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Insider Guide: Ski Areas of Canada’s Mountain Parks

The region known as Canada’s Mountain Parks includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses Banff and Jasper National Parks as well as Kananaskis Provincial Park east of Banff. This majestic wilderness with knock-your-socks-off views and more peaks than people is home to five Alberta ski areas.

Our world-class combination of tree lined and open bowl slopes, abundant snowfalls, high-speed lifts and on-hill amenities beckon skiers and boarders from around the globe.

Marmot-Basin

Marmot Basin 

Jasper National Park

Marmot Basin (1-866-952-3816) is 20-minutes south of Jasper townsite and 370 km/192 mi east of Edmonton via Hwy 16 west. From Banff/Lake Louise, take the 237 km/147 mi Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93N), a spectacular drive along the Continental Divide with 100 glaciers and abundant wildlife (for road conditions call 511). Mountain Connector (1-888-786-3641) offers bus transport to Jasper from Calgary, Banff and Edmonton, while Marmot’s ski bus departs Jasper townsite locations three times daily. Marmot is unpretentious and uncrowded; lift lines are virtually non-existent.

This year Marmot celebrates its 50th anniversary. Those who have not skied Marmot for a while will be impressed. In the past four years the installation of three new chairlifts has brought the total to seven lifts including the Canadian Rockies Express, the region’s longest high-speed quad. Marmot boasts 1675 acres, 914 m/3000 ft vertical rise, and 86 runs, glades and high alpine bowls framed by pinnacles and ridges.

Snowmaking, terrain park and learning areas are lower mountain features. On the upper mountain, ride the Knob chair to access powder; also cross gates to Eagle East glades, hike 10-min to Cornice run or take Keefer’s Dream to the ‘hidden’ gate on skier’s left. Marmot’s early morning ski-with-a-guide is the surest way for non-regulars to find virgin stashes.

Sign up at skimarmot.com for a free My Marmot card, pre-loaded direct-to-lift tickets at 10% off or other promotional rate. Or, buy ski passes, lessons and gear rentals in advance at Jasper’s downtown Marmot Sales Centre. Adult tickets are $82.50.

Banff National Park

Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Area together are known as Banff’s Big3. At Banff Ski Hub (Downtown, 119 Banff Ave, 403-762-4754) purchase tri-area multi-day lift passes (with lesson options) that include ski bus shuttles.

Lake-Louise-Ski-Area

Lake Louise Ski Area (photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka)

Lake Louise Ski Area (1-877-956-8473), the Canadian Rockies’ largest, is north of the TransCanada Hwy 1 across from Lake Louise Village 40-min west of Banff townsite. Bestowed “Best Ski Resort in Canada” honours at the 2013 World Travel Awards, The Lake features four mountain faces, 991 m/3250 ft vertical rise and sun-lit slopes all times of day. Ride 6-person Grizzly Express Gondola from the base to an upper ridge. From mid mountain, the region’s only 6-person high-speed chairlift (the ‘6-Pack’) rises to the Saddle. All local ski areas offer child care, but only Lake Louise hosts infants from 18 days old; the Learning & Adventure Centre has three beginner magic carpets.

The Lake boasts 10 lifts plus 139 named bowls, chutes and tree-lined runs with some of the best fall-line skiing anywhere. Novice to advanced routes from every chair makes the entire resort accessible to all. Powder hounds find backside Whitehorn slopes, Eagle Ridge 1 to 7 runs and Ptarmigan Glades to be especially sweet. Access lifts a half-hour before opening by taking a First Tracks Private Lesson ($99 for two hours). The Lake’s terrain and jib parks include a Big Air Bag where experts test stunts.

Download the new Lake Louise Ski Resort App to track runs, elevation gain, speed and proximity to lodges. Adult tickets are $85.

Sunshine-Village

Sunshine Village (photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka)

Sunshine Village is 8 km/5 mi west of Banff townsite via Hwy 1 (1-877-542-2633). Canada’s highest ski resort boasts the Rockies’ longest ski season, to May 19. From the base the world’s fastest 8-passenger gondola rises to the village, six high-speed quads and five other lifts.

Built on three mountains with a 1070 m/3514 ft vertical, many of Sunshine’s 107 runs are above treeline with views to 80 km/50 mi; look south to Mt Assiniboine, Canada’s Matterhorn. Beginners ski Strawberry, cruisers on Boundary Bowl ski in both Alberta and BC, and free riders tackle “Canada’s most extreme off-piste” on Delirium Dive and Wild West where an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel are required (rentals at Snowtips). Sunshine’s terrain and jib park boasts the region’s only half pipe. Adult tickets are $85.

Mt-Norquay

Mt Norquay (photo: Miguel)

Mount Norquay, the Canadian Rockies’ original ski area (est. 1926), is only 10-min north of downtown Banff via Norquay Rd over Hwy 1 (403-762-4421).

There is a vertical rise of 503 m/1650 ft, 28 runs, five lifts (including beginner Spirit chair with new loading conveyor) and Canada’s original double black slope. Locals go for a half day break from work, and their kids learn to ski and race here.

Norquay is owned by ski enthusiasts who cherish the resort’s family-friendly character. World Cup gold medalist Ken Read is involved; Giver Grandi run honours Banff Olympian Thomas Grandi. Norquay is the only hill in Alberta’s Rockies to offer night skiing and terrain park use (Fri-Sat, Jan-Mar). Adult tickets are $61; Alberta residents can ski for only $2 during Toonie Days (Jan 8, Feb 5, Mar 5 and Apr 8).

Nakiska-Mike-Reese

Nakiska (photo: Mike Reese)

Kananaskis Provincial Park 

Nakiska was built between Banff and Calgary, 15-min south of Hwy 1 via Hwy 40 (403-591-7777), to host the 1988 Winter Olympics. Beautiful Kananaskis Valley views are in abundance and Kananaskis Village resort is only minutes away.

Nakiska offers a 779m/2556 ft vertical rise and extensive snowmaking. Long runs and nightly grooming make this a carving favourite and there are self-contained beginner zones (new Homesteader Bypass offers easy access to the base area). Recently expanded Monster Glades offer the best bet for powder stashes; ride Nakiska’s Silver quad to watch Najibska Park tricksters. Adult tickets are $72.

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