×

4 Best Ski Resorts in Banff

Written by Michael Law
Sep 29, 2021

The world-class ski destination of Banff, Alberta has been drawing legions of skiers since 1926, when a rudimentary ski run was cut through the forest on Norquay Mountain. Today, Banff boasts four major ski resorts within an hour's drive.

The resorts range from world-class operations that have hosted Olympic games events and World Cup downhill races right through to family-friendly destinations with endless blue cruiser and beginner runs.

The four ski resorts each have their own look, feel, and vibe, so be sure to plan a visit to at least a couple of them. Banff Sunshine Village Resort is up high above the tree line with incredible vistas; Lake Louise is set more among the trees, with the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise standing proudly across the valley; Norquay is a local's mountain with great facilities and non-existent lift lines; and Nakiska is ideal for the intermediate looking to advance.

If you are traveling with small children and are looking for daycare, you are in luck. Many of the resorts accommodate the youngest of the clan while mom and dad carve out some child-free turns and remember what skiing used to be like.

In addition to the ski resorts, the town of Banff is also a highlight of Alberta. Set dramatically against the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and bisected by the cobalt-colored waters of the Bow River, this picturesque town still retains much of its original charm. You'll find a wonderful main street just perfect for strolling after a fun day on the slopes. Banff also has a good selection of restaurants, ranging from casual fare right through to white tablecloth fine dining at one of the upper-end hotels.

Getting to Banff from Calgary is easy. If you are flying in internationally, it's only a 1.5-hour drive from Calgary International Airport. If you'd prefer not to drive, shuttles leave the airport on a regular basis as do private pre-arranged luxury transfers.

Plan your time on the slopes with our list of the best ski resorts in Banff.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Lake Louise Ski Resort

Stunning scenery at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Stunning scenery at Lake Louise Ski Resort

Famous for hosting the men's and women's downhill races over the past number of years, Lake Louise is one of Canada's most famous ski destinations and one of Alberta's best ski resorts. Lake Louise is an easy drive of about 40 minutes from downtown Banff along a divided highway, and still within Banff National Park.

Spread over four mountains, this resort has a bit of everything for everyone. Those who love to cruise down long, wide blue runs will be in their element checking out the runs on Whitehorn and Larch Mountains. Crave endless bumps? Drop off the back side of Whitehorn under the Paradise chair and pound down until your knees or quads give out. If you are looking to explore some high alpine bowl action, take the brand new Summit Quad and drop into the newly opened West Bowl.

Lake Louise Ski Resort's gondola opened in 1959 and since then, the resort has expanded to have 10 lifts, including the aforementioned gondola, six chairs, and three surface lifts. All this uphill capacity services 160 named runs. Note that almost every chair has either a beginner, intermediate, or advance run leaving from it, so practically the entire mountain is accessible to everyone. And there's lots to explore, over 4,200 acres of skiable terrain ensures that you'll have your own space to shred, even on the busiest of days.

Lake Louise receives just shy of 15 feet of natural snow each year and supplements that with a robust snowmaking operation.

You'll definitely work up an appetite from all your exploring, and fortunately the resort has you covered. Temple Lodge, set at the base of Larch Mountain is a spectacular wooden frame building set in a bucolic alpine setting. Pop in here to warm up after a long descent from the top of Larch, or snag a sunny patio spot and chow down on one of the legendary burgers grilling at the outdoor BBQ.

If you are on the front side, stop in at the Whitehorn Bistro and grab a spot by the windows to soak up the incredible views across the Bow Valley. At the base area is the impressive Lodge of the Ten Peaks, where you can sit and watch the skiers descend down the front slopes.

If you or members of your crew are looking for something besides skiing, consider a trip over to one of the four terrain parks. Each park is targeted to a specific skill level: Elbow is for beginners, Triple Bridge for beginners moving to intermediate, Easy Street is for intermediate to advanced, and Boulevard for advanced to expert.

A fun family activity at Lake Louise Resort is tubing. Swing over to the Sunny Tube Park where all ages can slip and slide down the groomed run. If you have a group, you can connect up to five tubes together and all go down at once. The tube park is open to those three years and older.

Like any resort, crowds at Lake Louise can be a problem if a decent dump of snow occurs. If the forecast is for lots of snow, be sure to head up as early as you can to avoid the bottleneck at the base area lifts. Parking is free, and getting a spot is rarely an issue as the lots are massive.

Official site: https://www.skilouise.com/

2. Banff Sunshine Village

Banff Sunshine Village Resort
Banff Sunshine Village Resort

Set high in the Rocky Mountains, Banff Sunshine Village Resort is unlike any of the other ski resorts near Banff. The main base area is located up high at 7,200 feet in an alpine bowl area, reached by gondola, where you'll find most of the main lifts, accommodation, and skier facilities. The skiing here is primarily above the tree line and on a clear blue-sky day, the views are stupendous.

The resort makes the impressive claim that they have Canada's best snow. It receives an incredible 30 feet of snow each year, and you'll be assured of good conditions across a seven-month season that starts in November and ends in late May. All this snow is spread across a 3,358-acre alpine playground.

A vertical drop of 3,415 feet is serviced by 12 lifts: one gondola, two regular quad chairs, six high-speed quad chairs, one high-speed heated bubble quad chair, and two surface lifts. The lift capacity has increased exponentially since 1945 when the first permanent lift was installed driven by a V8 car engine.

Pick any one of three mountains to do your skiing here: Mount Standish, Goat's Eye, and Lookout Mountain all have something to offer the skier. Mount Standish is the most gentle of the three, with long cruising runs and easy beginner routes off the Strawberry Chair. Strong intermediates will want to head up to Lookout Mountain and those looking to do some extreme skiing should ride up to the top of Goat's Eye Mountain to see how brave they really are. No matter where you choose to ski, 137 named runs await your presence.

In addition to the runs, Banff Sunshine Village resort has four terrain parks that are considered some of the best in the province. Each park is a bit different and offers the snowboarder and freestyler a smorgasbord of adrenaline hits. Strawberry Park is the park for those who enjoy technical riding, with tricky rails and jibs to test the very best; Great Divide is for those who want to catch a bit of air and hit a few boxes and rails.

For truly massive air, head to Grizzly Park for a seemingly never-ending line of jumps ranging in size from medium through to extra large; Springhill park is for those looking to progress to the larger features of the previous three. In addition to these four, the Wolverine Kids Play Park has baby rails, jumps, and boxes for those just beginning their riding.

Official site: https://www.skibanff.com/

3. Mount Norquay Ski Resort

Mount Norquay Ski Resort
Mount Norquay Ski Resort | Craig Chew-Moulding / photo modified

The oldest of the resorts near Banff is Mount Norquay. It was originally created by some adventurous souls in 1926 who thought the slopes looked pretty good and decided to cut down some trees and hope for the best. Well, their dreams were far exceeded, as Mount Norquay came into existence and is still going strong nearly 100 years later.

Today's Norquay is a far cry from the original. Five modern and efficient lifts (one high-speed quad, two fixed grip quads, one double chair, and one surface lift) whisk skiers back up to the top in minutes flat, while a fleet of grooming machines ensures the snow is in tip-top shape. The resort receives on average 10 feet of snow each year and has snowmaking coverage on 85 percent of the mountain, ensuring a good blanket of the wonderful white stuff.

The 190 acres of skiable terrain is home to 60 named runs and provides a vertical drop of 1,650 feet. You'll find a mix of runs for every level of skier, but about half the runs are for advanced and expert skiers. There is plenty of room to spread out on the mountain. Even if it does get a bit crowded, don't worry too much — Norquay is a local mountain, and the vibe here is friendly and relaxed.

Norquay's terrain park, known as Banff's Backyard, is legendary and home to the Bow Valley Freestyle Team. A wide variety of jumps, 15 in total, will have you catching legendary air. Looking for rails? You'll find them here, as well, in all shapes and sizes. Don't worry if you are new to the sport, the park has smaller versions available for you to practice on.

If you've been shredding the slopes and terrain park all day and want more, you might be in luck, depending on the day of the week. If it's a Friday or Saturday, you can keep on going; the lifties flick the lights on at 5pm and keep them on until 9pm, so you can enjoy some night skiing.

Norquay isn't all about skiing and snowboarding. It is also home to Alberta's longest snow tube lanes. Anyone four years and older is welcome to grab a tube and go ripping down the slope either on your own or in a grouping of multiple tubes.

Mount Norquay is the closest resort to Banff, only six kilometers away. Count on a 15-minute (or less) drive. Don't worry if you don't have a car; public transport runs right from the townsite to the hill on a regular basis.

Official site: https://banffnorquay.com/

4. Nakiska Ski Area

Nakiska Ski Area
Nakiska Ski Area

Although Nakiska is not in Banff National Park, it still gets an honorable mention because it's less than an hour away. Home to several of the alpine events in the 1998 Winter Olympics, this family-friendly resort is a beginner and intermediate skier's paradise.

Nakiska has a state-of-the-art snowmaking system that allows it to start the season early and keep the slopes covered late into the spring. Combine that with just over eight feet of natural snow, and you'll always have lots of white stuff to ski on.

The slopes are serviced by six lifts (three high-speed quad chairs, one double chair, and two surface lifts) and with a vertical drop of 2,412 feet and 79 named runs, you'll likely run out of energy before you run out of places to ski. The resort prides itself on offering wide-open, long blue cruisers coupled with an excellent selection of green runs. In fact 72 percent of the runs are graded either intermediate (59 percent) or beginner (13 percent).

In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Nakiska also has the Wanidu Tube Park. Grab the family and head out onto the chutes; you can go by yourself, in a group, or race to the bottom all at once. If it's cold, which it can be, especially in late January and early February, head inside the main day lodge at the base to warm up with a hot chocolate while your toes defrost.

Official site: https://skinakiska.com/

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.

More on Canada