Canada Ski Holidays Guide

Canada Ski Holidays Guide

Canada is the land of vast open prairies, magnificent lakes, abundant wildlife and, more importantly so far as we’re concerned, some of the biggest and best mountain terrain on Earth. A winter sports holiday in Canada is unlike any other, so much so that for many, one visit is all it takes to keep them coming back year on year.

Contents of this guide:

Skiing & Snowboarding in Canada

Skiing and riding in North America is an experience far removed from that which the European resorts offer, with wide, quiet pistes, well maintained and regularly replaced lift infrastructures (save for the occasional rickety old chair to add ‘character’!) and well organised, well staffed on-hill restaurants and facilities.

It’s this organisation that takes many first time visitors to Canada’s ski resorts by surprise. Fed up of waiting in Europe’s huge lift lines as individuals travel alone on a six-man chair? Not in Canada! The queues (or ‘lines’ in the native tongue) are so well organised that a wait of a minute or two is the most you’ll ever have to suffer, and that means much more time skiing the deep powder or the freshly groomed rollers which are both staples of the Canadian ski and snowboard holiday.

But the organisation aside, the real jewels in Canada’s crown has to be the scenery and terrain. Beginners and experts alike can revel in perfect settings, whether that’s a steep couloir or gentle green, whilst the sightseers amongst us will be spoilt for choice with the expansive vistas that stretch without interruption for as far as the eye can see.

Whistler Blackcomb

Not so long ago Whistler Blackcomb was a sleepy backwater town with little to offer the ski tourist. But then someone realised that, with a little investment in the infrastructure, the area would make one of the world’s great outdoor activity centres. Huge powder bowls, fast cruisers and an abundance of slopes for beginners, Whistler’s natural assets have been opened up for the outdoor enthusiast by the installation of state of the art lift systems, beautifully furnished hotels and a road network that connects to downtown Vancouver in little over two hours.

For the hardcore skiers and riders, Whistler Blackcomb is first choice in Canada, if not the world, when they chose their ski holiday.

Banff

The quaint town of Banff, nestled deep in the heart of the famous rocky mountains, is another of Canada’s stunningly beautiful ski resorts. This well equipped town hosts the majority of the areas tourists for the duration of their stay, an obvious choice since three fantastic resorts are conveniently located close by.

Lake Louise, the most well known of the resorts due to its proximity to the lake which gives the resort its name, has an exhilarating mix of steeps, glades and bowls. There’s also a super-pipe and park for those that prefer to get their kicks catching some air!

Sunshine Village offers some of the best skiing and riding close to Banff, being just 15 minutes away, and with an average annual snowfall of an incredible 30 feet! All that powder would be wasted if it were not for some super steep terrain accessible direct from many of the lifts. But Sunshine is also great for groups of mixed ability with gentle lifts serving pleasant greens and blues for those that are still working on their skills. But at the end of the day the whole group can catch up over beers and nachos in one of Banff’s many restaurants or bars.

Mt Tremblant

Canada’s winter wonderlands are not all located in the west of the country; Mt Tremblant is in the eastern provence of Quebec, Canada’s French speaking district. Tremblant’s location not only ensures that it gets a decent snowfall each season, but also gives the resort a cultural twist that makes the off slope holiday as enjoyable as that on the slope as the obvious French influences create something truly unique.

Kicking Horse

Kicking Horse is an unusual resort. With just three lifts (an increase from when it first opened), Kicking Horse isn’t the sprawling Whistler or well developed Lake Louise. Instead, an incredibly long gondola whisks skiers to the high alpine, atop two huge bowls (Crystal Bowl is ideal for beginners) and amidst some of the finest views any ski resort could ever offer. Serious skiers head for Bowl Over from the top of the gondola – and why wouldn’t they? Champagne powder, steeps, couloirs and glades are all on tap and, with Kicking Horse’s reputation for having some of the best quality snow in Canada, this is serious terrain for serious skiers and riders.

Once the Sun sets, the Horse has a variety of bars and restaurants catering to all but the fussiest of tastes. Unusual it may be, but fantastic it most certainly is.

Getting to Canada

With direct flights from London Gatwick and London Heathrow (and, more recently, many other regional hubs), Canada’s major cities are anything but inaccessible.

For those that have been lured by the bright lights and big bowls of Whistler Blackcomb, then Vancouver will be the city to welcome you to Canada. If you’ve got the time, then Vancouver and the surrounding area makes a wonderful holiday destination in its own right. Awe inspiring views and endless attractions make this one of the Canada’s most desirable cities in which live. And, if that’s not enough, it’s just two hours’ ride from Whistler Blackcomb.

If you’ve booked a winter skiing and riding holiday in Banff or one of the resorts in this area, then Calgary International Airport will be your first point of call in Canada. Again, Calgary itself has much to offer and many holiday makers will opt to spend a day or two exploring the gigantic malls and shopping centres to make the most of the low prices before heading back to the UK. Getting to Banff couldn’t be easier, with many packages including transfers to and from Banff/Calgary.

Tremblant is easily reached from Montreal-Trudeau airport for those visiting from the UK or Europe, whilst those selecting a two-centre ski holiday can fly to Tremblant International Airport, located just 20 miles from the resort itself, meaning you’ll be checked-in and on the slopes in no time!

Getting around in Canada’s Resorts

You’ll find that the majority of holiday makers taking winter holidays in Canada do so without a hire car. The infrastructure, both in the major cities and the ski resorts themselves, is such that a hire car is not an essential item. Regular coaches shuttle skiers and riders to and fro the winter resorts and international airports, whilst it’s also possible (although more expensive) to travel to many of the resorts by taxi or limousine.

For those that want the freedom that a rental car brings, it’s also a wonderful way of checking out some of the areas off the beaten track. For example, the journey from Vancouver to Whistler Blackcomb on the Sea to Sky Highway is famed for the breathtaking views as epic peaks sore skywards out of the ocean. There’s no doubt that it’s worth hiring a car and making the most of the incredible part of the world. And, if you’re traveling as part of a group, you’ll likely find that rental costs are more cost effective than taking the coach or taxi.

More and more winter tourists are opting for multi-centre holidays and it makes sense: if traveling all this way from the UK, then why not stay a little longer than you would do in Europe and visit a couple of different resorts? Banff, with Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt Norquay is just a couple of hours away from Kicking Horse and makes the perfect two centre destination. But if you’re prepared for a short(ish) flight in the middle of your holiday, then Canada is opened up and any of number of resorts can be combined for that perfect winter getaway!