Overview: Banff, Alberta
The postcard-pretty ski town of Banff is the gateway to three breathtakingly beautiful resorts, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay—each unique in its own way.
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Overview: Banff, Alberta
The town of Banff sits inside Banff National Park in Alberta. It’s a charming little town set against a dramatic mountain backdrop. Banff Avenue is the main drag, and it’s lined with restaurants, boutiques, hotels, and bars. The iconic Fairmont Banff Springs is a couple miles from the town center. Photo: Paul Ziska
The Banff Sightseeing Gondola is five minutes outside town and offers an easy way to get your bearings. Four-person glass gondolas whisk visitors up Sulphur Mountain for 360-degree views of the Bow Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges. At the top, walk the half-mile Skywalk interpretive exhibit and grab a bite at one of the three snack bars/restaurants. Photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism
The Fairmont Banff Springs opened in 1888 as one of Canada’s original railway hotels along the Canadian Pacific train route. Today it looms castle-like over the town of the Banff, a stunning symbol of Canadian hospitality. Photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Mt. Norquay is the closest resort to Banff, seen in the background here. Norquay may be small, less than 200 skiable acres, but almost half of it is advanced and expert terrain. Known as a local gem, Norquay shouldn’t be missed both for its dramatic scenery and steep, fall-line runs. A must: Ride the near-antique two-seater North American lift to the newly renovated Cliff House Bistro for a drink with a view. Photo: Paul Ziska
Sunshine Village is a unique place. First, the “base” village isn’t at the base. You park in the lot and take an 18-minute gondola ride up to the village, which basically consists of a day lodge and a hotel. But the skiing. Oh the skiing is massive, 3,300 skiable acres of every kind of terrain imaginable. The area is shaped like a giant horseshoe, with jaw-dropping views in every direction from the oodles of above-treeline terrain. This is also one of the highest ski resorts in Canada and boasts only natural snow. Photo: Paul Ziska
Sunshine’s location lends to the feeling that you’re truly in the middle of nowhere when you’re skiing there. Very efficient lifts and a lack of crowds don’t hurt. Don’t miss the chance to spend a night at the lone hotel, the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, the only ski-in/ski-out lodging in Banff National Park. Overnight guests enjoy the distinction of being the only people on the mountain after the last gondola delivers skiers back to their cars. It’s divine. Photo: Reuben Krabbe
Take an afternoon off the slopes and sign up for the Johnston Canyon Icewalk. A series of steel catwalks make the excursion possible during winter and provide amazing views into Johnston Canyon below. Photo: Jake Dyson
Lake Louise is the largest of the resorts at 4,200 skiable acres. It’s an adventure playground with tons of above-treeline terrain, vast, open bowl skiing across four mountains, and views deep inside Banff National Park that truly go on for miles. Photo: Reuben Krabbe
Locals will tell you to get off the frontside and dive directly into the backside, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The expert and intermediate terrain off the Larch Express is some of the most enjoyable family skiing we’ve ever seen. Be sure to pop into the historic Temple Lodge, home to a small cafeteria and a sit-down restaurant. But for the best lunch on the hill, it’s Whitehorn Bistro’s Euro-style ambience and sophisticated menu all the way. Photo: Reuben Krabbe
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is only 10 minutes from the slopes, set on the eponymous lake where skaters and hockey enthusiasts twirl and shoot into the night. Opened in 1890 as a humble retreat for outdoor adventurers, the Chateau eventually grew to its current 550 rooms and remains at the epicenter of tourism in the region. There are several restaurants, though our favorite, Alpine Social, rocks a cozy subterranean vibe and a share-friendly menu that doesn’t disappoint. Photo: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts