We’re Back Skiing in the Canadian Rockies
The oldest resort in the west has taken this years honours by being the first to welcome skiers. As an added bonus, the iconic mountain is celebrating its 90th year of operations.
Okay, it is one lift and one run on mostly manufactured snow, but the crisp air and snow-covered peaks off-set limited early season conditions.
We joke about how long winter is here in the Canadian Rockies, but for ski and snowboard enthusiasts (or fanatics), this corner of the globe effectively offers the longest consistent ski season on the planet.
Residents of the Bow Valley and the Canadian mountain highlands are extremely sporting in nature. We bike, climb, hike, skate and ski. I began skiing at age six and Finn was first on downhill skis at age three.
If we don’t embrace winter, it will consume us.
The first book I ever wrote was Ski Canada; Where to Ski and Snowboard. It is long outdated, but offers testament to my love of snow sports. I am in no manner the exception here and working in tourism (as I do), I love how the winter beauty of the Rockies remains a draw for people from around the world.
Norquay has long been among my favourite ski areas. It is not as large as other resorts in the region, but it is extremely accessible and offers diverse terrain in one of the most beautiful settings on earth – this is not hyperbole.
From the top of the recently updated North American Chair (offering access to, what was for many years, the steepest lift-accessible run in North America), the views down the valley continue to take my breath away. I would have been up that chair at least 500 time and have even skied down on New Years Eve with flaming torches.
Mount Norquay was the first ski area to install a chairlift in Canada back in 1948 and despite financial challenges over the year, this now well-run ski resort has embraced year-round activities with a summer via-ferrata (a chained, guided, climbing experience) as well as a site-seeing lift. This is all the more impressive, because the activities are sanctioned by Parks Canada’s rather vigorous regulations.
Of course, in the winter skiing and snowboarding dominate our mountains (Finn loves the jumps at the terrain park), however Norquay now has a fun tubing park. Sometimes the inner-tubes filled with laughing children and terrified parents seem more popular than the actual ski runs.
Other than downhill activities, we also love to snowshoe, ski tour and cross-country ski.
Here in Canmore, cross-country ski enthusiasts have been back on last year’s snow since October 23. Due to a system aptly named “Frozen Thunder”, the previously year’s snow is saved and re-applied to the trails when weather permits.
On a slightly more extreme note, our long season has made the Alberta Rockies a prime destination for Ice Climbing. This sport sounds marginal, but has a surprisingly large following (including many of my friends). To learn how, turn to Yamnuska Mountain Adventures (they even train the military).
World-class athletes are thrilled by the opening of both the Nordic Centre and Mount Norquay, but so are the many recreational skiers and snowboarders throughout the region.
Another bonus for visitors from abroad is that skiing in Canada has become somewhat more affordable. The weaker Loonie (Canadian dollar) has once again made the Rockies champagne powder snow more accessible. Locally, a minor price war has driven down season pass costs. Perhaps as the Alberta economy cools, we can all take time to enjoy our beautiful mountains…
I leave Monday for Peru, but will manage two days of skiing and one hockey game before flying south. In December I hope to ski at least three days a week!