Banff & Lake Louise

While Canada has been a destination for skiing for many decades, for much of those years the term “Canadian skiing” simply meant “Banff, Alberta.” Of course there were other ski areas in the country, but pre-Whistler, the Canadian Rockies was simply the only place ski-happy Europeans wished to ski in Canada. And why not? The jagged spires and deep valleys of the Rockies are reminiscent of the homeland. Indeed, it was men with names like Fritz and Franz who put Banff on the map, and almost a century later, the town within a national park remains a must visit for recreational and serious skiers alike. While the area has a reputation for a thin snowpack, there is no shortage of challenging terrain and, when the snow does come, there are few places that deliver snow as light as the Rockies. There are also few places the terrain is as rugged and beautiful. The fact that the season lasts from November until May means skiers get good value out of a season pass.

The iconic town of Banff (and its sister city, Canmore, located 20 minutes away outside the park boundary) is a perfect staging ground for skiing and ski mountaineering within the Canadian Rockies. Banff is a thriving (read: busy) tourist town with a rich alpine history. Canmore is the less busy, less expensive, more local-friendly town immediately next door. Whichever one you choose to stay in, you’ll be happy with good food, friendly places to drink, and plenty of accommodation options. Collectively, the two towns service three ski areas: Mount Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village.–Mike Berard