The Early Season Guide for Your Canadian Rockies Ski Trip

Words by Bre Mirynech

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Alright, it may still be a month away, but here in Banff and Lake Louise it’s been looking like Christmas for a while. The snow is falling, the lights are up, visitors and locals are full force into winter activities, and the towns are peaceful after the busy summer rush.

You may think it’s still early season, but it’s truly the perfect time to visit our magical mountain towns. The lifts have been turning for nearly a month, all three resorts have seen over a meter of snow already. Whether you’re planning your visit soon or already in town, we’re here to help you with a complete guide to making the most of your upcoming trip to Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay.

Banff Sunshine Village

Photo courtesy of Banff Sunshine Village.

Famous for its completely natural snow and the longest non-glacial ski season in Canada, you can’t miss the chance to stop and ski at Banff Sunshine Village. Three diverse mountains offer terrain for every ability, uninterrupted mountain views, and the chance to ski in two different provinces. A day here is sure to leave you smiling.

Where to Ski + Ride:

You can’t miss a trip up Mount Standish via Strawberry Express to get your first view of Mount Assiniboine (aka the Matterhorn of the Rockies). From here, take a ride down Rock Isle Road for some Type 1 fun.

Feeling confident and looking for that next step up? Strap on your skis and enjoy the terrain down Strawberry Face, leading you into the Strawberry Terrain Park. Here you can show off your skills or learn some new ones! This park features 17 different boxes and rails to get some air and work on your tricks.

Insider Tip: At the end of the day if you don’t feel like leaving Sunshine Village, luckily you don’t have to! Sunshine is home to the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, Banff’s only ski-in ski-out boutique hotel. Spend a night here and you can wake up and experience the magic all over again.

Lake Louise Ski Resort

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.

If you’re looking for a day in the mountains that’s vast, inspirational and authentically Canadian, then look no further than Lake Louise Ski Resort. Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, the terrain here speaks for itself. From beginner to expert runs, this resort inspires the inner kid in all of us.

Where to Ski + Ride:

Treat yourself to some classic and beautiful Canadian Rockies views by heading up the Top of the World Express! Then ski all the way down the entire mountain via Home Run. Before you head down though, make sure you pause at the top and give yourself a moment to take it all in. The long run down will make your legs burn, but it will be nothing compared to the way your heart will light up when it witnesses the magnificent mountain panorama.

Looking for a little more thrill without sacrificing the views? Take a rip down Meadowlark from the top of the Grizzly Express for a fast, fun, and steep way down the mountain. The views will take your breath away almost as much as the wind in your face.

Insider Tip: At the end of the day, head into the Powder Keg Lounge for an après ski. Cheers to the end of a perfect day!

Mt Norquay

Two children on ski run at Mt. Norquay ski resort, Banff National Park.
Photo by Shannon Martin.

This is the people’s mountain resort. From ski racers to kids and adults putting on their ski boots for the first time, Mt. Norquay is for everyone. One of the first mountains to open this year, Norquay is the perfect place to visit to kick off your ski vacation.

Being the closest mountain to the town of Banff, Norquay is a local gem. It’s very quick and easy to get to the resort via ski shuttle or your own personal vehicle. Hop on your ride and head up for a day of fun for everyone.

Where to Ski + Ride:

Once you’re there, head to Cascade Chairlift to get some turns down Cascade run. Spend the day lapping this run as a great warm up to get those ski legs ready for big days and a long season ahead.

Have some beginners tagging along? Norquay is the perfect spot for your first day on skis or a board.  Take your family or friends to check out the Sundance Magic Carpet for the perfect introduction run to get a friendly feel for skiing. You’ll never forget the moment they take their first turns surrounded by the scenery and magic of Banff’s majestic mountains.

Insider Tip: Night skiing begins on December 20th, 2019! It’s the only ski resort in the national park to offer skiing and snowboarding by moonlight.

The Rest Day

Park Distillery Restaurant + Bar
Park Distillery Restaurant + Bar, photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

We know you’d love to ski your heart out every single day, but it’s important to give your body a break in between all the big days on the mountain. Rest days don’t have to be boring, and here in Banff and Lake Louise they are certainly anything but that. There are endless options to treat your body and mind, making the most of every minute of your time here.

Soft Adventure

One of the truly magical moments of this time of year (besides the mountains opening of course), is experiencing all of our frozen lakes. Thanks to the below zero temperatures in town, the lakes freeze solid enough to strap on your skates and get our with your family and friends. Witness the magic of skating across a lake with mountain views and a game of hockey. Doesn’t get more Canadian than that, eh? Check out these other low-key adventures in Banff and Lake Louise, too!

Active Adventure

If you’re not quite feeling the rest in ‘rest day’ but are interested in switching up activities instead, head to the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub on Banff Ave and rent some snowshoes! Snowshoes give you the traction and lift to get out on the trails, even during the winter. Change the way you experience the mountains with a true backcountry adventure and all around workout. There are other exciting adventures to discover as well, from ice climbing to backcountry skiing. 

Apres + Eats

We know you love to ski, but we also know you love the après! If you’re searching for a local place to take off your boots and celebrate an epic day out, head down to Park Distillery for their campfire-inspired cooking and small batch spirits. There is no need to change out of your ski gear as this venue brings the backcountry vibe indoors. Gather ’round and après with some glacier to glass, locally distilled spirits and locally sourced food. Banff and Lake Louise have no shortage of dining locales to fill your belly – peruse them all here to find your favourite! Or take it to the next level with a culinary experience – from food tours to spirits festivals. 

Book your early season SkiBig3 vacation today, by talking to our in-destination vacation specialists. Call 844-754-2443 or check out our ski & stay packages online.

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