Skiers will feel close to heaven in Banff, with so much great terrain, variety, and choice. The park has three principal ski areas (Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise), two of them huge, offering an incredible mix of terrain; as an added bonus, all are within about 45 minutes of each other and of the town of Banff along Highway 1. Their proximity has resulted in an alliance for booking and promotional purposes, which makes exploring their options a single stop online, at www.skibig3.com. You can also contact the Ski Banff Lake Louise Sunshine office (P.O. Box 1085, Banff, AB T0l 0C0; tel. 403/762-4561). Passes are 3 out of 4 days C$240 adults, 4 out of 5 days C$320 adults, and the like. Children 13 to 17 and seniors 65 and over pay C$71 per day. Kids 6 to 12 pay C$26 per day.
The smallest of the three, Banff Mount Norquay (tel. 403/762-4421; www.banffnorquay.com), is just above the Town of Banff, across the highway; you can see the shops and restaurants of Banff Avenue from its chairlifts. It's small, but steep, and can be challenging; its signature run, the North American, is one of the steepest runs on the continent. Norquay tends to emphasize family skiing; the resort offers day care and instruction, and is the only ski area in the region to offer night skiing. They also have afternoon-only and hourly ski passes. Full-day lift tickets are C$55 adults, C$43 children 13 to 17 and seniors, and C$17 children 12 and under.
To get to Sunshine Village's (tel. 403/762-6500; www.skibanff.com) vast skiable area, well above the tree line, you'll take a long ride on an alpine gondola just to get to the ski area's base. There, you'll find the main lodge (an old log cabin-cum-pub), a ski and snowboard school, and the recently renovated Sunshine Mountain Lodge.
Just 15 minutes west of Banff off Highway 1, Sunshine gets more snow than any ski area in the Canadian Rockies (more than 9m/30 ft. per year!). Skiing often continues into late May. Lift tickets here are C$76 adults, C$62 seniors, C$54 for children 13 to 17, and C$26 children 12 and under. Just riding the gondola is C$26 per person.
Lake Louise Ski Area (tel. 800/258-SNOW [800/258-7669] in North America or 403/552-3555; www.skilouise.com) is the largest of the three, with both the front and back sides of one mountain and the front of another. It is massive, gorgeous, and at times, extremely challenging. In addition to the main lodge at the base, there are two other lodges, one halfway up the front side and another at the bottom of the back side. The one on the back side, Temple Lodge, has a big deck for BBQing burgers; on a sunny, warm spring day, it's packed with sun-worshippers working on their goggle tans. Lake Louise has 1,680 skiable hectares (4,151 acres) and 113 runs, making it among the largest ski resorts in North America. Lift tickets are C$78 adults, C$63 seniors, C$55 children 13 to 17, and C$27 children 12 and under.
Cross-country or Nordic skiing is also a favorite winter activity in Banff. It can be relaxing, strenuous, and peaceful. There are more than 80km (50 miles) of managed ski trails in the park. Get updated trail reports at www.pc.gc.ca/banff. Beginners can try the Golf Course Loop near the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. More experienced skiers shouldn't miss the Pipestone Loops and track-set trails at Moraine Lake near Lake Louise.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.