With the mountains so close, Calgarians are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to skiing and snowboarding. Whether you’re a devoted park rat, or prefer thigh-burning moguls, there are many choices within just a few hours drive from the city.
Lake Louise Ski Resort
Featuring 139 runs and 9 lifts, Lake Louise Ski Resort is the largest in Alberta. With a huge variety of terrain, skiers and snowboarders of all difficulties can test their skill in some of Canada’s best snow. With stunning scenery in every direction, the chairlift rides are almost as good as the skiing itself. Just a two hour drive from Calgary, Lake Louise Ski Resort is local – and international – favourite. As a speed-freak, one of my favourite runs at Louise is the World Cup Downhill on the front side of the mountain. This very fast run takes you all the way from the top of the Summit Platter to the base of the ski area. Each November, some of the world’s best skiers compete on this run in the Winterstart World Cup.
An enduring popular choice amongst Calgarians is Sunshine Village. Located just 20 minutes west of Banff, Sunshine features terrain fit for all levels, from fresh beginners to seasoned experts. For the daring and advanced riders, Sunshine has world-class terrain, like the appropriately named Delirium Dive. Due to its prime location on the Continental Divide, Sunshine gets more snow than any of the other resorts near Calgary. The three mountains (Goat’s Eye, Lookout and Standish) each present their own challenges to the avid skier or snowboarder. My personal favourite run at Sunshine is Wildfire, a steep blue on Goat’s Eye. A quick detour off the busy Sunshine Coast run, Wildfire is much a quieter and snowier slope. The turns are deep here even in the early season, and you often have them all to yourself.
Although smaller than Lake Louise or Sunshine, Mount Norquay packs no less a punch. The only Banff-area resort to feature night-skiing, Norquay is the perfect hill for a few laps after work. With ample beginner’s areas, and some of the toughest terrain in North America, Norquay has terrain for all levels. Located just a few minutes drive from the centre of Banff, Norquay is the closest of the Banff resorts to Calgary. A must-do for any advanced skier at Norquay is a trip up the North American double chair. The chair provides access to Norquay’s toughest terrain, including the infamous Lope Pine run. This double-black diamond run features almost endless thigh-burning moguls, and it is of the steepest lift-accessible runs I’ve ever done. A successful attempt of Lone Pine is rewarded with sore legs, and a well-deserved sense of accomplishment.
Nakiska Ski Area
The site of alpine events for the ‘88 Winter Olympics, Nakiska is the closest alpine resort to Calgary. Nakiska is located just an hour away from the city in picturesque Kananaskis Country. With runs of all difficulty groomed to corduroy perfection, and the newly-opened Monster Glades, Nakiska’s appeal extends beyond its proximity to Calgary. Whenever I make the trip, I always make sure to take a few turns down the Monster Glades. After a fresh snowfall, there are few places I’d rather be. Darting between the trees, and hitting plenty of natural jumps, Monster Glades is definitely an area of Nakiska you should circle on the route map.