Western Resorts: busting into the big leagues

November 9 1981

Western Resorts: busting into the big leagues

November 9 1981

Western Resorts: busting into the big leagues

Banff

Lake together Louise, comprise Sunshine and the most Norquay varied skiing in Canada and their proximity to the motels and après-ski of Banff means skiers have access to a town that is larger and more diversified than most ready-built ski villages. The three areas are unique because they are all located smack iniae middle oLa national park. But-while developers-hatè had to bite their tongues -occasionally and postpone new facilities, skiers have-netbeen shortchanged. Perhaps the only drawback to skiing the Rockies and staying in Banff is the fact that skiers must take a shuttle or drive to their

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ski area each morning. After the first day, however, you'll find it isn't such an onerous task and the_crazy-quilt atmosphere of the town makes-the short hop to the slopes worthwhile.

Mt. Norquay is closest to Banff and boasts some of the steepest terrain in the country. Although there are a few easy runs, this is a mountain for those who aren't afraid of skyscraper moguls and fallaway turns that make you worry gravity

charm, mainly because it's the favorite of so many locals.

Sunshine, a few kilometres dowrr the road from "Banff, offers excellent''intermediate skiing and above-tree-line runs that are so wide open you can ski on a fairly busy day and still feel you have the world to yourself. The old buses that used to ferry skiers up to the area along a precipitous road are now gone, replaced by an impressive gondola that whisks you up-

abjpve the town, many visitors pass up Norquay on their way to Sunshine and Lake Louise, but once they have become accustomed to thechallengiry^ runs* everything else seems almost too easy. Norquay is also blessed with folksy

has deserted you~Even -though it looms“

ward. There are two new lifts at Sunshine

and plans call for development of new runs on Goat's eye Mountain. The recently opened Teepee Town chair_ improves ac-„ •ce^Pto^tHe Brewster chair and provides : some pice, intermediate terrain'a^^elT'^-GT The snow at Sunshine usually arrives

earlier and stays later than elsewhere in the West and the slopes are unparalleled for dependable spring skiing. Sunshine also boasts some superb cross-country skiing and as long as skinny-skiers can manage a reasonably controlled snowplow for the return downhill run, they can ride the lifts to the high alpine meadows. Once there the touring possibilities are limitless. For starters try heading along the airy route to Mt. Assiniboine or Egypt Lake.

Sunshine was one of the first areas in Canada to build on-hill accommodation and the Sunshine Village Inn is still going strong. If you are looking for a relaxed, getaway-from-it-all week in the heart of the mountains, book a Sunshine Village ski package. A new restaurant and bar just a few steps from the Inn add a little après-ski variety. Of course, you can always hop on the shuttle for a more strenuous evening in Banff.

Lake Louise is an old area as far as ski hills go, but it's changed a great deal since the day when its lifts were strung out higgledy-piggledy around the mountain. There are still a few tedious traverses but the new Eagle and Glacier chairs have eliminated most of them. The Summit TBar was installed in 1976 and since then Lake Louise has been able to offer a diver-

sity of mns matching the best in North America.

There are steep, wooded chutes off the Ptarmigan chair, back bowls, snow fields on either side of the Summit T, great wide cmising mns like the men’s and women's downhills and gently rolling trails for novice skiers. There are plans for more development aimed at getting skiers to the summit and the back bowls more efficiently. Lake Louise has also spmced up its image with everything from new uniforms for hill staff to a new lodge, the cosy midmountain Temple Lodge.

The most splendid feature of the Banff ski areas, however, is the view - deep valleys, hanging glaciers and knife-edge summits - all of them visible from the runs of Lake Louise, Sunshine and Norquay. It isn't uncommon to ski past little knots of people standing by the side of the mns simply staring at the alpine panorama around them.

Skiing the Banff area is easier than ever before with the formation of Banff Club Ski. This organization provides a separate tri-area ski school, lift ticket packages, ski weeks and bus transfers. In addition the three major airlines serving Calgary, CP Air, Air Canada and PWA, all offer Rockies ski packages.

Whistler

After years of talk, anticipation and intensive construction, the Garibaldi mountain range 100 km. north of Vancouver finally has a worldclass ski resort in its midst. But, in the process of turning Whistler into a classy destination for the international ski set, there were a few who viewed the metamorphosis with alarm.

Whistler had always been a backyard downhill area for Vancouver skiers. It was cosy and it was known as a skier's mountain. It did, however, have its faults - the terrain was often too hard or too easy for the average skier, après ski was usually confined to heer and mediocre pizza, and access to the skiing was hopeless unless you took your own cat.

Whistler diehards need not have feared. All that made the area beloved is unchanged or else improved. The opening of a brand new mountain, Blackcomb, adjacent to Whistler, now gives the skier a dazzling variety of trails to enjoy. In fact it would be difficult to ski every mn at both Blackcomb and Whistler in the normal

five-day ski week.

Blackcomb's 38 km. of trails cover 140 hectares of wooded slopes. The beauty of the mountain is that the runs are cut intelligently with an eye for esthetics as well as function. Islands of trees are dotted throughout the trails, many of which branch halfway down to become diverting offshoots. Even novices don't have to spend their time getting bored on a bunny slope at the bottom of the lifts. They can ride right to the top and cruise down the 11 km. Skid Road run which ambles gently around the perimeter of the area.

Blackcomb is going to become known as an intermediate's paradise. There are few places on the mountain that cannot be managed by advanced intermediates. It's also admirably suited to families because skiers of all abilities can ski on one chair and find different levels of terrain. The graduation of the runs makes Blackcomb different from many other areas. Few of the trails are uniform from top to bottom. Most of the intermediate runs have difficult pitches and the easiest areas incorporate slightly more challenging sections.

While all the fuss was being created about Blackcomb, Whistler mountain wasn't languishing in the shadows. Garibaldi Lifts has invested $5.6 million and last summer three new triple-chairs

were installed on the mountain's north face. This means skiers can start skiing from the flashy new Whistler Village itself and avoid the line-up at the gondola and Olive chair.

The twelve brand-new runs on the north face of Whistler give the mountain some badly needed novice to intermediate terrain. All ski school operations for that level will be shifted to the new side to take advantage of the 549 metres of beginner runs. The snow on the north side is also more stable than the snow around the old base lodge area. As a result, spring skiers may be able to ski all the way to the bottom instead of riding the last chair down, a practice that was common in the past.

The first change that visitors to Whistler will notice is not the hundreds of hectares of new skiing but the creation of an entire village at the foot of the Blackcomb lifts with access to the chairs on Whistler's north face. Inns, condominiums, shops, restaurants, pubs and promenades have turned an empty field into a European community. It's all part of the continuing ambitious development of a year-round resort featuring golf, tennis, swimming, windsurfing and, of course, skiing.

Getting to Whistler is becoming easier each year. The winding 100 km. drive from Vancouver hasn't changed much,

although parts of the highway have been widened and upgraded. Bus service has improved however - the Snow Goose runs regularly from the city into Whistler. There is also a morning and evening train. Small jets can fly into the nearby town of Squamish and if town officials have anything to do with it, a landing strip will be constructed in Whistler to accommodate planes connecting to the Vancouver airport.

For Canadian skiers Whistler is now a resort to be reckoned with. Where in the world can you find two giant mountains, over 400 hectares of terrain and a quaint village jammed full of all the amenities skiers now demand? All that and only two hours from Vancouver as well. Advice for this year is book early; ski weeks are going to be at a premium.

Panorama

A few years ago Panorama Mountain was a pleasant backwater in British Columbia skiing. Its main claim to fame was spectacular views of the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges that crowded into sight around every comer. But lately Panorama, in south-eastern B. C., has been going after bigger game and now it is bidding to become one of the

western year-round destination resorts. So far the area has much to offer. The mountain is big, not just to look at but also to ski, and it has excellent potential for development on the higher and more difficult ridge terrain.

Panorama’s location is also a big plus. It is next door to one of the most beautiful lakes in the Kootenay region, Windermere, and bordered on either side by two well-developed hot springs, Radium and Fairmont. There is no one who appreciates

a long, hot soak at the end of the day more than a skier. Getting to Panorama is also a relatively simple matter. The resort is 300 km. west of Calgary and shuttle buses whisk skiers to and from the city. Even more convenient is the Cranbrook airport just 90 km. to the south.

The final appealing feature of Panorama is the weather. The mountain is high enough and close enough to the Rockies to steal a bit of that alpine powder, but it is far enough from the big ranges to avoid the

pernicious storms that plague those regions. Long sunny stretches are common during a Panorama winter. Mountain folks tend to be a little smug about the abundant snow that leaves its calling card with remarkable regularity, even during meagre years such as last season. Accumulations of over 300 cm. are normal - which is not surprising when you realize that Panorama backs onto the famous Bugaboos, the biggest hotbed of helicopter skiing in the world.

There's hardly a skier alive who doesn't want to try his legs out on the steep and deep - the kind of skiing accessible only by helicopter. At Panorama skiers can learn to be a powder hound from scratch. The ski school is geared to teaching skiers how to handle a variety of snow conditions ranging from hard pack to deep powder and, when you feel comfortable with off-track skiing around the runs, they can arrange a day with the helicopter.

You needn’t be quite so ambitious to enjoy Panorama, however. The double and triple chairs, long T-bar, Toby chair and two shorter surface lifts open the mountain to a solid variety of skiing. And if you feel like summer skiing Panorama has it. Helicopters fly cross-country and alpine skiers to the glacier behind the ski area during the off-season.

The upper chair was installed a few years ago and it added several hundred meters of advanced skiing, including some challenging stretches of tree-dodging terrain. The west face is the latest part of the mountain to admit skiers. Five new runs are now serviced by a triple chair. To the northwest, in the Pica area, two runs have been cut and a chair is planned for 1982.

In keeping with the new diversified style of ski area development, Panorama has branched out into cross-country skiing. Last year five km. of trails were added, bringing the total to 20 km. Although many of the trails are best suited to experienced skiers, several can be enjoyed by novices.

The ski village being created within walking distance of the lifts now has sufficient amenities to keep most off-the-hill skiers happy. The Pine Inn Lodge has just been completed, adding 34 hotel rooms to the already existing 255 condominium units and the accommodations at Toby and Horsethief Lodges. There is also a year-round equestrian center for winter trail rides, outdoor barbeques and, of course, sleigh parties.

Panorama may not yet have the quantity of skiing available at some of the bigger areas, but the terrain will satisfy skiers of all abilities. The bonuses of spectacular scenery, post-ski amenities and nearby hotsprings easily justify its new billing as a far-West destination resort.