CANADIAN SKI & SNOWBOARD VACATION EXPERTS

What time zone are the ski resorts in BC?

All of British Columbia, from Vancouver Island in the east, to the border with Alberta is in the Pacific Time Zone (GMT -8:00). This includes the ski resorts of Whistler, Whitewater, Big White, Sun Peaks, SilverStar, RED Resort, Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, Panorama, Kimberley and Fernie.

All of the province of Alberta, is in the Mountain Time Zone (GMT-7:00). This includes the ski resorts of Marmot Basin/Jasper, Banff – Mt Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise.

Daylight Saving Time is in effect from 2am on the second Sunday in March until 2am on the first Sunday in November.


Currency and Taxes

The Canadian dollar (CAD) is the official currency, with notes in denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5. Coins are in denominations of $2 (known as a “toonie”), $1 (“loonie”), 25¢ (“quarter”), 10¢ (“dime”) and 5¢ (“nickel”).


Tipping

When it comes to tipping in Canada, yes, it is expected; and no, it is usually not included in the bill. Tipping 15-20% of the bill (before tax) is standard at restaurants, bars and pubs, along with hair salons and spas. Taxi drivers are usually tipped around 10%, while porters usually receive $1 – $2 CAD per piece of luggage.


Q #1: You might ask how much does a ski holiday cost? How much does it cost to ski in Canada?

Well, like all holidays and vacations,  our team likes to take the approach that anything is possible, and we will work to get the best bang for your buck!

It can be five star luxe all the way, mid-range value, or budget and backpacking. It’s up to you, your significant other, or your bank manager! Seriously though, as a rule of thumb, for a mid-range family ski holiday for a family of four, allow around of $700 – $900 a night for your accommodation lodging AND daily lift passes for four.  Of course, there are less expensive options, and more luxurious alternatives.  

In the bigger resorts like Whistler and Banff, you will be spoiled for choice in lodgings – aspects to consider which impact cost include location, proximity to the ski lifts, self-contained condominiums, with cooking facilities, and the ever welcome hot tub, are all factors to consider. Or, maybe it’s a hotel bed to lay your head on after a day on the slopes. All these considerations  play a factor in the pricing. Some resorts offer bed and breakfast style accommodation, however very few lodgings in Canadian ski resorts offer the European-style ‘full board’ packages. 

You’ll also have to budget for ski and snowboard rentals to, and airport shuttles if you are not driving to the resort. 

If you’re having to add in airfares a snow holiday costs can start to add up. Here are a few local tools and tips to avoid the tourist traps, to save your money and make the most of your ski holiday

Snow How Tip: Don’t forget to allow for taxes. In Canada, all pricing is ‘excluding’ tax, and you need to factor in another 5-16% depending on the services, and provincial taxes. Alberta is GST free, saving you 5% straight up in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper/Marmot Basin.

# Take advantage of Earlybird season passes – usually on sale from April-June by all resorts, and great value if you are planning on skiing or snowboarding for a week or longer.  Some resorts offer multi-resort deals like the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass. If you buy in advance, however you can generally save $200-300 a pass,  that would otherwise cost you over $1000.

# Shop local in the ski town before you head up the mountain to your resort.  It’s way cheaper, and usually more choices as well. 

#Ask us about some of the smaller we recommend, like Whitewater, Red Resort, Fernie and Panorama, and ski or snowboard like a local does. They may not be on the A-lister’s must-ski bucket list, but you will love the small town vibes, locals’ value, and uncrowded terrain.


Q #2: How do I plan a ski holiday in Canada?

So you’ve been tasked with planning a ski holiday for your family or friends, and thinking where do I start?  We know it can be a little daunting, with so many aspects to consider.  Which country? Which ski resort? How do I snow how good the snow will be? What sort of accommodation should we book?  What resort will suit our ability?  Where do I start? 

It might feel like you in a jigsaw puzzle, with the pieces scattered all over the table, and where do you start? We can help, piece your ski holiday jigsaw together!   

Start with the resort and time of year to book your ski vacation. Pick the right one and be hailed forever as the best ever holiday organiser. Choose the wrong one and you could spend your holiday carrying your skis down a steep slope after an exhausting day fighting the bumps.  You’ll be the snow bunny buying the drinks at the bar!

Do your homework before you choose. Things to consider in choosing the perfect resort:

  • What is the skill level or experience of your party?

Things you need to think about. Does the resort have adequate beginner areas if you have first-timers or little ones with you?  Mid-tier smaller resorts like Big White, SilverStar, and Sun Peaks are ideal, with purpose built beginner areas. 

If your group are the ‘steep and deep’ skiers, looking for the adrenalin rush, then resorts like Kicking Horse, aptly named, along with Revelstoke and Whistler are most likely the best fit. 

If you are looking for a resort that has something for everyone, with perfectly groomed blues, loads of après, then head to Banff, and Whistler as well.

Going with snowboarders? If there’s a lot of flat terrain, link runs, or cat tracks,  they’ll have to un-clip and push often, and you’ll hear about it over a beer! 

Check the skill and experience level of your group and look up the stats of the number of green, blue and black runs to gauge what skill level each cater best for. Some resorts have a great mix of all three, with choices of all three levels from the top of each chairlift. This is perfect for a varied group. You can ride the chair together, then ski or snowboard down on a run that suits you, your confidence and skill. 

If small town local vibe is important, and you might like a road trip – RED Resort, Whitewater, Fernie and Panorama should be on your wish list, where history blends with winter, and adventure and small town hospitality abound. 

  • What time of year do you want to travel?  What months can you ski in Canada?

Early season (late November to mid December can be truly great value, but make sure you do your homework on resorts in Canada that enjoy reliable early season snowfalls, such as Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper Marmot Basin.  

Of course a white Christmas is one of those bucket list items you may want to tick off, with Santa’s sleigh bells ringing, turkey with all the trimmings and torchlight parades through the Christmas lights of sparkling villages like SilverStar, Big White and Sun Peaks. The internationally renowned Whistler Blackcomb and Banff Lake Louise will have every imaginable white Christmas experience – from sleigh rides with Santa, Christmas carollers, and even skiing with Santa.  Be aware, once you hit the holiday seasons, “peak”  doesn’t only mean mountains, in means dollars as well, so do keep that in mind when budgeting for your vacation.

January in the Canadian ski resorts is the time we see the influx of our Australian and New Zealand clients, escaping their hot summer southern hemisphere, to enjoy the winter wonderland of the BC and Alberta ski resorts.  This month is typically great value, great skiing, and no queues, The days are short, with metres of snow, to go skiing and snowboarding. 

February  can be very busy, as well as quiet, depending upon the week.  Each year, Canadians head to the mountains for their Spring Break. For British Columbian’s its usually the 12-19th February .With half-term holidaymakers hitting the slopes, prices shoot up as well. Our advice, if you want the mountains to yourself, and you don’t have children, avoid Spring Beak with their high prices and busy piste, and choose a week in February with longer days and great snow. The larger resorts like Whistler Blackcomb, a two-hour drive from Vancouver are really at their best during February. Loads of snow, huge variety of lodging, and terrain to suit all levels of ability as well as your après ski plans.

Spring skiing bursts onto the calendar in  March with longer days and warmer weather. There is another “Spring Break” for eastern Canadians (around 12-19 March), and we find our clients from Toronto and the east, love to come skiing for spring break in BC and Alberta, so prices do spike during this week. If you can come either side of Spring Break, March is perfect for having the best of après ski, leisurely lunches and late drinks on sun terraces on the run back to resort.  However, these high temperatures can also mean slightly slushy conditions on the lower piste.

Easter – can we plan to ski at Easter? Yes is the short answer. Once April hits think spring skiing with long sunny days, and softer snowy slopes by the afternoon, and après aplenty.  Our advice is book the resorts that are in the Rocky Mountains, with altitude.  Jasper Marmot Basin and Lake Louise are great options at this time of year. If you have kids, Easter is your last chance to ski with quieter piste than February half term. The earlier Easter falls the better the snow conditions.

Our team at Ski Holidays and Tours have skied every ski resort in Canada we recommend, so we can provide the local knowledge and first hand advice.

Ask us for our advice. Together we can plan the best ever ski holiday.


Q #3: What type of accommodation are you looking for?

At all the ski resorts in Canada we recommend, you can live it up in luxe apartments, hotels or lodges, or opt for self-catered condominiums, budget hotels and backpacker hostel lodging. These days, ski resorts have a wonderful diversity in their accommodation options, to suit every budget and wish list. 

Unlike the European chalet full board, dinner, bed and breakfast ski holiday lifestyle, most Canadian accommodation is either condo or hotel style.  

Condo’s provide flexibility of staying in at the end of the ski day, to cook for yourself, and generally keep your holiday costs in check, as eating out frequently in resort, can add up.  

Hotels are usually ‘room only’ but many often kitchenette facilities to at least allow you to rustle up a hearty breakfast before you hit the slopes. 

The most important question is location. Is it ski-in, ski-out? Is it close to the slopes or the bars? Is it close to the ski lifts? If yes, are you willing to pay the extra for these perks? Is the extra cost associated with a ski-in, ski-out location worth it to you and your party? Is there a shuttle bus service if I need to get around? Can ski equipment can be stored in lockers or ski valet offered to save you lugging your gear every day. 


Q #4: Do we need ski lessons, and do we need to book in advance?

Whether you’re a ‘never-ever’ first timer, skied a few times, or a regular and keen enthusiast, our advice is take a lesson. Ski and snowboard equipment and technology has changed enormously over the past couple of decades, and the lesson tips most likely have also evolved and changed. 

A few pointers and coaching will help you get the most out of your week. If you or anyone in your party is looking for some lessons or guiding on your holiday then we do recommend we help you investigate the options before you arrive in resort.  We usually have a list of recommended instructors at each resort, to ensure the best fit for you. As well, during peak times like Christmas and Spring Breaks, ski schools get booked up early, so our advice is don’t leave booking until the last minute.

In all Canadian resort, instructors are qualified under the CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance) or similar peak international accreditation, speak English, and many staff are multi-lingual.  Each resort offers a variety of private, semi-private and group lessons and programs for kids, teens, parents, ladies groups, as well as special interest tuition for activities such as cross-country skiing, free-ride, terrain park and bumps.


Q #5: What equipment do I need to bring. Should we hire or buy?

We are asked this question by many of our clients. To some extent, this depends on how often you ski each year, how much money you have to invest,  and what level of skier you are.

Our advice is to firstly focus on  your ski boots. This is the most critical piece of equipment, whatever your age, whatever your ability. Rental boots are generally ‘one size’ fits all, and not moulded to your feet, and can either be too tight, too loose – which is just a bad an outcome. The truth is, a professional fitted ski or snowboard boot should fit like a glove – warm, comfortable, and supportive, and if fitted correctly, will make your ski experience far better. Anyone who has suffered circulation issues, squished toes, or sloppy boots, will agree to our position of the importance of optimum comfort and fit.

Our advice, find a professional boot fitter, and ideally in the ski resort, so that any niggles can be ironed out during the week. 

Once you know you are a committed skier or boarder, and you plan for repeat winter adventures, then you may want to consider purchasing your own skis or board. You do have to consider and compare the costs of hiring the latest release gear each year, and being able to swap out gear to try out different brands and styles of gear, versus the cost and convenience of travel and transporting your own equipment.   

Must have items that you will need to purchase include good quality goggles, gloves, ski socks, thermals, mid layers, ski trousers, ski jacket, and a buff or bandana. 

We recommend everyone wears a helmet when skiing or boarding. Check each resorts safety policy as well. You can rent helmets if you choose to, but many people prefer to bring their own. Not sure where to start when it comes to packing for a ski trip? 


Q #6: Are ski holidays a good idea for families with kids?

Yes, yes, Yes. We may be a little biased, but in our mind family ski holidays are just the best. It’s all about making memories in a magical winter wonderland. Picture yourself here – Snow covered chalets, fir trees encrusted in   snow experience with your family, whether you are skiers or just wanting to have a


Q #7: Can we bring the kids along?

Over the years, Ski Holidays and Tours has many many families on ski holidays to Canada, to a variety of ski resorts and destinations. 

If you are planning on taking the kids on your next ski trip, we can advise which resorts are ‘family friendly’, accommodation that is perfect for families, and destinations that are geared up and fun for the kids, and you too! We’ll tell you all day care and creche options, dedicated kids ski schools, after ski care,  babysitters and more. Some of our resort partners off ‘kids ski free deals’ as well.   

As with all family holidays, a ski holiday and associated travel can have its challenges. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun. By helping you properly beforehand, to take out all the little bumps along the way, we can  ensure a hassle free holiday for the entire family. Remember its your holiday as much as your kids holiday!


Q #8: WHEN SHOULD CHILDREN START SKIING?

Introducing your child to skiing or snowboarding, or even just snow play, is hands down, an exciting milestone for you and your family. Our founder, Sue Thorley can attest to this herself, introducing skiing to her two young children from age 4 & 6.  

Assuming you are a keen skier yourself, we understand you are equally keen and enthusiastic to get your kids on the slopes as early as possible so that together, you can all  start enjoying ski holidays as a family. But when exactly should your child start skiing? Although there isn’t one definitive answer for every child, this is when we recommend children start skiing.

Children can start skiing in our group lessons from age 4, and private lessons can be from age 2-1/2 – 3 depending on the child, their development and the ski resort. The child’s physical development, social skills with other children and adults, as well as the ability to listen to instructions are all considerations, in deciding if your child is ready and old enough to give skiing a go! Remember its all about having fun. If they have fun, they will learn, and learn to love skiing.

Ask yourself:

Will they be comfortable with an instructor? Do they have experience in preschool or daycare where they are used to interacting with other children and different adults?

  • How well do they listen and take direction well? 

How long can they last in the snow? If your child is not used to being outside in the cold for long periods of time, it will be a challenge for them. If they are a small frame and body weight they may feel the cold even more. 

Kids ski schools across Canadian ski resorts have designed kids ski programs and lessons that get it just right for the little ones.  Lessons cannot be too long. The littlies get cold and tired. All the ski gear can make them feel awkward, and their motor skills are still developing. Specialist instructors, always make sure their first experience is fun and positive. 

There is no definitive age that is perfect for each child to learn to ski, and this is proven by the ski resorts themselves – some resorts start child lessons at 3 years, 4 years or 5 years of age. You know your child best, so take these factors, into consideration when deciding when they should put on their first pair of skis – with your help of course! 

The day care centres and creches are a great starting point for those younger tots, and many allow time for them to have outdoor supervised snow plaly as their first experience of that white fluffy cold stuff, called snow!

  • Should I teach my child or put them in a lesson?

Our advice? Always put your children into ski school lessons for their first ski lesson. Let the experts do their job! And you can take the time to hit the slopes yourself ! Seriously though, stating the obvious, there are serious benefits from putting your children in a lesson for their first ski experience.

First and foremost, the ski instructors are professionals. They’re fully CSIA  or equivalent trained, and have a toolkit brimming with perfect exercises, techniques, and teaching tricks for young ones. Remember they learn by having fun, the proven and optimal way to learn to ski. They also get to interact with other children of the same age and ability.

It’s all about fun – there’s more to a family ski holiday than skiing.  Relive your childhood  – Stop and build a snowman, make snow angels, have a snowball fight. Again, it’s all about getting them to love skiing so that when they’ve developed more physically, they’re keen and rearing to get going. Oh, and when age permits, they’ll discover après and probably love that too!! Just saying. 

Worried about their safety? Don’t be. We’ve got tips to help you ski safely with kids.


SKIING SAFELY WITH KIDS

Skiing safely with kids is one of our top priorities. Here are our top tips to stay safe on the hill. (Canadian expression for the mountain)

Top Kids Safe Skiing Tips:

  • Always stop on the side of the ski run and be sure not to stop underneath a drop or else oncoming skiers won’t see you over the rise.
  • Look around when skiing across an intersection as skiers are coming from all directions. And make sure you look up the slope before you set off.
  • Make sure kids are wearing helmets, protective eyewear and sunscreen (even on the overcast days). Remember kids get cold easily – make sure they wear layers so that they can add or remove any as needed.  
  • Take extra care on the chairlift with kids. Ensure they sit close to you and help them on and off. Safe chairlift riding recommends the adults are on either side of the young ones if there is more than one adult. You can also ask the lifties to give you a hand. They are happy to slow down or even stop the lift to get the little ones on, when they are newbies. They are there for your safety  and they’ve done it before with a smile and helping hand.
  • Always have an adult or experienced skier ‘tailgate’ your group – by that we mean, having that skier as the last skier, always able to help any kids who may have fallen or lost their group. 
  • Make sure you have regular breaks to get warm, have some refreshments and recharge the energy. Hot chocolate with marshmallows is a must-do treat. 
  • Make sure your kids have your contact details in their jacket, in case you get separated for any reason.

Skiing together as a family is really special, and something you can enjoy together for many years to come. Stay safe out there but most importantly, have fun!


Q #9: Can I book a ski holiday if I don’t know how to ski yet?

Yes, absolutely. Whether you want to learn to ski or snowboard, or rather just enjoy the ambience of a ski resort, the choice yours. If you are keen to learn for the first time, ski resorts offer first timer and ‘never ever’ learn to ski programs for guests of all ages. Often resorts will offer great deals including your lift pass and rental equipment. 

We would recommend you pre-book a multiday lesson package, to really give your learn to ski experience the best shot!

Our team at Ski Holidays and Tours can guide you on resorts that are best suited for first timers and beginner skiers and snowboarders across Canada.  

For other enquiries or concerns, contact our team at Ski Holidays and Tours.