Banff Lake Louise Ski Area Lake Louise, the largest resort in the Canadian Rockies, and nearby Sunshine and Banff Norquay have a great mix of trails for every level of skier, and Champagne powder, of course!
The ski season in Banff Lake Louise is one of the longest in North America, opening mid-November to late May, with temperatures typically fluctuating from -15 C to +2 C in Town. -25C to +2C on slopes. Slopes have to be shut at -40C,but this only occurs very rarely.
Mount Norquay Ski Area
Mount Norquay packs a serious punch with its variety of terrain, family friendly facilities and its close proximity to the town of Banff. On its one mountain face there are five ski lifts, 190 acres (77 ha) of skiable terrain and 28 runs. Designed by skiers for skiers, it has plenty of carving and freeriding options, and appeals mostly to experienced intermediate and advanced skiers. The terrain is deceptively steep and unattentive cruisers can easily get caught out with the speed they gather. It is easy to traverse the entire mountain face, using the well connected lifts, to take in all the different groomers with their exciting rollers and sometimes vicious cambers.
But Norquay also has a reputation for bumps and some of its runs attract hard core skiers from far and wide. Take a long look at “The Big Chair” as locals' call the North American chair. Do not be fooled by its granny-like speed as its destination is strictly precipitous steeps, always adorned by huge but well formed moguls, because only very good skiers form them, and then ski them. If you can handle the unrelenting bumps on the double black diamond, Upper Lone Pine descent, then head for the steepest Norquay offers. This is the Gun Run, accessible off the same chair but with pitches reported to be above 50 degrees. Night skiing is also famous here, with two ski parks open and two downhill runs. Also there is the excellent tubing park which attracts children and adults alike.
Lake Louise Ski Area
Lake Louise ski area, the largest in the Canadian Rockies, covers a vast 11 square miles (28 sq km). This includes over 80 miles (128 km) of trails across four mountain faces covering 4,200 acres (1,700 ha) of skiable terrain. That’s not forgetting the six Back Bowls “claiming” the driest, lightest powder in the world in 2,500 acres (1,012 ha) of pristine, natural, wide-open, backcountry wilderness for more advanced skiers and riders. The best snow is usually found at higher elevations, off-piste in the Back Bowls, and on the pisted trails, where there is the back up of artificial snow-making. Most major Front Side trails have snow-making and are generally in good shape throughout the season. All of the beginner (green) and intermediate (blue) trails are groomed daily.
A key ingredient to Lake Louise Ski Area’s appeal is that there is a beginners trail from every chairlift on the mountain: in other words all chairs have an easy and difficult way down and the varied terrain above and below the tree-line appeals to all types of skiers. Even when visibility is poor, Lake Louise’s long, tree-lined trails offer protection and visibility. Boarders and freestyle skiers will be impressed by “Showtime,” an impressive terrain park, which features all the bumps, jumps, table tops and rails imaginable on this 2,000 feet (650 m) vertical ride. The park is also split into two half-way down, so you can ski-off and onto the easier park which has much more boxes and rails. Or you can continue on the “big park” and try your luck at some of the xl jumps. And if that’s not enough to tie you over at the end of the run, there’s a race circuit adjacent to the lower park with built in rolls.
Sunshine Village Ski Area
Sunshine is a three-mountain ski area offering everything from easy beginner slopes to some of the toughest advanced terrain in North America for experts. Mount Standish and Lookout Mountain are Sunshine’s original two mountains, the latter having the ultimate hardcore backcountry face, Delirium Dive. The Dive is a 40+ degrees gradient and severe at its most gentle. It is a mile-wide (1.6 km) cirque, patrolled by the park service who deny access to anybody failing to carry avalanche transceivers, probes, shovels or who fails to ski or ride with a companion (“buddy”). There is also the Wild West backcountry face that offers an excillerating challenge equal to that of Delirium Dive. Wild West offers fast paced tree/ bump runs off-piste as well as the tough and very steep runs at the Dive. It is located west of the Goats Eye Mountain.
But there are plenty of thrills on Sunshine’s 107 pisted trails without going near the Dive or Wild West. Sunshine, prides itself in the claim to have more annual snowfall that its immediate piers and this is apparently due to its proximity to the Continental Divide, and doubtless to the on-piste snow-fencing that prevents storms from blowing away their riches of “white gold”. Thus plenty of snow and a natural terrain park on Mt. Standish make Sunshine something of a free-riding mecca. And with a vertical drop of 3,514 feet (1,072 m)—Sunshine Village is the longest in the Canadian Rockies. There is also a natural gulley in between the runs coming off the Stanish lift and the new Strawberry lift, which is so big at the top that the locals have given it the name “The Compression”. And if that is not challenging enough there are natural shoots, some of which are almost vertical with natural, unmissable drops that trickle off the Standish side of the gulley.
Banff Lake Louise Ski Lifts & Lift Passes
The Banff Lake Louise Tri-Area Pass provides lift access for all three ski areas: Mount Norquay, Lake Louise Ski Area and Sunshine Village, and the complimentary fficient shuttle bus service is now a reasonably efficient option for skiing all Big 3 ski areas.
Banff Lake Louise Ski Lifts
In Banff Lake Louise, there is invariably a “working liftie” to greet you at both ends of the lift. Even if you’re the first one up in the morning and there’s been a huge dump of snow the night before, the seats will always be brushed off.At Mount Norquay the first lift you will approach is a short and sweet ride up. From there you can ski either the small or big park or ski down and onto the main mountain. At Lake Louise you have the choice of taking the gondola all the way up the right side of the mountain or you can take a chairlift on the other side. From the chair you can ski both parks, ski the home run or take the Top of the World chair up. And from there just about any run is reachable. At Sunsine you have to take the gondola lift up to the main village, there is the option to get off at the Goats Eye mid-station as well. From there you can ski any part of the resort. There is a connecting chair that takes you from the Goats Eye side of the mountain to the top of Lookout Mountain. From there you can ski down to the day lodge or any other lift.
Banff Lake Louise Tri-Area Lift Passes
Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine offers multi-day tri-area lift tickets and unlimited skiing on 8,000 acres of terrain, including complimentary roundtrip shuttle service between Banff or Lake Louise hotels and all three ski areas in Banff National Park. Lift tickets can be bought in the base area at every ticket outlet and at Customer Service. Ski Big3 Vacations offers customized ski vacation packages inclusive of lodgings, tri-area lift tickets and lesson programs. You can also buy lift tickets online at SkiBig3.com including free delivery of lift tickets to your hotel the day before your first ski day to avoid having to wait in line to buy tickets at the base station.
Banff Lake Louise Beginner Skiing
The best Banff Lake Louise ski areas for beginners are Lake Louise and Sunshine. Lake Louise is an ideal beginners resort: every lift has an easy way down, so novices can ski the whole mountain amid stunning views. Mount Norquay has slopes for novices, but no easy progression to low level intermediate.
Banff Mount Norquay Beginner Skiing
At Mount Norquay beginners start on the magic carpet at the base of the slopes at Norquay. The first lift will be the Cascade Chair which is surrounded by green (easy) trails to ingrain early skills. Natural progression from first time beginner to low level intermediate terrain does not exist at Norquay, at least not for the regular faint hearted novice, and hence the next best step from here, to be honest, is to switch to Lake Louise ideally or Sunhine ski areas, both have better all round terraine for beginners.
Lake Louise Beginner Skiing
The best ski areas for beginners in Lake Louise are the base area, using Sunny T-bar, and on the main green Wiwaxy trail on the front side of the mountain. The Larch Area should not be missed as it has some easy trails like Marmot and Lookout. As every chair has an easy way down all four mountain faces, novices can enjoy a whole mountain experience with a wide variety of access and the scenic vistas
Sunshine Village Beginner Skiing
Beginners at Sunshine Village, in or out of class, should take the Wolverine chair from the centre station to the more open, upper slopes, or take the uphill haul on the Strawberry and Standish chair combination; wrap up well for the lift, it can be chilly. Beginner skiers should also try out the Jack Rabbit chairlift, a short easy ski from the main village, which offers two short green runs, as well as other runs that branch off, that loop round to the bottom of the lift. This is a great easy run that skiers can get familiar with and use to build up their confidence before trying something more challenging. There are good trails all over the top elevations and the nice long green run from the top of Lookout Mountain is perfect for finishing off the day.
Banff Lake Louise Intermediate Skiing
Banff Lake Louise offers excellent skiing for intermediates across all three ski areas with around 45% of trails designated intermediate including easy progression from beginner to intermediate at both Lake Louise and Sunshine Village ski areas.
Banff Mount Norquay Intermediate Skiing
Mount Norquay, the smallest of three ski areas with just 28 trails and 36% designated intermediate. It’s also the quietest of Banff Lake Louise three ski areas so many skiers go there to train and refine their skills. Furthermore, if you’re looking for long, consistent intermediate terrain Mount Norquay has many runs that fit this description, which is useful for intermediate skiers looking to improve particular aspects of their skiing or just for bombing around on longer runs with a stronger sense of confidence. Mount Norquay also offers strong intermediate level slopes on Mount Norquay that encourage dynamic technique to handle the deceptively steep groomers, and is the only ski area in Banff Lake Louise offering night skiing with a range of floodlit trails and two snowparks.
Lake Louise Intermediate Skiing
Lake Louise is the biggest of three ski areas with 128 trails (plus back bowls), of which 45% are designated intermediate including plenty of easy intermediate trails for beginners. It is possible to ski almost everywhere but there are some great individual trails. Those who like wide open cruising trails will enjoy Larch, or the Skyline trail from the top station. Skiers who want to become familiar quickly with Louise should head up the Top of the World chair. From here skiers can reach nearly every part of the mountain on skis. And there is no worry of getting lost as every run all ends up back at the main base.The longest trail is five miles (8 km) and the most challenging intermediate trail is Boomerang on the Back Bowls. It is also worth trying both the Lake Louise Ladies' and Mens' Downhill courses as you progress to strong intermediate. Try to resist the urge to attack them first time with Bode Miller type aspirations and they could just provide enough confidence to break through to more advanced terrain. Alternatively, take any frontside to backside circuit to enjoy an amazing variety of the open alpine terrain while also having easy access to lodges and facilities.
Sunshine Village Intermediate Skiing
Sunshine aki area offers intermediate or moderate skiing in style and abundance; 55% of Sunshine’s 107 trails are moderately long and moderately steep, and are fairly well enclosed by trees. All the trails are really within the grasp of any competent intermediate but Brewster’s Chair, off the Great Divide chair, is a popular favourite. Intermediate skiers looking to push themselves should take the Angel Express and then head further up to the top of The Great Divide chair. From the top of this lift there are many different challenging runs that trickle off and end up either back at the Divide or back at the main village.
Banff Lake Louise Expert Skiing
Lake Louise's Back Bowls and Sunshine's Delirium Dive and heli-skiing are just a sample of the exciting options for expert skiers in Banff Lake Louise with plenty more adventures nearby including ski mountaineering and heliskiing.
Banff Mount Norquay Expert Skiing
Mount Norquay offers the least challenging runs for advanced skiers as its runs are generally best for intermediates, but those who like moguls will enjoy the steep Lone Pine run at Mount Norquay, or the Gun Run off the double chair known as The Big Chair by locals or North Amercan chair on the piste map. Those wanting to ski off-piste - apart from paying close attention to avalanche warnings and stop signs - will find all they need nearby in the Paradise and East Bowls at Lake Louise.
Lake Louise Expert Skiing
Higher level skiers head for the Back Bowls of Lake Louise: sustained pitch with big vertical. The toughest challenges are on the North Face of the Summit of Mount Whitehorn “1” and “2.” Brown Shirt on the backside of Mt. Whitehorn is best for powder. Take the backside trails from the Summit Platter lift and back over to the front side trails via Paradise Triple Chair for a classic circuit. This chair takes you to a ridge where you are spoiled for choice. The Diamond Mine, as its name suggest, is an open bowl studded with diamond and double diamond black trails. From the top of the West Bowl on the front side of Mount Whitehorn there are spectacular views of Lake Louise and the chateau.
Sunshine Village Expert Skiing
Delirium Dive is challenging off-piste terrain at Sunshine Village, located on the north and east aspects of Lookout Mountain with chutes, cliffs, and confined couloirs. Access is from the top of the Continental Divide high-speed quad through the check-in gate. Then it’s a 130-foot (40-m) hike. Patrollers at a gate at the bottom of the boot pack (hike) are armed with a key that checks transceivers are turned on and transmitting. This safety equipment, along with shovel, probe and a ski/snowboard “buddy” are pre-requisite to entry.There’s a ridge to hike on the right-hand side, then take a set of stairs to the far right to reach the trail called Milky Way. Another backcountry area, which rivals Delirium Dive in being “the challenge”, is Wild West, which opened to the public in 2003. It is located off the western edge of the Goats Eye Mountain. Just like skiing in the Dive, you will need a buddy and avalanche safety equipment to be buzzed through by the snow patrol.
Traverse above Sweet and Low to access a great little trail that faces Goat’s Eye. Just below the summit there is a 15- to 20-foot (4–6 m) rock band that crowns the top of the Dive. Skiers' can negotiate entry into the Dive through the cliff’s small weaknesses or simply drop in, but this gets skied out pretty quickly. Another more moderate way down is via access stairs that take you to tamer ground. Either way it’s 2,000 vertical feet (610 m) of hardcore pleasure riding. It mellows out at the bottom and after fresh snow it’s especially rewarding. Advanced skiers should head up the Goats Eye lift which offers many very tricky runs, including Hells kitchen and Supermodel which are directly below the chairlift. The Supermodel run is only reachable after first skiing a steep mogul run. Be careful though as the Supermodel may sound pretty but she contains many hidden rocks and drops along the way down.
Heli-skiing near Banff Lake Louise
It was in Banff that Austrian emigré Hans Gmoser established the first heli-skiing over 30 years ago. The sensation of no lift pylons, no clanking or squealing and no engines (apart from the beat of the helicopter leaving you) to spoil the environment is truly one of the pinnacles of skiing. Nowadays, heliskiing in Banff National Park is not allowed, but for the really adventurous, and that can include confident intermediates, there are three heli-ski operations in Panorama, Golden and Revelstoke. That’s one to three hours by road from Lake Louise, out of Banff National Park and into the majestic glaciated mountains of eastern British Columbia; over the state line from Alberta and hence not actively promoted by Banff Lake Louise tourism authority, but it’s a fantastic value for money experience for those that can afford it, if only once in a lifetime.
The two main heliski operators are Purcell Heli Skiing and RK Heli Skiing with booking and more information available locally in Banff through sales agent Mountain Adventures Unlimited.
Banff Adventures Unlimited
211 Bear Street, Bison Courtyard, Banff, Alberta
Tel: +1 403 762.4554
Email: [email protected]
Contact Banff Adventures (open 08:00 – 19:00 daily) for more information and advice about heli skiing packages in both Panorama and Golden resorts.
Located in Golden BC, 20 minutes from Kicking Horse and 1 hour 30 minutes from Banff. Free shuttle bus from any hotel in Banff or Lake Louise for a minimum of three people and CAN $80.00 per person for the return shuttle plus daily heli-ski package costing approximately CAN $800-950 for 3-5 heli-ski runs.
Situated in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, approximately two hours drive from Banff with spectacular views of Banff and Kootenay National Park en route. Shuttle bus pick up and drop off in front of your hotel in Banff. Cost CAN $100 plus GST for a minimum of two people plus cost of daily heli-ski package with 3-5 runs costing around CAN $800-950 plus GST.
Banff Lake Louise Snowboarding
Lake Louise's Showtime is North America's largest terrain park, but the natural hits, lips and drops at Mount Standish in Sunshine are also great fun. Banff Mount Norquay also has its own snowpark with a halfpipe and floodlit boarding on Friday nights.
Banff Mount Norquay
Banff Mount Norquay suits intermediate snowboarders best, but experts will find plenty of challenges here too. Excellent grooming and snowmaking makes it fun to cruise, whether to carve arcs or just go for it. Some trails are rolling rides with the odd lips for catching air. The snowboard park has a halfpipe and is groomed at least five nights a week. On Friday nights you can board under floodlights.
Lake Louise claims the largest terrain park in North America—Showtime—featuring a 2,000-foot (610-m) vertical ride with bumps, jumps, accessed by the Glacier Express or Friendly Giant chairs. The Summit Platter Poma lift on the front side of Mt. Whitehorn is something of a challenge in itself for snowboarders, but there are some great hikes off the top to your left. For great powder head to the Back Bowls and keep far left to Brown Shirt. It’s worth the detour, as are Upper Boomerang, North Cornice, and Wild Gully. For trees, head to Ptarmigan Chair and trails such as The Equalizer, Turn or Burn, or Ptarmigan Chute 2. Carvers should try Meadowlark, Home Run, and Gully on the Front Side, and Larch in the Larch Area for fresh corduroy on nicely groomed trails. There’s good beginner terrain on the front side and in the Larch Area. Novice classes stick to the Sunny T-bar, which serves an excellent beginner area.
At Sunshine Village the lower Mount Standish is the place for riders. The Dell Valley makes a natural halfpipe near the Strawberry quad chair, and the area between the Wawa quad and the Standish Chairs is a natural terrain park with lots of natural hits, a quarterpipe, lips and drops. You’ll also find lots of awesome cliffs, chutes and gullies, plus wide open bowls.
Banff Lake Louise Off-Piste
Banff Lake Louise has amazing off-piste skiing thanks to the typically huge amounts of snowfall – that famous Champagne Powder! Also in North America the tree line runs high up the mountains which creates great tree runs and bump runs for the more experienced off-piste skiers.
Banff Mount Norquay Off-Piste
Between the pistes at Mount Norquay - off-piste skiers and riders searching for the best powder should head over to the Lone Pine run. Even though it is slightly more challenging than most other runs at Mount Norquay it is ideal for making powder turns between the pistes, or for simply bombing through that champagne powder. Since Mount Norquay is a relatively low and small resort it doesn’t have the backside mountain areas that are available at Louise and Sunshine. However it’s a great resort to build up your confidence on easier off-piste terrain which you can then put to the test on more demanding terrain at Lake Louise and Sunshine.
Lake Louise Off-Piste
Between the pistes at Lake Louise – there’s plenty of opportunity to practice your technique off-piste between marked trails. From the Top of the World 6-man chairlift, there are plenty off-piste between any run you choose and for more challenging skiing “between the pistes” head for the runs around the ladies downhill.
Off the back of the mountain at Lake Louise – although there are no isolated areas like Delirium Dive in Lake Louise you will still find similarly tough challenges in the backside bowls. Take the Top of the World chair and traverse to reach the backside chutes. Here you will find many different runs, some of which seem almost vertical! But the challenge is extremely rewarding, as on a powder days the chutes collect huge amounts of light powder snow which is almost untouched.
Sunshine Village Off-Piste
Between the pistes in Sunshine - no matter which part of Sunshine Village you are skiing, due to the huge amounts of champagne powder that falls every year, it is not difficult to find off-piste areas that are skiable. If you head up the Great Divide to the top of Lookout Mountain, you can ski a long and varied off-piste run virtually all the way down to the lift. Those who prefer an easier blast through deep and endless powder should head either up the WaWa chair or Angel Express.
Off the back of the mountain at Sunshine – without doubt the two big “off the back” off-piste experiences at Sunshine are the infamous Delirium Dive and Wild West. To ski either of these areas you will need to be buzzed through an entry gate by a snow patroller who should check to make sure you have the necessary safety equipment – a transceiver, shovel and probe – as well as a ski buddy. It is also important to check the latest avalanche report. Delirium Dive is reached by taking the Great Divide chair and then a short hike up. From the top of the Dive there are a variety of runs to the bottom, all very steep. Wild West is a similar backcountry area located west of the Goats Eye Mountain.
Backcountry skiing in Banff Lake Louise
Skiers wanting to venture into untouched powder there are many options. There’s Cat Skiing at Fortress Mountain, heli-skiing skiing nearby at Panorama and Golden or they can simply head over to Lake Lousie or Sunshine Village and hire a mountain guide to access deep snow terraine beyond the ski boundary and unreachable by lifts. For those into ski mountaineering, there are plenty of adventures beyond the main ski area boundary including guided ski ascents of Mt Hector, a majestic peak north of Lake Louise and the second Canadian Rockies 11,000 footer to be climbed in 1895, with super opportunities for ski mountaineering and touring along the Icefields Parkway, with spectaculsr panoramic views of the Lake Louise peaks and the Wapta Icefields. For more information contact Yamnuska Mountain Adventures.
Banff Lake Louise Mountain Restaurants
All three Banff Lake Louise ski areas offer mainly cafeteria-style lunch options, but eating on mountain or at the base areas is utilitarian rather than alluring so don’t expect fine dining on sun terraces or to find celebrated mountain restaurants.
Banff Mount Norquay
At Mount Norquay there’s Cascade Lodge’s mid-price deli and cafeteria, or it’s upstairs to Lone Pine Pub & Restaurant with full table service. Also Kika’s Café, but no real choice.
Cascade Lodge - Deli & Cafeteria/ Lone Pine Pub & Restaurant / Kika’s Café
Lake Louise Ski Area
At the base of the mountain in the beautiful log-built Lodge of the Ten Peaks you’ll find the family-friendly Ten-Peaks food court and Powderkeg Louge. At Whiskyjack Lodge, the Northface Bistro serves breakfasts as well as lunch, and there is also a cafeteria.
Lodge of the Ten Peaks - Ten Peaks Food Court / Slopeside Coffee Var / Powderkeg Lounge
Whiskeyjack Lodge - Whiskeyjack Café / Nothface Bistro
Temple Lodge - Sawyers Nook (Access is limited to those that ski or ride)
Kokanee Kabin - Base area
Sunshine Village has eight places in which to re-fuel with Mad Trapper’s as the ideal place for lunch. The Sunshine Day Lodge has a number of options including The Burger Shack and the newly renovated Chimney Corner. There is also a more expensive, fancier lunch option in the hotel behind Trappers.
Creekside Restaurant - Gondola base station
Goat’s Eye Gardens - Base of Goat’s Eye Lift
Day Lodge - The Burger shack / The Alpine Grill / Lookout Lounge
Sunshine Mountain Lodge - Starbucks / Chimney Corner / Eagle’s Nest
Banff Lake Louise Villages
Banff is a pretty town with lively restaurants and bars, the best apres ski, a wide choice of accommodation and plenty of shops and other activities for non-skiers. Lake Louise is a compact little town with good amenities, Sunshine Village lies high up the mountain.
Banff Mount Norquay
Banff Mount Norquay is where families come to play. With its close proximity to the town of Banff, you stay in the bustling town of Banff, which offers an abundance of hotels, B&B guesthouses, lodges, restaurants, bistros, stores, galleries, boutiques, museums and plenty of other activities such as soaking in the natural hot springs. Mount. Norquay has a new base lodge with licensed lounge, dining, day care, ski and snowboard school and rentals.
Mount Norquay, with its history and close proximity to Banff town, is the undisputed locals’ favourite. It might be considerably smaller than its younger siblings, easier to reach from Banff and credited with a family-friendly image, but woebetide complacent ski souls' who think these slopes are easy meat for all comers. There are some steeps and bumps on Norquay to rival the world's fiercest, lift served ski runs. Mount Norquay has consistently produced a massively disproportionate number of top ski racers and freestylers. It is also the only resort in the Canadian Rockies to offer night skiing.
Lake Louise “village” grew around the railroad station and the majestic Chateau Lake Louise Hotel still dominates. The station is no more but the hotel certainly is. Development is tightly controlled by the Parks Service so the village is compact but has most amenities—gas station, bakery, grocery, liquor store, bus station, a wide range of accommodation, and over 20 restaurants and bars all linked by free shuttle buses.
Lake Louise has the largest and most varied terrain of the three ski stations, offering multiple mountain faces, thousands of acres of wide-open bowls and, critically, a beginner trail off every chairlift. The name of the famous 1.5-mile long (2.5-km) lake, which often reflects the towering ice flows and springs that cascade into its shimmering, emerald depths, from the Victoria Glacier above, is derived from the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – Princess Louise Caroline Alberta. The state of Alberta, which houses all the Banff Lake Louise ski areas, is named after the same princess. Little surprise then that Banff Lake Louise, originally settled in 1884 as a Canadian Pacific Railway logging camp and later designated Canada’s first National Park (Banff National Park, and more recently awarded protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), is consistently voted North America’s Most Scenic Ski Area.
Sunshine Village upper alpine lies at 7,082 feet (2,159 m). Lodgings are found at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge as Banff National Park’s only ski-in, ski-out accommodation. Combined with the gondola base are, Sunshine Village features two licensed day lodges, nine food outlets, cocktail lounges, ski & snowboard school, rental store, day care, snowboard park, outdoor hot pool, and reputedly Canada’s best snow, and lots of it—396 inches (1,006 cm) a year! Sunshine Village does not enjoy the same international cachet as Lake Louise but as the highest of the Banff resorts, Sunshine typically offers its growing number of winter sports enthusiasts a deep blanket of superb powder snow on its intriguing variety of terrain, ranging from wild and gnarly steeps to wide open groomers, all making it a more than worthy, but friendly rival, to Lake Louise.
Western Canada is also the spiritual home of helicopter skiing and Banff Lake Louise, is a popular pick up area for skiers and snowboarders wanting to notch up this unforgettable thrill. Helicopter skiing is not permitted in national park territories but helicopter companies quickly whisk powder skiing junkies over the nearby border into British Columbia where helicopter skiing terrain is practically unlimited.
Banff Lake Louise Tourism
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Banff Lake Louise Apres Ski Bars & Restaurants
Banff town is lively with over 100 bars, restaurants and nightclubs for apres ski and partying until late. And with the option to grab an apres ski snack and a few drinks at the ski area base stations at Lake Louise or Sunshine before catching the shuttle bus back to your lodgings.
Apres Ski Bars in Banff Lake Louise
Wild Bills is one of the biggest pubs in Banff, and although very spacious this pub never seems empty. Wild Bills also has a variety of weekly performers such as the dj Master Ace, Wu-tang Clang and comedians such as Flight of the Conchords.
The Devils Gap pub is located in the centre of Banff town and is often populated with ski instructors and other locals. The best night to go is on a Sunday as they have live performers.
The Pump and Tap is also known as the English Pub, although it is completely run by Canadians. This is a great place to go in the afternoon for a quick drink and a game of pool. They also have surround sound speakers with music playing in the background.
The Elk and Oarsmen bar is slightly fancier than most other bars in Banff, but it still has that great friendly and rustic mountain atmosphere, and is split into two halves, the bar and the restaurant.
The Great Bear Room, located on the top floor of the Lake Louise day lodge, is a comfy, rustic bar offering a variety of mini-snack meals which are great to share over a beer at the end of the day. Or if you prefer they do large, calory intensive meals as well.
The Kokanee Kabin bar is based next to the foot of the Lake Louise chairlift. It is famous for its barbeques and music. They also have great deals on jugs of beer (4 pint jug). In warmer weather they put out deck chairs so skiers can relax in the sun with a drink.
Trappers is a popular bar mainly used throughout the afternoon and for lunch. It is also the home of the famous Mad Trappers burger which should only be ordered by those with a monster appetite, and where you’ll find the most ski instructors relaxing and arguing over who has the best carving turns!
Sunshine Creekside Lodge at the bottom of the gondola station is a popular venue for a few drinks after a long run down from the top of the mountain. The Creekside also serves a large nacho basket in a typical Canadian style which is great accompanied by a pitcher of beer, or you can order various cocktails and shots if you prefer. Its location next to the shuttle bus pick up and drop off stop adds to its popularity.
Restaurants in Banff Lake Louise
Downtown Banff has more than 100 bistros and restaurants including Japanese, Italian, steakhouses, Tex-Mex as well as cafés, pubs and delis.
Eddie’s is probably the most famous restaurant in Banff, offering a vast selection of cocktails and every type of burger imaginable. If you don’t fancy anything featured on the menu, you can always design your own burger complete from scratch.
The Silver Dragon is the place to go if you’re looking for a Chinese. It’s known for friendly, quick service as well as for good quality Chinese dishes.
The Spaghetti Factory, just off the main street in Banff, is a perfect place to load up with carbs after a big days skiing. You can order just about any variety of pasta or spaghetti. They also have some meat dishes as well and a large cocktail menu.
Whitehorn Mid-Mountain Lodge offers dinner with appetizers, buffet dinner, live entertainment and a guided torchlight ski down the mountain, two or three times a week after skiing until 8:30 pm.
Brewster Cowboy’s Barbecue and Dance Barn, near the Fairmont Chateau, is a popular venue on Saturday nights and also can be reached a sleigh ride.
Deer Lodge’s Elkhorn Dining Room is a very comfy dining experience after a long day of skiing in Lake Louise.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel offers a range of dining experiences from the Castle Deli, Lakeview lounge, Glacier Saloon to Lago’s Italian Restaurant.
The Baker Creek Bistro in the Baker Creek Chalets on Bow Valley Parkway, down the road from the Fairmont Chateau, is one of the more popular dining options in Lake Louise.
The Lake Louise Inn features a choice of restaurants including Explorers Lounge, Legends Restaurant, and Timberwolf Pizza and Pasta Café, to satisfy everyone in the family.
Nightclubs in Banff Lake Louise
Banff is famous for being one of the Canada’s best ski resorts for partying and night life.
Hoodoo’s nightclub is in the heart of Banff. Inside they’re three pool tables, various bars and a big dancefloor. There is also a lounge area on one half of the club. Their main night is Thursday when the club is guaranteed to be packed with queues stretching far round the corner.
Aurora’s is probably the top nightclub in Banff, often hosting famous DJ’s from all over the world. This club has four bars, a lounge area and two dancefloors each with its own DJ. The main nights at Aurora are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but it’s often also busy mid-week.
The Dancing Sasquatch nightclub is is just one massive dancefloor with bars either end and at the middle. It is located at the centre of Banff and you can often see queues stretching far down the street. The main nights to go are Friday and Saturday.
There are no nightclubs in Lake Louise or Sunshine Village
Banff Lake Louise Other Activities
Lake Louise has plenty of outdoor activities including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice walks, dog-sledding, ice skating and sleigh rides. Banff will suit less adventurous folk with a wide range of bars, restaurants, shops, museums and other cultural pursuits.
Cross-country Skiing in Banff Lake Louise
Cross-country skiing is hugely popular in Banff Lake Louise as the landscape is so accommodating for it. You can simply rent a pair of cross-country skis and set off yourself. Or there are companies such as Yamnuska that will take you on longer guided tours with or without tuition.
Ice Walks in Banff Lake Louise
There are various scenic Ice walks around the Banff Lake Louise area. They mainly sprout off the end of Banff town and run around the natural sulphur spring.
Dog Sledding in Banff Lake Louise
There are a few local companies that run dog sledding where you can learn to drive (or mush) your own team of huskies and sled through deep powder. The two best known are Banff Adventurers and Howling Dog Tours.
Ice Skating in Banff Lake Louise
There is a large outdoor ice skating rink just outside of Banff town. Here you can rent ice skates and ice hockey skates and sticks if you wish to play ice hockey in true Canadian fashion.
Spa & Wellness in Banff Lake Louise
Only twenty minutes from Banff town there is the newly built Banff Centre. The Banff Centre has a fully operating spa service as well as a gym, sportcourts and a climbing wall. There is also the Banff Springs which is only a 15 minute walk from Banff or there is a shuttle bus service that gets you there quicker.
Galleries and Museums in Banff Lake Louise
Art galleries and craft shops showcase Inuit, wildlife, landscape, and Native art along with ceramics and jewelry. There are also several museums and national historic sites in the neighbourhood that highlight the natural history and man-made heritage of the Rockies.
Shopping in Banff Lake Louise
Shops in Banff range from fashionwear to native crafts and specialty boutiques, along with larger shopping malls. Lake Louise has its own Samson Mall for shoppers.