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: More Snow Targets the West

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This week, the weather pattern continues to favor the Western U.S. for new snow and the right conditions to kick start ski season. In this week’s SnoCast, we’ll detail where back-to-back storms will deliver fresh snow.

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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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SnoCast: Gobbling Up This Thanksgiving Weekend Forecast

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Happy Thanksgiving! We're eating up the forecast with plentiful helpings of snow and chill for the East, and warm, buttery turns in the West. Here's what to expect in the forecast in this week's SnoCast.

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SnoCast: Strong Sun for Early April Turns

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It’s sad, but true and time to face the fact there’s only so much ski season left. Whether you’re a die-hard to last chair, a pond-skimmer, or seeking out the best spring turns in a windbreaker, here’s what to expect weather-wise during the first week of April.

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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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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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Canada’s Sunshine Village Opens Extreme Terrain; Adds Delirium Dive

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Alberta, Canada's  Sunshine Village completes its big mountain terrain by opening Delirium Dive. 

 

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Sunshine Village ‘OK’ After Floods Devastate Region

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”We’re okay,” Sunshine Village Communications Manager and native Calgarian Tanya Otis told SnoCountry.com after severe flooding devastated the region and brushed hard against the ski resort.  

 

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It’s An Event-Filled Christmas In Canada

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Ski resorts across Canada are planning a number of fun-filled events for every member of the family. Here is just a sampling. 

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Book Winter Vacation Deals Now; Enjoy The Savings

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Get an early taste of skiing or snowboarding for the 2012/13 season by checking out the following deals. Then, just enjoy. 

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Alberta’s ‘Big 3’ Add New Lifts, Play Zone, Food Options

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Canada’s “Big 3” – Mt. NorquayThe Lake Louise Ski Area, and Sunshine Village – have  new offerings for  this ski season in Banff, Alberta. 

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