Everything you need to know before skiing in Banff

Still kicking myself I missed Robbie Burns Day at Sunshine Village.

Most people get their ski on over the winter holidays. Me? I’m always late to the party. I typically don’t start skiing in Banff until end of January and some years it’s as late as the Family Day (also President’s Day) weekend.

Skiing in Banff: How to hack it
Family Day weekend isn’t as busy as you think. The mountain can hold a lot of people.

Because I work for myself and set my own hours, I could technically ski mid-week if I wanted to. Reality is, I’m on school pick up duty, so like most working class stiffs, I’ve become a weekend warrior. Which is fine, actually, because like my Boxing Day shopping prowess, I’ve become an expert at avoiding ski crowds. Here are my secrets for having a fabulous day skiing in Banff.

How to beat the crowds at Sunshine Village

You think I’m going to say, wake up early and get first tracks, don’t you? Reader, don’t you know me at all? I’m not that hyper ski dork AKA The Huz. I like my sleep, my weekend lie-in, my Saturday morning social media scan. If I’m relatively certain I’m hitting a powder day, then yes, I’ll set the alarm and be on the first chairlift. Most of the time, however, I’ll arrive at Sunshine Village around 9:30 am. Sometimes it’s as late as noon, and that’s OK, because there are afternoon rates and I always score a rock star parking from some loser who’s left at lunch.

sunshine village
They should’ve done this pose with skis on, don’t you think?

Skiing in Banff hack #1

But here’s the real secret. You don’t take the gondola up to the main village. You get off at Goat’s Eye. My favourite blue runs are at Goat’s Eye and there’s several green ones, too. It’s not just an expert, Dan Pigat, black run area. I reckon 80% of the skiers and 60% of boarders don’t hit Goat’s Eye until after 1:30 p.m. and therein lies its beauty.

I get off at the Goat’s Eye gondola station and do a few runs on Wolverine to warm up my legs. Then I’ll nip into the Goat’s Eye Grill for a hot chocolate laced with Grand Marnier. No, I do not flask my own in! Though, I do understand how you might get the impression I’m the sort that would. Lately, I’ve been pairing my boozy hot chocolate with a waffle from their new waffle bar. It all depends on my mood and the weather, really.

Yellow pinnies make it easy to spot ski school participants. I try my best to avoid them.

After my motivational beverage, I’m on the Goat’s Eye Express chairlift, and I’m hitting it hard. My favourite run is Sunshine Coast. It typically takes me 15-minutes for the circuit, including the chairlift. After, let’s call it 5 Goat’s Eye runs, I’m ready for lunch. This is when you’re approved (by me) to head up to the Village.

Skiing in Banff hack #2

I try not to eat lunch or hit Sunshine Village proper before 1:30 p.m. That’s my second secret to hacking this ski resort. When people zig, you zag. Why wait in line for a table? Do a few more runs instead. By 1:30 and especially by 2p.m., you can have your pick of seats in any restaurant.

For lunch I’ll for sure have 1-2 glasses of red wine. Please don’t judge. Research shows I’m a MUCH better boarder after imbibing some liquid courage. And I’ll wolf down either a chicken sandwich or their French onion soup, so everyone can happily settle down. By 2:30, I’m back on the slopes. Angel is super quiet at this time of day. Even on weekends! I like Standish and Wawa, too, but I go where the snow is and the peeps ain’t.

These views! Park of the time you’re skiing in British Columbia.

You can either get up early (keener!) and quit early (as it seems 80% of the ski population does). Or, sleep in, get to the hill whenever you feel like it and ski to the end of day. Personally, I prefer the latter.

skiing in banff national park

Yoga classes at Sunshine Village

Like Grand Marnier and hot chocolate, yoga and skiing really is the perfect combo. This Saturday, February 3, 2019 Sunshine Village has a steal of a deal on a one-hour, on-mountain yoga class.

yoga class in Banff
BYOM (mat), but they’ll also have some on hand should you forget.

What’s awesome about ski yoga is that it’s so not competitive. It’s just regular folks peeling off their snow pants and doing yoga in unsexy, lightweight long johns. Better yet, the instructor knows exactly what you’re going to be doing for the next few hours, so poses are designed to stretch and support your ski and snowboarding muscles. You’ll also get spoiled with complimentary KIND Snacks, which are a Robbins/Pigat family favourite.

yoga classes sunshine village
Skiing is a pretty inspirational activity, but when you layer it with yoga, you’ll feel extremely virtuous.

Now you know how to navigate Sunshine Village on any given weekend. If you really want to rock it, you should stay at Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Or cap off your day with a massage on mountain at Verde Day Spa. But if you’re a friend of mine, you ought to text me and we’ll après together.

Do you ski or snowboard? What are your tips for outsmarting others?

You may also be interested in reading:

This is the best snowshoe tour in Banff

25 Awesome adventures in Banff, Lake Louise, Canmore and Jasper

This post is presented in partnership with Sunshine Village. They don’t pay me, but I have greedily accepted ski passes from them. And for sure they don’t edit or review my posts prior to publishing.

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