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!