Canada is a country with harsh, snowy winters, a long history of winter sports and a mellow attitude towards them. This has lead Canada to become the winter sports superpower that it is today. 'Progressive' is the word that springs to mind when describing the Canadian approach to skiing and boarding. Throughout the country, resorts cater for the needs of riders in a way that much of the rest of the world would do well to learn from, and the parks and pipes leave most of Europe looking pale by comparison. And that's not just the big resorts either – we all know that Whistler has long laid a valid claim to the coveted world's best park title, but there are many resorts in Canada that are hot on its heels, Big White being just one example. Then there's the Rocky Mountains, which must rank as one of the most beautiful of all the world's mountain ranges. Though the terrain can't match the Alps for scale, it lends itself to skiing and boarding very well, and the quality and quantity of the snowfall means they're a much more reliable proposition for those who want to ride powder. A good way to gauge the skiing in a particular country is to look at the sort of riders to come out of there. Canadians can ride park, pipe and rails pretty well, but above all they excel at backcountry freestyle: cliffs, natural gaps and pillow lines. In short, powder; and virtually guaranteed powder is Canada's real trump card. But don't take our word for it, go there and see for yourself…


The resorts in this book are all in British Columbia and Alberta, and being the Rocky Mountains the weather is unpredictable. Of the two, BC has the milder climate thanks to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Along with prevailing westerly winds, this gives resorts such as Whistler their famously heavy snowfall, but it also gives the snow its equally famous high water content meaning that the powder can be quite heavy. Moving further east into the Rockies, the winter temperatures get much colder and the snow gets drier – here's where you'll find the dry, fluffy snow known as champagne powder. There tends to be a further decline in temperature as you continue east across the Rockies, and if you thought Fernie was chilly then just wait till you get to Banff and Lake Louise. And as if that's not enough, their high altitude means that sunburn is also a problem.

When to go

These resorts follow the general North American pattern of opening from December through April, though Sunshine opens from early November right through into May, making it the obvious choice for early- or late-season riding. Whistler also stays open into May, and it's a great spot for some end of season park riding. Canadian winters tend to be very cold, with the peak times for powder being January and February, though snowfall is such that you can often get great powder into the middle of March. Slush is usually pretty well established by late March or early April.

Off piste policy

Canadians take avalanche hazards very seriously, and their patrollers are among the best in the world. As with all North American resorts there are no hard and fast rules to out of bounds access, though in general the policy is more relaxed than that of the US and you may well be allowed to go if you're prepared with the proper safety gear. While people used to the 'do what you like' attitude of the French may find this overzealousness patronizing, it's comforting to know that they err on the side of caution in their concerns for your safety.

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