Ski Big 3 Guide: Lake Louise, Sunshine and Mt. Norquay

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Nestled along the Continental Divide in the Canadian Rockies, the mountain towns of Banff and Canmore offer an ideal base to ski the famous Big 3 Ski Resorts. Running from early November into late May, these resorts offer one of the longest seasons in North America.

The Big 3 Ski Resorts are made up of Banff Mt Norquay, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and feature more than 300 runs over 8,000 acres of varied terrain, suitable for all ability levels. Banff Mt Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise provide one convenient interchangeable tri-area lift ticket in addition to an option of purchasing individual tickets.

Protected parks & perfect powder

From long groomed trails and tree lined glades, to wide open bowls and steep couloir drops, skiers and riders enjoy protected National Park scenery, short lift lines and friendly hospitality. Plus, the relatively high elevation and location provide consistent and abundant snowfalls of light, dry Canadian Rockies powder.

Both Banff and Canmore offer world class hospitality and amenities that, unlike purpose built mega ski resorts, have retained an authentic Canadian feel. They are full of locals, new and old, as well as a variety of unique places to stay, eat and shop. Conversely, the nearby village of Lake Louise boasts small town charm with a favourable location near the Canadian jewel Lake Louise, as well as other scenic sights in Banff National Park.

Winter wonderlands

The early ski season for the Ski Big 3 Resorts kicks off in November, peaking over Christmas and New Year, when Banff and Canmore transform into magical winter wonderlands.

Decorations drape the streets, ice-skating rinks appear in the middle of town, and horse drawn sleighs can take you to dinner.

January offers some of the best snow season value in Canada as accommodations and ski resorts feature heavily discounted packages. The best powder months are February and March, with deep snowpack bases and regular overnight snowfalls. Book early to secure condos and larger suites during these months.

Spring skiing continues through April and into late May with warmer sunny days, preferred by young families or adults who like to end the day soaking up the rays at the outdoor apres-ski bar.

 

1. Lake Louise Mountain Resort

Access from Canmore: 1 hour drive
Access from Banff: 40 minute drive

Lake Louise Mountain Resort has some of the most amazing scenery in the world and some of the best skiing in the Rockies.

The views of Victoria Glacier, Lake Louise and the famous Canadian Rockies are stunning. This resort has a variety of skiing for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, with many excellent groomed runs. For the young at heart, check out the terrain park, designed for riders and skiers of all abilities. For a little apres-ski diversion, Lake Louise recently put in a small tube park that’s good for some laughs.

Lake Louise Mountain Resort is one of the best known ski areas in North America and the largest resort in the Canadian Rockies. This resort is home to annual World Cup ski racing events (men and women’s Downhill and Super G). We recommend eating at the newly renovated Whitehorn Lodge – excellent cuisine, sweeping panoramic views and huge decks!

If it works with your schedule, it’s well-worth it to stay late and take in the Torchlight Dinner & Ski which begins with cocktails and appies at Whitehorn Lodge followed by a torchlight ski down the front of the mountain to the main lodge for dinner, drinks and dancing… in ski boots, of course!

Details

  • Elevation at the top: 2,637 metres (8,650 ft)
  • Vertical rise: 991 metres (3,250 feet)
  • Longest Run: 8km (5 miles)
  • Skiable terrain: 113 marked runs + back bowls over 4,200 acres acres (1,700 hectares)
  • Terrain breakdown: 25% beginner, 45% intermediate, 30% advanced
  • Ski season: November to May
  • Lifts: one gondola; one 6-passenger chair; three quad chairs; one triple chair; one T-bar and one poma lift
  • Rental of ski and snowboard equipment is available
  • Daycare for kids 0-6 years (8:30am-4:30pm)

 

2. Sunshine Village

Access from Canmore: 40 minute drive
Access from Banff: 20 minute drive

Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort sits at a higher elevation than its neighboring ski resorts, which equates to the best snowfall in the Rockies and 100% natural snow across the mountain.

The view of Mount Assiniboine (referred to as the “Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies”) is gorgeous! When conditions are good, skiing off the “Goat’s Eye” is a local fave, along with lunch at Mad Trapper’s Saloon.

For strong skiers, Delirium Dive (or, The Dive) is a restricted access area offering the most extreme off-piste skiing in Canada. Access is granted to strong skiers carrying avalanche transceivers, shovels and probes only. Though those skiing with little ones will be happy to know that Sunshine Village is one of the most family-friendly ski resorts in Western Canada!

In recent years Sunshine has grown in popularity with the local crowd. As a result the parking lot fills up early on powder days, weekends and holidays. There is shuttle service from remote parking areas but you’re best to avoid it by getting an early start and grabbing breakfast on the mountain.

Details

  • Elevation at the top: 2,730m (8,954 ft)
  • Base: 1,660m (5,440 ft)
  • Vertical drop: 1,070m (3,514 ft)
  • Skiable terrain: 107 runs over 3,358 acres (spread over 3 mountains and 2 provinces)
  • Terrain breakdown: 20% beginner, 55% intermediate, 25% expert
  • Ski season: November – May
  • Average snowfall: 900cm
  • Lifts: one high-speed 8-passenger gondola; five high-speed quad chairs; two quad chairs; one triple chair; one double chair; and two magic carpets
  • Tiny Tigers Daycare for 19 months to 6 years
  • Tiny Tigers Ski & Play for kids 3-5 years old

 

3. Mount Norquay

Access from Canmore: 30 minute drive
Access from Banff: 10 minute drive

We love Mount Norquay for its small resort, community vibe! This resort is much smaller than Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, but has a great local feel.

Enjoy awesome views of Cascade, Rundle and Sulphur Mountain and the town of Banff below in the Valley as you get fresh tracks on The Gun Run. Mount Norquay has the only night skiing and the only lit terrain park in the area. On good powder days, there is some excellent steep terrain for expert skiers. This resort is great for families and also offers a fun and exciting tube park.

Details

  • Elevation at the top: 2133m (7000 ft)
  • Vertical drop: 503m (1650 ft)
  • Longest run: 1167m (3828 ft)
  • Skiable terrain: 28 runs
  • Ski season: December – April
  • Average snowfall: 300cm
  • Lifts: one high-speed quad; two fixed-grip quads; one double chairlift; and one magic carpet

 

Backcountry and Nordic Skiing

Kananaskis Country offers some great terrain for backcountry skiing.

Whether you are a seasoned backcountry skier looking to earn your turns or just delving into the sport, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures offer guiding and instruction for all levels.

If you’ve never skied in the backcountry, this is a wonderful alternative to resort skiing. No lift lines and ‘fresh tracks’ nearly every run. You may never return to a ski hill again!

All Yamnuska guides are certified with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and are experts in their field. Beginner backcountry skiers will receive personalized instruction to develop the skills necessary to travel safely in the backcountry.

For Nordic skiing enthusiasts, there are dozens of excellent groomed trails to choose from in the Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise and Kananaskis area.

 

SKI BIG 3

If you’d like to ski/snowboard the powdery terrain of the Big 3 Ski Resorts, please feel free to give us a call at 1.877.902.1616. Our Destination Experts are available 7 days a week and will be glad to assist you in planning your perfect winter getaway. We have accommodations in both Canmore and Banff areas, plus don’t forget – you save $50 off your lift tickets when booking your accommodations through Leavetown!