Ski Canada for exhilarating high altitude skiing, glacier skiing and snowboarding
Canada is the second largest country in the world – and its border with the USA is the longest in the world between two countries. It also has the world’s longest coastline – and one of the world’s lowest population densities. Although it’s famous for its Rocky Mountains (and of course it’s Royal Mounted Police, or Mounties) much of the skiing – particularly the heliskiing in Canada for which BC is famous - is on mountain ranges which are not technically in the Rockies at all, but to the west of them.
Perhaps surprisingly, skiing in Canada is possible in all 10 of Canada’s provinces. But of course the biggest and best known of Canadian ski resorts are in British Columbia, neighbouring Alberta, and Quebec in the east. Much of BC’s skiing is actually in sub-ranges of the Columbia Mountains like the Monashees, Cariboos, Purcells and Bugaboos. Whistler, Canada’s most famous resort, is in the Coast Range, while Quebec’s mountain’s, like Tremblant, are in the ancient Laurentian range. Some 90 minutes from Vancouver, BC, the Olympic resort of Whistler (including its close neighbour Blackcomb), likes to style itself the most popular resort in all of North America. Its biggest rival is Alberta’s Banff-Lake Louise, where the so-called ‘Big 3’ ski areas include Sunshine and Banff’s local ‘hill’, Mt Norquay. In Quebec, Tremblant – like Whistler with Vancouver – can be combined with a city add-on in Montreal.
They say comparisons are odious, but how do ski resorts in Canada differ from those in the USA? They don’t hugely, but there are a few differences. Canada’s mountains are in general much more dramatic and Alpine in appearance than those in the American Rockies (the awe-inspiring Bow Valley mountains you see from the upper slopes of Lake Louise are a good example). But this is odd because America’s mountains are generally higher. The reason for this phenomenon is that Canada’s mountains tend to start at a lower altitude, so the vertical drop is often bigger. And looks bigger. Because Denver is already perched almost exactly a mile high at 5,280 feet, many Colorado mountains don’t appear to be as high as their Canadian counterparts. And of course being further north than the USA, good snow conditions are pretty much assured, regardless of altitude..
Resort culture can differ too: for example if a run is marked ‘closed’ in Canada, it’s not quite such a heinous offence to ski it as it is in America, although over the years, the Canadians have tightened up on this procedure. Time was when they simply regarded closure signs as strong guidance - but left skiers and boarders to decide for themselves whether to risk it without fear of being arrested! But these days skiing a closed run will probably get you into almost as much trouble in Canada is it would do in the USA!
Apart from having some of the best ski resorts in Canada, such as Fernie and Kimberley, British Columbia is the heliskiing capital of the world. Although Alberta (with excellent resorts such as Lake Louise, Sunshine, Mt Norquay and Jasper’s Marmot Basin) has a number of cat-skiing operations (a little like heliskiing except you’re taken to the untracked powder fields by a snowcat converted for passengers, a rather slower method of uphill transport) all the heliskiing happens in BC – most famously with Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) and Mike Wiegele.
What Quebecois resorts like Tremblant may lack in vertical feet and powder they make up for in ambience and cuisine. The French Canadians combine American politeness (not always found in France!) with French cooking so that you get the best of both worlds. And a side visit to Montreal – just like Vancouver in BC - is a huge extra attraction.
No. of Airports: 4
Fly from: London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Manchester & most provisional airports via Amsterdam or add ons with British Airways from from Birminghams, Glasgow ,Edinburgh, Mancheter on to Heathrow and then direct to Calgary
It’s hard to imagine three resorts (linked by an excellent ski bus service) which are so different in ambience - which is why this Alberta triumvirate of Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay are such attractive prospects...More information
Banff is a lively town set in the spectacularly beautiful Banff National Park. Downtown Banff offers traditional Canadian hospitality with an excellent variety of bars, some with live music, and a wide choice of restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets.More information
Whistler Resort, home of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains now joined by the new ‘Peak to Peak’ Gondola, lies amid the impressive west-coast mountains of British Columbia, just 75 miles north of Vancouver.
Repeatedly voted the ‘Best Resort in Eastern North America for 14 years’ by the Ski Magazine, a ski holiday in the slope-side pedestrian village of Tremblant is a complete immersion in the unique culture of French-speaking Quebec with the added bonus of of Canadian & French cuisine.
A haven for wildlife lovers with skiing in unspoilt surroundings at nearby Marmot Basin in the stunning Jasper National Park. Shimmering glaciers, forests, frozen lakes and waterfalls form the backdrop for a range of activities from dog-sledding to ice canyon walks and wildlife safaris.
Fernie is one of the best resorts for enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders looking for new peaks to conquer. Fernie Alpine Village Resort offers doorstep skiing in the midst of the rugged peaks of the British Columbia’s Rockies, just four miles from downtown Fernie, an historic village with friendly and laid back locals.More information