Spectacularly set in Canada's original National Park, Banff and its associated ski resorts are primarily summer resorts that luckily happen to have some excellent skiing on their doorsteps. Snow conditions vary from area to area. Sunshine Village prides itself on not requiring artificial snow, with Mt. Norquay having snowmaking on all green and blue slopes. Lake Louise has about 40% of its terrain covered by snowmaking facilities. All in all, lack of snow is rarely a problem in a normal season on a Banff ski holiday.
The town of Banff is mostly spread along the central thoroughfare of Banff Avenue; with the majority of hotels, apartments, shops, bars and restaurants being on or just off the central stretch. Lake Louise Village - about a 45-minute drive away, is less of a village and more an accumulation of accommodation with some shops. Lake Louise itself, with the imposing Victoria Glacier looming over the lake and famous Chateau Lake Louise, is a couple of miles further up the road.
Lodging in Banff has something for every budget, from the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs to local homely youth hostels and even the luxurious properties aren't outrageous in price in comparison to other resorts. Though Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine, the neighbouring resorts, have slightly more skiable terrain, the town of Banff is more of an all-rounded place to stay with access to good quality restaurants, lively bars and varied accommodation and if you have a car it is easy to drive to the other resorts.
Resort Altitude: 1,383m
Resort Skiing: 2,730m
Total Ski Area: 264km
Lifts: 21 in Tri-Area
Blue Runs: 65km
Red Runs: 116.1km
Black Runs: 83.2km
Cross Country: 80km
One of the greatest benefits of a ski holiday in Banff is that you can stay in one place but have access to 3 large resorts and miles and miles of well-groomed pistes and powdery off-piste to explore. Not to mention the amazing natural beauty of this area; in fact, the National Geographic Traveller magazine added Banff to its must-see places to visit in 2017 and without question it has some of the finest mountain scenery you will ever see.
The skiing is spread over three separate areas: Lake Louise, Banff Sunshine and Mt. Norquay, all covered by the Tri-Area lift pass. Lake Louise, the largest of the three areas, offers a good selection of gladed tree runs as well as a wide selection of graded runs. Banff Sunshine is the main ski area for Banff-based visitors, boasting an average of around 360-400 inches of snow a year. Mt. Norquay is a quaint tree-lined area, ideal in bad weather or for a first day warm up.
Snowboarders are well catered for, with excellent freeriding terrain at Banff Sunshine and the Powder Bowls at Lake Louise. Each mountain has its own board park, mostly with reduced access passes available for avid freestylers.
With each mountain having a different, yet almost identical, school, the best option for beginners looking for a week of lessons is the Club Ski package, available through Ski Big 3, offering a day on each mountain, twice a week (Sundays and Thursdays). For single days and private lessons, individual schools are the best option.
Each mountain has a kindergarten for the younger children and the ski schools offer all-day lessons for children from the age of six.
Eating out has a wide range for all tastes and budgets, from fine dining at the Banff Springs, to brilliant steaks at The Keg and the excellent value Old Spaghetti Factory. Other good options are Tony Roma's for ribs and The Bison for Canadian with a twist.
Nightlife in Banff is lively with a good selection of bars, almost all serving food. The Rose & Crown regularly has live music, the St James' Gate offers the best pint of Guinness west of Ireland and Wild Bill's often has country-and-western and line dancing - Alberta is cowboy country after all. Other good options include Melissa's and The Elk and Oarsman.
There is plenty to occupy the non-skier in both Banff and Lake Louise, including ice skating, ice canyon and nature walks, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, dog sledding and the world famous Hot Springs. Several of the big hotels have spa facilities, all of which are available for non-residents at a fee. Other activities include city trips and ice hockey evenings. For those with a car, the spectacular Columbia Icefields are an hour or so away from Lake Louise.