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First timer tips for Lake Louise and Banff?

#1
Sorry if this has been covered numerous times before... can the Divas make any first timer recommendations for Lake Louise and Banff?

I'm going to be there for a 3 day solo getaway early May. I'm hoping to spend half my days skiing gentle-to-moderate blues and some greens, and half my days snowboarding less-moderate blues and blacks. I thought I'd do one day at Lake Louise, one day at Banff, and then do my third day at the one that I liked more.

Any advice on how to plan my days? Any tips on where to eat in Banff village? Thanks for any and all advice!!
 

alison wong

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#3
@ilovepugs :

There are 3 mountains in Banff: Sunshine Village (SSV), Lake Louise (LL) and Mtn Norquay. I assume you are asking SSV and LL in Banff.
SSV will close on May 21, LL closes on May 6. (Mt. Norquay closed today).

Sunshine Village (SSV) is considered to be an easier mountain than Lake Louise (LL). SSV is also higher in altitude than LL.
I skied both places the last 2 years (Feb. 2016 and March 2017), I'd consider SSV has better snow condition than LL in general. Front side of LL can be icy, back side LL has better snow.

Personally, I'd much prefer SSV than LL for the following 2 reasons:
1) Easier terrains, I am able to ski more trails. Blues at SSV = Greens at LL; blacks SSV = blues LL
2) Better snow condition

If I were you, I would plan my 1st day to SSV, 2nd day LL. Then decide where to hit the 3rd day. This was how I arranged my ski days both times I visited there.

3 caveats:
1) will you be taking public transportation (i.e. shuttle buses)? If so, please checking the shuttle schedule because it is now in spring season (late season), shuttles run less frequent.
2) If you are taking shuttle, you will only be able to visit 1 place for the day (i.e. won't be able to hop between 2 places in 1 day).
3) Both SSV and LL offer free guided mountain tours. But I am not sure if they still offer it in late season (spring season). I can't find the info. on their website (www.skibig3.com). If you are considering the tours, I suggest you stop by the guest service first thing you arrive, so you can plan accordingly. SSV only has 1 tour at 12 noon, divided into 2 groups: easy blues and hard blues. LL has 2 tours, one in the morning 10 am (?) and afternoon at 1 pm (?).

Apres ski activities:
1) Banff Ave. is nice for a stroll after a day of skiing, It has lots of shops and restaurants.
2) If you want hot spring, you can consider to check out Banff Upper Hot Springs. It is easily accessible by public bus, it'd be a far to walk.

As for restaurant recommendations, I'd let @Albertan ski girl for suggestions.

The 2 memorable "dining" experience I had in Banff was the "high tea" at the Fairmount Banff Springs hotel and Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise. However, I am not sure if you will be able to make there on time.
I heard Post Hotel at LL also has very good reviews, but I've never been there myself, reservation is recommended.
 
#4
@ilovepugs :

There are 3 mountains in Banff: Sunshine Village (SSV), Lake Louise (LL) and Mtn Norquay. I assume you are asking SSV and LL in Banff.
SSV will close on May 21, LL closes on May 6. (Mt. Norquay closed today).

Sunshine Village (SSV) is considered to be an easier mountain than Lake Louise (LL). SSV is also higher in altitude than LL.
I skied both places the last 2 years (Feb. 2016 and March 2017), I'd consider SSV has better snow condition than LL in general. Front side of LL can be icy, back side LL has better snow.

Personally, I'd much prefer SSV than LL for the following 2 reasons:
1) Easier terrains, I am able to ski more trails. Blues at SSV = Greens at LL; blacks SSV = blues LL
2) Better snow condition

If I were you, I would plan my 1st day to SSV, 2nd day LL. Then decide where to hit the 3rd day. This was how I arranged my ski days both times I visited there.

3 caveats:
1) will you be taking public transportation (i.e. shuttle buses)? If so, please checking the shuttle schedule because it is now in spring season (late season), shuttles run less frequent.
2) If you are taking shuttle, you will only be able to visit 1 place for the day (i.e. won't be able to hop between 2 places in 1 day).
3) Both SSV and LL offer free guided mountain tours. But I am not sure if they still offer it in late season (spring season). I can't find the info. on their website (www.skibig3.com). If you are considering the tours, I suggest you stop by the guest service first thing you arrive, so you can plan accordingly. SSV only has 1 tour at 12 noon, divided into 2 groups: easy blues and hard blues. LL has 2 tours, one in the morning 10 am (?) and afternoon at 1 pm (?).

Apres ski activities:
1) Banff Ave. is nice for a stroll after a day of skiing, It has lots of shops and restaurants.
2) If you want hot spring, you can consider to check out Banff Upper Hot Springs. It is easily accessible by public bus, it'd be a far to walk.

As for restaurant recommendations, I'd let @Albertan ski girl for suggestions.

The 2 memorable "dining" experience I had in Banff was the "high tea" at the Fairmount Banff Springs hotel and Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise. However, I am not sure if you will be able to make there on time.
I heard Post Hotel at LL also has very good reviews, but I've never been there myself, reservation is recommended.
Awesome tips... thank you @alison wong! You’ve given me a lot to think about... I had never heard about the discrepancy in difficulty between Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. Super interesting for sure.
 

Albertan ski girl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
Come ski with me! Let me know when you'll be here and I'd love to show you around the mountain.

Where do you usually ski? I can definitely make some suggestions based on that.

I second everything @alison wong said. LL is generally a little steeper than Sunshine, but the views and terrain are amazing at both. Spring skiing is really fun at both.

Where you stay depends on budget - Banff has lots of options at all levels, and there is the shuttle to get to both ski resorts from Banff, and is very very convenient. If you will be shuttling it, Banff is definitely the more convenient place to stay. There is not much in Lake Louise.

If shuttling, I can recommend the following for hotels: budget - Bow View Lodge, Homestead Inn (both are close to shuttle stops and clean but out of date); mid range: Banff Aspen Lodge, Ptarmigan Inn, Banff Park Lodge, High Country Inn; Luxury: Banff Springs Hotel. All of these are close to shuttle stops and easy to get around.

Good dining options in Banff: Wild Flour for breakfast and lunch, Coyote's for a sit-down breakfast. For dinner: Bear Street Tavern (great pizzas and awesome cocktails), Nourish Bistro, The Eddie Burger Bar, Banff Brewing Company, Park Distillery, and Masala has pretty decent Indian food.

I generally don't think the Hot Springs are worth it, but I love the Willow Stream Spa - and, if it's not a budget buster, I wouldecommend a post-ski apres soak in all of their amazing pools, saunas, steam rooms, outdoor jacuzzi. It's my favourite. Weekdays after 7pm, access is $35. Weekdays after 5pm it's $49. But, I'm not kidding. Totally worth it.
 
#7
Come ski with me! Let me know when you'll be here and I'd love to show you around the mountain.

Where do you usually ski? I can definitely make some suggestions based on that.

I second everything @alison wong said. LL is generally a little steeper than Sunshine, but the views and terrain are amazing at both. Spring skiing is really fun at both.

Where you stay depends on budget - Banff has lots of options at all levels, and there is the shuttle to get to both ski resorts from Banff, and is very very convenient. If you will be shuttling it, Banff is definitely the more convenient place to stay. There is not much in Lake Louise.

If shuttling, I can recommend the following for hotels: budget - Bow View Lodge, Homestead Inn (both are close to shuttle stops and clean but out of date); mid range: Banff Aspen Lodge, Ptarmigan Inn, Banff Park Lodge, High Country Inn; Luxury: Banff Springs Hotel. All of these are close to shuttle stops and easy to get around.

Good dining options in Banff: Wild Flour for breakfast and lunch, Coyote's for a sit-down breakfast. For dinner: Bear Street Tavern (great pizzas and awesome cocktails), Nourish Bistro, The Eddie Burger Bar, Banff Brewing Company, Park Distillery, and Masala has pretty decent Indian food.

I generally don't think the Hot Springs are worth it, but I love the Willow Stream Spa - and, if it's not a budget buster, I wouldecommend a post-ski apres soak in all of their amazing pools, saunas, steam rooms, outdoor jacuzzi. It's my favourite. Weekdays after 7pm, access is $35. Weekdays after 5pm it's $49. But, I'm not kidding. Totally worth it.
Wow, thanks a million for the suggestions! I will be on the slopes May 3 through May 5. It sounds like Lake Louise would be a place to spend the day snowboarding, then Sunshine Village might be a good place for me to spend the day skiing. I usually ski at Stowe and just recently (as in a few weeks ago) got comfortable enough to go down the 2000' vertical blue trails at a modest pace... before that I was just cruising down the short greens and doing OK, but not amazing, on short blues. On the snowboard side of things I do blues in all conditions, blacks in many conditions (hardpack is OK as long as it's not too icy) and double blacks only on powder days... I basically just flail around and play in the powder on those kinds of days.

I was planning on renting a car since I found a fairly inexpensive reservation for 3 days. From what I read, the access road is fairly easy to drive. Do you think that's advisable? I drive in all weather in Vermont except for terrible ice storms (and I still drive then...just gingerly and for short distances as needed.) I also planned on getting up to the hill fairly close to first chair. My apres activities usually consist of soaking in the hotel hot tub and falling asleep by 8pm, because I'm anything but a party animal. I booked Elk & Avenue since it seems to have decent reviews and is kind of trendy looking, but I'll check out those properties you suggested as well.

And yes, I would love to ski together!!!
 
#11
Wouldn't the car rental agent be able to look after that?
Hmmm clearly I will have to do some more investigation! I figured I’d just have to pay when I entered the park, but I guess it’s not that simple...
 
#15
Dining suggestion...Banff Springs Hotel has (or at least used to have, so check it out) a FABULOUS Sunday brunch plus awesome bar setting with huge windows on spectacular scenery.
It’s a Fairmont hotel, right? They have the best brunches!!! But I try not to overdo it on the eating on my ski trips — it would suck to spend days straight exercising and being active only to gain weight! Lol
 

Albertan ski girl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#19
Yup - park pass can be purchased at the gate really easily.

May 3-5 are the only days i can't make it in early May unfortunately :( I'll send a longer list of recommended runs/areas @ilovepugs - sorry I won't be able to join you those days.
 

Albertan ski girl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#20
Wow, thanks a million for the suggestions! I will be on the slopes May 3 through May 5. It sounds like Lake Louise would be a place to spend the day snowboarding, then Sunshine Village might be a good place for me to spend the day skiing. I usually ski at Stowe and just recently (as in a few weeks ago) got comfortable enough to go down the 2000' vertical blue trails at a modest pace... before that I was just cruising down the short greens and doing OK, but not amazing, on short blues. On the snowboard side of things I do blues in all conditions, blacks in many conditions (hardpack is OK as long as it's not too icy) and double blacks only on powder days... I basically just flail around and play in the powder on those kinds of days.

I was planning on renting a car since I found a fairly inexpensive reservation for 3 days. From what I read, the access road is fairly easy to drive. Do you think that's advisable? I drive in all weather in Vermont except for terrible ice storms (and I still drive then...just gingerly and for short distances as needed.) I also planned on getting up to the hill fairly close to first chair. My apres activities usually consist of soaking in the hotel hot tub and falling asleep by 8pm, because I'm anything but a party animal. I booked Elk & Avenue since it seems to have decent reviews and is kind of trendy looking, but I'll check out those properties you suggested as well.

And yes, I would love to ski together!!!
Access road will be super easy - so don't worry about that at all. I definitely recommend skiing at Sunshine and not snowboarding (some flats that are really annoying). Vertical is about 3000-ish max at Louise, less than that at Sunshine, and there are lots of options for lifts/runs with less vertical too. Again, I'll send a more detailed run down of runs soon!

I've heard great things about Elk + Avenue, but I've never stayed there. So if you got a deal, just go for it!
 

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