Most snowboarders have heard of SkiBig3. Located in the heart of Banff National Park, Canada’s first National Park and one of the most beautiful wilderness areas drawing visitors from around the world garners plenty of attention. However, most people forget the third resort of SkiBig3. Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise are world-class resorts, while Mt. Norquay remains a local’s secret.
The 190-acre resort is located 4 miles up a switchback mountain road from the town of Banff. One reason it’s flown under the radar is that it’s smaller (and significantly so) than the other two resorts and has a small base area that hearkens back to simpler days of skiing. Still it offers varied terrain, from beginner green slopes to blue cruisers and on to steep black moguls and double-black natural terrain. The five lifts range from double to quads. While speeding down the runs is priority number one, speeding up them on the lifts is not. The steep slopes have helped many a racer earn their chops here.
What Norquay is known for is ski-racing. Its predominately east-facing steep slopes make it a prime training ground. There are slalom gates set up on multiple runs and a banked course. If unoccupied by racers, try racing your companions. Or, slide on over to one of the terrain parks filled with small to medium features, perfect for honing and improving freestyle skills.
Best Runs at Norquay
There are 60 runs to choose from around the resort. Many are groomed and prime for speedy descents.
North American is a local classic. This steep, narrow run is 1,400 feet of vertical and a racer’s dream.
Memorial Cliffs are on the far side and end near the tubing area.
Sun Chutes… is a bit treacherous on a sunny day, but catch it after a storm for a steep, fun drop.
The trail map can be misleading for first-timers. All but one of the lifts are easily accessible from the parking lot and main base area, though. There are gentle cat-tracks at the bottom to access Mystic Express lift and Spirit lift.
Beginners will want to stick to the Cascade and Spirit lifts to access the gentler slopes at Norquay (they do exist). Zoomer is a wide-open groomed green that opens early in the season, so it stockpiles a solid base. Phantom and Abracadabra off the Spirit lift are similar
Best Powder Stash at Norquay
Powder doesn’t last long here if there’s a clear sunny day after a storm. Such is geography. We were close to giving up on the powder search, when we stumbled upon a lone patch at the end of Memorial Cliffs, a black diamond run near the tubing hill. We ended up away from the main base, but it was a fun floaty ride and well worth the walk back to the car afterward.
Still, we couldn’t help but picture all those steep runs blanketed in powder. We would definitely return to experience Norquay in all its powdery glory. Plus, we imagine the racers would stick to groomers and their training, thus leaving glades and more extreme terrain largely untouched.
Where to Eat On Mountain
The dining options are limited on Norquay. There is casual fare at the base lodge at Cascade Lodge Cafeteria. It’s home-cooked and self-serve, so you can refuel quickly and get right back for more runs.
Cliffhouse Bistro is the can’t miss spot for a memorable mountaintop lunch. The former 1950s tearoom was transformed into a modern bistro without losing any of its midcentury modern charm. It features original details starting with the exterior green curved roof and continues inside with wood paneling and curved walls all around accented by circular windows. Stare out at the town of Banff and Mt. Rundle from one of the 50 seats inside while enjoying simple, understated mountain cuisine. Known for Albertan flavors with a twist, don’t be surprised if lunch extends well into the afternoon. (You’re in good company, Marilyn Monroe popped by in 1953 while filming of River of No Return.)
Most Instagrammable Spots at Norquay
Norquay’s steep slopes boast spectacular views of all the mountains surrounding Banff and the town below. A bluebird day means prime mountaintop views. The iconic mountains around Banff are even more impressive from an elevated perspective.
Top of Mystic Express… Capture Cascade, Rundle, and the whole Bow Valley in the background while hitting top speeds on the wide groomers below the lift.
North American/A Chair…The minimal chair lift is a two-seater and is a nail biter if you’re afraid of heights. The views and photos are well worth it. For an *extra* shot, hop on separate chairs and have your photographer companion capture you near the top riding solo.
Cliffhouse Bistro…From the lookout platform or the curved staircase leading up to the midcentury mod restaurant, every angle is simply stunning.
Best Après Ski in Banff
The best après ski options are a short drive down the mountain in Banff town. Banff Avenue has more après ski specials than you can fit into a trip. Our picks are The Bison Restaurant + Terrace (for local B.C. wine), Banff Ave. Brewing Co. (for nightly deals on craft beer and the can’t-miss Thursday stein night), Park Distillery (for craft cocktails), and Earl’s for cheap/quick booze and discounted pub food.
Why You’ll Love Norquay
Norquay is home to the only night skiing and snowboarding available in the Canadian Rockies. The slopes light up Friday and Saturday nights from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. The terrain park is also fully lit.
The shredding doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down.
During ski season, there is a complimentary shuttle that runs hourly in the morning and again in the afternoon and night-skiing hours to and from stops in Banff town. There are no tickets required, just wait at the designated pick-up locations.
Snowboard Traveler Favorite
Norquay is a hidden gem even for multi-resort passholders. It’s bonus snowboarding day on Mountain Collective. We didn’t realize until we scanned our Mountain Collective Passes at Banff Sunshine that it also included an extra day of riding at Norquay. (Score!) To redeem, simply visit the ticket office and show your Mountain Collective paperwork like at any other resort and you’re on your way.
Mt. Norquay History
The slopes here began naturally. A forest fire and logging carved through the trees creating skiable runs. The pioneers of downhill skiing in the area discovered this and it became the Canadian Rockies’ first ski run way back in 1926. One cabin was built in 1928 and Norquay became the first official ski resort of Banff. The fledgling resort also held the area’s first slalom race in 1930.
Norquay Ski Resort Details:
- Hours: Daily: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
- Opening/Closing Dates: November 1 to April 12
- Average Annual Snowfall: 120 inches
- Address: Banff, Alberta, Canada
- Nearest Airport: Calgary, AB (90 minutes driving)
- Pass Access: Ikon Pass, Mountain Collective