By some estimates, climate change could cut American ski seasons in half by 2050, thanks to less snow on the slopes. But it’s not all doom and gloom. In maple leaf country, the fluffy stuff is still falling—hard. So if you want guaranteed powder, look no further than our neighbor upstairs and pack your bags for these killer Canadian ski resorts.
The Last Great Mountain Town
Jasper, population 5,000, is situated in the heart of 4,200-square-mile Jasper National Park, Canada’s largest. As such, the town mostly caters to summer tourists who come to explore the wide river valleys and high peaks when the wildflowers are in bloom. In winter, though, practically the only people left are locals and diehard skiers from Edmonton (four hours away), who flock to the low-key village to take advantage of the open runs and empty lifts at 1,720-acre Marmot Basin, the ski resort 15 minutes away. If you’re lucky, you’ll see wolf tracks crossing the road on the way to the resort. Or maybe, while boot-packing to the top of Marmot Peak, you’ll spot a herd of caribou off the backside of the mountain. This is to say: The resort, and the town itself, is still wild. It’s the type of place that, while grabbing mid-mountain lunch at Charlie’s Bar, you’ll bump into the guy who, back in the day, first poached the new Tres Hombres Basin, a former out-of-bounds bowl now named for him and his two backcountry buddies. Yes, Jasper in winter may be one of the last great mountain towns, with the wildlife, the characters, and the calm to make it feel like home no matter where you’re from—and you’ll get to experience it for however long you want.
Where to Stay: The Fairmount Jasper Park has every amenity you’d want and extras, too, like nightly Northern Lights viewing parties, complete with hot chocolate and s’mores.
A Canadian Classic
The town of Banff, 90 minutes from Calgary, looks like the scene outside of Santa’s Workshop—if St. Nick’s crew were friendly Canadians eating bison burgers instead of tiny toymakers. The town is a perfect basecamp for accessing world-class powder, as I discovered last winter on a trip with some pals. We skied the first day at Sunshine Village, just 20 minutes from our downtown condo, and one of three resorts nearby. With a base of 5,400 feet, the snow was invariably fluffy and dry, and we spent hours carving virgin powder. The next morning, we hit the lifts at Lake Louise, where the views rival Tahoe on a bluebird day. When our legs burnt out, we retreated to the spa at the historic Fairmont Banff Springs. It was there, while lounging in the mineral pool with drinks in hand, that we vowed never to ski stateside again.
Where to Stay: Not just notable for its spa, the Fairmount Banff is as luxurious as the day it opened in 1880.
Bigger Gets Better
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
This offseason, Whistler Blackcomb, already one of the largest resorts in North America at 8,171 acres, received a $50 million upgrade from parent company Vail Resorts. It was the largest single-year investment in the mountain’s 53-year history, and the results are dramatic: A new, 10-person gondola on Blackcomb Mountain that can whisk upwards of 4,000 skiers per hour up the peak. Vail replaced two other chairlifts, too, swapping in larger, high-speed versions that make it quicker and easier to access every corner of the mountain on what’s now the longest continuous lift system in the world. The on-mountain improvements only solidify Whistler Blackcomb, which gets hit with an average of 415 inches of snow, as Canada’s best resort—one that’s good for families, thanks to 136 green and blue cruisers, and hardcore skiers alike. It’s an easy two-hour drive from Vancouver airport (shuttles are available) and, once in the village, you’ll never need to call an Uber, because the place has it all, from sushi to ski shops to late-night poutine and champagne sabering at the iconic Bearfoot Bistro.
Where to Stay: To keep pace with the resort’s record setting investment, the Fairmont Chateau, located at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, recently finished a $25 million renovation of its own, which added 11 new suites to the hotel and completely overhauled the pool complex, turning it into one of the best in the area.
Where Terrain is King
Revelstoke, British Columbia
This 3,121-acre resort in the Selkirk Mountains has long offered the most vertical in North America, at 5,620-feet. It also offers a great mix of high alpine bowls, groomed terrain, and some of the best tree-skiing in the world. This year, it offers even more, with two new runs in its Ripper Zone, a large, perfectly pitched off-trail area. Revelstoke undertook an extensive off-season glading operation that improved tree spacing with scientific precision, and two new high-tech snowcats will improve the groomed terrain for intermediate skiers. Skiing the thing top to bottom on one of its cruisers is a true, leg-burning rite of passage, and on a powder day—the resort gets 400 inches annually—the best choice is Kill the Banker, the mountain’s iconic double-black run that plunges 2,500 feet directly under the gondola. It’s also one of the few resorts that has snowcat and heli-skiing from the base area. From a pure skiing perspective, Revelstoke really does have it all.
Where to Stay: Village life in Revelstoke veers towards the quiet side, but the recently opened Bison Lodge is a ski-in-ski-out gem, with a fireplace you can climb (with ropes!) and a private heli-pad to take advantage of the incredible heli-skiing terrain surrounding the resort.
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