A Three-Resort Cluster In Banff National Park Makes For Easy Road Trip

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For a trip full of high-mountain terrain, long cold winters and spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies, a trio of resorts in Banff National Park is just the ticket.

Most trips begin in Calgary and an 1-1/2 hour drive to base camp in the town of Banff. From there, three resorts beckon -- after paying an entrance fee into the national park. Elevations top out at 10,000 feet, but the slopes sit squarely in path of most Pacific storms -- and northerly latitude typically extends skiing and riding into May.

First stop is Mt. Norquay (190 a., 1,650 vert.). A classic town hill that is one of the oldest ski areas in North America (open 1926), Norquay spreads across the lower, forested skirt of Mt. Cascade (9,836 ft.).

With a mixed trail menu of 29-21-50, basic base lodge and no beds, Mt. Norquay fits into the mountain-town scene of Banff (8,000 pop.) four miles and seven switchbacks down the road. In fact, Mt. Norquay is so local that its sells a Last Hour ticket so locals can cop a couple of late-afternoon turns.

Three sections divide out among all ratings: North American, with its unique fixed-grip "pulse" chair that bunches chairs for higher uphill speed, is for experts; Cascade and Spirit chairs serve novices; and, the Mystic high-speed handles the blue runs. A Big3 season pass works here.

About 20 minutes west of town sits Banff Sunshine(3,358 a., 3,514 vert.), contained within a massive cirque. Half of the runs follow a green-blue valley floor that is perpendicular to the steeper terrain. Day-skiers can only come in via gondola from parking lot to mid-mountain base. Big3 season pass, Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective accepted.

From there, seven high-speeds -- including a heated quad -- and a pair of fixed-grips handle the flow. It can be frigid, but the season often goes into May.

On the high ground, double diamonds are short but treacherous, punctuated by three super-pitchy, sparsely marked "free zones": Goat's Eye, Wild West and Delirium Dive. Accessed by a short hike off Lookout Mountain, "The Dive" pitches off a 50-degree cornice into precipitous terrain punctuated by cliffs.

To top off the trip, mothership Lake Louise (4,200 a., 3,250 vert.) is 40 minutes up the road. Remote and imposing, Lake Louise rates 70% of its terrain in the black. It does concede much of the forested skirt to blues and greens, especially long, gentle wanderings like the five-mile Saddleback-Pika green off the summit that gives novices a hint of above-timberline skiing.

But as the trees recede, the fun begins. Frontside West Bowl's alpine chutes and glades -- opened in 2020 -- give hotshots all they can handle. Head over to the backside for some of the best bowl skiing North America has. The Summit quad, Paradise triple and Ptarmigan quad deliver powderhounds to what they dream of: Infinite lines down onerous chutes and cliffs anchored by steep, expansive glades.

Eleven lifts include four high-speed chairs and the Grizzly gondola. Backside system a bit clunky and slow, but improvements on the horizon. A broad choice of ticketing fits all abilities. No lodging at mountain. Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective welcome, as well as Big3 season pass.

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Is Vail Resorts Killing Whistler’s Spirit?

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When Vail bought Canada’s famed Whistler Blackcomb ski mountain, locals were nervous. Now, after a record season of visitors, they’re enraged.

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Alberta's Mount Norquay Banff Kicks Off 2020-21 Season

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Banff’s Mount Norquay in Alberta, Canada, kicked off the 2020-21 ski season on Oct. 24, the earliest the area has opened in its 95-year history.

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New Renderings For Proposed Garibaldi Ski Resort Near Squamish

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The new Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort could have a design that highlights the area’s connection with the Squamish First Nation, based on new preliminary concept artistic renderings that provide higher detail.

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Behind The Scenes Of North America’s Hottest New Bike Park

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Since it opened in 2007, Revelstoke Mountain Resort has held a reputation for its monster vertical (at 5,620 feet of lift-accessed terrain, it’s the longest descent in North America), alpine bowls, rainforest glades, record snowfall and near-ridiculous scenery. But where most resorts also boast thriving summer operations to complement winter skiing, RMR had largely stayed relatively quiet on the summer front, with most warm-season activities centralized on the bottom of the mountain.

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Killington Cup, Birds of Prey Fall to COVID as World Cup Races to Remain in Europe This Season

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U.S. Ski & Snowboard, along with the Canadian Ski Association, Killington and Beaver Creek Resorts, and the International Ski Federation have announced that the North American FIS Audi World Cup Alpine Ski Races will not be held this season.

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Big White Prepares for Big Summer, Still Set to Open Amid Pandemic

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Big White is ready to open for its summer season, full of physically distant biking and hiking.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: A New Year Begins With New Powder

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Happy New Year! You’ll have plenty to celebrate in certain parts of the U.S. and Canada regarding this week’s weather forecast.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Another Early-Season Storm In The Rockies

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Here we go again! The second strong, early-winter storm has moved across the Rocky Mountain range in the western United States and Canada.

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First Snow Storm Produces Several Feet In Northern Rockies

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Here we go! The first major storm of the season in the West has dropped more than two feet on the Northern Rockies – with more expected on the way.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: No Fooling Around, April Begins With Excellent Spring Conditions

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It's time to enjoy spring weather in the mountains, and the outlook is great across SnoCountry.

 

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Fe”Brrr”uary Begins Chilly And Snowy

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Record cold temperatures slowly fade away in the East this week, while another batch of cold helps Canada and parts of the U.S. stay snowy.

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Three Thousand Buy A Piece Of Red Mountain Resort

Three Thousand Buy A Piece Of Red Mountain Resort

First chair at Red Mountain. (Red Mountain/Facebook)

British Columbia’s Red Mountain has always gone its own way – and soon it will have $10 million to upgrade facilities while maintaining its iconoclastic, anti-corporate spirit.


The Rossland, B.C., resort recently offered public shares in the mountain – through a “crowdfunding” method – and reached its goal of $10 million in February.

Next step is a legal equity offering, expected this fall, according to resort ownership.

Here’s CEO Howard Katkov’s pitch: “Why not join us on this big mountain, big community, love-driven adventure. We’ll keep investing in this community and these fantastic people with or without your help, but dropping in on this could change your life -- just like it changed mine.”

Some 3,000 people took up Red Mountain’s offer, reserving shares ranging from $1,000 minimum to $25,000. The higher the commitment, the more perks, like free season passes and equipment.

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If all $10 million reservations come through and the legal offering succeeds, Red Mountain will use the money for Paradise Lodge renovation, expanded snowcat terrain on Mount Kirkup, summer trail-building, and construction of new restaurant, private clubhouse and cabins atop Grey Mountain, according to resort management.

The mountain has more than 2,800 skiable acres served by seven lifts, plus another 1,200 acres that require either a hike or a snowcat ride. With nearly 3,000 vertical feet, Red Mountain tops out at 6,800 feet above sea level.

The resort has always gone counter to the flow, promoting itself as an alternative to “corporate resorts” that it contends have priced many families out of the sport.

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Fall In Love With Canada This Autumn

Fall In Love With Canada This Autumn

Tremblant’s color index guide will help you find peak foliage for your fall mountain bike adventure. (Tremblant)

If beautiful mountain views, fall colors and fun events aren’t enough reason to visit Canada this fall, you can add one more to that list. A favorable exchange rate has made international travel a lot more affordable. With a strong U.S. dollar, now is a prefect time to travel north.

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World Cup: Aspen Winternationals To Feature Mikaela Shiffrin Nov. 27-29; Men Blast Off At Lake Louise

Aspen Internationals fireworksThe fastest female ski racers in the world take to Aspen Mountain Friday through Sunday, Nov. 27-29 for the Audi FIS World Cups at the Nature Valley Aspen Winternational. Star of the show? Certainly could be -- perhaps should be -- Colorado’s Mikaela Shiffrin in either the Giant Slalom or the two slaloms. Or all three. No pressure there.

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Prentice, Manara Receive Canada West's Top Awards At Conference

CWSAA AwardsCanada West Ski Areas Association presented their 2015 Jim Marshall and Lars Fossberg Awards at their annual conference at Whistler.

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It's Lake Lindsey Again: Vonn Leads American Sweep In Canada

Lindsey Vonn wins at Lake Louis 2014

Update Sunday, Dec. 7: Lindsey Vonn finished second in a World Cup super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, Sunday, completing her first weekend of races this year with two podium results. Vonn was .37 of a second slower than Swiss winner Lara Gut, one day after Vonn won her first race in nearly two years in a downhill. Slovenia’s Tina Maze finished third, increasing her World Cup overall lead. American Julia Mancuso was sixth. Vonn will race next Dec. at Val d’Isere, France.

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U.S. Men, Women Off To Strong World Cup Weekend Starts; Vonn Back On The Course

Birds of Prey Beaver Creek world CupU.S. Ski Team men and women speed racers got their respective North American World Cup weekends off to strong starts Friday (Dec. 5). 

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Head For The Hills This Weekend: Here’s Where To Ski, Ride

Jiminy PeakIt’s early and snow cover, depth, run length and number of lifts running varies across North America’s ski resorts. But, if you’re ready to play, more than 42 ski areas are ready help you do it this weekend (Nov. 16-17).

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Season Pass Deals Still Available

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Season pass deals at many resorts are still out there, but dates for discounted deals vary. Here are a few areas where you still can grab those special rates. 

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