An Expert Guide to Ski and Snowboard Resorts in Canada
Skiing Expert Stephan C. lists some of the best skiing spots in Canada. From British Columbia to Quebec, there is sure to be a resort for your next adventure.
Table of Contents
- Lake Louise Ski Resort: Best Lift-Accessed Steeps & Bowls
- Sunshine Village: Best High-Alpine & Spring Skiing
- British Columbia
- Revelstoke Mountain Resort: Biggest Vertical in the Rocky Mountains
- Whistler Blackcomb: North America’s Largest Resort
- Mont-Tremblant: Eastern Canada’s Flagship Resort
Canada is home to some of the best and most renowned skiing in the world, and it is the closest international ski destination to the United States. This guide will cover some of the best skiing in Canada, from internationally known mega-resorts like Whistler Blackcomb to some hidden gems further off the beaten path.
1. Lake Louise Ski Resort: Best Lift-Accessed Steeps & Bowls
Location: Lake Louise, Alberta Nearest Airport: Calgary International Airport (YYC), 2- to 2.5-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 4,200 acres (1,700 hectares)
- Top Elevation: 2,637 meters (8,650 feet)
- Vertical: 991 meters (3,250 feet)
- Number of Trails: 145
- Number of Lifts: 8
- Average Snowfall: 180 inches (4.54 meters)
If your idea of fun is hot-lapping bumpy steeps until your legs give out without skiing the same run twice, there’s no better place to go than Lake Louise. Lake Louise Ski Area is one of the three ski resorts in the Banff area and arguably offers the best skiing experience in the region. Unlike nearby Sunshine Village, at Lake Louise Ski Area there are no hotels on-mountain or at the base area, which makes it feel like much more of a “skier’s” mountain. Six of the eight main lifts here provide skiers with over 1,200 feet (375 meters) of vertical, with incredible terrain to match. You’ll find the best skiing here on big lines in steep, open bowls and exploring the perfectly-distanced pine forests lower on the mountain.
Park skiers, beginners/intermediates, and people looking for more of a “resort-style” experience are better off spending time at Sunshine Village, which has more diversity in its terrain. Regardless of ability, if you’re traveling a distance to visit here, I highly recommend staying in the town of Banff and splitting your time between here and Sunshine Village for the best skiing and best town experience (a rental car is the easiest way to get to the ski areas from town, with free parking at the resorts, but buses are available as well).
This past January I took a trip to Alberta and skied “The Big Three” Resorts: Lake Louise, Mount Norquay, and Sunshine Village. After skiing all three, I had a definitive favorite: Lake Louise. Getting there was a breeze — it only takes a two- to three-hour nonstop flight and a couple of hours of driving to get from major cities in the western US to Banff, Alberta. I stayed in the town of Banff and drove my rental car to commute to Lake Louise (30 minutes away) and Sunshine Village (20 minutes away).
For more affordable lodging and a great town experience, I would recommend staying in the town of Banff rather than in the town of Lake Louise or on-mountain at Sunshine. During my visit, not much new snow fell, but thanks to bountiful early-season snowfall this past season, the conditions were the best-packed powder I have ever skied. Being from Colorado, I was under the impression that there was little variation within the category of packed powder, but the way that this snow skied after days of getting tracked out was significantly different from what I had previously experienced in places that experience daily freeze-thaw cycles. Although the area doesn’t get as much snowfall on paper, especially when compared to more coastal destinations like Whistler, the incredibly dry snow that falls here yields excellent conditions for days and even weeks after the last snowfall, thanks in part to the consistently cold winter temperatures.
2. Sunshine Village: Best High-Alpine & Spring Skiing
Location: Banff, Alberta Nearest Airport: Calgary International Airport (YYC), 1.5- to 2-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 3,360.6 acres (1,400 hectares)
- Top Elevation: 2,730 meters (8,957 feet)
- Vertical: 1,070 meters (3,510 feet)
- Number of Trails: 120
- Number of Lifts: 11
- Average Snowfall: 360 inches (9.14 meters)
Sunshine Village, located within the boundaries of Banff National Park, is more reminiscent of a European resort than an American one in terms of its layout. From the base lot in the valley, your day starts with a nearly half-hour journey up a multi-station gondola, which ultimately brings you to the mountain’s higher mid-mountain base. Anyone looking for a one-of-a-kind alpine lodging experience should look into staying at ski-in ski-out accommodations at the mid-mountain base. Few ski resorts have lodging this high on the mountain. The mountain has terrain for all abilities, from mellow, high-alpine cruisers with jaw-dropping views, to the extreme areas of Delirium Dive and The Wild West. Both of these extreme zones offer tons of steep, technical, steep, big-mountain skiing and require avalanche gear, knowledge, and a partner to gain entry.
For any park skiers out there, Banff Sunshine should be at the top of your list of places to ski. It is home to Alberta’s biggest and best terrain parks, which are above treeline and feature awe-inspiring, panoramic views of Banff National Park. Although Sunshine Village can be a great place to ski any time of year, one of the best times to visit here is late in the spring after other mountains have shut down for the season. Every year, the mountain stays open well into May, and on big snow years, it has been known to extend its ski season into June!
Thanks to its high elevation, Sunshine Village receives the most snowfall of any ski area in Alberta and has amazing terrain for all ability levels. That, paired with the gorgeous scenery of Banff National Park, a great town, and unique on-mountain lodging options, makes Sunshine Village a great place for all types of skiers. In particular, this would be my top pick on this list for families, especially if you need to cater to a range of different ability levels at one resort. I traveled here alone and didn’t have a partner with me to be able to access Delirium Dive or The Wild West. These two zones have the most “extreme” skiing you’ll find at any of The Big Three, but if you are traveling alone, keep in mind that you’ll need to find a partner to be able to get into these areas. In terms of the best steeps you can access without avalanche gear or a partner, Lake Louise Ski Resort is a better option.
1. Revelstoke Mountain Resort: Biggest Vertical in the Rocky Mountains
Location: Revelstoke, British Columbia Nearest Airport: Kelowna International Airport (YLW), 2- to 2.5-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 3,121 acres (1,263 hectares)
- Top Elevation: 2,225 meters (7,300 feet)
- Vertical: 1,710 meters (5,620 feet)
- Number of Trails: 75
- Number of Lifts: 6
- Average Snowfall: 413 inches (10.5 meters)
Revelstoke is one of the most notorious destinations in the Canadian Rockies, and it has 1,710 meters (5,620 feet) of vertical elevation — the most of any resort in North America. This mountain is well-known for its expert inbound terrain and dry powder, and as the jumping-off point for many heli- and cat-skiing operations in the area. If you have the money, the heli-skiing and cat-skiing around Revelstoke are world-renowned and will make for an unforgettable powder skiing experience. That said, Revelstoke has no lack of inbounds and sidecountry terrain which can be accessed by a lift ticket and some (optional) hiking.
For a more “resort-style” experience, and more terrain for all ability levels, you’re probably better off looking into Whistler, which also is much easier to access from most places. Thanks to the remote location of this mountain, crowds are seldom an issue here. However, getting here can be quite a journey, since the nearest airport in Kelwona only has limited non-stop service, and it is still over a two-hour drive from the mountain.
Revelstoke is the best-known ski area in eastern British Columbia and should be on the bucket list of any skier who wants to experience the best skiing Canada has to offer. If you can make it out to Revelstoke, you will not be disappointed. Although the remoteness makes it difficult to get there, it also keeps crowds away from an otherwise incredible ski area. Between the quantity and quality of snowfall, Revelstoke is one of the most reliable destinations for powder skiing in Canada. Although mountains closer to the Pacific Coast tend to receive slightly more snow on an annual basis, you never know when a warm front might roll through and rain on the snowpack, but not something you generally need to worry about in Revelstoke with its continental location. Lodging and lift tickets are cheaper here than mega-resorts like Whistler, so hopefully, the money you save on lodging will make it easier to spring for a day of cat- or heli-skiing.
2. Whistler Blackcomb: North America’s Largest Resort
Location: Whistler, British Columbia Nearest Airport: Vancouver International Airport (YVR), 2-hour drive Mountain Info:
- Total Terrain: 8,171 acres (3,307 hectares)
- Top Elevation: 2,284 meters (7,494 feet)
- Vertical: 1,609 meters (5,280 feet)
- Number of Trails: 200+
- Number of Lifts: 35
- Average Snowfall: 448 inches (11.38 meters)
Whistler Blackcomb is Canada’s best-known resort, and although it gets the most skier traffic of any mountain in Canada, the mountain is so big that crowds don’t end up being a huge obstacle to finding fresh tracks. Whistler is the biggest ski resort in North America with a whopping 8,000+ acres of skiable terrain and over 200 marked trails accessed by a system of 35 lifts. On top of that, Whistler receives some of the greatest annual snowfall in all of Canada due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
To make the most of your experience here, be sure to study trail maps and plan out your day somewhat beforehand to avoid spending too much time on chairlifts and catwalks trying to navigate the mountain. Whistler Blackcomb has terrain for all types of skiers and ability levels spread out across its two mountains, but certain parts of the mountain cater more to particular types of skiers. If you’re looking for high-alpine steeps, Whistler Mountain’s Peak Chair, Harmony Express, and the Glacier Express on Blackcomb all access a huge selection of advanced and expert terrain above treeline.
For less experienced skiers, be sure to check out Seventh Heaven for high-alpine cruisers, and spend some time exploring the lower elevation trails, which tend to be geared more toward beginner and intermediate skiers than terrain accessed by higher lifts. This only scratches the surface of the terrain the mountain has to offer. The only way to truly get an appreciation of the scale of this place is to explore it yourself!
Whistler Blackcomb is my favorite place to ski in Canada. No other place I’ve skied compares with the size of this mountain, and combined with the area’s massive annual snowfall, it is unquestionably one of the best places in the world for powder skiing. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions when I visited Whistler. In the week I was there, it snowed nearly two meters (over six feet!), making for some of the best powder skiing of my life. One important note about the snowfall here is that even in mid-winter, big storms often come with rain at elevations closer to sea level. When I visited in mid-January, although it rained multiple days at the base, I had no issues staying high enough up on the mountain to find dry powder snow. With so much terrain at a high altitude, there’s no need to ski on lower parts of the mountain when conditions are poor.
Although there’s plenty of terrain for all types of skiers higher up the mountain, for less experienced skiers, I would recommend downloading to the base at the end of the day if it’s rainy at lower elevations to avoid sloppy conditions. The in-bounds terrain was more than enough to keep me satisfied when I visited, but if backcountry skiing is your thing, Whistler has easy access to truly limitless off-piste skiing outside of its boundaries. Backcountry skiing here can be accessed via snowmobiles, snowcats, helicopters, hiking, ski touring, chairlifts, or some combination of these, but if you plan to venture outside of the ski area boundaries, make sure you are prepared and always check the avalanche bulletin. The mountains here are massive and rugged, and you can easily end up in a very dangerous place by making a wrong turn just outside of the resort’s boundaries.
1. Mont-Tremblant: Eastern Canada’s Flagship Resort
Location: Mont-Tremblant, Quebec Nearest Airport: Montréal–Trudeau International Airport (YUL), 2-hour drive Mountain Stats:
- Total Terrain: 755 acres (305 hectares)
- Top Elevation: 875 meters (2,871 feet)
- Vertical: 645 meters (2,116 feet)
- Number of Trails: 102
- Number of Lifts: 14
- Average Snowfall: 178 inches (4.52 meters)
Although western Canada generally has bigger mountains and more snowfall than the east, Quebec is home to the best skiing in the Eastern Provinces. Within Quebec, Mont-Tremblant is the largest and best-known ski resort in Canada east of the Rockies. Between the acreage, vertical, and annual snowfall that Mont Tremblant receives, this resort shares more similarities with some of the resorts in the Canadian Rockies than it does with other mountains in Quebec. Tremblant is truly a world-class ski destination, with a charming village, intriguing culture, and excellent skiing, particularly in years with above-average snowfall. Great powder skiing can be had here with the right storm cycle, but if that is your number one priority, you’ll likely have better luck at a place like Whistler.
Unlike Alberta or British Columbia (neither of which felt very foreign from the states on my visits), you’ll never forget that you’re in a foreign country when visiting Quebec. The skiing at Mont Tremblant is excellent, especially for the East Coast, but what really distinguishes it from taking a trip out West is the rich cultural experience you get outside of skiing here. If you are flying here, definitely try to spend a day or two in Montreal. There is tons to do and see in the city, so unless you’re missing out on the storm of the century, visiting Montreal can add a great dimension to your trip. For anyone living in eastern Canada or New England, Mont Tremblant is the perfect place to take a ski trip without venturing too far, and Quebec’s vibrant culture will undoubtedly make for one of the most interesting ski experiences you can find in Canada.
From Quebec to British Columbia, Canada features some of the best resorts in the world, and it’s important that you have the best gear to match that! Feel free to reach out to one of our Ski Experts here on Curated, and we’ll get you outfitted with the optimal gear for wherever you’re looking to ski. Whether you’re looking for an entirely new ski setup, or are in the market for some accessories to complement your existing gear, we’ll help you find the perfect gear so you can make the most of all of the incredible skiing Canada has to offer!