BEAUTY AND THE STEEPS
Beauty in life takes many forms… so many of them evident in the ski areas of Banff, Alberta. Located 1.5 hours from Calgary, Banff—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—lies within Canada's first National Park, and offers a mix of pristine wilderness, astounding vistas, and diverse, world-class skiing.
Some things never change. Like the mesmerizing sound powder makes as it blows past your ears. Or the coolness of a frosted beer on an après-ski patio. Or, for ski travellers, the beauty of every single sight you lay your eyes on in a place like Banff, Alberta.
That Banff beauty is in all its glory by the time the men’s and women’s World Cup circuits arrive at Lake Louise at the start of December each season. The Lake Louise World Cup—known as Winterstart—signifies the start of ski racing in North America, just as the Soelden World Cup launches the season for Europeans each October.
Indeed, the race holds a special place in Nordica’s heart, as Nordica athlete Dominik Paris scored a World Cup victory on its slopes in 2013. “I pushed very hard at the top,” Paris told The Canadian Press. “I tried to go fast and strike the line down. At the finish, I skied very good.”
But you don’t have to be a World Cup racer—or even an expert skier—to enjoy the beauty of the three Banff ski areas. Here’s how to capture the best views at Lake Louise, Norquay, and Sunshine Village:
LAKE LOUISE SKI AREA
For a beautiful view, stand still atop the Top of the World Express at Lake Louise. Ignore the rustle of skiers sliding past. Block out the whir of camera shutters as visitors from the UK, Japan and Germany snap yet more pictures. Simply stare at the view— the Valley of Ten Peaks—which, on a bluebird day, glistens like a cache of Swarovski crystals. If you go, warm up on the long, smooth, well-groomed trails on the Front Face of Lake Louise, annual home of the Bombardier Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup. For powder shots, dip your skis into Louise’s infamous Back Bowls and surrounding steeps. Then skip through the glades and gullies of Louise’s pretty Larch Area. If you’re relatively new to skiing, fear not: there’s a green run down from every lift.
For a beautiful view, steer your skis leftward from the top of the Goat’s Eye chair at Sunshine Village. Slip through a smattering of evergreen trees; let your skis bounce over pockets of powdery moguls. Edge hard on the steeps and turn quickly through the gullies. Everywhere you look—guaranteed—will be wild, Canadian Rockies-style beauty. If you go to Banff, you cannot miss an opportunity to ski every bit of this wide-open mountain. Much of it above treeline, Sunshine offers some of the wildest terrain in the Canadian West (Delirium Dive, Silver City, Wild West), and yet, it’s a novice and intermediate skier’s paradise, with gentle, high alpine pistes and a snow school that caters to first-timers.
For a beautiful view…and a sense of where it all began, wind your way up the twisting mountain road that leads to Mt. Norquay, click into your skis and board the North American chair. Look left, look right— the view of both Banff and the Bow Valley is as postcard-perfect as it was in 1926 when the first skiers cut impossible trails into this steep, feral mountain. Keep in mind, Norquay is an easy 10-minute shuttle ride from Banff and has lots that is family friendly, including an expanded Tube Park and a new Kidz Zone made specially for your little ones.