Banff Lake Louise is one of the largest ski areas in Canada and offers, and arguably rivals, Whistler for being the most famous Canadian resort. The scenery is dramatic, with glaciers, and jagged ridges, very similar (but much larger) to what you find in Europe.
Renowned for its natural beauty, Banff National Park in Alberta is one incredible place to visit during winter. A UNESCO heritage site since 1984, it’s one of the most photographed places in the world. A truly mesmerising landscape with plenty of wildlife to spot along the way.
Banff Lake Louise comprises three distinct ski areas which are connected by an efficient shuttle bus service and lift pass, but importantly to note, are too far apart to be linked by ski lifts or piste network.
Mount Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village – together form a world-class ski destination available on lift pass.
Mount Norquay was the original ski resort, in Banff National Park. There is a wide variety of gradients at Mount Norquay, and with 60 runs over 190 acres, there is a lot of skiing on offer.
Sunshine Mountain consists of three mountains all seamlessly linked by pistes and ski lifts and is the largest offering out of the three. With 8 mountain bars and restaurants to choose from including the main hub of the village area at the top of the gondola, it is a certainly worth a visit (maybe even for a night or two – there are comfortable lodgings).
The three mountains forming Sunshine are Goat’s Eye Mountain (is full of steep and deep long runs as well as family friendly terrain), Lookout Mountain (a good mix of terrain and you can cross the state divide from Alberta to British Columbia – has more of a European feel) and Mount Standish (perfect for intermediates).
Lastly, the largest area, Lake Louise, just a 10 minute drive from Lake Louise itself, makes for a great destination for families and groups of varied abilities. Lake Louise is one of the top freestyle resorts in the world.
Western Canada is also the spiritual home of heli skiing and so it is no surprise that it is popular and Banff Lake Louise. Helicopter skiing is not permitted in national park territories, but helicopter companies quickly whisk powder skiing junkies over the nearby border into British Columbia where helicopter skiing terrain is practically unlimited.
4200 acres (7748 acres in Ski Big 3)
December – April
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About 22 percent of all three Banff ski resorts terrain is rated green, so intermediate skiers on a Banff Lake Louise ski vacation are guaranteed plenty of options. Lake Louise, specifically, has a bit more beginner terrain than its sister resorts and is generally renowned as the best choice for beginners and families. However, the other two resorts—Mt. Norquay and Sunshine Village—also have plenty of redeeming qualities making them a great option, too. For example, Mt. Norquay is considered a “locals” mountain and is the smallest, with only 77 acres of skiing, and closest to the town of Banff, so if you’re looking for laidback trails look no further Mt. Norquay. Alternatively, Sunshine has an ideal beginner area in the below tree line saddle between Lookout Mountain and Goat’s Eye Mountain.
Mount Norquay, is the quietest of Banff Lake Louise three ski areas so many skiers go there to brush up and refine their skills. Mount Norquay also has many runs that are consistently intermediate level, meaning no surprises or steep icy bits to navigate. It is also only ski area in Banff Lake Louise offering night skiing with a range of floodlit trails and two snowparks.
45% of the Lake Louise trails are designated intermediate meaning that with beginner areas included, it is possible to ski almost everywhere. We suggest that intermediates head up the Top of the World chair from where countless intermediate trails are accessible.
Sunshine ski area offers intermediate skiing in abundance; with most runs being able to be tackled by a confident intermediate. The Angel Express and then The Great Divide chair offers some fantastic consistent runs back to the village.
Lake Louise’s Back Bowls and Sunshine’s Delirium Dive and heli-skiing are just a sample of the exciting options for expert skiers in Banff Lake Louise with plenty more adventures nearby including ski mountaineering and heliskiing.
Mount Norquay offers mainly intermediate skiing, but those who like moguls will enjoy the steep Lone Pine run at Mount Norquay, or the Gun Run .
Back Bowls of Lake Louise: Advanced skiers will relish the challenges on the North Face of the Summit of Mount Whitehorn “1” and “2.” Brown Shirt on the backside of Mt. Whitehorn is also incredible for powder.
Sunshine Village: If chutes, cliffs, and confined couloirs are your hing, Delirium Dive is for you – safety equipment, along with shovel, probe and a ski/snowboard “buddy” are pre-requisite to entry.
Lake Louise: the largest terrain park in North America sits in Lake Louise which features a 2,000-foot (610-m) vertical ride with bumps and jumps. For great powder head to the Back Bowls and keep far left to Brown Shirt.
Sunshine: Lower Mount Standish is the place for riders looking for natural terrain. The Dell Valley makes a natural halfpipe with the area under Standish Chairs being a natural terrain park with lots of natural hits, a quarterpipe, lips and drops.
Cross-country Skiing in Banff Lake Louise
Cross-country skiing is hugely popular in Banff Lake Louise as the landscape is so accommodating for it. You can simply rent a pair of cross-country skis and set off yourself. Or there are companies such as Yamnuska that will take you on longer guided tours with or without tuition.
Ice Walks in Banff Lake Louise
There are various scenic Ice walks around the Banff Lake Louise area. They mainly sprout off the end of Banff town and run around the natural sulphur spring.
Dog Sledding in Banff Lake Louise
There are a few local companies that run dog sledding where you can learn to drive (or mush) your own team of huskies and sled through deep powder. The two best known are Banff Adventurers and Howling Dog Tours.
Ice Skating in Banff Lake Louise
There is a large outdoor ice skating rink just outside of Banff town. Here you can rent ice skates and ice hockey skates and sticks if you wish to play ice hockey in true Canadian fashion.
Wellness in Banff Lake Louise
Only twenty minutes from Banff town there is the newly built Banff Centre. The Banff Centre has a fully operating spa service as well as a gym, sportcourts and a climbing wall. There is also the Banff Springs which is only a 15 minute walk from Banff or there is a shuttle bus service that gets you there quicker.
Galleries and Museums in Banff Lake Louise
Art galleries and craft shops showcase Inuit, wildlife, landscape, and Native art along with ceramics and jewelry. There are also several museums and national historic sites in the neighbourhood that highlight the natural history and man-made heritage of the Rockies.
Shopping in Banff Lake Louise
Shops in Banff range from fashionwear to native crafts and specialty boutiques, along with larger shopping malls. Lake Louise has its own Samson Mall for shoppers.
View the live snow report for Banff Lake Louise here
With little ones in tow, the logistics of a family ski vacation to Banff National Park may be a little daunting – but we’ve got you covered. From easy rental and lift ticket pick-up, to the best runs for kids, here’s everything you need to know about our Big 3 resorts.
Glacius will ensure that all tickets & ski passes will be waiting for you at hotel check-in.
Ski Rentals will also be pre booked.
Lessons and Child Care are available at all three resorts. Space is limited and demand is high so we will get this organised as soon as you book!
Getting your kids into a lesson will allow you to enjoy ski-free slope exploration.
Banff Sunshine Village – Families
Banff Sunshine is well-known for its stunning scenery, beautiful snow, and family-friendly accessibility. Their terrain suits all abilities of skiers and snowboarders, from cruisy greens to steep and deep blacks.
Staying together will be a piece of cake! No matter what which mountain you’re on, all runs lead back to the main artery – the gondola – meaning you’ll always end up at the Village or Goat’s Eye Garden. Have older kids who want to branch off on their own? Rest assured that they’ll find their way around the resort in no time.
Where to Ski: A great area for families is right at the village. Strawberry Chair accesses green and blue runs only, perfect for getting comfortable on the snow and ready for the bigger slopes. Not too far away is Wawa Chair, where you’ll find Tin Can Alley (run 60) – a beautiful wide run with lots of room to explore. There are also two magic carpets near the Daycare Centre – one dedicated to Tiny Tiger’s lessons, and the other open to the public.
The runs off Wolverine and Jackrabbit Chair are great for kids to push their abilities, as they’re shorter than runs on other areas of the mountain. You’ll also find ‘Kid’s Play’, an amusing terrain park where they can take their first freestyle steps, with an easy green run parallel to the park. A kids’ favourite is the famous Roller Coaster (run 99) off of Wolverine Chair, a swingy ride through the trees (warning to parents – don’t follow if you have tender knee joints).
Where to eat
The Alpine Grill is super for picky eaters. It offers a wide selection of international meals to choose from. Pizza, pasta, pho and burritos, are all available, or keep it simple with classic chicken fingers to refuel for the slopes.
The Sunshine Burger Company serves up some of the greatest gourmet burgers in Banff National Park and is easily located right on the main level of Lookout Lodge. You’ll be in and out in no time to make the most of your time on the slopes!
Lake Louise Ski resort – Families
The ‘friendly giant’ of Banff National Park’s resorts, Lake Louise Ski Resort has plenty of winter goodness to offer. With world-class terrain spanning three mountain faces to explore, getting around can take some legwork. There are great family ‘hubs’ on the hill to explore and hang out for the day, with amenities to meet your every need.
Where to Ski: For families with true beginners, the base area is your best friend. Daycare, Whiskey Jack Lodge and the Lodge of Ten Peaks are all right near the Sunny Side Kid Zone, serviced by a surface carpet lift.
Once the kids have built a bit of confidence, Glacier Express will take you to shorter green runs than the Gondola, such as Wiwaxy (run 9) and Pine Cone Way (run 10), while the Juniper runs (runs 2, 3, 4) are nice blues to ease in to. Their most beginner-friendly terrain park, Easy Street, can also be accessed off Glacier Chair.
It may be counterintuitive, but the backside of Lake Louise Ski Resort has some of the best spots for families to enjoy. Larch chair provides access to several green and blue runs, as well as some shorter blacks perfect for kids at a more advanced level. Lipalian Chutes (run 149) is a short hike for older kids wanting a bit of adventure. Plus, Temple Lodge is right nearby the base of Larch chair.
Where to Eat
Whiskey Jack Lodge: The new ‘Super $8 Menu’ at the cafeteria in Whiskey Jack Lodge provides filling meals for great value, perfect for families on a budget. From lasagna with garlic toast, taco mac and cheese, and loaded baked potatoes, there’s nothing skimpy about these meals except the price.
North Face Bistro: The breakfast buffet and lunch stations at the North Face Bistro are sure to keep you fueled well into your ski day. Watch as your meal is prepared before you with the freshest ingredients. Plus, they accept reservations!* No waiting in line for the microwave here.
Mount Norquay – Families
Mt. Norquay has long been known as a great resort to make your first ski tracks at. Conveniently located right outside the town of Banff, their beginner-friendly terrain has drawn families for decades, and it’s easy to see why. Four easy-to-navigate lifts on one mountain cut down the logistical hassles, while still providing challenging terrain for the more advanced skier and snowboarder.
Where to Ski: Cascade Chair and Sundance Surface Lift are conveniently located side-by-side, making it the perfect starting area for beginners. Plus, it’s just out front of the main lodge, making for easy ins and outs and frequent warm-up breaks on colder days.
The Spirit Chair is a good spot for kids to test out their skills on new terrain. It’s easy to ski back to the lodge from here, and just a short walk if you go to the bottom of the chair first. Ray’s Run (run 35) and Abracadabra (run 36) are fun blues that quickly blend into greens. And Rob’s Run (run 31) is a nice, short and wide black to test out for first-timers.
Where to Eat
The Lone Pine: If your kids love nachos – getting to The Lone Pine is a must. This apres classic is famous here for being fully-loaded with cheesy goodness. Serving up fresh salads, yummy sandwiches, and hot home-made soup, kids of all ages will leave satisfied.
The Cliffhouse Bistro: The Cliffhouse Bistro is worth a visit to Mt. Norquay on it’s own! Open year-round, this uniquely designed restaurant was built in the 1950s, and offers beautiful view of Banff and the Bow Valley below. This restaurant is at the top of the North American chair, but beginner skiers and snowboarders are welcome to take the chair down if uncomfortable with terrain.
Moose Hotel and Suites
Fairmont Banff Springs
Elk and Avenue Hotel
Banff Aspen Lodge
Banff National Park is located along the TransCanada Highway. Open year-round, the TransCanada is a well maintained road that winds its way through the Canadian Rockies.
If you are coming from the east, Banff & Lake Louise is a 90 minute (140 kilometre or 87 mile) drive west of Calgary, Alberta. If you are coming from the west, Banff & Lake Louise is a scenic day’s drive (850 kilometres or 530 miles) from Vancouver, travelling through the Coast Mountains, wine country of British Columbia and then the spectacular Canadian Rockies.
If you’re driving, you will need to purchase a Parks Pass to enter Banff National Park.
Any international and North American airlines fly directly to the Calgary International Airport.
From the airport, it is a scenic 90 minute (140 kilometre or 87 mile) drive to Banff & Lake Louise. There are regular shuttle bus connections from the airport to Banff & Lake Louise or you could rent a car from the airport or in Calgary city.
If you would like to make a proper road trip, Vancouver International Airport is 850 kilometres (530 miles) to the west of Banff & Lake Louise.
There are scheduled bus services from Calgary International Airport and downtown Calgary to Banff & Lake Louise, as well as from various long haul bus services.
The Rocky Mountaineer has regularly scheduled train services that stop at Banff.