It must be the air. Up a couple of spots from last year's rankings, Alberta's breathtaking Lake Louise resort sparked passionate responses from its supporters. "It's the most romantic ski resort on the continent," gushes an admirer. Sang another: "Oh, Canada!" And it comes by its beauty honestly. Located two hours west of Calgary, Lake Louise is the diamond in Banff National Park's crown. Towering 3,100 vertical feet above its namesake lake, the resort rambles 4,000 acres across a horseshoe of lift-accessed peaks, which deliver vistas like nowhere else in North America-earning Lake Louise a No. 1 in Scenery. "It was a pleasure to walk to the lift because of the beauty of the mountains," one enthusiast says. "A magical setting," writes another. The resort offers more than eye candy, with some of the best big-mountain skiing in the Canadian Rockies-without the crowds. But there are drawbacks. "Ancient lifts," complains a reader. "They still have a platter to the summit!" Insightful skiers will see potential as stunning as the scenery. "Could be the biggest and best resort around, but nobody has put it together," a reader comments. What delivers now are the Canadian prices, with Lake Louise rated No. 2 in Value. And while those who stay on-site at the legendary Chateau Lake Louise or the Post Hotel rave about their experiences, people who commute the 45 miles to their Banff hotels aren't quite so happy. -M.B.
WHAT'S NEW The first six-pack in the Canadian Rockies replaces the Top of the World quad; upgrades in snowmaking and lifts.
A GOOD DEAL Enjoy a gourmet buffet, entertainment and dancing at mid-mountain Whitehorn Lodge. Then join a torchlight parade down the mountain. Cost: $30 for adults, $15 kids (800-258-7669).
MEDALS GOLD Terrain, Challenge, Value, Scenery; Silver Snow, Lifts, Service, Weather, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Dining, Terrain Parks.
HIGH/LOW RANK Scenery (1), Value (2), Challenge (20); Family Programs (44), Access (46), Grooming (50).
DON'T MISS High Tea at the stately Chateau Lake Louise.
READER REMARKS (+) "Beats Colorado in value. Friendly, helpful people." "Great place for a honeymoon." (-) "Limited nightlife-and nowhere to go." "Old, slow lifts." "Hard to get to from Tennessee."