Of Alberta ’s five major alpine resorts, three are in Banff National Park . Apart from an abundance of snow, the resorts have something else in common—spectacular views—which alone are worth the price of a lift ticket. If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your thing, you’ll still always find something to do: cross-country skiing, ice-skating, snowshoeing, or just relaxing.
Crowds are nonexistent, and hotels reduce rates by up to 70 percent (except Christmas holidays), which is reason enough to venture into the mountains. Lift and lodging packages begin at $100 per person.
Visible from town, the steep eastern slopes of Mount Norquay are home to the small Ski Norquay resort (403/762-4421, www.banffnorquay.com ) with a big reputation. Since Canada’s first chairlift was installed in 1948, the resort has had an experts-only reputation, mainly because of terrain serviced by the North American Chair (including the famous double-black-diamond Upper Lone Pine run); but out of sight from the valley floor is a variety of intermediate terrain that has made the resort a favorite with shredders and cruisers alike.
Lift tickets are adult $65, youth and senior $55, child $25. Hourly passes provide some flexibility (two hours $30, three hours $40, etc). A few runs are lit for night skiing and boarding on Friday evening; adult $28, senior $26, child $15. A shuttle bus makes pickups from Banff hotels  for the short, six-kilometer (3.7-mile) ride up to the resort ($8).
The skiing and boarding at Sunshine Village (403/762-6500 or 877/542-2633, www.skibanff.com ) has lots going for it—over six meters (20 feet) of snow annually (no need for snowmaking up here), wide-open bowls, a season stretching for nearly 200 days, and the park’s only slope-side accommodations.
A gondola whisks guests six kilometers (3.7 miles) from the valley floor to an alpine village and eight high-speed quads (including the world’s fastest) serving everything from beginner slopes to some of Canada’s steepest lift-served runs, including the infamous Delirium Dive. The total vertical rise is 1,070 meters (3,510 feet) and the longest run (down to the lower parking lot) is eight kilometers (five miles).
Day passes are adult $78, senior $64, youth $58, child $31, and those younger than 6 ride free. Two days of lift access and one night’s lodging at slope-side Sunshine Inn cost $220 per person in high season—an excellent deal. The inn has a restaurant, lounge, game room, and large outdoor hot tub.
Each resort has ski and snowboard rental and sales facilities, but getting your gear down in town is often easier. Abominable Ski & Sportswear (229 Banff Ave., 403/762-2905) and Monod Sports (129 Banff Ave., 403/762-4571) have been synonymous with Banff  and the ski industry for decades, and while the Rude Boys Snowboard Shop (downstairs in the Sundance Mall, 215 Banff Ave., 403/762-8480) has only been around since the 1980s, it is the snowboarder hangout.
No better way of experiencing the park’s winter delights exists than skiing through the landscape on cross-country skis. Many summer hiking trails  are groomed for winter travel. The most popular areas are Johnson Lake, Golf Course Road, Spray River, and Sundance Canyon. Weather forecasts (403/762-2088) and avalanche hazard reports (403/762-1460) are posted at both information centers.
Rental packages are available from Banff Springs Ski & Mountain Sports (Fairmont Banff Springs, 405 Spray Ave., 403/762-5333), Snow Tips (225 Bear St., 403/762-8177) and Mountain Magic Equipment (224 Bear St., 403/762-2591). Expect to pay $30–60 per day.
Rinks are located on the Bow River along Bow Street, and on the golf course side of the Fairmont Banff Springs . The latter rink is lit after dark and a raging fire is built beside it—the perfect place to enjoy a hot chocolate. Early in the season (check conditions first), skating is possible on Vermilion Lakes  and Johnson Lake. Rent skates from Banff Springs Ski & Mountain Sports (Fairmont Banff Springs, 405 Spray Ave., 403/762-5333) for $7 per hour.
Warner Guiding and Outfitting (403/762-4551) offers sleigh rides on the frozen Bow River throughout winter ($25 per person).