A wintery Lake Louise, in Banff National Park near Canmore.
The Canadian Rockies are such a majestic sight that even the most jaded traveler will turn into the one who takes photographs from the airplane. There are 5 national parks in this part of the Rockies, and the peaks are a must-see destination for outdoors enthusiasts.
Just an hour’s drive from Calgary, Canmore is considered a commercial hub in these parts, with more than 70 restaurants and unique shops. One of these is the Ammonite Factory, which specializes in jewelry made of ammolite, also known as Alberta’s official gemstone. The unusual menu at Crazyweed restaurant includes Vietnamese meatballs, spicy Indian noodles, and Moroccan roast chicken. The Trough, an intimate spot downtown, serves rack of lamb and Alberta beef tenderloin. An equally tasty but more reasonably priced meal can be found at Mountain Mercato, a specialty food market with a café that dishes up soups, salads, and paninis.
All that food is fuel for the real star of the area—the skiing. Canmore underwent a much-needed rebirth to prepare for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Three top ski spots are nearby: Nakiska (the setting for the Olympic alpine events), Lake Louise and Mount Norquay—the only one with night skiing. Lake Louise and Norquay, both in Banff National Park, have recently added winter tube parks, where speed freaks can zip down the mountain on rubber tubes (then use the lift to go back up).
PANORAMA, British Columbia
Panorama, 2 hours southwest of Banff, has one of the largest vertical drops in North America (4,000 feet). Skiers and snowboarders fly down the slopes by day and night. Those who prefer lower-altitude activity should check out the Panorama Nordic Centre, at the base of the mountain. After exploring the miles of cross-country trails, skiers visit the Hale Hut, known for its hot chocolate.
For a proper drink, stop by Greys Restaurant at the Earl Grey Lodge, and stay for dishes such as rainbow trout and flank steak tacos as well as a lovely selection of wines (many Canadian). T Bar & Grill, in the Pine Inn, is the spot for slope-side casual dining.
FAIRMONT HOT SPRINGS, British Columbia
Fairmont Hot Springs has what may be one of the best locations an active person can ask for—it’s situated in the Columbia Valley, between the Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges and Columbia and Windermere Lakes. Those hot springs are found at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, where an outdoor pool, open year-round, is fed by mineral-rich waters. A dip in thermal waters is sure to soothe sore muscles after a day on the slopes. Panorama’s 14 trails all funnel to this resort, and your ski pass gets you into the pools for free.
Options for après-ski dining abound. The latest is From Scratch, which has become a favorite for its gourmet pizzas, pork ribs, and Thai curry. Hoodoo Lounge & Grill holds several all-you-can-eat nights (crab on Tuesday, ribs on Friday); accompany your meal with the locally brewed Arrowhead beer. For a more upscale experience complete with killer views of Mount Nelson, head 20 minutes north to Elements Grill at the Copper Point Resort, in Invermere. If the weather cooperates, you can dine outdoors on the patio or even enjoy a poolside cocktail.