We all have those friends who are solid for life, no matter how much time has passed nor how much geographical distance, when you get together it’s just like yesterday that you saw each other.
That, for me, is Canada.
This mammoth country filled with snow laden mountain peaks, wild coastlines, azure lakes, urban style and northern lights is as big as the hearts of the locals with their knitted toques and quirky laidback humour.
Canada is the home of winter for lovers of winter.
The Canadian Rockies run 1480km long and 180kms wide, taking up 194,000 square kilometres across the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Add up to 17 metres of powder snowfall and it’s no surprise that commercial heli skiing was birthed here, that 21 cat skiing lodges are based here and that hundreds of ski resorts are dotted across Canada’s wide lands.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve clicked into skis and touched snow in these parts but I have not forgotten my first time ticking off Canadian rights of passage. The thigh burn of skiing North America’s largest ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb, and the peak to creek ski run followed by the first Bloody Caesar at GLC bar topped with enough garnish to make a meal on its own.
The first cinnamon scroll dripping with frosting by the fire at Paradise Camp at Okanagan’s prettiest pedestrian ski village, SilverStar, after hitting up the back side steeps and front side groomers. That one time I skied with Canadian Olympic legend, Nancy Greene, on her hosted ski tours at Sun Peaks, when Big White resort served up snow laden tree monsters to duck, dart and dive in on a bluebird ski day and when Panorama Mountain Resort revealed the cat accessed back Taynton Bowl for the off-piste powder lover.
Tackling Canada’s mountains by road trip always tugs at the heart – the fjord side Sea to Summit drive from Vancouver to Whistler, the spectacular Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper and the famed Powder Highway. At every turn there’s another Instagram worthy view that wins the internet with more lakes, more rivers, more peaks and even ferries that transport cars across water ways to more roads with more views.
Dotted along the Powder Highway are lakeside hot springs for soaking and the cutest old school ski towns with mining or railway heritage, filled with multi coloured houses gentrified by artisans who roast coffee and distil local botany and spring water into gins and vodkas and beers.
These cute as a button towns service big mountain ski resorts – Fernie Alpine Resort for multiple ridge lines, Red Mountain Resort for steeps and deeps and huts hidden in the woods, Whitewater Ski Resort for lift accessed powder runs and award winning après fare, Revelstoke Mountain Resort for the largest vertical in North America, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort for views and terrain to both soothe and challenge.
Then there’s the town of Banff, a mere two hours drive from Calgary and the gateway to Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay resorts. If you head into Canada’s ski terrain from east to west, this is where you’ll land, in a fairy tale mountain region that boasts a castle, a chateau and a frozen lake for ice skating in a mountain amphitheatre.
We need to also talk about the stunning road from Banff National Park north to Jasper National Park and Marmot Basin Ski Resort. The kind of national parks that imprint themselves in your skin and lure you back to bathe in nature with memories that show themselves when you’re back at the office wondering where the days went.
And all along this way are those crazy Canucks who consider axe throwing an après sport, will push you off a ledge with a bungee cord into snow lined ravines, take you ice fishing in a tiny cabin, to the local ice hockey game, invite you in a helicopter to a mountain top for fondue or that Canadian “delicacy” know as poutine (hot chips and gravy with cheese curd).
Another world opens when heli skiing and cat skiing comes into play.
When that helicopter takes you and your friends and your skis and snowboard into the remote wilderness and drops you on a peak before disappearing into the skies, you know you are living. Surrounded by snow so light and so dry you can’t make a snowball and a blank canvas upon which to place your ski tracks. It’s truly the pinnacle for any skier or boarder.
Then, when the snow legs are done and nature is still calling you can head to the arctic landscapes of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon to immerse yourself in indigenous history and marvel at the aurora. Fill your soul with the northern lights as they dance across the sky, the perfect beginning or ending to your Canadian adventure.
Canada is open this season, the first full season for Australians since the pandemic. Airlines are flying direct from Australia’s east coast to the vibrant streets of harbourside Vancouver, the exchange rate is healthy and almost on par and the mountains are calling.
I know where I’ll be skiing. Just saying.
Need more? Check out all that Canada has to offer this winter.
This article was featured in our FREE 70 page e-mag The Northern Issue for skiers and snowboarders ↓