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Making the Most of Your Ski Resort - Vary Your Winter Activities

Copyright (c) 2006-2021 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved
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You've skied all day and now you want to kick back and enjoy the night. While you've been skiing, your spouse has passed on the slopes for a day to explore the ski town. You're eager to check it out, noticing that there's a lot for kids to do, as well. In the Canadian Rockies, there's no shortage of winter activities to enliven your ski holiday. Award-winning dining in authentic mountain towns, high end Western boutiques with one-of-a-kind gifts, high altitude night life and all kinds of snow adventures provide you with plenty of choices. Here's a look at how to get the most out of your ski resort experience. And if you're a snowboarder, you can check out more options here.

Getting To Your Rocky Mountains Playground

You can get to Banff National Park from the cosmopolitan city of Calgary in just over an hour's drive (120 km or 90 miles). The city is Alberta 's international gateway to the Canadian Rockies and is often the first step for a skier's mountain holiday. Calgary is fueled by oil and gas and offers easy access to wildlife adventures, horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and much more. It is home to a world class zoo and features varied arts and entertainment opportunities, including a thriving theatre scene, along with pro sports teams including the Calgary Flames. Canada Olympic Park in the city allows you to get an early jump on skiing with some tasty vertical before even heading to the mountains. Or, try riding a bobsled, luge or a skeleton (you go down on a sled head first) on Olympic caliber tracks, as well as touring an exhibition of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

Banff National Park: Winter Wonderland

Then again, maybe you're headed straight to the mountains without any activities. Banff National Park is home to several world class ski resorts including Sunshine Village , Lake Louise and Ski Banff @ Norquay. The mountain town of Banff provides the hub for most of the shopping and entertainment (including nightlife) in the region. You can also choose to stay in the mountain town of Canmore , which is at the edge of the park but has daily shuttles to the ski areas. Canmore has a bit less bustle but it is growing quickly and has entertainment, shopping and access to activities including dog sledding, cave climbing, ice climbing, kite skiing and much more, which you'll also find available in Banff . And don't miss soaking in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, which is a great way to take a relaxing break amidst magnificent mountain scenery.

Sunshine Village Thrives With Banff

At Sunshine Village daily après ski activities and accommodation options are available at the newly renovated, on-hill Sunshine Inn. Sunshine Village can be reached only by high-speed gondola (you won't hear any car horns if you stay overnight) but it is very near the town of Banff .

Too many people still think you have to stay at Sunshine Inn to bask in a chair on the outdoor deck of the bar called The Chimney Corner. You don't. While you're there, split a humongous platter of the cheesiest nachos – one of the best on this side of the Divide. The other place that locals head to is the Mad Trapper, in the old, dark Sunshine Day Lodge. It's smoky, has a floor full of peanuts and is always packed – one reason they recently expanded it. If you stay in Banff, the range of restaurants is massive – from high-end spots like the Maple Leaf Grill, Le Beaujolais, Eden and the Banffshire Club (AAA five-diamond award) to the ever-popular Giorgio's, Cafe Soleil, Typhoon, the Grizzly House, Saltlik or Ticino's (for fondue)...and for families – the Spaghetti Factory and Earls.

For the non-skier, Banff provides plenty of shops, restaurants, museums and spa treatments, including the award-winning Willow Stream spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs. Elsewhere, spend a day at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise's newly expanded spa or the spanking new one in the Post Hotel.

Ski Banff @ Norquay: Close to the Action

Ski Banff @ Norquay provides challenging steeps with freshly groomed runs that are a great draw for locals, most of whom reside in and around the nearby town of Banff . So if you want to get the inside track on the best runs as well as shopping and dining tips, this ski area is a great place for meeting people in the know.

Lake Louise: Steeped In Tradition

For a sense of history at Lake Louise Resort be sure to rove around Temple Lodge, on the backside of the mountain, where you'll find lots of black and white archival photos of folks in tweedy knickers skiing in this neck of the woods. They were shot back in the late '20s and '30s, as hardy skiers blazed trails into the backcountry. If it's a backcountry experience you want you can ski into a rustic heritage property known as Skoki Lodge, from the backside of this resort. It's a charmer and ideal for cross-country and telemark skiers - part of the reason it was voted one of the Top 10 backcountry lodges in all of North America by National Geographic Adventure. Ranked by Ski Magazine as the most scenic resort in North America, the front-side mountain affords spectacular vistas including Lake Louise , Victoria Glacier and Temple Mountain.

When on the hill, the beautiful log Lodge of the Ten Peaks is a popular spot to rest up and refuel, or to wind up the day. If you've decided to sit the day out, the country's second largest log building is a great place to wait for your pals - find a corner upstairs in the Powder Keg or next to the mammoth rock fireplace and curl up with a good book. Good people-watching, too. For sun worshippers, grab a sugary Beaver Tail and a cuppa and slink back on the big deck at the base of mountain, at the Kokanee Cabin. In town, Laggan's in the tiny Samson Mall is a popular bakery/deli with hearty, stick-to-your-ribs cookies, muffins and lunch fixings. And you can enjoy one of the premiere horse drawn sleigh rides around Lake Louise in the shadow of a glacier.

There's something wonderfully unglitzy about the town of Lake Louise , so for flat-out glamour and a huge variety you'll have to go to Banff , loaded with more options for non-skiers including high-end boutiques, spas, nightclubs and more. However, don't be duped by the tiny size of Lake Louise . You'll find dancing at the countrified Glacier Saloon in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise as well as a number of comfy cocktail lounges. Plus, the Walliser Stube is still THE après ski spot which yodels alpine charm and sizzles with a dozen main course fondues. The classic European style Post Hotel also has a lovely bar and excellent restaurant. And next door is Canada 's No. 1 rated hostel, equipped with an affordable restaurant, fireplaces, kitchen facilities and licensed café.

Grab a java and perch yourself in a sun trap at the base of Showtime Terrain Park (an easy walk from the Lodge). Lake Louise is a mere five-minute drive away and just beyond that - and up the twisted hill - lies the world-renowned and historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Take a skate on the lake or a sleigh ride followed by a steaming mug of cocoa at one of the Chateau's lovely lounges, followed by a browse through the boutiques at the hotel. Many of the area's hotels offer shuttle services to the hill.

And between Lake Louise and Banff is Johnston Canyon where you can join a naturalist for a tour called the Ice Walk.

Marmot: Jasper National Park's Ski Jewel

Marmot Basin is in Jasper National Park , just 370 km or 192 miles west of Edmonton, which is Alberta 's international gateway to the North. You can start your trip in Edmonton with a visit to the massive West Edmonton Mall, eight city blocks of shopping and entertainment beneath one roof. Marmot Basin is 20 minutes from Jasper, which is a laid-back, authentic mountain town that nonetheless features all the amenities. In town, you'll find the age-old "AthaB," as well as Jasper's first and only non-smoking bar – the new Downstream and the Whistle Stop.

You've got superb facilities at the Aquatic Centre (squash courts, water slide, hot tub etc.); ice climbing (there are plenty of qualified guides to hire); the legendary Maligne Canyon Crawl; snowmobiling (just outside the Park); 300 km of Nordic ski trails (100 are track-set); sleigh rides; ice skating; snowshoeing; heli-snowshoeing and more.

Nakiska: Family Fun

Nakiska is nearby Kananaskis Village , which features varied accommodations that allow you easy access to cross country trails, snowshoeing and other resort-friendly activities. This ski area is in rugged Kananaskis Country, less than an hour's drive from Calgary , where many Calgarians go to ski and play. Dozens of track-set cross-country trails zigzag through the pretty woods between Nakiska and Kananaskis village. There are also fantastic snowshoe trails that fan out from the resort plus there's nearby ice fishing on the Kananaskis River and ponds. For a dog sledding adventure, check out the operators between Canmore and Exshaw (a 40-minute drive away). Evening skating parties on the pond in Kananaskis Village are also popular diversions for families and couples.

Fortress Mountain Goes Cat

Fortress has bounced back this year with a cat shuttle and offers the same near access to amenities and activities in Kananaskis Village as nearby Nakiska.

Castle Mountain Provides Powder

Castle Mountain Ski Resort is in the province's southwest, about 2.5 hours southwest of Calgary . You'll find the powder hounds at the base, in the T-bar Pub, scarfing back a thin-crusted pizza. Rumour has it the T.rex pizza is a big hit amongst carnivores as is the chicken-loaded Outlaw. A little further afield is Pure Country in the town of Frank (great for a feed of prime rib) and the Swiss Alpine Restaurant in Pincher Creek (superb fondue) as well as Stella's in Beaver Mines. History buffs should visit the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre (30 mins. away) or the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village (25 mins. away). Cross-country skiers will find a web of track-set trails, just down the valley at a place called Syncline. And snowmobilers will find themselves in heaven, surrounded by 100s of miles of trails between Castle and the Crowsnest Pass.

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Copyright © 2006 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved

Travel Alberta is the destination marketing organization for the Province of Alberta. Guided by the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council, Travel Alberta is the steward for the effective delivery of tourism marketing programs. For information about our organization, please visit our Travel Alberta industry web site at

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