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Tell me about Banff...

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Tell me about Banff...

I am off to Banff for 10 days in February next year. My only previous experience of skiing on the other side of the pond was in Colorado three years ago and that was 'interesting'...

Lessons: I don't see a plethora of ski schools advertising their wares. Is Canada like America, with just one school per resort (owned by the resort), or are there private instructors available?

Equipment hire: In the Colorado resort all the hire shops were owned by the resort as well and the lack of completion meant that the equipment offered wasn't very good or well maintained. (One of our party was presented with skis that still had snow on them from the previous hire and whose edges were blunt!) Am I in for the same experience in Banff, or are the local shops independent?

Guiding: In the Colorado resort they had a great system whereby you could just turn up at a meeting point and somebody with local knowledge would show you around and show you the best places to go. Does something similar happen at the Banff mountains? (In Colorado the guides weren't allowed to take us down anything harder than a red run, but our guide said "It's great down there, and if you ski down I will have to follow you!". Atta-boy!!!)

Where to go: Mt Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise obviously, but are any of the other resorts nearby worth a day trip? Kicking Horse?

I quite like watching Ice Hockey, especially since watching Finland beat Russia on TV from the last Olympics. I saw a great match live at Morzine one year, too. Has anybody done the trip from Banff back in to Calgary to see the Calgary Flames play at home of an evening?

Any other pearls of wisdom? Any (fairly) easy back-country trip recommendations?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Wrap up warm. Seriously seriously cold.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I'm sure I won't be the first or last to say it, but don't bother with Norquay. I prefer Sunshine to Lake Louise but both have their merits.

Can't comment on ski hire as always taken my own kit so sorry on that front. Lessons; same really though I've heard good things about the standard of instruction at Sunshine (though I'm going back a fair few years).
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I've been to Banff a few times now, and loved it everytime. At first glance it seems rather inconvenient with the lack of ski-in hotels and the commute to the hills, but actually it works fine. If you hire a car its a very easy drive to all three (and further afield). If you don't want to drive the bus shuttle is great. Its not like a European ski bus its a proper coach, and if its full another one is called, and its all very organised and polite (it is Canada!)

Lessons - yes I think there is just the one ski school at each resort. However I've had tuition at Lake Louise and Sunshine and everytime it has been excellent. Small groups and great instruction, I really improved. Also they were very good at moving people around and sorting things out as ability changed. There is also the skibig3 program which has three days of lessons, one at each resort, but the groups are bigger and it seemed more of a social/guiding thing than instruction - but I didn't do it so might be wrong

Ski hire - You can hire on the slopes, but again here they are owned by the resort. Not really used them so can't comment. However in Banff itself there are loads of ski hire shops, so shop around for deals and prices. I used the SkiHub and emailed them for a better quote. I'm no expert but the gear seemed fine. One day at LL my skis were taken during lunch (I think accident rather than theft as a very similar pair were left at the end) and the resort hire gave me a set of premium skis for free so I could still enjoy the afternoon.

Guiding - yes available at both LL and SV. The LL is especially good, the guides show you their best runs etc and tell you a bit about the history, wildlife etc. They split the groups up by run grading, including black group. I joined a 'dark blue'(!) group and had a great time. You also get priority on the lifts - not that you'll need it!

Where to go - I actually quite like Norquay. Of course its small and only for half to one day but its fun, friendly and almost empty! Its good for a post jetlag first day, or on a snowy day as its all within the trees. Kicking Horse is about 90min away and well worth a visit if you're a good intermediate or above. Probably not worth the journey if just going for the piste skiing - might as well stay local. There's a company running a trip which includes transport and lift pass and is great value

Ice Hockey - I've not done it but there are local companies who'll arrange a trip to Calgary including transport and tickets if there's a game on. And you'll not struggle to watch and hockey in the bars!!

Hope this helps, if you want any more info just let me know
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Plenty of competing hire shops. There are tour companies that do coach trips to Flames games also to KH at least 1 day of the week. KH is great but only really worth it on a non holiday weekday and if you're an off piste skier.
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I'm very fond of Banff.

As Dave says there are loads of ski hire shops there.

Most flights arrive into Calgary and if you stop the night there you'll find you want to get up at about 4am and head off to Banff.
Get breakfast in Banff, I've tried a few ski shops, I got very good gear from "Ultimate" not many place rent Kastle.
They let you swap out skis all week.

If you like ice hockey .... ???
I found that every bar in town has big screen TV every where you can turn your head showing hockey highlights.
Kills conversation dead.

Norquay is well worth a warm up afternoon.

All the resorts offer free guiding, which is such a great thing we should do in Europe.

The ski schools are all run by the resorts.

I dont know how long your going for, but I think 10 days is minimum to do justice to the Jet Lag.
All the resorts are much smaller than you are used to in Europe.

If you have the time it would be worth going to Revelstoke via Kicking Horse .. but these hills will only a take day or perhaps two to cover.
I recommend the apres Ski at Revelstoke, this is because there are only a couple of places to go ... so you get to meet everyone in the town.

Take a neoprene face mask ...it can get pretty nippy.

If you get the chance try to go "ice fishing" or ski-dooing Golden (Kicking Horse)
You'll have a great time.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
kditrj2d

The greater Banff region supports excellent winter activity facilities. Between Sunshine and Norquay, you'll get more than you need without having to venture further in Alberta. Try your "hand" at ice skating.................

The Saddledome is a real scene. Flames fans are in it no matter what and they, like Edmonton, have substantially improved over the past three seasons. If you have interest in catching a game in person call their ticket office ahead of time to enquire about tickets. Look into their schedule............ Due to drain down on roster from within as per the Olympics the NHL across-the-board, therefore all teams such as the Flames have a slightly lighter load in February at home, so depending upon your dates in Canada, they might be away the entire time of your visit. If your time in Canada coincides with a home game and you have an interest in possibly catching a game, expect no less than $120.00 CDN minimum (plus) per ticket for a half decent - non nose bleed - seat.
Games typically get out at around 10:00 - 10:30 p.m. So............... If you have interest and there's a game during your time and you decide to go............., ask yourself, would you possibly also care to get a simple room for the night in Calgary? Think about that. The idea of driving back to Banff at 10:00 p.m. is not at all appealing to me. Otherwise, any beer joint on any given evening, as well, your hotel room IS definitely plugged into the NHL via Rogers Communications (who control Canadian broadcast rights) with no regionalization or blackouts. I can assure you you will be able to see a number of broadcast games every night of your trip regardless of team.


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Tue 10-10-17 13:45; edited 4 times in total
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Been to Banff a good few times and love it. Went to the Saddledome to see Flames games a couple of times. You can arrange to go as part of a group through BanffTours (the official Banff tourist touring company) or BanffAdventures. They'll sort tickets, bus you there and back, put on a tour guide etc. If you do decide to go, either with a tour or just on your own, make sure you book tickets early as games do sell-out pretty regularly and turning up on spec could see you left out in the cold... literally!

As for Kicking Horse, its been a while since I've been there but the powder bowls and chutes there are brilliant. Watch the weather - and if you're going to go, plan to go the day after fresh snow not too windy and it'll be perfect. The restaurant at the top is excellent too.
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kditrj2d ...... Not a big fan of Banff, but each to their own.

Generally ..... earlier part of February can be cold and dark, later not so much. Anytime it can get seriously parky. IMO best time to go is early March.

Kicking Horse is well worth a day or two, especially if they get snow. It's rare the TC gets shut for long, so travelling between, even with moderate snow shouldn't give many issues.

Revelstoke is a bit further, but if you set out early enough, again is worth the effort. Rogers pass can be a bit trickier with heavier snow.

You could do a night-out or two and combine the pair, have a day at KH, move on to Rev digs, next day on the hill, travel back late afternoon or stay over and have another day at KH.

Both are fairly iconic hills, and very much different to what you'll find around Banff. AAJMO
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There is some great information here! Thanks to everybody who replied.
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I like Banff, although it's quite a few years since I last went.

Another day trip is Nakiska - It's not as far as Kicking Horse by bus, and it's quite a nice hill.

I also like Norquay: it's a good place to go on a Saturday, when most of Calgary descends on Sunshine & Lake Louise; it's a Banff locals family day. Although small in area, there is some seriously steep skiing of the North American chair, if you like that kind of stuff.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=129448

Some links within it to earlier trip reports.
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Hockey - last time we went, we stayed in Canmore partly to make the trek into (and back from) Calgary a bit shorter, accepting we couldn't use the shuttles for the skiing.

One of the games we went to was against the Leafs, and was the first time they'd been to Calgary in years so it was a sell out - the only tickets we could get we're in the 'True Fan Zone' (aka in the stratosphere and relatively cheap). The atmosphere, however, was great, we had an excellent, uninterrupted, view of the big screens and, all in all, just a different (not really worse or better) experience to the more expensive seats.

If you drive to a game, bear in mind that they can go much later - our first game at the Saddledome went to penalties (i.e. after 2 overtime periods) so finished somewhat after 11pm, followed by a c1.5 hour (I think) coach ride back - made for a long day.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
All resorts will have snow hosts, free guiding round the hill.

I would do a day trip to either pano or KH?

Nakiska can be good mid week if its not icey. I am there most weekends so ask me nearer the time and I'll let you know if its worth going.

Think there is some sort of lesson gig when you take a couple in each resort? Maybe SkiBig3?
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
gryphea wrote:
I would do a day trip to ...... pano ......?


Yes , very overlooked, assuming snow, reading between the lines it may just suit the op .....
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Depending what kind of terrain your interested in there might be enough skiing in Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Norquay to keep you busy for 10 days. Would also save the cost and hassle of rental cars as can just use free shuttle buses between banff and the resorts.

Be aware to access the expert terrain at sunshine (delirium dive, wild west) you need full avy equipment, although it is controlled by patrol.

If you don't have a lift pass yet you might want to look at the mountain collective pass - £350 for 2 free days at each of: sunshine, lake Louise, and revelstoke and then 50% off the window price for day tickets.

For back country Rodgers pass is worth a look (in between kicking horse and revelstoke).
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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I last went in March 2011 and it was describe as the coldest March for a very very long time, i'm going back February this year like you. Just remember to layer up ensure you have the means to cover every bit of exposed skin and retreat to the warm every so often and if it is seriously cold. If it is stupidly cold the lefties will probably tell you to cover up and make sure gaps, if you leave one by mistake check for frost nip when you de kit (I left a gap between my helmet and goggles on a day of -20 with windchill on top, and skiing quickly). only time I was ever properly cold was one night walking back from town centre to hotel -40 with windchill (it was that cold it brought tears to your eyes, which then promptly froze on your eye lashes, and when a lift broke down and we ended up stuck for an hour (but the resort compensated us very well for the discomfort).

All three hills are great. Norquay nice and close plenty of groomed runs and some nice small mogul runs to get the legs in. Along with some steeper mogul runs. Lake Louise was the most skied by us (only as that year Sunshine decided to pick with its buses in the very centre of town only) Both Sun Shine and Lake Louise are great some thing for everyone.

We did a trip to watch the flames which was great. so definitely on our itinerary again, February's Calgary flame home games are on the 1st, 3rd, 17th, 19th and 24th. I have a friend that moved out to Calgary year before last, he suggested to watch the Calgary Hitmen which are a lower league team that play at the Saddledome too, not sure if there are organised trips to see them or not yet but ticket prices are cheaper. Hockey is on TV in all the proper bars round Banff. If your over between the 14th and 25th it will be the Winter Olympics. I suspect the Canadians will be getting right behind there national team so the atmosphere in the locals bars watching the hockey could be fun.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I am there from the 4th to the 14th, so no home game during my stray. Ah well, find a decent sports bar and watch a match there will have to do.
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@howie617, @kditrj2d,

If you hit am really cold spell, KT tape can be used to protect from frost bite
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
What is the best time of season to go for a balance between snow conditions and temperature? I was in Silverstar in January (-20' ) which was tolerable but I'd find some overboots next time.
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tangowaggon, it was the same temps for us in late Feb. In fact the warmest we had all trip was about -15, spread over Feb/early March. You can get lucky or not, but to compensate we did have some great snow conditions Madeye-Smiley
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We've been to Lake Louise/Banff many times and are heading out there Feb 6th - 19th. We are keen to try something new so are thinking of doing a loop - Fernie, Lake Louise, Revelstoke, Lake Louise - home. Or vice-versa. We go primarily for the skiing so usually stay in the limited accommodation in L Louise - Mountaineer Inn is basic, but clean, pool, hot tub, free breakfast. We hire a car so venture into Banff some evenings for dinner.

I would definitely recommend Kicking Horse and we usually do as a day trip form L Louise. Mountain guiding is free in L Louise and Sunshine (not done Norquay but sure it's the same), meeting points at the base and guiding according to levels.

We are expecting it to be cold but hopefully the ski conditions will be worth it - they've never failed us in the past.

We are intermediate skiers and love skiing with like-minded others, so if the dates suit and you'd like to meet up out there just send me a message Happy
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Thanks for the great info folks, I am off out there for 10 day's too 28 Feb - 10 Mar. I take it from the comments that the weather is a wee bit kinder then?
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@ClanChief, kinder yes, -26 as opposed to -40!

But average temps were roughly -10 which wasn't bad at all. I find the cold temps in the mountains better than say UK as it just doesn't get in your bones but -26 was darn cold.

We were there in March 17 and went over KK and panorama (for Heli) and KK was great, nice locals mountain. Heard Pano was good too but the heli was amazing. For lessons we had an advanced technique session in Norquay which was cheap and good. Norquay was too small and only went a couple of times. Sunshine was our preferred mountain though LL & S had some great pow stashes around. We were going to go further afield but the drive was too long for us. We stayed at Aspen Lodge which was great (superb hot tub) though could have done with its own bar/ restaurant.

Enjoy!
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ClanChief ....... Anytime in March is usually the best choice, IMO, so yes ......

Lighter, warmer (relative), quieter outside the local hols, generally less depressing, lol. I think we go out around the end of the first week in March coming.
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