There are few true 'ski towns' around the world, especially those with a choice of top ski areas on their doorstep, each with independent ownership. Austria's Innsbruck, Utah's Park City, New Zealand's Queenstown and Argentina's Bariloche are some of the few examples, Aspen grew up that way but with all the ski areas nearby now owned by one company some feel the character there has gone. Not so in Banff, where the Mount Norquay is the nearest to town and offers flexible skiing by the hour if you just have a little time to spare for a few turns. If you are planning a full day of skiing or riding there is much more terrain available at Sunshine Village and Lake Louise - generally regarded as one of the world's most beautiful ski areas. Banff came in to being in 1883 when three railway workers building Canada's first trans-Continental railway staked a claim on the hot springs area that bubbled up there. It was named by a Canadian Pacific employee after his home area of Banffshire in North Eastern Scotland, although it doesn't look much like it! Two years later the railway was competed and soon afterwards the Canadian Pacific railway Company built the incredible Banff Springs hotel and Canada's first national park was established, "the rest is history". The town has a reputation also for being extremely good value and having genuinely friendly inhabitants. It's particularly impressive that they manage to keep cheerful when you consider the 7600 'Banffites' have to keep smiling at more than three million visitors a year. The snow on the surrounding mountains is known for its quality and abundance which help Sunshine and Lake Louise to open from early November to late May every year - one of the world's longest ski seasons. The experience of being able to spend the day in true wilderness terrain or modern ski areas and then the evenings in a lively resort also appeals to many. The success of Banff as a world leading ski destination was laid out more than a century ago when Swiss mountain guides led parties of climbers on first ascents of the surrounding peaks and traversed prehistoric glaciers. In leather bindings and wooden skis they discovered untracked snow in wide-open bowls and meadows, laying the groundwork for what was to become a viable ski industry. Settling in Banff and Lake Louise the pioneers helped build trails then roads through the raw, rugged and largely uninhabited landscape and eventually they established hotels and businesses.
The original of the three Banff Ski areas, smallest and still the closest, with great skiing including several top to bottom blacks.