Alberta is home to some of the highest terrain in the country and a number of the best ski resorts in Canada; a few even sit in the spectacular Canadian Rockies! With the help of local experts, here are the best places to hit the slopes in the Great White North’s “Wild Rose Country.”
- Wide-open Olympic-length groomed runs, perfect for cruising!
- Easy to get to, closest mountain to Calgary
- Low natural snowfall
- Small size
- No on-mountain accommodation
In the heart of Canada’s beautiful Kananaskis Valley, Nakiska was built to host the 1988 Winter Olympic alpine events. Its designers obviously had an eye toward the future, and the result is a family-friendly resort that keeps visitors coming back!
An Easy Trip to World-Class Groomers
An easy drive or shuttle ride from Calgary International Airport, Nakiska’s former racing runs and top-notch grooming offer the ideal place to carve huge, sweeping turns and race your friends. While it’s relatively low elevation (compared to other resorts in Alberta) means not as much snow and rare powder days, its first-class snowmaking system ensures that you’ll still be able to ski to your heart’s content.
A Conveniently Located Locals’ Hill
There are no on-mountain accommodations and only a couple of day lodges so Nakiska may not seem like a vacation destination. However, Kananaskis Village and all of its amenities are only five minutes drive away while Calgary, Canmore, and Banff are all less than an hour drive. This convenience combined with an easy-to-navigate trail network, reasonable prices, and a well-designed beginners’ area, all adds up to make Nakiska a fantastic choice for families and groups!
Getting there: 45-minute drive from Calgary and Canmore, 55 minutes from Banff.
- Good mix of terrain
- Short lift lines
- Plenty of natural, dry snow
- Great value for the money
- Less snowfall than other resorts in the region
- Relatively remote
- Temperatures can be especially frigid
Along with the country’s highest base, being the only resort in Jasper National Park gives Marmot Basin plenty of bragging rights – and even more postcard-worthy views! It may not be easy to get to, but we think it’s definitely worth the trip!
A Wide Variety of Uncrowded Runs
Marmot Basin offers a vast array of runs, so whatever you’re craving, you can probably find it! The trails are evenly split between ability levels, with everything from groomers to tree skiing and wide-open bowls to narrow chutes. Add in the terrain parks, and Marmot Basin truly has something for everyone! The mountain doesn’t see a huge volume of snow, but don’t let that fool you – when the storms come, the elevation, temperature, and aspect all mean the snow sticks around for quite a while. In fact, the season lasts from November all the way to May!
Worth the Trip
Marmot Basin is admittedly rather remote. The nearest major city (and airport) is Edmonton, a 4-hour drive away. But we think the breathtaking scenery and terrain are worth it – and for many, the trip along the Icefields Parkway is a must-do even without the skiing! The remoteness also helps keep the crowds down, so lift lines aren’t a worry. While there are no places to stay on the mountain, Jasper is only 20-30 minutes drive away. The town is bustling in the summer with National Park visitors, but come the winter it has a small-town feel – and the affordability that goes with it.
Getting there: 5-hour drive from Calgary, 4-hour drive from Edmonton, 20-30 minutes from Jasper.
- Sometimes crowded on weekends
- Exposed to wind, can get very cold
- Limited evening activities and dining
One of three resorts in Banff National Park – Canada’s first – Banff Sunshine (also known as Sunshine Village) boasts some of the country’s highest terrain and one of the longest seasons. Far above the treeline, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies in every direction. Plus, you can ski it and its neighbouring resorts – Lake Louise and Mount Norquay – on the SkiBig3 pass!
Home to one of the gnarliest runs in the world
Straddling the continental divide with terrain in both British Columbia and Alberta, Banff Sunshine offers everything from groomed cruisers to wide-open bowls but it’s the famous freeride Delirium Drive that stands out. This one isn’t for the faint of heart – reaching pitches of up to 60 degrees, it made CNN Travel’s list of most extreme runs in the world! Even if you think you’re up to the challenge, you still might want to consider following a guide or knowledgeable local your first time. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
The only ski-in/ski-out lodging in Banff National Park
Most visitors will stay in the town of Banff. If you’re able to arrange reservations at Sunshine Mountain Lodge, however, you’ll enjoy the only ski-in/ski-out accommodation in Banff National Park. It may not have as many dining or nightlife options as the town but makes for a wonderful alpine experience. Since the parking lot for day-trippers is below the lodge (requiring a short gondola trip to reach the slopes), staying here gives you the chance to have your choice for first tracks in the morning sun and stunning scenery.
Getting there: Just over 1.5-hour drive from Calgary, approximately 20 minutes from Banff.
- Diverse terrain
- Small size
- Low elevation
- No on-mountain lodging
The birthplace of skiing in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Norquay may get overlooked because of its small size but it makes a good case for the best-kept secret in Canadian skiing. It has a small-hill feel offering great skiing, affordability and a relaxed family-friendly vibe.
Skis Bigger Than It Feels
True, Mount Norquay only has 60 runs on its 190 ac, but there’s plenty to keep beginners and intermediates busy all day long plus some surprisingly steep pitches for more advanced skiers and freshies hiding between the trees. There’s also absolutely nothing small about the vistas across the Bow River Valley! Norquay is lower than Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine, and while that can mean low snow totals and some occasionally icy slopes, it also can mean shelter from the winds that tend to make the other resorts feel downright frigid.
Where the Banff Locals Ski
Norquay isn’t a destination resort, but being so close to the town of Banff, it doesn’t need to be. You’ll find everything from dining to lodging just down the road – it’s really Banff’s backyard ski hill! Although some race teams use Norquay to train, it remains relatively unknown to most ski and snowboard tourists. But since you can visit it on the same pass as Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine, there’s really no reason not to give it a shot!
Getting there: Less than 15 minutes drive from Banff, 1.5 hours from Calgary
- One of the longest seasons in North America – usually 6 months!
- World class terrain
- Biggest ski resort in the Canadian Rockies
- Lack of natural powder
- Expensive place to ski
- No lodging at the resort
In a country that has Whistler-Blackcomb, it should tell you something that Lake Louise takes the cake Canada’s best ski resort. That’s not just according to us here at SnowPak, but also the 2017 World Ski Awards! In the heart of Banff National Park, Lake Louise has 140 runs and over 3,000 ft of vertical on four mountain faces for you to explore.
Scenic Gem and Skiing Treasure
Not only does Lake Louise give you the chance to carve turns on some tasty terrain, but it also boasts some of the most incredible views you’ll see anywhere. Mountains and glaciers fall away from you in every direction and the skiing here is just as epic as the views; so much so Lake Louise is a regular stop on the World Cup’s downhill tour! In addition to the race-ready pitches, there are all the glades and gullies, chutes and cliffs. The backside terrain is in the same league as Vail’s famous Back Bowls. Whatever you crave, you’ll find it at Lake Louise!
The Canadian Rockies’ Biggest and Best
Even though it lacks on-mountain lodging, Lake Louise is like a destination resort. The day lodges have all the facilities you need. You can also find lodging, shopping, and dining mere minutes away in the famous village – along with the iconic chateau (which is worth a visit even if you’re not staying there!). All the terrain and amenities don’t come cheap – it’s a relatively expensive resort to visit, but you can stretch your dollar by using the SkiBig3 pass which also lets you visit Mount Norquay and Banff Sunshine.
Getting there: 2 hours drive from Calgary
If you've skied Alberta, what are your thoughts? Are any of your favourites missing, or would you rank them differently?