Canadian Rockies and European Alps Ski Resort Comparison

After skiing the Canadian Rockies and the European Alps, you will see immediate differences. The first being that some of the ski resorts in North America are actually situated away from the nearby towns you would stay in. Banff, for example, is situated near three main ski areas; Banff Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise at about 15, 20 and 40 minutes respectively. Your Tri-Area lift pass covers all three ski resorts as well as the ski shuttles to and from these ski resorts.

Jasper Marmot Basin is also situated about 20 minutes away from Jasper townsite where you would stay. Fernie, Kimberley and Panorama all have newer ski-in/ski-out developments not constrained by National Park rules. Banff is located in Banff National Park and Jasper in Jasper National Park making ski resort expansion a challenge but at the same time maintaing the natural beauty.

The most well known of the ski hills in Canada is of course, Whistler (Whistler and Blackcomb). This resort has huge expanses of terrain for you to explore across two mountains – Whistler and Blackcomb, which are now connected by the new PEAK2PEAK gondola and there are plenty of ski-in/ski-out properties to choose from. Whistler Blackcomb has the greatest ski vertical in North America. However, due to its great vertical, often their may be rain at the base, but head through the clouds to the powder at the top. One thing to note too is that Whistler is NOT in the Canadian Rockies, which is assumed by many. It is actually located in the Coastal Mountains in the west and so receives wetter, heavier snow compared to the resorts located further inland.

Although there are no ski-in/ski-out properties in Banff, Sunshine Village does have a ski-in/ski out hotel at the top of the gondola. The Sunshine Lodge (formally known as the Sunshine Inn), is great for getting those first tracks and had an additional wing added in 2009. In the Banff area, the Sunshine Lodge is the only ski-in, ski-out accommodation.

Kicking Horse, Canada, the second newest resort in Canada (Revelstoke being the first), has the greatest vertical in the Canadian Rockies at 4,133 feet. These runs are steep and if you are lucky, you can experience one of their famed “champagne powder” days. The cold dry air of the Canadian Rockies means that the snow is light and fluffy. This light, dry snow means you will find it hard to make snowballs out of it. You can be in up to your waste in powder and still move freely.

In the Alps, the snow can be a little wetter and heavier on powder days. The resorts too, with some exceptions, are usually lower and milder. The higher resorts in the Canadian Rockies resorts tend to get quite cold particularly in January and February.

In the resorts in the Canadian Rockies, you do not get the Alpine Charm and history you get in the Alps. The best way to describe Canadian Rocky ski resorts are that they are designed to be easy. They’re built so that you can always get back to one central point, the base, so it is hard to get lost. In the Alps, there is more opportunity to go exploring, visiting other countries, but your timing is everything, you miss the last lift up and you are looking at taxis or buses to get back to your starting point over in the other valley.

Ski resorts in the Canadian Rockies have wide valleys and plenty of steep and deep, terrain to challenge most. We have green, blue, black diamond and black double diamond runs. In the Alps, they have the additional red rated runs, which are between our blue and black runs. This means a blue run in the Canadian Rockies can be the equivalent of an easy blue or challenging red in the Alps. Resorts in the Canadian Rockies are a lot more open with wide open pistes.

The weather in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta is mainly sunshine. Based on weather records this has been proved, due to us being located on the east side of the Continental Divide. The Continental Divide acts as a barrier for the weather. To the west, Whistler receives a lot of warm moist air from the Pacific ocean, whereas east of the continental divide, the clouds have much less moisture creating the dry “champagne powder” we mentioned earlier.

So, to conclude, there is no better place to ski, the Alps give you the chance to explore and visit other countries in a day, and experience a wide variety of terrain. The resorts in the Canadian Rockies offer blue skies, dry air, fluffy snow and a less likely chance to get lost!

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Review of Snow Conditions in Ski Resorts for 2010 and 2011

As ski resorts across France struggle to stay open until the end of the season due to lack of snow and unseasonably high temperatures and rain up to 2000 metres, resorts across America are recording record snow falls and planning to stay operational until June. With many blaming the poor snow across Europe on global warning, it is unclear what the future holds for ski resorts in the Alps. Already many of the glaciers are a fraction of the size they used to be and snow uncertain.

The 2010/2011 ski season started off with much promise right across Europe. November saw unusually cold weather with significant snow falls across many parts of the Alps, including Courchevel ski resort in the heart of the French Alps and into the UK. Record low temperatures were recorded in Wales and there were many severe weather warnings. The cold front moved out from Siberia and brought snow storms to the Alps by the end of November and at the start of December the UK was paralysed by heavy snow falls and it was the coldest winter on record in the UK for over 100 years.

Heavy snow fell right across Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France through out December, causing much disruption to the roads and airports with Geneva airport being shut on more than one occasion and many towns across France paralysed by snow. It appeared to be a promising start to the ski season with a good early cover of snow on the ski runs.

Unfortunately the New Year brought little by way of further snow in Courchevel, France and days and weeks of sunny weather and blue skies, meant ski resorts started to suffer with hard packed snow and icey conditions.

However, on the other side of the ocean, America saw heavier snow falls than average and lower temperatures. Squaw Valley announced it would be staying open until the end of May due to the highest accumulation of snow on record (over seventeen metres) and many other resorts across America are experiencing late season snow falls and great conditions.

Back in Europe, France especially, temperatures of well over 20 degrees in the sun and even 7 or 8 degrees at well over 2000 metres saw the snow melt quickly and piste conditions turned to rocky and patchy. France has been experiencing spring conditions since the end of February, with many pistes closed a month before the end of the season.

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