Spring Skiing Canadian Rockies
By Candyce H. Stapen
Spring skiing, known for mild temperatures and sunshine, is the best. In spring you can forget about face masks, frostbitten cheeks and eyelids freezing shut. The trees glisten and the runs are smooth, but not icy. With the bitter evening chill gone, you can enjoy the sleigh rides and even try a moonlit hike. In general, life, skiing and off-the-slopes adventures are “sweet.”
The only caveat: snow can be slim. That’s why you should head to Alberta’s Canadian Rockies. The setting of majestic mountains and glaciers is spectacular, the snow pack plentiful and the lifts operate into May.
Another plus: grande dame ski resorts. Yes, you can find more moderately priced lodging, but if you want to splurge, book one of the Fairmont hotels situated in Banff National Park, a 2,564-square mile UNESCO World Heritage Site of mountains, glaciers and rivers.
The Fairmont properties with their imposing lobbies, blazing fireplaces, spas and good restaurants, go a long way toward making après-ski moments memorable. The Fairmont Banff Springs looks castle-like against the slopes and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, situated at 5,000-feet has a fairytale setting on the shore of a frozen lake. It’s easy to visit both hotels since they are about a 45-minute drive from each other.
At the sprawling Fairmont Banff Springs, built in 1888 as a replica of a Scottish baronial manor home, soothe aching muscles at the hotel’s 35,000-square foot Willow Stream Spa. The facility, known for its water features, offers a mineral pool and three waterfall treatment whirlpools plus saunas, steam rooms and a long roster of treatments.
For off-the-slopes fun at Banff Springs go on a wildlife tour to spot elk, ice fish for lake trout or put on ice cleats and walk along a frozen creek that cuts through a canyon laced with frozen waterfalls.
At the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise ice skate on the frozen lake with its view of Victoria Glacier. You can also sign-up for a moonlight snowshoe tour, a dog sledding outing or a sleigh ride.
From both Fairmont properties you can access three ski areas—known as SkiBig3-- with more than 7, 700-acres cut with 240-trails. Ski Banff@Norquay is nearest to the Fairmont Banff Springs. Sunshine Village is between Banff and the Chateau.
The Lake Louise ski area with 4200-skiable acres is one of North America’s largest. The longest run stretches for five miles and there are plenty of gut-wrenching steeps to challenge your teens as well as open bowls, chutes and beginner and intermediate trails. Kidski offers ages 5-12 supervised skiing and instruction Shreddies does the same for snowboarders ages seven to 12.
Take advantage of spring’s mild temperatures and good deals to enjoy the last—and maybe the best—of the season’s skiing and mountain fun.