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Ski Canada - Banff Ski Resort
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Banff Ski Resort Canada
Banff national park one of the Unesco world heritage sites and is a great place to ski or snowboard. If you are based in Banff you essentially have access to 3 distinct ski areas for which you can purchase a tri-area ski pass.
So if you want to ski at Lake Louise, Sunshine Mountain and Mount Norquay all on the same skiing holiday then Banff is a great place to set up camp. It is only about an hour from the international airport at Calgary and for most of the journey you will be able to see the snow capped mountains of the Rocky mountains ahead of you.
There is an abundance of hotel accommodation throughout Banff that will suit pretty much anyones budget. We stayed at the Travelers Rest when we visited, which had an outdoor hot tub right in the middle of the residential block, but where I would have really liked to stay is the famous Banff Springs.
We did spend a couple of apres ski evenings there having gin and tonics in the Rundle lounge, well it seemed too posh for a cold beer although I am sure they wouldn't have minded. We thought we probably wouldn't be able to get in wearing our ski gear, but there was none of that, as we hung around the entrance having a look, one of the staff came over and asked us if we were looking for a table so in we went.
The views from the lounge look right through the mountains and the scenary is amazing. You can also wander around the hotel out onto the balconies and go shopping in the hotel store. Really is a great place to visit even if you can't afford to stay there.
The town itself is pretty quaint given it is in North America, alpine style wooden buildings and lots of places to eat and drink. It's easily possible to walk from one end of town to the other but if you do fancy Banff Springs, you can catch the bus up there and its really cheap, unlike the gin and tonics when you get there but 'hey' you only live once.
Lake Louise, Sunshine Mountain and Mount Norquay Ski Resorts
Anyway enough of the town lets get back to the skiing, if you decide to take the tri-region ski pass you can access the regions by boarding the ski bus, which doesn't sound great but actually works really well. What most people do is hire their skis and other equipment at the local sports stores in Banff, the day you arrive if you are smart.
Most of the hotels let you store the gear in their ski storage rooms overnight and the buses drive through the town picking people up at pretty much all the hotel entrances and they come through fairly regularly as well, so you won't be waiting long. There is a sign on the front saying what ski resort they are heading for and even Norquay the closest to town needs a bus to get there, but they really have it off slick and because you can store your skis in the hotel there really isn't a lot of carting heavy kit around.
When we stayed we were only there for a week so we just skied for two days in each region. There was a slight problem for the first 3 or 4 days however because we just happened to arrive on the coldest week of the Canadian winter, put it this way there were hardly any Canadians skiing because the temperatures were around -40F with wind chill.
So that is something to think about when going to a place like Canada, it can get pretty damned cold and you wouldn't want to leave any dangly bits exposed. In fact when it is that cold you can't have any exposed skin or you risk frostbite.
That said you still can ski, you may want to go in for a little warm every other run, but for any of the resorts there are plenty of nice modern cafes and restaurants to seek refuge and a hot chocolate.
As for levels, well this is Canada, wide open runs, beginners, intermediates and advanced. All the resorts cater for them all, loads to go at plenty of room, can't remember seeing a drag lift but there might have been one or two and if you ask me which was my favorite then I would probably choose Norquay over Sunshine Mountain or Lake Louise. Not sure why, might be because it was the last one we skied and it had warmed up quite a bit to -20F so was positively balmy. But to be honest any one of the three resorts is great to ski at, the queues move really fast and you get up the mountain in no time at all.
Actually talking about the weather, don't be too scared of those temperatures, they sound horrendous but the cold is very dry and doesn't get in your bones like it does in Europe, so actually skiing at -20F for us proved to be a very pleasant experience, -40F yes that was too cold but basically we were a tad unlucky and its not usually that bad.
A few more photos of the skiing and Banff Springs HotelClick thumbnail to view full-size
Hot tubs and skiing in the Rockies
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