Canada ski holidays vs ski holidays in Europe: which one suits you?
For us Brits, skiing in Europe is a well-established routine. In fact, on average more than 6 million of us flock to Europe for our ski holiday every year. But is it time to escape the crowds, ditch the routine and experience a whole new destination?
Take the plunge to go long-haul for your ski holiday and you won’t be disappointed as we reveal the best places to ski in Canada. Skiing in Canada is your best bet when you compare how Canada’s ski resorts stack up against Europe and other long-haul ski destinations like New Zealand. With stunning scenery, tons of other winter activities to try and the ski season in Canada being the longest, here’s why Canada comes out on top….
Why Canada ski holidays should be on your bucket list
As our above infographic shows, there are tons of benefits when it comes to ski holidays in Canada. But don’t just take our word for it – we’ve asked the UK’s favourite ski publications and some of Canada’s top ski resorts about why a ski holiday in Canada is a must.
• The snow
• The picturesque transfers to Canada’s ski resorts
• The accommodation and activities you can enjoy at Canadian ski resorts
• Ski lift ticket prices are affordable
• The friendly locals and staff
1. The snow
Many Canadian ski resorts have excellent conditions for skiing and snowboarding thanks to a climate that produces perfect powder and varied terrain. This makes Canada the ultimate ski destination worldwide and we have no doubt about how impressed you will be once you visit for yourself.
Kendra Scurfield, the Media & Communications Manager at the popular resort of Banff Sunshine Village, knows full well that Canadian snow is one reason that Canada is such a great ski destination:
“At Banff Sunshine Village, we recommend a Canadian ski holiday for many reasons. First, our snow! At Sunshine we don’t make snow - our mountain is covered with natural, light, dry, powder; perfect for learning and advancing on.
“Sunshine Village has the highest elevation of a ski resort in Canada. This combined with our location on the continental divide makes us a magnet for all-natural snow. Our three mountains of vast terrain are divided equally among beginner, intermediate, advanced, and extreme terrain, making Banff Sunshine a mountain that progresses with you. Our team members specialise in guest service, and our views are truly magical. Combined, a day at Sunshine will have you making plans for your next Banff ski vacation.”
Annick Marseille, a public relations officer from Mont Tremblant, agrees with us that the terrain is a highlight of a skiing holiday in Canada, “I’d say the variety of the terrain is probably one thing that makes it a good choice - whatever your level or preference is, there is a mountain or a trail for you. In Tremblant, you can opt for the steep 42 degrees Dynamite or wide 6.1km groomer Nansen, tree-skiing (glades), natural terrain, easy, intermediate or difficult. We also have alpine touring trails for the way up. All at the same mountain! And once you are done with the skiing part, we are very good at après-ski, too. Le P’tit Caribou is a famous après-ski bar that celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2018 and it has been named the fourth best après-ski bar in the world by Forbes.”
Other popular ski resorts that offer up amazing conditions for skiing and snowboarding are Fernie, Kicking Horse and Nakiska, which offers you the perfect conditions to learn the art of these winter sports.
Cali Sammel, the Media Relations & Social Media officer for Ski Nakiska and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, told us a bit more about the snow you can get at these resorts.
“Fernie gets amazing snow (up to 37 feet a season), has a large variety of terrain – from beginner to double black, is an authentic Canadian ski town and has a huge selection of ski-in/ski-out accommodation.
“Kicking Horse boasts the 5th biggest vertical in Canada (new terrain opening this winter), has a huge variety of intermediate terrain and Canada’s highest elevated restaurant (Eagle’s Eye), as well as ski-in ski-out accommodations.
“Nakiska offers the best learning mountain, a top-notch ski school and amazing views of the Canadian Rockies.”
2. The picturesque transfers to Canada’s ski resorts
Canada has some of the most stunning mountain scenery anywhere in the world, especially in the famed Canadian Rockies. The sights are truly spectacular, making this delightful aspect of your trip an area that it is almost impossible for any other ski destination to compete with. Just make sure to keep your eye on the slopes once you arrive at the mountain and not get distracted by the view!
Patrick Thorne, who is the editor of In The Snow, the UK’s largest ski and snowboard magazine, agrees that the transfers are another spectacular feature of a skiing holiday in Canada.
“Canada scores highly on every measure for a great ski holiday. It starts as soon as you arrive in the country with a friendly welcome on arrival in Calgary or Vancouver (if you’re skiing in the West). It’s not long after you leave the airport on usually fairly quiet roads to the ski areas that the magnificent scenery opens up in front of you for an instant wow factor. Of the hundreds of ski areas I’ve visited in dozens of countries around the world, there are few more breath-taking sights than the drive from Calgary west into the Canadian Rockies. The Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler is pretty good too.”
3. The accommodation and activities you can enjoy at Canadian ski resorts
An important factor in deciding on where you would like to go on a ski holiday is the resort itself and the other activities the region offers. If you’re making the trip over to Canada, it would be a shame not to enjoy the other highlights of winter in the country while you’re there. The best ski resorts in Canada have so much to offer and this is a factor that really helps to set the country apart from other global destinations.
Gemma Armit, a digital content creator at the travel blog Two Scots Abroad, tells us that Canada has both bases covered: “Having spent a day skiing at Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia in Canada I would highly recommend a return visit. The resort is picturesque and the food options/bars are plentiful. Naturally, being BC, fellow skiers are friendly too. The resort is connected by chairs and there is a restaurant at the top.”
Paul, who is the editor of A Luxury Travel Blog, told us about why the resorts have impressed him whenever he has been on Canada ski holidays: “There are multiple reasons to choose Canada for a ski holiday but two key factors are the reliable snow conditions and a choice of ski resorts that cater for all abilities.”
“First-time skiers are lucky in that Canada has some of the best ski schools with typically small class sizes, making it the ideal place to not just learn, but also improve quickly.”
“Another benefit for skiing in Canada, for English-speakers at least, is that there is no language barrier. This helps not just with learning and meeting other people, but can also be useful if ever faced with an emergency situation.”
Patrick Thorne from In The Snow told us about his experience with the accommodation at ski resorts in Canada and his recommendations for other activities:
“The snow is normally great, there are other things to try like dog sledding or zip-lining at many resorts and you even have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Throw into the mix the normally comfortable, spacious accommodation options plus great childcare and ski school options if you have kids and as I say it scores highly in every regard.”
If you’re thinking about heading to the east coast of Canada to ski (which is closer to fly to), Mont Tremblant Resort’s Annick Marseille, adds: “You can enjoy much more than skiing. There are all sorts of other winter sports such as snowshoeing, fatbiking, cross-country skiing, alpine touring, ice climbing and so on. The skiing experience is certainly important - we have 102 trails for all levels and tastes, should you prefer large groomers or tree skiing. Our snowmaking capacity and grooming expertise allow us to maintain great snow quality all winter long, no matter Mother Nature’s mood. Good restaurants are a few steps away and the same goes for shops, from grocery to sportswear, passing by art galleries and jewellery stores. There are activities and events for families, couples, or friends, indoors and outdoors.”
Some of the best ski resorts in Canada are:
• Whistler Blackcomb
• Banff Sunshine
• Lake Louise Ski Resort
• Mt. Norquay
• Marmot Basin
• Mont Tremblant
• Nakiska Ski Area
4. Ski lift ticket prices are affordable
Unlike some of their European counterparts, Canadian ski lift ticket prices are very affordable, which is, of course, a very relevant issue for many of us. If we can have the very best skiing in the world at incredible destinations and all at a good price, this is surely something to be taken advantage of. Luckily, Canada is the destination that ticks all of these boxes, as Patrick Thorne from winter sports magazine In The Snow details.
“As well as having great childcare and ski school facilities, Canada is one of the most generous ski nations in the world when it comes to lift ticket prices for children. In many countries, children pay 2/3 the adult price from age 4-6 and the full adult price from 11-13; in Canada, the child price is usually a third to a half the adult price right through to age 16 or 18.”
Natasha Alden, who shares her experiences on the The World Pursuit blog, told us that she loves how affordable the lift passes are compared to other ski resorts.
“I love snowboarding in Canada so much I decided to move to Alberta and base myself right out of Banff National Park. Canada has some of the largest and best ski resorts in the world. The terrain is big mountain and can make beginners to expert riders happy. In addition, lift passes in Canada are generally very cheap. That along with a weak Canadian Dollar makes Canada very affordable.”
5. The friendly locals and staff
Canadians are known for being extremely friendly. This isn’t just a stereotype, Canadians have this reputation because there is so much truth to it. A holiday can be made so much more thanks to delightful members of staff who are willing to go above and beyond, and thanks to the nature of Canadians, this is something visitors to the best ski resorts in Canada can look forward to.
Annick Marseille from Mont Tremblant spoke to us about why this is such a great component about visiting the country on a ski holiday.
“Generally speaking, Canadians have a reputation of friendliness and warm welcomes, so you will feel like it’s a home away from home. The culture and ‘joie de vivre’ are definitely characteristic. Quèbec, more specifically, will probably stand out because of the French language and the accent!”
Sunshine Village’s Kendra Scurfield, adds, “Canadians, are known worldwide for their friendly demeanour and at Banff Sunshine Village, we bring the pleasantries of Canadianism to life.”
Tips for first-time skiers or snowboarders in Canada
Plan ahead for your Canada ski holiday
Planning for any holiday is a necessity, there is a lot to consider and the last thing you want to do is make a rash decision or rush into a holiday that you aren’t prepared for. Planning is extra important for a ski or snowboard holiday, due to considerations regarding weather, equipment, and things like lessons for inexperienced skiers. There’s a fair amount to organise so that you can enjoy the holiday of a lifetime.
Kendra Scurfield from Sunshine Village has touched further on this point: “For first-time visitors to Canada, we recommend planning ahead. Canada does require an entry visa for many countries. Make sure you have your electronic visa well in advance of arriving at Canadian Customs. If you’re visiting Banff, we recommend flying to Calgary International Airport, the gateway to the Rockies. We also advise checking the weather forecast. Our favourite months for deep snow are February and March as they are historically ripe with fresh powder. Pack warm! You’ll need long-johns and layers. If you have time, you can shop for warm ski gear once in Canada. For those first timers at Sunshine, we always recommend signing up for a lesson or a tour of the mountain to learn the layout. It will help skiers and snowboarders new to Banff to become familiar with the mountain.”
Try the different foods at your Canadian ski resort
Something that really does put Canadian ski resorts apart from others in Europe is the delicious food that’s on offer. Canada is a surprisingly foodie nation with a great emphasis on local produce and farm-to-fork dining, whether it’s Alberta beef or British Columbia salmon.
Patrick Thorne from In The Snow tells us that if you’re going on a ski trip to British Columbia you should try the sushi, “If you’re in BC try the sushi – it may not be what you’d imagine would be a local speciality in Western North America but Japan is just across the Pacific and they’ve brought some of their best over.”
If you want to try some tasty, local foods then your taste buds will not be disappointed. Poutine (chips, cheese and gravy with tons of exciting toppings), Alberta beef and Nanaimo bars (something like millionaire’s shortbread) are just some of the delicious treats you can enjoy. Find out more about food in Canada with our other foodie guides:
Hire equipment at the resort
The last thing you want to do on your ski holiday is lug loads of ski gear around. You will need your energy for the slopes after all! The good news is that there is no need to tire yourself out as a Canadian ski holiday is incredibly accommodating in this regard.
Two Scots Abroad writer Gemma Armit knows from experience that struggling with equipment is not something you will have to worry about when visiting Canada.
“You can hire equipment at Whistler so no need to lug it from Vancouver (or your home country). If you are sticking around for longer, there is often ski gear for sale in Craigslist too. The Whistler website puts on deals for the start of the season which helps keep costs down.”
Plenty of hotels in Canada are ski-in, ski-out which means you don’t need to worry about taking your gear off and carrying it a long distance from the lift. Lots of hotels also offer handy lockers where you can store and dry your kit so you don’t have to take it to your room or pick it up from the slopes each day.
A Canadian ski holiday isn’t going to be a warm affair, this much is a given, so dealing with the chilly temperatures and wintery conditions is something that needs to be considered. Thankfully, keeping warm on the slopes is much easier than it was 20 or 30 years ago thanks to the incredible range of winter clothing that is available. So, make sure to pack and dress appropriately for your upcoming trip.
Annick Marseille from Mont Tremblant advises that it is important to layer up when skiing at their resort.
“Dress in layers! As a Northern country, weather is typically colder than in Europe but totally enjoyable when you have dressed accordingly.”
Ski it for yourself
Is Canada sounding like the new best thing when it comes to a ski trip? If you are interested in experiencing the best skiing in Canada or want to go on a winter break, then check out our Canada holiday packages and find a trip that suits you.
Get in touch with our team to plan your unique and life-changing ski holiday.
Image Credit: Banff Sunshine Village, Mont-Tremblant.