I love road trips! Susi (Black Dots White Spots Blog) and I took the opportunity to combine a skiing holiday in the Rocky Mountains with a winter road trip. We drove with our own rental car, which we picked up at the airport in Calgary.

Driving is really relaxed and the region is ideal for a road trip with your own rental car. So you can explore all ski areas, stop again and again for these wonderful postcard motifs (e.g. Peyto Lake) and cruise over the legendary Icefields Parkway.

We drove from Calgary via Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper to Edmonton. Alternatively, you can drive back to Calgary from Jasper. But we wanted to explore both cities and also went to an Edmonton Oilers ice hockey game in Edmonton.

Read more: Canada round trip in winter on the Icefields Parkwayto the top

Isa's tip: a ski safari with the Stumböck Club

For me (Isa) it was the first visit to Canada. A huge country, countless opportunities for skiing! In order to organize as much skiing as possible and as little as possible, a guided trip is ideal. The ski tour operator Stumböck offers trips to Canada, USA, Japan, Iceland and the Alps and took me on this ski safari.

With a German guide who knows the ski areas like the back of his hand during the trip and who will meet our small travel group - a maximum of 10 people each - directly at the airport. And to be honest - how do you get to know a ski area better than with a local? Guide Bert takes care of us not only on the slopes. He checks in with us in the accommodations, helps with communication problems, provides information about Canadian customs and drives us from ski area to ski area in our van.

As a snowboard instructor, I know what it means to do this job and I am glad that I am allowed to be on the other side and I have to admit: Very nice luxury when you just don't have to worry about anything and focus on it Skiing can concentrate.

For around 3,000 guests per season, Stumböck offers tailor-made skiing experiences and thus guarantees the right thing for everyone. In addition to individual tours, there are also heli-skiing tours, which we unfortunately were unable to do due to the lack of suitable snow conditions, but - safety first!

All information about the offers can be found here: Stumböck ReisenZum

How much does skiing cost in Canada?

The question that everyone is keenly interested in: What does it all actually cost? When skiing in Canada you always think that everything is much more expensive than going to Austria or Switzerland. I wouldn't think twice about it now and would prefer a trip to North America. I have already listed the advantages above.

Of course, the flight is more expensive than petrol costs if you drive 3-4 hours to Austria or the Allgäu. I am now speaking for everyone who, like me, live in southern Germany. For all the “Northern Lights”, the flight to Canada is perhaps not more expensive than the journey to the ski area in Europe? A flight to Calgary costs around € 600. Renting ski equipment on site also costs a tad more than with us. Eating and drinking costs just as much in something at the ski huts.

Ski passes are no longer much more expensive than in Germany and Austria. They are even cheaper than in Switzerland. Check if there are packages. Then you can save a lot of money. Ski packages often include accommodation, a ski pass and maybe even the flight. Sometimes you save a lot of money in a package than simply booking everything individually.

The Canadian dollar is currently pretty cheap for us. Therefore, you should check whether you would like to go on a Canadian road trip in winter combined with skiing and other winter activities (dog sledding, visiting the NHL ice hockey game, snowshoeing, ...)?

When is the best time to go on a ski vacation in Canada?

Last but not least, I have to clear up one thing for you: it can get damn cold in winter (December and January). Therefore, I found the trip in mid-March with pleasant temperatures between -13 to 0 ° degrees as pleasant. -13 ° degrees sound damn cold. But the cold in Canada is very dry, it feels warmer.

In order to experience the real deep snow, I would choose the months February to March. On my next trip I would aim for the end of February to the beginning of March.

More travel reports from my Canada trip in winter:

Do you fancy a Canada road trip with skiing in winter? Write me!

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