The Mountain Path

Banff national park – A ski paradise

Every year as the fall colors fade, few of powder seekers like us look for a ski destination in the upcoming winter season. The chatter starts before Thanksgiving break and destination finalized in a week with travel dates in February. Colorado and Utah had always been on our go-to list. But this year Banff National Park was brought up. It was known to me as a UNESCO world heritage site but had never thought of it as the ski destination.

Banff region has three unique ski resorts – Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay. Trail Maps.We decided to ski for four days with a break after third day that would let us also explore the area.

We took direct flight to Calgary International airport from Newark. From there, the town of Banff was about hour and a half drive along the scenic four-lane Trans-Canadian Highway.

Most of us in the north east ski in the Vermont, New Hampshire region. So the Canadian Rockies was a huge step in terms of the terrains and the snow. The average snowfall in Banff is 120 inches and snow depth in season is above 75 inches.

We had booked our stay in Banff town itself at the Caribou lodge.

The best part of stay in ski towns is everything is right there including local transportation (to/from mountain), hotels, restaurants, night life with the banff uniqueness of hot-springs after a hard day of skiing to soak away the soreness.

Day 1

After a good night sleep and fulfilling breakfast buffet at the lodge we headed to Mount Norquay – the ‘smallest – 60 runs over 200 acres ‘ of the three ski areas. We chose this as starting point for a 4 day trip to get the legs warmed up. The right amount of snow dust made up nice long smooth green and blue runs through the day. This mountain had beautiful views of the Banff town.

Day 2

Sunshine village is about 20 min away from where we stayed. The bus stops up right at the hotel door and transports to the base.

This mountain is right on top of the continental divide. The most unique feature I found was the SnowHosts that provide free tours of the mountain with skiers to find their way to the best terrain. We spent the morning at the Goat’s Eye Mountain’s steep, deep long runs off the Goat’s Eye Express. After a quick lunch at the base we skied the afternoon with the snowhosts across the lookout mountain and Mt. Standish. The lookout mountain has gorgeous views that make you stop at every turn.

At then end of the day a few beers always taste great. We had some wonderful Mexican food. The atmosphere was lively with conversations around the best runs of the day. Our lodge had a spa sauna that yielded a deep slumber leading to the Lake Louise ski day.

Day 3

Next morning the group looked rested well at the breakfast table before we headed out on the bus. I had started to realize that every morning when one walks out the door, the views are so gorgeous that you never want to leave this place.

Lake Loiuse was expected to be the highlight of the trip. The 4,200 skiable acres of world-class terrain speaks for itself.

Bus Ride to Lake Louise

The morning temperatures were aroung 15-20F and some peek-a-boo sunshine to give us the needed warmth. We started the day on cruising runs off Grizzly Express. By 11am we met the SnowHosts to explore remote bowls and some of the most challenging terrain in the Rockies. The summit platter lift (T-bar) was a challenge by itself and had wipe outs on fresh powder runs of the gullies.

LakeLouise Bowls

When the spirits are high and body is sore, once can definitely use the best bar in the world.

Ice Bar right on the mountain

Now where can you find apres ski scene like this one ?

Day 4

After 3 days of skiing, we woke up a lazy morning , spent extra time at the breakfast table and then drove to Johnston Canyon area via the scenic Bow Valley highway. This is a must-visit natural attraction in Banff National Park with overhanging canyon walls, frozen waterfalls and deep aqua blue water of Johnston Creek. There are several viewing platforms and You will always find ice climbing enthusiasts in this place. Since we had some time we were also make it to the Peyto glacier point for the beautiful birds eye view of the lake

And then there is the Majestic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise surrounded by the Victoria glacier.  Some of us did enjoy Ice skating one of largest frozen lakes.

Ice Skating Lake Louise

Day 5

We returned to Lake Louise ski gondola and met up with the SnowHost to take us once again on intermediate to advanced runs. Interestingly the guide was originally from NY but a McGill (Canada) University alumni. He said he was always fast on the slopes and was training for downhill racing ski team  when in college. This competitive sport had brought him to Banff. He was among the top 10 to be considered for the Olympic team (wow!) but missed since taller athletes got better timings. But ever since then (now in his 70s leading us on the slopes) he had settled in Banff region…

As rightly said – Banff’s incredible skiing landscape is so unbelievable you’ll want to take off your gloves and pinch yourself everytime and say ‘ I want to be here forever’ !!!

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