Time to don the boards. Banff led off Canada’s 2014/15 ski season with Lake Louise the first to load skiers and snowboarders on chairs. This past weekend, first chairs also sailed out of their terminals at Sunshine Village, Marmot Basin and Nakiska.
For Lake Louise, the opening nipped at some records. Although the resort launched a week later than usual, Lake Louise opened more runs in mid-November than in the past two years. But a frigid Arctic air mass chilled down the first chair on Nov. 13 when temperatures plunged in the wee hours to -20 C (-4 F). Sunny skies moderated midday temperatures, and by Sunday, an inversion shrouded lower slopes in clouds while sunlight dazzled upper elevations. Coinciding with the inversion, the resort started up Top of the World Chair and Summit Platter, allowing skiers to relish the sun up high with views of the glacier-draped Banff National Park.
“Every bit of anxiety or stress that may build up during the week just evaporates when I roll off the lift and see that view,” says spokesperson Dan Markham. “The unique situation of a major ski destination in the heart of a protected national park guarantees the scenery will always be pristine, something were very proud of.”
A skier descends Lake Louise on opening day Nov. 13, 2014.
Copyright: Chris Moseley
But early season eyes on the resort belong to more than recreational skiers and snowboarders yearning turns. Lake Louise ups the pressure annually by hosting the first stop on the World Cup downhill and super-G circuit. This year, the course will see men’s competitions on Nov. 29-30, women’s on Dec. 5-7 and training runs in the few days prior to each. Approvals came in early for the racetrack where men’s high speeds top 120 kilometers per hour.
“For only the second time in the history of hosting World Cups, the International Ski Federation (FIS) gave the course the thumbs up on the very first viewing,” reports Markham. “Things are shaping up.”
Lake Louise currently has the Glacier Express, Top of the World, Summit Platter and Sunny Carpet operating. For improvements this winter, the resort enlarged grooming and snowmaking fleets, and menus at several restaurants including the mid-mountain Whitehorn Lodge received dollops of healthy choices.
Bluebird skies and snow at Sunshine Village on opening day, Nov. 14, 2014.
Copyright: Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine
Banff’s Sunshine Village launched its season on Friday, Nov. 14, with the Strawberry Quad accessing five runs. Sunshine Mountain Lodge located in the village also ushered in its first winter guests. By Sunday, the resort added the Angel Express with three runs, Strawberry Jib Park and two learning carpets.
While the recent Parks Canada-approved swap of Tee Pee Town lift for a high-speed quad with heated seats and bubble protection must wait until next winter, this winter sees a continuation of two popular programs: the guided historical snowshoe and fondue tour and the combination yoga and ski retreats.
In addition to the two Banff ski resorts, Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park loaded skiers on the Eagle Express to tour four runs on the lower mountain. Beginners also hopped on the Magic Carpet. With snowmaking firing daily around the clock, mountain crews anticipate opening more terrain this week, including School House Chair with accompanying lower mountain runs and Paradise Quad with upper elevation intermediate and advanced runs.
First chair at Nakiska reaches mid-mountain on opening day Nov. 15, 2014 .
Copyright: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies
Between Banff and Calgary, Nakiska also commenced skiing and snowboarding for its first weekend. Due to comprehensive snowmaking, skiers and snowboarders inaugurated their first days with 2,400 vertical feet of top-to-bottom runs. Nakiska will operate lifts again Nov. 22-23 before tackling a daily schedule starting Nov. 27.
Nakiska added a range of upgrades for this winter. Owner Resorts of the Canadian Rockies expanded the tube park, guest services and ticketing, parking, outdoor BBQ pit, snowmaking, grooming fleet, and free TELUS base-area wifi.
As snow conditions permit, all four resorts will open up more lifts and terrain. Dust off those boards: it’s time to ski or ride Canada.