Skiing in Canada
Canada offers the best quality snow for skiing in the world. Canada offers many different resorts to ski at with a huge variety between each of them. Although Canada doesn’t receive as much snow as Japan, the snow quality is superior. The infrastructure is not as extensive as that of Europe, and therefore the resorts are not as large.
If I could make one recommendation to any skier, it would be to ski in Canada at least once in your lifetime. It is difficult for me to put into words the feeling of skiing through Canadian powder. It is like nothing you have ever felt before. This is not to say that each country around the world in which you can ski doesn’t have some advantages over skiing in Canada, but I believe Canada offers something very unique, that I haven't experienced skiing anywhere else in the world. One thing you will realise about Canada is how massive a country, and how sparsely populated it is.
Driving from Vancouver into the Rocky Mountains (which is the most likely option to fly into if that is how you are travelling, unless you are able to get a reasonably priced flight to Kamloops) and towards the bulk of the ski resorts in the West of Canada, you will be travelling for hours before you reach even the notion of a village! For some people this will not be welcomed - for those who like to feel a sense of life and general busyness on holiday. There are certainly resorts like this, such as Whistler! Whistler is a very lively ski resort which attracts skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. Travel a bit more inland into Canada, and you will come across much smaller less imposing resorts such as Sun Peaks or Big White resort. You will find both of these resorts tucked away in the mountains a bit more.
Is the snow in Canada deep?
The only mission every man and woman have on a powder day in a Canadian ski resort, is to seek out the deepest and most untouched snow that can be found. This is one of Canada’s huge advantages over skiing in Europe – having the option to go skiing off-piste safely in well controlled ski areas (as safely as off-piste skiing allows that is). Where European ski resorts tend to turn every skiable square metre of the resort into a hard packed ski piste, Canada leaves certain parts of the controlled and patrolled area of the resort untouched, allowing you to get plenty of turns in the deep snow. One of the most exciting things I loved about my ski season in Canada was having the option of hiking through the back-country to get to new peaks and areas of the mountain that cant be reached by lifts, and which need a bit of leg work to get there!
These hikes out the back of the ski resort may not sound the most appealing for you European skiers, but trust me, when you reach the next peak where only a handful of people have explored since the last snowfall, and you sit there trying to recoup your breath as you admire and soak up the isolation and quietness of the backcountry, you will be so glad you put in the work to get there. In Canada its not uncommon in certain resorts to have fresh knee-deep snow to enjoy after a powder day. If you’ve never skied through knee-deep powder, Canada and Japan are the two places in the world notorious for it. The snow is swept aside effortlessly as you gradually build the pressure on your outside ski, splashes of snow bouncing up into your face – just make sure you have got the right skis for it as well!
What is the snow quality like in Canada?
When people ask me this question, my go to example to demonstrate the type of powder snow that Canada offers, is being able to literally blow 4 inches of fresh snow off the top of my car without leaving a trace. Contrast that with European snow which isnt as cold, it is damper and a lot more sticky, you will struggle to even wipe the snow away with your hands without leaving a trace! The snow in Canada is widely regarded to be the best powder snow on offer. The crisp, light, dry snow means even if there hasn’t been a snow fall for a while, the slopes stay in good condition. This is due in part to the freezing temperatures Canadian winters bring. It is not uncommon for temperatures in Canada to drop as low as -20 degrees for January and February, and even as low as -30 degrees both during the day and at night. Albeit this only lasts for a few days or a week in the depths of winter, however these rock bottom temperatures help keep the snow in good quality.
Is skiing in Canada cold?
Yes, skiing in Canada can be very cold is the short answer to this. For most of the winter, temperatures on the mountain will be between -15 and -20 degrees. There will likely be a few days or a week where temperatures plummet to -30 degrees. This is a cold as it sounds, nearing on unbearable. Numbers on the ski slopes dwindle at these temperatures, and even the hardened seasoned skiers can only last a few hours before accepting defeat at the hands of the elements. If there is any wind, this just makes it completely unbearable! On the only day I skied in -30 during my season in Canada, I lasted 2 hours before I could not take the cold anymore. With 3 insulated coats, 2 heavy thermal layers and a balaclava covering my entire face, the only part of me I couldn’t keep warm was a small patch either side of my goggles where the balaclava would reach to. This alone was so painful to bear, it forced me to call it a day and head back to the lodge.
My advice is to make sure you have double the layers of insulation that you would normally bring for a day of skiing in Europe or in parts of USA. Something I came across is Canada which I hadn't known was even a product, were heated ski boots. These were very popular and essential if you tend to get cold extremities like fingers and toes. Have a look at this article to see the kinds of clothing and accessories that you should consider buying for a ski holiday in Canada: What To Pack.
Are ski resorts in Canada big?
To compare ski resorts in Canada with ski resorts in Europe, they are generally speaking much smaller than they are in Europe. There isn't the same infrastructure, and they are just not as expansive as they are built in Europe. On a ski holiday in a large European resort, you would struggle to ski every run in a week-long holiday, however in Canada with exception to Whistler, you would be able to cover every ski run within a couple of days. This is obviously one of the drawbacks of Canadian resorts, however I believe the quality of the skiing goes some way to make up for this.