Canada's Best Winter Slopes for Snowboarders & Skiers

Year-round, Canada is an outdoor adventurer's paradise – in winter, you'll be shredding powder on the mountain trail you were hiking just months before! Before you grab your skis and boards to hit the slopes, Goats on the Road break down the best winter destinations.

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Best for Beginners

First of all, if you’re new to skiing and snowboarding, you’ll need to make sure you know what the markers on the trails mean. Green is an easy trail, blue is intermediate, black diamond is advanced, and double black diamond is for experts. Typically, the backside of the mountain will have more difficult runs.

As a beginner, you’ll want to head to a ski hill that offers lessons (if you’re a complete newbie), a bunny hill to practice on, and green rated trails.

Whistler

There's very little reason to wonder why Whistler is where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held – it’s a top ski destination for all levels. It’s also a great place for learning to ski, as 25% of the runs here are dedicated to beginners.

Fernie

Another hot-spot for newbies is Fernie, with 30% of their runs being marked “green”. Although Fernie is located in British Columbia, it’s actually just a 3.5-hour drive from Calgary, Alberta and about 3 hours from Kalispell in Montana.

Snowboarder at Polar Peak, Fernie. Photo credit: iStock

Sun Peaks

Sun Peaks is just a 45-minute drive from the City of Kamloops in the Thompson Okanagan, British Columbia. This ski hill is a well-known favorite for beginners due to having a great area for learning (the Slow Zone). Plus the “bunny hill” is located at the center of the village, and the green runs here are long and easy. As an added bonus, it doesn’t get all that cold on this mountain!

Banff’s Big Three

Finally, check out the “Big Three” surrounding Banff.

1. Mt. Norquay’s runs are family-friendly, the mountain is quite sheltered by trees – plus, the green runs here are wide and easy to navigate.

2. Sunshine Village is just 15 minutes away. This ski hill has numerous winding green trails.

3. Number three in the area is Lake Louise, which is a 40-minute drive from Banff. The Green runs here are available from every ski lift, meaning you won’t find yourself heading to a double black diamond by mistake!

Best Ski Town Atmosphere

Hitting the slopes is just one aspect of a ski trip, it’s what happens après skiing that really makes a mountain resort worth visiting! Most of the “villages” (mountain resort towns) have a lot going on, including numerous restaurants and bars, beautiful scenery and an overall fun vibe.

Banff

Banff is the stuff of legends. Located in Alberta, this popular town is just a 90-minute drive from the city of Calgary. During the summer months it’s popular with tourists who are there for the hiking, but in the winter time (which is actually considered low season), this place will become a hotspot for Australians looking to ski and work at the surrounding slopes.

The pretty town is made up of wooden buildings and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. There are endless bars and restaurants here to keep you entertained at night, too. Banff is no doubt a fun place to hang out after a day of skiing and snowboarding.

Big White

Big White was once just a T-Bar and one lodge back in the '60s. These days, it’s an incredible ski hill with a great after-skiing atmosphere. You can ski in and out of the village while being surrounded by pretty chalets and pine trees.

Don’t miss the Blarney Stone Irish Tavern, with live music some nights and an outdoor patio. Also, check out Sessions Taphouse & Grill for the best craft beer options at Big White.

Silver Star Mountain

I have to add my hometown hill to the list! Check out Silver Star Mountain which is located just a 25-minute drive from Vernon, British Columbia. The village here is very pretty in the wintertime, with colorful Victorian-era styled buildings dotting the landscape, complete with twinkling lights.

There’s a tubing area and an outdoor skating rink as well. Town Hall is a classic quick-eats place for in between runs, while The Red Antler offers Canadian cuisine, local wines and craft beers.

Alternatively, if you choose not to stay in the village at Silver Star Mountain, you could stay in Vernon and drive up to the mountain each day, which only takes around 30 minutes. I recommend checking out Predator Ridge for a great area with a nice ambiance. Here you can stay at the Crystal Hills Resort, or find a nice place on AirBnB. At Predator Ridge you can enjoy beautiful views and nice hiking in all seasons.

Mountain Adventures for Advanced Skiers

Looking for something a little more adventurous and powder-filled?! Canada has you covered. A huge perk of going off-track with your board or skis at the mountain resorts here is that even though you may not be on a marked trail, you will be within a set ski area boundary. These roped and marked boundaries mean that the area is safe from avalanches, and is patrolled.

Always check with your travel insurance provider to be sure of the extent you’re covered – you’d hate to wind up injured and without help!

Want to Go Even Further Off-Piste?

Revelstoke

Revelstoke is where you’ll want to head. Here in the Selkirk Mountains, you can do backcountry touring and cat skiing! “Revi” as the locals call it, receives an incredible amount of snow annually – 600 inches (1,200cm) – which is powdery and perfect for some off-track skiing and boarding.

For an even more epic experience, you can book a heli-skiing trip. Revelstoke is the mecca for heli-skiing with Selkirk Tangiers being the go-to company, due to their 40 years’ experience.

Snowboarding at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Photo credit: iStock

Kicking Horse

Nearby, in the City of Golden, you’ll find Kicking Horse. This mountain resort also offers heli-skiing, plus the addition of telemark skiing (teleskiing) – a technique that combines elements of Alpine and Nordic skiing. Learn how to ski like the pioneers of the sport back in 19th century in Norway!

Although guides and tour operators in the Revelstoke and Kicking Horse areas are properly trained and experienced, accidents can happen and this area is known for avalanches. Always make sure you have proper travel insurance before embarking on any off-piste adventures, or any trip for that matter!

Enjoy the Snow Without Skiing: Alternative Activities

If you’re not a skier or snowboarder, don’t worry, there are still lots of winter activities that you can partake in at the ski hills.

Most (if not all) of the mountain resorts in Canada offer snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, tubing, sleigh rides, and some even have dog sledding and winter biking available.

Whistler, Fernie, Big White, Lake Louise and Kicking Horse are great places to check out these non-skiing activities.

Want to know more about Canada? Check out our podcast. We discuss when a traveler becomes a snack; the perils of wilderness adventure, a culinary tour of the provinces for foodies, and we speak to World Nomads photography scholarship mentor Richard I'Anson.

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