The Canadian Rocky Mountains are known for some of the best ski resorts and mountains in North America. If you get the chance, I definitely recommend it!
Personally I am not a world class skier, but I enjoy a day on the slopes. Therefore, this blog gives a review of the conditions as a casual skier, not as a pro.
We went on a ski trip with a friend visiting from Europe. She’s a snowboarder, so of course we had to rent a board for her at the U of C Outdoor Centre. The board, boots and helmet were $40 altogether, per day, one of the cheapest options in Calgary for gear rentals (and no, you do not need to be a student to rent from the Outdoor Centre).
We stayed for two nights in Banff to make a trip out of the experience, although from Calgary you don’t need to stay any closer to the mountains to get to the hills in the morning. Our first day was spent picking up gear and driving into the mountains. We stopped at Two Jack Lake after entering the park. Remember to buy a park pass before entering Banff (AMA has deals on the annual pass if you live in Canada). We ate lunch by the lake and went for a walk around it, though the snow impeded our way somewhat and we had to turn back.
We drove into the Banff townsite after our lake excursion. We stayed at the Best Western which is just off Main Street, but there are countless hotel options in Banff and you can often find good deals if you keep an eye out!
We walked through main street and did some window shopping before dinner. We ate at the Elk & Oarsmen on main street, a pub on the second floor. The place had most of the usual pub eats, with some vegetarian options (though not an extensive plant-based menu). We then returned to the hotel for an early night to prepare for a day on the slopes.
We picked up Subway before heading to the hill to avoid the ski lodge prices, but you could always pack food from home for the cheapest (and healthiest) option.
We arrived at Sunshine just after nine, and got ourselves ready from the trunk of my car. If you haven’t been to Sunshine before, it is a little different from other hills in the Rockies as you take a gondola up to the base of the mountains. Sunshine has three main mountains with maintained runs for skiers, Goat’s Eye Mountain as the first stop on the gondola, and Lookout Mountain and Mount Standish at the top. There are plenty of runs for all levels, and it would certainly take multiple days to explore all the mountains thoroughly.
We spent the day at the top of the gondola, in the area known as the Sunshine Bowl with Lookout and Mt. Standish creating a circular skiing area.
We got very lucky with our weather for a January ski day. The sun was out for the morning and through lunch. Some clouds rolled through in the afternoon, which isn’t uncommon for Sunshine – in fact there are signs in case of limited visibility to help skiers back down if the weather turns unexpectedly.
We skied until the lifts were near closing, then began the ski out with hopes of missing the traffic. We missed taking the Jackrabbit Quad (near Goat’s Eye), on the way down which would have helped us avoid some of the flat sections (which were especially frustrating for snowboarders). We made it to the bottom and the sun was shining again making the mountains around us look stunning on our way down.
That evening we went to Masala off of Wolf street for Indian food. The food was delicious with large portion sizes of the curries. We then went back to the hotel to relax and drink tea.
On our third day, we stopped in Canmore for the afternoon on our way back to the city. If you not from the area, you may find the town quite recognizable from The Last of Us as they filmed there (as well as many other areas in Alberta). We browsed the Canmore tea shop and left with some Earl Grey. After browsing some of the other shops on and near main street, we grabbed lunch from Graze, before picking up drinks at Beamer’s for the ride home.