When it comes to selecting the ideal base camp for a ski vacation, it’s hard to go wrong with Banff and Canmore, in the Canadian Rockies. Just 20 minutes apart, the towns share breathtaking views, but they’re also close to four different ski resorts as well as cat skiing—letting visitors have their pick of the choice spots that match their preferred way to ski.
Each town has its own personality. Banff, with its thermal hot springs, was developed as a playground for wealthy vacationers and remains the busier of the two. Canmore maintains a laid-back mountain-town feel, and is often the choice for travelers looking to save money while enjoying the outdoors. Both have a wide range of accommodation styles, plus plenty of great food and drink for après time. A ski trip to Alberta is a true bargain for visitors from the United States with the current exchange rate and the fact that Alberta resorts don’t consider winter as high season, as many U.S. ski resorts do.
Start your Alberta ski tour at Nakiska, just 45 minutes from Calgary and home to the Calgary 1988 Olympic Alpine events. Skiers can still enjoy Olympic-length runs among the resort’s 1,021 skiable acres, yet also share the mountain with family—with kids in lessons at the mountain’s base and adults testing their mettle on the challenging upper mountain. Après activities in nearby Kananaskis Village range from a warm soak in a hot tub to an evening indulging in culinary treats, whether your preference is casual or fine dining.
Adventure junkies flock to KPOW’s cat skiing at Fortress Mountain, where the terrain varies between cut runs, chutes, gullies and open bowls—but Fortress is best known for its glade skiing. It’s easily accessible from Calgary International Airport—just 75 miles away. With an annual snowfall between 276 and 354 inches per year, skiers and riders here get incredible chances at blazing tracks through secret powder stashes and accumulating enough vertical feet to be happily exhausted at the end of the day.
Within Banff National Park, winter sports aficionados have the chance to Ski Big 3: Mount Norquay Ski Resort, Sunshine Village Ski Resort and Lake Louise Ski Resort. With a combined 8,000 acres of skiing, two gondolas, 26 chairlifts and plenty of snow to enjoy it all, the three resorts pack in nearly endless opportunities for skiing and riding. With a tri-area lift ticket, skiers get free transportation between Banff-Lake Louise and all three ski areas.
In Banff’s backyard, Mount Norquay Ski Resort is just minutes from town. Despite having the only night skiing in Banff-Lake Louise with great conditions for skiers of all levels, Mount Norquay’s excellent beginner terrain makes it a special favorite of skiing and riding families.
Perched high on the Continental Divide, Sunshine Village Ski Resort has awe-inspiring vistas from its three sprawling mountains. Terrain ranges from gentle cruisers to extreme big-mountain trails, with the largest percentage of runs favoring intermediate skiers. New to the resort this season is Canada’s first heated chairlift, the TeePee Town LX high-speed quad, which styles skiers with heated seats, footrests and protective orange bubble covers.
Minutes from the village of Lake Louise, Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the largest ski resorts in North America, with more than 4,200 acres of terrain spread across four mountain faces. Every chair here allows access to beginner, intermediate and expert runs, allowing friends and families to spend more time together, regardless of their ability. Be sure to pack your phone or small camera in your pocket to snap shots of the spectacular scenery when you’re taking a ski break.