Canadian Rockies: Enjoying The Winter Of A Lifetime
There are few feelings that can surpass those of standing on top of a mountain, high above the treeline, breathing in the purest of air and gazing across mile upon mile of snow-capped peaks; clipping yourself into your skis, the sense of anticipation mounting; pushing off and feeling that first rush of snow sliding smoothly past underneath you; gathering momentum as you head downwards ever faster; and hearing the soft swish of your skis cutting brand new lines as you fly down tree-lined slopes, where ice sparkles on evergreens rising softly against wintry blue skies. But what if that mountain was not just any mountain, but a Rocky Mountain, surrounded on all sides by the vast monoliths of more Rocky Mountains, wending their craggy way through a UNESCO World Heritage Site? What if those mountains were sliced through by runs that go on and on as far as the eye can see, winding through a wintery wonderland of dramatic frozen waterfalls, frosty forests, plunging glaciers and glacial bowls running down to cosy towns — not to mention beautiful frozen lakes, and an even more beautiful ice castle on one of those lakes? What if the snow under your skis was the world-famous Rocky Mountain powder, ski lifts came with heated seats, queues were often non-existent, and you could even enjoy some wildlife spotting on your way down, deep as you are in Canadas oldest national park? One of the largest ski areas in North America, Lake Louise Ski Resort offers spectacular views, gloriously long runs and a huge diversity of terrain for beginner, intermediate and expert skiers and riders alike.
Big open bowls beckon for those just finding their ski feet; twisting chutes and gullies up the ante for the more adventurous. Just southeast from Lake Louise is Sunshine Village: tucked up high at 9,000 feet, with runs that cut across the Continental Divide (and two Canadian provinces), its 3,300 acres of ski and snowboarding terrain include the 12-acre Rogers Terrain Park for boarders and Delirium Dive for truly challenging terrain. And then there’s Banff, the bustling hub of the Canadian Rockies — and the perfect base for cross-country skiing. Out in the backcountry you can venture along groomed tracks through virgin territory, pass by historic pioneer log cabins, explore dense forests and even traverse lakes, the stillness broken only by a puff of wind or a soft release of snow from an overladen branch.
And when you’ve carved, schussed, traversed and free-ridden to your heart’s content, this wintery wonderland also provides a breathtaking backdrop for a wealth of alternative snow-based pastimes. Adrenaline junkies can take on snowtubing at Mount Norquay (complete with towing system back up the hill) — or try their hand at ice climbings starting at Banff’s indoor climbing wall, moving on to the exhilarating experience of waterfall ice-climbing with some of the talented Yamnuska guides (half- or full-day lessons), and perhaps even tackling the technical challenge of the iconic Mount Columbia or Mount Temple.
Gentler winter experiences include guided snowshoeing trips among the serene Rockies scenery ice-walking tours along glittering frozen canyons, romantic sleigh rides, or ice-skating under starry skies (don’t miss an early evening glide on Lake Louise its elf). Rush through forested paths, pulled along by enthusiastic dogs, cycle over softly crunching snow on fat bikes; gaze at awe-inspiring views from the Grizzly Gondola, marvel at the masterpieces that the international ice carvers create over a 34-hour competition in the January Ice Magic Festival. Then wrap up another wonderful day with a torch-lit dinner and a downhill or cross-country ski, experiencing the Rockies from a truly magical, moonlit perspective.