With options abound, its hard to know where to start.
If you're a skier, you don't want to go through life without a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Obviously, the scenery is spectacular -- that's a given. You'll also find some of the world's best skiing and snowboarding, thanks to the mountainous terrain, whether backcountry or groomed trail. There are lots of different resorts to choose from catering to every style and skill level in both the British Columbia and Alberta Rockies. Here are the best.
Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort
If you like a big, attraction-filled resort, Sunshine Village delivers. It's just 20 minutes from Banff and close to Calgary, has fast lifts -- including Canada's first heated chairlift -- and consistently good powder, plus a long season to boot (November to May). With everything from beginner to extreme, there's a great terrain park -- bigger than many resorts -- and an entire mountain for riders. Set just outside Banff National Park, it sits on the Continental Divide, so you can ski in Alberta and BC all in one run.
Here are the stats: 10 lifts, 107 trails over three mountains with great vistas, and 33 feet of average annual snowfall. It's also huge: 3,358 skiable acres. Consider a Tri-Area lift ticket for access to Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mount Norquay.
You won't want to miss celebrating sunny spring weekend afternoons the cultured way: With French champagne and fresh oysters on Sunshine Mountain Lodge's deck. Another big plus: Banff. Banff is a stylish mountain town with celebrated nightlife, a hot dining scene, and sophisticated shopping. Stay in Banff and drive or bus in in the AM, or take up residence at the ski-in, ski-out hotel. Make time, too, for a guided snowshoe and fondue tour through the park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lake Louise Mountain Resort
Arguably one of the most beautiful mountain resorts in North America, Lake Louise is about the setting: Zipping down slopes overlooking the iconic glacier-fed, turquoise lake of Banff National Park. The 4,200-acre area includes four faces on three mountains, 139 runs -- all bolstered by a huge snowmaking system. It generally gets 12 feet of snow during the six-month season, and consistent temperatures mean perfect, dry snow. Ski alpine, backcountry, or downhill, or try the torchlight dinner and ski. Add on a horse-drawn sleigh ride, snowshoe tour, or ice skate on Lake Louise. Pure magic.
Sample the ramen and sashimi at Kuma Yama Sushi, the new Japanese eatery at the ski hill's handsomely rustic log Lodge of the Tent Peaks. A must is savoring the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise -- dining or relaxing over afternoon tea in the serenely elegant restaurant overlooking the lake.
Banff Mount Norquay
Close to Calgary, Norquay overlooks the town of Banff and has been a locals' fave since the 1920s. It's ideal for beginner riders and downhill skiiers, though there are plenty of blues and blacks to keep experts happy too. This place gets 10 feet of snowfall a year, with a variety of terrain and Alberta's largest tubing park. Take your time for apr?s-R&R in the spacious, beautiful timber-frame day lodge with giant deck. If you're looking for something special, on Valentine's and full-moon nights only the historic Cliffhouse Bistro in upper Norquay off the North American Chair serves romantic meals fireside at almost 7,000 feet.
In Banff, hit culinary hot spot The Bison for pristine, locavore meals-to-remember and snack after hours snack on late-night pies at no-frills local hangout Aardvark Pizza. If you need to soothe tired muscles, pamper yourself at the Fairmont Banff Springs' Willow Stream Spa or head downtown to Red Earth Spa.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
Snowboarding Nirvana and champagne powder -- that's Kicking Horse, the Rockies' newest resort near Golden and the Kicking Horse River bordering the Rockies. There's A-class alpine, Telemark, heli-skiing, cross-country, and exceptional backcountry -- all best for intermediates and up. Enjoy two bowls and great hidden trails over 2,700+ skiable acres. With a high-speed gondola, four lifts, and 120 runs, Kicking Horse boasts the fourth-highest highest vertical drop in North America -- at more than 4,100 feet-high, just behind Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The resort includes a grizzly bear refuge and nearby is a wolf conservation center. The area is home to numerous hot springs and in town, hit the climbing gym for some alternative exercise. A must here is mountaintop dining in the clouds at Eagles Eye Restaurant, the highest in Canada. Toast your 360-degree view of the Rockies, Selkirk, and Purcell Mountains.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort
In the up-and-coming category, Revelstoke on Mount Mackenzie gets as much as 10.5 metres feet of snowfall a year. Powderhounds love the place, which gets better, more consistent snow than most, thanks to the high altitude. Advanced, expert, and extreme skiers do well here, and it's a good value for some of the country's best snow. On the menu are alpine, cat skiing, heli-skiing, a terrain park, and backcountry over 1,263 skiable hectares -- all from one village base. The king of vertical, Revelstoke takes the crown for North America's most at over 1,700 metres. The resort has 69 runs, four lifts, and a gondola.
You're already in snow heaven, so consider dogsledding, winter fat biking, and snowshoeing. If easygoing is your thing, recline by the outdoor fire pits at the mountain lounge, or for something more lively, head downtown. Try the casual Village Idiot Bar and Grill, upscale Regent Hotel lounge bar, or bowling over drinks at The Cabin.
Fernie Alpine Resort
If it's powder and adventure you're after, you'll want to visit low-key Fernie -- the place is famous for it. There's no snowmaking, just 30 feet of light, dry white stuff. This smaller resort in the Rockies' Lizard Range (about four hours from Calgary), isn't crowded, and that's the appeal. It's friendly, relaxed, and has a beautiful mountain town. On offer are skiing, snowboarding, and nearby cat skiing. There are 10 lifts, 112 runs, five large alpine bowls, over 2,400 acres of skiable terrain, and over 3280 feet of vertical. There's a terrain park and trails for all levels, plus off-piste for the hardcore. Tack on snowmobiling, ice skating, curling, Nordic skiing, or a sleigh-ride dinner.
Linger over drinks at the mountaintop Lost Boys Caf? at the top of the Timber chair, and stay at Fernie House, a luxe ski-in/ski-out chalet at the base. Refuel at the bars and restaurants in the small, but modern mountain village, too. If you want more nightlife and dining options, though, try the fun former mining town about three miles from the resort.
It's not often you can combine extreme, natural grandeur with knee-high powder and superb skiing. Time for a Canadian Rockies ski vacation!