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Monday, March 5, 2018

Skiing Norquay - Banff - Alberta, Canada

Remember all those wonderful things I said about skiing Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise Ski Resort?  Well, this isn't going to be like that...  

Let me start by saying, I wanted to Love Norquay - I mean I really wanted to love it.  I read it was a "locals favorite" full of "steeps" and "great snow".  I envisioned Norquay to be like Utah's Brighton, the smaller local mountain (which truly is a local favorite) known for its cheap tickets, good snow and fun terrain.   I didn't need anything fancy- the beautiful lodges are nice but I am happy to sacrifice the glitter for great terrain, a low key feel, and good snow.  This was just...... sucky. 

In the mountains defense, it was "negative something" on the thermostat (does it even matter when it dips below 0F?  COLD is COLD) and it was Saturday on a holiday weekend.  This day and resort wasn't exactly set up for success, but there was just nothing going right for this mountain on this day for these skiers. 

We got to the mountain a little late, which resulting in us having to park in the far lot and wait for the tractor (that was not coming) to pick us up.  We ended up hauling our ski gear over and started the day with a few disappointing runs.  The mountain was confusing and hard to get around.  It was an endeavor to get from one peak/area to the next, requiring several slow (I mean slooooow) lifts to get around.   The snow was not good, with a lot of icy hard sections on confusing trails.  While I try to have patience for beginners, this mountain had trails of beginners and advanced skiiers dangerously crossing over narrow paths and blind spots.  The steep part I was so eager to ski?  Those lifts apparently weren't running that day so we weren't getting over to one whole section of an already small mountain.   

Overall we got such mixed reviews. What I read online was "great local mountain!" and then what I heard in person got even more mixed. "Usually I would say don't waste your Ski Big 3 pass on it but the snow is great now" and then a "Yeah, don't bother".  But sometimes when traveling, we need to experiences places and things for ourselves, and formulate our own opinions. 

And of course, as I mentioned in my other ski posts, experiences can be very conditional-dependent on snow conditions and weather.   It isn't entirely fair to compare Norquay on a Saturday of a holiday weekend to Sunshine Village on a Wednesday after fresh snow.  But at the same time, there were things that could be fixed and are cannot be blamed on snow and weather.  To me, the layout of the mountain was one of those that just didn't make sense and really left a bad taste in my mouth.  The one perk? The van competition going on and being able to watch the snowboarders freestyle.  Before I keep on complaining (forgive me for today's whiney post) let's share some mountain facts:

Mt. Norquay is located 6 kilometres (4 miles) from the town of Banff

Transportation: Daily bus service from Banff (Schedule).
Area Elevation: Base – 1680 metres (5,500 feet) Top – 2450 metres (8,040 feet)
Vertical Drop: 503 metres (1,650 feet)
Slopes/Terrain: Vertical Rise – 503 metres (1,650 feet) Longest Run – 1167 metres (3,828 feet)
Skiable Terrain: 60 runs spread over 190 acres
Lifts: 1 High speed quad chairlift 2 Fixed grip quad chairlifts 1 Double chairlift 1 Surface lift
Total Lift Capacity: 7,000 people per hour
Average Snowfall: 300 cm (120 inches)
Snowmaking: 85% of skiing terrain

For lunch we attempted to stop in the main lodge, only to see the masses bulging out through the doors with many guests enjoying their lunch on the floor (first time I have experienced chaos of this scale).  After a failed lunch attempt, we decided to skip it all together and just ski a few runs and head back to the condo for lunch.  Norquay, we just weren't having it. 

We tried to love you Norquay, but it just didnt happen for us.  My advice?  Don't waste your Ski Big 3 pass on Norquay and if you must try it, try the night tubing or just buy a pass to ski a few hours.  

A bad ski day didn't bring us down for we had big plans for the next day, it was my 30th birthday and the day was set up perfectly: a morning hike at Johnston Canyon before taking a dog sled tour to the Continental Divide and crossing over into British Columbia quick.  Stay tuned. 

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