Skiing in Banff Lake Louise

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!

Banff Lake Louise Ski Area Overview

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.

Delirium 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.

Beginner Skiing in Banff Lake Louise

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 

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 

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 

At Sunshine Village beginners, 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 

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 

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 

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.

Advanced & Expert Skiing in Banff Lake Louise

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.

Off-Piste Skiing in Banff Lake Louise

Banff Lake Louise has amazing off-piste skiing thanks to the typically huge amounts of snowfall – that famous Champagne Powder! Also, 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.

Backside bowls 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.

Backcside bowls 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 at Banff Lake Louise

Skiers wanting to venture into untouched powder can simply head over to Lake Lousie or Sunshine Village and hire a mountain guide to access deep snow terrain 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.

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, over the state line from Alberta into the majestic glaciated mountains of eastern British Columbia, 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 Banff 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.

Purcell Heli Skiing
438 Lafontaine Road RR 3, Golden, BC V0A 1H3, Canada
Tel: +1 877 435 4754
Email: [email protected]

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 for the return shuttle plus daily heli-ski package for 3-5 heli-ski runs.

R.K. Heli Skiing
2045 Greywolf Drive, Panorama, BC V0A 1T0, Canada
Tel: +1 800 661 6060
Email: [email protected]

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. For a minimum of two people plus cost of daily heli-ski package with 3-5 runs.

Boarding & Freestyle in Banff Lake Louise

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

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.

Mountain Restaurants in Banff Lake Louise

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 

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

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



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