Ski resorts in Canada don’t get a lot of attention outside of the iconic Whistler Blackcomb, but with a whole section of British Columbia nicknamed the Powder Highway, we’re pretty sure Canadian resorts will knock your socks off! So hang tight, here’s our list of the top Canadian resorts!
- European-style alpine setting
- Easily accessible – 90 minutes’ drive from Montreal
- Terrain suitable for all levels
- Vibrant nightlife and après ski for skiers and non-skiers alike
- Can be crowded, especially on weekends
- Far from major towns and cities in Eastern USA
- It gets very cold here, even by Eastern standards
If the adorable Disney-like town doesn’t entice you to Mont Tremblant, then the epic skiing here definitely will. It’s generally considered eastern Canada’s premier resort and even the best resort on the east coast of North America. The bilingual resort (English and French) combines unique Quebecois culture and cuisine with terrain to suit any ability. Many visitors compare it skiing in a European town without the transatlantic flight. In fact, sitting only 90 minutes northwest of Montreal, it’s one of the easiest resorts to get to in Canada!
The Best in the East
Mont Tremblant’s big terrain (by eastern standards) is sure to impress any skier, offering up 100 trails and 3 terrain parks to choose from. Its 645 m of vertical is nothing to sneer at, and it has Quebec’s steepest run with a pitch of 42 degrees – that’s sure to raise the heart rate of even the most hardcore thrill-seeker! If you’re used to resorts out west, the vertical drop might not sound like a lot, but when you take in the expansive vistas of the Laurentian Mountains, you probably won’t be complaining!
Doesn’t get more European than this
The car-free village makes for a relaxing and family-friendly experience amongst brightly coloured shops that could have been plucked right out of the Alps. And once you call it a day, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to food and drink. It was the French who gave us après ski, after all!
- Lots of snow - an average annual snowfall of 762 cm
- Exceptional extreme terrain with 81 ha of cat skiing
- No crowds
- Authentic local town with chilled vibes
- 3 hours drive from the nearest major airport (Spokane, Washington)
- Mountain can be challenging to navigate (so take a free mountain tour!)
- Limited options for non-skiers
Red Mountain is as local as it gets. Situated just over the US border in southeastern British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountains, it’s proudly independent – even going so far as to crowdsource improvements to keep corporate behemoths like Vail at bay! But that’s not what it’s most famous for.
Home of the experts
With its legendary tree skiing, cliffs, and steeps (that aren’t for the faint of heart), Red Mountain has established a big reputation for experts! Add an average of about 762 cm of snow every year to the extreme terrain and it’s not hard to see why Red produces more Canadian Ski Team members than anywhere else! Don’t fret if you’re not an expert, expansion in recent years has opened up more intermediate terrain and you’ll hardly ever see crowds around the resort.
Rest up in the Rustic town of Rossland
The old mining town of Rossland, a short drive (or free bus ride) away, offers more options for dining and lodging than the resort’s base village. The old buildings dating back to the 1800s give it an authentic air that complements the locals’ laid-back and friendly hospitality, but that’s all you’ll get at Rossland because there’s not much in the way of off-mountain activities.
Easier to Get to than You Think
Red Mountain has a bad rep as being difficult to get to with the nearest major airport (Spokane, Washington) about three hours – and one international border – away. But the distance is actually about the same as Denver to Vail – and nowhere near the I-70 traffic! It also makes a convenient starting point for an odyssey encompassing other resorts along BC’s “Powder Highway”.
- Diverse terrain to suit all abilities
- Heli-skiing available
- Convenient and cosy village, that’s also family-friendly
- Need to take three chairlifts to the summit and best terrain
- Remote – 3.5 hours’ drive from closest airport (Calgary)
- Limited nightlife and no après activities
On the western side of the Canadian Rockies, two hours drive from Banff, Panorama is one of the stops on the Powder highway and offers a variety of terrain blanketed with light dry interior BC powder. It’s sometimes mistaken for a locals’ hill, but with over 1,219 m of vertical, it sure doesn’t feel like it!
Epic Terrain and Heli-skiing
While Panorama has a wide variety of terrain, powderhounds will be charging towards the extreme terrain at the top of the mountain, specifically Taynton Bowl. Its 283 ha of black and double black diamond terrain is perfect for those looking for a challenge, though getting up there is a challenge in itself. The terrain here is used to introduce skiers to heliskiing!
That said, you can also opt for the real thing - RK Heliski flies you from Panorama to 930 square miles of epic terrain packed in the Purcell Mountains where it’s pretty much powder turns galore.
Convenient and Cosy Village
The small, mostly car-free village is purpose-built for the resort, and features an abundance of ski-in/ski-out accommodations. The village also has a skating rink and a pool complex that includes swimming pools, hot tubs, and water slides – great off-the-slopes fun for the whole family and as an added bonus, many lodging properties include the use of the complex in their rates! While there are certainly places to grab an après beer or three, you won’t be mistaking it for the nightclubs of Whistler – but frankly, we’re not sure how much energy we’ll have left after a day here anyway!
- Loads of great snow, 914 cm falling on average per year
- Experts’ playground
- Convenient laid-back village
- Plenty of off-slope activities nearby
- Catskiing nearby
- There are some long traverses which can be frustrating
- Best terrain served by slow lifts
- Limited groomed trails
- Limited on-mountain dining
- Not many amenities at the base
In addition to just being fun to say and another entry on our list from the Powder Highway, Fernie is renowned for its powder. Its location in BC’s interior means the snowstorms lose their moisture far to the west, making the snow here light and dry. But the powder isn’t the only thing that draws attention here.
A Paradise for Experts
Fernie has a well-deserved reputation for having plenty of challenging expert terrain, most notably their deep and steep lines off their legendary bowls. There’s also ungroomed glades and gullies to explore but most will opt for the steep shots off the Currie Bowl and Polar Peak to experience the best terrain here. Just be prepared to earn your turns as venturing to the good stuff means riding on slow chairlifts; though we promise it’ll be worth it. And while we don’t think you’ll get bored in bounds, there are also cat skiing operations nearby if you get the itch to explore further!
Lots of Activities
The base village, while convenient, only has a few options for dining, lodging and après ski. Fortunately, the town of Fernie itself is only 7 km down the road and offers a wider selection of places to eat and sleep. There’s also a bunch of activities available like dogsledding, snowshoeing, spas, and a climbing wall. You can even learn curling – short of playing ice hockey, we’re not sure if it gets more Canadian than that!
- North America’s biggest vertical drop
- Highest average snowfall in the area
- Lifts, cat-skiing, and heli-skiing all available from the same base
- Host to the Freeride World Tour
- Slopes are rarely crowded
- Far to get to – 2.5 hours drive from Kelowna’s regional airport
- Slopes are not ideal for beginners
- Base village is small and has limited lodging and dining
- Lift queues can be a problem on weekends: only four lifts up the mountain
With the biggest vertical drop on the continent at 1,713 m, it’s unbelievable that until 2007, Revelstoke was “just” a locals’ hill with a single lift! Thankfully for us that’s not the case anymore, this is a resort on the rise, offering up the ultimate “stoke” factor.
The New (Big) Kid on the block
Revelstoke has grown up quite well, offering up 69 runs – the longest being a staggering 16 km of leg-burning joy. The terrain is good enough to warrant a stop on the Freeride World Tour, and there’s plenty more to explore with cat-skiing and heli-skiing. That said, only 7% of the mountain is rated for beginners, so pure novices should look elsewhere.
Uncrowded slopes make it a worthwhile trek
Like many of the resorts in eastern BC, it’s not necessarily easy to get to. Calgary is the nearest major airport, over four hours drive away. Kelowna’s regional airport is a closer alternative, which is two and a half hours away. On the plus side, the effort it takes to get here means the mountain is generally less crowded (although it can still bottleneck and lift queues can be an issue on weekends!). Also if you’re worried about its remoteness, you shouldn't, the nearby town of Revelstoke has plenty of restaurants, accommodation and tons of activities such as snowshoeing, dog sledding, and even paragliding.
- Canada’s second largest resort
- No crowds
- Diverse terrain including exceptionally great groomed slopes
- Family-friendly resort and village
- Epic tree runs
- Somewhat less snowfall than other nearby resorts, an average of 602 cm per year
- There could be long stretches between powder dumps
- Slopes can be icy
Located about halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, Sun Peaks’ 1,728 ha puts it behind Whistler-Blackcomb to be second largest ski resort in Canada. With all that space, there’s plenty of area for everyone to spread out so you’ll almost never see a lift line. The terrain is also suitable for everyone from beginners to advanced, so you can be sure everyone you bring along will have a great time!
Family-Friendly Mountain and Village
Sun Peaks is another family favourite of ours. The vast majority of accommodations in the cosy village have ski-in/ski-out access, so it’s easy to herd the little ones onto the slopes. Best of all, the resort has a great ski school and kids’ facilities, and everything is priced rather reasonably, making it an affordable choice for families. If that’s not enough for you, there’s skating, dog-sledding, snowmobiling, tobogganing, and more on offer!
Nice, dry powder (when it comes..)
Sun Peaks doesn’t get as much snow as either Whistler on the coast or the resorts on the Powder Highway. When the snow does come, the inland location means you get that nice, dry powder, but there can be some long stretches between dumps. When that happens, you can wind up with some icy conditions as the trails get skied out – but we have it on good authority that there are always freshies to be found in the trees!
- Can be crowded, especially on weekends as the weekend warriors drive down from Calgary
- Exposed to wind, can be extremely cold
- Not many long intermediate runs
The highest elevation resort in Canada, Sunshine Village (also known as Banff Sunshine) is one of three resorts in Banff National Park –and you can ski them all with the SkiBig3 pass! Perched right on the continental divide (and the border between Alberta and British Columbia), it has some of the highest above-the-treeline terrain in Canada, offering incredible views of the Rockies in every direction!
One of the most extreme ski runs in the world
Sunshine’s slopes serve up something for everyone from groomed cruisers to big bowls but hardcore shredders will get a real kick out of Delirium Dive, one of the world’s most extreme (and perhaps scariest) runs as voted by CNN travel. This expert only extreme freeride zone is no joke; with the slopes getting as steep as 60 degrees featuring cliffs and chutes that will test even the most experienced. Experts can also take it to the next level by “billy-goating” through rocks and hucking off frozen wateralls, just make sure you ride with a buddy and carry appropriate equipment. We’re not going to lie; you’ll probably need to hire a guide to take on Delirium’s insane terrain.
Being first on the slopes has never been easier
The village itself is small, but its home to the Sunshine Mountain lodge, the only ski-in/ski-out hotel in Banff National Park. Most of Sunshine Village’s guests are day-trippers, and the parking lot is actually well below the village and linked by a gondola. That means if you stay on the mountain, you’ll get first pick of fresh tracks!
In the Heart of Banff National Park, on the Crown of the Continent
Conveniently located just 20 minutes’ drive from the town of Banff and next door to Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay, you’ve got other mountains to explore if Sunshine Village doesn’t live up to your expectations.
- Local gem
- Diverse terrain
- No crowds
- Family-friendly and inexpensive
- Just outside the town of Banff and close to Sunshine Village
- Small size, more like a ski hill
- Lower elevation and less natural snow than its neighbors
- Slopes can get icy
Mt. Norquay’s 60 runs and 77 ha may make it seem like an odd choice for this list, but we think it’s an underrated gem that’s been flying under the radar. It has postcard worthy views across the Bow River Valley to the jagged peaks beyond. Its diverse terrain makes it a great – and relatively inexpensive – warmup for Lake Louise or Sunshine Village. A World Heritage Site, it’s the birthplace of skiing in the Canadian Rockies!
Steep Slopes for a Ski Hill
Even though you might think such a small resort caters more towards beginners and intermediates, the steep slopes here might just surprise you. Don’t believe us? Try out Lone Pine, a steep double black leg burner featuring unforgiving moguls. The trails off the North American Chair is where you’ll find the steepest stuff in the resort, plus freshies between trees on a powder day. But we’ll warn you now, the lower elevation here at Mt Norquay means lower total snowfall compared to neighbouring resorts and slopes can be icy. Luckily 85% of the mountain is covered by snowmaking!
Family-Friendly Ski Area in Banff’s Backyard
It’s conveniently located just 11 km outside the town of Banff and only 25 minutes’ drive from Sunshine Village, so it’s fairly accessible. That, plus its crowd-free slopes, affordable lift tickets, great ski school, and childcare all combine to make it a great choice for a family ski vacation.
- Champagne powder – one of the best for powder skiing
- Largest ski-in/ski-out village in Canada
- Largest night skiing area in Western Canada
- Closest resort to Kelowna – just an hour drive away
- Can get crowded
- Sometimes poor visibility
- Eastern terrain can get icy
Big White serves up everything BIG - big skiing with its 1,119 ha of ski area and big night skiing – 34 ha to be exact, making it Western Canada’s biggest night-skiing area! The snowfall is pretty big too – over 762 cm per year on average – all of the “champagne” variety. And with a relatively high elevation, it stays that way. The only big thing we don’t like here is the crowds; its easy accessibility (just an hour from Kelowna and its international airport) makes it a fairly popular destination!
Big White is a real powder paradise and you can find the good stuff all over the mountain. The top of the resort is above the treeline, but as you head down, you quickly return to trees – usually encased in hauntingly beautiful shrouds of snow. There are also plenty of glades to be found if you’re looking for tree skiing, or deep freshies that last couple days after a storm.
Family-friendly at its finest
While not quite the scene that Whistler has, the village is pretty big with a wide variety of choices for après ski fun – assuming, of course, you’re not busy night skiing! There’s everything from kid’s activities, sleigh rides, skating, dog sled rides to an ice wall climb. Better yet, for a resort that is as big as Big White, there are $10 CAD ($11 AUD) Friday night bargains just like a locals’ mountain. We’re talking night skiing, rentals, tubing and dinner each just $10 CAD ($11 AUD)! With the convenience of a ski-in/ski-out village, it calls itself “Canada’s Favourite Family Resort” – and we’re not going to argue!
- The largest ski area in North America
- Wide variety of world-class terrain
- World-class village full of amenities
- Easy to access from Vancouver (less than 2 hours) and Seattle (roughly 5 hours)
- Low peak elevation means snow can be wet and heavy
- Can get crowded – especially on US long holiday weekends
- Lift queues can be an issue here
Whistler could make a convincing case to be the “flagship” of Canadian skiing. It’s the biggest ski area in North America (routinely showing up in lists from Forbes and Ski Magazine alongside the best the US has to offer) and hosted most of the 2010 Winter Olympics’ alpine skiing events! Says something about the skiing here hey? In addition to its proximity to a city like Vancouver (less than 2 hours) and with one of the busiest US-Canadian border crossings not far away either, it’s not surprising that Whistler draws quite a crowd.
Two Massive Mountains
Did we mention big? There are over 3,237 ha of terrain on two mountains, linked by the longest, highest gondola of its kind. That includes 200 runs, incredible inbounds backcountry, powder-packed bowls, glaciers (that even intermediates can ski!), and five terrain parks with over 150 features. The two mountains are linked by the infamous Peak2Peak Gondola which is a tourist attraction in itself.
World Class Village
Whistler Village is almost a destination by itself. There’s a wealth of dining options, plenty of places to party and endless activities such as zip-lines, tubing, snowmobile and dogsled tours, and snowshoeing. For a real thrill, the Whistler Sliding Centre – another 2010 Olympics Venue – is open to the public for bobsleigh and skeleton rides. That’s right, skeleton – the one where you’re on your belly heading face-first down the track. Yes, we think that’s a little nuts, too.
- One of the longest ski seasons in North America (6 months!)
- World-class and diverse terrain
- Unbeatable scenery
- Not a lot of natural powder
- No lodging at the resort
It’s a close call at the top of our list, but Lake Louise takes the honours. And we’re not alone – it was voted the Number One Ski Resort in Canada at the 2017 World Ski Awards. Holding court in the heart of Banff National Park, Lake Louise is the biggest resort in the Canadian Rockies. It has terrain on four mountain faces with 145 runs and over 914 m of vertical. To top it off, it’s also a regular stop for World Cup Downhill racing.
Crown Jewel of the Canadian Rockies
Perched high in the Rockies with its summit at 2,637 m, Lake Louise boasts some of the best scenery anywhere, with seemingly endless views of glaciers and mountain peaks reaching for the sky like cathedral spires. Skiing amongst this stunning scenery is just the cherry on top of the incredible 1,700 ha of terrain. While the slopes serve up something for everyone, advanced skiers will be more than satisfied with what Lake Louise has to offer. The backside is reminiscent of Vail’s Back Bowls, with double black chutes for the truly adventurous! Plus there are also glades and gullies to explore and plenty of gnarly terrain including cliffs and chutes that will challenge even the most experienced skiers!
The Lake Itself – and Its Legendary Chateau
A true destination resort, it can get expensive, though you can stretch your skiing dollar a bit with the SKiBig3 pass that also gives you access to Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay. A main drawback here is that there is no on-mountain accommodation. For that, you’ll need to go to Lake Louise village, a short bus ride away, where you’ll find a small selection of shops and restaurants and, of course, the legendary Chateau Lake Louise. Even if you’re not staying there, popping in for a drink with a view of its namesake lake makes the perfect complement to your ski or snowboard adventure!