Category: Expert Guides

When’s the best time to ski Canada?

The ski season in Canada runs from late November through to mid-April  – this does vary depending on resort – but when is the best time to ski Canada?

This is a question we get asked a lot and it does depend not only on which resort you would like to visit but also your circumstances.

Let’s say you are tied to school holidays for example, this limits you to three main options; Christmas, February half-term and Easter.

Christmas Parade on Banff Avenue

Christmas in Canada is quite magical; waking up in a winter wonderland surrounded by mountains and snow is just about perfect but be aware that prices can be higher and space is at a premium. February half term can also get busy as there is usually only a one week window which means accommodation and flights can fill up fast!

This leaves Easter which if you’re travelling as a family is ideal; places such as Whistler and Banff have great conditions in Easter with the weather being that little bit warmer but still with great conditions. Additionally, we are seeing more and more resorts extending the season to incorporate the Easter Holidays due to the demand of people wanting to travel at Easter. One of the main reasons these resorts close earlier is that the locals get bored of skiing and want the golf courses to open!

The other thing (and don’t go telling everyone) is that prices in the resorts tend to be lower at Easter compared to the other school holidays.

Easter 2019, Whistler

If you are not looking to travel with children, or indeed are a teacher, then the first thing to say is obviously avoid the school holidays! It might sound obvious but also avoiding North American spring break in mid-March is a good idea too, unless you want to join in with the college kids partying of course!

If you can book early, good deals can be had mid-January into early February when the Christmas crowds have cleared and it is before the half term holidays. We have noticed that year on year this period seems to get booked earlier and earlier so is always a good idea to get in early if you want to travel in January.

The other option is to wait for the families to leave after half term and travel late February into early March. The weather is a little warmer and the days a little longer so this is a great time to travel.

Blue sky powder day at Panorama!

It does depend somewhat on which resort you are visiting and also if you prefer the temperature to be a little warmer. But both of these options give you the best deals in resort, the best flight availability and also helps to avoid busy lift lines. Flying on a week day also helps to keep the costs lower as the flights tend to not be as busy.

In summary, the short answer to when’s the best time to ski Canada the answer would be anytime! But hopefully the above may help when deciding when your next Canadian Adventure will be.

Michael Williamson
Ski Product Manager
Frontier Ski

The non-ski guide to a ski safari

Back in 2017, sadly, out of ski season, I found myself heading off to see some of the so-called “smaller” resorts Canada has to offer; we actually prefer to refer to them as ‘off-the-beaten-track’.

As our visit was in late spring, after a comfortable flight from Heathrow we picked up a Jeep Grand Cherokee and drove straight to Fernie. It’s daylight driving at that time of year but if travelling in peak season, bear in mind it’s around a 3-hour drive and it gets dark early. Driving in Canada, however, is very easy  with wide roads and not too much traffic; much easier than winter driving in the UK; the SUV’s are equipped to deal with the winter conditions and the roads are kept pretty clear.

Perfect car for a ski-drive!

We stayed at Park Place Lodge which is perfect if you want to be in the town of Fernie rather than on the mountain itself. I loved the small town feel of Fernie and even if you do stay on mountain, I would definitely recommend venturing into the town to explore after skiing. Park Place Lodge is a decent 3-star property with lovely warm pub grub and local cold beers; what more could you want?

After a good night’s sleep (helped by the beers and slight jet lag) we headed up to the resort itself to check it out. First stops, the Griz Inn, Cornerstone Lodge and Lizard Creek Lodge are perfect for people wanting to be close to the base and first out on the slopes. I personally loved the luxury of Snow Creek Lodge and some of the Timberline units, including a huge 5-bedroom cabin which was tucked away among the trees giving a real cabin-in-the-woods feel.

With a bit of time to spare, we made a quick diversion to Kimberley – just under 1.5 hours from Fernie – on our way to Panorama. The town and indeed the resort itself have a real European feel which ties in very nicely with the stunning scenery and is well worth adding in to a ski safari. We had a quick tour of Trickle Creek Lodge which is ideally located at the ski base, a true ski-in/ski-out property.

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Fernie and Kimberley can be combined on your lift pass, so even if you don’t have some time to stay in Kimberly, you can still ski the resort for a day.

Next up was Panorama (just under two hours from Kimberly and about 3.5 hours from Fernie), a resort I had heard a lot about – and recommended to lots of clients – so was keen to see it for myself. We arrived at the central check-in where everything is taken care of;  the resort arranges your accommodation, lift passes, rentals and transfers and really do take care of you. We were staying at Peaks Lodge which is the newest accommodation on the mountain and would be my first-choice as it is the most modern out of all the options.

The base of Panorama off-season!

Summit Lodge also has a newer feel but if you have children travelling with you, then Panorama Springs is where you want to be. They have the huge hot pools on site which anyone staying in resort can use, but seeing how close they are to the rooms, makes it perfect for families. If you are looking for a more personal hot tub, stay at Taynton Lodge as they have two hot tubs which only Taynton guests can use.

The whole resort has a lovely laid-back feel and wherever you look you can see the beautiful surrounding mountains and trees; it is one of the most picturesque resorts I have been to, and the views from the slopes are incredible too.

After our day of driving, it was definitely time to unwind and we headed for the fabulous T-Bar and Grill right at the base which serves some of the best chicken wings I’ve ever tasted; and trust me, I’ve tasted a few! They had a good drinks selection and great menu (other than wings!). We also headed in to the town of Invermere where there are some good bars as well as shops and restaurants.

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The resort also runs a free shuttle to the town of Invermere which runs into the evening and is highly recommended for some après-ski as it has a true Canadian town feel.

After a good night’s sleep it was time to hit the road again, to Kicking Horse (about a 2-hour drive). This resort is all about the skiing, ideal for advanced skiers. They have a number of accommodation options but one of my favourites was Glacier Mountaineer Lodge – where we stayed – which overlooks the ski base. From the door of the ski locker room to the slopes cannot be more than 30 paces! They have studios and larger suites so have options to suit everyone; the mountain lodge feel to the décor and  being able to cook a simple meal or make breakfast with kitchens in the rooms is great.

The other place I really liked was Vagabond Lodge, which was unlike anywhere I had been before. It is essentially a large log style cabin with 10 rooms; there are no tv’s and the owners stay in the lodge and prepare healthy breakfast in the communal living/dining room. It is ideal for people looking to socialise and meet other skiers/boarders, a really unique experience.

There are also two other lodges called Winston and Copper Horse which like Vagabond are smaller lodges with communal areas ideal for meeting new friends.

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Winston Lodge has the latest opening hours for a bar on the mountain!

An early start was required the next day for the drive to Revelstoke but when we arrived it was definitely worth it!  We were staying at The Sutton Place Lodge which is the only accommodation (currently) on the mountain but you really do not need anywhere else. It is one of the nicest places I have ever stayed in (and doing this job we do get to stay in some nice hotels). My large one-bedroom suite had an enormous bathroom, and stunning views over the base; this real luxury suite-hotel stretches across most of the resort meaning you are never far from the slopes.

There are a couple of places to eat on-mountain; the food at The Rockford is described as pan Asian cuisine but they should just describe it as awesome. We ate here twice during our stay and both meals were amazing!

The whole resort has a luxurious feel to it; not quite sure why my colleagues found the fact that I said even the bushes shout luxury so hilarious….

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You can also stay in the town of Revelstoke with options limited to 3-star hotels but the town itself is a vibrant Canadian town with lots of dining and evening entertainment, ideal for those looking for a bit more nightlife than the resort itself has.

Last but by no means least it was time to head off to Lake Louise and Banff, destinations that are worthy of a blog to themselves, being one of the most popular places to visit for our clients.

The skiing in Lake Louise is famous the world over for the amount and variety of the terrain but rather than bore you with ski stats, let me talk about the location and accommodation options. Lake Louise is ideal for those looking for a more laid-back, quiet place to rest after a day on the slopes and the gorgeous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has prime position over the lake itself. However, to really experience true tranquillity, particularly if you have a car, Emerald Lake Lodge (situated by Emerald Lake believe it or not) is a lovely collection of small cabins tucked away among the trees, about half hour from the resort itself. The main lodge has a fantastic bar/restaurant and a lovely outdoor hot tub area, complete with sign saying no animals in the hot tub; surely that means somebody at some point thought it was a good idea to take their dog into the hot tub…?!

Visiting the rustic-style cabins at Baker Creek Chalets between Lake Louise and Banff gave me the ideal solution for the traditional cabin in the woods feel that so many people ask us about and rather interestingly there is no internet as it would cost them too much money to run the cables from Lake Louise just for this one area.

A quick stop at the Lake Louise base for a substantial lunch – overlooking the slopes where we watched a few die-hard skiers getting the very last runs of the season (it was late-May and still open) – before continuing our journey on to the larger town of Banff, with its extensive accommodation, dining and après options and where the majority of our clients base themselves.

View of the town from Banff Gondola

We stayed in the newly-opened Moose Hotel which is a fantastic place to stay, in the heart of the town. The rooms had a modern alpine feel with quirky artwork and stunning hot tub/pools on the roof overlooking the town of Banff. The bar area was fantastic and we were lucky enough to be there when The Edmonton Oilers were playing in the Stanley Cup making for a great atmosphere. The bar staff were great at recommending local beers and I also recommend eating in the on-site Italian restaurant which has fabulous food.

A day of hotel visits started with breakfast at the nearby Tooloulous which I am glad we had booked; by the time we had left they were queuing out the door. They have one of the most extensive breakfast menus I have ever seen and the food is very good indeed!  It set us up for the day though, which felt like we visited every hotel in Banff…

Some of my personal favourites that we saw were The Elk and Avenue with its modern minimalist feel, which offers unbelievably good value for the quality of the hotel; The Fox – sister property to the Moose – which has a rustic mountain lodge feel, on the edge of town with larger suites for families and includes breakfast, the newly-refurbished Ptarmigan, an excellent 3-star with breakfast included; and lastly The Delta Royal Banff Canadian. I’ve always thought of Delta properties as very good, large hotels, part of a chain with modern rooms; however the Delta Banff is a little different. The rooms here have been decorated with a lot of personal thought (by the original owner) and have a real homely feel. The indoor pool with waterfall is also a great feature!

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Buy a tri-area lift pass before you leave, save on window prices, get the ski bus which takes you from both Lake Louise and Banff to all three ski hills plus children under 12 ski free with a paying adult; this is only possible if you have pre-bought your ticket!

I have done a few self-drive trips around Canada and I have to say it is the best way to visit several resorts on one trip. We did the above in a week (the boss wouldn’t let us out of the office for longer!) but I would suggest 10 – 14 days to get the most out of a trip like this and, of course, to get the most skiing too.

Michael Williamson | Ski Product Manager

The Best Extreme Ski Runs in Canada

Canada has some great, well known ski resorts such as Whistler on the west coast and Banff & Lake Louise in the Alberta Rockies, but also many superb lesser known ones such as Panorama in the BC Rockies. They are not short of steep terrain but which resorts offer the most extreme ski run experience for the expert? These are some of the best.

Delirium Dive on Banff Sunshine

This area is renowned for its challenging runs, 2,000ft of vertical and 40 degree average pitch that tests the strength of even the most experienced skiers and snowboarders. You can only access The Dive via a gate which only opens if you are using an avalanche transceiver. This takes you to a five metre band of rock that crowns the top where you can drop in. Or for a more moderate approach, you can use the stairs which allow access to more tame ground.  The main thing that will keep you going back though is the snow, with the wind often tripling or quadrupling the depth of fresh snow compared to the rest of the resort.

View from Banff Sunshine

Terminator Peak (T1) at Kicking Horse

This is the first peak south of the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort gondola.  It is an easy scramble up to the peak which oversees the ski hill and the town of Golden. From the top of this ridge skiers can access the expert only lines of Glory, Truth, Dare and Consequence. These exposed double black runs are not out of bounds but you still need to take care due to the high amount of exposure to slide paths and cliffs.

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

The Monster at Panorama

This fabulous ski resort had a new 127-acre extreme terrain expansion into Taynton Bowl in the 2017/18 season which added a further 246 vertical feet to expand the ski area yet further. This extra terrain has boosted the longest trail to a staggering 6.5kms providing four brand new double-black diamond runs with the signature run named The Monster.

The Monster at Panorama!

Needles at Red Mountain Resort

The town of Rossland is home to Red Mountain Ski Resort and occupies most of a bowl that geologists say is an ancient volcano crater. Looking around, it is obvious that this provides a more mountainous feel than other B.C. ski towns. The double black run ‘Needles’ is in the middle of Granite Mountain and is known and feared by skiers for its speed and impossible steepness. The angle of steepness is 45 degrees, and the top third of the run is littered with rocks and moguls.

Red Mountain Resort

The Saudan Couloir at Whistler Blackcomb

This is a truly extreme 2,500-vertical-foot chute, accessible from the top of the 7th Heaven Express chair; in the past, the Saudan Couloir has been included by Conde Nast Traveller in their “Most Terrifying Ski Slopes In The World” article. Believe it or not, back in the 80s, it used to be the home of a death-defying race called Saudan Couloir Ski Race Extreme. Steep!

Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler Resort

7 Reasons to Ski Canada

Canada has grown in popularity as a ski destination over the last few years but there are still questions as to why a ski holiday across the Atlantic should be considered when the Alps are on our doorstep; well, there are many reasons, but let’s look at the top 7:

1. The snow

Pure and simple; the quality, quantity and reliability of Canada’s snow is unbeatable. The season starts in mid-November and continues to the end of May, later when you take glacier skiing into account. One of Canada’s best resorts, Big White, has as its slogan, ‘It’s the snow’ and many resorts in latter years have broken their snowfall records regularly.

Big White Ski Resort

2.  The facilities

Canada’s ski resorts offer tremendous accommodation, much of it ski-in/ski out, a good range of restaurants, modern, fast lifts, great grooming,  a lack of lift lines and excellent service.  Free on-mountain guides, sniffle stations which provide free tissues are just a couple of the extras you will find skiing in Canada.

The ski-in/ski-out Sutton Place Hotel, Revelstoke

3.  The scenery

Most mountains are beautiful, especially when covered in snow, but many parts of Canada, particularly the National Parks, take it to an extra level. Skiing in Banff or Jasper National Park is amazing.  Not only is the scenery outstanding but you will see elk and mountain goats as you travel through the parks or even strolling down the road in Lake Louise. You are also staying in a real Canadian mountain town from where the mountains dominate the landscape.

Mountain views in Banff

4. Lack of crowds

Canada is a vast country with tons of space and few people; in the winter months when many areas are covered in snow,  on a slow day in January you might just get a mountain to yourself. There’s no guarantee that at half-term you’d be on Whistler mountain without others for example,  but you never feel rushed or overcrowded.

Skiing at Kicking Horse

5. Ski schools

Whether you are a first time skier or an expert, Canada will have the right ski school for you or your children.  Class sizes are small, just 4 skiers or snowboarders in Whistler rising to 8 or 10 elsewhere. Most of the instructors have English as their first language which can be important and they are really well trained in safety, teaching and are of course chosen for their ability on snow.

Magic Carpet at Sun Peaks

6.  The accommodation

The range of accommodation in Canada includes Relais & Chateaux properties, Four Seasons hotels and the iconic Fairmont Hotels, such as the Fairmont Banff Springs. There are fabulous, unique lodges – perfect for skiers – condos for families or larger parties as well as great hotels to fit every budget.  There is literally everything from a studio apartment to a 6-bedroom house, many of which are easily accessible to the ski hills. What they all have in common is space, modern decor and a vast range of amenities.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel


7. Value

Last but not least, Canada is very good value.  Generally, the earlier you book, the better value your holiday will be, with many resorts and hotels offering booking discounts if you book early, with the best being available until August 31. Those with children can get exceptionally good value, as by taking advantage of all the early booking offers, the under-12s can stay for free, ski for free and rent for free at some resorts.