December 14 2009 by Bryson Forbes
Last month marked the first time in recorded history, (which apparently goes back 165 years) that Toronto had no snow in the month of November. Not a single flurry! Great news for drivers and bad news for skiers. The reality is any skier/snowboarder who's serious about the sport needs to get a long way from the Greater Toronto Area if they want to enjoy the best mountains in the country.
Narrowing the following list of ski areas down to five was a challenge and truthfully I could have found five great ones within the province of British Columbia alone. My methodology for ranking the resorts took into account a number of factors including:
- Size of the mountain
- Number and diversity of the runs
- Average annual snowfall
- Tourism infrastructure (accessibility, # of hotels, restaurants and activities)
Luckily, although I'm a novice skier, I have actually visited and skied four of the top five!
1. Whistler / Blackcomb, British Columbia
Nestled in the British Columbia Coast Mountains and less than 2 hours from Vancouver, Whistler / Blackcomb is Canada's top ski destination and one of the best in the world. The host for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are joined at the base by a breathtaking village with all the amenities you'd expect from a town that draws two million visitors a year from around the world. With more than 200 runs and an annual snowfall of 402 inches or 33.5 feet, these two mountains are magnificent. Best Western has a fantastic property, right in the village, click here to learn more and make your reservation: Best Western Listel Whistler
2. Kicking Horse Resort, Golden, British Columbia
Famous for the best (snow) powder and awe-inspiring scenic setting in the Purcell Range of the Rocky Mountains Kicking Horse Resort is just two and a half hours west of Calgary and boasts the greatest vertical in the Rockies. With 275 inches of snow falling annually at the summit, 106 runs and the longest run stretching more than 10 km, Kicking Horse is a world-class destination and an easy choice for number two in Canada. (How can you not love a place called "Golden?") Golden is near six of the most stunning national parks Canada has to offer (Banff, Glacier, Jasper, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Yoho). For accommodation minutes from Kicking Horse, check out Best Western Mountainview Inn.
3. Big White Ski Resort, Kelowna, British Columbia
Big White lays claim to being Canada's largest totally ski-in, ski-out village. The resort is perfect for families and features accommodations to suit a range of budgets. As B.C.'s second biggest mountain, with just shy of 300 inches in annual snowfall, 118 runs and 5 alpine bowls for boarders, Big White is number three on my list. Kelowna is also a fantastic tourist destination for wine lovers with a number of established wineries nearby. World-class skiing and world-class wine...a great combination. The Best Western Inn Kelowna, located right in the heart of town, is Kelowna's greenest hotel, having earned a 4 Green Key Eco Rating designation from the Hotel Association of Canada.
4. Banff / Lake Louise, Alberta
Banff / Lake Louise is the first resort on the list which is not in B.C. (although it's pretty close) Only an hour northwest of Calgary, Banff / Lake Louise has its skiing spread over three resorts: Mt. Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Mountain Resort. In a single tri-area lift ticket, you gain access to all three with free transportation to and from the resorts. The area enjoys one of the longest ski seasons in North America, from mid-November to late May. Combined, it boasts more than 270 runs on a terrain that gets more than 360 inches of snow every year. Keep an eye for elk; it's not uncommon when walking though the village to come face to face with these huge animals. The Best Western Siding 29 Lodge is a fantastic option for great value right in the village!
5. Mont-Tremblant, Tremblant, Quebec
If you're not familiar with Quebec as a ski destination, you should be. Quebec has a number of excellent mountains and the best of the bunch is Mont-Tremblant. Just an hour's drive from Montreal, Tremblant also features the convenience of its own airport. Despite this, its charming pedestrian village and its scenic location, Tremblant attracts more "tourist" skiers than locals. 150 inches may now seem small compared to the top four, but it's plenty! Because of the tourist skiers, Tremblant has developed a very European-style pedestrian village which offers an array of activities and conveniences to fill out your days. For English information online, click www.tourismemonttremblant.com/en/.
The snow is coming, folks -a big storm is expected to hit Toronto this week and residents of Calgary got theirs last week. So instead of complaining, let's enjoy the season.
Any plans to hit the slopes this winter?