It’s what you don’t know about Banff and Lake Louise that can make a winter ski holiday to one of the world’s premiere ski destinations so amazing. Don’t tell the locals we let these 10 snow secrets slip (words: Steve Madgwick)
1. Lake Louise’s secret cruiser
You could spend your whole day cruising on Lake Louise’s front side, catching glimpses of iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and have a grand day’s skiing.
But sneak off to the backside to tackle local-favourite run Larch for some supreme groomed bliss (number 148 on the ski map).
2. The ‘tree-mendous’ glades of Sunshine
Sunshine Village’s trails are great but its tree runs are even greater. For glade intermediates, Star Trek (62) is forgiving yet rewarding; a cinch to find from Wawa Chair.
If you’re looking to work out your adrenal gland and legs, strap into your board off Goat’s Eye chair and head into Hell’s Kitchen (81). The name says it all.
3. Burn baby burn! Mt Norquay
Let’s just say that Mt Norquay’s The Lone Pine run (3) is more for those who love their bumps double-black and with a vista, rather than for a virgin skier.
To feel Lone Pine’s burn, exit the North American chair, more appropriately known to Banff locals as ‘The Big Chair’.
4. Food and a brew with a view
With recreation comes rest and, naturally, recharging; that’s where former 1950’s teahouse the Cliffhouse Bistro comes in.
Norquay’s premiere on-mountain eatery offers full-service dining with a hearty side-dish of exquisite Banff views.
While you’re there, sip a local Norquay 90 (in honour of the resort’s 90th year) from Banff Ave Brew Co and then really drink in those vistas from the boardwalk.
5. Creatures of the night
Don’t feel like you’ve clocked enough vertical metres during daylight or just want to try some nocturnal turns for the first time?
Mt Norquay offers night skiing on Friday and Saturday evenings (until 10pm).
Jelly legs? No problems, sit back in a tube and watch Banff’s twinkling lights rush towards you in fast forward.
6. The centre of mountain culture
Exercise – tick. Fine food and wine – tick. Something missing? Time to indulge your arty side.
Choose from a variety of regular dance, music and theatre performances at the area’s cultural hub, The Banff Centre.
Plan ahead for perennial pre-season fave, The Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival, which should get you into the mood for action and adventure.
This year it will run from October 29th to November 6th in Banff.
7. Slope into the springs
The Hot Springs is an essential Banff experience that often gets overlooked in favour of après.
But do your smarting thighs a favour and head down to the warm, rejuvenating pools.
You can even soak after dinner (the pools are open to 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights).
If you’ve left your costume at home, you can always strike a pose in a heritage swimsuit, which are available to rent.
8. Skate or sleigh to the Chateau?
It doesn’t get much more ‘chocolate box’ than skating on the naturally-frozen Lake Louise in front of the grand Chateau.
Well, unless you decide to get under a blanket and take an evening sleigh ride around the lake.
A half-bottle of champagne should keep you and your loved one warm enough.
9. The frozen waterfall quest
A canyon walk sounds more like a summer expedition, right?
You will change your mind once you’ve navigated through the spectacular limestone Johnston Canyon (bring winter shoe spikes) and stand before the frozen majesty of the canyon’s Upper Falls.
Keep an eye out for the intrepid ice climbers above. (around 20-minutes’ drive from Banff or Lake Louise).
10. Treat yourself
Winter and holidays: two sound reasons to stop at Lake Louise’s Laggan’s Bakery for a warming caffeinated heart-starter, indulgent pastry and/or a breakfast treat.
There are plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian options, but if in doubt try the house speciality: the BOB (Breakfast on a Bun).