An American’s Guide to Skiing in Banff and Lake Louise

It’s no secret that your Canadian neighbour to the North has a reputation for having all things Winter and wonderful. Snow-capped mountains, undisturbed scenery, warm hospitality, and acres and acres of wide-open, pristine skiing are waiting to be discovered in Banff National Park. SkiBig3 is home to three unique ski resorts – Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay – all with their own distinct terrain and vibe that are worth a trip in themselves. But it doesn’t end there, with two vibrant mountain towns to make your home base, and a plethora of rest day activities and attractions, you’ll find plenty to do with a week or more in this beautiful destination.

Thinking of booking a winter vacation to SkiBig3? Here are a few tips and considerations to keep in mind for U.S. travellers:

Skier at Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff National Park. Mt. Temple and Lodge of Ten Peaks in background.
Photo courtesy of Lake Louise Ski Resort.

1. Don’t Forget Your Passport

You may remember the (way back) days of travelling between Canada and the U.S. with nothing more than a driver’s license. These days, whether entering the country via plane or vehicle, a valid passport is now required to step foot on Canadian soil. Ensure it is valid for the duration of your stay, and make sure to know the details of your trip (such as length and the address of your hotel) to ensure a seamless customs experience.

2. Cash In on Canadian Currency

It may seem odd to have another currency in a country so similar to the United States, but there is a key difference. The exchange rate is usually much more favourable when switching from USD to CAD, so it pays to have some local cash on hand. It looks like monopoly money, and you may just want to save some as a souvenir. We also have way more coinage with our currency. Rather than one dollar notes, we have $1 ‘loonie’ and $2 ‘toonie’ coins.

Insider tip: Some local businesses will take USD as payment, but you’ll often get CAD change back at a 1:1 rate. Save your wallet by taking a few extra steps beforehand.

3. Book Your Flight to Calgary

Getting to Banff and Lake Louise is easy. Calgary International Airport (YYC) is the closest airport to access Banff National Park, and is a short 90-minute journey from the airport to the town of Banff. Frequent direct flights connect YYC to many cities across Canada, the United States, sometimes in a matter of a few hours.  From many cities, you can catch a flight in the morning and be skiing that same afternoon! Frequent shuttles depart throughout the day. For more trip flexibility, opt for a car rental right from the airport. 

4. Tap In to the Expertise of our Vacation Planners

Our team of Reservations Specialists live in the Bow Valley and work on the very same street that boasts those classic Banff Avenue views. They know the ins and outs of this destination and the SkiBig3 resorts, and are happy to help you find the best itinerary to suit your travel style and budget. From accommodation, transportation, lift tickets, rentals, and resorts – they have a wealth of knowledge on how to make SkiBig3 a one-stop-shop for your winter vacation.

5. Rent Your Gear for Easy Travel

Why pay extra luggage fees? It’s easy to rent your ski or snowboard gear online so it’s ready for your arrival.  The SkiBig3 Adventure Hub offers a wide range of quality brands and styles for all ages. Centrally located in downtown Banff, the team at the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub will have your gear waiting for you. Once your sizing is complete, we’ll deliver your gear to your hotel that same night.

Insider tip: When you’re finished with your rentals, you can drop your gear either back at the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub, at the rental shop of Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort, or Mt Norquay, or you can even leave it at your hotel. Just let us know, and we’ll pick it up for you.

6. Download the SkiBig3 App

With three resorts, two towns, and one national park to discover – there’s now a handy way to have all the info you need right in your pocket. Check out the SkiBig3 app while you’re here, for your all-in-one guide for resort trail maps, shuttle schedules, ski tracker, restaurant and activitiy recommendations, and so much more!

7. Complete the Trifecta Challenge

If you visit all three SkiBig3 resorts – Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay – throughout the duration of your stay, congratulations!! You have officially completed the SkiBig3 Trifecta. Bring your lift ticket to the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub on Banff Avenue to verify the resorts ridden, and cash in on a commemorative patch or trail sign. And there’s more! Enjoy a complimentary beer the Elk and Oarsman just across the street.

8. Check Off a Classic Canadian Experience

It wouldn’t be a trip to your quirky neighbour up North without indulging in a favourite Canadian pasttime. Try your hand at ice climbing or backcountry skiing, check out an ice hockey game in nearby Calgary and cheer on their home team, the Flames, or simply indulge in a Caesar and poutine!

9. Enjoy Our Warm Canadian Hospitality

The stereotype goes that Canadians are unapologetcially apologetic, ‘sorry’ seems to be the most commonly used expression in our collective vocabulary! But it goes much more beyond that. It won’t be long into your trip before you feel like a local yourself. Most of the transient Banff and Lake Louise populations are travellers themselves, and are happy to help out with tips, directions, or simply as a buddy to ski a lap with.

10. Use Your Mountain Collective and Ikon Pass Days

Are you a Mountain Collective or Ikon Pass holder? Be sure to use up your SkiBig3 days this winter! With our extra-long season stretching from November to May, there’s plenty of time to cash in on those ski and snowboard miles. Depending on the type of pass you have, it may just be enough to warrant two trips! Talk to our Vacation Planners about sweet deals on lodging, too!

11. Put the Metric System Front of Mind

Canadians have use a strange smorgasbord of measurements, blending imperial and metric systems to the complete bafflement of all other visiting nationalities. As a quick guide – temperatures are measured in Celcius (not Farenehit), snow is measured in centimetres (not inches), and driving distances are measured in kilometres (not miles). Here are the conversions:

Celcius to Farenheit: (temperatuere in°C × 1.8) + 32 = temperature in °F

1 kilometre = 0.62 mile

1 cm = 0.4 inch

Ready for your ultimate ski vacation up North? Talk to our in-destination Reservations Specialists today to book your dream winter vacation with SkiBig3 to Banff National Park. Call 844-754-2443 or check out our ski & stay packages online.

SkiBig3 Ski & Stay Packages

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