1. It’s not “just” Banff.

It’s three unique resorts: Lake Louise, Mount Norquay and Sunshine Village.

Collectively marketed under the tag “Ski Big 3,” this trifecta offers up 8,000 acres of skiing and riding, 2 gondolas, 26 chairlifts and 290 named runs.

Taken individually, each resort has a unique character and personality, as well as “must ski” attributes.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Skiing in Banff, Canada

Mount Norquay. PHOTO: Kristen Lummis

2. There’s more than what meets the eye.

From the town of Banff, you can see Mount Norquay. Or rather, you look up and see a super steep pitch covered in moguls. But this is only one face and one aspect of the ski area.

The smallest of the Ski Big 3 resorts, Mount Norquay has just as much variety as it’s larger sisters. With a vertical rise of 1,630 feet (503 meters) and 6 lifts, yet only 190 skiable acres, it’s shocking how much terrain is packed into a small area.

Sunshine Village is even more deceiving. A parking lot, and not much more, greets you upon arrival. There’s not a ski run to be seen, nor even a hint of the resort’s famous peaks.

A long gondola takes you to the actual resort, rimmed by huge peaks, linked together along the continental divide.

In general, the rule at Sunshine is that the easier terrain is lower. With 12 lifts, including the gondola, 5,440 feet of vert (1658 meters) and 107 named runs, Sunshine Village is a big, fun, jaw-dropping-ly gorgeous place to ski.

And with a new heated bubble chair (replacing the Tee Pee Town Double), you can get to the top, while taking in the endless vistas, more quickly.

The biggest of the Big 3, Lake Louise also serves up a misleading first impression. Only 32% of its terrain is visible when you arrive.

A major resort, by any standard, and the home of an annual Women’s World Cup race, Lake Louise has 4,200 skiable acres, 145 runs, a vertical rise of 3,250 feet (991 meters) and a set of vast back bowls to rival any other back bowls, anywhere.

View Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine Village lift tickets.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Skiing in Banff, Canada

Sunshine Village. PHOTO: Dave Riley

3. You’ll find it all, from bumps to backcountry.

If you love bashing bumps, the steep runs under the North American chair at Mount Norquay are for you. The views down over the town and across the Bow Valley aren’t bad either.

Delirium Dive is the “must ski” for experts at Sunshine Village. Backcountry skills and equipment are required, or you can hire a guide from the ski and ride school.

The safety restrictions keep numbers low and the laps are long. The snow and the views are simply superlative.

If backcountry touring, with a bit of luxury, is more your thing, check out the Skoki Lodge at Lake Louise. Open year-round, winter guests ski in to enjoy the untracked snow and gourmet meals.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Skiing in Banff, Canada

Lake Louise. PHOTO: Kristen Lummis

4. It’s family friendly to the extreme. 

The daycare center at Lake Louise takes infants as young as 18 days. Yes, that’s 18 days.

All three resorts have full service children’s centers and programming.

Mount Norquay also has night skiing and tubing.

5. Think of Ski Big 3 as your “secret.”

Banff is a bustling place come summer. Not so in winter. Even on the busiest day, the density at Lake Louise is only 1 skier per acre.

No crowds. No lines. Big mountains.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Skiing in Banff, Canada

Mount Norquay. PHOTO: Tyler Parker

6. It’s a darn long season.

Most years, the Ski Big 3 season runs from early November to the middle of May.

7. It’s wonderfully affordable. 

If you’ve got U.S. dollars, skiing is Alberta is exceptionally affordable, given the favorable exchange rate.

Sunshine Village and Lake Louise are also on the 2015/16 Mountain Collective Pass, along with 10 other world-class destinations.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Skiing in Banff, Canada

Sunshine Village. PHOTO: Kristen Lummis

8. Lodging ranges from relaxed to regal.

Because Banff National Park controls development within it’s borders, the only ski-in/ski-out accommodation is the Sunshine Mountain Lodge at Sunshine Village. It’s well worth booking.

Otherwise, lodging is found in the towns of Banff or Lake Louise.

By far the larger of the two, Banff has every option, from basic hotels to the castle-like Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. We stayed at the Deer Lodge in Lake Louise, and the Fox Hotel and Suites in Banff, and would return to both.

9. It’s not far away.

It’s easy to get to Banff. If you’re flying, Calgary is your gateway. It’s an easy 90-minute drive to the town of Banff. From here, it’s 5 minutes to Mount Norquay, 30 minutes to Sunshine Village and 40 minutes to Lake Louise.

Plus, there’s very little traffic, except along Banff Avenue.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Skiing in Banff, Canada

Lake Louise. PHOTO: Chris Moseley

10. It’s not just about skiing. 

There is an abundance of winter fun in Banff National Park. With over 1.6 million acres of wilderness to explore, there are waterfalls to climb, lakes to skate, hot springs to swim and mountaintops to visit.

Check out guided ice climbing with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. Or take the Banff Sightseeing Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain for 360-degree views.

Come summer, put this one on your list: the Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay. Enjoy!

View Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine Village lift tickets.

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  • Ted

    I think it was banff ave brewing that had $5 or $6USD liters of good beer on Tuesdays or some day? Great deal and great beer!

  • Brianna

    If you purchase the tri area lift ticket, it includes a complimentary shuttle from most hotels to all three ski resorts in Banff!

  • Scott

    Affordable = <3 So many of the big name mountains in the US are so expensive, Calgary, here I come!

  • Darren

    Banff is definitely on my winter bucket list.

  • Cobblestone Creek

    It’s only an 1 hour and 15 minutes (Lake Louise) to 1 hour and 30 minutes (Sunshine) from our cottages in Radium Hot Springs British Columbia along the scenic Kootenay National Park/Lake Windermere Highway. http://www.cobblestonecreek.ca