A couple of years ago my family and I decided to venture on a three centre holiday and take in the amazing resorts of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper in one trip. It was a fantastic experience I won’t soon forget!
We flew from Gatwick to Calgary on Air Transat – an easy direct flight with good timings. There are other options but we chose Air Transat as unlike the other carriers they offer FREE ski carriage!
Our flight arrived just after midday into Calgary and the view of the Rockies as we came in to land was just spectacular. We took a shared transfer and found the 90 minute trip from Calgary to Banff was really straightforward, with interesting sites such as Calgary’s Olympic Park (built for the 1988 Winter Olympics) with its ski jump and bobsleigh track (think Eddy the Eagle and Cool Runnings!) keeping us entertained along the way. As you leave the outskirts of Calgary, the Rockies come into view and dominate the horizon for miles – it is one of the most amazing sights, especially when you see it for the first time. Banff is a vibrant mountain town with a real sense of heritage. The main street is packed with loads of shops, bars and restaurants, and there’s always a real buzz about the place.
Our first experience in Banff was checking in to our hotel, the world-famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel which sits about 1km from Banff’s town centre – it is truly a staggering place, built in the style of a Scottish Baronial castle. We liked the huge spa, the relaxed ambience and the massive range of facilities. We purchased a Tri-Area lift ticket for 8 days (4 of these days were FREE!) and our hotel was located right on the free ski bus route, which was perfect for getting from the hotel to Sunshine Village (about 20 mins) and to Banff’s Mount Norquay (about 10 mins). We loved the skiing at Sunshine, especially the scary stuff down Delirium Dive, the Wild West and Goat’s Eye, but the long wide open cruising slopes were brilliant too, and the snow was incredible!
We were quite sad to leave Banff, but on the other hand excited to get up to Lake Louise. The Fairmont transferred our bags from hotel to hotel, and we just jumped on the ski bus to Lake Louise, an easy 45 minutes away. Lake Louise is very different to Banff – it’s more like a very small village, but it punches well above its weight. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise was amazing and we had a beautiful room with a view over the lake – unbelievably scenic! One night we decided to try something different and went for a sleigh ride, which the kids loved, then went ice skating on the lake. It was a fantastic experience to add to our already amazing day on the slopes.
On our third morning in Lake Louise we woke to a fresh fall of snow and got to experience laying down fresh tracks on the Women’s World Cup Downhill course. We loved how everything in Lake Louise seemed to be dominated by the Canadian Rockies – from the big mountain scenery to the laid back charm of the resort itself. The food is worth mentioning as well: lots of dining options in the Fairmont itself, Elk Steaks anyone? Amazing!
Our transfer day between Lake Louise and Jasper was one I’ll never forget – the route took us up the incredible Icefields Parkway past the Columbia Icefield. We had a perfect bluebird day to admire the scenery all the way, and although it’s a 2.5 hour trip it seemed to speed by. As we arrived into Jasper we passed a herd of Elk, and after that we just seemed to spot wildlife at every turn. Jasper reminded me very much of Banff, but on a slightly smaller scale – the town has a great range of shops, bars and restaurants and also has the main rail route through the Rockies running down the main street. We saw a freight train with 96 carriages on it (I got the kids to count them…honest!).
We stayed at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in a cabin within the grounds. The main lodge has all the facilities and the accommodation is spread in cabins around the shore of Lac Beauvert. It is an inspiring place. We loved the new spa and pool complex, which was a great to look forward to after a day on the mountain. The skiing at Marmot Basin is about 20 minutes away from the hotel, but it’s an easy ride on the free ski bus. I have to say that Marmot Basin is a gem of a place – great snow, long season well into May, incredible scenery and amazing terrain. This is a great destination for families or groups with mixed abilities. We took advantage of the 2-for-1 lift ticket deal which made the whole experience unreal value for money!
All in all we thought that a three centre holiday was a great adventure, but also easy to do and really added up to a great value package. If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend taking in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper in one trip – it’s a once in a lifetime chance to explore a variety of destinations and terrain that will make a memorable impression on lone adventure seekers as well as families alike.
If you fancy exploring one or all three of these incredible Alberta ski resorts, contact one of our expert team by calling 0131 243 8097 or request a tailor-made quotation online.