Let It Snow: Winter Thrills Across Canada
By Susie Henderson
Whether you’re snowshoeing in Québec, whirling around a frozen Albertan lake or plunging into powder bowls in BC, Fairmont lets you experience Canada’s top ski resorts and most exhilarating winter activities.
A Magical Winter, Québecois-Style
More than 100 ski runs of all levels weave across the slopes of Tremblant resort, tucked amid the forested Laurentian Mountains. If it’s your first time sliding on snow, a choice of group or private lessons means you’ll find yourself confidently zigzagging down gentle trails in no time. For a slower pace, you can pad across the white stuff using the extensive network of snowshoeing routes crisscrossing the resort and the surrounding Parc national du Mont-Tremblant. Rentals and guided tours are available. Or you could browse high-end outdoor brands as well as stylish fashion and lifestyle stores in the colourfully painted pedestrian village. Fairmont Tremblant is the resort’s only ski-in ski-out hotel, putting you at the heart of the action.
For anyone hankering after a traditional lodge with a roaring fire, Fairmont Le Château Montebello is the world’s biggest log cabin, with elegant rooms and a cozy central lounge. Winter packages include credits for snowmobiling and the hotel spa, where you can enjoy distinctly Canadian therapies like a maple forest hand treatment before relaxing by the fireplace. Outside, you can whoosh through the woods on a dogsledding excursion or snuggle beneath a blanket on a leisurely horse-drawn sleigh ride. The hotel’s golf course transforms into a snowy playground for cross-country skiers, while expert curling instructors are on hand if you fancy learning how to slide a stone across the ice.
Farther east, the riverside Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is just a 20-minute drive from the Mont Grand-Fonds ski area. This winter, the hotel has a special family ski offer including 20% off overnight accommodation, plus ski passes, breakfast and indoor parking, meaning you won’t need to worry about digging out your car. Once at the mountain, you can whiz down alpine trails or explore more than 140 km of cross-country routes with warming huts offering complimentary hot drinks and chicken broth. The region is also a hub for snowmobiling adventures. Whether you’re a complete novice or are ready to let rip on challenging slopes, the hotel’s on-site tour operator, Nord Expé, will guide you to the best snow stashes. Back at the hotel, you can soothe muscles in your choice of indoor or outdoor pools and hot tubs.
Sliding and Gliding in the Rockies
Over in the Rocky Mountains, champagne powder awaits. A stay at Fairmont Banff Springs, set amid pine-clad slopes and craggy peaks in Banff National Park, puts you within easy reach of natural wonders like Johnston Canyon. In winter, vast frozen waterfalls and icicles fill this steep-sided chasm, which you can explore using walkways attached to the canyon wall. It’s worth wearing crampons to ensure good traction. The closest ski resort to Banff is Norquay, where you can carve turns beneath the stars at weekend night skiing sessions or speed downhill in an inflatable snow tube at the mountain’s eight-lane park. A buzzing après-ski scene includes atmospheric spots like the hotel’s Waldhaus Restaurant, dishing up a delicious 3-course fondue in snug, Bavarian-style surrounds.
It’s less than an hour’s drive from here to Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which is tempting guests with free nights and generous activity credits this winter, meaning you can maximize your time on the snow. Things don’t get much more quintessentially Canadian than skating across the frozen lake itself, open from mid-December through mid-April, while elaborately carved sculptures adorn the ice during the Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition in late January. Mountain adventure guides run various snowshoeing and cross-country tours, including a Night Owl Snowshoe experience, where you can strap on a headlamp and amble through startlingly silent woods, keeping an eye out for constellations like Orion.
North along the spectacular Icefields Parkway, historic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is providing guests with free lift passes to Marmot Basin as part of its winter deal. The ski area, whose season extends through May, has an exciting mix of chutes, bowls and moguls for advanced skiers, plus plenty of mellow runs for beginners. Not a skier? You can unleash your inner child and fly down the hotel’s groomed tobogganing hill or soar high above Jasper National Park’s arresting mountainous landscape on a helicopter tour. And if you thought cycling was a summer sport, think again. Fat tire bikes let you explore peaceful, snowy trails alongside Lake Annette and the Trefoil Lakes, with rentals available at the lodge.
West Coast Wonderland
When it comes to skiing in Canada, Whistler Blackcomb is arguably the king, offering a whopping 200-plus runs across more than 8,000 acres. Fairmont Chateau Whistler sits just steps from a beginners’ area with conveyor belt-style lifts and right next to the high-speed Blackcomb Gondola, which whisks you into the alpine zone for access to phenomenal terrain. Off the slopes, visitors can zip-line above old-growth rainforest or zoom downhill at speeds of up to 125 kph on the Olympic bobsleigh track. Stores with outdoorsy labels like Columbia, Helly Hansen and Patagonia line the walkable village, while the Audain Art Museum showcases renowned BC artists such as Emily Carr in a striking wood-and-metal building. After a day about town or on the mountain, the sleek Mallard Lounge is the perfect spot to unwind over cocktails and charcuterie plates.
At the southern end of the Sea-to-Sky Highway, Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver can set you up with a package including accommodation, a day ticket to Grouse or Cypress mountains and an après-ski drink. It’s a short hop from the lively downtown district to these popular local ski areas, which offer panoramic views of the city, sea and Vancouver Island on clear days. Besides skiing, Grouse has a mountaintop ice rink and illuminated walk, while kids love Gnarly’s Tube Park at Cypress.
For the 2020-21 season, many Canadian ski resorts require visitors to reserve a spot ahead of time. If you’re planning to ski during your winter vacation, be sure to secure specific dates on the official resort websites.
Excited to hit the snow? Check out Fairmont’s winter packages for more inspiration.
OR take advantage of the Fairmont Zoomer Offer:
Visit www.fairmont.com/americas/zoomer and receive 10% off, a $50 Food & Beverage Credit per stay, on a 2 night minimum stay at any of the participating Fairmont properties.
OR take advantage of the Fairmont CARP Offer:
Visit www.fairmont.com/americas/carp and receive a complimentary night, on a minimum 3, 4, or 5 night stay at any of the participating Fairmont properties.
ALL Safe and Well. We are committed to ensuring that you stay safe and stay well in all of our hotels. Learn more about our All Safe and Well sanitation program and standards at ALLSafeandWell.com.
Susie Henderson is passionate about travelling and has written articles and travel guides for numerous publications and websites, including the World Travel Guide, Sky News online, MSN Travel, Mail Travel, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. She’s lived in the UK, France, Spain and the US and is now based in Victoria, BC.