After the past two years of the pandemic, it’s little surprise that people are looking forward to heading back to Banff and Lake Louise for some quality ski time.
At Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard – located in Banff National Park – just 15 minutes from the town of Banff and 90 minutes from Calgary, this year’s ski season opened on November 3 – the earliest in decades.
“This season started with a great dump of snow,” says Kendra Scurfield, Sunshine Village brand and communications manager. “We actually got so much snow in the last week of October.”
The resort’s broad range of runs varies from family-friendly to the double-decker Delirium Dive. Its village location offers champagne powder conditions. The resort features 12 lifts and more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain.
American Visitors Return
Scurfield is also excited that many American visitors are travelling back to Alberta now that COVID travel restrictions have been lifted.
“Over the pandemic period, we really had to scale back guest services,” she says. “Last year, it was slightly more challenging with restrictions and how we operated as they changed throughout the year. It was a course of learning to adapt and then reevaluate as changes were made.”
Sunshine Village receives approximately 500,000 guests each ski season. New projects have also been completed for this ski season that are sure to please visitors.
“We renovated the java lift in our hotel and it’s absolutely stunning,” says Scurfield. “We also have new artwork, and we’ve replaced some ropes that can last 15 to 20 years. We’ve also expanded our parking over the past two years. We’re really focused on keeping skiing affordable for Albertans.”
With the ski season opening on November 3 and expected to last until May 22, 2023, this will mean a 210-day ski and snowboard season – the longest in Canada.
“We don’t make snow, so we farm it. We really do rely on Mother Nature. She’s been magnanimous with us this year so far.”
Sunshine Village also has many some wonderful events lined up for the Christmas season that includes giving back to the community.
“For example, we’ve worked to make Charity Ski Day more available,” says Scurfield. “We will have our Santa Skis for Charity event on Christmas Day where anyone dressed up as Santa Clause, an elf or some sort of Christmas spirit costume will ski for less. And all money will go to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.”
Voted Canada’s Best Ski Resort
The ski season at Lake Louise is also ramping up and will be in full swing until late May 2023. Located in Banff National Park, two hours west of Calgary, the Lake Louise Ski Resort was recently awarded the title of “Canada’s Best Ski Resort” for the eighth time since the award was launched 10 years ago.
“With over a million votes cast around the world, this win speaks to the hard work and passion that our team in Lake Louise brings to the resort to ensure the best guest experience possible,” says Leigha Stankewich, the resort’s marketing and communications manager.
“We offer something for every skill level – whether you enjoy easy groomers, back bowls, chutes or terrain parks. And our recently approved master plan ensures that we can continue enhancing the resort by adding even more terrain and infrastructure.”
Fortunately, the pandemic did not slow down the resort. The past two years have seen two new quad chairlifts, one opening an additional 480 acres of wide-open bowls and glades in the West Bowl area, and the other accessing new beginner and intermediate runs near the base of the mountain. This year, it has enhanced its snowmaking capabilities by adding 48 energy-efficient snow guns plus kilometres of underground pipe.
Plans are currently in the works to begin installation of another high-speed chair in the summer of 2023. It will whisk skiers to the top of the mountain from the unload of the new Juniper Express Chair.
“This chair will complete our third high-speed route up the mountain. We are all about convenience at Lake Louise and want to continue to ensure guests can get skiing quickly and efficiently to maximize their ski day,” says Stankewich. “This lift will also allow guests to lap West Bowl all day long without returning to the base.”
With 164 marked runs over more than 4,200 acres, the size and scope of Lake Louise Ski Resort ensures that there are ample options for everyone. Skiers can enjoy the entire mountain as a family or group, regardless of their ability level, with green and blue runs down from all 11 of its lifts.
Soon there will be even more to explore, as the resort plans to add at least one new major project annually for the next five to seven years. Multiple new runs, lifts and lodges are in the plans, including a new mountain-top lodge at the top of the Grizzly Gondola.
And since travel is back, the resort plans to continue to invest in enhancing the skier experience to support Travel Alberta in building the visitor economy above pre-2019 levels by 2024.
“We continue to target high-value international travelers in addition to the valued local and regional guests that are the backbone of our business. In addition to ongoing improvements for visitors, we’ve invested greatly in building additional staff housing over the past couple years and are currently building even more. The importance we place on the staff experience has helped us attract a full complement of amazing employees and we have loads of great experiences planned this season.”
All dining options are back, and highly recommended lunch spot, Whitehorn Bistro, was recently named a top on-mountain restaurant by USA Today. Popular for apres-ski is Kuma Yama, offering ramen options and fresh sushi flown in three times weekly from Vancouver.
After just having played host to two weekends of World Cup Ski Races, which featured the world’s fastest downhill and Super-G racers, the events team has turned its focus to the various demo days, parties and freeride competitions which are planned over the next few months to supplement the skiing experience.
“It’s going to be a great season at the Lake Louise Ski Resort,” adds Stankewich. “Initial forecasts are calling for La Niña weather patterns yet again, which means that throughout the winter there should be lots of fresh powder for skiers and snowboarders to enjoy.”
And closer to Christmas, visitors will see the ski lodge adorned with trees, lights and wreaths, and can enjoy a turkey feast before heading outdoors again for nighttime snow tubing.
“Fire pits and snacks will be in the base area for a quick warm up while everyone is at play. We have other surprises in the works – including a visit by Santa Claus himself!”
What’s Popular in Ski Apparel?
Just like every industry, the ski industry is no different when it comes changes and updates in popular apparel.
“For women, we are seeing fashion forward designs that inspire confidence and fun on the slopes,” says Kendra Scurfield, Sunshine Village brand and communications manager.
“Brands like Halfdays are incorporating colour into their silhouette flattering designs. For both men and women, we are seeing bright colours head to toe.”