What’s the recipe for the perfect ski holiday? Maybe a sprinkle of snow, a big heap of terrain, a soupcon of sunshine, a pinch of stunning scenery, and a dollop of après-ski? Alberta has all the ingredients to make the skiing equivalent of a Michelin star meal!
The Perfect Ski Holiday ingredient #1: Powder
Alberta receives an abundance of dry powder snow making for some pretty sweet turns (its resorts boast one of the longest winter seasons anywhere in the world too). I had one of my best ever powder days one year on May 1st at Banff Sunshine Village! The long season at Sunshine also means that you can get really good value on early or late season trips – heavy snowfall in April is quite common and the area is also a good bet for early season too. Lake Louise gets the alpine ski racing season off to a start in late November/early December and ski racing fans can get right up close to the action because the sport doesn’t have the same following as it does in Europe. If you’ve never watched the high speed races live it will blow your mind how fast they go!
The dry powder snow happens because there’s not a lot of moisture in the atmosphere, and that makes for less clouds too. Great for those bluebird days! Sunshine Mountain offers mainly above tree line skiing, and factor 50 sunscreen is a must! In Lake Louise you can seek a little shade in the trees, but there are some great decks for soaking up the rays with a margarita too… and in Jasper you can follow the sun across the face of the mountain. Clear skies have another advantage in Jasper: Jasper National Park is the world’s second largest dark skies preserve – meaning spectacular stargazing, and even a possibility to see the Northern Lights.
The Perfect Ski Holiday ingredient #2: National Parks & Scenery
As the ski areas of Alberta are within National Park land there are a few more restrictions on construction, so you’ll not find much in the way of ski-in/ski-out convenience here (the notable exception is the Sunshine Mountain Lodge – with a unique mid-mountain location). This means it takes a bit more effort to get to the slopes, but there are no ugly buildings spoiling the view.
The Perfect Ski Holiday ingredient #3: Wildlife
Less human impact on the mountain also means that the furry residents are happy too! Where in the world would a ski slope be temporarily roped off while a wild caribou (called Frankie) meanders across his territory? Jasper. That’s where. On my first trip to the area the drive across the Icefields Parkway resembled passing through a safari park! We saw bears, big horn sheep, a mountain goat, elk, mule deer and a fox. Stay at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and the team of SUV-sized elk seem to sweep through the grounds on landscaping duty every afternoon! Even if you’re not lucky enough to see much of Alberta’s wildlife, the mountain landscape is breathtaking; and the sense of wilderness is a rare charm.
The Perfect Ski Holiday ingredient #4: Food & Drink
If all this wild countryside and fresh air works up an appetite then Alberta has many treats in store. Alberta beef is really tasty – but so is the local elk, venison, buffalo and trout. And you can wash it down with any number of locally brewed ales. Look out for the excellent local brew pubs in both Jasper and Banff. For the best value dinner in town Melissa’s Missteak is a Banff institution – your steak comes with garlic bread, veggies, salad, tatties and sauce. Yum. For something a little more refined the Post Hotel in Lake Louse wins plaudits for its excellent food and wine – Condé Nast’s Gold List once awarded the hotel with the plaudit of “Best Food in the Americas”. And if your ski holiday isn’t complete without a little late night drinking and dancing then Banff is definitely not going to disappoint. Check out our guide to dining in Banff or visit Banff Lake Louise tourism’s comprehensive guide to Dining & Nightlife.
The Perfect Ski Holiday ingredient #5: Road Tripping
My favourite thing about the Alberta resorts is that you can enjoy them individually or make a road trip; elevating your ski holiday into something multi-dimensional. It’s even possible to extend your trip further with a train across the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver… that’s definitely on my wish list! So many recipes.. all deliciously tempting!