White Out

Fall skull over skis for Banff, the snowy jewel in the Canadian Rockies

Banff

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Powder doesn’t come any better than when it’s poised on the pistes of Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay – the trio of terrains nestled in the Alberta Province of the Canadian Rockies that are a skier’s paradise. It boasts views beyond belief, a plethora of runs for every ability and the finest snow.

The Canadian snow is something else – it’s as if your ski or snowboard is manoeuvring over a fluffy marshmallow. Even on the moguls, you’re in for a treat. Although Banff is synonymous with skiing, there aren’t actually any slopes in the town. Instead, it’s the bustling base for people to set off for the hat trick of resorts, all covered by one lift pass, which cater for every choice of cruise, from a slow and steady beginner to a racing pro.

If the 8,000 acres of piste don’t feed your alpine appetite, check out the thermal hot springs and the wonders of Banff National Park, from its frozen waterfalls to nature walks. Or there’s the most simple of pleasures – sitting by a log fire with a Canadian ice wine watching the elks graze outside. The only drawback, as the locals say, is the risk of “getting Banff-ed”– the repercussions of pushing it too hard on – and off – the slopes. You’ve been warned…

Slope side

The beauty of having three options for skiing is that you can check the conditions – sun, snow and the all-important visibility – before you decide which mountain you are committing to for the day. It’s a little too far to travel between them in short succession, because you’ll spend most of your time on a coach, despite the stunning scenery en route.

If you’re a style over substance kind of skier, than Banff Sunshine – as the name suggests – will meet your every need when it comes to the views, which appear to go on for infinity.

The resort has 3,300 acres of skiing terrain with an average 30ft of snow (yes, really). It also has the longest non-glacier run in Canada and, what’s more, it’s open until late May on terrain that inclines more gradually, with wide runs in gentle greens and beautiful blues but with plenty of off-piste offerings, too.

A Google image search of Lake Louise does more justice than any words can, but imagine seeing sparkling sapphire water in the distance as you cruise downwards. It has the biggest ski area in the trio, with more varied slopes – there are glades and gullies for experts to explore and easy options for beginners.

Families will find everything they need in charming Mount Norquay – the closest resort to Banff town, and the oldest ski area in Canada. The runs are well-groomed and a little narrower than at the sister resorts, but what it lacks in width it more than makes up in activities, night skiing, tubing and unrivalled views.

Off-piste

While Canada can’t match the après-ski atmosphere of Europe, Banff is undoubtedly a hub of activity with a strong scene including shops, bars and restaurants – in fact, food is a priority here.

Elite eateries include The Bison (no prizes for guessing what their signature dish is) and Sky Bistro – an absolute must for a true taste of Canada. The Banff Gondola will send you to the rooftop deck for views that will take your breath away. The tranquil atmosphere is bolstered by several outdoor fires to keep you warm while you sip your drink.

To complete your stay, head to the Moose Hotel & Suites, with its large, roaring open fire, and three outdoor pools with a bus stop outside to take you to the resorts. And don’t forget to pick up lunch for later at the JK Bakery.

For those who like a little luxury, the Fairmont Banff Springs is a secluded and sophisticated hotel with everything in one place, including a basement spa and multiple places to eat, including Grapes restaurant, serving cheese, charcuterie and wine.

A week won’t be enough to fit everything in, and you’ll want a ski-free day to head to the thermal hot springs. But do not get on a flight home without a trip to the Johnston Canyon – the most beautiful part of Banff. Here, you are transported into a winter wonderland of natural caves and frozen waterfalls of a magnitude you couldn’t imagine. It’s white magic.

Where to stay…

Crystal Ski Holidays (Crystalski.co.uk; 020 8610 3123) offers a room-only basis holiday at the five-star The Fairmont Banff Springs from £1,094 per person when booked online (based on two sharing). This includes flights from London Heathrow to Calgary and transfers (price given is for departure on 6 January 2021). Direct flights available from all major UK airports.

• Prices provided are subject to change and have limited availability. Terms and conditions apply

The Faimont Banff Springs
The Faimont Banff Springs

Need to know

• Bring more layers than you would to ski in Europe – balaclavas, thermals and well-lined gloves are a must.

• Unlike other countries, ski runs in Canada go in order of: Blue, Green, Black, Double Diamond.

• Your lift pass needs to be visible at all times, so attach it to the outside of your jacket.

• Download the SkiBig3 app for weather conditions for each resort, and selected discounts, too.

• You’ll need an Electronic Travel Authorisation to enter Canada – and don’t forget to factor in time for jet lag when you arrive.

Please check Gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus for up-to-date travel advice

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