Just last month, National Geographic Traveler magazine added Banff to its Best of the World list of 21 must-see places to visit in 2017 - the only Canadian spot. The main reason more people donít have Banff front of mind for their ski vacation is because it is such a wildly popular summer spot that many forget about it come winter. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Banff National Park is Canadaís Yellowstone, a Bucket Lister that draws wide eyed tourists from around the world. But unlike Yellowstone, its jaw dropping scenic views are just as accessible in winter. You can even admire the spectacle from Main Street in the town of Banff, which has as stunning views as you will find in town, and the highway linking the town with the ski resorts of Sunshine Village and Lake Louise is like one big real life Imax film. Lake Louise itself is one of the most often photographed and iconic natural spots in North America. Iíve been to just about every destination ski resort in the U.S., throughout the Alps, to Chile, New Zealand and Alaska, and this is among the finest ski scenery anywhere (though Chileís Andes are pretty sweet too).
So hereís the stuff most American skiers donít know. All three resorts within the park operate on a shared lift ticket (Ski Big 3) with central reservations, interchangeable rental gear, and free shuttle bus transportation. Ski Big 3 also offers an awesome program with its own instructors that includes three full day group lessons, one at each of the ski resorts, all with the same instructor who doubles as expert local guide, lunches included. Iíve never seen anything like this elsewhere. If you want trip planning to be really simple, you can just stay in Banff for a week, shuttle to skiing every day, never run out of terrain options, and have all the shops, bars and restaurants of this charming town at your doorstep. However, the drive from Banff to Lake Louise is just shy of 40 miles, a longish roundtrip commute for a ski day, even by bus, so to me the best strategy is to split thigs up and stay in Banff for a few nights, skiing the town resort of Mt. Norquay and nearby (about 10 miles) Sunshine Village, then relocate to one of the stunning lodging options in Lake Louise and ski there. If you really want convenience, you can stay atop Sunshine Village, which has the only ski-in/ski-out lodging in the park, a really cool full service hotel high up on the slopes - you can only arrive by gondola.