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Winter sports in the Rockies

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With terrific terrain, reliable snow cover, uncrowded slopes and relatively low prices, the Rockies are perfect for a ski or snowboard holiday. The region is also ideal for a host of other winter sports like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dogsledding and snowmobiling (though the latter is not allowed in national parks). The season at most resorts runs from mid-December until the end of May, with the best conditions usually in March, when the days are getting warmer and longer and the snow is deepest.

The best known, busiest and most expensive resorts are in Banff National Park and within easy reach of the town of Banff. These include the small, steep and taxing Mount Norquay; the well-rounded, intermediate-friendly Sunshine Village; and the vast, varied and challenging Lake Louise. The three promote themselves with a joint lift-ticket system. Locals make up a sizeable chunk of the business, and weekends and holidays are peak times, leaving working weekdays particularly quiet. A glorious three-hour drive north of Banff into Jasper National Park through craggy montane scenery along the Icefields Parkway lies Marmot Basin. Though far more modest than the Banff resorts, it does have the advantage of being both quieter and less expensive, as well as being adjacent to a truly vast system of cross-country ski trails.

Over in the BC Rockies, a series of slightly less accessible resorts are often blessed with even better snow and milder temperatures. And with much of the land here outside strictly regulated national park boundaries, there’s plenty of heli-skiing around them too. The closest to Banff is Kicking Horse, which bristles with high-alpine expert terrain and awesome views. The grand vistas have provided the name of the next major resort south: mellow Panorama is ideal for cruising around a quiet resort village. Another couple of hours’ drive south is the cheerful, family-oriented ski hill Kimberley, where the plentiful beginner and intermediate terrain almost distracts from the presence of a few incredible mogul runs. Multi-day tickets here are valid at Fernie, where bountiful mountain bowls and ridges make up a ski area that takes weeks to explore fully. With each of these four BC resorts no more than a couple of hours’ drive from its nearest neighbour, they make for an ideal multi-resort trip tackled as a loop which starts from Calgary and includes Banff.

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