The Banff region of Alberta, Canada, is known for great skiing and is home to three ski resorts.
Sunshine Village has wide-open groomer runs, and Mt. Norquay can't be beat for affordability.
Lake Louise Resort is my personal favorite for its world-class terrain and advanced runs.
I first went skiing in the Banff region in Alberta, Canada, in 2019, and have been back multiple times since.
I wanted to visit Banff ever since I first glimpsed Lake Louise, a beautiful lake in the region surrounded by the Canadian Rocky Mountains, on my Instagram feed years ago.
I finally made it there in the winter of 2019, and while I knew the lake would be frozen, I was also interested in the region's epic skiing conditions, which came recommended by friends.
Even with these high expectations, I was blown away when I arrived with my closest ski buddies.
Since that first trip, I've been lucky enough to return to Banff on different occasions to experience the region's excellent big-mountain skiing.
The Banff region is friendly and less than a two hour's drive from the nearest airport.
Banff is located in Alberta, Canada, and as a region is very spread out because it's a national park.
I typically fly into Calgary International Airport and rent a car for the hour and a half drive to downtown Banff. There are multiple car rental companies at the airport like Avis and Enterprise.
One of my preferred places to rent ski gear is in downtown Banff at SkiBig3 Adventure Hub, where the workers are always so friendly and helpful with pointing me to the right ski rentals for the current conditions.
There are three ski resorts in Banff: Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay Ski Resort.
I think one of the best things about skiing in Banff is being able to access all three ski resorts on a single ticket, which include Banff Sunshine Village Ski Resort, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay Ski Resort.
For the 2022-2023 winter season, the cost for an adult, single-day SkiBig3 ticket is around $161, varying by a few dollars depending on the day. Separately, it costs around $156 for a ticket to only Banff Sunshine Village, between $119 and $154 for Lake Louise, and $115 for Mt. Norquay.
Because of this, I think it's worth buying the SkiBig3 Ticket to be able to access all of the resorts, since they each have a different skiing experience. For active skiers, all three resorts are also part of the Ikon pass.
Here's what my visits to the three resorts have been like, including which stand out with the best amenities and affordability.
Lake Louise Ski Resort, my top choice of the 3, is one of my favorite places to ski in the entire world — I love its stunning views, top-tier terrain, and apres-ski with a view.
In my opinion, one of the main draws of Lake Louise Ski Resort is its majestic surroundings. It's one of the largest ski resorts in Canada with over 4,000 acres of skiable terrain, and is situated in the heart of Banff National Park, which is abundant with wildlife and scenic landscapes. What I enjoy most about being on the slopes here is seeing the incredible views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers, and Lake Louise itself.
Of the three resorts, Lake Louise is the farthest away from downtown Banff, a compact and walkable town area with cute shops and restaurants, hotels, and gear rentals. The drive from town takes around 45 minutes, while the drive from Calgary Airport, the closest airport, is roughly two hours.
There are beginner-friendly slopes at Lake Louise, but I also find the resort's advanced terrain to be the most challenging of the three mountains in Banff.
I've heard other skiers argue that nearby Banff Sunshine Village is just as challenging or slightly more challenging to ski. But, in my experience, I find Lake Louise to have the most demanding terrain of the three Banff ski resorts.
For example, during past trips, I've found Sunshine Village's blue runs, which are intermediate level difficulty, to be wider, open, and more gradual in slope. At Lake Louise, however, I find the blue runs are steeper. The back bowls at Lake Louise also have steep slopes, and many are filled with bumps, cliffs, and even the occasional rock hazard.
I've spent entire days just skiing the back bowls at Lake Louise, which I think are an advanced skier's paradise.
On the front side of the mountain, I like taking the Summit chairlift to the tree-lined chutes of West Bowl. If you're new to skiing, I suggest the Jerry's Jungle and Easy Street runs so you can get a good sense of the mountain and take in the views.
In addition to downhill skiing and snowboarding, the resort also has a tube park and snowshoeing activities.
Cross-country skiers can take advantage of the resort's groomed trails, and there's a terrain park for freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
For a break from the slopes, the resort also has a tube park and snowshoe tours, as well as sightseeing gondola rides. These additional activities help Lake Louise stand out for me, as I think it's fun to be able to do non-skiing activities for a more relaxed day.
The resort doesn't have slopeside or ski-in, ski-out accommodations, but there are several hotels a short drive away in the village of Lake Louise.
There are a handful of lodges and inns within convenient driving distance of Lake Louise. The most impressive, in my opinion, is Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a luxury hotel in a historic chateau. Located right on the edge of Lake Louise and about a 10-minute drive from the resort, it's a popular place to stay that was also featured on season 17 of The Bachelor.
I haven't stayed at this hotel, but I did visit for lunch and a spin on the hotel's ice skating rink, which is on Lake Louise. Gliding across the frozen lake, surrounded by snow-dusted peaks, was an epic experience for me.
The hotel itself was beautiful, and I thought it looked majestic on the edge of the lake and surrounded by nature. Most rooms have mountain or lake views, and there are two-bedroom suites to accommodate larger groups. The hotel also has an on-site spa, and several restaurants and bars.
I also appreciate Lake Louise's excellent apres-ski scene.
The resort has a number of dining options, including my favorite called Banded Peak Base Camp, a restaurant and bar at the base of the mountain where my friends and I like to enjoy a slopeside drink or two on a sunny day.
This apres-ski spot has an outdoor patio and serves a variety of beer, wine, and even champagne in tiny plastic coup glasses. The food includes barbecue sandwiches, hot chili, and other comfort fare, which I think is great to fill up on after a long day of skiing.
It's usually busy, so if I want to snag a table in the sun or sit around one of the few fire pits, I try to get there earlier than the rest of the crowds when the mountain clears out after 4 p.m.
My second choice in Banff is Sunshine Village. I come here for wide-open groomer runs and the best chance of a sun-filled day.
With an average of up to 30 feet of snowfall each year, I've found that I can expect consistently great conditions at Banff's Sunshine Village. This resort also has one of the longest seasons I've experienced that usually stretches from November to May. I often ski at this resort in late March and conditions are still excellent, whereas I find some American resorts start to get slushier around that time.
Even though, in my opinion, Lake Louise squeezes out a first-place position when it comes to skiing in the region, I think Sunshine Village is a comparable resort when it comes to terrain and beauty thanks to its 3,300 acres of skiable terrain.
I think the mountain views at Banff Sunshine Village are equally impressive but very different from Lake Louise.
More so than Lake Louise, Sunshine Village's views make me feel immersed in the Canadian Rockies' peaks and valleys — I love how they feel so up close as I ski down the mountain here.
The resort is at an elevation of 7,200 feet, and my friends and I have found many beautiful photo opportunities on this mountain. One great place to take photos is on the chairlifts and the gondola ride that whisks you from the parking lot base and connects with three ski-accessible mountains, Gore Mountain, Goat's Eye Mountain, and Mount Standish. I feel this gondola ride is an experience to be enjoyed in and of itself.
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, the resort has activities like ice skating, snowshoeing, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. There's also a spa and wellness center where I love to relax and unwind after a long day of skiing.
In Sunshine Village, I can ski between two Canadian Provinces on the same day if I take the Continental Divide trail.
The Continental Divide trail goes to a part of the resort that straddles the border of Alberta and British Columbia, meaning you'll ski across both Canadian provinces on the same run.
I generally take the Great Divide Express chairlift to the top of Lookout Mountain, then make my way down the North Divide run, a black-diamond run that is recommended for advanced skiers.
In addition to this trail, the resort has runs for all ability levels, including gentle groomers, steep chutes, and challenging terrain parks. While I haven't tried them out yet, the resort also has backcountry skiing, heli-skiing, and cat-skiing tours.
Sunshine Village has one slopeside hotel with ski-in, ski-out privileges.
I've stayed at the slopeside Sunshine Mountain Lodge, which is the resort's only ski-in/ski-out option via the gondola.
I liked its alpine cabin design, the use of an outdoor hot tub and sauna, and that my room had a balcony overlooking the slopes. There are several restaurants in the lodge that serve food from breakfast to dinner, which I appreciated, as well.
However, the resort stops running the gondola for the day at 5 p.m. Saturday through Thursday, and at 10 p.m. on Friday. That means that at night, the only option to leave is via a snowcat ride to the bottom of the mountain.
This could be a perk for visitors who just want to ski all day, but it was a downside for me as I like to go into town for dinner or drinks to find local gems.
Mt. Norquay Ski Resort ranks lowest for me of the 3, but I still think it has good prices and ski runs, and easy access to downtown Banff.
At a 15-minute drive, Mt. Norquay is the closest ski area to downtown Banff.
It's my third choice of the resorts because I find the conditions and infrastructure at Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise to be a better fit for my preferences as an advanced skier. Mt. Norquay is a smaller mountain with less upgraded infrastructure than the other two, but I still like how it feels like more of a local's mountain with very friendly staff.
One thing I appreciate is that Mt. Norquay beats the other two resorts on affordability.
Full-day adult lift tickets at Norquay are $115 CAD or roughly $86 USD for the 2022-2023 season. So, if you're looking to skip the SkiBig3 ticket and go to just one resort, this would be the cheapest.
I also like that the resort has the most affordable afternoon-only ticket option at around $70 USD, which I think is convenient if you just want to get in a few quick afternoon laps. Sunshine Village's afternoon passes are pricier at $120, while those at Lake Louise cost up to $124.
Beginners will find a variety of easy runs at Mt. Norquay, plus a dedicated learning area with a magic carpet lift.
The resort has over 65 skiable acres and five chairlifts, including a high-speed quad chairlift. The mountain has a mix of groomed runs, glades, and terrain parks, providing something for skiers of all levels, in my experience.
More advanced skiers and snowboarders will enjoy the challenge of the black diamond runs and the resort's signature run, the North American, which has a steep and challenging descent. However, I advise only skiing this run in good snow conditions. I did it once when the snow was slushy, and there were a lot of exposed rocks that damaged my skis.
Overall, I think you can't go wrong with a trip to any of three ski resorts in Banff.
Lake Louise Ski Resort is my personal favorite for its world-class terrain and a casual but always buzzy apres scene. Banff Sunshine Village I think is ideal for skiers wanting wide open groomer runs and sun, and Mt. Norquay can't be beat for affordability. If you have a few days in the region, I recommend checking out all three and seeing which has your ideal ski experience.
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