Skiing and Snowboarding
Five world-class alpine resorts are perched among the high peaks of Alberta’s Rockies. The largest in Alberta, and second largest in all of Canada, is Lake Louise, overlooking the lake of the same name in Banff National Park. The area boasts 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of skiing and boarding on four distinct faces, with wide-open bowls and runs for all ability levels. Banff’s other two resorts are Sunshine Village, sitting on the Continental Divide and accessible only by the world’s fastest gondola, and Ski Norquay, a resort with heart-pounding runs overlooking the town of Banff. Just outside Banff in Kananaskis Country is Nakiska, developed especially for the downhill events of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. Marmot Basin, in Jasper National Park, has minimal crowds with a maximum variety of terrain.
Nearly 50 other ski hills are scattered throughout the province, most with less than a 150-meter (500-foot) vertical drop. One area unique for its proximity to the city center is the Edmonton Ski Club in the North Saskatchewan River Valley, overlooking downtown Edmonton. Canada Olympic Park, within the Calgary city limits, was built for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and maintains some of the world’s finest ski-jumping facilities. Most major resorts begin opening in early December and close in May or, in the case of Sunshine Village, late May.
Other Winter Activities
Many hiking trails provide ideal routes for cross-country skiing, and many are groomed for that purpose. The largest concentration of groomed trails is in Kananaskis Country. Other areas are Banff, Jasper, and Waterton National Parks; the urban parks of Calgary and Edmonton; and the many provincial parks scattered throughout the province. Anywhere you can cross-country ski, you can also snowshoe, a traditional form of winter transportation that is making a comeback. Ice fishing for whitefish, lake trout, and burbot is good in all major rivers and those lakes large enough not to freeze to the bottom. Sleigh rides are offered in Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper.
Winter travel brings its own set of potential hazards, such as hypothermia, avalanches, frostbite, and sunburn. Precautions should be taken. All park information centers can provide information on hazards and advice on current weather conditions.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition