Ah, Canada. If that very word evokes images of idyllic winters and untouched nature in your mind, we can’t blame you. Because Canada is indeed largely that. Pristine wilderness and idyllic mountains and maple trees and… some of the best ski resorts on the planet. Which is not that surprising, seeing as Canada is the second largest country in the world!
Of course, all that is spiced up with that adorable Canadian politeness.
So what’s not to like, eh?
In fact, very little, if anything at all.
Any flaws Canada has will quickly disappear in the rear-view mirror as you begin driving on your way to some of its amazing ski resorts. And outside of the iconic Whistler Blackcomb, we feel that other Candian ski resorts are almost criminally neglected.
And we’re here today to correct that impression.
What follows is a list of some of Canada’s greatest ski resorts – along with, of course, our expert commentary and considerations – especially when it comes to going on a family adventure. We’re here to make it easier for you, which is why we’ll be asking the right questions, and getting at the right answers. Such as:
What sorts of services and amenities do these ski resorts offer?
Are the trails too crowded during ski season, or not?
And if they are, just how crowded are they?
Last but not least, how’s the entertainment? Are there any kid-friendly activities, and what about the nightlife?
The value of all that, of course, will depend on your personal tastes and temperaments. Some snow lovers love being the life of the party, but others prefer sitting around the fireplace in comfort, savoring a tasty snack. And rest assured, Canada has something for everyone – and is very family friendly!
Some compare the Mont Tremblant area to a scene taken straight out of a Disney cartoon – and they’re not that far from the truth. But the charms of this ski resort don’t end with its colorful village. In fact, that’s where they begin. Mont Tremblant is the home of 100 skiing trails, 3 terrain parks, and hosts Quebec’s steepest run with a pitch of 42 degrees. The summit sits at a perch of 2,871 ft, making it one of the tallest peaks in the Laurentians. And did we mention the food?
- Mont Tremblant is reminiscent of European-style alpine setting.
- Fairly accessible – the resort is just a 90 minute drive from Montreal.
- Diverse terrain suitable for all levels of skiing – even children.
- Vibrant entertainment options, and a wide variety of après ski for skiers and non-skiers alike.
- Can be a bit crowded, especially during the weekends.
- Might be a bit far from most major cities situated in the west of the USA.
- It can get pretty darn cold, even by Eastern standards.
Famous for: Its Disney-like, charming village brimming with Quebecois food and culture, along with some of the best ski terrains on the entire East Coast of North America.
Many visitors swear that they have taken the wrong flight, and gotten lost somewhere in the heart of Europe with its scenic alpine slopes! The colorful, car-free town of Mont Tremblant offers a relaxing, family-friendly experience. Decorated with brightly colored shops and their jingly bells, this quaint little town could have been plucked right out of a Disney cartoon. And once the sun sets, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to Quebecois food and culture! After all, it was the French who gifted the world with après ski.
But when in Canada, do as the Canadians do. Mont Tremblant is considered Canada’s premier ski and winter resort, and one of the best ski resorts along the entire east coast of the North American continent. Strewn about in complex patterns, the area offers 100 trails and 3 terrain parks to choose from. Its elevation of 2,871 ft is nothing to sneer at, especially since it hosts Quebec’s steepest run. Snaking down at a pitch of 42 degrees, this skiing run is sure to raise the heart beat of even the most hardcore of thrill-seekers! Now, sure, some resorts in the West go even steeper, but do they offer the expansive vistas of the Laurentian Mountains as you fly down like an eagle? Nope.
Crowd Density & Ski Lifts
Situated just 90 minutes from Montreal, Mont Tremblant can get pretty crowded, especially during peak season. Its reputation of being Canada’s premier resort also doesn’t help, but all of this is good news for everyone who wants to have a good time. For those seeking a quieter stay, your best bet would be booking a trip slightly off-season.
Mont Tremblant has 14 ski lifts which is more than sufficient, but the sheer number of people can sometimes slow things down. So relax, take a seat, and enjoy the view. You’ll be up there in no time, because the ski lifts are top notch. There’s even a system that tells visitors which ski lifts are occupied, and which aren’t. Fancy!
Mont Tremblant offers a wide selection of lodgings, ranging from budget hotels to luxury condos. The wider area is also a home to many other hotels and hostels, of course, at the expense of distance and some commuting. The area is well-connected so rest assured, every track, restaurants, wine bar or spa will be well within your reach. This is, after all, one of Canada’s premium ski resorts.
Itching for a family trip to Europe but don’t quite have the budget for it? Then don’t think twice and book a trip to Mont Tremblant, and bask in its amazing snowy slopes and fairy-tale feel. It doesn’t get more European than this.
Red Mountain Resort
Red Mountain is as local as it gets. And by local, we mean, of course, Canadian. Located just over the US border in the vicinity of British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountains, Red Mountain is proudly rustic and independent. But its charms don’t end there – the nearby Rossland village feels frozen in time, and provides a real-life history lesson for the young ones. Red Mountain is also famous for its adrenaline-pumping ski terrains, throwing challenging steeps, cliffs, and blitzing tree runs even at the most experienced skier. It’s no surprise, then, why the Red Mountain Resort produces more Canadian Ski Team members than anywhere else in Canada. So if you’re looking to inspire the young aspiring ski members of your family, Red Mountain is the place to start!
- Tons and tons of snow – the average annual snowfall is 300 in.
- Exceptionally challenging terrain with 200 ac of cat skiing.
- Little to no crowds… perfect, right?
- Authentic local town offering chill vibes and educational opportunities.
- Can be a bit far, since it is at least a 3-hour drive from the nearest major airport at Spokane, Washington.
- The mountain can be challenging to navigate, but hey – there are free mountain tours.
- Limited options for non-skiers and tourists, although the ambiance is its own reward.
Famous for: Red Mountain offers extreme terrain and blitzing tree-skiing, along with a chill, authentic mining town. It produces more Canadian skiers than any other resort.
In order to reach Rossland (the old, chill mining town), you’ll need to take a short drive or a free bus ride. Alternatively, you can reach it after an hour-long walk, and find more lodging, entertainment and dining options than the resort proper. Rossland oozes with a warm, rustic charm, thanks to its buildings that were built more than two centuries ago, back in the 1800s. Its authentic air complements the locals’ laid-back and friendly hospitality, and… chances are that’s all you’ll get at Rossland. But you know what? Sometimes that’s good enough.
Red Mountain has 8 ski lifts servicing 119 runs spread over 3,850 acres of land, the highest of which start at 2,919 feet. As we mentioned above, many of these skiing runs are pretty challenging and some are downright extreme. So if you’re all about exciting skiing, this is the place for you.
Crowd Density & Ski Lifts
The relative remoteness of the resort, paired with its sleepy little town, makes for fewer crowds. While Mont Tremblant might appeal to the extroverted winter lovers, Red Mountain would be a good fit for the focused skiing enthusiast. And sometimes that is exactly what a family needs.
You can find inns, lodges, hostels and hotels in the area of Red Mountain, both at the resort and in and around the nearby mining town of Rossland. There are both luxury accomodations and bare-bones budget lodges in the woods, so there’s something for everyone. It’s a small place, however, so be mindful to book as early as possible to reserve your spot. There aren’t that many of them.
Red Mountain has somewhat of a bad rep as being hard to reach, but don’t let that dissuade you. The nearest major airport (Spokane, Washington) is approximately 3 hours away, and of course, it includes one international border crossing. But perspective is everything – it’s the same distance from Denver to Vail, without all the heavy traffic on the I-70! Red Mountain also doubles as a convenient starting point if you’re looking to go on an odyssey along British Columbia’s “Powder Highway.”
Red Mountain may not be for everyone, but that’s exactly part of its appeal. If you (or someone in your family!) ever intend to become one of the best skiers in the world, the thrilling Red Mountain Resort is the place to start.
The Big White Ski Resort is the third largest ski resort in British Columbia right after Whistler-Blackcomb and Sun Peaks. The size attracts quite the crowd, though, but for good reason – Big White hosts hundreds of well-padded ski tracks, thanks to its 750 cm of annual snowfall. Those looking for lots of fun, good food, and warm accomodation need look no further either, because the resort is built around a cozy central village 5,758 ft above sea level. And did we mention the tons upon tons of the finest snow? Kids love that.
- Champagne powder – snow doesn’t get any better than this.
- Home to the largest ski-in/ski-out village in Canada.
- Largest night skiing area in Western Canada.
- Just an hour drive from Kelowna .
- Can get very crowded.
- All the snow and the height sometimes make for poor visibility.
- The Eastern terrain can get icy, so exercise caution.
Famous for: Lots and lots of snow, and a wonderful ski-in/ski-out village with tons of family-friendly amenities.
Big White has a scenic central village that offers good accommodation, and dozens of bars, eateries and shops. Sitting at a height of 5,758 ft above sea level (1,755 m) also makes for some fresh air and memorable views. It’s a big village too, brimming with après ski fun – you can find everything from dog sleigh rides, to climbing ice walls, and tons of other family friendly activities. You can also catch some of its Friday night bargains ($8-10 CAD), offering night skiing, rentals, tubing and all sorts of tasty dinner. It’s not for nothing that Big White calls itself “Canada’s Favorite Family Resort.”
Big White has 119 terrains, spread over 2,765 acres of overall skiable terrain. In addition to that, it also offers at least 38 acres suitable for night skiing, making Big White the number one resort in Western Canada for night skiing. What makes it even better though is the dreamy snow. The powder is of the smoothest, ‘champagne’ variety you can find in nature. Makes skiers satisfied, and children very happy.
Crowd Density & Ski Lifts
We’re not going to lie, Big White is one of the most popular ski resorts – and a very accessible one. Being an hour away from Kelowna’s international airport means that Big White can get pretty crowded, but its 15 ski lifts manage all those skiers and tourists well. So set your worries to silent and book a trip.
The central village hosts four condo hotels, 25 condo and townhouse complexes, more than 200 vacation homes and one ski in/ski out hostel. Many of the properties in Big White are managed by rental companies, so you’ll have no problem finding what you need. There are at least 18 restaurants, cafés and delis in the central village, as well as a grocery store and liquor store.
Big White is perfect for those who seek to combine good skiing with lots of family fun. It is easily accessible, and it offers a rich buffet of winter activities.
Whistler Blackcomb is one of those names you might hear in a national knowledge quiz, right after the question “What is the largest ski area in North America?” Not just that, but Whistler is almost a staple among skiing brochures around the world, making frequent appearances in articles by Ski Magazine or Forbes as one of the best ski resorts in North America. If there was ever a world competition for the best ski resort in the world, Whistler Blackcomb could definitely make it in the top three, seeing as it hosted most of the skiing events at the 2010 Winter Olympics!
- The largest ski area in all of North America.
- Very wide variety of world-class terrain.
- World-class village offering tons of amenities.
- Just 2 hours from Vancouver, and 5 hours from Seattle.
- Snow can be wet and heavy due to the low peak elevation.
- We’re not gonna lie, all that popularity makes for huge crowds.
- Prepare for lift queues.
- Can get expensive.
Famous for: Whistler Blackcomb provides an unmatched size and variety of terrain, and a wonderful village that has everything, even for the young generations.
Even if you forgot all about skiing, the eponymous Whistler Village is a destination worth visiting for itself. There’s a wealth of dineries, bars and restaurants, surrounded by tons of entertaining activities and family friendly pastimes. You can go snowshoeing, tubing, or ride snowmobiles and embark on exciting dog sledding tours. Last but not least, you can go to the Whistler Sliding Centre for thrilling bobsleigh and – get this – skeleton rides. Yes, the rides where you lie down on your belly as you fly face-first down a steep run – like a bullet. Fun? Calling it fun is an understatement!
When we said big, we meant big big. Whistler Blackcomb is the home of over 8,000 ac of skiable terrain spread over two mountains, which are linked by some of the longest and highest gondola rides in the world. The terrain offers 200 runs over a huge variety of terrain suitable for all skill levels. You can find both inbound and backcountry tree runs, powder-packed bowls, slanted glacier runs, and five different terrain parks with over 150 features. And traversing the terrain is a real joy – the two mountains are linked by the famous Peak2Peak Gondola ride which is an attraction in itself. Finally, for those who can’t get enough of Whistler Blackcomb, the resort also offers an excellent mountain bike park with dozens of mountain biking tracks for when the snow thaws.
Crowd Density & Ski Lifts
Sure, Whistler Blackcomb is crowded. And by crowded, we mean really crowded. The place hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, after all! But it hosted it successfully, and efficiently accommodated millions of visitors. Today, Whistler Blackcomb has almost 40 ski lifts in operation, with the combined efficiency of servicing a whopping 100,000 skiers per hour.
Over the years, much of the accommodation has spread outwards from the central Whistler village, concentrating around the area of Green Lake where many of the smaller and independent hotels are situated. Additionally, Whistler Blackcomb has an array of cabin and cottage options tucked into the idyllic hillsides. Needless to say, the ambiance and the views are nothing short of spectacular. In Whistler Blackcomb, you can find anything from a budget hostel for a short break, all the way to luxury resorts and grandiose hotels for a pampered weekend getaway.
Whistler Blackcomb is considered to be one of Canada’s “flagship” resorts – and for good reason. From amazing scenery, excellent accommodation and tons of family-friendly fun (even in spring!) Whistler Blackcomb has it all.
After the mind blowing performance by Whistler Blackcomb, you might wonder how come it doesn’t take our number one spot? Well, that’s because Lake Louise Ski Resort offers more diverse terrain, and dare we say, it’s more beautiful. And we’re not alone in this impression – Lake Louise was voted as the Number One Ski Resort in Canada at the 2017 World Ski Awards. Its terrain spills over four mountain sides surrounding the emerald-hued Lake Louise, making it the most scenic resort in the Canadian Rockies. With its 145 runs sitting at a minimum elevation of 5,400 ft, Lake Louise is also one of the favorite stops for the World Cup Downhill racing championship.
- The location of Lake Louise gives it one of the longest ski seasons in North America – you can ski here for a full half year!
- World-class, diverse terrain.
- Its breathtaking scenery will stay with you.
- Not a lot of snow.
- Can get really expensive.
- The mountain resort itself offers no lodging.
Famous for: Mind blowing scenery, diverse terrain and its super long season makes Lake Louise one of the best family friendly resorts in the world.
One of the main attractions at the Lake Louise Ski Resort is the village named after the scenic lake. The lake itself was, in turn, named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848–1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Louise was the wife of John Campbell – the Governor General of Canada during the end of the 19th century, and the 9th Duke of Argyll. All this history gives the sleepy village of Lake Louise an air of royalty, hosting castle-like hotels like the legendary Chateau Lake Louise – which is an absolute must to visit. But the village of Lake Louise cannot be simply reduced to its history – here you’ll also find many shops and restaurants, all tastefully circling the stunning turquoise lake. In short, Lake Louise is a memory machine – bring your kids along because these memories will last a lifetime.
The Lake Louise Ski Resort is spread over four mountain faces, and packs at least 145 marked ski runs and back bowls. These are further divided into 25% of beginner tracks, 45% intermediate tracks and 30% advanced skiing tracks. Offering everything to everyone, it’s no wonder Lake Louise Ski Resort frequently gets picked as a host for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports competitions. Offering 4,200 ac of terrain and perched high at 8,651 ft, Lake Louise offers an eagle-eye view of endless glaciers and imposing mountain peaks, making skiing here that much more satisfying – for beginner and expert alike.
Crowd Density & Ski Lifts
This ski resort has been the birthplace of skiing since the 1920s, with its first lift constructed back in 1954. Today, the Lake Louise Ski Resort has 10 operational ski lifts in total, being able to service more than 15,000 skiers per hour. That may be fewer lifts than Whistler Blackcomb, but since the crowds here are not as large, it is more than sufficient. If you’re wondering where to start, be sure to check out the legendary Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola for some breathtaking views. Which may, or may not, include the occasional grizzly bear.
Perhaps the one drawback to Lake Louise is that it offers no on-mountain accommodation. For a warm bed, you’ll have to take a short bus ride to the nearby Lake Louise village or some of the impressive chateau-style hotels. Being one of the top destination resorts, however, Lake Louise can get a bit expensive. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options – if you want to get the most bang for your buck you can get the SKiBig3 pass, which gives you access to both Mt. Norquay and Sunshine Village.
The Lake Louise Ski Resort is sometimes called the “Crown Jewel of the Rockies” and for good reason. It combines all the good stuff we’re looking for – tons of ski tracks for every level, excellent accommodation and amenities, and precious memories that will stay with you long after you’ve left your tracks in the snow.