Sunshine Village/Lake Louise: Banff AB 04/18-04/20
Just got back from a few days up in Banff, Alberta. It was our last lift serviced road trip for the season, so we figured we'd go for distance. The round trip consisted of 22 hours driving which covered about 1200 miles. Sounds like a lot of driving, but the scenery is awe inspiring. With spectacular vistas around every corner, the drive was quite enjoyable. The weather redefined the term variable. We were hoping for warmer conditions, but what we got was a late April mess. Windy, variable clouds yielding variable precipitation. It was never cold enough to snow down to the base of either mountain. For 2 of the 3 days we saw mostly clouds with poor visibility. The snow never really softened up, and there wasn't enough new snow on the upper mountain terrain to get excited about... dust-on-crust was the dominant surface condition for the entire trip. The best day ended up being yesterday at Sunshine.
This was a first time in the region for me. I would recommend at least couple of days at both mountains to really drink-in all these facilities have to offer. The ski areas are massive. Sunshine is about 15 minutes from Banff while Lake Louise is about 45 minutes. There is also Mt Norquay which is right outside of town (Norquay looks like the least interesting of the 3). There are sparse slope side accommodations at both Sunshine and Louise. Lake Louise also has a valley village which appears to be a more subdued version of Banff. It seemed like Sunshine had more family oriented terrain than Lake Louise. The steeps are more accessible at Louise, but if you are willing to do some traversing, you can grow some hair on your chest at Sunshine also. Due to poor snow conditions, we stayed away from a lot of the most interesting terrain. There are still 2 lift-serviced weekends back home at Mission, so we did not want to risk ending a great season pre-maturely via injury. We just purchased Mountain Collective passes, so the plan is to go back next year during Jan or Feb. There is still a staggering amount of snow in the region above 6k. Driving through Rogers Pass, it still feels like mid-winter. Louise will go until the first week in May, and I believe Sunshine has committed to go until the end of May.
The scenery is amazing from all directions. The town of Banff a bit over-commercialized for me, but I'm sure most families would find it to be very appealing... albeit very expensive. If your looking to make some May turns, I'm sure you can land some good deals in Banff. We stayed at the Fairmount ($$$$$), and got the room for 1/2 price. Factor in the favorable exchange rate, and things become a bit more affordable.
Here are some pics...
Looking down on Town from Sulphur Mountain
It's a 15 minute ride on the Gondi to the base at Sunshine... it's a fun ski at the end of the day back to the parking lot.
From the top of Mt Standish looking towards Lookout Mtn on the right (8954ft), Goats Eye in the Center (9200ft)
My Old Lady looking stylish as always.
Lots of these signs... you can very easily take a death plunge at Sunshine if you get sloppy
Riding Goat's Eye Express
Looking at the "base" area from Goat's Eye, the summit Mount Standish in the distance (7875ft)
Re: Sunshine Village/Lake Louise: Banff AB 04/18-04/20
Coach Z wrote
Did you drive the Trans Canadian highway all the way?
We connected with the TransCan in Vernon... From my house, there is a US Route North from Wenatchee that goes through Wine/Lake Country in BC. Pretty much right up the center of the Province. You end up passing 5 major ski areas along the way. Coming back we took 93/95 through the Kootenay NP in BC. The parks in Western Canada are really something special.
Forgot about this guy... lots of docile wildlife around the town of Banff
Good on you. We've had two AB-FAB expeditions to Banff/LL, and as beautiful as the Colorado Rockies are, they've got nothing on the Canadian Rockies. Don't be taking in the Augenf'gblick vistas, cause you'll ski off a cliff.
Lake Louise markets itself as "Canada's Steeps", well, for lift served with some hiking, they aren't kidding. Warm-up on Ptarmigan lift-line; a similar pitch to Lies @ Gore, about 50-60 feet wide (16-18 meters, eh) and goes downhill for a good long mile (1.5+KM). Then go get into trouble like our friends did when Sparksie proposed to PJ and she said yes. Boy did he pull the Mountain Goat pelt over her eyes. But I digress, LL has the gnarliest Poma ride I've done, like Poma #2 @ Hickory, only for a mile (1.5+KM), with rocks, trees and cliffs, if you like that shit.
Sunshine Village is more sublime, tame and lame. That is unless you have a crew of poachers, coaches and gapers led by wingnuts following the North American Figure-Eight Three-Time Champion Duo. Think Yes's "Gates of Delirium" when you drop into Delirium Dive. To amp it up, head over to Goat in flat light, do an unexpected Tomahawk off a hidden conehead, cut 2" of flapping P-TEX off one ski and hit the trees, repeat, without the unexpected Tomahawk.
Banff is an International Top-10 Destination Resort, you can spend uber $$$, or you can frugal it, somewhat.. We hit it on a group-rate super discount in April, with snow, both times. Go figure.
There are sparse slope side accommodations at both Sunshine and Louise. Lake Louise also has a valley village which appears to be a more subdued version of Banff.
You have to be an employee in L.L. or Sunshine to be able to live there. Park rules, or at least they were, and those rules don't change often. In the town of Banff you can own property. Therefore, no time shares, Air B&B, etc.
Driving through Rogers Pass, it still feels like mid-winter.
The Trans Canada that goes through Rogers Pass & vicinity is the coolest place in Canada.....and I've seen much of it. Good stuff.
Sent from the driver's seat of my car while in motion.