Monday, December 20, 2021

Ski out your Cabin Door at Baker Creek Mountain Resort in Banff

My family recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend at Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise for some amazing "ski out your cabin door" fun in a beautiful winter wonderland setting.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort is one of twelve incredible properties with the Charming Inns & Small Hotels of Alberta and from my personal experience, adventure awaits just outside your door at each one of their inns or resorts.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise, Alberta

An Authentic Rocky Mountain Experience at Baker Creek Mountain Resort

Baker Creek Mountain Resort is located along the Highway 1A in Banff National Park just 20 minutes east of Lake Louise. The resort has cozy cabins and suites, most with kitchenettes and all with fireplaces (including wood burning fireplaces in the cabins.) The largest cabins fit up to 5 people.

A stay at Baker Creek gives you an authentic Rocky Mountain experience, tucked away in a pristine wilderness setting off the beaten tourist path. We also appreciated the "intimate" nature of this cozy resort with only 16 suites & beautiful log cabins. It was a far cry from a loud ski hotel one might find in a busy mountain town.

Creekside firepits at Baker Creek Mountain Resort (firewood included)

Amenities at the property include a fitness centre, steam room, sauna, ice skating rink, and outdoor firepits along the creek.  There is also a café on site with basic food and beverage supplies in case you've forgotten anything (from marshmallows to a bottle of wine.)

My family stayed in a deluxe one bedroom suite in one of the lodge buildings. We thoroughly enjoyed our fireplace which provided heat to our room and warmed us up from an afternoon on the ski trails. We also loved having a separate bedroom (rather than the standard hotel room where the whole family sleeps in the same room) and our son was able to sleep on the pull out sofa.

The lodge that we stayed in with cozy suites, each one very much like a private cabin

Our kitchenette was just large enough for us to enjoy a simple breakfast each morning and we appreciated the amenities including a hot plate for cooking, fridge, microwave, coffee Bodum, and electric kettle. We were given fresh ground coffee when we checked in, and our fridge was stocked with coffee creamers. Our kitchen also had sugar, tea, and cooking supplies/dishes. 

We brought supplies with us to make lunches for our ski outings but chose to eat out for dinner each night. If that sounds like something you'd enjoy, there are several options for great dining at both Lake Louise and in the Town of Banff. Otherwise, should you choose to eat in your cabin, we discovered that the resort has outdoor barbecues on the property which would make it very easy to grill up some burgers or steaks for dinner.

A snowy winter evening at Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise

Tips for planning an amazing stay at Baker Creek:

  • Bring slippers or thick fuzzy socks. The cabin floors can be chilly,

  • Bring a board game, fun card game, or crib board for cozy evenings in your cabin.

  • Bring your ice skates for the skating rink.

  • Bring your swim suits if you want to use the sauna.

  • Bring your indoor exercise clothes if you want to use the fitness centre.

  • Bring a sled if you have young children. You can pull them around the resort on the snowy pathways.

  • Bring roasting sticks and marshmallows for the outdoor firepits. I'd also recommend bringing travel mugs and hot chocolate to enjoy by the fire.

  • Bring your winter boots if you want to walk around the resort or play in the snow with the kids.

  • Download any movies you want to watch with the kids on an iPad before coming out. The WiFi at the resort is "basic" and certainly not high speed. - Which means you can unplug, leave the work behind in the city, and relax!

  • Pets are allowed at the resorts so you can bring Fido or Fluffy with you.

  • Our suite had a microwave but not a full oven (so maybe don't bring a frozen pizza for dinner - or at the very least, ask the resort if your cabin has a microwave or an oven)

A look at the inside of our cabin suite at Baker Creek

Ski Out Your Cabin Door at Baker Creek 

Baker Creek Mountain Resort grooms 10 kilometres of Nordic trails for cross-country skiing and all you have to do is walk across the road to access the trailhead. The first 3.5 km of trail is very flat and perfect for families with young children. Ski to the Protection Mountain Campground and back in an easy 7 km return trip outing before switching to your ice skates, relaxing in your cabin, or playing in the snow around the resort with your family.

For a longer ski, continue past Protection Mountain towards Castle Mountain Lookout, another 6.2 km past the campground for a round trip distance of 19 km. There are incredible views between Protection Mountain and Castle Mountain Lookout, and train lovers will get plenty of opportunities to watch trains go by as you ski alongside the tracks or traverse high above the river and the train tracks, with several great vantage points along the ski trail.

Skiing along the Highway 1A between Baker Creek and Castle Mountain Lookout

If you're fortunate to have a second vehicle, you can also set up a shuttle to ski one-way from Baker Creek back to Castle Junction, 15 km away (and 30 km round trip for adults wanting a long day tour from the resort.)

Gorgeous views can be seen from the Nordic Ski Trail from Baker Creek

To read more about the ski trails between Baker Creek and Castle Junction check out my recent story below.

All the Trains and Snowy Rockies Scenery!

Easy family-friendly skiing from Baker Creek Mountain Resort

Other Winter Activities to Enjoy from Baker Creek Mountain Resort

There is no shortage of adventure to be had while staying at Baker  Creek. Below are just some of the possibilities:

  • Visit Lake Louise for a day to skate on the lake, enjoy cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, participate in a guided dog sled tour, or even go on a horse drawn sleigh ride.

  • Visit the Lake Louise Ski Resort for downhill skiing, family tubing, a sightseeing chairlift ride, or a guided snowshoe tour.

  • Take a scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway towards the Columbia Icefields (winter tires required) where you'll see some of the most stunning scenery in Banff National Park.

  • Visit the Town of Banff for a day where opportunities are endless. Enjoy shopping, dining, a visit to the Banff Gondola, a soak in the Banff hot springs, cross-country skiing or hiking, or even fat biking with rentals available in town.

  • Enjoy some relaxing time at the resort, borrow a few hockey sticks and start up a casual game on the skating rink, or unwind with a hot chocolate and s'mores by one of the creekside firepits. 

  • Go snowshoeing near the resort. There are several trails nearby and the resort lends out complimentary snowshoes to its guests. 

  • Visit nearby Johnston Canyon, a winter wonderland of frozen ice where you'll see two large frozen waterfalls. Ice cleats or spikes highly recommended.

Cross country skiing under the cliffs of Castle Mountain near Baker Creek

A Unique and Special Stay Every Time with the Charming Inns of Alberta

The Charming Inns & Small Hotels of Alberta are a collection of 12 boutique independent inns and hotels found in locations across Alberta. The inn keepers of these properties work together to support each other and share resources. They stand out from the generic hotels you find when traveling that look as if they were cut out using a "hotel cookie cutter."

Baker Creek Mountain Resort is one of these unique properties where one stay will never be enough, and an annual trip is certainly guaranteed after you spend a couple of nights here.

Every Stay at a Charming Inns of Alberta Property is Unique and Distinctive

A quick glance at the Charming Inns of Alberta website introduces you to a wide range of experiences (because a stay at one of these properties is always more than just an overnight accommodation.) You'll find everything from honeymoon getaways to quick overnight escapes, mountain or wilderness retreats, private cabins, and spa vacations. Some of the properties are also pet friendly and many are very welcoming of children as well.

The common ground between each property is that you'll always find something distinctive, unique, and "local" in flavor. We've stayed at two other Charming Inn properties now, Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis, and the Bear and Bison Inn in Canmore. At both properties it was very clear we were staying in the Rocky Mountains, and that atmosphere was present everywhere around each resort from the art work to the décor and even to the meals we ate. 

A Rocky Mountain Winter Wonderland at Baker Creek Mountain Resort

Mount Engadine Resort allows you the unique experience of staying in a winterized glamping tent where "camping" gets a whole lot more decadent with indoor plumbing, comfortable king sized beds, and fireplaces in each cabin. All meals are included at the resort including afternoon tea, a charcuterie board, and dessert for each group. You'll also feast on a delicious three course dinner, a two course breakfast the next day, and a packed lunch for the trails.

Pets are welcome at Mount Engadine, and you'll find a wide assortment of rooms in addition to the glamping tents including cabins, suites, and cozy lodge rooms. There's truly something for everyone. And kids are always more than welcome here as well.

For couples looking for a romantic getaway close to shopping and a wide variety of find dining options, look no further than the Bear and Bison Inn in Canmore. Each comfortable suite includes breakfast in your room the next morning, and I loved our room so much I was ready to move in permanently. 

From your basecamp in Canmore, you're close to winter hiking or snowshoeing trails, the Canmore Nordic Centre for XC skiing, The Town of Banff to the west, and the incredible wilderness playground of Kananaskis just up the Spray Lakes Road.

Glamping Tents at Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis 

Visit Baker Creek Mountain Resort during the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet

If you time your visit to Baker Creek right, you can also ski the special Lake Louise to Banff Loppet Course mid to late January. The section from the Lake Louise Campground to Baker Creek Mountain Resort only gets groomed for the loppet in January each year, and so you can only ski between Lake Louise and Baker Creek during this time.

Visit the link above to register for the loppet. 

The distance from Lake Louise to Baker Creek during the loppet is 20.7 km. Total distance to Castle Junction is around 34 km one way.

Last year we set up a shuttle with friends and skied from Lake Louise to Castle Mountain Lookout. It was an incredible experience.

Skiing the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet Course in January 

Give the Gift of a Getaway with a Charming Inns Gift Card

The Charming Inns of Alberta has gift cards available for their properties and the best part is that one gift card allows for 12 different getaway options. Buy a gift card for a special person in your life and let them choose whether they want a mountain getaway, a romantic spa weekend, or a wilderness stay.

Family members, friends, and even coworkers can be difficult to shop for, but this is truly a gift that's meaningful, simple to buy, and guaranteed to please any recipient! 

Gift cards are great for corporate incentives, anniversaries, birthdays, wedding gifts or any special occasion. - And there's still time to buy a gift card for Christmas!

Visit the Charming Inns of Alberta website for more information on ordering gift cards. They can be mailed or emailed to the recipient.

Give the Gift of a Getaway this Winter!

Disclaimer: Our stay at Baker Creek Mountain Resort was hosted in partnership with the Charming Inns of Alberta. All words and opinions are my own and I wasn't compensated beyond the stay.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Cross-country Skiing along the Highway 1A in Banff: Baker Creek to Castle Junction

This has become an extremely popular cross-country ski tail and most of it is very scenic and beginner-friendly. You'll parallel the Highway 1A the entire time on a groomed ski trail from Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise, ending at Castle Junction approximately 15 km away.

One of the amazing viewpoints as you ski under the cliffs of Castle Mountain along the 1A

Below I've broken the trail down into popular distances that local skiers enjoy including my personal favourite, a one way traverse from Baker Creek to Castle Junction with a shuttle where the trail trends downhill at a gradual angle other than a few short hills that you'll climb up and over.

Below is my modified copy of the Parks Canada map that I've marked up for easy reference. Note however that Parks Canada lists the 5 km section from Castle Mountain Lookout to Castle Junction as green or "easy." This is not true. This is the only section of the trail that is actually intermediate with several short hills and one steep descent towards Castle Junction at the end where you'll have to control your speed on a twisty trail through tight trees.

The middle 6.4 km section between Protection Mountain Campground and Castle Mountain Lookout could be rated as green, as it is quite beginner friendly. 

Baker Creek to Castle Junction along the Highway 1A

Skiing from Castle Lookout to Baker Creek Return (Easy/low intermediate)

If you're just skiing out and back, I recommend starting at the lookout in the middle and skiing to Baker Creek and back. This is your best bet for having a groomed trackset trail to ski as well. The section from the lookout to Castle Junction is not groomed as often.

You can always turn around early as well around the Protection Mountain Campground. After the campground it's not as scenic for the final 3.5 km to Baker Creek.

From Castle Mountain Lookout, the trail is generally easy heading towards Baker Creek. There's one steep hill out of the parking lot but honestly you just have to take your skis off at the bottom anyway to cross the highway, so walk the hill if you don't want to ski down it. (I never ski up it at the end of the trip.)

High above the Bow River between Castle Lookout and Protection Mountain

Once you're on the other side of the highway from the lookout parking lot, the trail is relatively flat other than the double humps you'll climb up and over. Each one is gentle enough that you can usually stay in the tracks going both up and down.

Turn around at Protection Mountain after 6.2 km or continue the final 3.5 km to Baker Creek where you can have lunch in the red chairs outside the resort beside the creek. There is also a café at Baker Creek where you can grab snacks, lunch, and coffee to go. (Bring your mask if you plan to go inside.)

The 6.2 km section from the Lookout to Protection Mountain is the prettiest part of the whole trail.

This is the beginning of the trail from the Castle Mountain Lookout (flat and very beginner-friendly)

Parking Directions:

Follow this link to find the Castle Lookout parking lot on Google Maps.

Note you are not parking right at Castle Junction where you turn off from the TransCanada Highway. You must turn off the highway at the Castle Mountain Chalets and then turn left on the Highway 1A, heading towards Lake Louise.

You'll see a sign for the Castle Lookout parking lot on your right if coming from Castle Junction.

Skiing high above the Bow River between Castle Mountain Lookout and Protection Mountain

Trail Reports: 

Follow this link to the Banff National Park Trail Reports page. 

The "Tunnel" a 1 km long flat section between Protection Mountain and the Lookout

Ski Directions:

From Castle Lookout, jump on the ski trail that starts right from the parking lot and head west towards Lake Louise. Within 5 minutes you'll come to a short steep hill. Walk it if you have to because you're just crossing the highway.

The trail continues on the other side of the road. The trail starts off flat as you wind your way through the trees until you start to climb gradually until you're high above the river. This is where you'll go up and over two humps en route to the Protection Mountain Campground. Neither hill is especially big and you should be able to stay in the tracks.

The section above the river is the prettiest part of the trail and you'll get good views of trains going by.

The larger of the two humps you'll ski up and over
Train lovers will love this ski trail!

After you've descended the second hump, you'll arrive at the tunnel, a 1 km straight section that's 100% flat but often very pretty with snowy trees hanging over the trail. 

After coming out of the tunnel you ski alongside the railway tracks for the final bit until you reach the road crossing for the Protection Mountain Campground.

Skiing through the snowy tunnel 

The Tunnel between Castle Lookout and Protection Mountain

Easy flat skiing along the train tracks between Baker Creek and Protection Mountain

Cross the highway to enter the campground and then follow the trail to the Baker Creek Mountain Resort skiing beside a powerline for the final 2.5 km.

You'll end up on the other side of the highway from the resort at a parking lot (which you should use if you're starting at Baker Creek.) Cross the road if you want to visit the resort or have lunch there.

The first part of the trail from Baker Creek follows beside a powerline and is very beginner-friendly

Follow this link to download a map of the winter trails in the Lake Louise area.

Distance from Castle Lookout to Protection Mountain Campground - 6.2 km one way

Distance from the campground to Baker Creek - 3.5 km one way

And if you're starting at Baker Creek, follow this link on Google Maps to see the Baker Creek Ski parking lot. Do not park at the resort itself if you are not an overnight guest.

Easy beginner-friendly skiing between Castle Lookout and Protection Mountain

Ski Traverse from Baker Creek to Castle Junction (Intermediate)

Most people don't ski the section between the Lookout to Castle Junction by itself because it isn't as pretty and you follow a powerline much of the way. This section also isn't groomed as often unfortunately.

As a one-way traverse though when you have good conditions, it's a lot of fun. Start at Baker Creek to take advantage of the height loss as you ski down river. 

If you're up for the full 30 km round trip distance, start at Castle Junction and climb on your way out for a more relaxed ski back.

Skiing under the powerline between the Lookout and Castle Junction 

Before setting up a shuttle, you'll want to ensure the section from the Castle Lookout to Castle Junction is groomed and trackset before you plan to do the full traverse. Do not trust the Parks Canada trail report on this. The photo below is from our most recent trip. The Parks Canada website said the trail had been recently trackset within the last few days (but unfortunately it had not seen a snowmobile yet this season even for preliminary packing.)

Our recent ski from the Lookout to Castle Junction was full on backcountry ski touring and thankfully somebody had gone ahead of us the day before or we would not have known where to go because there are very few to no signs on the entire 1A ski traverse.

If you want an up to date trail report, call the Castle Mountain Chalets because they take care of the grooming between the junction and the lookout.

On the other side, Baker Creek Mountain Resort does the grooming between their property and the Lookout.

Make sure the Lookout - Castle Junction section is groomed before you head out!

Parking Directions:

You'll either be parking at Baker Creek Mountain Resort or you'll be parking at Castle Junction across from the gas station where there is a parking lot.

Follow this link to Google Maps to find the Baker Creek Ski parking lot.

Follow this link to Google Maps to find the Castle Junction parking lot

Following a skier tracked trail between Castle Lookout and Castle Junction

Trail Reports: 

Check the recent grooming report for Banff and Lake Louise here. As the season goes on, the grooming reports for the 1A Trails will be more accurate and reliable.

Skiing under the powerline towards Castle Junction on an ungroomed trail

Ski Directions: 

From the Baker Creek Skiers Parking lot (across the road and just east of the resort) follow the trail as described above for the Castle Mountain Lookout to Baker Creek trip. 

You'll follow the powerline until you reach the Protection Mountain Campground, cross the highway, ski along the railway tracks until you reach the tree tunnel, ski through the tunnel of trees, ski up and over the two humps, and then make your way through the forest to Castle Lookout (on the other side of the highway.)

From the lookout, ski around the back of the parking lot and take the trail that continues heading east towards Castle Junction. - and this is a great place to turn around if the trail has not been groomed and there are no tracks to follow.

The trail from the lookout to the junction mostly follows a powerline climbing up and down over several small hills. You then make your way down a steep hill that twists and turns through fairly tight trees. Don't be scared to walk this section if it's icy or not in good condition! (It's better than hitting a tree.)

At the bottom of the steep hill the trail finishes off with about a kilometre of easy flat skiing as you parallel the road (other than one final hill that you'll steeply climb.) 

Castle Junction at the end of the Baker Creek to Castle ski traverse 

Follow this link to download a map of the winter trails in the Lake Louise area.

Distance from Castle Lookout to Castle Junction - 5 km one way

Full distance from Baker Creek to Castle Junction - 14.7 km one way

Skiing along the Highway 1A between Baker Creek and Castle Junction

Stay Overnight at Baker Creek Mountain Resort 

Stay overnight for easy access to the trails along the 1A at the Baker Creek Mountain ResortThe resort has cozy cabins and suites, most with kitchenettes and all with fireplaces (including wood burning fireplaces in the cabins.) The largest cabins fit up to 5 people.

By staying at Baker Creek, you'll also be very close to either the trails at Lake Louise or the trails near the Town of Banff. 

Best of all though, if you choose to ski from Baker Creek without driving, it's an easy 19.4 km round trip ski to the Lookout and back. Adults with young children can even take turns skiing from the resort while the other adult plays with the kids in the giant snow banks around the cabins.

A snowy winter evening at Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise

Ski the 1A Traverse during the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet 

If you time your ski day right, you can also ski the special Lake Louise to Banff Loppet Course. The section from the Lake Louise Campground to Baker Creek Mountain Resort only gets groomed for the loppet and so you can only ski between Lake Louise and Baker Creek during this time.

Visit the link above to register for the loppet which is always held mid to late January.

The distance from Lake Louise to Baker Creek during the loppet is 20.7 km. Total distance to Castle Junction is around 34 km one way.

Last year we set up a shuttle with friends and skied from Lake Louise to Castle Mountain Lookout. It was an incredible experience.

Skiing the Lake Louise Loppet Course between Lake Louise and Baker Creek

Final Notes on this Ski Traverse

This trail is dog-friendly as long as your pooch is on leash and well behaved.

This is a ski trail and is not a multi-use hiking, snowshoeing, or fat biking trail. If you want to go for a winter hike or bike ride, please consult the Parks Canada website where it lists the best trails for each sport.

Parts of the trail are double trackset, but much of it is only single trackset. Cooperation is required if you meet another group coming towards you. Nobody really has the right of way on a flat single tracked trail so be kind.

This trail is groomed for classic skiing, not skate skiing. If you want to skate ski go to Lake Louise where you can skate on the Moraine Lake Road or the Divide Trails.

There is very little signage on this trail. As long as it's been freshly groomed and trackset you'll have no problems following the trail. Early season however (or after a large dump of snow) it could be challenging to know where to go at times.

There is no official shuttle or bus service for this trail. If you only want to ski one-way, you'll have to set up a shuttle with friends. 

And finally as a reminder, Parks Canada is not responsible for grooming this trail so their website may not always be accurate for conditions. Baker Creek Mountain Resort and Castle Mountain Chalets share the grooming.

Join Cross-country Skiing YYC on Facebook to participate in great conservations about skiing the local trails in Kananaskis and Banff. It's also a great place to get trip reports from other skiers who may have skied trails like the 1A Traverse in the last day or two.

Friday, October 29, 2021

What to Expect at Ski Resorts across the Canadian Rockies 2021-22

By now we had all hoped pandemic living would be a thing of the past, but sadly, that's not quite the reality, and the upcoming ski season will still look different than it did pre-Covid. 

Fortunately downhill skiing or snowboarding is a low-risk recreation opportunity where you'll spend the majority of your day outside wearing protective gear including face masks and gloves, naturally distanced from other visitors as you spread out around the ski hill. 

Know before you go: What to expect at ski resorts this winter

Standard Resort Procedures for 2021-2022

There will be MANY differences between resorts, but there will be standard procedures that you should notice everywhere you visit this winter.

  • Face coverings will be required at all resorts, inside buildings and day lodges, required or highly recommended while standing in lift lines and generally required while riding on chairlifts or in gondolas when sharing with others outside your family or group. Once in a day lodge you will be allowed to remove your mask once you are sitting down at a table with your snack or lunch.

  • Most resorts will have policies in place to accommodate physical distancing around the property, in lift lines, and in buildings. Some resorts will also continue to have smaller tables in the day lodges as well (rather than the big cafeteria style tables we were used to pre-Covid.)

  • All resorts will have cleaning and disinfection policies in place to keep high touch areas sanitized regularly.

  • Most resorts will continue to encourage guests to purchase their lift tickets online in advance. Most season passes will require online activation, signing of waivers, and photo uploading. Passes will be mailed out and will not be available to pick up in person at many hills.

  • Communication will be key at resorts this winter and there will be signage at all resorts highlighting all continued Covid policies and rules. - And I can not stress enough the importance of researching your resort's policies ahead of time before visiting.

  • Employees will be trained in COVID-19 safety and cleaning protocols. They will also be screened daily for symptoms.

  • Guests will be expected to stay home if they are showing any Covid symptoms and asked to wait until they are feeling well before visiting the resort.

And NEW for the 2021-22 season, all resorts will require guests 12 and up to be fully vaccinated against Covid in order to access indoor facilities (including dining facilities, day lodges, customer service, and bathrooms.)

Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay, and all RCR resorts are even requiring proof of vaccination to use the gondola and chairlifts, so no vaccine, no visiting, period.

May  I suggest that if skiing is especially important to you that you consider getting vaccinated if you have not yet done so. 

Make sure you're feeling healthy before visiting a ski resort this winter

Vaccination Requirements at Ski Resorts across the Canadian Rockies

Some resorts are requiring vaccination in order to access indoor facilities while others are requiring it for skiing and riding as well. Make sure you know what to expect at the resort you plan to visit.

Vaccination Requirements for Lake Louise:

Lake Louise has posted their policy for the upcoming ski season and it reflects what I'm seeing at many resorts.

"The following locations and services will be accessible to all guests under age 12 and those age 12 and over who provide vaccination verification, a negative Covid test within 72 hours, or a valid medical exemption letter:
- All indoor spaces in lodges including: indoor dining in restaurants, quick service dining areas, indoor warming areas, washrooms, season pass pick-up counter at the resort, rentals, guest services, snow school (for those 12 and over,) and shuttle busses to the hill." - Lake Louise Ski Resort 

There will be bathrooms located outside for those not vaccinated, and you will find outdoor dining choices at many resorts including patio dining, outdoor BBQs, and outdoor pick-up and takeout options. 

Read more about Lake Louise here: Lake Louise Winter Safety Insurance

Vaccination Requirements for Sunshine Village:

Sunshine Village in Banff will be taking their vaccination requirements to the next level, requiring guests 12 and up to be fully vaccinated in order to get on the gondola or access any of the services at the resort.

"We are requiring proof of vaccination or proof of a privately paid negative rapid test taken within 72 hours of entry, to ride our lifts including our Sunshine Gondola. By requiring proof, in compliance with Alberta’s REP program, to ride our lifts we will be able to operate at a higher capacity which will help speed up our gondola line." - Sunshine Village

Read more about Sunshine Village's policies here.

You'll need to be fully vaccinated to visit Sunshine Village this winter 

Vaccination Requirements for Mount Norquay:

Mount Norquay in Banff will also be requiring vaccinations in order to ski or ride this season.

"We have decided to implement the Province of Alberta’s Restriction Exemption Program (REP) across all facilities at Mt Norquay. Currently, implementing the REP program best ensures the safety of our guests and staff and allows us to efficiently operate our lifts and indoor spaces at full capacity." - Mount NorquayAnd when it says "across ALL facilities," it means chairlifts. So no vaccination, no skiing or riding for those 12 and over.

Read more about Mount Norquay's policies here.

Vaccination Requirements for RCR Resorts:

RCR has decided to follow Sunshine and Mount Norquay, requiring full vaccinations for those 12 and older at all of their resorts, both inside and outside, enabling them to run their chairlifts to full capacity.

This applies to the Nakiska, Kimberley, Fernie, and Kicking Horse ski resorts.

Read more below in the next section (Winter operations at Calgary's closest mountain ski area.)

And for ALL Alberta resorts know that as of November 15th,  the Alberta vaccine record with QR code will be the only valid Alberta proof of vaccination accepted. Guests from outside AB will need to show their own provincial record. 

Planning to ski in BC this winter? Protocol may look a bit different since their provincial restrictions are slightly different than ours in Alberta. Vaccination requirements will generally be the same though.

Check out the operations update for Panorama Mountain Resort for a good idea of what to expect at BC resorts this winter.

All RCR resorts will require full vaccination for skiing and riding this winter

Winter Operations at Calgary's Closest Mountain Ski Area

Nakiska Ski Area has released their safety measures and protocols that they plan to follow for the upcoming ski season.

You can read about them here: 2021-22 Winter Operations for Nakiska Ski Area

They have decided to follow Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay to require vaccination for both indoor use and for skiing/riding.

"Following the advice provided by the Provincial Government Health Authorities, RCR has decided to require proof of COVID-19 Immunization Record to access all chair lifts and indoor facilities at our resorts this winter. This decision has been made with the goal of providing you, our guests, our staff, and our resort communities with the safest environment possible." - Nakiska 

Read about the operations at other RCR resorts here (where they will be following the same vaccination requirements as Nakiska:

Ski close at Nakiska, Calgary's closest mountain ski area

What to Expect in Lift lines, on Chairlifts, and on Gondolas

Things will operate in similar fashion to last season with regular cleaning and disinfecting on all lifts and gondolas. Natural ventilation occurs on chairlifts and windows will be kept open on gondolas to increase air flow.

Physical distancing will continue to be enforced in lift lines and mask use will be required when sharing a lift or gondola at most resorts.

Most resorts will try to get things moving with less wait times than last year and you will likely be asked to share a lift or gondola with others outside your family or group.

When in doubt, if you are not comfortable sharing a chairlift or gondola, don't hesitate to ask the lift attendant for your own chair or gondola cabin.

"We do expect lift capacity to increase and wait times to move faster than last year. That being said, we want to ensure everyone feels comfortable, and upon request households or cohorts can request their own chair." - Lake Louise Ski Resort

Know as well that lift lines will be considerably shorter at resorts requiring that all guests be fully vaccinated. They will be aiming to load lifts to full capacity.

Resorts will try to accommodate those not wanting to share chairlifts or gondolas

Other news to watch for:

Last year Lake Louise opened their lifts earlier at 8:30am on weekends and holidays to get guests up the mountain faster and to reduce the number of people hanging out in the base area in the morning. While it made for an early start from Calgary, it was great to be on the back side by 9am, skiing with no crowds.

I haven't heard yet if the resort plans to repeat this for the upcoming season.

Some resorts are considering opening lifts earlier to reduce crowds at the base

Practical suggestions and what to expect on chairlifts and gondolas this season:

  • Be prepared to handle your own gear when loading and unloading from gondolas if possible. Staff are placed at an increased risk if they're touching everybody's gear. 

  • Ride with a buddy whenever possible so that you don't have to take up an entire quad chair if you prefer not to share with those outside your group (or if others don't want to share with you.)

  • Wear the mask! If you're sharing a lift with others, it's only polite to keep your mask up the entire time. I can not tell you how many times I had people jump on chairlifts with me last year, only to pull down their mask the second we pulled away from the station. - If I let you ride with me, keep your mask on or ride by yourself!

  • Be polite at all times with resort staff! I know you might not want to share a chairlift in busy times or you might not appreciate the single skier squeezing their way into your gondola. Regardless of how you feel about the policies, employees are trying their best in challenging times and will appreciate a friendly wave. (Remember they're wearing masks too and can't see your smile, or smile back at you.)

Physical distancing will be expected in all lift lines this season 

Day Lodge Access at Resorts this Season

The biggest thing to note here is that ALL resorts in Alberta  and BC will be requiring guests 12 and up to be fully vaccinated in order to enter day lodges to warm up, use bathrooms, or purchase food. 

There may be outside food outlets available, outdoor bathrooms, and tents for warming up if you have not been vaccinated against Covid. 

Physical distancing and mask requirements will also be practiced at all resorts.

Use your vehicle as your ski locker:

Last winter most resorts were encouraging guests to leave their bags, shoes, and all personal items in their vehicles rather than in the day lodge,

While this has not been clarified yet for the upcoming season, I would expect most resorts will appreciate guests continuing this practice for the coming season.

If you usually bring a backpack with snacks and lunch items in it, plan to ski with your pack rather than leaving it in the day lodge.

We loaded up our pockets with snacks and important items last winter when we went skiing and splurged on buying lunch to get around not storing bags in the day lodge.

Plan to leave personal gear in your vehicle this season

Plan to buy lunch or eat outside:

There will be reduced seating in most day lodges and restaurants this winter with tables spread out to allow for physical distancing. 

Expect to see more grab and go food options at resorts, new temporary tent facilities with additional bathrooms, increased picnic areas, and fewer shared amenities (microwaves for example.)

Last winter many resorts also had priority access in day lodges for those purchasing food. Bag lunches had to be eaten outside or in warming tents.

Returning to one's vehicle was also encouraged last winter for lunch and snack breaks. It remains to be seen how things will be handled for the upcoming season.

Expect to spend more time outside this winter 

Reminder: no camping out in day lodges this winter!

Given capacity restrictions and requirements for physical distancing, it will continue to be important that those visiting ski resorts, be there to ski or ride, and not to hang out in the day lodge with a book all day.

Last winter most day lodges had time limits for eating your lunch or having a snack and I would expect this to continue for the upcoming season.

Spend more time skiing this winter and less time hanging out in the day lodge!

Recommendations and suggestions for day lodge use this ski season:

  • Don't expect microwaves or anything fancy inside day lodges, tents, or at picnic areas. Bring a backpack with your lunch and plan to spread out around the hill for your snack and lunch breaks. By packing your own lunch with you, you can pop into warming huts or tents whenever you ski by one and need to have a break.

  • Time your breaks for non-peak times (especially if you plan to buy lunch.) Don't try to get into the main day lodge at noon for example. Time your meals for before or after the lunch rush.

  • Make sure you bring a second mask with you for indoor use so you don't have to wear your wet ski mask when you go into a day lodge. We always have our regular "indoor masks" in our pockets to put on when we go inside a building.

For more tips, check out my previous story: Ten Tips to Escape the Crowds at Ski Resorts this Winter 

Carry a backpack with you loaded with snacks and lunch items for rest stops

Rental Procedures for the Upcoming Ski Season

Resorts will continue to rent out skis, boards, boots, poles, and helmets. All rental equipment will be disinfected between each guest. And as with all buildings at the resorts, masks will be required while renting equipment.

Check with the resort you plan to visit to find out what their rental policy will be. Last year, several resorts required reservations made ahead of time.

Also, know that some resorts will require Covid vaccinations for those 12+ in order to access the rental shop.

You can still rent gear at ski resorts this winter! Check resort procedures before you visit

What to Expect with Ski and Snowboard School this Season

Lessons will continue as normal but teachers will most likely be required to wear a face covering while teaching and to practice physical distancing with their students. Last year, instructors were not allowed to join students for lunch and there were no supervised lunches.

Check with the resort you plan to visit for their specific policies.

Also know that some resorts will require everybody 12+ to be vaccinated in order to participate in snow school.

"Snow School Programming will be available to all guests under age 12, and for guests age 12 and over, programming and lessons will likely be available to those guests that show vaccination verification, a negative Covid test within 72 hours, or a valid medical exemption letter." - Lake Louise Ski Resort 


Snow school will proceed as usual with a few small changes this season

Daycare at Ski Resorts this Winter 

Last year there was no daycare offered at any of the ski resorts around the Canadian Rockies. This winter's policies remain TBD so check with the resort you plan to visit directly.

Suggestion if you regularly rely on daycare at resorts:

  • Plan a ski getaway and stay slopeside if possible. Take turns as parents skiing with older children and staying in the condo with the baby or toddler.

  • Recruit a friend or grandparent to watch your youngest child/children back in the city for the day. If you have friends that are part of your close bubble, consider taking turns with childcare (one weekend one of you stays with the younger kids in the city and then switch places the next weekend.)

  • Take turns skiing/staying in the city with your spouse or partner (which I know sucks, but it allows one of you to ski with the older kids while the other stays home with the baby.)

  • Choose a ski resort close to home where there are other activities nearby or perhaps where there is a hotel nearby that would let you spend time there with a younger child. For Nakiska, we've spent many hours at the nearby Pomeroy Resort where there's always plenty of space for physical distancing in their large lobby area. You'll also find walking trails around Kananaskis Village where you could pull a young child around in a sled while the rest of the family skis.

  • Look for ski school programs that blend childcare and ski lessons for preschoolers that can't ski for a full day (some resorts will offer this service.)

Check with your chosen resort to find out about daycare options this winter

Slopeside Resorts will be Open

Plan for your own private day lodge experience!

Plan a ski getaway, book a slopeside condo, and experience the safest ski experience possible with your own private day lodge. Retreat to your own space for snack or lunch breaks, cook your own meals, and hang out in your condo when not skiing (great for families with babies or young children.)

As normal, masks will be required inside common areas, hallways, the lobby, etc. 

Practical suggestions if booking a ski vacation: 

  • Expect reduced capacity in hot tubs so you might want to leave the slopes a bit earlier rather than trying to squeeze in a soak right before dinner. Some pools and hot tubs might also have time restrictions. (Last winter at Panorama Mountain Resort for example, there was a one hour time limit for the hot pools.) 

  • If visiting the hot pools or hot tubs at your resort is important to you, make sure you check for individual restrictions. The Panorama Springs Pools (Panorama Mountain Resort) will only be accessible this winter to those who can provide proof of vaccination (or to those under age 12.)

  • Most resorts will have relaxed cancelation policies in place but check with your resort directly for their specific policies.

Book your ski vacation today and experience your own private day lodge this winter! 

What to Expect with Lift Tickets, Season Passes, and Discount Cards

Reservations will not be required to access the slopes at resorts throughout the Canadian Rockies. Last year Lake Louise had a reservation system in place but they are not expecting to repeat this for the upcoming ski season.

Most resorts will continue to encourage guests to purchase their lift tickets online in advance. Most season passes will require online activation, signing of waivers, and photo uploading. Passes will be mailed out and will not be available to pick up in person at many hills.

Castle Mountain Resort has specifically encouraged guests to pre-purchase lift tickets and has said that they will be limiting daily ticket sales:

"We strongly encourage our guests to pre-purchase their tickets online prior to arriving at the resort. Walk-up tickets are not guaranteed and based on availability. During high volume periods (weekends + holidays), we may sell out of all available tickets online, in advance. This would leave no walk-up ticket availability at our ticket windows." - Castle Mountain Resort

 Read more about Castle Mountains' Safety Protocols this winter.

Visit your resort's website for unique policies that they may be adopting this winter regarding lift ticket purchase. A few resorts last year were not selling lift tickets at the resort at all, and online purchase was the only way to get a ticket.

Direct to lift cards and passes will be your best friend this winter on the slopes!

Services, Events, and Programs you will not Find at Ski Resorts this Season

The services, events, and programs below were not offered during the 2020-2021 season. Information has not been released yet for the upcoming season so make sure to check in with the resort you plan to visit for more details as the ski season launches.

  • Large group events and après ski programming (DJs, live music, dance events, fireworks for holidays, music festivals)

  • Programmed kids' activities at resorts with on hill accommodations (example: evening activities for the children after they finish skiing.)

  • Buffet-style banquet dinners for holidays

  • Night Skiing at some resorts

  • Weekend youth ski races at some resorts. 

  • Lost and Found - Don't expect to find this service offered at Nakiska this winter. Make sure you bring everything home with you! (They will still attempt to find the owner of valuable items such as phones and wallets.)

This winter will get us back to the pure love of skiing and riding!

Refund Policies for the 2021-22 Ski Season

Every resort will have its own refund policy this winter so check with your resort specifically. 

Check directly with your resort for refund policies