As a person working in Banff in the tourist industry, we are really lucky to be treated to a lot of familiarisation tours.
Tour operators and the ski hills give us heavily discounted or free days out from time to time so we can experience their product and subsequently sell or refer tourists to it.
This month I went on 2 FAM tours to Mount Norquay and Lake Louise.
The closest skifield to Banff, Norquay is only a 10 minute drive and you can even see the runs from town. It’s the oldest resort in the Rockies and is really popular with the Banff locals. There is a 91 year old man who still regularly skis there.
The day started at the Mount Royal hotel car park. Only 4 of us jumped in a van and headed up the hill. Normally the tours have at least 20 people so it was nice to have a smaller group. The 3 Polish people that accompanied me all work as housekeepers and a resort in town. They were all new to skiing so after our free coffee, muffin and chat about Norquay with the snow school director, they headed out for their lessons.
I headed out by myself to explore the mountain. It was a little eerie as it was so quiet (it was snowing heavily) so on most of my runs I didn’t see a single person. I did a few runs on Mystic, Cascade and Spirit chairs and the snow was great in the morning, about 10cm of fresh powder. The runs are a lot steeper than Sunshine but most are long and wide so they are enjoyable. I really wanted to do the North American chair, that one has the best view over Banff and has black and double blacks but it had only opened earlier that week so the snow coverage wasn’t great. I was advised to give it a miss. Next time…Skiing finished at 3:30 and I then had beer and nachos with the 3 Polish people, their ski instructor and the ski school director in the main lodge. It was a good day and for $37, you can’t loose.
At 40 minutes from Banff, Lake Louise is the furthest ski resort of the big 3. I was so excited about going to Lake Louise as I knew it rivalled Sunshine for area, terrain and lifts. Lake Louise has 10 lifts, 1700 skiable hectares, 3 lodges to eat in and incredible views.
The bus from Banff was pretty much full and most people slept on the 40 minute drive up. Once at the resort we piled into Whickey Jack Lodge for coffee and muffins. Everyone was in groups and my friends (workmate Cian and flatmate Zeke) couldn’t make it so I went and sat with some girls at a table. Got chatting to Jana and Lena from Germany and Sophie from the Uk and ended up skiing with them all day. Very lovely girls and awesome skiers too! Lake Louise consists of 3 areas, Frontside, Back Bowls and Larch. We headed up the gondola on frontside first and explored the runs from there, mostly blue and green tree runs with a few blacks scattered around. Before lunch we headed over the the back bowls to Paradise chair and Larch which we really enjoyed as the snow was excellent and we found a couple of long wide blue runs we loved.
Lake Louise Trail Maps
After a quick burger and chips for lunch the girls and I headed up the top to the Top Of The World Express and Summit Platter, the first button lift I had ridden all season, hard on the legs I can tell you! Up the top visibility was poor, all day it had been cloudy and snowing, we couldn’t see anything except grey clouds over towards the lake, a pity because the views are usually fantastic. On the way down from the top I had the biggest wipe out so far this season. Too much powder and 0 visibility = faceplant! We did a few other runs on Larch and Glacier before heading back to the Lodge for a beer and some nachos.
It was a great day despite the weather and skiing a full day with people equally as good as I am was tiring! I’ll definitely be back to Lake Louise again, hopefully when the weather is clear and I can enjoy the stunning views.