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Considering USA or Canada - recommendations/things we should know

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
holidayloverxx wrote:
@bambionskiis, as intermediates who only go into the odd easy glade we love sun peaks. 2 flights though. Dog sledding was great. Plenty of restaurants

We liked Panorama but there is bug all there. Poor choice of restaurants. Not enough for intermediates for 2 weeks.

We also like Big White but again 2 flights but again crappy restaurant choice.

Yrembkant was very icy...real ice with death cookies everywhere

We had a great trip staying in Quebec City and going out to stoneham and Mont ste anne but that was a novelty.

Whistler....we should go back now we are better skiers

Banff...been 3 times. Enjoyed it and are happy with the bus ride. Caribou in the streets!

Fernie...Enjoyed it but we weren't good enough for it.

In the US only skied Breckenridge. Enjoyed it but prefer canada


Weren't good enough for Fernie? I'm going there for 2 weeks at the end of the month, don't scare me! Confused Laughing
What was your level of skiing when you went to Fernie? (as in, what could you do in the Alps as a comparator?)
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Interesting stuff, now thinking of Banff as a good option from what’s said here. Can I ask where you can find if the current/expected snow cover is good enough to make it worth heading to e.g. as an option to Winter Park or Europe?
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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?
VolklAttivaS5 wrote:
I'm off to Banff in February to try Canada out so will report back once I've been. Never been to the States or Canada before so that is why I thought Banff would be a good start.


They've got decent conditions right now. Hopefully that trend continues.

One other thing to add for the OP. Banff/Lake Louise tends to have fairly reliable early season conditions. One reason the WC is held there early season. Make sure and stop into the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Great views out the back door. Plus some nice restaurants too.
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I'm a regular US visitor...work not pleasure.

Downsides
Immigration can be slow and unpleasant. You might get grilled as to the purpose of your trip, keep hard copies of the flight / hotel booking handy. Don't be cockey.
Don't forget ESTA, around 20 each.
Eating out...and 15% to bill, staff live off the service charge.
shopping....state sales tax added at the till.
Mountain scenery is not as spikey as the Alps.


Upsides
Fabulous service....but you pay for it.
Warmth of welcome / friendly
mountain scenery is big views.
Uber is ubiquitous and reliable.
AMS transfers are easy...if possible book earliest inbound flight to AMS, so if you or bags are delayed then you'll likely be on next flight. An hour transfer is OK.
Outdoor life is embraced in all it's forms, skiing, walking, shooting, fishing etc.
Jet lag is not an issue, provided you don't sleep on the way out....window seat, blind open, walk when you arrive helps.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Just back from a family-get-together Christmas skiing in Banff with my wife, as our girl lives out there.
Agree with the consensus of what has been said.
None of the Ski Big 3 resorts are connected or even that big. Don’t expect European like mountain hut choice.... it’s all pretty much at the base lodge. Other than that Lake Louise has one hut round the back and one posher place half way up the front. Sunshine has one other hut at the bottom of Goat’s Eye (where if you buy a miniature of Grand Marnier, you get a free hot choc.... handy in -20).
Norquay probs has the best canteen out of the 3. But as someone earlier said this isn’t an intermediate area. It has one flattish ‘slow ski’ run for beginners,but as you move away from the lodge it gets fairly steep and can be ungroomed for long enough. I’d agree SV & LL offer more groomed terrain to suit intermediates.
The lifts are antiquated... one covered heated chair between all of them, and I think in all of Canada.
But.... the lift prices are high because of the service. You get your skis inserted outside the gondola for you at the bottom and handed to you at the top. There is an old guy at Sunshine that waves you off the hill and wishes you a good day. There are volunteers at LL that offer free guiding. As our girl said ‘Europe, with its electronic passes and gates, has become the self checkout in the supermarket. Banff is still investing in people to be at the tills’
The biggest draw is the snow quality. The dryness of it and the quantity of it. You will love skiing in it. Not all runs are pisted, but those that have been tend to be chalkboarded at the top of the lifts.
A decent meal out is cheaper than a fair amount of European resorts, tho wine is expensive, even the local stuff (IMO. Chuck’s beats Saltlik on the steak front).
Lastly we found very little difference in price between DIY and TO. We used Crystal this time and in march earlier this year, but, though ours suitcases made it on every leg, our ski bags only made it on one leg out of four, due to short transfer times from uk regional to Heathrow (though we never lost a ski day as they were delivered to our hotel during the first night).
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paulmags wrote:
Interesting stuff, now thinking of Banff as a good option from what’s said here. Can I ask where you can find if the current/expected snow cover is good enough to make it worth heading to e.g. as an option to Winter Park or Europe?


I was there in I think 2016 where they were nearly crying saying it was one of the worst seasons for I don’t know how many years. Looked quite normal to my European eyes!
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
karansaraf wrote:
holidayloverxx wrote:
@bambionskiis, as intermediates who only go into the odd easy glade we love sun peaks. 2 flights though. Dog sledding was great. Plenty of restaurants

We liked Panorama but there is bug all there. Poor choice of restaurants. Not enough for intermediates for 2 weeks.

We also like Big White but again 2 flights but again crappy restaurant choice.

Yrembkant was very icy...real ice with death cookies everywhere

We had a great trip staying in Quebec City and going out to stoneham and Mont ste anne but that was a novelty.

Whistler....we should go back now we are better skiers

Banff...been 3 times. Enjoyed it and are happy with the bus ride. Caribou in the streets!

Fernie...Enjoyed it but we weren't good enough for it.

In the US only skied Breckenridge. Enjoyed it but prefer canada


Weren't good enough for Fernie? I'm going there for 2 weeks at the end of the month, don't scare me! Confused Laughing
What was your level of skiing when you went to Fernie? (as in, what could you do in the Alps as a comparator?)


European blues and some reds. I can't compare to the alps as we didn't really go there much at that time though I seem to recall cervinia was good for us.
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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!
I wouldn't go to the US. Their President reckons that Iran will invade shortly
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Chuckle. Thanks folks. Great info and will keep a look at conditions. Any further local update very welcome too.
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@paulmags, In North America, it's generally true that prices are very considerably lower if you book early. The best discounts on accommodation and lift passes typically end before the summer starts so, if I were you, I would be considering the 2021 season instead.

I'm off to Whistler in a few weeks. My accommodation has more than doubled in price since I booked, and my Epic pass, which will also cover me for a later trip to Fernie, is no longer available for this season. So, although booking late gives you certainty over conditions, it also gives you a much bigger hit to the bank balance.

I think that's why many people who usually ski in Europe misunderstand the cost of a trip to NA. They look at last minute prices for the Alps and NA and conclude the latter is much more expensive but, if they'd booked ahead, the difference would have narrowed or disappeared. In my experience, if you book ahead, it's certainly cheaper to ski in Whistler than, for example, Val d'Isere.
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i have only been to the NE and all I can say is it not a patch on Europe and its COLD i thought I was going to get frostbite just walking back to the car in Loon and there doesn't seem to be any longer trips to any of the resorts ..all of which were a bit limited..I was there for 3 months ..and wouldn't go back
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
1. Killington
2. Aspen
3. Jackson Hole
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Quote:

i have only been to the NE and all I can say is it not a patch on Europe


See all the comments above about not worth going transatlantic to ski east coast. Its like saying I only went to Bulgaria and European skiing doesn't have a patch on n America.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I have to smile at the OP's OHs style on this one. Seemingly a fairly uninformed yearning to ski in N. America (preferably Canada) at the coldest darkest time of the winter.
Then delegates to the OH to sweat all the small stuff. snowHead
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Short answer - Winter Park.
I agree with Jonny on most of what he says apart from Canad because I've never skied there. Skiing in Colorado with their champagne powder is just amazing. I would go every year if I could afford it.

Do make it later in the year (Jan & Feb are freezing usually) add on another destination if you can - we've done Disney, NY when we skied in the East (Killington) & last time I did San Fran and Las Vegas

WP is only an hour from Denver, buy the lift pass online or at one on the general stores on the way in, never, never buy in resort. Usually there is a deal, Groupon or similar.

Ski in Breckenridge and Copper for a day, as they are very close, drink lots of water and never order 2 courses at one hit until you've got used to the altitude! Eating on the mountain is way cheaper than doing the same in France in my humble opinion.

There are great advantages of jet lag, one being you're up bright as a bunny ready to ski at 6am!

I should say now I am biased, my cousin used to be an instructor at WP so I am always lucky enough to ski with female instructors who know the terrain, the runs to get out of the wind, the runs where the bumps are smaller... but we have skied many other US resorts. Telluride is is where the stars ski and have the most wonderful homes but it is a long and nasty drive from Denver (through what is regularly the coldest place in Colorado...) and we had really poor snow. (The airport isn't in top 10 most dangerous in the world, I do wonder why...)

Apres ski is virtually non-existent so enjoy the jet lag!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hurrah. Just booked Banff. Nothing against Winter Park but we’ve been there and loved it.
Any tips on which sites to get cheaper lift passes would be welcome.
Any tips on equipment rental would be great too as we might travel without our skis.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Sorry never skied Banff so I have no knowledge what-so-ever! Try Google Puzzled
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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?
paulmags wrote:
Hurrah. Just booked Banff. Nothing against Winter Park but we’ve been there and loved it.
Any tips on which sites to get cheaper lift passes would be welcome.
Any tips on equipment rental would be great too as we might travel without our skis.


There may be better deals, but include this in your search: https://www.skibig3.com/lift-tickets/

Note that if you've opted for a 10-14 day trip, that you can get non-contiguous passes, e.g. 6 days of skiing to be used on any days within a specified 8 day period. This gives you some days to do other things.
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I always used skibig3, so if anything better, do let us know here!
I believe they also do bigger discounts if you get accom, kit and pass all through them. We booked special family rooms as accom separately, so never got the max discount possible. But we were usually quite late, eg 3 months ahead; perhaps if I'd been more organised, 6m+ ahead, it would have been possible.
That Mountain Collective pass looks like a good deal though, particularly if you don't plan on using the bus to the slopes (Tri-area pass includes the bus free).
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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Cheers, we're just about organised. We ended up going skibig3 which has a discount just now. It seemed easier than the Mountain Collective pass especially as we'll be using the bus. Transfer by Banff Airporter which travels later which'll be better if delayed.
Insurance was interesting with Asda travel insurance being well worth a look as recommended on another Snowheads thread. Good value annual cover which seems to cover off piste too.
https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=3506493&highlight=asda#3506493
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Whistler should be done at least once if you can
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Just back from Banff. We had a fantastic time, loved skiing Banff area and would thoroughly recommend it. Thanks for the various information from here.

We had superb snow and great cover. It was unusually cold for 3 days but wrapping well and foot and hand warmers did the trick.

The 3 good varied and extensive areas were well good enough to really enjoy a week. We were nicely surprised with the extent and variety of good terrain.
Norquay was a bit of a disappointment as 2 of the main lifts were closed and the lodge wasn’t heated enough to warm up in. Best keep an eye on conditions through the following as they tend to over egg it e.g. we bused to Lake Louise since their reports seemed to say all lifts were open but that was only a projection and nothing actually opened that day since it was way too cold at over minus 25. Both Sunshine Village and Lake Louise had wonderful skiing.
Conditions and contacts of the 3 individual areas:
https://www.skibanff.com/conditions 1 877 542 2633

https://www.skilouise.com/conditions/snow-report.php 1 877 956 8473

https://banffnorquay.com/winter-2/conditions/ 1 844 667 7829


It’s nice being able to ski different areas and don’t let having to bus to the slopes put you off. They were nice buses and the scenery was spectacular. They were superbly organised understanding how busy they were and having immediate backup to ensure people weren’t left behind.

We really enjoyed staying at the Caribou Lodge. Nice character to it with a good bar and food, mainly a pretty busy ‘Keg’ steakhouse. There are closer hotels to town but we walked in most nights despite the cold. We’d definitely stay there again.

We used Banff Airporter from Calgary mainly because they had later options. They were great. We had to make various changes and they were super quick and helpful in replying and making changes.
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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!
@paulmags, glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it is the place to which one takes longjohns, boot and glove-liners. For your next visit here's a tip or two: https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=73089
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One more Banff fan Smile
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Orange200 wrote:
paulmags wrote:
Interesting stuff, now thinking of Banff as a good option from what’s said here. Can I ask where you can find if the current/expected snow cover is good enough to make it worth heading to e.g. as an option to Winter Park or Europe?


I was there in I think 2016 where they were nearly crying saying it was one of the worst seasons for I don’t know how many years. Looked quite normal to my European eyes!


Good to hear!
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I also booked my deal at the Ptarmigan Inn through Ski Big 3. Booked it last May for Feb 26th this year. 2 weeks. Did the 10 in 12 lift pass offer with 40% off the accommodation on an early bird special. Worked out overall a decent price and cheaper than the TOs. Booked the flight through Air Canada direct and the transfer through Brewsters.
Will report back once I've been/am there.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I did a 2 week road trip a few years back, fly to Calgary and skiing Banff (Lake Louise 2 days and Sunshine 3 days), Jasper (3 days), Kicking Horse, and Revelstoke (2 days).

Banff is brilliant and a great town to base yourself in. I was with a group of guys so we had a bunk room in a hostel, but it looked like plenty of good places to stay. My parents visited in the summer and also loved it.

Orange200 wrote:
paulmags wrote:
Interesting stuff, now thinking of Banff as a good option from what’s said here. Can I ask where you can find if the current/expected snow cover is good enough to make it worth heading to e.g. as an option to Winter Park or Europe?


I was there in I think 2016 where they were nearly crying saying it was one of the worst seasons for I don’t know how many years. Looked quite normal to my European eyes!


Are you sure that wasn't 2015? That's when I was there, see the flat lime green line (Revelstoke):



And as you say it looked pretty good to me! Pistes were generally packed snow, no ice anywhere, very grippy. Off piste more mixed but still good.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Ah - it was the 15/16 season, your yellow line - doesn't look too bad?! My 2018 Banff TR is in my sig, here's my 2016 one (sig won't allow too much Sad ) https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=2874473
I always try to add in (some) facts and prices to help other people plan.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Ah, just found this historical tracker, which is not cumulative snow depth but number and size of falls through the season. 15/16 started well but then got very few top ups.
https://www.onthesnow.com/alberta/lake-louise/historical-snowfall.html?y=0
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Really interesting responses everyone. So glad I started it.

We’re off to Banff with Crystal at Christmas. It’ll be an experience even if freezing. Thanks for the info paulmags and to everyone generally: really helpful.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
bambionskiis,

That's great that you have booked a trip! only 11 months to go... wink
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
For those of you who flew with Air Canada and took skis did you pre-register them or just turned up at the airport with them?
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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?
VolklAttivaS5,

We didn't notify Air Canada in advance, but just turned up with skis. We didn't have any problems.
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@Bergmeister, ok thanks
Reason I ask is they have problems with the contact centre at the moment and I tried emailing but even that was rubbish
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
VolklAttivaS5,

The ski bag was however one of our 2 permitted check-in bags.
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You can also take a boot bag as an extra free of charge with Air Canada in winter. Even if not taking skis. Worth it for the weight of my size 11 boots!

Amusingly their self check in has the option for hunting trophies, antlers and firearms. But not skis or boots I saw lots of people with skis but none with a moose head
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There are lots of generalizations in this thread, which is probably unavoidable. But obviously North America - as well as Europe - has a wide variety of resorts. It is not possible to get a truly good feel for the skiing that a continent has to offer from only a handful of visits. It takes a lifetime to more than scratch the surface.

Only a few consistent differences between European and NA skiing come to mind:
- Lift lines are more chaotic in Europe.
- Lift prices are more expensive in NA (especially in the USA)
- the ratio of trails (pistes) to lifts in higher in NA
- In-bounds off-piste terrain is generally avalanche controlled in NA

NA ski resorts ski bigger than they look because of the generally more extensive trail networks. Interconnected resorts in the Alps are littered with lifts spanning dozens of kms, but they have comparatively fewer pistes... so GoogleMaps can be misleading. Other people have covered most of the obvious options. An unconventional idea would be to consider Quebec Province (Canadian east coast)... Mount Tremblant or Mount St. Anne outside Montreal and Quebec City, respectively. The area is extremely pretty around Christmas-time and has an earlier start to winter (on average) than many other parts of NA. But these resorts are small compared to the big names in the Alps and western NA.
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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!
@Bergmeister, I'm taking one wheelie holdall with my boots in the end pockets which will be 23kg or less and one skis.
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altaski8 wrote:
Lift prices are more expensive in NA (especially in the USA)


Understatement of the year. I'm told Vail is now $230 per day at the ticket window if you just rock up for a ski (imagine doing that as a family). Last season I paid $195 for just one day at another 'Vail resort'. Clearly they want to discourage that style of buying in favour of Epic but there was still a queue to buy. Generally, as a one or two weeker, you get poor bangs for your buck compared to Europe.
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Pruman wrote:
altaski8 wrote:
Lift prices are more expensive in NA (especially in the USA)


Understatement of the year. I'm told Vail is now $230 per day at the ticket window if you just rock up for a ski (imagine doing that as a family). Last season I paid $195 for just one day at another 'Vail resort'. Clearly they want to discourage that style of buying in favour of Epic but there was still a queue to buy. Generally, as a one or two weeker, you get poor bangs for your buck compared to Europe.

Yeah I'm amazed at how expensive it has gotten. It seems like prices have doubled in just a handful of years. Of course there are discounts everywhere... websites, packages etc... but still it has gotten crazy. Price being equal, I prefer NA skiing. But considering prices, I prefer the Alps overall.
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