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  1. #1 Banff Big 3 - Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, Norquay - Any Thoughts? 
    Hardcore Skiboarder Bluewing's Avatar
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    Anybody been to the Banff Big 3 - Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, Norquay and have some thoughts on Banff and these resorts? I am researching a trip for this season. My wife, who doesn't ski, will be with me so trying to find someplace that would be interesting for both of us, meaning a nice town with a variety of things she can do while I ski in the morning and then things for us to do together in the afternoon and evening.
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  2. #2  
    CoFounder | Skiboardmagazine.com Roussel's Avatar
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    I lived in Banff for a few months. Its a nice town with lots of shopping and restaurants, shuttle buses to all the resorts, an arts center, couple of museums, and famous natural hot spring.

    Driving in town can be a hassle during busy tourist time. But there is a very frequent town bus that goes anywhere you want to go and if you are staying at one of the hotels you often get a free bus pass for the length of your stay.

    Banff Ave is the main street with lots of sports outfitters, mcdonalds, other restaurents and cafés, a couple of small indoor malls. Very walking friendly town, takes about 15 minutes to walk the strip if you dont stop in any stores. I suggest you take a small walk down the Bow river at the end of Banff ave and check out the water falls, only about a 10 minute walk. Banff ave can get crowded for walking during high season, but there are smaller parallel streets that are almost as great but often neglected by tourists. Bear Street, Lynx street.

    There is a historical museum about the town, and on the other side of the river there is a museum for the native american history. Outdoor natural hot springs are up the road jsut past the Banff Springs hotel, 19th century huge gothic style hotel. take the bus or drive there tho, long walk. The Banffs Art Center is up another road, they do lots of theatre and music. Its a small but very prestigious art school.

    As for skiing, Norquay is very small but very nearby, about a 10 minute drive. Sunshine and Lake Louise are big resorts with lots of terrain and amazing views. Also check out Lake Louise, large glacier lake across the highway from the ski resort, there is a hotel but there is no town at Lake Louise other then a few shops by the highway.

    Banff is probably the best place to ski and leave your significant other in town in Canada. Its pretty much what has been going on there since pioneer days when rich folks would hire guide to take them into the mountains and leave their families at the Hot Springs Hotel.

    If your wife is into shopping, food, coffee, hot springs, museums, and probably seeing a herd of elk (they often wander around the downtown area) then i def recommend.
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  3. #3  
    CoFounder | Skiboardmagazine.com Roussel's Avatar
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    Oh, it can get a little rowdy at night. Its a party town and there are over 30 bars and clubs in the tiny town. sunday and thursday is party time for the locals. But it is a very safe place regardless.
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  4. #4  
    Hardcore Skiboarder Bluewing's Avatar
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    @ Roussel:

    Thanks for the great information! Very helpful. If you don't mind, a few more questions:

    1. Norquay - I can see by the trail map it is small. Is it worth hitting for half-day (opening until maybe just a bit after lunch)?
    2. Lake Louise - it is obviously hard to predict conditions, but in general how is the skiing there in terms of coverage and conditions? The average annual snowfall is surprising low.
    3. Sunshine Village - based on the trail map it looks like the layout is a bit strange - kind of like bowl skiing pretty much the entire resort. In my native East Coast, I am a low level "expert" skier and can pretty much ski anything except bumps and trees. I have fared well out West as well pretty much skiing anything that is groomed. How much of Sunshine Village's terrain is accessible to a mortal like me?
    In pursuit of Peace, Harmony and Flow.....
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  5. #5  
    CoFounder | Skiboardmagazine.com Roussel's Avatar
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    Norquay is small, mid-sized compared to east coast resorts. It has an amazing view of the Bow Valley and banff tho, and locals often head there after busy weekends when the other two get tracked out. Def worth a half day. I did 4 days there I think. Twice a month they do 2$ lift ticket day which is a ridiculous steal. under rated but not as good as the other two.

    The south facing front face of lake louise can get pretty icey cause its pretty exposed, especially above the tree line, but they do a good job at grooming the lower runs. Back bowls looks intimidating but you can head down the Boomerang and watch the higher level people ski down the crazy chutes. I really liked the Larch side, the often neglected, less exposed area. The Ski Out from the back is nice but VERY flat, you can take the Ptamigan chair to avoid it if you dont want to skate. The Summit Platter is def worth the trip up for the view but its actually kind of a challenge itself, its gets extremely steep. Top of the world express chair is a really nice area.

    Sunshine is a long canyon that ends at a meadow surrounded by several peaks, probably has the best snow of them all. best way to ski is clockwise. start at goats eye and make your way around the meadow you'll beat the crowds and get the best snow. It can be a pretty confusing mountain to navigate, its not easy to understand the terrain from the map, and there are lots of flat areas where you'll probably find yourself having to skate out, mostly in the canyon area. You can end the day with a gondola ride back down the canyon but i suggest taking the super long and wonderful Banff Ave 1 trail down, it will be crowded at the end of the day but its a beautiful ride down the canyon and its a cheerful ride down with the crowd. oh the day lodge is at the top of the canyon in the meadows, dont head down to the base for lunch.

    The interesting thing about these above the tree line resorts is the black runs shoot straight down and there are often blue or green runs switching back across those runs with nothing really in between so you can try your hand at black runs and if you're not into it easily jump on the switchback run to get down.

    You'll do fine on the blues and you could probably try black runs, the really gnarly stuff that you would see in ski movies have restrictions. you need to be in a party and have avalanche gear. Anything in bounds is safe and they close off anything that isn't.
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  6. #6  
    CoFounder | Skiboardmagazine.com Roussel's Avatar
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    Also, do yourself a favour and take the shuttle buses to the resorts. they run multiple times a day and you'll probably be really tired and in need of a nap on the way back down. Also parking can be hell.
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  7. #7  
    CoFounder | Skiboardmagazine.com Roussel's Avatar
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    Oh also, even those these resorts have steep high level skiing, all the resorts are very family and all levels oriented, unlike others in the area like revelstoke or kicking horse, there is always an easy way down, the run ratings tend to be pretty conservative, and runs are all very well maintained.
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  8. #8  
    Hardcore Skiboarder Bluewing's Avatar
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    +1,089 karma points to Roussel! Great information. This is why I have always enjoyed being on this forum.
    In pursuit of Peace, Harmony and Flow.....
    Think Like a Mountain

    Boards ridden, some owned: Sherpas, Spruce 120 "STS", Blunts, DS110 custom prototypes, Rockered Condors, Revolts, DLPs, Summit Custom 110s, Summit Marauders, Head 94s, Raptor prototypes, Osprey prototypes.
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  9. #9 Banff Big 3 - Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, Norquay - Any Thoughts? 
    Hardcore Skiboarder slow's Avatar
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    The only thing I would add is that it can get cold. Last Christmas when we were there it dropped down to -30 for day time highs.

    Maybe Roussel you can provide some insights as to when it is best to go.


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  10. #10  
    CoFounder | Skiboardmagazine.com Roussel's Avatar
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    Ya it can get pretty cold when winds are coming from the north west, this is north of the 49th after all, but its generally pretty mild sub arctic climate. Best snow is in November and december.
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  11. #11  
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    Thanks for the info. There in January
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