If you’re a skier or a snowboarder, visiting Canada is probably at the top of your bucket list. When it comes to destinations, you’re spoiled for choice—Whistler, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Revelstoke, and many more—all offering quality terrain, a variety of speedy groomers, epic tree zones, snowy bowls, and so much more. A Canadian vacation is truly heaven on earth for those who love snow.
Even non-skiers can enjoy their time on a vacation like this. While it’s obviously going to be cold and powdery on the mountains, every top spot has a plethora of shopping, dining, cultural and partying options, and often at much more comfortable temperatures than up in the thick of it.
Convinced that you need to spend a ski holiday in Canada? It won’t be cheap, but with the favorable exchange rate, you’ll find that a snow-focused trip to Canada is more affordable than many of its US counterparts. Here’s what you’ll need to budget to make it come together.
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Whistler is a popular place; unsurprisingly, accommodations can get pricey in high season. If you’re looking for a deal, consider booking a trip before the Christmas rush or in April. The snow in shoulder seasons can be surprisingly good; you might even be one of the lucky ones who catch fresh powder late in the season.
There are essentially two options for accommodations: hotels or condo/town home rentals. Hotels have the benefit of being centrally located with plenty of amenities (including ski valet, shuttle services, and daily cleaning). Many will offer deals if you book longer stays (e.g. book three nights, get the fourth free). Condo rentals are typically more spacious and can be a more affordable option for families. Contact local property managers for a seamless rental transaction.
Whichever you choose, book early – accommodations have been known to sell out throughout the entire town around busy times like Christmas, spring break, and prime weekends in the winter.
A day pass is your ticket to the most skiable terrain in North America, so get out there and enjoy it as much as you can. Be sure to grab a trail map before you go, so you don’t spend your first day orienting yourself. Lift tickets are an unavoidable expense, but you can save money by buying them ahead of time online. The more days you book, the more you save.
Tip: unless you’ll be skiing a lot prior to your holiday, don’t buy a lift ticket for every single day of your trip – you’ll need a day or two to rest those sore muscles and to explore the area you’re visiting.
You are welcome to bring your own gear with you, but if you’d rather skip the hassle and expense of oversized luggage, it’s easy to rent it once you get to town. Just bring your clothing and outerwear, and you can rent the rest. Every snow town will have several local shops that provide rentals, or you can borrow directly when you arrive at the slopes. Consider splurging for premium rentals, which provide you with top of the line equipment fitted by qualified experts.
Again, you can benefit from decent savings (up to a third off) if you book ahead of time online, and the more days you rent for, the less expensive it works out to be per day.
As is often the case in resort towns, food doesn’t come cheap. (Even picking up groceries at the grocery store will set you back more than usual.) Many popular ski areas have larger grocery stores, you just have to travel a little farther to get to them.
If you want to make the most of your vacation, budget to splurge on a fancy meal at least once, and make sure you check out mid-range pubs and restaurants, too. You’ll also want to ensure you have snacks on you, and a good handle on where the best on-the-go eats (O Canada, O Poutine!) can be found when you’re gassed from the mountain and hungry beyond belief.
Entertainment and activities
Not everything is expensive in Canada’s ski towns. You’ll always be able to find free and cheap shows to attend, and if you’re visiting in high season, try to plan around the popular festivals that each spot holds, like Jasper in January, or the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler. And like any vacation destination, pubs and bars are the best places to catch local musicians showing their stuff, and free festivals and events take place throughout the winter season.
However, you will want to budget for a few off-piste activities, particularly if you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Most ski vacation spots offer bobsledding, dog sledding and snowmobiling, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, look out for places to zip line or bungee jump.
Whether you’re recovering from too many runs on the mountain or too many pints at the pub, there are plenty of opportunities to relax and recover in Canada’s snow towns. Look out for spas that offer therapeutic hot and cold baths and pools; they’re about as common as Starbucks in Seattle. If you’re not up for a soak, grab a juice or smoothie, call it a day, and head back to your accommodations to relax.
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