Big White vs Banff (Sunshine & Lake Louise) Ski Resorts

There are many great places to ski in Canada, two of the most popular being Big White and Banff.

There are three resorts in Banff (Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay) and in this article I’ll be comparing them all to Big White in terms of their skiable terrain, snow quality, villages, accommodation, value for money and more.

Big White vs Banff

Banff’s Sunshine Village and Lake Louise ski resorts have more skiable terrain compared to Big White. Big White is a more family-friendly resort that caters well to beginners. Banff has better intermediate and expert terrain and access to cheaper accommodation.

Aspect of the ResortBest Location
Largest Skiable AreaBanff (Lake Louise)
Best for BeginnersBig White
Best for IntermediatesBanff (Sunshine Village)
Best for ExpertsBanff (Lake Louise)
Least CrowdedBig White
Snow Reliability Early/ Late SeasonBanff
Snow Quality Mid SeasonBig White
VillageBig White
On Mountain DiningBanff (Lake Louise)
Easiest to Travel ToBig White
Best AccomodationBanff (Lake Louise)
Cheapest Ticket PricesBig White
Banff ski resorts vs Big White
Banff (Lake Louise)

Skiing Terrain and Experience

There are three ski resorts in Banff: Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay. Lake Louise is about 45 minutes away from the other two resorts, and Sunshine and Mt. Norquay are about 15 minutes away from each other.

Lake Louise and Sunshine Village are significantly larger compared to Big White. Big White resort has a modest 2765 acres of skiable terrain, whereas Lake Louise and Sunshine have 4200 acres and 3500 acres, respectively. Mt. Norquay is a tiny resort with only 190 acres of skiable terrain.

Beginner Terrain

Banff and Big White are both great for beginners and it’s hard to separate the resorts.

Out of the three Banff resorts, Mt. Norquay is very beginner focused but really small. Lake Louise and Sunshine Village both have lots of beginner terrain, but Sunshine has the edge with some easier green circle runs compared to Lake Louise.

Big White is excellent for beginners and has plenty of easy and wide runs. It’s marginally better in terms of beginner terrain compared to Banff and also has more for low-intermediates who are looking to move up a step.

Intermediate Terrain

Both Big White and the Banff resorts have loads of intermediate terrain.

In Banff, a 46% and 45% share of the trails are for intermediates in Sunshine and Lake Louise respectively. Mt. Norquay doesn’t have nearly as much for the intermediate. Sunshine has the best intermediate terrain for those just making the step up from green circle trails, whereas Lake Louise is a bit more challenging.

Advanced/ Expert Terrain

For experienced skiers, it’s hard to beat Banff. All three resorts have over 30% of their terrain rated as black diamond/ double black diamond, and in Lake Louise in particular there are some really challenging and interesting runs.

Big White is okay for advanced skiers, with a solid 28% share of black diamond/ double black diamond trails, but they tend to be a bit tamer as the mountain isn’t as steep compared to Sunshine and Lake Louise.

Terrain Parks

If you like park skiing/ snowboarding then Banff is the best choice. There are 4 parks at Lake Louise and Sunshine, and another park at Mt. Norquay. Big White does have a terrain park, but there is much more to keep the park enthusiasts entertained in Banff.


Out of the three resorts in Banff, Lake Louise tends to be the least crowded as it is further away from Calgary. Mt. Norquay is small so can feel quite cramped, and Sunshine is very popular. All three resorts can get very busy on weekends. Big White can also get very busy but doesn’t usually feel as crowded.

Here is a table summarising the mountain statistics in Banff and Big White.

StatisticsBanffBig White
Skiable TerrainSunshine Village – 3500 acres
Lake Louise – 4200 acres
Mt. Norquay – 190 acres
2765 acres
Vertical DropSunshine Village – 3361 ft
Lake Louise – 3250 ft
Mt. Norquay – 1650 ft
2550 ft
Base ElevationSunshine Village – 5450 ft
Lake Louise – 5400 ft
Mt. Norquay – 5500 ft
5971 ft
Top ElevationSunshine Village – 8960 ft
Lake Louise – 8650 ft
Mt. Norquay – 8040 ft
7606 ft
Total TrailsSunshine Village – 120
Lake Louise – 164
Mt. Norquay – 60
Green Circle Trails (Beginner)Sunshine Village – 23%
Lake Louise – 25%
Mt. Norquay – 38%
Blue Square Trails (Intermediate)Sunshine Village – 46%
Lake Louise – 45%
Mt. Norquay – 25%
Black/ Double Black Diamond Trails (Expert)Sunshine Village – 31%
Lake Louise – 30%
Mt. Norquay – 37%
Longest RunSunshine Village – 5 miles
Lake Louise – 5 miles
Mt. Norquay – 0.75 miles
4.5 miles
Terrain ParksSunshine Village – 4
Lake Louise – 4
Mt. Norquay – 1
Lift HoursSunshine Village – 9:00-4:30
Lake Louise – 9:00-4:00
Mt. Norquay – 9:00-4:00
Number of LiftsSunshine Village – 12
Lake Louise – 11
Mt. Norquay – 5
Night SkiingYes (all resorts)Yes
Slope comparison between Banff (Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay resorts) and Big White

Make sure to check out my comparison between Sunshine Village and Lake Louise for more information about these two Banff resorts.

Ski Season Dates

Banff enjoys a longer ski season compared to Big White.

The ski season in Big White typically starts in late November and ends in mid-April. In Banff, Sunshine Village has the longest season which spans from early/ mid-November all the way through until late May. Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay also open at a similar time and close in early May and mid-April, respectively.

Check out the table below for the previous ski season dates in Banff and Big White.

Ski SeasonBanff Resort DatesBig White Dates
2022/23Sunshine Village: 10th Nov – 21st May
Lake Louise: 4th Nov – 7th May
Mt. Norquay: 5th Nov – 16th Apr
24th Nov – 10th Apr
2021/22Sunshine Village: 11th Nov – 23rd May
Lake Louise: 7th Nov – 8th May
Mt. Norquay: 5th Nov – 18th Apr
26th Nov – 10th Apr
2020/21Sunshine Village: 9th Nov – 24th May
Lake Louise: 29th Oct – 2nd May
Mt. Norquay: 24th Oct – 2nd May
23rd Nov – 5th Apr
2019/20Sunshine Village: 8th Nov – 17th Mar*
Lake Louise: 8th Nov – 17th Mar*
Mt. Norquay: 1st Nov – 16th Mar*
28th Nov – 16th Mar*
2018/19Sunshine Village: 9th Nov – 20th May
Lake Louise: 9th Nov – 5th May
Mt. Norquay: 9th Nov – 22nd Apr
22nd Nov – 22nd Apr
Ski season length comparison between Banff (Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay resorts) and Big White. 2022/23 dates are predictions
Sunshine Village (Banff)

Climate and Snow Quality

In Banff, the snow tends to be drier but there isn’t as much of it compared to Big White. The Banff resorts typically have better snow at the start and end of the season. However, Big White has tonnes of natural snow and is a very reliable location.

In terms of the temperatures, Banff is significantly colder compared to Big White. It’s certainly more comfortable to spend time in Big White throughout the entire season if you don’t like extremely cold temperatures.

Average Snowfall per Month

MonthSunshine VillageLake LouiseMt. NorquayBig White
Data from

Snow Base Depth

MonthSunshine VillageLake LouiseMt. NorquayBig White
Data from

Average Temperature

MonthSunshine Village/ Mt. NorquayLake
November-9.2°C (15.4°F)-10.5°C (13.2°F)-3.8°C (26.2°F)
December-14.7°C (5.5°F)-15.2°C (4.6°F)-8.0°C (17.6°F)
January-13.2°C (8.3°F)-13.7°C (7.4°F)-6.9°C (19.6°F)
February-11.9°C (10.6°F)-12.7°C (9.1°F)-9.0°C (15.8°F)
March-6.7°C (20.0°F)-7.9°C (17.7°F)-4.7°C (23.5°F)
April-1.5°C (29.3°F)-3.2°C (26.2°F)-0.3°C (31.5°F)
Data from

Village, Restaurants and Other Activities

Big White is well-known to be an excellent family-friendly resort with plenty to do in the village off the slopes, whilst still feeling nice and cosy. There are 20 restaurants and 2 spas as well as plenty of activities such as ice skating, tubing, sleigh rides and snowmobile tours.

Banff offers a different experience compared to Big White, and it varies depending on which resort you plan on spending most of your time at.

Sunshine Village has 8 dining locations in the village as well as several sports shops. However, it’s likely that you’ll want to venture into Banff town for more restaurants, shops and other activities. The resort is a 20 minute drive away from Banff, so you can expect to do more travelling if you stay visit here compared to Big White where everything is more self-contained.

Lake Louise on the other hand is a 40 minute drive away from Banff so you probably won’t spend much time in the town if you plan on being based at this resort. There are 8 dining locations in the village and all the winter activities you’d typically expect, however it does feel smaller compared to Big White.

If you prefer to stay in the same place for all your skiing, activities and dining then you’ll prefer the self-contained Big White resort. However, if you don’t mind travelling 20 minutes and want to get out and about and about, then you’ll like Sunshine Village. Lake Louise still has a nice village but it is not as good as Big White’s and is quite far away from Banff town.

On Mountain Dining

Big White has plenty of restaurants in the village and at the base stations, but unfortunately there are no dining locations on the mountain itself. However, there are several restaurants located very close to the gondola/ lifts in the village so it’s not too inconvenient.

Again, Sunshine Village has plenty of restaurants at the base, but none mid-mountain. Mt. Norquay has one on-mountain restaurant (Cliffhouse Bistro).

Lake Louise has 4 on-mountain dining locations:

  • Whitehorn Bistro
  • Temple Café
  • Sawyer’s Nook
  • Temple Catina


Big White has a range of accommodation options including 3 hotels, 25 town house complexes, 244 cabins/ holiday houses and a youth hostel. On average, accommodation for 2 adults in January for one week will cost roughly $300-$600 per night.

Much of the accommodation in Big White is ski-in-ski-out, and the rest of it is all very close to the slopes/ village.

In Banff you have three main options:

  • Stay in the Lake Louise resort
  • Stay in the Sunshine Village resort
  • Stay in Banff town

Lake Louise has 4 hotels, 4 lodges and 2 chalet areas. Again, most of the accommodation is ski-in-ski-out and typically costs between $150 and $500 per night for 2 adults in January.

Sunshine Village has one venue to stay in called the Sunshine Mountain Lodge which has lofts and hotel rooms. This costs between $300 and $500 per night in January.

In Banff town there are plenty of hotels and lodges to choose from and these typically range between $100-$300 per night in January for 2 adults. The disadvantage of staying in Banff is that you’ll need to travel 20 minutes to get to the nearest slopes, however it will give you more to do in the evening.

Lake Louise and Banff town offer better value accommodation compared to Sunshine Village and Big White.

Fairmont Chateau Hotel, Lake Louise, Banff

Getting to the Resorts

By Plane

The closest airport to the Banff 3 resorts is Calgary International Airport. Kelowna’s International is the closest major airport to Big White. Here are the transfer times:

  • Mt. Norquay: 1 hour 30 mins
  • Sunshine Village: 1 hour 45 mins
  • Lake Louise: 2 hours 15 mins
  • Big White: 55 minutes

By Car

Here are the parking charges:

  • Sunshine Village: most car parks are free. No overnight parking
  • Lake Louise: $12.25/ day. No overnight parking except in the hotel
  • Mt. Norquay: most car parks are free. No overnight parking
  • Big White: most car parks are free. $20/ vehicle for overnight parking
LocationDrive to Sunshine/ Mt. NorquayDrive to
Lake Louise
Drive to
Big White
Calgary1 hour 45 mins2 hours9 hours
Vancouver10 hours 45 mins10 hours 30 mins5 hours 15 minutes
Kelowna7 hours7 hours55 minutes
Kamloops7 hours7 hours2 hours 45 minutes
Seattle11 hours11 hours6 hours 30 minutes

Ski School

The ski school prices are fairly similar in the Banff resorts compared to Big White. Big White offers better value group lessons, whereas Banff tends to be a bit cheaper in terms of private lessons. However, the lessons are sometimes shorter in Banff so it does even out a bit.

LessonPrice in BanffPrice in Big White
Half Day Private (Adult)Lake Louise – $339
Sunshine Village – $325
Mt. Norquay – $279
Full Day Private (Adult)Lake Louise – $699
Sunshine Village – $699
Mt. Norquay – $499
Half Day Group (Adult)Lake Louise – $164
Sunshine Village – $149
Mt. Norquay – $129
Full Day Group (Adult)Lake Louise – $194
Sunshine Village – $179
Mt. Norquay – $179
Half Day Private (Child)Lake Louise – $339
Sunshine Village – TBA
Mt. Norquay – $199
Half Day Group (Child)Lake Louise – $109
Sunshine Village – TBA
Mt. Norquay – $79
Full Day Group (Child)Lake Louise – $135
Sunshine Village – TBA
Mt. Norquay – $139
Ski school lesson price comparison between Banff and Big White

Costs are based on the most recent ski season at the time of writing and are subject to change. Please check the resort websites for up to date prices. Prices are in CAD.

Ticket and Rental Prices

Out of the three Banff resorts, Sunshine Village is the most expensive, followed by Lake Louise and finally Mt. Norquay. You can also get some deals to ski at the “big 3” (Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay) if you want to ski at multiple resorts during your stay.

Big White is cheaper than both Sunshine and Lake Louise in terms of lift tickets, but more expensive compared to Mt. Norquay.

Check out the tables below for more details.

Lift TicketSunshine VillageLake LouiseMt. NorquayBig White
Peak lift ticket price comparison between Banff (Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay resorts) and Big White
Equipment Rental (Daily)Banff ResortsBig White
Skis and Poles/ SnowboardLake Louise – $44
Sunshine Village – $46
Mt. Norquay – $33
BootsLake Louise – $20
Sunshine Village – $21
Mt. Norquay – $17
HelmetLake Louise – $13
Sunshine Village – $14
Mt. Norquay – $10
Skis, Poles/ Snowboard and BootsLake Louise – $55
Sunshine Village – $57
Mt. Norquay – $45
Equipment rental price comparison between Banff (Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay resorts) and Big White

Costs quoted above are based on the most recent ski season at the time of writing and are subject to change. Based on daily rates when buying in-advance online (better value offers are available when booking for multiple days). Please check the resort websites for up to date prices. Prices are in Canadian dollars.

Which Location is Best?

If you’re looking for a family-friendly resort, have mainly beginners and intermediates in your group and like everything to be in one place, Big White is the best option. It has a great atmosphere and plenty to keep you entertained in the village.

If you’re an advanced skiers looking for the most challenging terrain, then you’ll really enjoy Lake Louise. The focus here is definitely more on the skiing rather than the village, but it still has a good resort with plenty to do and the value for money is better compared to Big White.

Sunshine Village is a good option if you want to have easy access to Banff town for more to do in the evenings. However, the resort accommodation is expensive and staying in the town accommodation means you will have to travel 20 minutes to the slopes.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *