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Banff Lake Louise

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I'm in the process of planning my big ski trip for the upcoming season.  I was thinking that Banff Lake Louise might be a good choice.   From what I understand the area is made up of three different ski areas.  Where is the best location to stay? 


I generally try to do ski and stay deals.  Do any resorts in this area offer this package with access to all three mountains?  How far are the mountains apart?   Do you need to rent a car or is the shuttle sufficient.  Is early Feb a good time to visit?  I know too many questions any help/suggestions appreciated.  Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 10

The distance from Banff to Lake Louise is about 30 miles along the TransCanada Highway. 


Mount Norquay, the first resort, is just north of the town of Banff on the other side of the Highway.  Norquay's a fun little mountain, just under 200 acres with about a 1700-foot vertical.  While I lived there, a few of my friends took their kids there to learn to ski and had a blast. Norquay is dominated by wide open blues of various difficulty and easier blacks.


Just a few miles up the TransCanada Highway from Banff toward Lake Louise is Sunshine Village, a much larger resort of about 3300 acres and a 3500-foot vertical on the south side of the highway. I do not particularly care for Sunshine ... its wide-open, wind-swept face yields frequently icy conditions, the mountain has large areas of very flat terrain, and when it's snowy and/or visibility is low, your depth perception decreases to almost nothing.  Combine this with some abrupt drops off the flat terrain, and the mountain can be downright dangerous and miserable.  On a sunny day after a dump, it can be great ... but Lake Louise is even better.


About 20-25 miles NW up the highway from Sunshine is Lake Louise, 4200 acres and a 3200-foot vertical, and it has by far the most to offer to skiers of all abilities, from novice to the most expert chute rippers. For me, LL is among North America's premier ski areas.


Where to stay is largely a function of your budget ... if money is no object, then by all means consider staying at either the Fairmont Lake Louise which is absolutely stunning on the shores of the Lake with a magnificent palatial view of the glacier, or at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff proper ... both are amazing 5-star hotels. I don't know anything about ski-in/ski-out options at any of the three resorts as I always stayed at one of these two hotels. I prefer having control over my transportation so would rent a vehicle at the Calgary airport for driving to/from Banff as well as between mountain and hotels, but both hotels offered shuttle service to/from the mountain when I was there ... you would need to check on shuttle availability from the Calgary airport to either hotel versus renting a car as I never looked into this.


If night life and budget are of greater concern, there are cheaper options in the town of Banff, which can be a really fun town, especially on the weekends.


There is both a free shuttle between all 3 resorts and a tri-area lift ticket.  I lived in Calgary so never did a week-long type ski trip, but if I had and budget wasn't a major concern, I would have flown into Calgary, rented a car and driven up to Banff and spent 1-2 days skiing Norquay while staying at the Banff Springs, then moved up to the Fairmont Lake Louise to ski LL for the remaining 3-4 days ... I would bypass Sunshine.

post #3 of 10

I'd suggest you check out Their trips tend to be pretty well-priced, and they have a few options that involve a 2 resort trip.  


I've only been to Lake Louise once, but I loved it. The one downside of the resorts on that side of the mountains is that it can get very, very, very cold. It's not always cold, so you can luck out with great weather. But the chance is there. That's the main reason I haven't been more often. I ski cold at home, so when I vacay, I want better weather. For that, I love the interior of BC. 



post #4 of 10 is a partnership of the areas that has package deals as I'm sure most of the tour companies do.


Banff is the actual townsite you want to stay in. Norquay (visible from Banff) is a short drive up a switchback road. Sunshine is a 20ish minute drive and Lake Louise is about 50km/45minutes away. You can stay in Lake Louise but Banff has a lot more going on.

post #5 of 10
Originally Posted by evaino View Post


The one downside of the resorts on that side of the mountains is that it can get very, very, very cold. It's not always cold, so you can luck out with great weather. But the chance is there.  


+1.  It can get EXTREMELY cold at these resorts.  It can also be quite pleasant and even warm.  So you need to prepare for both extremes and pack accordingly.

post #6 of 10

Sunshine is the only Banff resort offering ski in/ski out accommodation, as it was grandfathered in before outlawed national parks.  That said, I sort of agree with the other posters who said Sunshine is their least favourite.  It's big, a bit closer to Banff and Calgary than Lake Louise and can have some great snow, but much of it is above the treeline and it can get very windswept and is prone to flat and low light.  If you're looking to get your extreme on, it offers lift-serviced steeps and chutes in Delirium Dive, but you will need avy gear.  I've had great days and bad days at Sunshine, mostly dependent on weather, as it can get pretty miserable in low light and offers fewer runs below the treeline than the other resorts in the area. 


Louise has great terrain, with a great mix.  You can cruise groomers all day if you want or you can get rad in the back bowls.  My main beefs with Louise are its snow and the greater distance from Banff and Calgary.  If it's snowing and visibility is crap, I'd head here, you can stay below the treeline and not worry about skiing off a cliff due to visibility. 


Norquay is one of my favourite ski hills.  It's definitely the smallest of the bunch, but is the closest to Banff and is much less crowded than Sunshine or Louise.  Much of its terrain is more suited to cruising groomers, but the North American chair offers some of the best fall line skiing in the Rockies.  If you like bumps, check it out as they are big and well formed.  I've had some of my best ski days here. 


To answer your questions, I'd recommend staying in Banff over LL.  Banff is definitely a real town, while LL is more of a tourist destination with a small strip mall.  Hotels and nightlife abound.  Lots to do if you're not skiing: good shopping, spas, the Banff Hot Springs.  I spent a night in the Banff Caribou Lodge last year and found it to be okay.  It wasn't anything spectacular, but clean and fairly reasonably priced. 


I'm not terribly familiar with the Banff hotel shuttles as I generally drive in from Calgary, but I have taken the Calgary shuttles before and found them to be pretty good.  I have heard the shuttle service is pretty good and hotels run shuttles regularly to all the Big 3.  You certainly won't need a car to get around Banff - most of the interesting stuff is clustered around Banff Avenue.  If you plan on skiing Kicking Horse in Golden (about 2 hours from Banff) a car would be necessary. 


I think early Feb would be a good time to visit.  It will be cold, but not as cold as Dec or Jan, with an average daily high of 0C, low of -12C.  Local tip: avoid the third week and weekend of Feb, as the combination of Calgary Teachers' Convention and Alberta Family Day makes for a 5 day weekend.  Some universities are on mid-term break then too, so it will be hectic.  The first two weeks will be okay though. 

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies and helpful information.

post #8 of 10

If you're looking for an all-around vacation with no rental car, then the advice above is great: stay in banff. The nice thing about the ski n stay packages there are that your lift tickets are good for all 3 mountains so you can try out all three if you want.


If you want to rent a car and are up for a longer haul, look at doing a few days at Kicking Horse. Its only an hour or so past Louise and well worth the drive!

post #9 of 10

I usually stay in Banff. Sometimes I rent a car; other times not. Depends on whether I have business in Calgary. Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs Hotel are very nice but pricey (as is the Palliser in Calgary) - though I'd argue that they're worth every penny, but for less extravagant budgets, there are a lot of great deals in and around Banff.  If you don't want to bother with a car, you can take a shuttle into town from the Calagary Airport. Banff is quite walkable, and if you are staying further out from downtown, there is a good shuttle bus around town. The shuttles to the ski areas are convenient. Sunsine is my favorite, Lake Louise second, Nakiska third and Norquay brings up the rear.

post #10 of 10

I too so want to explore banff, lake louise and then take the 3.5 hr drive north along the stunning icefield parkway to Jasper and ski that hill (marmot?)..I have only been once to Jasper back 5 yrs ago and it is such a charming mtn town (vs Banff which is gorgeous but built up like Whistler to be on an international 'ski resort' scale...but still a great place)....


I also did a query on this in the 'trips/resorts link' and it was suggested to hit this area in March for some of the best skiing and also lower off season you'll also find some places to stay....also look into B&B (esp in Jasper: almost every one who owns a home does a B&B, lol)

on that B&B link you'll also be directed to other B&B orgs, too, in the areas...just good to keep options and more choices open, imo. this year I just might skip the company trip to Big White (Kelowna) and save it for a 10-12 day gig to include Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper....would be going by myself so am looking for a ski club or group to have some fun with both on the hill and of course off via apres 'cheers' on this last note if someone does know of any clubs or such for singles ( 40+ age) it'd be greatly appreciated.

Edited by canali - 11/18/10 at 2:28pm
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