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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SnoCast: Looking for December Snow?

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After a mild fall, we’re hoping December brings the colder and snowier change we’ve all been waiting for. Check out what’s in store in this week’s SnoCast forecast.

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Luxury Ski Resorts Face a Season Unlike Any Other

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The world's most in-demand ski resorts have always faced their share of complications, namely challenging geographic barriers and inconsistent weather patterns. (Imagine facing the disappointment of international guests who, after spending five figures on non-refundable reservations, arrive to encounter suboptimal ski conditions or closed roadways.) 

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SnoCast: Who Gets Tricks, and Who Gets Snowy Treats?

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Halloween weekend and first days of November will feature forecast tricks and treats. With a leftover hurricane delivering snow to New England and ski areas opening in the west, this time of year is always a treat to build ski season excitement.

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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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Lake Louise World Cup Plans 'Moving Forward' Until Further Notice

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Planning for this year's Lake Louise Audi FIS Ski World Cup is moving forward amid a recent meeting that tabled multiple scenarios for the 2020-21 season including scrapping the local event.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Multiple Storms Finally Target The East

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Patience will pay off in the East when multiple shots of cold and snow bring a much-awaited weather pattern for area ski resorts.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Beautiful Spring Conditions Take Us To Late April

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Here comes the warmer weather. We’re highlighting the best days to enjoy comfortable, spring skiing/riding plus where last-minute snow is going to fall!

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SnoCountry SnoCast: March Begins Like A Cold Lion

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The first week of March will feel more like *January* for many! With the colder air, could we see better snow chances? Scroll down for the details!

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SnoCountry SnoCast: A Couple Of Powerful Storms To Watch

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Here comes a nice taste of cold weather for many of us!  Some resorts sit in just the right spot for heavy snow accumulations. 

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Season Wanes While Snow Showers Continue

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Snowy and still cold through April 20-21? Absolutely! This colder-than-average weather pattern for much of the East will stay through the weekend (21-22) with a gradual warm-up for the final week of April (24-27). That said, with cold air in place we’ll have a better chance at keeping and getting more snow. 

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Ikon Goes On Sale Starting At $599; SkiBig3, Revelstoke, Sugarbush Join In

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Add Revelstoke and Banff Sunshine Village to your bucket list next winter. (Sunshine/Alterra Mountain Co.)

The newest player in the multi-resort pass game has announced pricing for 2018-2019 and has added SkiBig3 in Alberta, Canada, Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia, Canada and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont, as its newest partners, for a total of over 63,000 skiable acres of unique terrain at 26 mountain destinations in North America.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Northern Pattern Shift

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Whiteface Mountain on Thanksgiving week. (Twitter/Whiteface)

A changing weather pattern across the West will alter storm tracks across Canada, while several cold shots hit the East.

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

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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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It’s The Ted And Bode Show At Beaver Creek; Americans 1-2 In World Cup GS

World Cup racer at Beaver CreekIt was a day at Beaver Creek, Colo. that may well have set the stage for Olympic drama in February. American champion Ted Ligety won his fourth straight Audi FIS World Cup Giant Slalom pushed by the USA’s Bode Miller coming back from a year off recovering from injury.

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Vonn Pushes Way Up Ladder; U.S. Women Fare Better; Ligety Just Misses

Stacey Cook Lake LouiseThe Lindsey Vonn recovery watch continues and it looks better every day for the American champion as she rebounds from injury and pushes toward Sochi. Vonn finished 11th in the second weekend downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, leaping 29 spots from Friday’s 40th place result on her more cautious first race day back.

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Lindsey’s Back - Completes Downhill At Lake Louise; Svindal Wins Birds Of Prey

Lindsey Vonn At Lake Louise (file photo)America’s Lindsey Vonn finally began what she hopes will be a two-month return to glory in February in the Sochi Winter Olympics. Vonn finished 40th at Lake Louise, Canada on a course she has dominated. But, all that mattered this time was she’s back.

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Vonn Looks To Race At Lake Louise; Ligety, World Cup Men To Beaver Creek

Lake Louise World Cup venueUPDATE 12/5: Lindsey Vonn will definitely return to the race course Friday (Dec. 6) for the first of two downhills at Lake Louise. She skipped the second training run, saying she has the course “dialed in.”

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