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Powder play in the Rockies

The recent heavy snowfall resulted in mayhem on roads, flight delays, school closures and countless other problems, but has had the effect of creating a large accumulation of snow in the mountains that appears to be here to stay.

The heavy snowfall combined with modern snowmaking has resulted in one of the earliest ski and snowboard seasons ever recorded in the Canadian Rockies. Banff’s Mount Norquay made history this year by officially opening on Oct. 25, making it the first hill in Canada to start its chairlifts in 2012. It was also the earliest opening in the history of the mountain.

The favourable early season snow conditions have resulted in historically early openings at other Canadian Rockies ski resorts. Nakiska, Marmot Basin, Sunshine Village and British Columbia’s Sunpeaks and Whistler resorts are also fully operational. Other ski resorts are scheduled to open soon.

With a 30-to-40-cm base at most resorts, early ski conditions are exceptionally good this year and skiers and snowboarders are stoked for an excellent 2012-13 ski season. Early openings and exceptional deals are drawing people to the slopes to enjoy being winter-active.

If you have no interest in skiing or snowboarding, you might consider other ways to enjoy the incredible new snow, such as snowshoeing, dogsled rides, tobogganing, skijoring, or snowmobiling.

Here are some highlights of just a few of the early-season specials that will save you money on a winter visit to the mountains.

The Big Three

All of the Big Three ski resorts are up and running and early-season lift pass discounts and small crowds are expected to draw visitors to Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay through early December.

Mount Norquay was the first resort to open this season, but was only open on weekends during November. The tube park will open in early December. Early-season lift passes at Norquay start at $25 per adult and $10 per child.

Lake Louise has received more than 100 cm of snow and its slopes are reported to be in excellent shape. Early-season lift ticket pricing is $57.95 for adults, $43.95 for youths and seniors and $20.95 for children. Louise Card holders can either use their first free day during the preseason or save it for later and get a $5 discount on early-season rates.

Sunshine Ski Resort also opened earlier than usual and has a snowpack that is more than a metre thick. At least eight of its 12 lifts are open and terrain park enthusiasts will find six brand new features at the park including a new seven-metre city arch bridge. Early-season lift passes are priced at $69.95 for adults, $55.95 for seniors, $53.95 for youths and $27.95 for children.

Early-season package deals that include accommodations and lift passes for Banff’s three area ski resorts start at $85 per person per night. You can check out all the deals at

Free skiing for children

The Canadian Ski Council’s Snowpass offers free skiing for kids in Grades 4 and 5 and is already available online for the 2012-2013 season. The pass gives kids born in 2002 or 2003 three free lift tickets at each participating ski area across Canada. The pass is valid at more than 150 ski areas across Canada, including 19 ski areas in Alberta and 33 ski areas in B.C. The application is available online at:

Ski Cards

Sunshine/Marmot or Lake Louise Ski Cards represent a big savings if you plan to ski several times during the season, but not enough to warrant the purchase of an annual pass. The Sunshine/Marmot card can be used at either Banff’s Sunshine Village or Jasper’s Marmot Basin and offers free skiing on your first, fourth, and seventh visits, along with other season discounts. Cards retail for $85.95 and are only on sale until the end of December. Visit for details or to place an online order.

Louise Plus Cards are valid at Lake Louise, Castle, Panorama or Revelstoke and provide three free days on the first, fourth, and seventh visits, along with other season discounts. The Louise Plus card retails for $99 and is only available for purchase until the end of December. Visit to order the card online or get more details.

British Columbia

The abundance of snow has not been limited to Alberta ski resorts. Slopes in British Columbia also have heaps of snow, diverse terrain and excellent après-ski adventures to enjoy.

Tourism British Columbia has just launched a new ski website to keep visitors up to date on snow conditions, special offers and insider information on B.C.’s winter resorts.

Early-season specials start at $99 per person per night for accommodations and lift tickets.

For more information, visit

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.



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