Banff is hardly a secret. But come winter, it sure feels like one. Banff National Park boasts 2,564 square miles of protected Rockies, emerald alpine lakes, and some of the best skiing in Canada—but the place is empty when the powder hits. Bonus: Rooms are half what they go for in the summertime.
1 - The Trans-Canada Highway careens across Alberta, up and over the Continental Divide, straight through the park. Take the two-lane Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise. “This is a national park, not Disneyland,” says Banff–Lake Louise ski school director Paul Thrasher. “There’s hardly any development” (lift ticket, $72; skibig3.com). Watch the sun sink while soaking at Banff Upper Hot Springs ($7), then retire to the grand Fairmont Banff Springs (doubles from $286).
2 - Keep an eye out for moose and wolves along the Kicking Horse River as you head west to Golden, BC, and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort ($73). If the ski area’s 4,133 vertical feet aren’t enough, hook up with Purcell Helicopter Skiing, which flies into 750 square miles of backcountry pasted with 500 inches of powder a year ($675).
3 - Continue West through the Columbia Mountains and Glacier National Park, over off-piste hot spot Rogers Pass to Revelstoke Mountain Resort, home to North America’s biggest vertical (5,620 feet) and the adrenaline-inducing steeps of North Bowl. By February, the powder base will be at least five feet. At day’s end, drive 45 miles south along Upper Arrow Lake (which you cross by ferry) to the luxurious cabins and mineral pools of Halcyon Hot Springs (doubles from $99).
—Text by Pieter Van Noordennen; Map by Michael Byers