Canada is one of the world’s leading ski nations, with around 300 ski centres stretching right across the country. Although the most famous ski resorts, such as Whistler and Banff, are found in the western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, there are hundreds of smaller centres in Quebec and Ontario to the east and even on some of the off-shore islands.
Anyone who loves skiing will not fail to be impressed by a ski holiday in Canada. With a fantastic selection of resorts to choose from, top quality snow and wide, groomed pistes, you cannot fail to be impressed.
A ski holiday in Canada guarantees fantastic snow conditions and its resorts are much more snow-sure than their European counterparts. Canada is particularly renowned for its powder skiing, which is considered some of the best in the world.
Today, Canada’s ski areas hold a variety of distinguishing features in North American and the world. For example, Revelstoke and Whistler in British Columbia both offer the biggest lift served vertical drops in North America. Whistler also has the largest ski area in North America and the longest season for a major resort, using its glacier skiing to stay open for nine months right in to summer.
In 2008, Whistler opened a world-record-breaking lift, the Peak-to-Peak gondola. This links its two mountains with the highest lift in the world above a valley floor, and also uses the latest technology to provide the longest single-span between two support towers.
Canada boasts some of the most northerly ski areas in the world and, in Alberta and British Columbia, some of the most abundant natural powder snowfall, allowing Lake Louise to host some of the first World Cup races in the northern hemisphere each winter and then stay open into May each year. The huge snowfalls in this area have also led to it being the world centre for heli-ski operation, with about two dozen different companies to choose from.
Much of this terrain has been home to indigenous aboriginal tribes of Native Americans and Inuit for many centuries, and today the Canadian government tries to involve these traditional stewards of the environment in all decisions over the use of the land.
Ski holidays in Canada can typically cost 20-25% less than in the US. However, there are still bargains to be had if booking Canadian ski holidays, particularly in low season in mid-winter, when prices for accommodation and flight can be little more than the cost of a holiday to the Alps, sometimes even less.
Although adult lift tickets, in common with the US, are typically higher than in the Alps, prices for children are much more generous than any other major ski nation in the world. Canada and Switzerland are the only two countries in world skiing where resorts routinely charge children half price or less of the adult cost, and apply these prices whilst they are children.
Skiing really began in the country in eastern Canada where the first ski lifts in North America were built in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Ski areas were also quickly developed near to major stops on the trans-Canadian rail line at Banff and Jasper, as the railroads were keen to encourage tourism making use of rail transport.
Grand hotels were built that remain famous today, including Chateau Lake Louise. However, some of the best known resorts in the west of the country such as Sun Peaks, Whistler and Panorama are all quite modern, at least in their current status as major international destinations, with much of their modern facilities constructed in the past 20 years.
The different Canadian provinces offer different experiences, and resorts within each province can also vary greatly from each other.
In the west you have some of the biggest mountains in North America and some of the most spectacular scenery. In between the ski resorts themselves there are large areas of superb wilderness which remain home to a diverse range of wildlife.
In the east there are more ski areas on smaller hills and they’re closer together. In Quebec you have the unusual choice of skiing in a region where French is the main language, and there is a distinct feeling of social awareness to, which is rarely felt in the rest of North America. So you can have the sense of French ambience and some of the best food and best value on the continent.
There are also small ski areas close to Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. Destination guests may also opt to stay in the towns of Banff and Jasper which have a choice of ski areas: Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise, or Marmot Basin respectively.
Unusual resorts that are worthy of a separate mention include Kimberley, which has a surreal Bavarian feel, and Silver Star, which has some colourful Victorian-style wooden houses and a lovely atmosphere. It, as well as nearby Big White, has an Australian owner and a distinct Aussie vibe from the resort staff, who fly in each winter from down under.
A couple of final points to consider are that it can be very cold in Canada, so it’s worth ensuring you have quality thermals, gloves and a balaclava with you, although these are probably of a higher quality and more affordable if bought in resort when you arrive rather than in the UK. A final good point is that Canadians are generally a friendly lot, which usually means a welcome as soon as you touch down on Canadian soil.