A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canada’s oldest national park offers great skiing and beautiful views. Lauren Taylor finds the Big 3 ski areas of Banff are a welcome relief from crowded European slopes

When our instructor Kenji asks us to check each other’s noses for frostbite, I assume he must be joking. Only Everest climbers get frostbite, right?

But as it turns out, coming home from a skiing trip with two less fingers is an actual possibility. That’s because here, at the top of Lookout Mountain, in the Sunshine Village ski resort of Canada’s Banff National Park, it’s -27.

I’m currently 2,739m above sea level, on the borders of Alberta and British Columbia, snugly wrapped up within an inch of my life. The tops of the Rocky Mountains stretch for miles ahead, and thanks to the strict building rules in this national park, there's not a town, road or car in sight. While North American ski slopes are comparatively more spacious than European ones, the mountains of Sunshine Village seem to be in another league entirely.

There are no chairlift queues, and it’s not unusual to have an entire run to ourselves. Along with Lake Louise and Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village is part of the park’s Big 3 ski areas which, combined, offer 8,000 acres of skiable terrain. But Sunshine Village is the only resort with ski-in ski-out means. It has the highest annual snowfall in the Banff area, and there’s something really refreshing about the intimate, small scale of the resort. There are three mountains to keep us busy here: Goat’s Eye, Standish and Lookout.

After a day on the slopes, there’s nothing better than slipping into a hot tub. With specks of snow falling from a black sky, and the evening temperatures dropping, we dip into the hot water. Within minutes, we’re laughing at the icicles that have formed on our frozen hair, a surreal sensation in the steaming hot bath.

Alberta is well known for its beauty in summer, with emerald lakes tucked between vast mountain ranges covered with pine trees. When snow starts to fall, the mountains around Lake Louise take on an eerie but beautiful quality. After a day on the spacious powdery slopes, we sit down to an impressive selection of local meats at the beautiful Deer Lodge restaurant. We dine on elk, caribou, bison and pink Alberta steak.

While Lake Louise may have good slopes, there are far more options for post-ski activities in Banff town. A long stretch of restaurants, shops and bars is set against a backdrop of snow-tipped mountains, attracting a large number of tourists.

The ten minute-drive to Norquay is the shortest hotel to slope commute from Banff, and although the smallest of the Big 3, it does have a tubing slope, where you can whizz downhill in a rubber ring. There are 36 runs available during peak season, but Norquay lacks the long runs of Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. We leave our skis behind and take a ride to the top of the mountain to admire the views.

Our guide tells us that on Valentine's Day, the chairlift is used for ski speed dating, with singletons queuing up to share the ride amid romantic mountaintops. Admiring the winter wonderland of Banff National Park, I understand why it’s easy to fall in love with this place.


Lauren Taylor was a guest of Canadian Affair (020 7616 9933; www.canadianaffair.com) who offers a sevennight Banff Lake Louise ski trip from £719 per person. Includes flights from London Gatwick to Calgary, airport transfers and accommodation (room only) at the Inns of Banff on selected dates in February 2015. Lift passes cost from £33 per day (based on adult rate).