This post is in partnership with Travel Mindset and Ski Canada.
As summer gives way to the crisp days and cool nights of autumn, a skier’s mind turns to thoughts of gently falling flakes, the glee of first tracks on corduroy runs, and the beauty of bluebird skies and snow-covered mountain peaks.
Winter is coming, and we’re dreaming about skiing in Western Canada.
With the 2019-2020 season cut abruptly short by the pandemic, skiers, riders and resort operators are keeping fingers and toes crossed that the upcoming winter season will bring joy – and lots and lots of snow – along with an acknowledgement of a new operational norm.
The great news is that Western Canadian ski resorts will be open and ready to receive guests this winter season. And Mother Nature will also be laying out a snow-dusted welcome mat, according to the venerable Canadian Farmer’s Almanac.
In its annual long-range winter weather predictions for Canada, the Almanac has forecast that it’s going to be “frigid and frosty” throughout most of the country, a so-called Winter of the Great Divide. Much of western Canada will experience a colder and snowier winter season, which bodes very well for skiers and riders itching to pick up where they had to leave off so suddenly last season.
Our Guide to Skiing in Western Canada
Committed to Health and Safety
Since the pandemic forced an unexpected end to the 2020 season in March, Western Canadian ski resorts have been working with local and provincial health authorities in Alberta and British Columbia to implement health and safety protocols that will keep visitors, employees and local residents healthy and safe.
These measures include increased sanitation and cleaning practices, the wearing of masks in all public indoor spaces in Canadian ski resorts, and mandatory masks in some outdoor public spaces as well.
Physical distancing practices will be in effect in restaurants and shops, along with directional signage to help with the flow of ski guests. Many shops and resorts will only be accepting credit or debit cards for purchases. There may also be capacity controls for lifts and gondolas.
Remember to be kind, be calm and be safe when you’re enjoying the great outdoors this winter. For the latest and most up to date health and safety information, visit the ski resort’s website.
Find Room to Roam with SkiBig3
Home to some of the most spectacular snow conditions in the west and certainly some of the most iconic landscapes in Canada, the SkiBig3 resorts of Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay in Alberta have ‘room to roam’ and Rocky Mountain views for miles and miles.
Scheduled to open in early November and with 8,000 acres of terrain across the three unique ski resorts, skiers and riders of every ability can experience wide open bowls, cruisers and glades, steep and deep runs and space to stretch out and enjoy the best that winter has to offer, among the towering peaks in Canada’s first National Park.
In winter, the townsites of Banff and Lake Louise are snow-dusted mountain villages with a variety of guest accommodations for every budget, excellent dining options, and many other enjoyable winter activities like skating, ice-climbing, dog sledding and snowshoeing.
SkiBig3 resorts offer several ticket bundling options with hotel accommodation bookings. Guests can book with confidence and enjoy no cancellation fees and free itinerary changes until 3 days prior to arrival.
SkiBig3 is an Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective destination, so if you’re a passholder, be sure to tap into some great lodging deals.
Travel the Powder Highway
Just to the west of the Rockies, British Columbia’s Powder Highway connects eight alpine resorts in a 1,014km/630 mile loop, a true ‘road to winter.’
Home to deep, dry and consistent Kootenay powder, resorts such as Fernie, Kicking Horse Mountain in Golden, Revelstoke, Red Mountain and Kimberley also feature charming and authentic ski towns filled with local skiers and snowboarders.
Throw in some of the world’s most renowned heli-skiing and cat-skiing operations, as well as highly coveted backcountry lodges like Purcell Mountain Lodge, and this area of British Columbia stands out as one of the premier ski vacation destinations in the world.
Several of these resorts offer some of the most challenging terrain and highest vertical in North America, but there’s room for every level of skier and rider. In the words of a local, there’s ‘wide open spaces with no nearby faces,’ an ideal situation for those seeking a winter wonderland without the crowds.
The Powder Highway also mirrors the Hot Springs Circle Route through the Kootenays, a serendipitous coincidence for those who like to soak sore muscles after a hard day on the slopes. *Raises hand*
Champagne Powder in the Thompson/Okanagan
The interior of British Columbia is dotted with amazing ski resorts, epic champagne powder conditions blanketing charming ski villages. The Okanagan Valley’s Sun Peaks, Big White and Silver Star ski resorts are within close distance of each other, but each offers unique and special alpine experiences.
Just four hours from Vancouver, Sun Peaks is Canada’s second largest ski resort. With three mountains and 4,270 acres of skiable terrain, a quaint European-style village and family-friendly amenities both on and off the slopes, Sun Peaks comes closest to feeling like you’ve landed in the Alps. In addition to alpine skiing, there’s cross-country, tubing, snowmobiling, fat biking, ice skating, and the chance to ski with Olympic legend Nancy Greene.
Beautiful Big White receives an annual snowfall of 750 cm/24.5 feet of dry fluffy snow, making for truly fantastic ski conditions spread across 2,765 acres. Big White has great family-friendly amenities, lots of ski in ski out accommodations, a lovely compact village atmosphere, and slope side activities that include ice climbing, skating, tubing and horse-drawn sleigh rides.
Located in B.C.’s Monashee Mountain range, SilverStar Mountain Resort features 130+ runs of long and windy green and blues alongside steep and challenging powder-filled chutes. The hills above the colourful village get an average of 23 feet of light powder annually. Even on busy days, you’ll have room to yourself to enjoy it all. The Resort’s “One Pass” allows unlimited access to all SilverStar has to offer, including Canada’s largest daily groomed cross country network at Sovereign Lake, snowshoeing, fat biking, skating and tubing.
Go coastal at Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler is a skier and rider’s paradise. With over 8,170 acres of skiable terrain between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and 200+ runs, 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers, every powder hound will find his or her sweet spots.
As Canada’s largest ski area and a perennial winner of best ski resort in North America, Whistler brings the alpine experience to another level.
Whistler receives an average annual snowfall of 11.8 metres/38.7 feet per year, so there’s lots to go around. The two mountains offer slightly different skiing and riding experiences for winter enthusiasts. Whistler Mountain features more green runs, wide open bowls and family-friendly terrain, while Blackcomb Mountain attracts more intermediate and advanced skiers and riders, as well as those interested in double blacks and high alpine chutes.
Whistler Blackcomb is scheduled to open November 26th. For guest safety, the resort will be managing how many people are on the mountains this season and implementing a pass holder reservation system. Reservations will be required to access the mountains.
For the vast majority of days, the resort anticipates the mountains will be able to accommodate everyone who wants to ski or ride. The reservation system is designed to give peace of mind to guests, and provide the space needed to feel safe and physically distant.
The resort offers a variety of pass options for guests, from the Epic Pass, which also includes resorts across Canada, the USA and Europe; to EDGE Cards for locals; Student Cards and the new Whistler Blackcomb Day Pass.
Lift passes include access to both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, as well as the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola that operates between the two. If that sounds like you’re getting two mountains in one, well, you are. Go out and enjoy it.
A Shout out to Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains
For those living and playing in Metro Vancouver, the three north shore mountains – Cypress, Grouse and Mt Seymour – will be familiar and beloved resorts where many locals have learned to ski, ride and enjoy winter for the first time.
Accessible by car, resort bus and Grouse’s Skyride gondola, these ski ‘hills’ offer fantastic ski school programs (big props to Mt Seymour for teaching our kids to ski like pros), affordable day rates and season passes, as well as other ways to enjoy winter, like tubing, skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Western Canadian Ski Ticket Deals
You can buy season passes from the resort of your choice via their website. Whether it’s an Ikon, Epic, Mountain Collective or individual resort pass, Western Canadian alpine resorts are making it easy for skiers to find savings and hit the slopes as often and as much as possible.
If you’re interested in visiting a variety of alpine resorts this season, the Canadian Lift Pass Program from Ski Canada offers skiers and riders a chance to ski and snowboard at some of Canada’s greatest ski resort destinations for less. Choose the Explore the West package and save up to 34% on lift tickets. Supplies are limited and sell out quickly.
Got kids in grades 4 and 5? Sign them up for the Grade 4 & 5 SnowPass! The SnowPass gives kids the chance to ski or snowboard two times at each of the 125+ ski areas across Canada, for just $29.99.
We purchased a SnowPass for both of our kids when they were of age. The passes are valid for two seasons if you apply at the beginning of Grade 4, which is a total no-brainer. It was best ski sports deal we ever made.
No matter where you choose to make first tracks or end the day with après, the ski resorts in Western Canada offer an unforgettable, safe and healthy alpine mountain experience for every age and budget.
Photo Credits: SkiBig3, Reuben Krabbe, Go Whistler, Sun Peaks Ski Resort, Shutterstock