The first thing savvy skiers do when they hit town is find a local—fast. Sure the Internet is great for research, as are blogs and live snow cams, but there’s nothing like a local recommendation to set you on the right path, whether it’s the best restaurant, the secret stash on the backside, or the right pub for appropriate après atmosphere. Well, Banff and Lake Louise residents are living the lifestyle and are happy to share. After all, there’s a lot of terrain, great snow and so few people with whom to share it all.
FAVOURITE LOCAL RIPS
THE NORTH AMERICAN, NORQUAY “Close to town, it gets a lot of snow when a storm comes from the east,” says Jeff Kostiuk. EAGLE RIDGE 6 AND 7, LAKE LOUISE “It’s steep and deep, and it’s what legends are made of,” boasts Eddy Coté. “There are no lineups and you’re free to roam.” BROWN SHIRT, LAKE LOUISE John Gibson was a Toronto dentist with a passion for big mountains who racked up frequent- flyer miles as a weekend warrior with a season’s pass at Lake Louise. “Brown Shirt has great snow, great pitch and great vistas.” Six years ago he moved his practice to Banff after he skied Brown Shirt on a Monday morning with two buddies and no one in sight. WHITEHORN TWO AND A-B RIDGE, LAKE LOUISE “Nice fall lines and usually good pow,” says Bob Hughes, lead singer of Bow Valley band Chronic. SOUTH DIVIDE, SUNSHINE VILLAGE “There’s nothing like ripping some monster GS turns down the wide-open terrain on South Divide off the Continental Divide Chair at Sunshine,” says Bruce Marpole, owner of Hero T-Shirts. BOOMERANG, OFF THE SUMMIT AT LAKE LOUISE “If you’re an intermediate skier, you can experience the most amazing views and feel on top of the world in this spot. You can test your skills in the powder and soft bumps knowing you can always cruise over to the groomed track for a rest,” says Linda Scaravelli. LONE PINE TO GUN RUN, NORQUAYSki equipment expert Eddy Coté was first on the lift at Norquay one Friday a few years ago when he racked up more than 120 turns on Lone Pine and Gun Run in more than 30 cm of fresh. The Banff Crag & Canyon newspaper ran his unidentified photo on the front page and it remains his “claim to fame.” Coté, who moved to Banff from northern Quebec 30 years ago, says, “It’s like heliskiing but it’s in my backyard.”
INSTRUCTOR’S BOWL, LAKE LOUISE “It’s great the third or fourth day after a powder dump when everything’s tracked out. You can still fi nd freshies there, like heli-turns,” says fly-fishing guide Darren Wright. “I’m talking faceshots, and it’s not avalanche prone. It puts a big smile on your face when you get down, then it’s a quick 10-minute traverse on the trail out.” BURNT TREES, LAKE LOUISE“Nice pitch and good visibility— that’s the way I roll,” says Richard “Churchie” Church. Spooky blackened stumps from an old forest fire will guide you down in a whiteout.
GOAT’S EYE, SUNSHINE VILLAGE “It’s a graceful run that’s calm, collected and cool,” says Missy MacDonald. MEN’S DOWNHILL, LAKE LOUSE especially after a good grooming—just a little off the edges, please. SUNSHINE COAST, OFF GOAT’S EYE MOUNTAIN, SUNSHINE VILLAGEAccording to Level III Instructor Linda Scaravelli, “You can really let yourself go on this long, cruising groomer. It’s great for practicing your turns and getting in lots of mileage.
TOP FAMILY ACTIVITIES
Happy, tired kids = happy, relaxed parents.
- Swimming at The Sally Borden Building
- Skating on the Bow River or Lake Louise
- The Banff Upper Hot Springs pool
- Cross-country skiing along the Spray River Loop and the golf course
TOBOGGANINGWith two active boys under four years old to keep occupied, Banff physiotherapist Rebecca Mottram likes to hit the sleds at either the water towers or reservoir behind Buffalo Mountain Lodge or Cascade Ponds, “where the parking lot goes right to the edge and you go straight down from there.” She’s also a regular at the public library’s playroom—“It’s always open, there are toys and family stuff, and it’s free!” WATERSLIDES AND PLAY ZONE: When he’s not skiing with his four-yearold son Keifer, Richard “Rocket” Miller, chief avalanche forecaster at Lake Louise, takes him to the Douglas Fir Resort waterslides and gigantic kid’s play zone.
If you want to hang out with more locals and fewer visitors at après, try: Mad Trapper’s Saloon at Sunshine Village. At Lake Louise, Powder Keg or the Kokanee Cabin “in the spring when the sun is on the deck and a band is playing.” In town: St. James’s Gate, Rose & Crown and Elk & Oarsman. HOT SOUNDSWhether you like country and western, rock ’n’ roll or everything in-between, Sunshine Village brings in some of the best touring bands from across Canada on April and May weekends when the ski area is the only one offering lift-serviced skiing. Dancing outdoors in your ski boots has never been better!
Whether it’s due to a 15-cm virus or the 20-cm mystery flu, there are lots of locals with goggle tans wearing sheepish grins and skipping work after a big storm.
- Circuits at Lake Louise usually take skiers up the Summit platter and down the northfacing backside on Whitehorn Two. A quick tuck to Paradise chair to catch your breath then it’s back down the frontside to hit some blown-in, lee-side fence-line drifts. Anywhere near a dozen circuits in a day is not only doable, but considered a respectable day if you’re over 40.
- The only chance to see the sun and a moon at the same time is at the Slush Cup at Sunshine Village, where costumed crazies (family warning: some in their birthday suits) vie to fly the farthest over an icy pond of water.
- Brent “Brutus” MacLean remembers moving to the mountains from Saskatoon 23 years ago when social events for Louise staff were practically annual institutions. Infamous soirées such as The Maintenance Shed Party, Ski Burning, Joe’s New Year’s Day Party with champagne at Whitehorn under the lift and Summit Cup, a costumed dual slalom that drew hundreds of sunburned diehards each April. “Back in the day we played volleyball and par-3 golf at the “42-site” (Louise staff residence),” says MacLean. “Many local Lake Louise traditions were killed over worries of insurance rates and liability issues.”
- “Full-moon skate on Lake Minnewanka,” suggests Bruce Marpole. “Or if it dumps overnight, race everyone up to Norquay for first tracks on the Big Chair, then back to work (or school) by 11:00 a.m..
- For the Bozo Cup at Sunshine Village, they come from near, far and wide: former Banff residents, ex-national team ski racers and current hot shots on the World Cup circuit. Each April the Bozo Cup features a hilarious costumed corporate Gentle Giant Slalom and an action-packed dual slalom in honour of the late Rob Bosinger, aka Bozo, a former World Cup coach and ski racer.
ON THE TOWN
Known for its live music and lots of locals, good dance floor and different crowds, the Rose & Crown serves beer by the pint. There’s the pub side and the quieter side, as well as pool tables. “People go to a place like this for a good time,” says Missy MacDonald. Tommy’s Neighborhood Pub is “like one of those hidden away ski town spots,” says Jeff Kostiuk. “It’s in the basement and the drinks are cheap.” The Elk & Oarsman for good pub fare and hockey watching on several wide screens. Village Grill and Bar in Lake Louise: If you’re looking for local wildlife, tall tales of “huckin’ big” and a “poor man’s buzz,” order the Shaft. Recipe: shot of espresso, Kahlúa, Bailey’s and cream served in a short glass crammed full of ice; insert straw and suck as fast as you can. For beer-lovers, St. James’s Gate Olde Irish Pub has Banff’s largest selection of draught beer. For cowboys and their ilk, try Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon & Cookhouse. Yee-haa! LATE NIGHTERSThe Aurora, Hoodoo Lounge: If you can dance until 2:00 and still get first tracks in the morning, you must be 21 or delusional. Magpie & Stump: The best frozen margaritas, good tequila and peanut shells on the floor. Devil’s Gap Lounge: Heavy metal music and drink specials.
The Cake Company: The locally owned bakery tops everyone’s list for a quick coffee on the way to the mountain, with a muffin or what many consider “the best scone in town.” Wild Flour: An artisan bakery that’s kidfriendly and known for specialty teas, such as Earl Grey with lavender.
The best, and only, on-slope hotel in Banff is the Sunshine Mountain Lodge at Sunshine Village. On a powder morning you’ll be first on the lift and have dozens of untracked turns in before the first gondola unloads. If you pay for one night (which includes a day pass), you can actually ski two days: ride up early on check-in day and put your bags in storage, then ski the entire next day and the luggage is waiting for you at the bottom of the gondola when you head for home.
Any parent who’s been stuck in an endless snowplow around tight turns while little skiers whoop and holler “whoop-dee-doo” through the forest, knows a run like Pine Cone Way. This twisty, warrenlike run at Lake Louise “is a leg-burner for parents,” says 43-year-old Grant Capel, a rare born-and-raised Banffite.
NAME THAT TUNER
Always on the cutting edge with a huge Austrian Wintersteiger machine in the industrial complex, Jeff Kostiuk and his partner Dave Sand sharpen, wax and repair hundreds of skis each night, collecting from Ultimate Ski & Ride, The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, all Caribou Properties hotels and The Ski Hub. “A lot of people don’t know about us until they get their skis back and they know they’re good.”
FAMILY FAVOURITE HOTELS
- Hidden Ridge Resort
- Fox Suites
- Tunnel Mountain Chalets
BIG SPLURGE: The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel—“It’s like a castle in the mountains,” says Linda Scaravelli. “It has two amazing swimming pools, skating in the winter, and the biggest and best buffet dinner to please all picky little eaters!”
For the best pasta, the jury is still out on whether it’s Giorgio’s Trattoria or Timbers Food Co. It depends on if you’re a fan of Pasta Roses or Rosalinne, two names for every skier’s comfort food. Better to try both and make your own decision. “Call it Southwest or Tex-Mex, but it’s always different with a kick at Coyote’s Deli and Grill,” says Darren Wright. “It’s reasonably priced and you don’t have to dress up, you can go in your ski clothes.” Pro belly-dancer and wife of pro-skier Kevin Hjertaas, Kim Malberry, shakes it regularly at The Balkan, where locals and visitors alike appreciate a belly-full of authentic Greek food, bouzouki and plate-smashing fun. UPSCALE FARE
- The Banffshire Club at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
- Eden at the Rimrock Resort Hotel.
- The Post Hotel in Lake Louise.
- Bison Mountain Bistro
- Maple Leaf
FOR PRIME RIB
- Bumper’s Beef House
Melissa’s Missteak, a cozy family restaurant known for its great steaks, excellent breakfasts and friendly service, “is one of my favourite places. It’s locally owned and one of the oldest restaurants in town,” says Linda Scaravelli. Also kid-worthy are Elk & Oarsman, Chili’s and Bumper’s.Tags: accommodations, Alberta, apres-ski activities, backcountry runs, Banff, bars, best in Banff, Brown Shirt, cross-country skiing, dogsledding, Eagle Ridge, family activities, fave rips, food, Goat's Eye Mountain, groomers, hotels, Instructor's Bowl, Lake Louise, local favourites, local tips, local traditions, Norquay, skating, ski travel trips, ski vacations, Sunshine Village, swimming, The North American, tobogganing, Whitehorn