Winter is the most wonderful time of the year—if you like freezing your buns off, scraping the ice off your car’s windshield every morning (if it even starts!) and not being able to get out of your front door because of all the snow piled in front of it. However, there is an easy cure for the winter blues: hitting the hills!
Alberta, Canada is famous for its world-class ski resorts nestled in stunning Rocky Mountains. Here, you can find some of the best powder, beautiful ski-in/ski-out hotels, breathtaking landscapes and fantastic dining options. The hardest part is choosing which one to go to! Here are some of the top picks.
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This is one of the most popular resorts in the entire province, and for good reason. Located only about 10 minutes from Banff, it offers loads of activities that will keep even non-skiers entertained (champagne and oyster bar, anyone?!). This hill makes the most of the 30 feet of snow it gets every year, offering more than three thousand acres of skiable terrain spread over three separate mountains—good for all skill levels.
After braving the parking lot (it can get PACKED on weekends) you’ll hop on the high-speed gondola which shuttles you up the mountain towards the 12 lifts scattered around the hills. Even the chair lifts are high-speed, meaning you’ll spend more time slicing through the fresh powder than standing in line. Thrill seekers may want to start the day on Goat’s Eye Mountain, which has an elevation of 9,200 feet, and numerous black diamond runs to conquer.
If skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, you could always take in the views by snowshoeing—or just spend the afternoon at the aforementioned champagne bar.
Getting there: The hill is an hour and a half west of Calgary, on the Trans-Canada Highway just west of Banff.
Need to know: Stay on the mountain by booking a room at the beautiful Sunshine Mountain Lodge (and take advantage of their ski and stay specials!). There are also nine different restaurants on site.
Price of adult ticket: $69 half day, $85 full day
Fun fact: Sunshine is actually located in two provinces, as Lookout Mountain is technically in both British Columbia and Alberta!
Click here to check out Sunshine Village’s website.
Lake Louise Ski Resort has reason to brag. At the 2013 World Ski Awards in Austria, it was voted best ski resort in Canada—and one of the top three in the world. Why? Well, let me count the ways.
Lake Louise is really a resort in every sense of the word. It boasts 4,200 acres of skiable terrain on four mountain faces, which afford stunning views of surrounding Banff National Park, as well as ice skating, showshoeing, a tube park and dog sledding. There is even an annual ice carving competition, which draws people from around the world.
Those spending a day on the hill will find no shortage of places to warm up, whether it’s in one of the cafeterias, Starbucks, lounges, lodges or restaurant. The Kokanee Kabin is a great place for live music, while those looking for a nice dinner can take the chairlift up to Whitehorn Lodge for appetizers, then ski down for a buffet dinner before dancing the night away.
Getting there: Lake Louise Ski Resort is near the village of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, about half an hour past Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway.
Top tip: If you have money to burn, book at room at the luxe Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which has been featured on The Bachelor. It’s no wonder, as the stunning hotel is framed by the green waters of the lake and the looming mountains around it, making it a favourite spot for weddings.
Price of adult ticket: $69 half day, $85 full day
Click here to check out Lake Louise’s website.
While Mount Norquay is one of the smaller hills, it does have one major plus going for it: it’s as close to Banff as you can get without skiing onto Banff Avenue. This is a great mountain for a family outing as it has more manageable runs and has great package deals which include lift tickets, tube park entrances and hot chocolate.
Speaking of the tube park, that actually happens to be my favourite activity at Mount Norquay—I mean, who hasn’t dreamed about flying down a ski hill on a toboggan?
The beauty of it is that the park does all the hard work (read: walking up the hill) for you. Just plop down on an inflatable inner tube, grab on to the T-bar, and it will shuttle you up. The hill is divided up into separate lanes so you don’t need to worry about crashing into anyone. The staff will also help you out by giving you a solid push at the top, so you can fly down at top speed!
Getting there: The hill just five minutes past Banff, and there are shuttles that will get you from the townsite to the hill if you are staying in town. Norquay is a one hour drive from Calgary.
Price of adult ticket: $51 half day, $61 full day. Hourly passes are also available, along with an all-inclusive ticket that gives you access to tubing, skiing and sightseeing.
Click here to check out Mount Norquay’s website.
Nakiska makes this list all thanks to its location: Kananaskis. ‘K-Country’ is absolutely stunning year-round, and while it boasts similar landscapes to Banff (think: huge mountains, forests full of evergreen trees, bright blue skies and wildlife galore), it is more untouched. To get there, you’ll have to navigate windy Highway 40 to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, but the drive is well worth it for the jaw-dropping scenery.
The hill itself is a great spot, especially if you’re coming from Calgary and only have the day out there (it’s less than an hour’s drive!). With 71 marked trails, there are loads of options for skiers of all skill levels, and the mountain has three high-speed quad chairs as well as a double chair. With a top elevation of 7,415 metres, great views abound!
It’s also a world-class hill…remember the 1988 Winter Olympics, anyone? Yup, Nakiska played host to many of the events.
Getting there: Nakiska is the closest mountain to Calgary, taking less than an hour to drive there. Head west on Highway 1, then turn south onto Highway 40.
Need to know: There are two cafeterias, a lounge and a mid-mountain lodge at Nakiska, a sports school and daycare.
Top tip: Stay at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis located in Kananaskis Village—which features a wonderful indoor/outdoor hot tub.
Price of adult ticket: $58 half day, $72 full day
Click here to check out Nakiska’s website.
If you find yourself in southern Alberta and have a bit of a daredevil streak, then this hill is for you.
Why? Because it is one of the few places that offers Cat Skiing. For about $375 per person, you’ll get shuttled up the mountain by the Powder Stagecoach, to access the untouched powder only found on the top of Mount Haig. You can spend the whole day zipping around the massive bowls and chutes, free of any crowds. Does it get any better than that?
Getting there: The hill is two and a half hours south of Calgary, and an hour and a half from Lethbridge on Highway 774.
Need to know: Castle Mountain offers on-mountain accommodations, two cafeterias and a pub.
Price of adult ticket: $55 half day, $69 full day
Click here to check out Castle Mountain’s website.
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