Gone are the days when Canadian ski resorts meant hitting the slopes and not much more. From Scandinavian spas to fondue fountains, here we reveal the best off-piste pastimes at Canada’s major ski resorts, for a suitably entertaining ski-free holiday.
Whistler, British Columbia
Sit back for a horse-drawn sleigh ride along Whistler’s snowy forest trails, with Blackcomb Sleighrides. You can just enjoy the ride or go for a trot to a three-course fondue dinner. Romantics can hire their own private sleigh too, ideal for popping a certain question (hint hint).
To see the best of the slopes without strapping on skis or a snowboard, Ziptrek Ecotours run ziplining experiences across Whistler’s snowy peaks, joined by a network of suspension bridges, boardwalks and forest trails. There are also twilight tours for an extra thrill.
For some family-friendly winter fun, the Coca-Cola Tube Park comprises seven lanes (varying in difficulty) to speed down on a specially-made tube, as well as a state-of-the-art conveyor lift to take you to the top and do it all again. Located in the Base 2 Zone on Blackcomb Mountain, there’s no skill or equipment required.
A more leisurely sightseeing experience, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola claims the title of longest and highest lift in the world, boasting unparalleled views of British Columbia’s rooftop. There’s also scenic walking trails, mountaintop restaurants, wildlife viewing and indoor interpretive displays along the way.
Art lovers should make a beeline for the newly opened Audain Art Museum, with traditional works of the province’s First Peoples through to its contemporary masters, plus a strong rotation of exhibitions.
Unwind at the Scandinave Spa, where you’ll find hot tubs, refreshing waterfalls, eucalyptus steam rooms, wood-burning saunas and hammocks, all set within a spruce and cedar forest.
Try ice-skating on what may just be the world’s most impressive skate rink – the frozen lake outside Chateau Lake Louise. Overlooking Victoria Glacier and the Rocky Mountains, the ice is groomed and there are rental skates available.
Soak your aches away in an outdoor pool at the Canadian Rockies Hot Springs, filled with naturally heated mineral water that’s said to have healing properties.
Get your arts and culture fix at The Banff Centre, home to dance, music and theatre performances as well as the renowned Banff Mountain Film Festival. Screening every Autumn in Banff before it goes on a world tour (including Australia), the festival includes an annual collection of inspiring short stories about expeditions and adventures.
For a meal with a view, ride the chairlift to Mt Norquay’s Cliffhouse Bistro. A renovated 1950s teahouse, it’s perfect for lunch in a retro setting with the best views of Banff.
Go on a tasting tour of Canada at the Maple Leaf Grill in town, showcasing Canadian produce like Rocky Mountain game meats, Alberta bison tenderloins, Canadian salmon, lobster and artisan cheeses. Try the Regional Game Platter!
Have a fun night out for the whole family at High Rollers – a six-lane bowling alley serving great pizza and 50-odd craft beers on tap.
Take a walk on the wild side via the Johnston Canyon Icewalk. Traversing a series of steel catwalks, expect spectacular views of the Johnston Canyon as you walk to the breathtaking upper icefalls, learning about the geology and how the canyon was formed along the way.
Big White, British Columbia
Sample Tabletop S’mores at the Globe Cafe and Tapas Bar: toast giant marshmallows on a table-top fire pit, dip them in rich chocolate ganache, and then sandwich the lot between graham crackers for a decadent DIY dessert.
Strap on those crampons and grab an ice axe and take on the 18-metre high ice tower at Happy Valley Adventure Park. Constructed out of four telephone poles and almost one-metre thick ice, there are beginner to advanced climbing options.
Snuggle up for a horse-drawn sleigh ride to a cosy alpine cabin and a meal to remember. Prepared by the chefs at Kettle Valley Steakhouse, you can choose from brunch with bacon, eggs and pancakes with real maple syrup, or dinner featuring gourmet grilled fare.
Party the night away at Snowshoe Sam’s – repeatedly touted as one of North America’s best resort bars, despite Big White’s mellow reputation. It hosts DJs and live bands, and is famous for its flaming ‘Gunbarrel Coffee’ that’s poured down the barrel of an antique shotgun.
Sun Peaks, British Columbia
No genuine Canadian experience is complete without a little ice hockey, and Sun Peaks’ shuttle service to the Kamloops Blazers’ home games will give you a pro-level taste. A private charter picks guests up two hours before game time at the Sandman Centre arena – giving you time to dine at one of Kamloops’ downtown restaurants – and then returns you to the resort after the score has been settled.
When it comes to R&R, Sun Peaks Spa promises sports massages to relaxing (almost coma-inducing) facials, nail care and all your usual beauty buffing. But if you’re in a hurry, ask about their hydro-massage beds, where you remain fully clothed while massaged by powerful waves of heated water.
Explore Sun Peaks’ extensive snowshoe trail system with one of many snowshoe tours available, or venture out on your own. Along with your trail pass and snowshoe rental, expect a complimentary map and guide booklet, which helps you choose the best trails for you and points of interest like the snow cave and bird feeding station.
See the Sun Peaks backcountry in style with Canada Snowmobile Tours, taking you along an array of trails, across wide-open frozen lakes and clear meadows. Choose from two- or four-hour snowmobile rides, or the nightly wiener roast option, where your evening tour is complete with a campfire cookout at the McGillivray Lake Cabin.
Revelstoke, British Columbia
Revelstoke Aquatic Centre is a must for travelling families and solo relaxation seekers alike. Just a short drive from the resort, this indoor complex features a 25-metre lap pool, a leisure pool with a lazy river and waterslide, hot tub, sauna and steam room.
If you’re missing a furry friend back home, Revelstoke Dogsledding Adventures’ Alaskan huskies will cheer you right up, as they pull you through snow-clad forests on speedy sleds. You can even steer and yell “mush!” if you so desire.
Between swimming and mushing, your tired muscles have earned some pampering. Enter the Sutton Place Hotel’s serene Refinery Day Spa, which uses Aveda products in treatments such as Thai massage and aromatherapy body wraps.
Steps from the Revelation Gondola mid-station, the lift’s namesake post-and-beam lodge is the place to be on sunny afternoons when a 120-seat deck turns into burger-grilling and beer-sipping heaven.
The town of Revelstoke must have one of the highest pub-to-skier ratios in all of British Columbia, but there’s little doubt about which watering hole leads the pack. The Village Idiot is textbook Canuck après, with ski-backed barstools, truly mountainous nacho plates and, thankfully, a free evening shuttle to and from the resort.
Kicking Horse, British Columbia
Dinner at Eagle’s Eye is mandatory for foodies and sight seekers alike. Set 2347 metres up in the air, atop CPR Ridge, this fine-dining eatery features panoramic windows overlooking five national parks, while inside is a stylish decor and a menu that champions both local ingredients and wines. It’s open for lunch every day, and for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. After nightfall, the Golden Eagle Express gondola whisks guests back to the village.
For a more indulgent ski-free holiday, book in at the Winston Lodge, where you can make use of the lodge’s sauna and hot tub, arrange a hot-stone massage, facial or premium pedicure, topped off with sipping tea in the library or by the fireplace.
Look back on your alpine exploits, literally, from the mountain-facing patio at Peaks Grill. Sip a local microbrew while dining on salads, burgers and pasta in the alpine sunshine.
A 15-minute drive or shuttle ride east of the resort, Golden is a ski town with style, where you can enjoy cosmopolitan après options such as the Whitetooth Mountain BistroWhitetooth Mountain Bistro and the Rockwater Grill and BarRockwater Grill and Bar.
Fernie, British Columbia
Sip a ‘Mogul Smoker’ at the Griz Bar; a divine blend of Appleton’s Estate VX rum, Kahlua, coffee and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. It’s one of many reasons this boisterous tavern is legendary among travellers, among with its boot-stomping live music, expansive deck overlooking the slopes, and nacho plates that defy gravity.
Less than 10 minutes by car from the resort, the town of Fernie is renowned for its late-Victorian brick buildings and glorious mountain setting on the Elk River. All along the Second Avenue main drag, a range of mountain-inspired restaurants, lounges, boutiques, galleries and chocolatiers provide options you won’t find at home.
Breathe, stretch and reconnect at one of the disproportionate number of spas and yoga studios around Fernie. Find the perfect place to suit your style here.
Warm your cockles from the inside out at Cirque restaurant’s new vodka-tasting Ice Bar, where guests don Helly Hansen parkas to sip the pure liquor in ultra-low temperatures.
Panorama, British Columbia
Soak in Panorama Springs – the largest resort hot-pool complex in Canada with two enormous bubbling tubs and an even larger warm pool for kids. Indeed, with more than 150 square metres of pool space to go around, and a sauna to boot, there’s little chance your personal space will be invaded. All Panorama guests can access the Springs with their room key card, with towels supplied and showers, lockers and blow dryers available at no extra charge.
Skate around Lake Windermere Whiteway, the longest ice-skating path on the planet. At 34 kilometres long, the trail runs all the way around the scenic mountain lake separating Invermere from neighbouring Windermere and includes groomed tracks and rustic warming huts. A free shuttle connects Panorama to the nearby town of Invermere, where shopping and dining meet myriad outdoor recreation options.
Handcraft your own ski-trip souvenir at Saffire Bead & Flameworks in Panorama’s resort village. Art classes include bead and jewellery making over an open flame.
Foodies, this is for you. The Summit Hut offers a ‘Traditional Cheese and Chocolate Fondue’ apres-ski experience, where you dip baby potatoes, roasted garlic, steamed vegetables and a baguette in a decadent Swiss cheese blend, then do it all again with fresh fruit and rich melted chocolate.
Yoga on the Mountain is a favourite among beginners and limber yogis alike. With outdoor and indoor classes available, covering a spectrum of disciplines from Shakti Naam to pranayama, there are also sessions for couples, mindful eating, essential oils and running.
SilverStar, British Columbia
In the back of the Final Run Bar and Bistro, Pinheads Bowling is home to four lanes of computerized, state-of-the-art laser tenpin action. As well as touch-screen computers at every table, there’s also Buck Hunter, pinball and karaoke to keep the whole family happy.
If you favour serenity overstrikes, pay a visit to Ousia Day Spa in The Borgata Lodge at Quail Ridge Golf Resort in Kelowna. With a full menu of body care, skincare, nail care and makeup services, using naturally-derived Aveda products.
Culinary aficionados will have no trouble sourcing fine dining haunts here, like 1609 Restaurant and Lounge. Favouring locally-sourced ingredients in the fusion menu, as well as craft brews and the Okanagan region’s renowned wines.
Kimberley, British Columbia
Try your hand (and feet, arms and legs) at indoor rock climbing at the Spirit Rock gym on the Platzl. All ages and skill levels are welcome.
If, on the other hand, you’d rather trade exertion for relaxation, the hot-stone massages and blissful facial treatments at the Northstar Alpine Spa will do the trick.
Après doesn’t get more amiable than at the Stemwinder Bar and Grill. Steps from the bottom of the Northstar Express chairlift, local microbrews and wines share menu space with winter warmers such as ‘Hot Apple Pie’ (dark rum and apple cider), while guests tap their feet to live entertainment or square off at darts or foosball.
Down on the Platzl, the Mozart Brewing Company crafts and pours its own stouts and ales, and the Pedal & Tap serves gastro-pub fare and libations.
Tap into your inner adventurer with a guided ice walk across Maligne Canyon, Jasper’s famous limestone gorge, situated 30 minutes’ drive from Marmot. At the bottom of a chasm, 20 metres deep, pick your way across the frozen river while admiring countless spring-fed icefalls, and crawl into ice caves formed by warm air vents.
No trip to Jasper is complete without driving down the impossibly scenic Icefields Parkway to the foot of Athabasca Glacier. This amazing glacier flows out of the city-sized Columbia Icefield and down the slopes of its namesake peak.
When it comes to local spa experiences, The Miette Hot Springs is hard to beat, with views from the outdoor pool complex worth the price of admission alone. But the opulent spa at the Fairmont, home to a year-round heated outdoor pool, offers a closer option for Marmot visitors, along with mountain-stone massages and Turkish body scrubs.
Marmot is home to several cosy and convenient après venues, including the Caribou Chalet and its Kokanee Glacier Deck for alfresco brews.