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Banff - help with ski passes please

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We’ve booked to ski in Banff at Xmas/new year.

I’d appreciate help on choosing tickets please.

There’s 4 of us with er, varying degrees of commitment to skiing shall we say! Hubby and son will want to be out most days, me less so and daughter even less. We’re also different levels of caution ranging from teen kids (17 and 20 when we go) who will do reds, to me, a nervous intermediate who likes wide (easy) cruisey blues or even greens (don’t laugh). Hubby is in between the two.

Added to that is the fact it’s our first time in Canada so we’d like to look around (ie the Springs if they’re open and maybe a day trip) plus there jet lag to factor in. We’re there for 10 days, 11 nights.

Obviously we have options of the three resorts; Lake Louise, Sunshine and Mt Norquay.

So my question is, given our circumstances, which mountains would suit us, how many days and where and when do we buy? Should we buy now when they’re cheaper, buy in resort (how does that work?) or buy daily? How easy is it to make it up as we go along?

Any help gratefully received.
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@bambionskiis, you can buy tickets which are X days out of Y so you can take days off to do other things. The ticket covers all resorts - doesn't it (I've always had all resorts but donlt recall if that was by default rather than choice) but if not don't bother with Norquay
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You can also look at some of the passes they offer, such as the Lake Louise Plus card.

This card is $124 + tax but gives you your first day for free, then 20% off every other day at the day rate and your 4th and 7th day for free.

Sunshine do a similar pass, Sunshine Super Card, at $133 + tax again 1st, 4th and 7th day for free. Looks like you then get $15 off midweek rates betewen Christmas and New Year.

Alternatively you can go for a Ski Big 3 pass.

You'd need to price it all up, but with the LL plus card and Sunshine Super card you at least get more flexibility.

LL is $124 + tax a day, so if you skied there 4 times it cost you:

Day 1 $124 + tax included in purchase of LL plus card
Day 2 $99.20 + tax
Day 3 $99.20 + tax
Day 4 $0 free with pass

Total $322.40 + tax
Per day $80.60 + tax

Sunshine for 4 days, with the assumption they're all midweek would cost:

Day 1 $133 + tax included in purchase of Sunshine Super card
Day 2 $118 + tax
Day 3 $118 + tax
Day 4 $0 free with pass

Total $369 + tax
Per day $92.25 + tax

In comparison the Ski big 3 pass for 4 days would cost you in the region of $500 + tax, and for 8 days would cost you in the region of $1000 + tax.

As long as you're happy not skiing Norquay you could pay $691.40 + tax using the Sunshine and Lake Louise Cards.
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bambionskiis, Some good choices, and a nice place to visit. The advantage of the cards mentioned by swskier , the LL card would allow you to ski a day at Panorama as its valid there. You will need transport though as only the Big3 pass allows you to use the buses for free IIRC. but you mention day trips.

The Springs are usually open through the winter, last season we dropped into Fairmont Hot Springs, which were really good and no crowds either - just down the road from Invermere, Panorama.

I don't think you'll be bored in Banff for 10 days, both ski areas offer a mixture of runs that will suit all your levels.
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I’m so sorry I should have said that we don’t have transport. I wasn’t aware only the big 3 provided transport and assume this is the only or best way to reach the ski areas?

There seems to be negativity about mount norquay - what’s wrong with it? It looks nice!
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Nuthin, it's just a smaller hill is all. And some people aren't good enough to ride some of it wink
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bambionskiis,

We love Norquay! It's definitely worth spending some time there.

You could also rent a car in Banff for a couple of days and a) ski at Panorama; and
b) Visit Johnson Ice Canyon. It is well worth a visit. It's stunning! We were advised to get there before the tour buses, so arrived at about 8.30 am and had the place to ourselves. It was fantastic.

You could do the latter via a tour company but they charge about $80 pp and it will be busy when you get there. It's only sbout a 30 minute drive from Banff, so car rental would be my recommendation. It would also save you a few quid, as it was free admission in winter when we visited.

Google images will give you an idea of what it's like at the canyon. wink
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@philwig, ah right. I don’t have a problem with smaller but being out of my comfort zone is not a place I like to be.

@Bergmeister, thanks for the recommendation. Will look into that as that’s the sort of trip we enjoy. I quite like the look of the bubble lake too.
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@bambionskiis, second the ice canyon.

I can understand why @Bergmeister loves Norway but i think there is no comparison between his and your party's stated skiing ability.
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holidayloverxx wrote:
@bambionskiis, second the ice canyon.

I can understand why @Bergmeister loves Norway but i think there is no comparison between his and your party's stated skiing ability.


I prefer Norquay, holidayloverxx Toofy Grin
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Bergmeister wrote:
holidayloverxx wrote:
@bambionskiis, second the ice canyon.

I can understand why @Bergmeister loves Norway but i think there is no comparison between his and your party's stated skiing ability.


I prefer Norquay, holidayloverxx Toofy Grin


Bloody autocorrect!
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
holidayloverxx wrote:
Bergmeister wrote:
holidayloverxx wrote:
@bambionskiis, second the ice canyon.

I can understand why @Bergmeister loves Norway but i think there is no comparison between his and your party's stated skiing ability.


I prefer Norquay, holidayloverxx Toofy Grin


Bloody autocorrect!


Very Happy Very Happy
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@bambionskiis, no negativity for Norquay for me, i just haven't skied it. My understanding is it's a bit smaller but also quite steep, which I don't think you're after?

Looks like Norquay have a card called the Big Drop which is $85 + tax and that gives you 50% off day rates. Day rate seems to be $97.65 so pays for itself after 2 days.
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Some Banff info in my trip report in my signature. I did another one too but sigs have limited space!
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Norquay is not highly regarded by the locals - due to its small scale versus the Big 3 areas. As a result, it is very quiet. Our last visit was one virtually deserted New Year's Day, with the place to ourselves.

Mrs MA and I have visited twice and had a great time both times. Although it has some very challenging steeps, it promotes itself as a family area, with skiing for all. Nice scenery too. There are some nice (not very steep) family cruising trails from top to bottom - as shown on the trail map:



A further plus is the (comparatively) cheap lift tickets - it's worth checking if there are still excellent value 2 or 3 hour tickets available.

Another vote for a DIY trip (hire car) to Johnston Canyon - it's absolutely amazing. Why pay $70 or 80 per person to process up the canyon with a coach load of other tourists and a guide when you can do it under your own steam in solitude?

We arrived early and hardly saw any other visitors. The route is waymarked and easy to follow (it's all rather obvious).

Reader's tip: We found (UK poundshop!) studded rubber grips invaluable for our hiking boots - some steeper parts of the trail were rather hard packed and polished underfoot. Other parts are easy raised boardwalks.




Here's an online trail guide: https://hikebiketravel.com/the-johnston-canyon-ice-walk-in-banff-national-park/
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I don't really think panorama is worth the effort. It's a 2 hour+ drive each way for skiing no better than what you can get in the resorts around Banff - which you won't get bored of with 10 days.

If you want to save some money and don't mind a smaller resort Norquay isnt a bad choice for a day or two.

The cards suggested are going to be your best bet. Unless you want to also fit in a trip to Zermatt at some point next season in which case iKON pass might be best.
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@bambionskiis, the Big 3 pass covers your bus as you say and after 17 consecutive years of Skiing in Banff it’s the way we always go. You can hire a car, but be ready for additional costs likea park pass (usually about $100)!if the hire company doesn’t already have one for the car. Parking is free at the ski hills, but holiday times are busy. And then there’s the weather- the highway can be tricky if you get caught out by bad weather.

Re Norquay- it is small but surely worth half a day whilst you are there? Beware, it’s not as criuzy as the others- some people find it a bit steeper than they expect - but I’d invest a half day just so you’ve been

Definitely see some of the sights- you can book organised trips if you don’t want to hire a car- there is a lot of choice.

For us, Big 3 lift ticket is the most hassle free, flexible option and we do that every year.

One last point- remember how far North it is in compared to the Alps. It will be getting dark at 3.30 at Christmas. People are sometimes surprised at that. It can also be very cold. With all that I’ve said, it’s like a second home go us and we have so missed being there this year. Have fun.
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Maybe more for your husband and son, Kicking Horse is definitely within range if you are driving, or there is a bus available. Watch the weather and aim to go there the day after a good fall of snow and the powder bowls will be brilliant. The 7 from 10 tickets are good as they do let you have that day off (or day on another mountain!) without losing anything.

I think they still do some night skiing at Norquay which might be a fun experience at that time of year.
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Fab advice all - much appreciated. I think we’ll go big3 as we don’t want to hire a car.

Good point about getting dark. We’ve been used to that in Norway and Finland so that not an issue but it’s geared up for nighttime skiing more there. Will hear this in mind. We’re used to the low temperatures too.
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Quote:

Kicking Horse


Kicking horse is too much for most people who are not strong off-piste skiers (being ok with groomed reds in Europe is not the same - back bowls at lake Louise and delirium dive at sunshine will be a good tester for if they are ready for kicking horse). I love kicking horse but it's a long way (2 hours plus) when they are likely to have more than enough to keep them entertained at Banff.

If you do go to kicking horse I would actually avoid it on a big powder day. The line up for the gondola can get pretty big as it's an obvious bottleneck so you will get limited runs in (not an issue if you know where to go, but as your first day you are probably going to "waste" a few of those laps).
Also T1, T2, and whitewall don't always open the day after a big storm. Non-powder weekday and sunny would be my suggestion for a first trip. Sure snow will be less ideal, but you will have a better time and a better appreciation for the resort.
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@bambionskiis, You can walk to Banff Springs and go to the Fairmont hotel which is an amazing place have a beer in their Stubben , you was k along the frozen river and the up the hill its about 20 to 30 minutes from memory

At Sunshine join the ski with a local tours with their volunteers it's free and they will show you some nice spots and also what to avoid!

As has been said it gets cold, the top of Sunshine can be a bit windy but great, balaclavas easy available even up the mountain .

We did 6 nights Banff 4 nights lake Louise.

This spot on Sunshine was shown to us by the hosts, they aren't allowed to ski it with you as they have to stay on piste we went back the next day, as you can see its busy

Some pictures, The Stubben, the waterfalls on the way to the Fairmont and the spot shown to us by the ski with a local guide





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@boarder2020, that post reflects us I would say. Son would I’m sure revel in giving kicking horse a go but I’m not sure his technique would be up to this yet.

@radar, great idea ref fairmont springs and thanks for the photos. We quite like a nice long walk to a pub/bar so that will work well. I spotted that about ski guides. Is that only in sunshine?
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I see you can pick up ski tickets in the big 3 explorer place in Banff avenue. Does anyone know the minimum amount of days skiing you can do this way? Can you just walk in and ask for 4 ski passes for the following day for example? If we buy a 6 day pass but then want to ski more days, can we do it this way?
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@bambionskiis, It's also in Lake Louise, https://www.skilouise.com/activities/winter-fun/free-ski-ride-tours/

Banff https://www.skibanff.com/explore/sunshine-snowhosts

With the walk I got it from the Epic ski forum which is no more, I'm sure the tourist board can help https://www.banfflakelouise.com, just plan your time of return.

The Sunshine ski app is good too, you can replay you days skiing, sad but fun.

We enjoy a bit of powder (but aren't very good) and you can certainly get some off the back in Lake Louise and maybe hire some fat skis for a day or two which is what we did,(we didn't ski with the hosts) in Banff we stuck with our normal (80 and 84) and it was fine for what we did, our hosts weren't on fat skis.

For the ten days we were there the three areas were more than enough, if you aren't into moguls don't go up the black diamonds in Norquay, the rest is fine.
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Quote:

I see you can pick up ski tickets in the big 3 explorer place in Banff avenue. Does anyone know the minimum amount of days skiing you can do this way? Can you just walk in and ask for 4 ski passes for the following day for example? If we buy a 6 day pass but then want to ski more days, can we do it this way?


As said above the best option financially is going to be the cards - even if you don't completely maximise the savings. Assuming things return to pre-covid by then you can buy lift passes the night before, or even on the day. You specify how many days you want (I think limit might be 10 or 14 days). The more days you buy the cheaper each day is, but it's quite a small saving - expect to pay around $120 per day + tax. The cards work out about $80 per day + tax if you use them optimally (4 days) so quite a saving.

For the ones that want to do a lot of skiing I'd buy 1 lake Louise card and 1 sunshine card with the plan of doing 4 days at each. Might as well order them online as soon as they become available (at least in a normal non covid year), as I believe there is a limited amount although you'd have to check on that and probably not such an issue early season.

For the ones who want to ski less you need to do the math and decide how many days and how much flexibility you want. The 17 year old counts a a youth so gets cheaper passes - still not as cheap as the cards, but on any day you all ski make sure you use the cards for adult tickets and pay for a youth day pass.
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@boarder2020, do the LL cards and SS cards include the bust ticket? It was $10 each way without a Big 3 pass IIRC. Something to hear in mind.
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lynnecha wrote:
@boarder2020, do the LL cards and SS cards include the bust ticket? It was $10 each way without a Big 3 pass IIRC. Something to hear in mind.


No, they don't, as already mentioned above.

As the OP doesn't want to rent a vehicle no point in buying the cards. No limited amount of cards for sale, they are limited by time - you only have a small window to purchase them. They do increase in price too, if not purchased early.
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I don't really think panorama is worth the effort. It's a 2 hour+ drive each way for skiing no better than what you can get in the resorts around Banff
As we love to ski different places we made the effort from Banff - and loved Panorama Very Happy

Big area, some great steeps and cruising and (by North American standards) a massive vertical of about 4,300 ft.

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Yes the lack of transport is an issue, even though as you say we could pay $10 each in the bus. If we had a car then the cards would be the way for us. Maybe next time.

Bones would you mind elaborating in your post please “ No limited amount of cards for sale, they are limited by time - you only have a small window to purchase them”. In what way is there a small window?

Panorama was our original choice mountainaddict before we settled in Banff. It looks really lovely there too.
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@mountainaddict, did you drive to Panorama? There used to be a daily trip but we struggled to find anyone operating the route in recent years. We’d really like to include it again but we can’t be bothered enough to hire a car. I was just wondering if you managed to find someone running transport or if you drove there.

All this talking about Banff is making me very homesick! Very Happy. I can actually feel the runs under my feet... keeping everything crossed for next year.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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bambionskiis, Certainly, with regards to the cards - boarder2020 mentioned,
Quote:

as I believe there is a limited amount although you'd have to check on that and probably not such an issue early season.


I was pointing out there is no limit to the amount of cards they will sell - some of these types of deals do only have a limited number of offers.
However, in previous years there has been a cut off purchase date - after which they aren't available.
However as you are going Christmas/New Year you'll be fine, by the time they are available you should know what your plans are, so purchase then.

We bought ours last season when they were first released, pre opening date ( November IIRC ) for $99 + tax, the price then increases and at present its $124 +tax.

Regards Panorama, it seemed a bit of a weird resort, some good stuff if you are prepared to hike for it in Taynton Bowl and some interesting glades around the mountain. The base area definitely feels corporate and purpose built ( which it is ).
We stayed in Invermere, which was better for us - quiet though and not too much there. We wouldnt want to spend a whole holiday at Panorama but thats an individual preference, but could happily stay the full trip in the accommodation Madeye-Smiley

The drive to Banff from there though is nice, stunning in places from what we saw, through Kootenay NP.

They do run a daytrip there from Banff, it includes bus and ticket IIRC, similar to the one to Kicking Horse, either might be worth considering.
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Quote:
mountainaddict, did you drive to Panorama? There used to be a daily trip
It was a few years back and was via a trip organised by our tour operator.

Interestingly, Bones states:
Quote:

They do run a daytrip there from Banff, it includes bus and ticket IIRC, similar to the one to Kicking Horse, either might be worth considering
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loved staying in Banfee and skiing in sunshine and lake louise, this was 10 years ago but being more a blue skier then we found mt norquay too challenging, wold love to go back and do it now as way improved
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At 8h time difference I agree to not hiring a car!

I wrote 2 detailed trip reports for Banff if they help.
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@bambionskiis, are you going with a tour op? Definitely look into their pricing on liftpasses. In Europe they're rarely cheaper than the window price, but for Banff when I went 10 years ago Thomson had a blinding deal on a 4-day Big3 pass, it was something like £132. I know it's gonna be more now due to inflation and getting less C$ to the £, but worth looking into vs other options mentioned above.

Don't rent a car from the airport if you have transfers, it won't be fun trying to drive after flying 10hrs & jetlagged. You can book to pick up a car in Banff for a few days in the middle. Holiday Autos had a great deal about £140 for 4 days inc full tank and we got an upgrade to a big SUV which had about £50 (at Canadian prices) of fuel in the tank. You don't need a car to ski the local areas, the shuttle buses are the way to go if you're staying at a hotel along the pick-up route. Use the money to do some memorable 'Canadian' activities, see the beauty of the NPs & Rocky Mtn wilderness.

I seem to remember we did the first 4 days skiing at Sunshine & LL (alternating days at each) using the efficient shuttles that were included, then hired a car in Banff for 4 days and did some non-skiing stuff like skating on the rink on frozen LL in front of the Chateau, hired skates at the rental shop in the basement. You can also walk or sleigh ride on the path around stunning LL. Walked Johnston Canyon, recommended to take some cheap rubber spiked soles. Hired snowshoes (less than $10 for a day) at shop in Banff to go out into middle of frozen Bow Lake, drove up Icefields Parkway to the Peyto Lake overlook, visited Emerald Lake in Yoho NP, you can rent x-country skis at the shop there and try the trails. Drove over to Kicking Horse to ski one day. After the car went back, we bought a day at Sunshine. We did Norquay as a Night Ski, was only $25 at the time, fun watching the local kids on the park, nice Poutine (Cheesy chips) at the cafe, but I wouldn't bother wasting a whole Big3 day there. Did an escorted trip to Panorama that cost barely (10$) more than the day ticket. Last day we did a whole day snowmobiling trip, that took us up into a wilderness valley and had a BBQ lunch.

Some great restaurants in Banff so no need to do HB, having breakfast in hotel is handy though.

Husky sledding was another trip you could have done.

This was roughly our itinerary for 11 nights:

Days 1-4: Ski Big3 Sunshine-LL-Sunshine-LL
Day 5 Hire a car in Banff, visit Johnston Canyon, skate/walk LL
Day 6 Hire snowshoes to walk Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Emerald Lake. Night ski at Norquay
Day 7 Drove to ski Kicking Horse (long drive, but amazing scenery)
Day 8 Ski Sunshine
Day 9 Day-trip to ski Panorama booked via TO rep (shuttle bus belonged to Panorama, long drive, but amazing scenery)
Day 10 Snowmobiling trip booked via TO rep

Hopefully some money-saving and good ideas there to make your Canadian trip memorable!! snowHead
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Thanks all for your feedback - some really useful stuff there. We’re going with a small travel agent but will look to book some trips when we get there. No idea how such things will be in a “covid world”; I suspect everything will still be quite a bit different to normal, if indeed we get there!!
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will look to book some trips when we get there
Yes, there are a fair few excursions bookable locally in Banff. As well as ski excursions to Nakiska and Panorama, we did a great dog sledding trip and a spectacular helicopter sightseeing flight.

It's worth getting the bus from the ski area for a look round the Chateau Lake Louise hotel - as an extended lunch break, or after skiing. The place is amazing and the setting on the frozen lake is spectacular. There is skating (and hot choc) on the frozen lake, as has been mentioned, and some nice (but pricey) restaurants and coffee shops. A few shops too.

We loved it so much that we stayed a night there on a later road trip, when we also hiked Johnston Canyon. It's low season prices at The Chateau in winter.

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Dog sledding has been mentioned a few times. Before you decide to do it definitely watch the sled dogs documentary. It might make you think twice or ask some real questions about the organisation you go with.
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Before you decide to do it definitely watch the sled dogs documentary
What documentary boarder2020 Puzzled
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Also make sure you are insured fir it. I had to add it to my insurance. The Iditerod it wasn't, but I had to covert it as if it was!
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