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Canada Skiing - Advice Please...

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hello everyone,

Newbie here, so please be gentle. Rather longish post… lots of questions…sorry. Any help greatly appreciated.

My wife and I have been on a single week long skiing holiday to France in early 2002. We live in the UK. We are planning on going again on a skiing holiday again this coming winter. Our work commitments mean that we must go in December, and return before the New Year. We can spare about 11 days at most (including travel time).

This time we thought of going to Canada given the guaranteed snow – is this a fair assumption?

Of the following places in Canada, which would you recommend (bearing in mind that we are intermediaries)?
Fernie
Jasper
Banff

There is a good deal on Jasper - how far is Jasper from Calgary?

We found an 11 day package – if we ski only for say 6 or so days, what other stuff could we do in these places?
post #2 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruzing View Post


This time we thought of going to Canada given the guaranteed snow – is this a fair assumption?
for intermediate terrain I'd say yes
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruzing View Post
Of the following places in Canada, which would you recommend (bearing in mind that we are intermediaries)?
Fernie
Jasper
Banff
banff, specifically sunshine village, for snow and intermediate terrain
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruzing View Post
There is a good deal on Jasper - how far is Jasper from Calgary?
about 450 km, very beautiful drive but can be kind of a tough drive in winter/nighttime conditions
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruzing View Post
We found an 11 day package – if we ski only for say 6 or so days, what other stuff could we do in these places?
banff would probably have the most entertainment options of the places youve mentioned,, depends what you like,,, i think ice skating/hockey games on lake louise are pretty awesome on a clear night,, you could try dog sledding,, johnson canyon, i guess theres shopping and movies too,, i should try those sometime...
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmyzee53 View Post
banff would probably have the most entertainment options of the places youve mentioned,, depends what you like,,, i think ice skating/hockey games on lake louise are pretty awesome on a clear night,, you could try dog sledding,, johnson canyon, i guess theres shopping and movies too,, i should try those sometime...
Thanks Jimmyzee.

We we like nature related activities/events/sightseeing. Would you say that Jasper has more 'nature' related things to do compared to other places, because it is more remote?

Also, we have never been to Canada before.

Yes, sure we would like to try out ice skating - never done it before.

Not really interested in going to Movies, shopping etc - might as well do this type of thing closer to home.
post #4 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruzing View Post
Thanks Jimmyzee.

We we like nature related activities/events/sightseeing. Would you say that Jasper has more 'nature' related things to do compared to other places, because it is more remote?.
I don't think you'll have much trouble finding nature or remote places in western Canada ,,The area around Fernie is a lot more developed because its not in a park but Jasper and Banff are both completely surrounded by nature.. Jasper is alot quieter and a lot smaller/less tourists than Banff though, especially in winter..Lack of snow can be an issue early season at the Jasper ski hill.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruzing View Post
Also, we have never been to Canada before.??
where are you coming from?
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruzing View Post
Yes, sure we would like to try out ice skating - never done it before.
Not really interested in going to Movies, shopping etc - might as well do this type of thing closer to home.
There are lots of other activities,, Maligne canyon ice walk in Jasper is amazing. Tram's in Banff and Jasper. x-country skiing (is that allowed on epic ) snowshoeing. (maybe a night or two at a backcountry lodge like Skoki or Sundance) Caveing (spelunking: )..Parks Museum in Banff is good for a couple hours. I'm sure some others could add some more ideas.. (and the Jasper/Banff hospitality association should start paying me )
post #5 of 20
He's in the UK, from the first post.
post #6 of 20
Are you planning on renting a car? That would dictate a lot for your trip, and is probably the best bet seeing that your equally interested in the seeing different scenery.

In terms of skiing I am biased towards Lake Louise right off the bat, so take this with a grain of salt. That said I have ahd some fantastic days at Sunshine, but also some super sketchy days where I've been secluded to a single lift with only intermediate terrain.

Sunshine
Pros:
- More snow, better quality snow most of the time
- You can stay right on the hill (But it's a gondola ride down to the car if you want to go into town, etc.
- More advanced terrain (Lake Louise has more expert terrain IMO)
- Phenomenal on sunny days

Cons:
- More exposed, can be windy, cold, no visibility (Sticks you in one part of the mountain all day if you want to be warmer and have visibility)
- More crowded, longer liftlines IMO
-

Lake Louise:
Pros:
- More consistent conditions
- More terrain to ski in bad conditions, all of the intermediate terrain is defined runs with good tree lines to give you visibility and keep you safe from the wind
- Lifts are less exposed (In tall trees), you stay warmer on the way up
- Better Scenery
- Lodges are slightly less crowded, there is an extra lodge on the backside
- More variety, more intermediate terrain
- Gondola accesses good intermediate terrain (Cold days again)

Cons:
- Less powder...

I guess I'd sum it up that Lake Louise is a safer bet in bad weather. You'll have a great day at either hill when conditions are good, but I could see a potentially disappointing trip at Sunshine with bad weather, unless you want to spend more time in your room/in the lodge. Best bet is to try and ski both for a few days each, that way you can go wherever conditions are forecasted to be best, or have the flexibility to choose whichever hill you prefer.

Other Considerations:
Kicking Horse:
Not good in early season, not much intermediate terrain, more highly developed base area more like Whistler or Aspen. Scenery is nothing compared to in the National Parks. This is one of my favourite hills later in the year, they have amazing snow and terrain, but it doesn't not meet your needs at all, not much to see in the are either.

Fernie:
Hit or miss. Can be 3 feet of powder, or a vertical skating rink (I had both last season, ironically at the same time, there was so much snow that good terrain was closed for avy danger, and it rained on the groomed runs). Scenery is decent, but nothing special, boring drive from Calgary, and not much special in town or in the area. Probably not worth it unless you're powder junkies.

Jasper/Marmot Basin:
I've never skied there so I can't comment on conditions, but the area is incredible for nature and scenery. Less crowded than Banff, smaller, less developed, more of a quaint feel. Beautiful drive up.

Hope that helps, again it's all my opinion, but it should be a good starting point. Feel free to ask anymore specific questions, I'd be happy to distract myself from studying for my midterms to write another long, detailed post :.

Other good thing to know would be what is your budget...most expensive lodges, mid-range, cheapest?
post #7 of 20
Is there any specific reason you haven't included Whistler? I'm also from the UK but I live here now (between Vancouver & Whistler) ... I know it's a bit further to fly (about 2hrs from Calgary) but the commute to Whistler is not too bad ... about 2.5hrs. It doesn't get as cold here as interior BC & Alberta. The drawback is that it can rain in the village (no knowing what the weather will decide to do) but also it can dump big time on the hill.
The scenery anywhere in BC or Alberta in the ski areas is amazing ... if you imagine a much bigger version of Scotland with trees far higher up the mountains. Personally I would say you can't go wrong by giving anywhere in Western Canada a go, although as some have indicated a few places are aimed more at the advanced level of skier.

You could try looking at www.canadianaffiar.com and see what deals they have (they fiy from UK to Calgary & Vancouver). There's also www.flyzoom.com if you want to book flights seperately.

One last thing ... be prepared not to want to go home
post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruzing View Post
Thanks Jimmyzee.

We we like nature related activities/events/sightseeing. Would you say that Jasper has more 'nature' related things to do compared to other places, because it is more remote?

Also, we have never been to Canada before.

Yes, sure we would like to try out ice skating - never done it before.

Not really interested in going to Movies, shopping etc - might as well do this type of thing closer to home.
Jasper is a great little town. During winter mon ths the wildlife (Elk & Mountainsheep) come right down to the valley and the town. It is an amazing sight to wake up and have 20 elk grazing between you and you're car. The skiing at Marmot Basin is good.

Banff has more to do than Jasper (shopping nightlife), and also has quite a bit of wildlife viwing. Additionally, Lake Louise ski area is only 40 minutes from Banff. If there is good early snow you could experience Lake Louise in addition to Sunshine Village. Sunshine is a better ski mountain than Marmot Basin in Jasper.

About 10 years ago when I first took up skiing I took my wife to Banff/Jasper for an 8 day ski vacation. At the time we were both intermediates and the vacation was perfect.

You might consider spending 3 nights in Jasper if you can arrange it. Skican.com usually offers a split trip for a reasonable rate. The drive through the columbia icefields between Banff and Jasper is one of the most beautiful drives anywhere.
post #9 of 20
Banff is one of the coolest (ski) towns you will find. If you don't mind driving in the morning to the mountains you make Banff homebase and hit Sunshine and Lake Louise...etc...
post #10 of 20
Canada has some great skiing, but I think the higher altitude mountains of the Western U.S. (Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana) have much more reliable snow conditions than the Canadian Rockies. You would think Canada = north = snow. This, sadly is not the case. Canda = lower altitude= sometimes lots of snow and sometimes other forms of precptitation that are not nearly so pleasant to ski in.
post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by cruzing View Post
Thanks Jimmyzee.

Also, we have never been to Canada before.
I'm sure this isn't going to fit in with your plans at all, but one of the greatest non-skiing non-wilderness things you can do in North America is spend time in Montreal.

Sadly, it's a rather long commute from BC and Alberta.

And Montreal isn't the kind of place you can take in in a day or two.

Shame to go all that way and miss it. You'll just have to make another trip in the spring or summer.

,
post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
Canada has some great skiing, but I think the higher altitude mountains of the Western U.S. (Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana) have much more reliable snow conditions than the Canadian Rockies. You would think Canada = north = snow. This, sadly is not the case. Canda = lower altitude= sometimes lots of snow and sometimes other forms of precptitation that are not nearly so pleasant to ski in.
What an odd statement to make.

If you mean Whistler specifically (and I have to assume you do) rain down low is the price you pay for skiing at the warmest major resort.
post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
Canada has some great skiing, but I think the higher altitude mountains of the Western U.S. (Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana) have much more reliable snow conditions than the Canadian Rockies. You would think Canada = north = snow. This, sadly is not the case. Canda = lower altitude= sometimes lots of snow and sometimes other forms of precptitation that are not nearly so pleasant to ski in.
That's funny, out of 36 years I don't remember a single one without snow in the mountains.
Some of the lower elev. resorts in BC, Fernie as an example, can see some rain in the winter, but it's far more likely to be 2 or 3 feet of snow instead.
Banff and Jasper, in particular, doesn't tend to get rain over the winter - it's typically way to freakin' cold.

With six ski days and 5 "other" days, I'd say Banff would be a pretty safe bet.
post #14 of 20
For a first trip to Canada, especially with the wife, I can reccomend Banff/Lake Louise. Stay in Banff if you want to anchor in a small to midsize "town" and just be in one place (make sure you try the calamari appetizer at the Saltlik). Lake Louise, 35 miles west, is much smaller and more like a large "junction", yet quite beautiful. You should consider a couple nites at the Chateau Lake Louise. That is a great experience if you get a glacier facing larger room at a decent rate - best chance if you're there on a low booked week and stay there non-weekend (make sure you sample the outstanding dining and wine selection at the Post Hotel - also has all good rooms if stay). A daytrip to Jasper, north from Louise, is a worthy scenic trip - I've encountered large herds of bighorn sheep on that route. The skiing is more than adequate at Louise and Sunshine and the snow is always dry that time of year. Still, the most essential reason to go is the incredible beauty of the entire area. You're wife will love you for it. Mine did and we married at the Chateau last winter.
post #15 of 20

Early start to season: Norquay opens

The Calgary Herald reported today that conditions looked excellent for early openings on a number of Banff and local area hills. Norquay (the smallest of the Banff hills) is already open as of November 1st, it's earliest opening in history, and more than 5 weeks ahead of schedule. Other hills are considering opening before their scheduled dates. Cold temperatures and a 50cm snowfall over the past week have helped. Sunshine and Lake Louise are on target for November 10th.
post #16 of 20
Annual snowfall totals at Lake Louise/Sunshine are not that high. I've skied them several times and it's been as good as Singel describes, but never earlier than Jan. 26. One of the reasons it's as good as it is with that little snowfall is that it's very cold by U.S. or European Alps standards. So I'm a bit skeptical of Christmas. You have a fair chance of sketchy coverage and/or -25C temperatures. Jasper is farther north and even colder and drier than the Banff areas.

My first reaction would be to say Fernie is better, but it isn't for the other things you want.

I would say Whistler first choice and Big White second in western Canada for December. Warning: Whistler prices are sky high Dec. 26 to New Year's.

crank is partially correct. There are several U.S. areas that would also be more reliable in December than the Alberta Rockies. I analyze them here: http://www.skiingmag.com/skiing/trav...328638,00.html
post #17 of 20
Jasper is ok ,but it's a long trip,about 6 hrs and you go thru Banff/ Lake Louise to get there.I'll give you two suggestions which will give you exposure to some great skiing and snow.Fly to Calgary,rent a vehicle and head to Fernie which is about 3 hrs away.Spend a couple of days there,Great little town,great terrain for all kinds and loads of snow.
After Fernie,you've got two options:If you are an advanced skier,head to Kicking Horse,near Golden BC.It is full of steep,bumps and snow in various combinations.After 2 or 3 days there head to Lake Louise.One of the largest ski areas in Canada,awesome skiing,very scenic,and depending on the time of year the snow is good as well.Check out Chateau Lake Louise,stay there,and you can skate on the lake.
If you are more of an intermediate,head to Panorama after Fernie.More intermediate terrain,but not a bad place to ski,especially if Taynton Bowl is open.After Panorama,head to Sunshine Village,Usually great snow,and they are opening more challenging terrain. Spend a night or two in Banff if you can.Check out the hot springs.Night skiing at Mt Norquay,if your legs are up to it.
It's a beautiful part of the world,and you won't be disappointed by the skiing.

Have a great trip!!
post #18 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by OldSchool View Post
What an odd statement to make.

If you mean Whistler specifically (and I have to assume you do) rain down low is the price you pay for skiing at the warmest major resort.
By the way, the previous poster referred to the Canadian Rockies so I assume they meant the likes of Lake Louise as Whistler is no where near the Rockies ... it's in the Coastal Mountains. But the comment about rain down low is indeed what you get for not (usually) having the baltic temperatures of interior BC & Alberta. It doesn't bother me as I consider it part of the whole mountain experience ... rain up high is another matter though as not a fan of skiing with soaking gloves : Whistler elephant snot has to be experienced once in your ski career though ... after that any type of snow is easy

I'm not sure I would recommend December as a month for skiing if you want pleasant conditions as it is supposedly when winter is due to really kick in. Having said that who knows what the weather will do ... in February in Whistler I've experienced everything from -30C to +23C (not in the same year I have to say).
post #19 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
Canada has some great skiing, but I think the higher altitude mountains of the Western U.S. (Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana) have much more reliable snow conditions than the Canadian Rockies. You would think Canada = north = snow. This, sadly is not the case. Canda = lower altitude= sometimes lots of snow and sometimes other forms of precptitation that are not nearly so pleasant to ski in.
Average annual snowfall at Snowbird, Utah: 38 feet
Average annual snowfall at Sunshine Village, Banff Alberta: 33 feet
Average annual snowfall at Whistler, BC: 30 feet
Average annual snowfall at Bridger Bowl, Montana: 29 feet
Average annual snowfall at Vail, Colorado: 28 feet

Some of the driest snow on the planet is in the Banff region. The humidity is extremely low, to the point where it's a good idea to ski with a small bottle of saline (if you wear contacts) so you can keep your eyes hydrated to prevent the lenses from popping out.
post #20 of 20
Life long Alberta skier here.

Alberta is a real crap shoot for good (big base and powder days) snow conditions in December. Your safest bet is Sunshine Village. That place is freakish world on it's own. Always gets enough snow to allow good skiing. but it can get old really quick (say after 3-4 days) for a intermediate not willing to wander and search the good stuff.

Lake Louise, well in my opinion you are probably more likely to get well groomed hard pack to icy main runs most of the time.... but when it does snow it can't be beat.

Jasper (Marmot Basin) is usually skiable in December but needs a good start to the season (excuse me whilst I pray to the snow god) and a few good stroms to make December in Jasper really epic. FEB and March are great in Jasper.

Panorama is usually skiable in December (spent 8 days there last xmas) kept me happy but was dissapointed in the snow fall (next to nill) and a good chunk of the hill was not open (at least the good stuff)

If you start in Banff, don't book anything solid (if you can) get a 4 X 4 and are willing to drive max 6 hours you can follow the snow or the best conditions and have a trip of a life time. Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Kicking Horse, Panorama, Fernie, Marmot Basin, Big White (might be more than 6 hr) and interior BC is all a quick drive away from Banff.

There isn't much doubt that based solely in banff you (as an intermediate) will have more skiing than you can likely handle. Chances are good you will get at least one or more powder days at Sunshine Village.

Granted the US high elevation resorts are going to have more December snow, but they will also have huge crowds, AB hills are probably the same on their busiest day as most US resorts on their slow days. I like to ski not stand in line. I might be wrong on this, but I have seen parking lot pictures along with enough web cams to know we are lucky about our volumes here. DOH did I let the cat out of the bag?
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