How to get the most bang for your buck with your Ikon ski pass
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There’s nothing quite like a road trip: Setting out on the open road with a world of possibilities at your fingertips. For those who prefer their adventures snow-covered and requiring a pair of skis or snowboard, a Canadian road trip is a must-do experience. And while there are plenty of options for destinations, the Ikon Pass is giving winter sports enthusiasts an excuse to venture above the border for stellar powder pursuits.
Depending on the type of pass you purchase (either Ikon or Ikon Base), it allows for seven or five days of use at 41 different locations across five continents (including unlimited days at 14 resorts in North America). But for an (ahem) epic road trip, set your sights on the Canadian Rockies. With the Ikon Pass as your guide, you can visit four ski resorts — Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Mt. Norquay and Revelstoke — in two provinces. Here’s your trip guide.
Your road trip starts by flying into Calgary International Airport (YYC). Fifteen airlines fly into Calgary including Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta and KLM. There are tons of nonstop flights; routes with one stop are so reasonably priced that you might not want to use your airline points for a free flight. However, if you are looking to cash in some points, play with the calendar of fares as there are some deals to be had.
Once you’ve landed in Calgary, pick up your chariot for the trip. At-the-airport car rental companies include Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, National, Thrifty and Dollar. When you’re picking out your vehicle, be sure to take into consideration the fact that you will be encountering winter driving conditions. All-wheel or four-wheel drive is helpful and be sure to request snow tires; chains can be a useful purchase to help navigate the roads.
Pay with: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare booked directly with the airline), Citi Prestige® Card (5x on airfare), Citi Premier℠ Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on airfare), American Express® Gold Card (3x on airfare when booked directly with the airline) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel)
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On the Road
Now that you’re ready to roll, here’s your recommended itinerary. You can spend as much time as you like, from four-day-weekend, road warrior style to long and leisurely.
Destination One: Mt. Norquay
Travel distance: 90 miles from YYC
Mountain stats: 1,650 vertical feet; 190 acres; 60 runs
Start your adventure at one of the Canadian Rockies’ most beloved gems. This small, family-friendly resort is the perfect place to get your legs warmed up without sacrificing terrain: Mt. Norquay is almost famous for being the training ground of Olympic and World Cup athletes. Plus, Mt. Norquay offers the only night skiing in Banff-Lake Louise, including a fully lit terrain park, so that you don’t have to curtail your day at dark.
Bonus: Want the inside scoop on all of the Ski Big3 mountains? The SkiBig 3 Guided Adventure (a three-day program) includes one day at each resort and is tailored to your style and preference in terrain. In addition to intel from a local, you’ll get lift-line priority, a maple taffy closing celebration, surprise gift and a pass to the Whyte Museum in Banff.
Eat and drink
Get fueled for the day at Whitebark Cafe in Banff (try the frittata). On mountain, the historic Cliffhouse Bistro serves up retro European chalet vibes along with stellar views and don’t miss dinner at Juniper Bistro in the Juniper Hotel, just a 10 minute drive from Mt. Norquay: The views of Banff through the wall-to-wall windows are incredible. Down in Banff, grab an après pint at locals’ favorite, Banff Ave. Brewing Co.
Stay: For easy access to both Mt. Norquay and Banff Sunshine, stay in the cozy town of Banff. Though national chains are scarce (unless you want to splurge on the Fairmont Banff Springs, which is totally worth it), there are several great options in Banff including the Moose Hotel & Suites, which has two spectacular rooftop hot pools.
Destination Two: Banff Sunshine Village
Travel distance: 14 miles from Mt. Norquay
Mountain stats: 3,358 acres; 3,514 vertical feet; 137 runs
Located just a 15 minute-drive from Banff, Banff Sunshine offers skiers and riders three sprawling mountains with plenty of light, dry power (Sunshine can receive up to 30 feet of snow in a season). Here, you’ll find a wide range of terrain to explore from gentle beginner slopes to extreme big mountain runs like Delirium Dive, one of the ten top off-piste destinations in the world.
Eat and drink
For a hearty lunch in between runs, don’t miss the historic Mad Trapper’s Smokehouse (established in 1928), located in the Old Sunshine Lodge – you’re in Canada, so get the poutine. For après and/or dinner back in Banff, Park Distillery offers up “locally sourced campfire-inspired cooking and small-batch spirits distilled in-house.” Go for a handcrafted cocktail and stay for the roasted tomato chili vodka soup. Plant-based and gluten free options are plentiful, too.
Stay: If you want to get first tracks at Sunshine, stay at the sustainable and serene Sunshine Mountain Lodge, the only ski-in, ski-out lodging at Banff Sunshine Village and in Banff National Park.
Destination Three: Lake Louise Ski Resort
Travel distance: 35 miles from Banff Sunshine
Mountain stats: 3,250 vertical feet; 4,200 Acres; 145+ runs
One of the largest ski resorts in North America, Lake Louise Ski Resort’s terrain spreads across four mountain faces and has some of the most spectacular views on the continent. But don’t let the views distract you — you’ll find terrain to tempt even the most picky skier or rider with long cruisers to glades, chutes and wide-open bowls.
Eat and drink
Nothing goes with skiing quite like sushi. Kuma Yama, located in the lodge at the base of the resort, serves incredible sushi and soul warming ramen to satisfy you after a day on the snow.
Bonus: Ski all of the SkiBig3 resorts and then stop by the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub to have your Ikon Pass scanned and validated. Your reward? A coupon for a free pint of beer and an exclusive commemorative SkiBig3 Trifecta award. Last year, more than 2,200 people completed the challenge.
Destination Four: Revelstoke
Travel distance: 180 miles from Banff Sunshine; 265 from Calgary International Airport
Mountain stats: 5620 vertical feet; 3,121 acres; 75 runs
Revelstoke might be one of Canada’s newest resorts (it opened in 2007) but it has a reputation as a beast to conquer. Home to the most vertical in North America at 5,620 ft, Revelstoke also tempts skiers and riders with two high alpine bowls, legendary glades and phenomenal groomers. Looking for even more adventure? Try cat-skiing on the mountain or take a tandem paragliding flight (on skis!) right from the slopes.
Eat and drink
After a full day of powder hunting, there are plenty of places to après and fill up. Taco Club, which started as a food truck, now serves up awesome Latin street food in their brick and mortar location in Revelstoke. Bierhouse has a great vibe; the newest craft brewery in town, Rumpus Beer Company, is another great option as the 3-Pinner BC Bitter is tasty pint. But don’t leave town before hitting up Monashee Spirits for the duck fat Sazerac (yes, it’s just as incredible as it sounds).
Stay: There are plenty of lodging options in Revelstoke, including a few well-known chains like Best Western Plus, Ramada by Wyndham, Days Inn & Suites and Super 8 Motel. For a boutique experience, check out the Explorers Society, housed in brick building from 1911 complete with rooftop guest lounge.
Featured photo of Revelstoke slopes courtesy Royce Sihlis
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