If Dr. Seuss were to draw a landscape of wild forests and jagged mountains, it would look like the area of Canadian Rockies surrounding Banff. Tucked into Alberta’s wilderness about two hours west of Calgary, Banff is a slice of paradise for winter outdoor enthusiasts of all sorts, not to mention food lovers, wine and whiskey drinkers, hot-springs seekers, history and culture buffs, and anyone who appreciates a spooky, upscale castle. Oh yeah, there’s also the wildlife. It’s not unusual to catch elk, moose, or bear wandering through the flocked pine, across a frozen lake, or even plodding across roads in the middle of town. It's a ski resort town that would be worth a visit if there wasn't a single slope in eyeshot.
About that castle … Banff is home to one of the most impressive-looking hotels in North America: The Fairmont Banff Springs. A stay or visit instills the immediate sensation that you are Harry Potter arriving at Hogwarts, but also offers a long list of every possible amenity found in a mountain resort -- upscale dining, culinary and wine workshops, snowshoe trails, yoga and fitness classes, and yes, elegant and allegedly haunted towers and staircases.
The Banff Upper Hot Springs is another (literal) hot spot, housing multiple thermal pools naturally heated through deep rock layers from the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault. Perched on a peaceful oasis at 5,200 feet, they are the highest operating hot springs in Canada.
The town of Banff is abuzz with coffee shops, gear stores, a performing arts venue, and impressive variety of restaurants and bars, including Park Distillery -- Canada’s only distillery located in a national forest -- and also Banff Ave Brewing, ranked among the best brewpubs in Alberta. The Whyte Museum is another not-to-miss cultural hub, displaying global mountaineering artifacts, death-defying adventure tales, and art exhibits rivaling those found in major city museums.
But let’s get to the skiing. With Banff as a home base, nearby slopes range from sprawling resorts featuring so many trails, you’d be hard-pressed to ski them all in a week to smaller areas which, in spite of their size, offer some of the scariest pitches you’ll ever look down upon, plus unexpected culinary delights. Here are the best ski resorts for every type of skier.