or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › EpicSki Community › Trip Reports  › Sunshine/Lake Louise Feb 15-19, 2016
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Sunshine/Lake Louise Feb 15-19, 2016

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

We decided to take a last-minute trip to Banff to take advantage of the lower Canadian dollar and escape the dreadful Northeast snow conditions and school vacation crowds.  We booked our trip via skibig3.com, which matched us with lodging, shuttle, lift tickets, etc.  As part of a promotion (4 or more nights), our two kids received free lift tickets for the whole week. Lift tickets are valid at Lake Louise, Sunshine, or Norquay and include roundtrip shuttle rides to the slopes.  It was a great deal!

 

 

Getting to Banff from Calgary airport by shuttle was a breeze on Banff Airporter, which picks you up in the airport terminal and drops you off at your hotel in Banff or Canmore.  Included in the shuttle ride price is your access to the National Park.  (If you drive to Banff National Park, you need to purchase tickets to enter the park. I believe around $100 for 2 adults/2 kids for a week.)  It takes about 90 minutes to get to Banff via an easy highway ride.

 

The ski shuttles picked us up in front of our hotel.  There are about 6-7 departures times in the morning to Lake Louise, Norquay, and Sunshine.  (There are 4-5 return times in the afternoon.) We were surprised by the bus shuttles, which were actual buses with leather seats, bathroom, cargo storage, etc.  Very comfortable and they drop you off right in front of the lifts.

 

 

 

On Monday, we skied Sunshine, which had received over 10" of fresh snow overnight.  It takes 20 minutes on the highway to get to Sunshine from Banff and then a 15 minute ride up the gondola to get to the top.  We primarily skied Lookout Mountain on that first day.  The conditions were great with light powder, blue skies, temperatures above freezing and non-existent lift lines.  Lots of bumps on Lookout Mountain and amazing views.  

 

 

 

Tuesday, we took the shuttle to Lake Louise, which is a 40 minute drive down the highway.  We spend most of the day taking the gondola and skiing the frontside and the Ptarmigan lift.  The frontside is very Vermonty albeit on a larger scale.  We were a bit disappointed by Lake Louise.  The snow was crunchier and we found the scenery and views at Sunshine much nicer.  We found some very nice steep trees runs on the Ptarmigan chair side (Pika Trees?). The Larch chair was down for mechanical reasons all week so a rather sizable part of the mountain was closed.  Lake Louise was a bit busier than Sunshine too at the base, but nothing like a Saturday at Wachusett.  

 

 

Wednesday, we went back to Sunshine and explored more of the mountain.  They had received another few inches overnight. The kids discovered Mt. Standish and fell in love with Sunshine forever.  Mt. Standish is a fun open area with lots of natural obstacles, short steep drops, fun rolling terrain, glades, bumps, small huckable "cliffs," mini couloirs, etc.  A really great area for kids to build up confidence off-trail and, frankly, a fun place for adults too! To return to the base, we cut through lower canyon instead of taking the normal route, which was a lot of fun!

 

 

Thursday, we returned to Lake Louise and discovered the Top of the World Express. That area was actually a lot of fun.  A lot more canyon, bowl type terrain with steeps, trees, and natural obstacles.  Much less Vermonty than the Grizzly Express side of the frontside.  The snow was however firmer than Sunshine once again.  By the afternoon, a storm system was moving in and visibility became an issue in the back bowls area.  We had hoped to explore that area (lots of open steeps and tight technical couloirs), but after one run decided to go back to frontside and eventually called it a day by 3 pm as the wet snow and poor visibility were making it difficult.

 

 

Friday was another day at beautiful Sunshine! And another champagne powder day.  The resort reported 4-6", but ski patrol reported 14" at higher elevations on Goat Mountain.  Conditions were fantastic!  We again spent a lot of time on Mt Standish, but also returned to Lookout Mt and finished the day by exploring Goat Mountain, which has some really nice sustained steep runs and killer glades.  We couldn't go into Delirium Dive as ski patrol requires avalanche gear, but had a blast nonetheless on other parts of Goat Mountain.  

 

We had a great week with mild temperatures and fresh snow on 4 out of 5 days.  On-mountain food options were great.  I recommend the Northface bistro with 3 stations (pasta, carving, and salad) where they customize and prepare the food in front of you. At Sunshine, the Lookout Kitchen and Burger Co. had great reasonably-priced options.  In town we had a great dinner at Three Ravens (take a cab it's a pain to find.)  The only lukewarm experience was the Upper Hot Springs in Banff.  Long lines, super crowded, and basically a warm chlorinated swimming pool.

 

Overall, the scenery is really breathtaking compared to other Rockies resorts, which I've been lucky to visit (Wyoming, Utah, and Montana). Since you are in a National Park, the ski resorts don't have any developments.  Sunshine has a few lodging options at the top of the gondola, but that's it.  It's wild and untouched.  Shall we be so lucky to go back one day!

 

post #2 of 10

Thanks for the report!  I'm looking forward to my visit there in March.

post #3 of 10

Nice Trip Report. Glad you had a good time!

 

The snow on the Front Side of Lake Louise tends to be pretty firm (Scrape Louise?).

This is because of winds, aspect (south facing) and perhaps a bit lower snowfall (and elevation, i guess as the front side starts much lower than the back). Snow on the backside is almost always much better, but the skiing in this area is pretty steep. It's a shame that Larch wasn't running. Lake Louise's best intermediate terrain can be found there!

 

It is much easier to find nice snow on Sunshine, especially the old (not Goatseye) side. And I still like skiing Standish :)

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by manchester81 View Post
 

Nice Trip Report. Glad you had a good time!

 

The snow on the Front Side of Lake Louise tends to be pretty firm (Scrape Louise?).

This is because of winds, aspect (south facing) and perhaps a bit lower snowfall (and elevation, i guess as the front side starts much lower than the back). Snow on the backside is almost always much better, but the skiing in this area is pretty steep. It's a shame that Larch wasn't running. Lake Louise's best intermediate terrain can be found there!

 

It is much easier to find nice snow on Sunshine, especially the old (not Goatseye) side. And I still like skiing Standish :)

 

Thanks we had a blast!  We had decided to ski Lake Louise backside in the afternoon, but as the storm moved in, it became a challenge as visibility was limited and the flat light made it challenging.  We did get one run in, but I wish we could have spend a few hours exploring those steeps.  Oh well!  Next time.

post #5 of 10

Sunshine Village was the first place out of upstate NY/MA I ever skied, and was the first ski trip I ever took with my then 5 year old boy, fond memories, looks like a lot has changed there. There was only place to stay on mountain. I was a rank beginner as only started skiing Feb 08, and we went in April, boy had been skiing 2 years already. He had a blast. Dad made the mistake of going up Goat's Eye, deciding to ski/slide down on the mellow Green which seemed hard enough and then weather moved in, I still remember, could see nothing, blizzard and white out just as I began the run from the chairlift and suddenly the ground started moving 'forward' below my skis, totally unnerved, took off skis (mistake but I did'nt know that then) followed barely visible yellow-orange piste markers down lower! That is when I learnt first-hand about vertigo in white-outs!! I thought I was going backwards !!! 

 

You guys did them both Louise and Sunshine, very nice, reads like a great trip!

post #6 of 10

what hotel did you stay at? recommend it?

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by darent View Post
 

what hotel did you stay at? recommend it?

 

We stayed in one of the newly renovated Rocky Mountain Resort wolf condos.  The condos are nice, comfortable, modern, with full kitchen & wood fireplace.  They are a bit small, but that didn't matter much to us as we were out all day.  The front desk was very helpful and courteous throughout our stay.  We were surprised that they came and cleaned the condo every day, made up the beds, and changed towels.  One nice thing is that it's the first pick-up for the ski shuttle and the first stop on the way home!  It's also the first stop into town if you are taking an airport shuttle.  

 

While they've redone the condos and front lobby area nicely, the pool/sauna/gym are in serious need of a full makeover.  That was our main complaint.  The resort also provides a free shuttle to downtown, but strangely it doesn't start until 11 am. (Last pick up is 11:15 pm.) You can have them call a taxi.  It runs $10 CAD one-way to downtown (about 2 miles) and they get to the resort in a matter of minutes.

 

We booked through skibig3.com and our lift passes (which include free buses to ski resorts) were waiting for us at the hotel lobby.

post #8 of 10

thanks kelly001, with this winter going down the tubes I read your trip report and was excited, so I thought I would look into a trip out west . Canada was always on my mind. thanks for the info

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by dustyfog View Post
 

Sunshine Village was the first place out of upstate NY/MA I ever skied, and was the first ski trip I ever took with my then 5 year old boy, fond memories, looks like a lot has changed there. There was only place to stay on mountain. I was a rank beginner as only started skiing Feb 08, and we went in April, boy had been skiing 2 years already. He had a blast. Dad made the mistake of going up Goat's Eye, deciding to ski/slide down on the mellow Green which seemed hard enough and then weather moved in, I still remember, could see nothing, blizzard and white out just as I began the run from the chairlift and suddenly the ground started moving 'forward' below my skis, totally unnerved, took off skis (mistake but I did'nt know that then) followed barely visible yellow-orange piste markers down lower! That is when I learnt first-hand about vertigo in white-outs!! I thought I was going backwards !!! 

 

You guys did them both Louise and Sunshine, very nice, reads like a great trip!

Thats why the saying is "ski Sunshine when its sunny"!!

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by darent View Post
 

thanks kelly001, with this winter going down the tubes I read your trip report and was excited, so I thought I would look into a trip out west . Canada was always on my mind. thanks for the info

 

Do it!  Just got back from Waterville Valley.  It was a boilerplate festival and 55F with a natural pond skiing area at the bottom.  This is going to be a short season short of a weather miracle very soon.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Trip Reports
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › EpicSki Community › Trip Reports  › Sunshine/Lake Louise Feb 15-19, 2016