Insider Guide To Banff
If you’re a regular to the Banff & Lake Louise ski area or are thinking of heading there for your ski holiday this season, here are some insider tips to Banff & Lake Louise from Natalie Zaturski.
Where would you head to find fresh tracks?
Mt. Norquay: Anywhere! On powder days many people head to the other two larger resorts, leaving Mt. Norquay clear for me to get fresh tracks all day, all over.
Lake Louise Ski Area: Take the Summit Platter and head down the ridge to the left. Brown Shirt, a great black run, usually collects plenty of powder. Even a few days after a storm, I often find great stashes there.
Sunshine Village: I love lapping the area to the right off Goat’s Eye chair, taking different routes each time. Or if you’re not quite a black-runner yet, the blue run Wawa Bowl is another favourite spot.
If you’re looking for that perfect groomed run that will take your breath away, where do you go?
Mt. Norquay: Take the Mystic Chair, then the blue run Knight Flight for views of Cascade Mountain and the valley that aren’t seen from anywhere else. This quiet corner always reminds me of how amazing my home is.
Lake Louise Ski Area: The Men’s Downhill is a black run on the front side where the Men’s and Women’s World Cup Downhill races begin each year. From the top there are stunning views across the valley to Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier. And I can pretend I’m a World Cup athlete!
Sunshine Village: Angel Flight is a classic blue run with views of Mt. Assiniboine, great for a casual cruise. When I’m feeling adventurous I take the black off it, and when I’m tired I skip to the green.
After a morning on the slopes, where’s the best place for an energy boost?
Mt. Norquay: The deli on the main floor of Cascade Lodge is great for a fast pit-stop between runs, when I don’t want to be off the snow too long.
Lake Louise Ski Area: I’m a coffee fiend, so I’m grateful for the Starbucks in The Lodge of Ten Peaks! They also sell snack bars to keep you going until lunch.
Sunshine Village: I like to make the most of my time by grabbing a coffee and snack from Creekside Café and enjoying it on the gondola ride up.
And the ultimate lunch stop?
Mt. Norquay: The Lone Pine Pub on the upper floor of the Cascade Lodge has huge windows to watch the slopes from and a sun-soaked terrace.
Lake Louise Ski Area: The Sawyers Nook restaurant at Temple Lodge is my favourite place to stop for lunch at Lake Louise. Because it’s on the back side, it’s usually the quietest restaurant at the resort. And it’s very rustic and cute!
Sunshine Village: While most people head to the Day Lodge for lunch, I always go to the Chimney Corner Lounge in Sunshine Mountain Lodge, where there are warm fireplaces, great food and friendly table service.
To make sure you have the best memories where’s the best place for a Kodak moment?
Mt. Norquay: From the Cascade chair you can see the whole of the Town of Banff below you, surrounded by mountains. This is a beginners’ run, so even those new to the sport get to see the greatest views!
Lake Louise Ski Area: The top of the Glacier Express Quad. It’s only halfway up the front side, but there’s a beautiful lookout point over the lake, glaciers, forests and valley. It also makes for a good picnic area. There’s a green run down from here too.
Sunshine Village: Skiers-left from the Continental Divide chair. After crossing from Alberta into British Columbia and back into Alberta again, all the views from the top of this chair are stunning.
What’s the best place for beer ‘o’ clock?
Mt. Norquay: From the Cascade Lodge terrace you can watch the terrain park, cheer on the riders, and enjoy a drink. For a beer alternative, try the Hot Apple Cider with lemon and honey.
Lake Louise Ski Area: I love the Kokanee Cabin in the base area in Spring. There are BBQs, music and a great atmosphere.
Sunshine Village: Trappers rooftop, a real southwestern saloon. From here you can see some of the main trails converge in the village area, which makes for great people watching.
And for something different, what’s a unique après ski activity?
Mt. Norquay: Mt. Norquay is a small, fun resort, so when they throw a party, it feels like you’re partying at a friends house. Only bigger. And better. And more picturesque! They hold events throughout the season with DJs, giveaways, competitions, dancing and good times. Check with your rep to see what’s on when you’re in town.
Lake Louise Ski Area: Downhill at Dusk. Every Friday in March, once the ski area is closed, you can get first tracks down a freshly groomed run. This event is kicked off with music and aperitifs halfway up the mountain, and finished off with dinner, more music and dancing in true Canadian style. This is tons of fun and makes you feel like a real VIP.
Sunshine Village: Stay a night at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, Sunshine Village’s ski-in, ski-out accommodation. As everyone else is disappearing for the evening, enjoy the slope-side outdoor hot tub. It’s got stunning views and real luxury. Plus, you’ll get first tracks in the morning (January to April).
Final Words of Advice…
With three resorts to choose from on one lift ticket, check the morning weather report in your hotel to decide where you’ll play for the day.
Pop into the Banff Ski Hub in downtown Banff. It’s the only official store of all three ski areas and is stocked full of clothes and accessories to remember your holiday.
Take advantage of the resort guides. They’re a free service at all three resorts, showing you around the terrain. They can’t offer instruction – for that you’ll need a lesson, but they’re a great ‘bonus’.