Words by Renée McCurdy
Here in Banff National Park, we are extremely lucky to be surrounded by three world-class resorts. Each offers a distinct sense of community and unique variety in terrain – enough to entertain any level of skier for several days each, let alone skiing all three resorts in one day.
This ambitious feat, coined the SkiBig3 Trifecta Challenge, is the ultimate accomplishment for any winter enthusiast. Typically taken on by Bow Valley-dwellers seeking the highest level of local bragging rights, this challenge can also be completed by visitors who explore each resort throughout one visit to Banff National Park.
Riding all three resorts in one day was a feat I’d had on my bucket list for years. This winter, I went for it.
Step One: Lake Louise Ski Resort
For step one of the challenge, I started the day at the furthest resort from Banff. Lake Louise Ski Resort is an easy 45-minute drive from here, and is located mere minutes away from the quaint village of Lake Louise. They say the early bird gets the worm. But at Lake Louise, the early bird gets the alpine glow – which I would strongly argue is a much better deal. No matter how many times I visit this mountain, the vista views never get old, and can they ever put on a show!
With low hanging clouds and welcomed temperature inversion, the alpine was the place to be. Sticking to the sunny terrain on the Top of the World lift and Summit platter, soft snow can still be found in the wind loaded areas, even when a storm hasn’t recently rolled through. The secret to this resort is to follow the wind. No visit to Lake Louise is complete without knocking off a few laps in the soft back bowls, including my personal favourite called Whitehorn 1, a long fall line run off the back of the Summit platter.
Step Two: Banff Sunshine Village
We got in a few hours of skiing the slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort, then hopped in the car and made the eastward commute to our next step of the challenge. A modest 15km from the town of Banff, the second stop of the day is Banff Sunshine Village. Because Sunshine sits on the Continental Divide, it is often gifted with more snow than the surrounding resorts.
These conditions paired beautifully with new terrain opening that very day in the infamous Delirium Dive freeride zone. Requiring a pack, shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver to enter, the ‘Dive’ is some of the world’s premiere freeskiing terrain. We gathered our avalanche gear and grabbed lunch from the First Tracks Cafe at the base, fueling up on the gondola ride up to the village. When you only have one afternoon, there is no time to waste! Skiing the chutes, we carve our way down to the trees, where fresh snow was happily found in abundance.
After catching some friends for a couple of dive laps, we made our way to the top of the Great Divide chair for a few more runs. These made for a well-deserved beer at the Mad Trapper’s Smokehouse, before continuing on to the final stop of the day.
Step Three: Mt. Norquay
Although the lifts were nearing close at Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort, there were still plenty of turns to be made at Mt. Norquay. Only a short 6 km from Banff, a visit to Norquay is an easy way to escape the bustle of downtown Banff’s nightlife on Friday and Saturday nights. Mt. Norquay offers the only night skiing out of the three resorts, making weekends the perfect opportunity to complete the trifecta.
Skiing the Cascade chair, aptly named after Norquay’s valiant next-door neighbour, you immediately feel welcomed by the unique sense of community here. We had a great time joking around with the lifties and patrollers in the lift line, and you’re likely to run into Banff’s local ski legends who have called Norquay their favourite for decades. With a fresh groom, night skiing at Norquay the perfect time to get deep into some corduroy carves. The terrain park is open for night skiing as well, with a considerable variety in features for many levels of shredders to hit. If you’ve had enough skiing for your legs to handle in one day, Norquay also offers night tubing – they build the largest tube park in Alberta, so it’s sure to please.
And of course, no night at Norquay would be complete without a pint in the Lone Pine. With free night shuttles back to town, you’re free to embellish the celebration of your hard-earned victory!
In the end, we skied from bell to bell – 9 am to 9 pm. Skiing all three back-to-back accentuated the unique qualities of my home ski resorts, and made me appreciate their diversity and accessibility all the more.
Visitors to Banff National Park who complete the Trifecta Challenge can get a commemorative trail sign and a celebratory free beer at the Elk and Oarsman Pub on Banff Ave. Just head to the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub with your SkiBig3 lift ticket, Mountain Collective pass, or Ikon Pass, and share your photos from each resort on social by tagging #TrifectaChallenge and @SkiBig3.
Don’t worry about burning out your ski legs – the resorts can also be skied on different days to cash in on this prize.
Need more tips on how to complete the challenge?
- Allocate one day at each ski resort during your ski vacation to Banff National Park
- Join a SkiBig3 Guided Adventure – this 3-day program explores all three resorts and qualifies you automatically
- Warm up your ski legs on your first day of arrival with an afternoon at Mt Norquay
- Head up to Mt Norquay for an evening of night skiing! (Note, extra fees may apply)
- Ski at more than one resort on the same day (SkiBig3 Lift Ticket holders can ski up to three resorts in one day at no extra cost)
- Still have space on your SkiBig3 Lift Ticket or Ikon Pass? Head to Mt Norquay on your way out of town for some last-minute laps.
Ready to take on the challenge for yourself? Call our in-Banff SkiBig3 Vacation Planners today at 1-844-754-2443 or plan your next Canadian Rockies ski vacation online. Great Ski & Stay Packages available now.