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Banff Ski & Snowboarding Review - Three Mountains for the Price of One

By Jeff Rector & Lawrence Davis

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Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains in the province of Alberta, and encompasses 2,564 square miles of mountainous terrain, numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense forest and majestic alpine landscapes. Although it was founded in 1885, winter tourism didn’t begin until 1917 with the first Banff Winter Carnival which featured a large ice palace built by the internees. Carnival events included cross-country skiing, ski jumping, curling, snowshoe, and skijoring. The main commercial center of the park is the town of Banff, in the beautiful Bow River Valley.

 

A night view of Banff from a Rocky Mountain top


Splash Magazine Worldwide editor-in-chief Lawrence Davis and I arrived in Calgary after a brief plane flight from Los Angeles. We rented an SUV from Budget rent-a-car and made the brisk 90-minute scenic drive to Banff National Park. We checked in to the luxurious Fairmont Banff Springs, a breathtaking 768 room hotel, who's “old world” exterior, hides a completely remodeled, state-of-the-art interior. Simply staying at this historic castle feels like a vacation in itself, complete with all the amenities you would expect from a 5-star resort. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself and read my complete review.

 

The Faimont Banff Springs in Banff National Park

 

 

The Fairmont Banff Springs is an internationally renowned symbol of Canadian hospitality. Few hotels in the world rival the majesty and grandeur of this historical resort, (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), located in the heart of Banff National Park.  Styled after a Scottish Baronial Castle, the Fairmont Banff Springs has provided a warm welcome for guests from around the world for over 125 years. The opening of the hotel in 1888 marked the birthplace of tourism in the Canadian Rockies, and plays host to tourists, business travelers, and sports enthusiastsever since.

 

Canadian Kelly VanderBeek at the World Cup Super-G at Lake Louise

 

Ski Banff–Lake Louise–Sunshine is Canada’s largest ski destination, a joint venture of three of the world’s finest ski resorts; Mt. Norquay, The Lake Louise Ski Area and Sunshine Village all within minutes of each other.  Available on one tri-area lift ticket, the three resorts offer almost 8,000 acres of skiable terrain and one of the longest ski seasons in North America, from mid November to late May, all in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, (Canada’s protected playground) Banff National Park.

 

Beautiful Mount Norquay has been open since October

 

Mt. Norquay is the first resort to open in Canada this season and is leading the way in the record books with its earliest opening in its history. The opening date was moved forward almost two weeks due to the incredibly early snowfall in the Banff-Lake Louise area. Hot on the heels of Mt. Norquay's opening is Nakiska, (which opened October 27th), followed by The Lake Louise Ski Area and Sunshine Village which opened November 9th. 

 

Great Powder will last through Spring at Mt. Norquay

 

 

Sunshine Village, which sits high on the Continental Divide in the heart of Banff National Park, is just a15 minute drive from the cozy mountain town of Banff. Sunshine’s terrain features many natural hits and drops suitable for both skiers and snowboarders. The resort features more than 3,300 acres of skiable terrain, ranging from gentle, inviting beginner runs, all the way up to the most extreme big mountain runs. Delirium Dive has been named one of the 10 top off-piste destinations in the world.

 

Another day in paradise at Sunshine Village


The resort also features the massive 12-acre Rogers Terrain Park, which offers a full range of difficulty, and more than 50 features once fully operational. Three sprawling mountains provide breathtaking vistas, uninterrupted by any signs of civilization beyond the mountain’s resort. You can actually ski in two Canadian provinces, both Alberta and British Columbia, in one single run. Sunshine boasts an amazing 107 named runs, plus gladed areas and offshoots with the longest run being five miles (8 kilometers).

 

A deluxe suite at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge

 

If you want stay on the mountain and not have to drive, Sunrise Village offers the only Ski-In, Ski-Out hotel in Banff. Sunshine Mountain Lodge was built especially to help you and your family, or a group of friends get the most out of your snow vacation. And with the addition of a new wing, offers even more space and greater comfort, all with smallest possible environmental footprint. It's luxury that gives you a jump on your day of skiing or riding, right outside your door. Stay and ski specials are as low as $119 per person and includes lift tickets. When you book four nights at the Lodge, you get one night free. You can also be a group leader, book 20 or more people and receive one free night and a day of a skiing. For these and other deals, visit the website at www.sunshinemountainlodge.com

 

Chateau Lake Louise in the Winter

 

Arriving in Lake Louise, (our 3rd day in Banff), Splash Magazine editor-in-chief Lawrence Davis and I checked into the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The Hotel is complete with all the amenities you would expect from a world-class resort, luxurious accomodations, gourmet restaurants, spa faciltiies and more. Here's a Splash Magazine travel tip, upon check-in, ask to join the President’s Club and get free Internet, local calls, daily newspaper and more. Read my complete article on The Chateau Lake Louise.

 

 

 

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta Canada is more than simply a grand luxury hotel. Since 1890, it has played a considerable role in the colorful history of Canada's mountain West. Lake Louise is renowned as the “birthplace of Canadian mountaineering”. Although it was conceived as a summer-only resort, the Chateau Lake Louise opened for skiers on a trial basis during the peak winter holiday seasons of the 1970s, breathing new life into the luxury hotel.  A decade later the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics would showcase Banff National Park's ski resorts to the world and play host to tourists, business travelers, and sports enthusiasts from around the world.

 

 

 

Lake Louise snow is exceptional and the view is breathtaking

 

 

Spectacular scenery awaits at Lake Louise with uniquely beautiful terrain that is both vast and varied. The wilderness is pristine and inspirational. Located in the heart of majestic, historic Banff National Park, Lake Louise is truly legendary and offers world-class terrain.

 

The Main Lodge at Lake Louise Ski Resort

 

With 4200 skiable acres, Lake Louise is one of the largest ski areas in North America. The unique layout allows families and groups of varying abilities to ski together; there are beginner, intermediate and expert runs down from every chair. Beginners and intermediate skiers have access to an abundance of gentle slopes and long cruising runs. Experts can explore endless chutes, glades, gullies and remote bowls in some of the Rockies' most challenging terrain.

 

 

No matter what kind of winter adventure you’re looking, you’ll find it at Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. Join the millions of visitors who have already enjoyed its breathtaking beauty, unlimited activities and fun for the whole family. Go to the website and book your dream winter vacation today. www.banfflakelouise.com

Published on Nov 13, 2012

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