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My Take on Banff and Whistler

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
We got back from a ski trip a couple weeks ago where we went to Banff for three days and then flew over to Vancouver and did Whistler for a couple days. My wife and I both preferred Banff/Lake Louise to Whistler.

The scenery was absolutely stunning at both Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. We preferred Sunshine because the snow was far better than Lake Louise. Louise was still making snow when we were there and most of the mountain was pretty crusty. We actually thought the views were better at Sunshine even though Ski Magazine lists Louise as tops. We rarely ever had to wait in a lift line at either resort in Banff. When we'd go to the less popular areas, we'd have the mountain seemingly all to ourselves.

Whistler was also very beautiful, though it paled in comparison to Banff. I was afraid that the crowds would be a pain, but I guess the mountain's so big, that it's not really an issue. While it was more crowded than Banff/Louise, it was definitely tolerable. The snow quality was strange. The upper halves of both mountains had okay snow, but the bottom half was sheer ice in spots. We stayed in Creekside and I was determined to ski out on my last run. Because of the ice, that was just way too much effort and wasn't very enjoyable.

The lodge food at both places didn't taste like lodge food - it was much better and the prices weren't all that bad.

Banff is definitely the better value between the two for lodging. You can't stay slopeside in Banff, but lodging costs about a third what you pay in Whistler. Both resorts are within an hour of Banff townsite and the drive to the slopes go by quickly because of the views on the way.

Bottom line for me is that when we return to Canada to go skiing, it'll definitely be to Banff (although I wouldn't mind trying something in the interior of BC).
post #2 of 10
Thanks for the great information in your post. I'm going to Banff for the first time ever this March, so really excited to see this great review of the place!
post #3 of 10
Can you let us know what was the name of the lodge and how much they charged per night? Also, did you rent a car? What were the road conditions? Some were in favor of renting an SUV to an Economy Class car. What do yo think???


PS: I'm going up there at the end of this month for a week and ... I c a n n o t wait [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]


[ February 05, 2003, 09:31 AM: Message edited by: Euclide ]
post #4 of 10
I just returned from a week in Banff, Jan. 25-Feb. 1. Don't worry about the roads they don't have any snow.

We skied Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Kicking Horse. All three areas are nice but the snow is thin. Bring your rock skis.

Sunshine has inconsistent snow above tree line because of the snow farming. They do have some really nice short runs off of the Strawberry and Standish chairs. Most of the lower runs are holding the snow better.

Louise had some good long cruisers on the south face but most of the blacks are closed. On the backside the coverage is thin and I personally exposed some rock in Paradise Bowl.

Kicking Horse has excellent snow at elevation but that limits you to the stairway to heaven lift. Even with the one lift still the best of the three areas. Also the furthest from Banff, check the weather before making the drive.

I hope that they get more snow before you take your trip. Still plenty of fun to be had on the snow they have. I can't wait to get back in a good year.
post #5 of 10
And here I thought I was a heretic! I like Sunshine better than Whistler, in some ways.
Check out the Ptarmigan Inn in Banff. Inexpensive and nice!
post #6 of 10
Is it possible that people are waking up to the fact that a little of the 'right' kind of snow is far better than having to bring a garbage bag for your 'ski-out raincoat'??
post #7 of 10
Maybe we should all just keep quiet!
post #8 of 10
Having worked in both areas, Banff and Whistler/Blackomb, and now living in Whistler I certainly agree with Roger that Banff is considerably cheaper.

I also agree that sometimes Banff has better snow than Whistler. Whistler, however, from halfway up is equal or better because of the greater amount of precipitation. Better chance for light powder in Banff, better chance for powder in Whistler.

As far as variety Whistler is much better for vertical and variety of terrain. Runs at Sunshine start at the top of a 20 minute Gondola ride. Lake Louise's vertical is good but has nowhere near the variety of Whistler. Whistler literally has runs to challenge everyone and great access to the backcountry.

Access is much better in Whistler. Most accomodation is within minutes of the lifts. Often I am 20 - 25 minutes from home to peak. Sunshine has a long sometimes very cold ride up a Gondola to the base. Lake Louise is a 30+ minute drive to parking lot from Banff depending on weather and limited and isolated accomodation at Louise. Norquay does not seem attractive to tourists and is not really an intermediate mountain as it is quite steep.

For non-skiers, there more to do in Whistler and Vancouver is a more interesting city than Calgary, although I'm sure some Calgary residents may disagree.

Whistler seems to be the place many seem to love to hate. perhaps because of all the hype and the not always ideal conditions. I can understand why people not from either resort would prefer Banff but for those that know the mountain well, in my opinion Whistler/Blackomb is superior.
post #9 of 10
Not much snow??? It's all relative. Sitting here on a tropical Sydney summer's day I'm reminded of the comments of locals at Banff a couple of seasons ago about there being too little snow. On a goood day a lot of our local hills are lucky to have the equivalent of the frost scrappings from your fridge's freezer as cover. You can imagine that on the non-powder days it's pretty slim pickings!

Both Lake Louise and Sunshine have a lot to offer, I wouldn't worry too much about the gondola trip time, I use it to make sure the kids are all zippered and velcroed. Douglas FIr has reasonably priced condos, it's not in the centre of town but on a bus shuttle and the resorts pick up frequently thru the day. Hire a SUV and go where you want when you want.

If you want too much snow go to Fernie over in BC, yes you can have too much snow when 1/2 of the resort is closed over 2-3 weeks because it didn't stop snowing! But that 1/2 open sure was great!
Ahh, I can't wait to return next year!!
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Euclide wrote:

Can you let us know what was the name of the lodge and how much they charged per night? Also, did you rent a car? What were the road conditions? Some were in favor of renting an SUV to an Economy Class car. What do yo think???


I was an idiot - I booked us at the Residence Inn in Canmore. The hotel was very nice and secluded, probably nicer than most in Banff. Canmore's pretty boring, though, and it adds an extra 15 minutes or so to your drive to the slopes. The rate we paid in Canmore was $194CAD per night and included two tri-area lift tickets.

The Caribou Lodge and Brewster's Mountain Lodge in Banff looked like decent options for roughly the same price. I would suggest looking at - that's a consortium of the three ski areas and the lodging/lift ticket deals are very good. They post the package prices online.

We rented a full size car in Calgary. Most of the roads were either bone dry or well plowed. Rental cars seem dirt cheap anywhere in Canada compared to the US.

Have fun up there. I wish I could make it back!
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