Skiing in Canada: 5 things that give it the edge
If you're starting to think about your winter ski or snowboard holiday then read on as Ben Whitmarsh tells us why Canada is such a great place for a snow holidays.
The ingredients involved in skiing are pretty straightforward. Take a mountain, add a decent amount of snow and you are pretty well set. Throw in a dash of ‘après ski’ and your annual jaunt to the slopes will probably go splendidly. The resorts of Canada have successfully mastered this formula and as a consequence are rightly considered to be amongst the best, if not the best in the world.
The choice of location is enviable – a cheap flight to Canada over the Atlantic will land you in Montreal or Quebec City and the resorts of Mont Tremblant and Le Massif De Charlevoix. Or you can head further west to Banff National Park in Alberta (via Calgary) or the famed Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, just north of Vancouver.
This blog post is going to look at some of the things that make these places extra special, the factors that set it apart from skiing in the rest of the world. Of course, those who have been there may have their own ideas, but here are 5 examples:
1: Skiing with an Olympian in Whistler Blackcomb
Fly to Vancouver and drive north for a couple of hours up the spectacular Sea to Sky Highway, and you arrive in Whistler Blackcomb. Then, if you fancy a real challenge, you can ski with a genuine competitor from the Olympics. (The WINTER Olympics, by the way. You will not be going over the moguls with Usain Bolt) The games were held here in 2010 and skiers will therefore reap the benefit of the investment into the area. Even if you can’t make it to Whistler for the winter, check out the resort in the summer, when the mountain biking is world class.
2: Heli skiing
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing I enjoy more than a pootle down the John Nike Leisure Centre Artificial ski slope in Bracknell. From here you can see some of the finest office blocks and roundabouts that Berkshire has to offer. Yet sometimes you need a skiing experience that makes you feel you are the only person on the planet. This is precisely the sensation that accompanies heli-skiing. Once you have been dropped off by the chopper onto the untouched powder, the feeling of freedom and possibility can be overwhelming. The British Columbian resort of Revelstoke is in the Kootenay Rockies where Heli-skiing was pioneered, so why try it anywhere else?
3: A focus on family
The resort of Big White is in British Columbia, a flight away from Vancouver or Calgary. It likes to think of itself as Canada’s favourite family resort, and that is underlined by Ski Canada Magazine voting Big White’s Tot Town Daycare the “Best Place to be Abandoned by Your Parents”. Thinking of the needs of family is second nature on Canadian slopes, and another fine example of this is in Mont Tremblant in Quebec. They have introduced the ‘Flaik’ system to the slopes, which is a GPS unit for youngsters so their parents know where they are at all times - peace of mind on when you are on the piste.
4: Action away from the slopes
Every ‘one week a year’ skier will know the feeling. You turn up the slopes, go hard at it for two days, and then suddenly your legs just give up on you. It’s now that you anxiously look around for something else to do for a day to give your limbs a break. For many, that may not involve straying too far from the bar, but what if you still want to get out and about? Well, snowshoeing is enjoying a rise in popularity in Canada, allowing you to make the most of the environment but not wear yourself out. However, if you want an adrenalin rush without the inconvenience of standing up, then try rodelling, available at the resort of Le Massif de Charlevoix. It’s basically sledging with a flashy European name, but huge fun.
5: Why ski at 1 resort when you can ski at 3?
Do you remember the autumn of 1883? If so, you may recall three Canadian railway workers stumbling across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta's Rocky Mountains. From that humble beginning was born Banff National Park, Canada's first national park and the world's third. All of this is jolly interesting, but if you are reading this you are probably a skier, and what is far more pertinent is the fact that Banff is home to some sensational snowy slope action. What’s more, three of the world’s finest ski resorts - Mt. Norquay, The Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Village – are within a stone’s throw of each other. Of course, being limited to skiing at one great resort when there are two others so close could be rather frustrating. Thankfully, offering one convenient, tri-area lift ticket and free transportation between the resorts has solved this.