Canada is a very big country, it is hard to choose where to go skiing if you are visiting for the first time. Let me help you plan your ski trip to Canada with 5 things to know.
1. The Geography
Canada is the second largest country in the world covering 9.985 million square km. It is in North America and the north of the United States. There are only about 38 million people so Canada is sparsely populated compared to its size. The major cities are Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto. The west coast is home to Canada’s largest mountains and the best skiing. The Rocky Mountains cover the western part of Alberta and the Eastern part of British Columbia, it is home to Banff and Jasper. You will find the Pacific Coast Mountain Range that covers the Western part of British Columbia along the Pacific Ocean and is Canada’s largest mountain range, home to the famous ski resorts of Whistler Blackcomb. The Laurentian Highlands is the most prominent mountain range on the east coast home to Mont Tremblant
2. The Weather
If you are planning a ski trip in the winter between December and April the best thing you can do is come prepared. The winters can be cold and snowy and if you are coming to ski in the cold months there is always a chance of a cold snap. Sometimes the temperature drops below -40 with the wind chill. This can put a damper on things when it comes to skiing so it is better to come prepared and dress for the weather. The Pacific Coast Mountain Range is the most mild climate because it is near the ocean. This does mean that it gets the most snow and rain, on average Whistler gets 418 cm of annual snowfall! The Rocky Mountains in Alberta are typically colder and drier than its pacific neighbors. This means that the snow isn’t as heavy and wet. Banff sees an average of 191 cm of annual snowfall. While Montreal in Quebec on the east coast has an average of 209 cm of annual snowfall.
3. Getting Around
As mentioned above, the 4 largest cities in Canada are Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal. If you are planning to go to the west coast your best option would be to fly into Vancouver. If you are planning a ski trip in Alberta, fly into Calgary to access Banff (1hr 30) Lake Louise (2hrs) or Edmonton to access Jasper (4hrs). On the east coast fly into Montreal to access Mont Tremblant (1hr 40)
4. Where to Ski
I have already mentioned a few ski resorts that you will want to visit when skiing in Canada for the first time. You should focus your efforts on the west coast to find the best skiing.
I was lucky to be able to spend two seasons in Whistler. Whistler is North America’s largest ski resort. It covers 2 mountains, Whistler and Blackomb and is joined by the Peak 2 Peak gondola. It offers over 8000 skiable acres of terrain and more than 200 runs. It sees approximately 400 cm of annual snowfall. The resort also offers plenty of non-ski related activities such as snowmobiling (I worked as a snowmobile guide here), ziplining, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, bobsled and more.
About a half hour drive north of Banff you will find the beautiful Lake Louise ski resort. The second largest ski resort in Canada with 4200 skiable acres. I did one season in Banff and spent most of my time skiing in Lake Louise. Banff is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations (for a good reason) and Lake Louise is popular with tourists flocking to see the famous turquoise blue water of the lake. Lake Louise is one of the most spectacular places to ski and you will not be disappointed.
Sunshine Village is located about 20 minutes north of Banff. It is on the way to Lake Louise. It offers 3,300 skiable acres and is home to Canada’s best snow because of the high altitude. Sunshine has about 30 feet of annual snowfall and the snow can last year round. Covering 3 mountains the resort has a variety of terrain from beginner to expert, including the famous Delirium Dive experts only run.
Located about an hour from Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley, it offers 2,700 acres of terrain and 39 acres of night skiing. Big White is well known for incredible powder days. I get jealous when I see instagram videos from Big White on a powder day. They receive an average annual snowfall of 26 feet. This is a family friendly resort that has great intermediate runs
I will give some love to the east coast here, if you are coming from the east and want to stay closer to home. You can skip skiing in Ontario and the Maritimes because Quebec has the best skiing in the eastern part of Canada. Mont Tremblant is about 1hr 30min from Montreal. It has 305 skiable acres of terrain and the summit sits at 875 meters. The views of the Laurentian mountains are beautiful at the top and the town is uniquely colorful that is walkable and has a ski friendly vibe with shopping, dining, bars and hotels.
5. Affordability and Where to Stay
When you go on a ski trip I highly recommend staying as close to the ski resort as possible. Rather than going to the bigger city center. This will be more expensive but it is worth the price if you can afford it. It will give you easy access to the ski lifts, and it comes in handy if it gets busy so you can avoid the traffic by not having to drive anywhere. I recommend staying at least 5 nights to really make the most out of your ski holiday. I have put together a list of accommodation options for you to choose from based on the resorts that I listed above. If you travel during the peak winter holiday season it will be expensive and busy. It will also be expensive and busy on a weekend.
The prices for hotels are for one night (Cad) from high-end to low-end on Booking.com. I am not sponsored in any way from these hotels, this is just my recommendation based on research and proximity
Fairmont Chateau Whistler 764$
Four Seasons Resort Whistler 1,047$
The Westin Resort and Spa 463$
Sundial Hotel 556$
Adara Hotel 521$
Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa 468$
Pangea Pod Hotel 193 $
Hi Whistler Hostel 72$
2. Lake Louise
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise 663$
Fairmont Banff Springs 860$
Royal Canadian Lodge 279$
Canalta Lodge 388$
Peaks Hotel and Suits 381$
Banff International Hostel 46$
Samesun Banff 72$
Hi Banff Alpine Centre- Hostel 46$
3. Sunshine Village
Sunshine Village Lodge 394 $
Since Sunshine Village is in the middle of Banff and Lake Louise refer to the list
above for a list of hotels in the area.
4. Big White
I have included some ski in and ski out resorts in Big White but most hotel
options will be located in Kelowna.
Sundance Resort Big White
White Crystal Inn
Hampton Inn and Suites Kelowna 234$
Days Inn by Wyndham Kelowna 127$
Sameson Kelowna 30$
Oasis Inn 101$
5. Mont Tremblant
There are more hotel options outside of Mont Tremblant in Montreal (1hr 30 min)
drive. These are some hotel options if you decide to stay in Mont Tremblant.
Fairmont Tremblant 856$
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tremblant 463$
Hotel Mont Tremblant 241$
Le Grand Lodge Mont Tremblant 320$