Loren Christie on winter ski destinations across Canada
Published Friday, November 30, 2012 11:21AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 30, 2012 1:49PM EST
My personal ski experiences out West have largely been in Alberta. The province has 28 ski resorts to choose from. The best known “hills” are Mt. Norquay, Sunshine, Lake Louise and Marmot Basin, all of which are located within Banff and Jasper national parks, respectively. Being surrounded by federally protected land means these ski destinations are “untouched” in the sense of build up around them, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what kind of ski holiday you enjoy. Those who enjoy skiing right to the front door of their slope side ski chalet are out of luck but if you love pristine wilderness you will be in heaven. As far as where to stay, the alpine towns of Banff and Jasper have all the amenities you could want, from luxurious accommodation in genuine mountain lodges or fairy tale castles to fine dining, shopping, and plenty of après-ski. Many of the local Banff hotels offer deals that include lift tickets and shuttle to the hills. And because Banff’s high season is actually during the summer, there are some great deals to be had.
This coming season I plan to get very familiar with the slopes in British Columbia, starting with a 5-night stay at Silver Star Mountain in February. Located a one-hour drive from Kelowna International Airport, Silver Star offers 115 runs and unparalleled skiing and snowboarding with some of the best ski-in/ski-out anywhere in Canada. If you are like me and enjoy a mix of downhill and cross-country, the resort also offers 105 kilometres of trails. Silver Star in partnership with the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre provides a Dual Area Cross Country Trail Pass which gives guests access to the largest groomed cross-country trail system in Western Canada and second largest in the country.
Close to Silver Star is Big White, which offers a great program for seniors. They have a “slow” program with a daily-rotating roster of family and seniors skiing and snowboarding zones. Three runs are selected each day and have signage, gated entry and extra slope “watchers” to ensure that speed, safe skiing and riding are monitored; a focus that allows senior guests, as well as families with small children, to explore more than just the green runs on the mountain. A benefit program for seniors called “Club 65” means that there are a few perks to getting older, including; free lessons, tune-ups, a hot cup of coffee and more.
Whistler is of course BC’s ski mecca. I have skied there several times and it is hard not to love. This season, Whistler Blackcomb is focused on developing its family programming. The new Family Certified icon will be displayed on ski runs, in stores, on Whistler Blackcomb’s website and in Whistler Blackcomb food and beverage locations, to indicate kid-friendly areas, products and services. New signage and additional flags have also been added to on-mountain ski/snowboard areas to better mark children- and beginner-friendly terrain.
www.SkiItToBelieveIt.com is Tourism BC’s brand new ski website. It has info on all the different resorts, lots of special offers as well as current ski conditions.
For those skiing the East, there are many options as well. Like Banff, Quebec City makes an incredibly charming home base. You can spend the days skiing Mt. Ste. Anne and Le Massif and then return to the old city centre for some phenomenal old world après ski charm. Ski Bus is a great shuttle service that will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the hills.
If you haven’t been to Blue Mountain on the shores of Georgian Bay, near Collingwood, Ontario, check it out. The development of the village at Blue Mountain is incredible. At only 720 feet, it does not offer the biggest vertical in Canada by a long shot, but it is a wonderful vacation destination for families. In 2011 it was rated the number one family-friendly ski resort in Canada by MSNBC.