02 June 2010
As we get ready for another busy ski and snowboarding season in New Zealand, imagine a country with a six month long ski season, where the snow is pretty much guaranteed and where you can stay in a resort where you can virtually ski and shop at the same time.
That country is Canada, with some of the best ski fields in the world and more than 300 ski areas to choose from, and as the ski season there begins in November there is plenty of time to plan a trip there, while you hit the local ski slopes to top up your training.
Whether you choose to visit Whistler, which is easily accessible from Vancouver, or Big White and Sun Peaks, deep in the heart of British Columbia, or Lake Louise in Alberta, you will be spoilt for choice to find a ski resort in Canada to suit your level of ability as well experiencing the holiday of a lifetime. Value Tours are experts in ski holidays, and here are some of their top picks of Ski Canada destinations to experience an out of season ski holiday, while also enjoying spectacular scenery and sampling cuisine from round the world.
Whistler, just 120 kilometres north of Vancouver, is justifiably famous as the number one ski resort in North America. It's easy to reach from Vancouver, by road along Canada's spectacular west coast on the Seas to Sky Highway.
Whistler is a big ski resort, with two mountains, three glaciers, an average snowfall of nine metres, 12 bowls and more than 200 marked pistes. With more than 8000 acres of skiable terrain, including 700 backcountry acres, Whistler provides the experience of a lifetime for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Clearly marked areas of the terrain are designed for the novice, the intermediate and the expert.
Whistler has one of the most advanced high speed lift systems in the world, carrying 30,000 people an hour. With a ski season that runs from November to July, you can experience the longest ski season in Canada.
And the action is not all confined to the slopes as Whistler's après ski scene is legendary, offering a range of entertainment from nightclubs with top DJs, jazz bars, intimate bistros, restaurants offering fine dining, to cosy pubs offering the best in pub grub.
It is also the perfect family destination with loads of child minding services, kid's stores and family restaurants.
And, when you feel like having a break from the slopes, you can shop until you drop at more than 200 shops at Whistler's pedestrian only Village, which includes contemporary galleries, arts and crafts stores, souvenir gift shops, sporting equipment, jewellery and fashion stores.
Situated in the interior of British Columbia, is a resort famous for its average 7.5 metre snow fall per year. Big White specialises in dry champagne powder snow, which the locals call "Hero's Snow", because it quickly coats you to make you look the part of the expert skier. Snowboarding is also popular here, with a huge half-pipe, and many challenging runs for those with a sense of daring.
Big White also offers ski-in, ski-out accommodation, so you can ski back for lunch or to sneak in a nap after all the non stop activity. Imagine being able to do that in Queenstown or even Mt Ruapehu.
As with most Canadian resorts, Big White caters for dedicated expert skiers, down to enthusiastic beginners with plenty of ski instruction, bars, restaurants, alternative outdoor and indoor activities to entertain all visitors. Big White is also ideal for families as it sports a Kid's Centre which has been voted "Best Place to be Abandoned by your Parents" by Ski Canada magazine.
Sun Peaks, deep in the heart of central British Columbia, has more than 3500 acres of ski terrain, on three mountains -Tod, Sundance and Mt Morrisey. There is plenty of sunshine and an abundance of dry snow on long runs that originate in high open alpine areas and cruise down into valleys of snow covered trees. You'll want to take a moment between runs to soak in scenery that's been lifted straight off a postcard.
Rounding off the picture perfect scene is an award winning ski-in, ski-out village. Many families return year after year to Sun Peaks as it is an ideal family resort, which includes a Sun Kids Snow Sports School, complete with a terrain garden, a kids only snowmobile park, and a new Tube park.
And when you want a change from skiing at Sun Peak, you can always try Cat skiing. It's a bit like heliskiing, only without the helicopter, and uses a heated snowcat to lift you up between runs.
Sun Peaks is 410 km from Vancouver. There is an airport shuttle from Vancouver, and air service to nearby Kamloops with a shuttle to the resort. The season is from November 22 to April 12.
Lake Louise, Alberta
Lake Louise Ski Area, located in the most spectacular part of the Canadian Rockies, is definitely a world class resort. It is North America's single largest ski area with more than 28 square kilometres of alpine powder bowls, wide forested slopes and a gondola. It boasts that it has more terrain than can be skied in a week, and it is all situated in beautiful, pristine wilderness.
Experts can tackle endless chutes, glades, gullies and remote bowls in some of the Rockies' most challenging terrain, while there are plenty of gentle slopes for less experienced skiers.
Lake Louise Village is quieter than the likes of Whistler and Big White, but there are still plenty of bars and restaurants for après ski action.
So there you have it- plenty of choice for Southern Hemisphere skiers to extend their ski season or for beginners to enjoy a magical winter holiday in spectacular surroundings. An abundant natural snowfall, huge terrain, efficient lift systems and spectacular scenery made Canada a dream winter sports destination, no matter whether you are an aspirational beginner or an Olympic level snowboarder or skier.
The best time to go skiing in Canada? This varies from resort to resort, but it's a good idea to avoid peak times, such as Christmas, and Easter. The best time for Southern Hemisphere escapees is January, and late in the season - early April - when prices are reduced, the crowds are smaller, and you are likely to enjoy fantastic weather.
For more information on Value Tours, visit www.adventureworld.co.nz