Banff & Lake Louise – The Ultimate Winter Mountain Adventure Destination
The three ski areas of Banff and Lake Louise Ski Resort are very different to most others on the planet. Located within one of the last of the wild places, the three unique ski resorts are all within the boundaries of Banff National Park – a protected place where commercial development has been kept in check.
Skiers and boarders can expect a totally awe-inspiring experience like none they’ve had before, surrounded by towering mountains, spaces shared with wildlife, indigenous heritage, and nature at its purest.
Thanks to high elevation and up to nine metres (30 feet) of annual, feather-light snowfall, the region’s three ski areas of Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt Norquay, known collectively as ‘SkiBig3’ are known to have the longest non-glacial ski season in North America – with seasons lasting up to seven months (from early November through May). These long ski seasons stretch to late April or well into May, making the area one of the best in the world for spring skiing.
The world-famous ski region is just a 90-minute drive from Calgary International Airport to Banff on the smooth, safe Trans-Canada Highway with no traffic and the spectacular Canadian Rockies towering up ahead of you.
You can, if you wish, explore the region car-free thanks to a network of airport shuttles, ski shuttles and public transit, helping save the planet while giving you more time to take in the jaw-dropping views.
A SkiBig3 Lift Ticket gives you access to an incredible 8000 acres of skiable terrain, 29 lifts and 362 runs across Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt Norquay ski areas.
You can wake up each day and decide which resort to experience, perhaps following the best snow conditions, what friends or family prefer or just the best shuttle schedule for your needs.
There’s built-in grace day flexibility so you can enjoy rest days during your vacation without losing any ticketed ski days. Or you can ski two resorts (or more) in one day – at no extra cost! A SkiBig3 Lift Ticket is valid at any and all resorts during a single day. You can also do some evening tubing at Norquay for no extra cost using your SkiBig3 Lift Ticket.
You can download the SkiBig3 App to make things as simple as they can be. You’ll then have the insider guide to Banff National Park’s three ski resorts on your phone, including snow reports, shuttle times and webcams. You’ll also find the loyalty programme SkiBig3 Pass Perks in the app, complete with digital coupons.
The Ski Areas
Banff Sunshine has the longest non-glacial ski season of any resort in North America, with 201 opening days planned this season, culminating with the famous 95(ish) annual Slush Cup pond-skimming contest on May 22nd! The resort is famous for its 100% natural snow – no snowmaking and its use of snow farming.
The rainbow-coloured gondola takes you to the famous “Upper Village”, nestled in the alpine at 2200m. From where you can access the full 3358 acres with 12 lifts and 137 runs, the longest an epic 8km (5 miles)! You can also ski in two Canadian provinces at once, BC and AB, along the Continental Divide.
Delirium Dive is Banff Sunshine’s famous double black area, a cool “intermediate” between groomed runs and backcountry for those wanting to get into more free ride skiing while still in a patrolled area.
Known as “the friendly giant” Lake Louise’s Ski Resort 4200 acres make it the third biggest ski resort in Canada, with 164 runs and 11 lifts. There’s a massive mix of terrain here from incredible steeps in the back bowls to glades, chutes, groomers and powder pockets as well as blue runs off of every chair
Lake Louise Ski Resort is also open into May and is currently showing off its ever-improving facilities following the approval of its Long Range Plan by Parks Canada. Several new quad chairlifts have been unveiled in the past few years as well as another 480 acres of freeride terrain (for high intermediate to expert skiers) in West Bowl, and there’s much more planned. West Bowl remains largely unexplored by UK visitors but with its many (patrolled) glades, gullies, fresh powder and fun chutes, you can always find a fresh line here!
This season is the first full winter for the new high-speed Juniper Express quad-chairlift which opened in February last year. The high-speed quad whisks skiers and riders up the mountain to access its five dedicated blue trails in as little as six minutes.
This sector is the perfect area for beginner and low-intermediate skiers to practice their skills and build confidence.
Mt. Norquay is only 10 minutes from the world-famous ski town of Banff, and is also known as “Banff’s backyard”. Being so close to Banff, it’s ideal for families with kids and teens (who love the night skiing available here),
But there’s high-adrenaline terrain here too. Known as “the best-kept secret in the Canadian Rockies,” Mt. Norquay lives up to its name with astounding advanced and expert terrain off its famous North American two-seater chair. The Artillery Chutes are no exception, known to locals as the “steep and deep”. Just downslope from the Gun Run entrance, Artillery Chutes have been gladed and reopened! These chutes face a similar North-facing aspect as Gun Run and allow for untouched powder turns late into the day.
In addition, Mt. Norquay’s Mystic Express Chair area has always been known for its long, cruisy blue groomers, the perfect pitch for learning how to link turns. This winter, the resort opens fresh lines to the public – through recently gladed trees – that add to this area’s appeal of being a perfect place for learners to master all types of terrain.
On its prepared terrain, Norquay has built a reputation for its incredible grooming, its night skiing (Fri/Sat nights) and for having a fully lit terrain park, and Alberta’s longest and fastest tubing lanes-8 tubing lanes. These make Mt. Norquay perfect for teens and families. Afterwards, head to their Lone Pine Pub and celebrate with this season’s new Norquay 97 Rusty Edges Amber Ale, brewed by Banff Ave. Brewing Co.
Norquay is actually the oldest resort in the Canadian Rockies, it opened in 1926. Many Olympic and World Cup ski racers have gotten their start here. But its attitude is far from backwards-looking, in 2021 it became the first ski resort in Canada to be powered by 100% renewable power. Partnering with Bullfrog Power, Canada’s leading green energy provider, Mt. Norquay’s new green-powered status means it’s now running 100% on renewable power, generated from a blend of wind and low-impact hydro power from new, Canadian renewable energy facilities – that’s everything from keeping the resort’s chair lifts moving, to lighting up its day lodges.
The SkiBig3 Trifecta Challenge
To conquer the SkiBig3 Trifecta Challenge you simply need to ski or board at all three of the “Big3” resorts! It does not have to be on the same day. Once you have skied or boarded the “Big3”, stop by the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub to have your SkiBig3 Lift Ticket, Mountain Collective or Ikon Pass scanned and validated. Conquerors get a coupon for a free drink at a local establishment and a special SkiBig3 Trifecta Challenge prize.
SkiBig3 Pass Perks
SkiBig3 has teamed up with select Banff, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Canmore partners to offer SkiBig3 Pass Perks including discounts at food and beverage outlets at each of the three resorts as well as at restaurants and bars across Banff and Lake Louise. You can also save on experiences like non-ski tours and adventures and local fitness and wellness classes. It’s all in the SkiBig3 App where you can see digital coupons on your phone.
Off The Slopes
There’s a huge range of non-ski activities in Banff, Lake Louise and the surrounding area. The numerous shops, several museums, art galleries, spa culture and local Banff hot springs are just the start.
Yoga is also growing in popularity in Banff, as everywhere, with the town’s newest yoga studio, Flow State Yoga, Banff’s second yoga centre, offering the chance to stretch your muscles and recharge after your activities.
Among newly available options in the region, you can also choose to explore Banff on a guided fat bike tour with Banff National Park featuring some of Canada’s most scenic trails. Here you can discover landscapes blanketed in snow and hidden viewpoints. Bikescape, Banff’s only guided mountain biking/fat biking company provide guided tours for all ages and abilities.
Or you can visit the park’s most picturesque lakes in winter on the Canadian Rockies Mountain Lake Tour with Mountain Park Transportation. Their interpretive sightseeing tour in Banff National Park visits some of the most iconic lookouts and lakes in the area. From classic Lake Louise, travel up the Icefields Parkway, where every winding curve fills the windshield with a new view. Admire Hector Lake, Crowfoot glacier lookout and the historic Num-Ti Jah Lodge at Bow Lake and come away with a deeper appreciation for the area after your half-day adventure.
You can also sign up for an Evening Ice Walk through a quiet, frozen canyon, dripping with icy waterfalls that shimmer under the starlit sky (Also available during daytime). This new experience with Discover Banff Tours is a totally unique adventure that heightens your senses and shows you a side of the magical Canadian winter you’ve never seen before.
The Ski Towns of Banff and Lake Louise
Whichever ski area you pick (and you can pick all three during your visit!) you’re skiing in Canada’s oldest National Park and it is a unique experience. There are no condos and endless development up the sides of resorts – just fantastic skiing with unobstructed views, no forestry cutting, no mining, no development – just endless mountain views.
Banff and Lake Louise are authentic mountain towns with local culture and cuisine (not purpose-built villages). This destination boasts over 150 dining options and is building a reputation as a foodie destination, with eight great new dining options opened in the last two years alone.
Choose to stay in any one of more than 40 accommodation options from hostels to condos to premium suites to cabins and everything in between.
Banff is much the larger of the two resorts, with about 8,000 permanent residents – ten times the size of Lake Louise. An authentic Canadian town with real locals – not “purpose-built” for the sake of the ski resorts. There’s lots of local flavour and characters. With a lively, friendly and all-around awesome après scene it’s a great choice for nightlife lovers, but foodies, families, shopaholics and arts and culture buffs will also be very happy here. It’s all just a 1.5 hour drive from Calgary Int’l Airport on a safe, smooth highway.
Lake Louise, just 40 minutes further west from Banff on that same great highway, has a population of only around 700 and is a great choice for anyone who wants some peace and quiet and loves nature …although adventure seekers, outdoor recreation enthusiasts and those looking for a truly Canadian experience will hit the jackpot here. All will wake up to wildlife and wilderness each morning in the quiet, magical and iconic destination.
Fabulous For Foodies
With more than 150 dining options in the region, you’re not likely to go hungry. The list of options is ever-changing too, with another 11 restaurants and cafes opening in the past few years alone. Some of the latest include Añejo a new Mexican on Banff Avenue which opened on October 3, 2022, and offers margaritas, tacos, and a wide range of other Mexican favourites. There’s also the wood-fired steakhouse Bluebird that opened last September or Brazen which pays homage to historic Banff with shareable plates served up inside the historic Mount Royal Hotel.
Fans of Japanese cuisine will love Banff Shoku Izakaya, the town’s first Japanese pub or izakaya, and there’s also Hello Sunshine, Banff’s new sushi, Japanese and karaoke joint that has the vibes of a 1970s ski lodge meets a traditional Japanese restaurant.
For authentic Italian Banff Lupo marks the arrival of a fresh taste of Italy to the ski town and pushes the bounds of classic Italian while the Three Bears Brewery and Restaurant is Banff’s second brewery.
Visit This Spring
Springtime is a great time to visit as this is still Banff and Lake Louise’s low season (most visitors come in summer) but temperatures are warming and the days are getting longer plus the skiing is great. No lift lines, no traffic, just skiing! Spring deals on offer.
We have a regular Podcast called The White Out where we review the latest gear, talk about the latest snow forecast and updates on where is best to ski now, as well interviews with absolute ski legends AND we spotlight a resort every week and so much more. You can check out our regular podcast here Apple | Spotify | Podcasts or search The White Out on your chosen podcast directory.