Choosing a Canadian snow resort

Canada is a major destination when it comes to tourists coming to work on snow mountains. With so many mountains to choose from, choosing a Canadian snow resort can be very complicated. This article will help make that choice much simpler. Everyone comes to Canadian for a snow season for different reasons, therefore bellow, it will highlight the unbiased pros and cons of each “major mountain”.
(by major mountain: the ones which are most commonly picked by international tourists coming to work in Canada for a snow season. There are many, many other amazing mountains!)

(All season pass prices do not include any early bird or pre season discount. These are always available and drop the price a lot if you get in early.)

Whistler

Easily the most known with Australian ski bum seekers. Whistler has one of the largest villages (like a small city, 11000 residents) and therefore has the busiest, craziest and most party atmosphere than any other village. It’s terrain is close to unmatched, being the largest in Northern America and is actually spread over two mountains; Whistler and Backcomb.  Being so close to Vancouver, only just over an hour and a half, it can get extremely busy. Like many other Canadian snow mountains, Whistler is the main hub for Australians doing a ski season.

Pros:

  • The skiable terrain is insanely huge and diverse. It is unmatched and has plenty for all skill levels. Basically it would be hard to get bored here!
  • It is a small city. Giving it 100+ options for eating out, entertainment, and partying.
  • You will meet a huge amount of people!
  • A season “epic” pass can allow you to ski 15 other mountains. (Majority in U.S.A)
  • Super easy to get to.
  • It has many options for jobs

Cons:

  • It can get extremely busy, especially on powder weekends and holidays. Some of our wait times were above 45minutes.
  • Being closer to the coast, it is known to get wetter, heavier snow.
  • Being so large it is easy to get “lost” as just another seasonal worker and feel unimportant.
  • Housing (not staffing) is ridiculously expensive and equally hard to find. For example expect to pay $800+ for a shared room as apposed to $500-$650 for a private on other mountains)
  • The mountain prices are more expensive then smaller interior mountains.
  • It is quite isolated in proximity to other resorts compared to interior mountains.
  • As the town of Whistler is very large, many of the housing option are not ski in ski out.

Total Terrain: 8,171 acres
Number of Lifts: 37
Number of runs: over 200
Season Pass: $1,229

Sun Peaks

Sun peaks is an interior mountain 50 minutes drive north of its local city Kamloops. It has the second largest skiable terrain in British Columbia with a decent amount of terrain. Its modern, somewhat European village is again decent, much smaller than Whistler however offers plenty more than some similar size mountains. It is moderately easy to get to; a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver and also has a close by airport in Kamloops.

Pros

  • It is a medium size village with a small village feel. Meaning it has enough to keep you from being too bored however small enough to know a lot of the people.
  • Generally has a good party atmosphere
  • It has an awesome park
  • It can get great quality snow.
  • Kamloops is a large town with almost everything if you can make the journey down.
  • The majority of housing option are ski in, ski out or close enough to

Cons

  • Being 45 minutes from Kamloops it is a longer drive compared to other mountains. To somebody without a vehicle your limited to other people or a weekend only shuttle at $45 return.
  • The diversity of the runs major towards blue and green at a medium level. It has some black but not so many double diamonds with difficult terrain

Total Terrain: 4,270 acres
Number of Lifts: 12
Number of Runs: 135
Season Pass: $1,249

Silver Star

Is a centrally located interior mountain only a 20 minute drive from the average size town of Vernon. It has a small, old era, colourful village with limited variety of facilities. The small village does boast a friendly, very communal feel and overall the mountain has good quality progressive terrain. It is a 5.5 hour drive from Vancouver or the major domestic airport of Kelowna is 1 hours drive away.

Pros

  • Because of its small village, it is an extremely communal scene where the majority of workers get to know each other and generate a feeling of belonging.
  • Can get amazing quality snow and tends to avoid many major white out days
  • It is extremely central in proximity to other mountains. Big white and Revelstoke are 2 hours away.  Sun Peaks and Apex Mountain are 2.5 hours away. Almost every other snow mountain in BC and the major resorts around Banff are under to just over 5 hours drive.
  • The town of Vernon has most necessary requirements and is only a 20 minute drive away with mid week and weekend staff shuttles. $25 return (free to staff).
  • It has many options for steep, difficult terrain with features such as chutes, small spines, drops and pillows.
  • The majority of housing option are ski in, ski out or close enough to.
  • Generally has minimal lines mid week and out of peak season.

Cons

  • Nightlife, eating and entertainment options on the mountain are quite limited
  • While the terrain is diverse, it is short therefore can get repetitive.
  • The park is small and difficult to lap as it does not have its own chairlift

Total Terrain: 3,282 acres
Number of lifts: 11
Number of runs: 132
Season Pass: $1,249

Big White

Situated an hours drive from the closest city of Kelowna, Big White is an interior mountain with great snow, a good diversity of terrain and nicely sized village. It is a 5.5 hours drive from Vancouver and 1 hour from Kelowna Airport.

Pros

  • The village is decent in size, very similar to Sun Peaks therefore has enough to entertain for the season whilst still keeping its small village communal feels.
  • The terrain is super fun when combined with its champagne powder snow.
  • Kelowna is the fourth largest town in BC therefore has everything and more if you can make the hour drive or pay $25 return for the Fri-Sat shuttle.
  • The majority of housing option are ski in, ski out or close enough to

Cons

  • Being an hour from Kelowna it has one of the longest drives to its closest major town/city.
  • Terrain can lack some of the expert level features and the park is rather small

Total Terrain: 2,765 acres
Number of lifts: 16
Number of runs: 118
Season Pass: $1,179

Banff

Banff is a very popular ski town in the heart of Banff National Park, Alberta. It is situated in the centre of Alberta’s Rockies and has a population of 8000 residents. The town is an expensive yet incredibly beautiful and atmospheric town with plenty of wild and party life. It is an hour and a half from Calgary. There are three snow mountain resorts within close proximity that make up 7690 skiable acres of terrain. For mountain staff there is an option to live in staff accomodation on the mountain. The ski resorts are:

Mount Norquay:

20 minute drive from Banff
Total Terrain: 190 acres
Number of lifts: 4
Number of runs: 60

Sunshine Village:

20 minute drive from Banff
Total Terrain: 3,300 acres
Number of lifts: 12
Number of runs: 115

Lake Louise:

45 minute drive from Banff
Total Terrain: 4,200 acres
Number of lifts: 10
Number of runs: 145

Pros

  • The town of Banff is undoubtably in one of the most beautiful areas of Canada. Its scenery, wildlife and charm is incredible.
  • With the option of 3 very close mountains, two being large, it has a great variety of terrain to suit every level.
  • The town itself is almost the size of Whistler. It offers enough eat outs, nightlife and entertainment to keep anybody busy.There is a great variety for work.
  • The bus schedules are regular to the three mountains
  • Being in the Rockies, it is in close proximity to many other great mountains
  • The snow is amazing quality and Sunshine village has one of the latest close dates

Cons

  • It is a town, not a snow resort. Meaning there is no ski in ski out accomodation and without a car you will be catching the bus.
  • The mountains, and possible your work, are at least a 20 minute trip away.
  • Other than staff accomodation, a house in Banff is extremely difficult to find due to high demand and can be expensive.

Season Pass (for all three mountains): $2,099
(bus transportation included to Sunshine village)

Nelson

Nelson is a small, beautifully quaint, relaxed town in the southern middle area of British Columbia. While it is not hugely chosen by masses of international work visa holders, it stands to be extremely popular for the small number of internationals which make it. This is due to its authentic Canadian atmosphere and massive annual dumpage of high quality dry snow. It is a 6.5 hour drive from Calgary and 8 hour drive from Vancouver making it one of the hardest mountains to reach. It has a population of 10,000 residents. Whitewater ski resort is a 25 minute drive away and offers some incredible riding.

Pros

  • The town of Nelson has a laid back, hippy like feel and being secluded, can be very relaxing.
  • The annual snowfall of Whitewater is huge and has amazing dry conditions. The town is very “local” so most people get to know each other well.
  • Whitewater has endless back country hikes to untouched powder line.
  • Never typically busy
  • A season pass can get you a total of 42 free ski days on other mountains

Cons

  • Nelson is very secluded from other places.
  • The town is very localised and does not have a large party scene.
  • Accommodation is very hard to come by.
  • Whitewater is small considering other mountains and leads towards medium – difficult.
  • It has very slow lifts.

Total Terrain: 1,180 acres
Number of lifts: 4
Number of runs: 46
Season Pass: $1078

Revelstoke

Revelstoke is a ski bum town rapidly emerging in popularity as its ski mountain is getting discovered as the largest vertical ski elevation in North America. The town itself is cute and crisp, located quite centrally to many other mountains. It is 6.5 hours drive from Vancouver. It has epic scale terrain targeted towards capable and expert skiers as 47.5% of it is advanced. The ski resort of Revelstoke is an easy 10 minute drive from the centre of town. At the resort base there is a tiny village with some eating options, ski shop and information.

Pros

  • The terrain is amazingly diverse and long. It will keep most advanced skier on their feet.. or off them!
  • The town of Revelstoke is small enough to get to know other workers yet big enough to have most necessities.
  • The surrounding mountains and scenery is amazing.
  • Backcountry options on the mountain and the surrounding area is unlimited.

Cons

  • There is little options for beginners.
  • Accomodation is in the town therefore without a car one would have to take the shuttle.
  • Housing accommodation is hard to find in Revelstoke as it is very popular with Canadians.
  • The number of mountain staff is quite low considering it has limited resort options and only 4 lifts.

Total Terrain: 3021 acres
Number of lifts: 4
Number of runs: 69
Season Pass: $1,199 (Free mountain shuttle)

 

If you are considering a Canadian snow season, hopefully this helps narrow down your options. In reality, any choice of the above options, or even the many other options, will guarantee an amazing time! Canada is an abundantly beautiful natural country filled with adventure and great times! By narrowing down what you are coming to Canadian for, the option should be much easier to make!

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