Tell me about alpine skiing near Calgary

The wife and I are contemplating a trip to Calgary. We have a friend there, and we would like to get in some skiing. We don’t really know the area though, so we have some questions: where are the good mountains, good places to stay, how is the snow this year, etc. We are looking up info on line, but I was hoping for some of your first-hand knowledge.

Some background: We are in our late 30s, with a 3 year old who doesn’t ski (yet). Mrs. Lagomorph is a true expert, capable of handling double black diamonds at resorts such as Crested Butte or Aspen. I am more of an intermeidate, but handled the black diamond runs at Vail when I was there two years ago. We have skiied CB, Aspen, and Copper Mountain in CO, Snowbird and Alta in UT, and back East we patronize Stowe, Sugarloaf, Sugarbush, and such. I like the snow in Utah but found the ambience somewhat lacking. Copper Mountain was a little too mall-like for my taste, and Aspen too expensive. Our favorite places are probably Crested Butte and Stowe.

Ideally I think we would like to stay at a spot nearer the slopes, even if it cost more than staying farther away. We would probably prefer a hotel-like environment over a condo. Our friend in Calgary doesn’t ski, so we would probably not be staying with her, at least not the whole time. Obviously a resort with a good kid’s program would be great.

Head towards Banff. Sunshine village on the spine of the continental divide is magnificent! Mt. Norquay is good too, from what I hear, but we only did Sunshine. My wife did dislocate her patella there, but as she said, there was plenty of snow to pack over her knee, and the view was magnificent while waiting for the ski patrol to rescue her.

There’s no on-resort hotels within the National Park of banff, so nearly everyone stays in the town of Banff, where there are numerous hotels and rental properties. From Banff you can acess 3 ski hill: Sunshine Village (already mentioned, very nice, very cold), Mt Noquay (a local hill with many broad straight runs, sheltered from the wind and quite warm, and Lake Louise, which I believe by acreage is the largest ski resort in N. America.

Further in you’ll find the resorts of Panorama, Kicking Horse, and Fernie. They are 2 hours+ in from Banff.

I love skiing in Banff, you’ll have a great time!

Actually, Sunshine Village has an on-resort hotel. You have to ride the gondola into it. We didn’t stay there, but damn it looked convenient.

Not so convenient when you consider the Gondola (to the base) stops running at like 5. Leaving you in solitude. Cool if that’s your thing, I’m sure.

What a trooper! Qadgop, its odd discussing something other than Tolkien with you!

Anyone know how the snow is this year? My wife said she thought they were having a drought out there.

Last I heard, there was a drought there. However, many of the big places will make snow if they’re low. Try Sunshine Village, Nakiska, Ski Louise, Fortress, and Mount Norquay. If you’re looking to keep your costs down, you can stay in Calgary (anywhere in Motel Village) and drive in, as it’s only about an hour to Sunshine from there.

Wave at the mountains for me. I lived and worked in Canmore and loved every moment of it.

Yeah, we started off pretty slow this year snow-wise, but I think things are definitely looking up.

Sunshine is probably your best bet. It’s closer to Calgary than Lake Louise, and always has better snow. They have been expanding a lot. Sunshine does have one on-site hotel. However, Banff is really not that far away; no more than 20 minutes. You could even stay in Canmore and still be nice and close.

Lake Louise is a little further down the road. It is a big resort, with really LONG runs.

Nakiska has lousy snow. Something about where they are situated means they have to make a lot of their snow. Some people claim they can “feel” the difference. That said; it is the newest resort in the area, and has three hotels a five minute walk away.

Fortess is fairly close to Nakiska, and I haven’t skiied there enough to have too much to say about it. It’s not nearly as big as Sunshine or Lake Louise.

Nakiska, Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise and Fernie (and a couple others I can’t remember) are all owned by the same group. You might be able to get a multi-resort pass if you wanted to try a few areas.

Having said all that; I have heard nothing but great things about Kicking Horse, which is near Golden, B.C. It’s about a three hour drive from Calgary.

It’s funny, but that was my impression just from looking at the various websites…the amount of snow Nakiska admits to having was about half of what the areas claimed (I know they are all lying anyway, but still).

Ginger , I know a lot of the ski areas in my part of the world are restricted in their snowmaking during drought conditions, because they aren’t allowed to draw down the already critically low rivers. When they need to make snow the most, they can’t!

Sunshine Village has never, and as far as I know never plans to, own snowmaking machinery.

I actually returned from a trip to Banff for skiing on Feb 13th. The snow was much less than last year, and perhaps similar to the year before that. Conditions at Sunshine were fine and certainly the best of a bad lot. Because it tends to be cold there they are not exposed to as much thawing/freezing. The views are truly spectacular on a sunny day.

Conditions at Panorama, Kicking Horse, and Fernie at that time were all kind of marginal as it had rained 1 week prior. Thin, groomed snowlayer over hardpack and ice. The kind of conditions you expect to see in Massachusetts, just on a larger scale.

However since then it has snowed quite significantly (I noted Fernie getting 12 inches one day last week). I imagine conditions are much better

I just got back from Louise yesterday and the conditions right now are excellent. There was about 10 cm of new powder on Saturday and the whole place was in great condition. It had been quite dry up until the last couple of weeks. Fernie is supposed to be in the best condition right now, with Kicking Horse not far behind. Sunshine is definitely starting to turn into the hill of choice around here though.

I dunno about that. We have had snow in our front yard since before Christmas, and there was a good two feet out there for several weeks until a recent heavy rain. I still can’t see the grass and it doesn’t look like I will until April. I can’t remember having this much snow for this long in years.

Thanks for all the replies folks. This was exactly the kind of first hand info I wanted. I will keep you up to date on our plans.

Norquay is really handy if you want to stay close to Banff, but I would cautiously recommend it. Depending on your skiing ability you can get bored quickly at Norquay. They are lacking beginner intermediate runs of any length. However, if you like the black diamond runs there are 3, rather long by comparison, runs that are steep and have moguls like you wouldn’t believe.

Sunshine and Lake Louise will give you better odd of a program to suit your toddler and offer a greater variety runs.

Anyone remember Sunshine before the Gondola? The occasional bus crash at the bottom but no busses over the egde that I can recall.

Disclaimer: I skied at Norquay almost every weekend for about 5 years, thanks to the legendary Norm’s Ski Hut, but it has been probably 10-12 years since I have skied there so they may have opened up new terrain. YMMV. MMDNV.