Banff, not a ski resort, but a town surrounded by three.

Located in Alberta Canada, there is no ski resort in the town of Banff. Banff really refers to Banff National Park, with its three ski resorts. For most the town acts as a base and day trips are made to the resorts which are covered on the Big 3 lift pass.

  • Mount Norquay – 8 km from Banff, the smallest and popular with locals
  • Sunshine Village – from Banff 16 Km away
  • Lake Louise – the biggest, furthest 65 km away and a travel destination itself

Mount Norquay, 10 minutes from Banff and skipped by many in favour of the two big guns.

Sure Mount Norquay doesn’t match Sunshine Village or Lake Louise. But it would be a shame not to spend at least a day here, it’s included in the big3 ski pass and is something different. Setup in 1926, on the slopes it has a nice mix of slopes for all abilities. From the North American double-chair, you will have access to the resorts toughest slopes, like Memorial Bowl, Valley of the Ten and Temptation. Norquay is also the only ski resort of the three to open at night. They also have a pretty good a tubing park.

With 3,358 Acres of Terrain, Sunshine Village has 115 named runs, plus gladed areas & offshoots

With some of Canada’s highest slopes, Sunshine Village is made up of three distinct but interconnected mountains

  • Goat’s Eye Mountain,
  • Mount Standish
  • and Lookout Mountain.

Goat’s Eye is known for steep runs with the Wild West and Delirium Dive freeride zones. Mount Standish offers a mix of intermediate terrain and glades, and Lookout Mountain is home to the massive 15-acre terrain park. Sunshine Village annually receives over 35 ft (10m) of powder snow, that’s more than double any other ski resort in Alberta. It also has a fast and efficient lift system. And it’s open from early November through to mid-May making its season the longest in the Canadian Rockies. As if all that wasn’t enough, its home to Delerium Dive, the most ridiculous in bounds freeride terrain you’ll find this side of the Atlantic.

Add to this, a decent park in the 15-acre Rogers Terrain Park, the largest of the three parks covered on the Big 3 lift pass. But Sunshine Village’s whole ski area feels like one big terrain park, with natural hits, banks and rollers dotted everywhere.

Sunshine Village has 12 lifts

  • 1 High-speed 8 passenger Gondola,
  • 6 High-speed 4 person chairlifts. Including the Teepee Town LX with heated and bubble covers. There is also the Strawberry, Goat’s Eye, Mount Standish, Continental Divide, Wolverine and Angel Express.
  • 4 person chairs:2 (WaWa & Jack Rabbit),
  • Magic carpets: 2 (in the learning area).

20% of Sunshine Village’s trials are suited Beginners

Mount Standish is the best area for beginners. Find your feet on the mellow green runs accessible from the Strawberry chairlift, then when confidence is peaking head up the Angel Express and tackle the array of blue and green runs to the skier’s left.

  • Sunshine Village has 23 easy blue runs.

Intermediate trails account for 55% of Sunshine’s total, it’s Longest runs is 5 miles (8km)

Warm up with a few laps on the Angel Express chair. There’s an array of good pistes to cruise right underneath. Next, head to the Sunshine park though it’s not up to much by Canadian standards, there are some mellow rails which are good for learning on, After lunch, head up the Mount Standish Express chairlift and spend the afternoon finding natural hits, The undulating terrain of the Banff Avenue home run provides some good jib possibilities, so don’t be tempted to download on the gondola. It’s a sin.

  • 63 out of 115 runs are Intermediate Red Runs

Sunshine has opened up some of the biggest mountain inbounds riding I’m familiar with. It truly is the place to learn how to take down a mountain. It’s close to town and has the best snow in Banff.

Delerium Dive & 25% Advanced black trails

If you get the powder, which is highly likely, then head straight for Delerium Dive, provided it’s open. A transceiver is mandatory to make it past the check-in gate, though you’re also required to have a shovel and probe, and be accompanied by at least one other person. Failing this, head to the Wild West area of Goat’s Eye Mountain, which is the next best thing.

  • Sunshine Village has 29 Expert Black Trails.

Sunshine is home to the massive 12-acre Great Divide Terrain Park with more than 50 features

Previously Sunshine had an enter level mini park and a more advanced park, but recent years have seen them combined into the massive Rogers Terrain Park. Located on Lookout mountain the park has an array of lines and obstacles suiting freestylers of all abilities. Features include the standard jumps, rails and boxes that gradually get bigger. The Snow Park is accessed via the Continental Divide lift.

For 2017 Sunshine Village introduces 10 new features to the Great Divide Terrain Park. Of the 10, four are beginners, three are intermediate and three are designed for advanced skiers and boarders.

Delirium Dive is a must do for any extreme skier or snowboarder

While on the approach road to Sunshine Village, especially on a powder day, the experienced skier or snowboarder can see from miles, exactly where there heading for. The ski resorts stand out feature is the mighty Delirium Dive, which is easily accessed by the Continental Divide chairlift. This steep freeride zone is roped off and can be only accessed if you have carry transceiver, probe. And be with at least another person. Once through the check-in gate, Delirium Dive’s entrance is a short hike. Contently for the hardcore skier and snowboarder and one look over the edge and down Delirium Dive’s steeps, chutes and drop off’s would confirm this for most.

In addition to the mighty Delirium Dive, Goat’s Eye mountain has Sunshine’s most accessible yet challenging terrain. The Express lift gives access to some mighty black and double black rated chutes, which are especially fun after a recent snow dump. Also noteworthy for it;s lines through the trees is Eagle Creek and Rollercoaster.

Lookout mountain is home to some steep runs like Little Angel, Ecstasy and Horot’s Revenge, which on a powder day can be mind blowing. In Paris Basin, there’s an awesome cliff drop. Also in the ski area is the Waterfall run, which leads down a frozen waterfall and is accessed via the Wawa chairlift. While not in the ski area but just over its boundary the Sidedoor and Backdoor are worth a mention and quiet even after a powder dump

Read more about Sunshine’s Delirium Dive and Wild West Freeride Zones.

Download Large Sunshine Village Piste Map

Trail or Piste Map for Sunshine Village in Banff
Download Large Sunshine Village Piste Map

Sunshine Village Mountain Vital Stats

Peak Elevation 2,730 meters (8,954 feet)
Vertical Drop 1,070 meters (3,514 feet)
Bottom Lift (Base Elevation) 1,660 meters (5,440 feet)

Sunshine Village Opening, Closing & Lift Ticket Costs

Opening Mid November (14 November 2016)
Closing Late May (23 May 2017)
1 Day Pass Can $ 99
5 from 7 Day Pass Can $ 445
Season Pass Can $ 1,287
Tourist Office banfflakelouise.com
Website skibig3.com/sunshine-village

Getting There

Nearest airport: Calgary (140km), one hour and 30 minutes; Edmonton (393km), four to five hours; Kelowna (473km), five hours and 20 minutes.

There is no real train service nearby. Greyhound operates buses from all nearby cities and major towns. Banff town, Lake Louise and kicking horse are all on a greyhound bus route.

The Town

Named after the Scottish town near Aberdeen, Banff is a former frontier town on the main trans-Canada route. It was first established as a service centre for visitors to the national park, but these days it’s a bustling year-round town that provides an ideal base for the surrounding resorts of Lake LouiseSunshine and Mount Norquay. The town’s facilities are up there with the best, and there are quick and easy links by shuttle bus with Sunshine (16km) and Mount Norquay (8 km). Note that the shuttle bus is free if you buy a Tri-Area lift pass.

Sleeping

If you’re on a tight budget try the SameSun Backpacker Lodge. It’s a two-minute walk from the town centre and has a hot tub, sauna and internet access. For a bed in a dorm 2016-17 winter rate is from C$30 -C$36.

Brewster’s Mountain Lodge is also very central, and rooms start at C$160. A more upmarket service can be had at the Rimrock Resort Hotel, home to the best restaurant in Banff. In addition, it has spa service and a heated indoor pool with rooms starting from C$200.

2km from Banff town centre is Tunnel Mountain Resort, has stunning mountain views. Included it an indoor pool, two hot tubs, fitness centre and sauna and a children’s playground. Rooms cost around C$149. At the bottom of the Mount Norquay is the Juniper Hotel & Bistro, offering room for C$119.

Banff has more and better restaurants than Sunshine Village

At Sunshine, there is the Creekside restaurant at the main base building and the Goat’s Eye Gardens restaurant at the base of the main Goat’s Eye lift. The Burger Shack on the first floor of the Day Lodge and the Java coffee bar at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge are both good for quick eats. The pricey option is at the Eagle’s Nest in the Sunshine Mountain but you’re never going to be able to tear up the slopes full of braised pork belly & salmon cake.

Banff has a massive choice when it comes to food, with most major international cuisines being well represented.

There’s a mass of choice, with most major international cuisines being well represented. On Banff Avenue is Block Kitchen & Bar which offers Canadian/Asian cuisine, everything from duck egg roles to really tasty lettuce wraps. Also on Banff Avenue is the Balkan Restaurant which offers good Greek food. Try the flaming cheese starter, also noteworthy was the delicious main of lamb pita and side salads.

For generous portions of Canadian grub check out the Juniper Bistro, on Juniper Way, it also has a bar and games room. Worth a mention just for its home made coconut and cranberry cookies alone is Wild Flour bakery & cafe on Bear Street.

The burger option is The Eddie Burger & Bar and a tasty option it is, hence sometimes there’s a wait to get a table. Check out the build your own burger (just tick the boxes for what you want). They regular do specials like a burger and beer for C$15. The best pizza in town is served in the Bear Street Tavern.  Described as Banff’s hidden gem, located on Lynx is La Terrazza at the Bank Park Lodge, and at C$35 per person for a top notch 4 course meal is really not bad at all.

Easy the best restaurant in Banff is Eden at the Rimrock Resort Hotel, the food really is fantastic. When asking locals and visitors to Banff nobody had a bad word to say about this place and that’s rare.

Sunshine Village Apres Ski & Banff Nightlife

At Sunshine Village the après spots are Mad Trapper’s Saloon and the Chimney Corner lounge. Between 4 and 6pm, on Mountain Avenue at the Rimrock Resort Hotel the Larkspur Lounge offers a wide selection of cocktails, beers and wines, along with the almost obligatory nachos and wings.

For a less sophisticated evening check out the Rose and Crown pub, it has pool tables, frequent live music and is usually rammed. The Elk and Oarsman pub is the place for watching live sports, in addition, the pub often hosts live music. Both are located on Banff Avenue.

For later nights there’s the Aurora and Hoodoo nightclubs, not outrageously priced and they usually play good music. Seeking a mellower vibe try the Saltlick. It’s a martini bar with good tunes most nights.

The good and bad about skiing or snowboarding in Banff

 Banff Good bits

Banff Bad bits

Very reliable snowfall. And it’s not called Champagne powder for nothing. If you’re staying in Banff as most people do, it’s hardly ride in/ride out snowboarding.
Great for families, beginners and advanced riders alike. When the snow’s not great there’s not a huge amount for more experienced riders to do.
Alberta’s biggest vertical drop.

Big town nightlife, family friendly pistes and crazy big mountain riding, nicely rounded off with the highest snowfall in Alberta.

Shopping

Banff has very good shopping facilities. Rude Boys in the Sundance mall is the town’s best snowboard shop, and there are several supermarkets.

Transfer Options

Rocky Mountain Sky Shuttle for transfers from Calgary. If you’re driving you’ll need a National Park pass. These are available from the National Parks authority that will invariably stop you to check.

Local Partners

Banff (Norquay& Sunshine). See skibig3.com for details.

Children

Kids under six years of age get a free lift pass and free access to the Banff shuttle bus.

Bad Weather Days

Head up the Wolverine Express the runs are entirely within the treeline and there is some serious stuff.

Avoid

Rocking up at Delirium Dive without a transceiver you won’t be allowed past the gate.

An Interesting Little Fact

Stanly Kubrick’s movie Dr Strange Love, starring Peter Sellers, was filmed on location in Banff.

Don’t Miss

A run on Freefall at Goat’s Eye Mountain there’s an 83 degree pitch which will have your heart in your mouth.

Local Tips

Do Don’t
Get good at freeriding. Ride with an unwaxed board. The home run is littered with flat spots.
Go to Mount Norquay for night riding. Ride the park. The one at Lake Louise is far superior.
Ride Delirium Dive. Wait in long lift queues
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Jen is a correspondent for Outside, Ski and Snowboarding magazines and a frequent contributor to the New York Times travel section. Her work has been featured in Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing and other anthologies. She has reported from seven continents, loves languages, and is based in British Columbia, Canada.

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