Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 19, 2017
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Deeper, Faster, Longer

More snow, speedier lifts and steeper drops -- this ski season promises to be Canada's best

It's no wonder that a quarter of Canadians hit the slopes each year. Our country is at its most breathtaking in the winter and what better way to appreciate it than from above the tree line? Fresh tracks in new powder, challenging terrain, 10-kilometre-long runs and spectacular views make skiing the ultimate winter experience. Coupled with slopeside accommodations, luxury condominiums, first-class restaurants and great nightlife, Canada's resorts provide unforgettable ski vacations.

The following guide offers a selection of ski-and-stay packages offered by Canada's best resorts. Prices are per person, based on double occupancy, do not include taxes unless otherwise specified and are subject to change. Many resorts prefer to customize your vacation, based on where you want to stay (slopeside or in the village), what you're looking for (hotel, chalet, condo or bed & breakfast) and how many days you'd like to ski. Prices vary depending on when you'll be vacationing -- some resorts have up to five differently priced ski seasons. As a general rule, though each resort is different, value season lasts until just before Christmas and begins again at the end of the ski season. For eastern resorts, that's sometime in March. Things are different in the west, where February to April is considered part of the regular season. Prices only start to drop around mid-April. Prices everywhere shoot up between December 23rd and 31st.

British Columbia -- Whistler
Forty years ago, this then-small ski resort north of Vancouver made a bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics. Though it's still waiting to host the games, Whistler has become one of the most popular resorts on the continent: Ski Magazine has called it the heavyweight champion of North American skiing.

Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains promise -- and deliver -- great skiing. With 2861 hectares of terrain to explore, more than 200 marked trails, 12 massive bowls and three glaciers, it is the largest skiing area on the continent and the two greatest vertical-rise ski mountains in North America (Blackcomb rises 1609 metres from Whistler Village to an elevation of 2284 metres, Whistler Mountain to 2182 metres). Three high-speed gondolas and 12 quad lifts, part of a system of 33 lifts, will see you all over the mountain in no time.

With over 5000 rooms, Whistler Village has a variety of accommodations, from the slopeside Pan Pacific Lodge, with its Irish pub, year-round pool and fully-equipped kitchen and fireplace in each suite, to hotels in the village, farther away from the mountains but closer to the aprês-ski action. Ski-and-stay packages are custom-designed based on the type of accommodation, time of year and length of stay. A basic package, with the early season value rate (good until the end of November) includes two nights of accommodation and two days of skiing for $199.

Whistler is offering some specialty packages this year. The Heli High includes five nights of luxury accommodation, a three-day lift ticket and four runs of semi-private heli-skiing on an A-Star helicopter. There will be one guide for every four skiers. Prices range between $1075 and $1405.

Absolute Adventure includes five nights of luxury accommodation, a four-day lift ticket, a snowmobile tour and round-trip transportation from Vancouver International Airport. Prices range between $699 and $1009.

Pamper Me includes five nights of luxury accommodation, a four-day lift ticket, a one-hour massage and round-trip limousine transportation from Vancouver International Airport. Prices range between $1279 and $1325.

For more information contact Tourism Whistler (PO Box 930, Whistler, BC VON 1B0; tel: 800-944-7853; www.tourismwhistler.com).

Alberta -- the Rockies
At Banff National Park, you'll find some of the best powder skiing in the world. The communities of Banff and Lake Louise are both located within the park, 180 kilometres west of Calgary. Three world-class resorts, all within easy access of the towns, are available on one tri-area lift ticket, providing 3058 hectares of skiing that's as diverse as the Rocky Mountain landscape.

Lake Louise spreads across four mountain faces and offers exciting terrain, with 100 named runs and thousands of hectares of wide-open bowls linked through a system of 11 interconnecting lifts. This is a beginner-friendly resort -- at least one easy run is accessible from every chairlift.

Packages are as varied as Lake Louise's accommodations. Three-night stays include three tri-area passes and six-night stays include five passes. Provincial room tax is covered in the prices.

The Post Hotel (PO Box 69, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0; tel: 800-661-1586; www.posthotel.com) is a Relais & Châteaux inn. The dining is renowned and the wine cellar is sure to impress with more than 25,000 bottles. Some rooms include a Jacuzzi, whirlpool, wet bar and fireplace. Three-night stays range from $383 to $615; six-night stays range from $726 to $922.

A three-night stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (111 Lake Louise Drive, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0; tel: 403-522-3511; fax: 403-522-3834) ranges from $357 to $653; six-night stays range from $672 to $1251. The 487-room hotel has numerous restaurants, a full-service health club and offers outdoor winter activities such as skating.

Lake Louise Inn (PO Box 209, 210 Village Road, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0; tel: 800-661-9237; www.lakelouiseinn.com) is a five-minute walk from Lake Louise village. The hotel has a heated pool, whirlpool and steam room. Three-night stays range from $247 to $396; six-night stays range from $453 to $737.

For more information contact Skiing Louise Ltd. (Box 5, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0; tel: 800-0258-7669; www.skilouise.com).

 

Banff Mount Norquay The best-kept secret of the Rockies is only 15 minutes from downtown Banff. This resort cut its first run in 1926 and now boasts 25 tree-sheltered runs. While Mount Norquay is accessible through most of Lake Louise's ski packages that provide tri-area passes, the Timberline Inn (PO Box 69, Banff, AB T0L 0C0; tel: 877-762-2281), at the base of Mount Norquay, is a comfortable inn with a relaxing restaurant. Ski-and-stay packages range from $71 to $95 per night and include a lift ticket to Mount Norquay; packages with a tri-area lift ticket range from $86 to $113 per night (three-day minimum stay). Beginners should consider the Discover Skiing package, which includes accommodation, equipment rentals, a two-hour group lesson and a lift ticket for between $86 and $105 per day. Prices include taxes.

Contact Ski Banff Norquay (PO Box 219, Suite 7000, Banff, AB T0L 0C0; tel: 403-762-4421; fax: 403-762-8133; www.banffnorquay.com).

Sunshine Village One of the reasons skiers keep coming back here is because there are no snowmaking facilities. They aren't needed -- over 10 metres of snow falls every year on the three mountains that make up Sunshine Village. Experienced skiers can feel the difference in the champagne powder, as the soft, dry, light, natural snow that falls here is known. It's no wonder this is the longest spring skiing season in Canada -- as most of the terrain is above 2133 metres, the snow stays softer and drier and lasts longer.

Experienced skiers won't want to miss Delirium Dive, an extreme off-piste area. With an average incline of 39 degrees, it's only for experts with avalanche equipment and limited to skiers riding with a partner, an avalanche transceiver and a rescue shovel.

Sunshine Village is minutes from downtown Banff, which is replete with great places to stay. The Banff Springs Hotel (PO Box 960, Banff, AB T0L 0C0; tel: 403-762-2211; fax: 403-762-4447) was built in 1888 in the style of a 19th-century Scottish baronial castle. The 770-room hotel has all the amenities affiliated with a luxury resort, including a health club with pool, whirpool, sauna and steam room, a European-style spa and even a bowling centre. A three-night stay with three tri-area lift tickets costs between $349 and $488; six nights of accommodation and five days of skiing cost between $659 and $927, including provincial room tax.

The first tracks in the morning's fresh powder are made by those staying at the Sunshine Inn (tel: 800-661-1676), Banff's only ski-in/ski-out hotel. Guests arrive via gondola -- there's not a car in sight or within earshot -- and spend their vacation in the mountains. Amenities include a heated outdoor pool, sauna and Jacuzzi suites. Enjoy après-skis at the Mad Trappers Saloon, where the original Sunshine Lodge was built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad 70 years ago. Depending on the ski season, three-night stays with three days of skiing start at $270; a six-night stay with five days of skiing starts at $510.

Sunshine Village is a beginner-friendly resort and offers private as well as group lessons. The Ski Week Program applies to guests staying five or more nights at the Sunshine Inn and involves special discounts from the ski school. If you check in on a Sunday night for five or more days, take advantage of the Ski Week Program, which includes eight hours of free instruction. Evening activities and children's programs are also available at no charge.

Contact Sunshine Village (Box 1510, Banff, AB T0L 0C0; tel: 877-542-2633; www.skibanff.com).

Quebec -- Ski la nuit
Known for the best night skiing in North America, skiing in Quebec is memorable for sun worshippers and star gazers alike. The Laurentians and the Appalachians are not as spectacular as the Rockies, which means that the resorts are smaller and the lift lines are shorter. The province sees more than three metres of snowfall every year on more than 800 trails at over 80 resorts.

Tremblant
The highest summit in the Laurentians, at 914 metres with a vertical drop of 649 metres, Tremblant's 92 trails cover the north and south sides of the mountain. The longest trail, the Nansen, is six kilometres long. This year the slopes will see 30 percent more snowmaking -- with already almost four metres of natural snowfall every year, there'll be great skiing well into spring.

Guests come to Tremblant, which is just an hour and a half from Montreal, for the skiing as well as the village's great restaurants and nightlife. You're encouraged to customize your own ski-and-stay package.

Le Sommet des Neiges opens this December and is the most recent addition to the resort village. With ski-in/ski-out access, an outdoor whirlpool and exercise room, each suite has a fireplace and fully-equipped kitchen. The Winter Getaway starts at $119 per night, is based on a minimum three-night stay and includes one free day of skiing.

The Family Getaway at Le Domaine de la Forêt starts at $317 per family per night and includes lift tickets for two adults and two children. Le Domaine offers spacious mountain homes with full kitchen, large living room, fireplace and ski-in/ski-out access.

Le Westin Resort offers slopeside access, fine Japanese cuisine, an outdoor whirlpool and an exercise room. All suites feature a fireplace and a kitchenette. Ski-and-stay packages start at $172 per night, based on a minimum three-night stay and include one free day of skiing. The Romantic Getaway, available from January 6 to February 14, starts at $198 per night with a minimum two-night stay and includes two days of skiing. Breakfast, a bottle of champagne and a box of chocolates per couple are included.

Contact Tremblant (3005 Chemin Principal, Mont-Tremlant, QC J0T 1Z0; tel: 800-461-8711; www.tremblant.ca).

Mont-Sainte-Anne
Since 1947, when Mont-Sainte-Anne hosted the Alpine Skiing Canadian Championships, major competitions have been held here, including last year's Alpine World Championships Super Giant and Downhill. With a high-performance snowmaking system, there's always more than enough snow for great skiing. Lodges and restaurants, located at various places on the mountain from base to summit, ensure that you're always well-rested and well-fed.

The mountain is only a 30-minute drive from Quebec City. This means that ski-and-stay packages vary wildly and vacations are custom-designed depending where you want to stay -- near the mountain, slopeside or even in Old Quebec.

Chalets Mont-Sainte-Anne (tel: 800-463-4395; www.chaletsmontste-anne.com) is the only condominium complex located right in front of the mountain's gondolas. Units include a fully-equipped kitchen, fireplace and sometimes sauna or whirlpool and can accommodate up to 10 people. Prices vary according to ski season. One-bedroom, two-night stays with two days of skiing start at $234 per person; five-night stays with four days of skiing start at $429 per person.

Château Mont-Sainte-Anne (tel: 800-463-4467; www.chateaumont sainteanne.com) is a resort hotel near the mountain's gondola. The Beau Regard dining shows off regional cuisine with some of Quebec's best products. The two-night ski package starts at $239 per person and includes two days of skiing, country-style buffet breakfast each morning, one table d'hÖte dinner, one cocktail and one Swiss fondue. The five-night package starts at $631 and includes five days and four evenings of skiing, country-style buffet breakfast each morning, table d'hÖte dinner every day, one cocktail, Swiss fondue, a sleigh ride and an optional day of skiing at Le Massif (shuttle included).

Contact Mont-Sainte-Anne (2000 Boulevard Beau Pré, CP 400, Beaupré QC G0A 1E0; tel: 800-463-1568).

 

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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