For those looking to shred some serious powder, whether on skis or on a snowboard, Banff is one of the best places you can visit. Located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff is home to some of the best ski resorts in Canada. Not just Banff either, but the entire surrounding area. Within the national park, however, there are three ski resorts. Known as the “Ski Big 3” collective, these mountains are absolutely incredible. From experiencing a heated chairlift to soaring down an eight-kilometre (five-mile) ski run, this is a winter wonderland for those who like to shred powder.
Alberta Ski Resorts in Banff
If you look at a map of the area west of Calgary, you’ll see a lot of green. That’s because there are loads of national parks, provincial parks, and epic mountain terrain. Lots. Within a 4-hour (drive time) radius of Calgary, you’ll find dozens of incredible ski resorts, including Nakiska, Castle Mountain, Fernie, Kicking Horse, Marmot Basin, Panorama, and much much more. However, three of the best Alberta ski resorts are also some of the closest and are the only three located within Banff National Park. For this article, we’re going to focus on the three Banff Ski Resorts known collectively as Ski Big 3. Let’s get started.
Ski Banff at Mt. Norquay
As the closest of the three to both Banff and Calgary, Mt. Norquay is known as Banff’s best family ski resort. It’s the smallest of the big three but is still an incredible ski resort featuring 60 runs spread out over 5 lifts and 190 acres. You’ll find everything from green runs to extreme black diamonds, as well as an incredible terrain park. It’s also the most affordable of the big three, has the only night skiing in the Bow Valley, and is home to the only lit terrain park. Some of my favourite runs at Mt. Norquay include Rob’s Run and FM2. Whenever I think of skiing in Banff, one of the first images that come to mind is the view of Bow Valley as I come down Knight Flight. It just blows me away every time. Mt. Norquay is literally visible from the town of Banff, making it a great choice for those wanting less drive time and more mountain time.
Where to Eat
Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to work up an appetite. Thankfully, there a number of options for eating at Mt. Norquay. First off, like any ski resort in the area, they do have some microwaves for you to use should you bring your own food. You’ll need to bring a small cooler with some ice packs or just leave it outside on the main deck. Many families do this to cut back on expenses. However, there are four dining options, including Cascade Lodge, Lone Pine Pub, North American Lodge, and the Cliffhouse Bistro. These options include everything from cafeteria-style chicken fingers to an elegant modern bistro overlooking some of the best views you’ll ever see. One thing is for sure – You won’t go hungry!
Where to Stay
Mt. Norquay is incredibly close to Banff and not too far from Canmore either. Both towns are a great place to stay with Banff being much more touristy than Canmore. We love Banff and wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone, especially in the winter when it’s less busy. There are many options for where to stay in Banff, ranging from budget hostels to luxurious historic hotels. We’ve stayed in many and can easily recommend Banff Aspen Lodge, Bow View Lodge, Mount Royal Hotel, and the Best Western Plus.
Ski Banff at Banff Sunshine Village
High on the Continental Divide (7,200 feet), Sunshine Village Ski Resort is perhaps the most unique ski resort in Banff National Park. Located just 15 minutes west of Banff, Sunshine is a paradise for avid skiers and snowboarders, averaging around 30 feet of snow each winter. Just like all the mountain resorts in the area, Sunshine offers world-class skiing and snowboarding amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. However, that’s not what makes it unique. What makes Sunshine Village unique is that it’s situated high in the mountains, which is why it gets more snow than the others. This also allows the resort to stay open at least one full month more than any other ski resort in the Canadian Rockies. In fact, Sunshine boasts the longest non-glacier ski season in all of Canada! In addition, you can ski in two provinces thanks to the Continental Divide. Plus, some of the views from the peaks offer 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding area. Oh, and did we mention the heated chairlift?
Pretty awesome, right? Well, we’re not done yet. Sunshine is also home to the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, which is Banff’s only ski-in, ski-out hotel! That’s right! You can sleep right on top of the mountain, 7,200 feet above sea level, allowing you to be the first one on the chairlift in the morning. Toss in 3,300 acres of skiable terrain, it’s rank as one of the 10 top off-piste destinations in the world, 5 terrain parks, and 137 runs, and it’s easy to see why Sunshine Village is an absolute MUST for snow seekers looking for the ultimate ski vacation.
Where to Eat
As you’d imagine, there are a lot of great Banff restaurants thanks to the influx of tourism. Some spots to grab a bite to eat in Sunshine Village, including the Java Lift Coffee Bar, Mad Trappers, The Alpine Grill, Restaurante El Lookout, the Sunshine Burger Company, the Chimney Corner, and Eagle’s Nest Canadian Bistro. You can expect to pay around $10 for a breakfast burrito and about $20 for a pub-style burger and fries. There’s also a variety of beer on tap, as well as wine and spirits at some of the restaurants and bars mentioned above. If you’re looking for an upscale experience located on the top of a mountain, Eagle’s Nest will likely satisfy you.
Sunshine also provides a number of microwaves for those who prefer to bring their own meals, so if you’re on a budget, this is another great option. Just make sure to bring a small cooler with ice packs or just leave it outside of the lodge in the snow.
Where to Stay
If you want to stay right next to the chairlift, your only option is Sunshine Mountain Lodge. The rooms are nice, they have a great outdoor hot tub, and there’s plenty of places to find a bite to eat. However, if you’d rather be in a town, then Banff would be your best option. There are hotels for all styles and budgets, with some of our favourites being Banff Aspen Lodge, Bow View Lodge, Mount Royal Hotel, and the Best Western Plus.
Ski Banff at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Last but not least is Lake Louise Ski Resort. Located 45 minutes from Banff near the world-famous Lake Louise, this is one of the largest ski resorts in North America! We’re talking 4,200 skiable acres with an abundance of runs for beginners and advanced skiers alike. You’ll find a seemingly endless amount of chutes, glades, gullies, and remote bowls, presenting you with some of the Rockies most challenging terrain. Personally, Lake Louise is my favourite ski resort, but that’s just because of its size. I love the array of runs spread out throughout the front and back of the mountain. In fact, one run is 8-kilometres long! Now that’s what I call fun, uninterrupted skiing! One day is simply not enough to take it all in. You’ll find 10 lifts, exhilarating super steeps, excellent off-piste adventures, a green run from every chair lift, and a whopping 145 named runs spread out across four mountain faces. Plus, Lake Louise has been called out as having the most beautiful scenery in the world. Then again, all of Banff National Park is incredibly beautiful.
Where to Eat
As you can imagine, Banff’s biggest ski resort has many places to quench your appetite. Dining options include Lodge of Ten Peaks Cafeteria, Slopeside Coffee Bar, Powder Keg Lounge, Bier Stube, Northface Bistro, Whiskey Jack Cafeteria, and the Kokanee Kabin. In addition, Lake Louise Ski Resort is now home to Kuma Yama, which offers sushi and ramen! What’s cool is some of these places are also out on the ski runs, allowing you to ski to the restaurant, enjoy a beer and a meal, and then continue skiing down the mountain!
As always, Lake Louise Ski Resort also offers microwaves for those looking to bring their own food as well.
Where to Stay
Although Lake Louise is significantly quieter than Banff, there are a few accommodation options. If you’d rather stay near the resort and near world-famous Lake Louise, there a number of accommodation choices, including the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. However, there are also more budget-friendly hotels, including Lake Louise Inn, Deer Lodge, and the HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre. Surprisingly, we’ve never stayed in Lake Louise before, always opting to stay in the much more lively town of Banff. After all, it’s not that far and there are many more choices for shops, restaurants, nightlife, and accommodation.
Ski Rentals Banff
If you’re not from around Calgary and Banff, you’re probably looking to rent skis as well. Luckily, that’s no issue in Banff National Park. There are many places where you can rent skis or snowboards, including at the resorts themselves. Each of the resorts, including Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise, and Sunshine, all have rental shops on-site, making it super easy to pick up and drop off your rental skis on the day you go skiing.
However, there’s one small issue with renting skis at the resorts. It takes time out of your ski day! Depending on how busy it is, it could take up to an hour to get rentals, eating into your precious time on the mountain. If you want to maximize your time, you can also rent skis and snowboards in the town of Banff, including renting them from the Ski Big 3 Adventure Hub. What’s cool about renting them here is that you can drop them off at the resorts right when you’re done skiing. Basically, you could go in the shop during a non-ski-day or during an evening, get fitted for your equipment, go skiing, and then leave the skis with the rental shop at the resort! Super convenient!
We actually rented skis for the first year or two. However, once we realized we were going to make skiing a regular winter activity, it was much cheaper to buy a pair. Plus, it’s so nice to get comfortable with your own skis and boots. They don’t have to be expensive either. We ended up buying a package deal from SportChek for roughly $700 including the ski boots after looking at many reviews online. We definitely recommend doing some research online for ski or snowboard packages and then buying whichever ones fit your budget. We’ve now had our skis for 7 years and have not only saved hundreds of dollars by having our own but have also saved hundreds of hours by not having to line up for rentals every time we go out.
Banff Resorts – Where to Stay
With so many ski resorts, you’re gonna wanna stay here as long as you can. Lucky for you, Banff is one of Canada’s top tourist hot spots. That means there’s A LOT of hotels, lodges, motels, guesthouses, and hostels to choose from. Plus, despite this being one of the top places to go skiing in the world, the winter months are actually the low season in comparison to the busy summer. That means there’s more availability and the prices are generally cheaper. There are way too many options to choose from for us to list them all here, but some of our recommendations include:
Banff Sunshine Resort: If you’re looking for ski-in, ski-out accommodation within Banff National Park, this is your only option. This luxurious resort lies at the base of Sunshine Village, 7,200 feet above sea level. Within the village, there’s a couple of dining options, bars, and hot pools to soak in after a long, hard day on the mountain. This is the place to stay if you’re looking to just relax and be the first one on the chairlift. If you’d rather be in the town of Banff, however, there are many more options to choose from.
Budget Accommodation in Banff: If you’re on a budget, one of our recommendations would be the HI-Banff Alpine Centre and Samesun Banff. However, if you’re a couple, there’s are also hotels that might be cheaper and more convenient. Some examples include Bow View Lodge, Banff Rocky Mountain Resort, and the King Edward Hotel. We used to stay in the King Edward Hotel all the time as it’s right in the middle of downtown Banff and used to be above a popular nightclub, which has since closed down.
Mid-range Accommodation in Banff: The list of mid-range hotels in Banff is extensive. We’ve never had a bad experience in any of them. Some of our top choices are the Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa, Charltons Banff, Royal Canadian Lodge, Best Western Plus Siding 29 Lodge, and the Mount Royal Hotel. There are also much, much more worthy of your attention.
Luxury Accommodation in Banff: Without a doubt, the most famous luxury hotel of them all is the Banff Castle, also known as Fairmont Banff Springs Resort. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth a visit. There are other options though as well, including the Rimrock Resort Hotel and the Banff Aspen Lodge.
Staying in Canmore: Canmore is a beautiful local town just 20 minutes east of Banff. It’s another great option for finding accommodation. Click here for Canmore hotels.
Staying in Lake Louise: If you’d rather quiet serenity, you could also opt to stay around Lake Louise. You won’t find nearly as many options for food, shopping, and nightlife, but you’ll be surrounded by some of the Canadian Rockies’ most beautiful landscapes. Click here for Lake Louise hotels.
Best Ski Resorts in Canada
Without a doubt, Banff National Park is home to some of the best ski resorts in Canada. In fact, if you include the dozens of other ski resorts just a short drive from Banff, both in Alberta and in British Columbia, this is easily the best place on the planet to go skiing and snowboarding. I’m not exaggerating either. As if Mt. Norquay, Sunshine, and Lake Louise weren’t enough, you’ll also find Panorama Mountain Resort, Nakiska, Marmot Basin, Kicking Horse, Revelstoke, Kimberely, Castle Mountain, and Fernie. Those are all within 4 hours of Banff. Go further and you’ll continue to find even more amazing ski resorts. From the Rocky Mountains to the Purcell Mountains and beyond, this is a winter paradise for those looking to shred powder.
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