​Where To Ski In Spring: Whistler​ Or Banff?

Lone skier at Mount Norquay (c) Reuben Krabbe, SkiBig3

There are plenty of reasons to opt for a late season spring ski holiday – fewer crowds, shorter lift lines, cheaper accommodation rates and the opportunity to participate in the end of season festivities, for example Banff Sunshine’s Slush Cup.  And, with less people and soft snow warmed by the sun, this is the perfect time to work on technique and try your hand at navigating those slushy spring bumps. For beginners, it’s the ultimate sweet spot, as the snow becomes more packed and offers less resistance. Add in fast morning groomers and bluebird days with the sun beating down on the slopes (the coveted unicorn of ski), and you have the recipe for a sublime ski holiday.

Whistler and Banff both share long seasons, with Banff Sunshine’s seven-month period starting in early November and lasting until late May: the longest non-glacial ski season in Canada. A major plus factor, if you decide to opt for Banff, you can also ski Lake Louise (proposed closing date May 7th) and Mount Norquay (proposed closing date April 28th), with both resorts on the same lift ticket as Banff Sunshine. Part of the SkiBig3 resort collective,  the additional resorts are easily accessible on ski shuttle buses direct from the mountain town of Banff.

Whistler Blackcomb has a similarly long stretch, with skiing available in April and May, so why not take full advantage of the longer, sun filled days. Can’t decide where to ski? Read our expert guide to spring ski at both resorts and take your pick.

Spring in Whistler

Skiers on Whistler Blackcomb’s groomers

Whistler Blackcomb is one of the world’s largest ski areas, and it excels when it comes to the sheer choice of runs on offer: 8,100 acres of terrain; 16 alpine bowls; 200 marked trails and 36 lifts available. The resort also features the second highest vertical drop in North America at an impressive 5,280 feet, and it receives a healthy average annual snowfall of 10.8 metres.

During the month of March, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola that joins Blackcomb and Whistler mountains is still active so you can swap slopes and zip between the two in the same day. And while Whistler Mountain usually closes in late April, Blackcomb Mountain stays open throughout April and into May and remains open until closing day, with operating hours from 10am to 4pm.

For the best of the sunshine and the scenery, we recommend heading to 7th Heaven (a great spot for intermediates) where you can lap to your heart’s content. Stay on the piste and enjoy the long rolling groomers before you ski-out, finishing at Sunset Boulevard.

April is also prime time for backcountry skiing and if it’s your first time it’s worth taking a guide along: a bonus, rates are at their lowest in April. In fact, this is the ideal period in which to polish your skills from fundamentals to off-piste techniques, as private lessons are heavily discounted when only one mountain is open.

Aerial shot of skier on Blackcomb Mountain (c) Nic Y-C

Whistler Blackcomb’s annual Gaper day (the last day of the season) is a great way to finish your holiday on the slopes.  Laidback and fun, you will find people dressing up in retro gear and skiing with the locals.

The resort’s vibrant après scene also deserves a shout out, the village actually laid out specifically to maximise sunshine in the outdoor seating areas. There are some fabulous hang outs, including the Umbrella Bar patio where you can see views of the mountains and Whistler village, and at Blackcomb, the Glacier Lodge patio is the ideal vantage point for watching skiers shred the mountain. From live music to “craft beery” establishments and your straight up classic pubs and restaurants, Whistler Blackcomb has it all!

Banff Sunshine In The Spring

Banff Sunshine skiers travelling in heated chairlift

Part of the SkiBig3 resort collective, Banff Sunshine receives around 10m of snow annually, the resort blessed with a vast skiable terrain stretching over 3,358 acres; a massive vertical drop of 1,070m; 145 trails; and 12 lifts, including a high speed gondola. A major plus, you can ski from the top of the mountain all the way down to the base – the historic mountain town of Banff giving you a taste of authentic Canada.

For some, spring is their favourite season for carving up Banff Sunshine’s slopes, March and April traditionally being the snowiest months of the year with plenty of regular dumps of white gold. During this period the lift hours are also extended (ski lifts run from 9am until 4:30pm, Jackrabbit runs until 5pm) so you can take advantage of the fabulous ski conditions gifted by the region’s high altitude (7,200 feet), the resort sitting on the continental divide. One of many accolades including winner of the USA Today “Best Ski Resort in USA and Canada” for 2022, the resort also bears the title of “Canada’s Best Spring Skiing and Snowboarding destination.”

To make the most of the sun and ski under its warm rays all day long it’s best to make a plan. Standish and Strawberry are good starting points for your morning on the slopes, while later in the day, it’s worth opting for the Continental Divide and Goat’s Eye.

With no need to search out secret powder stashes, spring is the perfect time to cruise across the groomers. The Rock Isle Road green run is almost always in mint groomed condition, its wide gentle downhill slope perfect for newcomers to downhill skiing.  The blues off Goat’s Eye (tucked away in what locals call the ‘lower mountain’) and Lookout host some of the resort’s best panoramic views that are perfect for bluebird days. Without the crowds it’s also easier to snap that quintessential selfie from the top of the Great Divide chairlift: Alberta’s only chairlift that runs through two provinces.

Skiers enjoying lunch at Banff Sunshine

The last day of the season at Banff Sunshine Village is reserved for the internationally acclaimed Slush Cup, when a huge crowd gathers to cheer on costumed participants who try to ski or board across a pool of icy water. Expect crazy costumes, plenty of neon, and a party ambience while the competition is in full flow.

Outside of the final event there’s always plenty of après ski to be had. Cap off your day on the slopes at Mad Trapper’s – its patio the ultimate people-watching location. Alternatively, try the Elk & Oarsman, the Magpie & Stump or Banff Avenue Brewing Company.

Experts for over 30 years with an expansive first hand knowledge of where to ski and where to stay in Canada, call us on 020 8776 8709 or email us at ski@frontier-travel.co.uk.