Guest post by Martin Nolan: A former sun seeking backpacker who is now a full time ski convert. At his happiest discussing all things travel. Follow Martin on Twitter at @martinnolan7.
All bad puns aside, it has long been a common misconception that Europe has the market cornered in Après-Ski. In my opinion the cheesy Euro dance filled slopes of Austria, as fun as they are, cannot compete with the tabletop dancing of Canada.
Not convinced? Whistler consistently ranks as one of the top resorts by seasoned powder chasers. You can see why with hangouts like The Garibaldi Lift Company, or as it is simply known, ‘The Place’ to Après,’ and you’ll instantly feel why when you sit on the terrace gazing at fresh tracks being carved.
If Whistler’s not for you then you can always go for Banff, which is one of those rare gems of a resort. Offering enough of a lively atmosphere (should you wish to indulge) or alternatives should you just want to chill.
I would particularly recommend taking a trip up to the Sulphur Mountains to relax in the hot springs, hopefully in the process taking years off of you (well if not years, maybe a few weeks).
5 Reasons Canada’s Après Beat Europe’s
- Warm beer is a curse strictly consigned to Europe. Unfortunately mainland Europe has not grasped the art of a chilled keg even in the snowy conditions up a mountain. Fortunately our North American counterparts have.
- You can talk to anyone. Approaching people and striking a conversation is pretty alien to Europeans, especially if you’re British like me. Canadians don’t seem too bothered by this and you’ll probably walk away with a new best friend every night.
- Great Caesars. No I’m not talking about the historical figure, but the drink. Not heard of it? Well neither had I until I went to Canada. I’m not 100% sure what it’s made of but what I am sure of is that it is delicious.
- That Cowboy feel. Now as much Europe’s lovely cabin and log fire feel is great it doesn’t have the same energizing effect of walking in to a saloon style atmosphere.
- Less Euro pop and trance. Okay, it’s part of what first endears you to regions like Austria and as much as I like a bit cheese, every day can get a bit tiring. Give me a man with a guitar and cowboy hat singing about one of three subjects: drinking, his girl leaving, and his horse. If that doesn’t sway you I don’t know what will.
But Where do I Start?
There are a number of great resorts which you can choose from Fernie to Jasper to Lake Louise. However there are two heavyweights when it comes to the world of Après in both Banff and Whistler—with both of them having so much to offer.
Banff vs. Whistler
Okay, with these two being the best-known ski resorts in Canada, it’s only logical that for a first time trip you choose one of them. Both are within driving distance from either Vancouver airport (Whistler a two-hour drive by car) or Calgary (Banff is 80 miles away) and as many property programs say, ‘location is everything.’ BUT SKIING IS ABOUT ‘WHICH OFFERS THE BEST POWDER?’
Banff offers you the choice of a number of surrounding slopes within a convenient distance. Two particular highlights are Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. Being part of the Rockies the sheer size of the terrain is awe inspiring, perfect for someone who is looking for those long runs.
Just to put it into some sort of perspective, Lake Louise is 4,200 acres alone and with many surrounding ski resorts, overcrowded runs are a non-issue. If you combine this with a good number of options for a drink after a busy day then you’re on to a winner.
Insider Tip: I would particularly recommend Banff for couples, as it’s well known for its quaint rustic buildings and the surrounding hot springs. Also if you time your visit just right, you can catch some unbelievable ice sculpture in town like this.
If that doesn’t inspire a sense of romance I don’t know what will.
Whistler offers a no less enticing proposition. With 8,000 acres on offer and some of the finest vertical drops in North America you’ll struggle to suppress that urge to carve new tracks. With a mainly Alpine feel, many people go out of their way to book local backcountry trips with local guides.
Now I can’t talk about Whistler without speaking about its Gondola; to see it is to believe it. Not many resorts have one that directly goes from one peak to the other, giving any skier that enjoyable problem of choice. In fact Whistler well laid out lift system is one of the reasons it is so popular.
With its great slopes and a reputation for having a great atmosphere Whistler is worth a look.
Recommendation: Skiing in whistler offers the perfect opportunity to twin it with short visit to Vancouver. The tourist friendly city offers the year round attraction of the Capilano Bridge and one of my favorite shorelines. Not to mention some great bars.