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It’s easy for a ski trip to become routine. As an adult, you visit the mountains you frequented as a kid, and the local it’s-driving-distance hill becomes your go-to year after year.
We’re not mad about it, we just know you can do better. And honestly, you deserve better. So this year, we challenge you to travel farther—to make it a destination, not just a trip. To visit a place where skiing is just the tip of the mountain.
For your first destination ski run, we recommend heading north to the friendly confines of Canada’s Banff National Park. There, SkiBig3 and the resorts of Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay offer access to three mountains in the pure Canadian wilderness, jaw-dropping views, world-class skiing, and plenty of activities, all within your winter travel budget.
Read on to learn why SkiBig3 should be the site of your first destination ski trip. (Although, have you seen the photos? Not much reading is required, to be honest.)
It’s easy to get to but still feels far away
To get to SkiBig3, you can fly direct to Calgary from a slew of U.S. cities, including East Coast hubs like New York (JFK), Midwest ports like Denver, and West Coast cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Once you arrive, Banff is just about an hour and a half away. Although you might want to budget a little more time for a few pit stops. It’s hard not to stop and stare at the scenery.
You’ll get serious bang for your buck
Canada’s exchange rate will save you about 30 percent right out of the gate. On top of that, winter is actually low season in the Banff area, which pulls crowds in the warmer months for hiking, biking, and exploring the glacial wilderness.
What’s more, SkiBig3’s lift ticket is good for three different resorts—Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay—and includes free shuttles from the town of Banff to the resorts. All three are also accessible via Ikon Pass.
That means you’ll be ready to embark on what the resorts call the Trifecta Challenge: skiing all three resorts in one day (Mt. Norquay is open past 9 p.m. some nights to cap of the challenge). Or take a guided adventure across all three over a full weekend. Either way, you’ll be able to take a load off after your challenge is complete, as a pass also grants you complimentary access to the world-famous Banff Hot Springs.
The accommodations are the real deal
If you’re sick of traditional ski lodges or day trips now, it’s going to be really tough to ever go back once you’ve experienced one of the Banff area’s resorts, lodges, or chalets.
Try Sunshine Mountain Lodge (Banff’s only ski-in, ski-out lodge), the Moose, or Caribou Lodge in the town of Banff. Or step it up a notch and stay in both the Fairmont Banff Springs and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise by castle hopping between both properties in one luxurious trip. In true royal treatment, the hotels take care of moving your bags across the properties.
Skiing is just the start
For those who like the idea of beers in the lodge more than the downhill, fear not. At SkiBig3, there are plenty of other activities to try like dog sledding, cross country skiing, fat biking, or tubing.
And yes, you can bail on all that and have a few pops instead. Dining and stargazing at 7,510 feet at Sky Bistro atop the Banff Gondola summit is tough to beat. But there’s more than enough live music, brewpubs, distilleries, Crossfit, yoga, and charcuterie available if you want to try.
The Canadian Rockies give their American cousins a run for their money
With views of high, snow-capped peaks, glacial lakes, and canyons, you may eschew their stateside counterparts altogether and keep coming back to Canada year after year. Honestly, there’s just something about needing your passport to get to a place that makes the scenery there even more incredible.
The locals would tell you the best way to see the sights is from atop the mountains, even if you’re not a particularly advanced skier. Take in panoramic views of the valley and Mount Bourgeau from a groomer like Sunshine Coast at Banff Sunshine Village, or ride the Great Divide Express Quad. After venturing briefly into British Columbia, it arrives atop Lookout Mountain at about 9,000 feet above sea level.
If you venture down, the slopes of Bye Bye Bowl give way to sights of Mount Assiniboine, sometimes called the “Matterhorn of the Rockies.” The actual Matterhorn is more of a second destination ski trip, at the very least.