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3 resorts in 3 days - James Cove, Banff, Canada
Monday February 9, 2015 - Email this article to a friend

The PlanetSKI Canadian road trip continues as we visit the resorts around Banff. We have already been in Lake Louise so now it is Sunshine, Norquay and Nakiska.

First stop, Sunshine.

It seemed to be ignoring its name as thick flakes of snow were cascading out of the dense clouds and a mini-powder day beckoned.

It did though take a while to negotiate my way up the access road and once again I couldn't work out why the drivers in Canada seemed so bad at driving in winter conditions.

Surely they get this weather all the time?

There was the seemingly obligatory chaos on the access road.

I was told they came from the city of Calgary and were not from the mountains.

Ice and a slideIce and a slide













See here for my last blog from Lake Louise as the roads closed due to accidents with vehicles coming off the road.

Once up at the resort of Sunshine things began to look distinctly better.  

Unlike the resorts of Kicking Horse and Lake Louise there was not just a single lift heading up the mountain, but some choice.

However Kicking Horse may have only had a single gondola heading up the mountains but it led to some awesome skiing as I reported in my first blog from Canada.

By Canadian standards Sunshine looked a good-sized ski area with the lifts heading off in several directions.

Goat's Eye looked the most interesting.

It had some good runs coming down and a traverse to some steeper sections.

Rather oddly there were a large number of people digging holes and pulling submerged fencing out of the ground.

They moved it a few metres and put it up again.

What on earth was going on?



























It turns out they are 'snow farming'. 

This involves putting fencing in certain areas across the mountain where there are no skiing areas.

They catch the snow and then it is stored and moved around the mountains as it when it is needed.

Sunshine does not need snow cannons and just uses a couple right at the beginning of the winter to keep a busy intersection covered.

I wondered why more resorts didn't do this.

It seemed a simple and effective idea.

OK it is labour intensive and probably costs - but it must be a fraction of the price of making snow artificially.

"Other resorts from across North America come to see what we do and then launch similar initiatives. We are the biggest on the continent, but snow farming is expanding elsewhere," said my guide for the day, Sinead Hanna, from the resort.

Sunshine though has an enviable snow record and remains open into May. There has been skiing into July in the past.

It sits on the dividing line between the Provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.

Yours trulyYours truly













It is the only resort in the area that has a hotel up on the slopes with ski-in and ski-out and it resembles the European model.

Sunshine Mountain LodgeSunshine Mountain Lodge













"People tend to come for a couple of days if they are on holiday here from Europe and we are usually very busy at weekends so people can get first tracks," said the marketing manager of Sunshine, Lindsay Gallagher.

"Europeans tend to come to Sunshine  as part of their trip as they visit many of our resorts around Banff much like you are doing," Lindsay added.

In fact that is the single biggest difference between a holiday in The Alps and a holiday in this part of Canada.

If you come and just stay in one resort then you are seriously missing out - having this number of resorts in a relatively small area is the key attraction.

And they are all different.

Next on my list was Norquay.

It is just 10-minutes from downtown Banff. I have visited before and I love the place.

It is a real skier's mountain and people pop up to ski after work.

Or of they can't get out of bed in the morning - it's been nicknamed by the locals 'Hangover Hill'.

It even sells lift passes by the hour.

There are hundreds of kids in the various programmes and many people learning how to ski and snowboard. All just come for the joy of skiing and sliding about on the snow. 

There is also some steep fall line skiing for the experts. 














With some great views back down to Banff.

Views to BanffViews to Banff













It is not big but that is not the point. 

Many visitors give it a miss, but in my opinion that is their loss.












There is also night-skiing at the weekends and a huge tubing park.

Tubing on an industrial scaleTubing on an industrial scale













It also has a good funpark with some sizeable kickers.

"We are a Winter Sports Centre and offer all the activities that people want. We can't compete with Sunshine and Lake Louise for terrain and size, but we can offer people that love the mountains what they want," said the marketing manager of the resort, David Jones.

He is English and comes from Yorkshire.

In fact foreigners seem to outnumber the Canadian workers in most of the resorts I had visited. 50% of the staff in the ski resorts are Australian and a sizeable number for the UK. 

They run the lifts, work as instructors and are even in the ski patrol and medical teams.

When I popped into Nakiska for a spin round the slopes my guide, Casey, was an 18-year old from Australia.

"I am here on a programme to teach skiing and most of us here are foreigners with many from Oz. The money is not so good, which I guess is why the Canadians don't do it, but we have enough and the team and the experience is brilliant," he said.

He was also very knowledgeable about the resort.

It was built in1986 for the Calgary Olympics that took place two years later and hosted all the alpine skiing events. 

It is a legacy it still promotes.

Olympic legacyOlympic legacy













"The Olympics really put Nakiska on the map and we still have many sporting events here with the first ski cross Wolrd Cup race of the season and many downhill racers come here to train ahead of the Lake Louise alpine skiing event," said the marketing manager of the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis, Glenn Iles.

The 400-bed hotel was built for media and officials durring the Calgary Games and is an example of the legacy The Games brought.

It is more of a village than a hotel and is where most people stay during a visit to Nakaska.

The resort itself has extensive beginner terrain and half a dozen runs cut through the trees.

Nakiska, AlbertaNakiska, Alberta

























There is some tree skiing in The Glades area, but it mainly serves locals and people from Calgary who want to learn and improve as it is the nearest ski resort from the city.

It was my final resort on this whirlwind middle section of the Canadian road trip - 3 resorts in 3 days.  But then I am happy to pack and unpack my suitcase, plus the driving and scenery has been simply stunning.

Now I have made one serious omission in this article from my 24-hours in Sunshine - I skied Delirium Dive. 

The DiveThe Dive













It is one of the most extreme in-bounds freeride areas in North America.

Delirium DiveDelirium Dive












Even better for me was that it was closed to the public and I was able to ride it with the ski patrol on a powder day. 

I have decided it is worth a single story in its own right and it will be the next story in this rolling blog from my Canadian road trip.

Delirous with deliriumDelirious with delirium













Next up I am off to Fortress Mountain for some cat skiing.  And if you have heard of Fortress Mountain that is because it was used as the location for the film, Inception, staring Leonardo DiCaprio.

It should be quite a day.  Seeing the film set and skiing the powder.

Then it is a 4-hour drive down to Castle for more cat skiing.

I am beginning to fall in love with pretty much everything about Canada.

With the snow now cleared from the roads even the driving experience has improved.

For the spirit of the mountains

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