Skiing in Canada during the spring has a number of advantages over the rest of the season, not the least of which is that if you visit during March – May, the slopes will be much quieter. Indeed, in many resorts you will only be skiing with the locals.
Of course, the daylight hours are longer. In the depths of winter many of the lifts close at 3.30pm or 4.00pm, but in April and May you can stay on the slopes longer. It is also warmer, so sitting in the sun with a drink or five for après ski becomes a pleasure. What’s more, in Canada you don’t need to pay for a guide or use avalanche safety equipment because all resorts have a ski area marked by ropes or signposts, and inside that area it is patrolled and avalanche controlled. So there are many reasons to ski in Canada in the spring.
What Resorts Should You Consider?
This depends largely on your priorities. If you are looking for ski in/ski out then consider Big White. Virtually the whole village is ski in/ski out with even the main street being a designated ski run. It has 2,765 acres, categorised as 18% green, 54% blue, and 28% black, so there is enough area to cater for beginners. At the bottom of the village is an area called Happy Valley where you can go ice skating, tubing, ice climbing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing, and the gondola stays open until 10 pm.
The village has plenty of restaurants and bars catering for a very wide range of tastes and pockets. Snowshoe Sam’s has been voted #1 ski bar by Ski Canada Magazine and has 20 different beers on tap, daily drinks specials, a DJ every night, live bands at the weekend, pool tables, and video games. It serves food up until 10.00 pm and late night food includes what are described as “popular Aussie meat pies”.
There is a full service on mountain grocery store – The Market at Big White – which will deliver your order to your condo. Big White Beer and Wine has 30 craft ciders and beers, a selection of local spirits, and over 100 different wines from the nearby Okanagan Valley wineries.
What Is A Good Resort For Families?
Without doubt, Panorama is a very good choice. It is a village on two levels linked by a gondola which is free. The upper village is ski in/ski out and if you stay in one of the six Upper Village Condos you get free use of an outdoor hot pool, hot tubs, a sauna, waterslides, and a skating rink.
Childcare is readily available with Wee Wascals catering for 18 months to five, a combination of childcare and ski school available for kids from three upwards, and a list of babysitters in addition.
There are 2,847 acres of which 20% are green, 55% blue and 25% black. There are ten lifts, and heli-skiing is also available.
On mountain dining is catered for in one of three different locations, and there are several restaurants and bars in the villages including the Jackpine Bar in the lower village and a brand new steakhouse and restaurant called Cliffhanger Restaurant.
What’s The Best Resort For Après Ski?
Probably the biggest resort in Canada, both in terms of its’ 8,171 acres of slopes (18% green, 55% blue, 27% black) is Whistler in British Columbia. It has lots of bars, cafes, restaurants, shops, and an après scene at the lift base.
Whistler is very beginner friendly and has opened new learning areas this season. In addition there are top to bottom green runs for beginners to try once they have finished on the nursery slopes.
At the base of the Creekside Gondola is Dusty’s Bar & BBQ which was named after a stuffed horse brought into the village one day in 1979 and which stayed in the bar for ten years. The bar area is huge and one half has a gallery around it. Some really serious après goes on in here.
Located at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain is Merlin’s Bar & Grill which is the home of the local band The Hairfarmers (don’t ask!). Plenty of music and party-time goes on here daily from 11.00 am.
The Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill claims to be world-renowned as THE place to après and sits above the Whistler Gondola building where you can watch the skiers on Whistler Mountain. Claimed to be the Mecca for those who understand that every day should “end with beers and tall tales”, the GLC is open from 11.00 am until late.
There is great shopping in Whistler and plenty of non-skiing activities including an Olympic size skating rink, outdoor pool, ice climbing, tubing, snowmobiling, zip lining, and eagle watching tours.
What About Economical Resorts?
One of the best value resorts is Banff in Alberta because it is at one end of an incredible drive through national parks and has a wide range of accommodation to take care of the demand in summer. In the winter and spring this accommodation becomes reasonably priced.
If you like bars and restaurants, then Banff will serve you well as it has over 100 of them in the village together with seemingly endless souvenir shops. There are three ski areas each served by a free shuttle, the nearest of which is Mt Norquay which is very small at just 190 acres. However, Sunshine Village which is 20 minutes from the town has 3,358 acres and Canada’s first heated chairlift which was installed last season. The largest area is Lake Louise which is 45 minutes from the town and offers 4,200 acres serviced by ten lifts.
Banff itself has some 9,000 residents and over 4 million visitors every year. There are over 130 bars, restaurants, cafes, and bakeries, and there is a great nightlife scene. There are also eight art galleries and three museums in the town, and there are plenty of non-skiing activities like dogsledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, and more.