While some people find winter’s chill a pestering annoyance, for you, it’s a blow horn announcing your favourite time of the year: ski season! Fresh powder, black-diamond trails, and a nice stiff drink to celebrate your day conquering the mountain is what life is all about. You don’t have to venture to far and distant lands to find the best powder around. Here are some of the top ski locations in Canada:
When you want to go to the granddaddy of ski ranges, it’s all about Whistler-Blackcomb. It wasn’t surprising that the Olympic committee chose the Whistler Mountains as the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics—it’s surprising it wasn’t chosen sooner. If you call yourself a skier, you can’t miss the Whistler-Blackcomb resort. The numbers say it all. Two mountains, over 200 trails, average annual snowfall of over 11 m, and 37 ski lifts (the most in North America). Simply put, it’s a beast. But not to worry, there are plenty of bunny hills for the kiddos to learn “pie.” Though you might want to break away to the high-altitude alpine terrain, accessible only by helicopter, for a truly intense experience in the snow.
Banff’s “Big 3”
Deep within the Alberta countryside is Banff National Park, home to three of the best skiing locales in the country. Known as the “Big 3,” the resorts of Norquay, Lake Louise, and Sunshine Village have been local and international favourites for decades. Simply purchase a tri-area lift ticket to experience the differences between them. Pros tend to choose Lake Louise, as it’s made up of about 30 percent expert terrain and has 139 runs to choose from. For length, Mt. Norquay has the longest run at 1,167 m and is second only to Sunshine Village for the steepest vertical drop at 503 m, compared to Sunshine’s 568 m. Aside from vertical bragging rights, Sunshine is also known for its Delirium Dive, which is routinely ranked as one of the best freeride zones in the country. No matter which resort you choose, the Rocky Mountains are remote enough to provide a few surprises amid the rugged landscape.
In the Quebec mountains, Mont Tremblant rises to its celebratory status. In fact, this steep range is almost as famous for its winter skiing as it is for its summer hiking. For you though, it’s all about the snow, and it’s easy to see why this mountain pass is so popular amongst locals. With 95 trails and 268 hectares of skiable terrain, there’s a wealth of pretty sights to see down the slopes. As far as make-up goes, 50 percent of the trails are designed for experts, 30 percent are meant for intermediate skiers, and 20 percent are easy enough for beginners. This is partly why Mont Tremblant is popular with families. Each member is sure to find something that fits their skill level. Furthermore, the village at the bottom of the mountain is known for its quaint, small-town feel. With multi-coloured buildings and cozy cafes, there is plenty of charm to go with the thrills in this mountain city.
Have you met Fernie? A British Columbia favourite, it boasts a wide range of untamed landscape that’s perfectly suited for daredevils. There are over 111 runs, with 30 percent of them designed for expert skiers. As for the rest of the breakdown, 40 percent of the trails are considered intermediate with the remaining 30 percent suitable for beginners. One thing this area can count on is fresh snow. With over 11 m of annual snowfall, soft powder is nearly always a guarantee. Aside from good skiing and snowboarding opportunities, this resort town is also known for its antique feel—as well as its local brewery. The brewery is a perfect place to unwind after twisting through trees down the slopes.
You wait and wait for that first snowflake of the year—it’s your green light to a new season of blisteringly fast runs down the ski trails. Don’t feel like you have to book a ticket to international destinations. Try out any of these ski resorts for stomach-dropping thrills in your own backyard.
What’s your favourite ski destination in Canada?