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SKI BIG 3: ALBERTA’S SKI BUFFET

Author: Jane Marshall

Jane is an Edmonton-based travel writer. You never know where you’ll find her – maybe on a remote Himalayan trail, dropping a chute on a powder day in the Rockies or interviewing a unique character she’s encountered on her travels.

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When it comes to skiing in the Canadian Rockies, one just isn't enough. That's how our family feels and that's where Ski Big 3 comes in. One ticket lets you sample three resorts: Lake Louise in its pristine glory, the high-altitude world of Sunshine Village and family-friendly Mt. Norquay. It’s a Banff National Park ski buffet! Each resort has its unique appeal. It’s up to you to find your favourite.

It’s been too long since our family’s last mountain visit and rocky mountain fever has hit us hard. The bold peaks have a magnetic quality and the way to ease the pull is full immersion. We drive the magnificent Icefields Parkway where gargantuan peaks break the blue. Our gear is piled in the van in anticipation of a big ski day. 

The Lure of Lake Louise

Lake Louise cures our longings. Fast. We pile into the Grizzly Express gondola and are treated to views of Victoria and Temple mountains – alpine jewels gleaming in the morning sun.

We start on the front side for fast groomers, racing down Ladies’ Downhill and Juniper. The wind whips our cheeks rosy pink. Next we try the Top of the World Express Quad to access the challenging back bowls where there’s line after line of prime ski heaven. My body recalls the long, lean feeling of carving and the alpine air wakes me up from the inside out. We’re wide-eyed as we take in this world of stunted spruce, pulsating blue sky, and endless snow. My children’s faces have cracked into huge grins. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Happy Days – and Nights – at Sunshine Village

Sunshine’s a family tradition. We head here each year, three generations of us, breaching the protocol of everyday life to immerse ourselves in high alpine paradise.

We roll out of bed, exit the sliding doors, click boots into bindings, and get first tracks on Standish. Nowhere else in Banff can you get this ski in, ski out experience. After feeling oh-so-blissfully alone on the mountain after the rest of the skiers returned on the gondola at the end of the day, after sleeping at 2,195 m (7,200 ft) beneath a blanket of stars, it seems almost unfair to be this close. Almost. Thank you, Sunshine Mountain Lodge.

My son Ben and his grandpa Jim have established the lodge’s Chimney Corner Restaurant as their favourite place on earth. Massive windows gaze longingly at the mountain. Inside, we warm ourselves at an immense stone hearth, drinking hot chocolate while trading ski stories.

My favourite run is Bye Bye Bowl off Lookout Mountain – a black diamond face at the resort’s apex. Take time for the view as you disembark the Great Divide Express Quad: snowy peaks rise to the heavens as far as the eye can see. Catch your breath, because vistas like this will stun your senses.

Family Fun at Norquay

It’s only five minutes from Banff, so you can sleep in and still get a full day on the slopes at Mt. Norquay. Skiing here is a great way to finish your Big 3 odyssey. Let your muscles release on these long, flowing runs.

Make turns down the famous North American, a challenging black diamond speckled with bumps, while vistas of Banff townsite span out below. For an extra thrill, try night skiing. The resort is lit from 5-10 p.m.

Fun Facts

The Ski Big 3 tri-area lift ticket gives you access to a combined total of 8,000 acres, 9 m (29.5 ft) of annual snowfall and 290 trails. Blow your kids' minds. After skiing the Big 3, your family will feel like they're locals.

Activity Highlights
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
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