Is there a better time to review some ski resorts than when I am looking out my window watching beautiful, beautiful snow flakes drifting through the sky? I don't think so. This will be a multi-part series where the members of the outdoorpals team review various ski resorts. We will only review resorts we have actually been to and it will be based on our experiences there. Agree or disagree? Leave a comment and explain so that other readers can get your opinion. To be clear, I enjoy every day I get to ski and love seeing new mountains and resorts regardless of my opinion of it. Today we will start with three resorts in one of the great ski regions of the world, the Canadian Rockies.
Banff Sunshine Village
Pros: Amazing views, fun nearby towns
Cons: Less snowfall then other nearby resorts, less expert runs
If you are looking for views, Banff Sunshine Village may be one of the best resorts around. Situated between three national parks and two provincial parks, Banff Sunshine is worth the drive. The views are so good that you might end up doing some distracted skiing. To get to the ski area, you ride a gondola up to what feels like the rooftop patio of the Canadian Rockies. Jagged, glacial peaks surround you and there are views in every direction. If you haven't noticed, Banff Sunshine has awesome views and it was my favorite part of the experience there. The resort itself wasn't having a great snow year when I was there and so the skiing was quite icy and rather forgettable. I didn't forget the extremely frigid temperatures though. I prefer resorts with challenging terrain, but the black and double black runs off of Goat's Eye Mountain were mostly closed and the ones that were open were extremely icy. The other blacks in the resort were pretty mellow in my book. Banff does boast two freeride zones which were also closed, but looked like fun if the conditions were better. I recognize that my experience was greatly impacted by the snow conditions and that a fresh layer of powder would make for a great day. Just visiting the towns of Banff and Canmore and their surrounding areas make a trip to Banff Sunshine worth it. Both towns have a fun vibe, good restaurant scene, and plenty to do and see.
It's hard to keep your eyes on the road when driving to Banff Sunshine
Pros: Great variety of terrain, great views
Cons: Can be difficult to get around, has a lot of terrain prone to being windswept
After my experience down in Banff, a couple days later I was at Lake Louise. I had the fortune of skiing there when they got a good storm that dropped 8 inches or so of powder (it was reported in centimeters so I'm estimating here). This fresh snow made for a fun couple days at Lake Louise. I really enjoyed the backside of the mountain and spent much of my time over there. The back mountain has tons of double black runs, great for expert skiers and boarders. Seriously, take a look at the trail map:
Though I spent most of the time exploring all the double black sections, I also found other runs extremely enjoyable, such as the Larch Express chair line. It was a great mix of steepness, moguls, and playful terrain. The views from Lake Louise were also tremendous, but not quite as scenic as Banff. The downside, and some of this may be because of the snowfall, but the resort was very busy and I was not there on a weekend. Another issue I had was that the entire frontside of the resort was windswept and icy. The groomed runs were great and there were a few good sections through some trees, but I didn't bother spending too much time on this portion of the mountain except when I needed to ride a chairlift to gain access to different parts of the back mountain. The locations of the chair lifts did make it tricky to get around and there was a decent amount of time riding lifts, skiing a run, and then riding another lift, to get back to where I wanted to ski. Overall I had a great experience at Lake Louise, loved the skiing, loved the food, and loved the views.
Pros: So much terrain to ski, lots of snowfall, sidecountry/backcountry options
Cons: Hard to get to
Revelstoke has built quite the reputation and so I was quite excited as I drove down the stunning Canada Highway 1 into Revelstoke. Revelstoke was having a pretty good snow year when I arrived and had some fresh snowfall the night before my first ski day there. First off, there is tons of terrain. You can ski off of Mount MacKenzie in many directions, each with its own fun. One of the best parts of Revelstoke in my opinion is that you have to hike a bit to get to a lot of the best areas, weeding out some of the crowds. It is also known for great sidecountry and backcountry around the resort and in nearby Rogers Pass. For example, the below couloir seems to be a favorite sidecountry destination.
There are people skiing that couloir if you look closely
Revelstoke has awesome bowls and plenty of great/long groomers, but talk about tree runs! If you like finding powder in the woods, this is the resort for you. The mountain is pretty straightforward and easy to get around. I also found the town and atmosphere of Revelstoke to be fun and unique. It isn't a tourist mecca like Jackson, Wyoming or Banff, but its got its own (blue collar?) charm. Perhaps part of the charm is that it is difficult to get to. There is no major aiport nearby and for most people this means driving a while to get to Revelstoke. The drive is beautiful from both directions though and well worth it. I found the hype to be appropriate and I loved my time at Revelstoke and am eagerly awaiting a return trip when the border situation allows.
Worth the short hike
There are plenty of other resorts to review up in the Canadian Rockies, but I haven't been to them all yet (looking at you Kicking Horse). Its also famous for its tremendous heli-skiing (anyone want to sponsor me for that?) and backcountry. That region of North America is magical and well worth exploring, so when you get the chance you should take it. You won't regret it!
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