Offering up spectacular scenery, vast mountain ranges, the friendliest of welcomes and some of the world’s best lift-served terrain, Canada is a fantastic all-rounder. Most resorts are located between Calgary and Vancouver, making this a great destination for a ski road trip, allowing you to ski multiple resorts in a single trip, plus you’ll get the opportunity to see some incredible scenery and wildlife along the way.
Whistler in British Columbia is the country’s most visited resort and for very good reason! It is located only an hour and a half from Vancouver and the terrain here is unmatched, with the lift system serving vast alpine bowls, incredible tree runs and kilometre after kilometre of groomed pistes. The lively town also has some of North America’s hottest après spots – just come prepared for some lift queues, the chance of rain on the lower slopes and an expensive lift pass.
Further inland, the likes of Big White, Kicking Horse, Revelstoke, Silver Star and Sun Peaks are popular stopovers – especially if you’re a fan of tree-skiing and powder – in between Whistler and the major ski hub of Banff in the neighbouring state of Alberta. Banff is only two hours from Calgary, so access is easy, and when you’re there you not only get a great, vibrant ski town, but also three fantastic ski resorts on one lift pass – Lake Louise, Mt Norquay and Sunshine Village.
For something totally different, the resorts to the east in Quebec – such as Mont Sainte Anne and Tremblant – offer a uniquely French feel, beautiful views and long, tree-lined descents. The flight over is much shorter, the time difference is less severe and the food is great, just be prepared for bitterly cold mid-winter weather, especially if the wind is blowing.
Off the slopes, activities are slightly more limited on the whole than in Europe, but snowshoeing, snowmobiling and cross country skiing are popular. Ice hockey, the national sport, must be tried out and most towns will have great ice rink facilities. If you want to try something different, the 2010 Olympic Sliding Centre in Whistler gives you the chance to try bobsleigh or skeleton.
Most resorts are home to a good range of accommodation, which in typically North American-style is spacious and roomy, with lots of good-value condos on offer. Hotels are usually of good standard, with great facilities and many will be located right on the slopes. Just be prepared to book well in advance for major holiday weeks and over weekends, especially in Whistler.
Food and drink is generally decent value, but on-mountain options are usually self-service affairs and can be overpriced. Down in town, make sure you check out the happy hour deals – you’ll save a packet on an après ski beer or dinner if you choose your days carefully. Banff and Whistler are definitely the liveliest destination, fuelled by an eclectic mix of young seasonnaires, but elsewhere, resorts are typically pretty quiet after dark.
As with the USA, the ownership structure of Canadian resorts has changed significantly in recent years, driving down season pass prices, but unfortunately driving up day pass prices – especially at Whistler. Another negative is the weather – rain is common even during mid-winter on the lower slopes in British Columbia and conversely the bitter cold that can grip Alberta and Quebec during the winter months.