FFWD REW

From burner runs to deep powder this season’s hit list

A comprehensive guide to skiing and snowboarding at Calgary and area mountain resorts

For some people winter means six months of hibernation but for others it’s the culmination of months of desperate anticipation for the chairlift to fire up once again. With Calgary as home base there are more than enough ski and snowboard resorts within a short drive to keep you busy all season long. From local hills to road trip adventures here’s a look at the resorts on the hit list this winter.

CANADA OLYMPIC PARK

Canada Olympic Park (COP) is the most visible significant and well-known icon remaining from the ’88 Winter Olympics in Calgary. A lot has changed in 20 years — just think snowboarding was only in its infancy — but COP carries on as a world-class facility developing world-class talent. Situated 15 minutes from downtown COP is the closest destination for skiing or snowboarding. Its slopes host first-timers and seasoned park slayers alike. Open from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. its schedule allows you to play for a few laps in the morning or gather for a nighttime pipe session.

Status: Open.

Latest: COP has expanded its mini terrain park including building a smaller halfpipe.

Must-hit: Check out the Burton Canadian Open from February 2 to 8 to witness the most elite pipe and slopestyle riders in the world.

Cost: Adult day pass: $38; student day pass: $36; adult season pass: $499; student season pass: $399.

canadaolympicpark.ca

NAKISKA

The closest true mountain resort to Calgary one burner run down some of Nakiska’s impeccable corduroy and you’ll know that the resort was specifically designed for the alpine events of the ’88 Winter Olympics. The flow is so perfect it feels like you’re skiing or snowboarding on a track which is why ski teams from around the world come here for early season training. This year Nakiska has increased its snowmaking capacity by 33 per cent. This place is primarily a family resort but is a good bet after a big storm. With everyone so busy on the ultra-fast groomers powder stashes on the upper mountain can remain untouched for days.

• Status: Opening Dec. 6

Latest: Major renovations to the day lodge including a new deck floors and washrooms. The rental shop has also been upgraded to provide more floor space.

Must-hit: Lap the fresh groom on Legacy Training Run first thing in the morning before heading up the mountain to Bobtail or over to Red Crow and Whoop-Up.

Cost: Adult day pass: $59; adult season pass: $589 student season pass: $469.

skinakiska.com

CASTLE MOUNTAIN

Located near the Continental Divide in southwest Alberta Castle Mountain is truly a gem. Whereas most hills have gone the way of the deluxe mega-resort complete with therapeutic spas and upscale coffee bars Castle remains more or less bare-bones and definitely a little rough around the edges. That’s not to say it’s not therapeutic — last season a massive 1131 centimetres of snow fell on its 850 vertical metres including some of the most consistent fall lines you’ll ever see. Even when the place is going through dry times the wind helps out by reloading faces and gullies with snow over and over again. Recent developments have seen more intermediate terrain developed on Mount Haig and some slopeside condos coming up but it’s still raw and that’s what makes this place so damn appealing.

Status: Opening Dec. 13

Latest: Castle was busy glading various areas over the summer and putting snow fencing in place to farm even more snow for the winter. Also look for upgrades at both of Castle’s parks this winter.

Must-hit: Castle’s Super South area serves up a half-dozen 600-metre chutes gullies and big lines.

Cost: Adult day pass: $61; student day pass: $47; adult season pass: $795; student season pass: $509

skicastle.ca

LAKE LOUISE

When describing mountain resorts phrases like “jaw-dropping scenery” “majestic peaks” and “magnificent vistas” have become so cliché they induce yawns. Lake Louise’s scenery however is in a league of its own with views so awesome you’d think these phrases were conceived there. Add a seemingly unlimited 1680 hectares of terrain over four mountain faces and you’d be hard-pressed not to utter some of these words yourself. Lap burners down the front face on a sunny spring day or hit the back chutes to get at steep and technical terrain. The trees off Larch Chair generally have buried snow stashes that haven’t been touched in weeks.

Status: Open.

Latest: Former owner Charlie Locke has repurchased the resort and will make several key improvements including a full terrain park and new fixed-grip quad to replace the current Ptarmigan lift.

Must-hit: East Bowl and Pika Trees — this stash stays deep for days after a dump and also gets wind-loaded with snow for surprise face shots between storms.

Cost: Adult day pass: $75; adult season pass: $859; student season pass: $689.

skilouise.com

SUNSHINE VILLAGE

Don’t worry if you pull into the Sunshine Village parking lot thinking “Where the heck are the runs?” — all 107 plus a slew of unmarked stash pockets are there. Going up the world’s fastest gondola which whisks you to the resort’s lift hub you’ll have 13 minutes to mentally digest the amount of snow you’re about to rip. Sunshine receives more than double the snow of other resorts in the region and this year marks its 80th birthday — just think of the multiple generations who’ve stacked laps and bagged powder days here. Terrain ranges from long mellow cruisers to the redesigned Rogers Terrain Park to high alpine lines.

Status: Open.

Latest: The ’60s-era terrace wing of the Sunshine Mountain Lodge has been demolished and is being replaced with a four-star facility that will open in mid-December. The $6-million hotel Banff’s only ski-in ski-out lodging is the second-largest capital investment in Sunshine’s history and is the most luxurious and greenest structure in the entire resort.

Must-hit: Burnt Trees is where it’s at even days after a storm.

Cost: Adult day pass: $76; adult season pass: $859; student season pass: $729.

skibanff.com

NORQUAY

One of North America’s oldest ski resorts Norquay has experienced a rebirth in the last few years due to new ownership. Mount Norquay is the closest resort to Banff — about a 10-minute drive — and offers some great skiing and snowboarding options including the only lit night trails in Banff and flexible ticket options such as hourly rates and a last-hour reduced price which is perfect if you only have time for a few laps after dinner. It often has virtually no lift lines as people pass it by on their way to bigger more crowded Banff resorts.

Status: Opening December 4

Latest: New ownership has recharged the resort.

Must-hit: The last few seasons have seen Norquay’s terrain park in top shape thanks to designer extraordinaire Jeff Patterson. Head over to the Cascade Quad and take a few laps through to see why people are calling it home.

Cost: Adult day pass: $55; adult season pass: $599; student season pass: $489.

banffnorquay.com

KICKING HORSE RESORT

Situated among three mountain ranges — the Purcells the Selkirks and the Rockies — in a region of immense national parks it’s no wonder Kicking Horse gained instant cred the moment it reinvented itself from the locally run ski hill it once was. Three hours west of Calgary off the Trans-Canada Highway the resort’s three peaks were once primo heli-skiing terrain before being strung with lifts for the everyman. Most of the terrain in the upper zones is unnamed and marked runs are merely suggested guidelines.

• Status: Opening December 12.

Latest: Look for a new series of natural terrain park features built around the resort like log jibs and natural halfpipes using mountain materials.

Must-hit: Head straight up Stairway to Heaven and ride Redemption Ridge and Feuz Bowl for a stack of trees chutes and backcountry access.

Cost: Adult day pass: $67; adult season pass: $1008.

kickinghorseresort.com

REVELSTOKE MOUNTAIN RESORT

After years of rumours thousands of skiers and snowboarders from around the globe made the trek to the heart of B.C. last winter for the opening of Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Have no doubt this destination is set to explode. The mysterious hearsay surrounding Revy increased substantially when the mountain’s ultra-long fall lines were coated with a season of incredibly deep snow. Now with a successful debut season behind it the resort has another season of big announcements in store. An added quad in the North Bowl area should increase both intermediate and expert lift terrain by a whopping 80 per cent. Also with the extension of the Revelation Gondola this summer Revy will have the longest vertical in North America at 1686 metres.

• Status: Opening November 27.

Latest: Skip the drive. Starting in December Hawkair is launching service between Calgary and Revelstoke with four round-trip flights per week.

Must-hit: The triple combo from the village base — ski by lift cat and heli. On top of the dreamy inbounds terrain over 200000 hectares of rugged backcountry are at your disposal.

Cost: Adult day pass: $61; adult season pass: $839; student season pass: $559.

revelstokemountainresort.com

FERNIE ALPINE RESORT

Just outside of the turn-of-the-century coal-mining town of Fernie B.C. is its namesake mountain playground which has a fan base like Led Zeppelin: diehard multigenerational and looking for an experience that’s a little unruly. It makes sense considering Fernie’s stellar mix of wide-open bowls chutes wind lips and heavy trees. Fernie is ripe with legends including the powder-producing Griz which skiers and snowboarders pay homage to with an annual winter carnival and the curse-bearing Ghostrider who appears in the shadows of Mount Hosmer. Ask any local about this legend — they love to share their history although they might not be so open with their secret stashes. Still with car-burying amounts of snow (1118 centimetres last season) there is more than enough to go around.

Status: Opening December 6

Latest: Crews worked hard last summer to cut lines and enhance glades improving KC Chutes Cedar Ridge Currie Glades and Stagleap. Also more lines are being cut in the Mitchy Chutes off the Timber chair.

Must-hit: Taking place over the weekend of January 30 2009 Kokanee SnowDreams is the stuff of legend: cold beer snowfall measured in “feeet” and possibly a Sasquatch.

Cost: Adult day pass: $75; adult season pass: $1289; student season pass: $1289.

skifernie.com

PANORAMA MOUNTAIN RESORT

Near Invermere B.C. Panorama is distinct among its Kootenay counterparts in that it boasts a bit of the flash and gloss of the contemporary resort experience. Its focus on the intermediate experience mixed with a compact village and comforting amenities makes this place family-friendly. However don’t discount the almost 400 hectares of backcountry-style terrain in Taynton Bowl an area that was once strictly heli-skiing territory and provides loads of wide-open naturally gladed runs.

• Status: Opening December 12.

Latest: Panorama is upping the ante this year by devoting more than 1.5 kilometres to its terrain park. Now located directly under the Mile 1 Quad the park will feature a mix of tables hip jumps spines rails boxes and jibs.

Must-hit: From the top of the Champagne Express Chairlift take the far right Sun Bowl Trail for a ride through treed terrain before linking with the cruising Village Way trail.

Cost: Adult day pass: $72; adult season pass: $949.

panoramaresort.com

KIMBERLEY

Dubbed the “Bavarian City of the Rockies” the town of Kimberley has a few odd notes of German influence: Canada’s largest cuckoo clock faux gingerbread architecture and accordion competitions. It also has Kimberley Alpine Resort which spreads over two mountain faces and offers a selection of trails that will appeal to everyone. The large percentage of easy and intermediate runs may be one reason that the slopes here attract a lot of skiers. However snowboarders are not shortchanged with Kimberley’s mix of more challenging terrain. In fact the resort has done extensive glading the past few seasons to open up more trees and freeriding terrain.

• Status: Opening December 19.

Latest: Additions to Kimberley’s Alpine Village are starting to take shape with a variety of condos and townhomes making it an ideal spot for a guys or girls getaway.

Must-hit: The glades around Rung and Runt runs. Also Kimberley has night skiing under the North Star Express Quad.

Cost: Adult day pass: $75; adult season pass: $859; student season pass: $689.

skikimberley.com

Dean Seguin has been competing instructing and writing about skiing and snowboarding since neon ruled the first time. He’s injured himself enough times to have learned the importance of training and a strict fitness regime.

Tags: