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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ALBERTA'S SKI RESORTS FOR WINTER 2016-17

Author: Christina Frangou

Calgary-based writer, Christina Frangou is terrible at sitting still – a very good thing for a travel writer. She’s hiked, cycled, skied and run all over the picturesque province of Alberta and shares her adventures with her rambunctious pup, Ajax.

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Ready the hand warmers and hot chocolate – there’s fresh powder in the Canadian Rockies. Here’s a guide to the best snow (and meals and other deals) at our alpine ski resorts.  

Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff National Park 

Location: Lake Louise, 59.5 km (37 mi) from Banff 

Terrain: 4,200 acres 

Breakdown: 25% beginner; 45% intermediate; 25% advanced 

Lifts: 10 

Highlights: Named Canada’s Best Ski Resort at the World Ski Awards for the last three years running, it’s a no-brainer why this resort consistently comes out on top: breathtaking vistas and awesome terrain.  

What’s New: Look for the new Ocean Wise designation on menu items at Whitehorn Bistro and Whisky Jack buffet. Mid-mountain beef and octopus carpaccio, anyone? 

Insider Tip: The First Tracks Experience is the best way to explore Lake Louise, top of the morning. You’ll be whizzing down the mountain half an hour before lifts open to the public.  

Mt. Norquay, Banff National Park 

Location: Six km (3.7 mi) from Banff 

Terrain: 190 Acres 

Terrain Breakdown: 31% beginner; 25% intermediate; 28% advanced; 16% expert 

Lifts: 6 

Highlights: A quick shuttle ride from the town of Banff, Mt. Norquay provides a family-friendly environment with a top-notch ski school, affordable season pass and a variety of on-hill dining options. 

What’s New: The Spirit Chair underwent a makeover that will make for a smoother, more comfortable ride.  

Insider Tip: Don’t miss the Moonlight Ski and Dine events. You’ll ride the chair to the Cliffhouse Bistro for a meal, including wine pairings, with the option to ski laps under the moon between courses or just watch the skiers descend by lamplight. 

Nakiska Ski Area, Kananaskis Country 

Location: 83 km (51.5  mi) west of Calgary on the Trans-Canada (Hwy 1) and south on Hwy 40 

Terrain: 1,021 Acres 

Breakdown: 13% beginner; 59% intermediate; 28% advanced 

Lifts: 6 

Highlights: Built for the 1988 Winter Games, Nakiska is home to Olympic-length groomed runs and a state-of-the-art snowmaking system. 

What’s New: It’s upgraded its snowmaking fleet and added a giant tent for semi-outdoor lunches. 

Insider Tip: Use the Kids’ Wings gear program to outfit growing bodies. It’s $199 to lease gear for a child for the season. 

Sunshine Village, Banff National Park 

Location: 8 km (5 mi) from Banff 

Terrain: more than 3,300 acres 

Breakdown: 20% beginner; 55% intermediate; 25% expert 

Lifts: 12 

Highlights: Sunshine doesn’t use snowmakers. All the snow covering its three mountains is natural and known for its dry, light consistency. You can pop over to British Columbia as you swoosh down the Continental Divide Run.  

What’s New: Sunshine Village picked up its food game this year. The Eagles Nest Canadian Bistro, which sits at an elevation of 2,195 m (7,200 ft), underwent renovations. Under the leadership of new executive chief Kelly Yarrow, menu offerings range from a traditional smoker at Mad Trapper’s Bar and BBQ to a curry station at the Lookout Kitchen & Bar. 

Insider Tip: Skip the morning lift lines and make a beeline for Goat’s Eye express.  

Marmot Basin, Jasper National Park 

Location: 22 km (13.6 mi) from Jasper 

Terrain: 1,675 Acres 

Breakdown: 30% beginner; 30% intermediate; 20% advanced; 20% expert 

Lifts: 7 

Highlights: With the highest base elevation of any Canadian ski resort, Marmot Basin has a reputation for sparkling scenery, a well-balanced mix of terrain and short lift lines.  

What’s New: At $75, the Marmot Escape Card gets you 50% off the full-day lift ticket price with no blackout dates. It also includes discounts on lessons, rentals, merchandise and a free direct-to-lift upgrade. 

Inside Tip: Looking for untouched snow? Head over Upper Eagle Flight. It’s an effort to get there but you’ll be rewarded with tree skiing, deep powder and spectacular views of the Athabasca Valley.  

Castle Mountain Resort 

Location: 250 km (155 mi) southwest of Calgary, or 140 km (87 mi) west of Lethbridge. 

Terrain: 3,592 acres 

Breakdown: 12% easy; 40% intermediate; 40% advanced, 8% expert 

Lifts: 7 

Highlights: It’s an old-school ski resort that boasts some of the longest uninterrupted fall lines in North America, challenging natural terrain, uncrowded slopes and Alberta’s only resort-based cat-ski operation. 

What’s New: Trails and glades were cleaned up for better trail flow and more glade (tree) skiing. The day lodge underwent a few nips and tucks.  

Insider Tip: Warm up on the Huckleberry chairlift, follow with a few of laps off Sherriff and head for the Chutes by mid-day. Finish off the afternoon in the trees of North Peak. Après with pizza in the T-Bar. 

WinSport 

Location: Calgary 

Size: 35 Acres 

Terrain Breakdown: 30% beginner; 40% intermediate; 20% advanced; 10% expert 

Lifts: 7 (includes five carpets) 

Highlights: It’s the only resort in the province where you can whip down a run without leaving the city limits. Home to one of the country’s largest ski schools, this is where many Calgarians make their first turns.  

What’s New: With additions to their automated snow guns, expect more terrain open earlier in the season. 

Insider Tip: Head there first thing on a weekday. You’ll get first crack at freshly groomed runs with nary a lift line.  

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  • Snowboarding
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