Whistler Blackcomb and Banff are two of the most popular places to ski in Canada.
Whistler Blackcomb resort is located in British Columbia near Vancouver and consists of two huge mountains (Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb mountain). Banff is located in Alberta near Calgary and consists of three resorts: Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay.
In this article I’ll be directly comparing Banff and Whistler Blackcomb for skiing and looking in depth at the terrain, snow quality, villages, ski schools, accommodation, value for money and accessibility so you can decide which is the best place to go.
Whistler Blackcomb vs Banff
Whistler Blackcomb has a larger vertical drop and more total skiable terrain compared to the three Banff ski resorts combined in Banff. The village in Whistler Blackcomb is closer to the slopes so there is less travelling involved but tickets and rentals are more expensive compared to Banff.
|Aspect of the Resort||Best Location|
|Slopes and Terrain||Whistler Blackcomb|
|Ski Season Length||Banff|
|Climate and Weather||Whistler Blackcomb|
|Value for Money||Banff|
Ski Map and Pistes
As I mentioned at the start of this article, there are two mountains to consider in the Whistler Blackcomb resort, and three resorts to consider in Banff (Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay).
If you are planning on visiting Whistler Blackcomb then you’ll be able to ski on both mountains on the same day as they are connected by the Peak 2 Peak gondola.
In Banff, you can ski at all the resorts during your stay and lift prices can be purchased for all three resorts combined, however, they are not that close together so you can’t ski them all in a single day. Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay are only about a 15-20 minute drive away from each other, however Lake Louise is around 40-45 minutes away from the other two resorts.
Despite only consisting of two mountains, Whistler Blackcomb has slightly more skiable terrain (8171 acres) compared to Banff (7890 acres across all three resorts). Whistler Blackcomb also has a higher vertical drop which good news for more advanced skiers. However, Banff does have more trails as they are shorter in comparison to the trails on Whistler Blackcomb.
Both Banff and Whistler Blackcomb cater for beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders.
However, in my opinion Whistler Blackcomb is the best option if the slopes are your main priority since you have easy access to all the skiable terrain and a higher vertical drop.
Here is a table summarising the mountain statistics in Banff and Whistler Blackcomb.
|Skiable Terrain||Sunshine Village – 3500 acres|
Lake Louise – 4200 acres
Mt. Norquay – 190 acres
Total – 7890 acres
|Whistler – 4757 acres|
Blackcomb – 3414 acres
Total – 8171 acres
|Vertical Drop||Sunshine Village – 3361 ft|
Lake Louise – 3250 ft
Mt. Norquay – 1650 ft
|Whistler – 5020 ft|
Blackcomb – 5280 ft
|Base Elevation||Sunshine Village – 5450 ft|
Lake Louise – 5400 ft
Mt. Norquay – 5500 ft
|Whistler – 2140 ft|
Blackcomb – 2214 ft
|Top Elevation||Sunshine Village – 8960 ft|
Lake Louise – 8650 ft
Mt. Norquay – 8040 ft
|Whistler – 7160 ft|
Blackcomb – 7494 ft
|Total Trails||Sunshine Village – 120|
Lake Louise – 164
Mt. Norquay – 60
Total – 344
|Whistler – 100|
Blackcomb – 100
Total – 200
|Green Circle Trails (Beginner)||Sunshine Village – 23%|
Lake Louise – 25%
Mt. Norquay – 38%
|Whistler – 20%|
Blackcomb – 20%
|Blue Square Trails (Intermediate)||Sunshine Village – 46%|
Lake Louise – 45%
Mt. Norquay – 25%
|Whistler – 55%|
Blackcomb – 50%
|Black/ Double Black Diamond Trails (Expert)||Sunshine Village – 31%|
Lake Louise – 30%
Mt. Norquay – 37%
|Whistler – 25%|
Blackcomb – 30%
|Longest Run||Sunshine Village – 5 miles|
Lake Louise – 5 miles
Mt. Norquay – 0.75 miles
|Whistler – 7 miles|
Blackcomb – 7 miles
Ski Season Length
The ski resorts in Banff and Whistler-Blackcomb both have long ski seasons, however they are typically slightly longer in Banff.
Out of the three resorts in Banff, Sunshine Village has the longest ski season which usually ends in mid-late May. Lake Louise has the next longest season which usually ends at the start of May and Mt. Norquay’s season usually ends in mid-April. All Banff resorts usually open at a similar time of year which is at the start of November on average.
Blackcomb typically has a longer ski season compared to Whistler. Whistler and Blackcomb usually open at a similar time in mid-late November but Whistler usually closes in late April whereas Blackcomb usually stays open until mid-late May.
Check out the table below for the previous ski season dates in Banff and Whistler Blackcomb.
|Ski Season||Banff Resort Dates||Whistler Blackcomb Dates|
|2021/22||Sunshine Village: 11th Nov – 23rd May|
Lake Louise: 7th Nov – 8th May
Mt. Norquay: 5th Nov – 18th Apr
|17th Nov – 21st May|
|2020/21||Sunshine Village: 9th Nov – 24th May|
Lake Louise: 29th Oct – 2nd May
Mt. Norquay: 24th Oct – 2nd May
|26th Nov – 29th Mar*|
|2019/20||Sunshine Village: 8th Nov – 17th Mar*|
Lake Louise: 8th Nov – 17th Mar*
Mt. Norquay: 1st Nov – 16th Mar*
|28th Nov – 14th Mar*|
|2018/19||Sunshine Village: 9th Nov – 20th May|
Lake Louise: 9th Nov – 5th May
Mt. Norquay: 9th Nov – 22nd Apr
|22nd Nov – 27th May|
|2017/18||Sunshine Village: 8th Nov – 21st May|
Lake Louise: 7th Nov – 6th May
Mt. Norquay: 3rd Nov – 15th Apr
|17th Nov – 21st May|
|2016/17||Sunshine Village: 3rd Nov – 22nd May|
Lake Louise: 18th Nov – 7th May
Mt. Norquay: 2nd Dec – 17th Apr
|23rd Nov – 22nd May|
Climate and Snow Quality
The ski resorts in Banff have a higher base and top elevation compared to Whistler Blackcomb and hence are much colder. On average, the temperature in Banff is about 4-8°C colder compared to the temperature in Whistler Blackcomb. There is usually more powder in Whistler Blackcomb compared to Banff and greater total snowfall.
Although snow is reliable in both locations, I’m giving the edge to Whistler-Blackcomb here because the climate isn’t as harsh both on and off the slopes.
Check out the tables below for the average temperatures and snowfall/ month in Banff and Whistler Blackcomb.
|Month||Temperature in Banff||Temperature in Whistler Blackcomb||Snowfall in Banff||Snowfall in Whistler Blackcomb|
|November||-7°C/ 19°F||-3°C/ 26.5°F||102 cm||188 cm|
|December||-13°C/ 8.5°F||-4°C/ 25°F||117 cm||220 cm|
|January||-14°C/ 7°F||-6°C/ 21°F||107 cm||334 cm|
|February||-10°C/ 14°F||-3°C/ 26.5°F||107 cm||110 cm|
|March||-5°C/ 23°F||0°C/ 32°F||124 cm||127 cm|
|April||1°C/ 34°F||3°C/ 37°F||64 cm||90 cm|
Village, Restaurants and Other Activities
One of the biggest differences between Banff and Whistler-Blackcomb is the experience you have when you’re off the slopes.
Whistler Blackcomb is a fully fledged ski resort with a lively atmosphere, great nightlife, restaurants, shops and other activities to keep you entertained. Since it is all enclosed, everything is close together and you can walk to the slopes from most of the accommodation. Whistler-Blackcomb is often the preferred resort for younger people as there is more going on.
Banff on the other hand is a town so you’ll be amongst the locals during your stay with good access to restaurants, bars, shops and other activities but the environment is not as bustling compared to Whistler. Lake Louise and Sunshine Village do have more going on compared to Mt. Norquay which is located very closely to Banff, but the atmosphere is more relaxed.
Banff is also more split up compared to Whistler since it consists of three linked resorts. This means you’ll have to travel for longer to get to the slopes.
As I mentioned in the section above, Whistler-Blackcomb is a ski resort in which you’ll find all your accommodation. There’s a good range of places to stay to suit different budgets and group sizes. The main advantage of staying in Whistler-Blackcomb is that you will always be very close to the slopes and in the vast majority of cases you can simply walk to the lifts.
In Banff, the accommodation you choose will depend on which resort you primarily want to ski at.
If you want to ski in Lake Louise then you can stay at the on-site accommodation there. However, if you want to ski in Sunshine Village primarily then you have the choice of the on-mountain hotel which is quite pricey and gets booked up quickly, or in Banff town itself.
Staying in Banff puts you in easy reach of the amenities, however it takes you away from the slopes and it’ll take around 20 minutes to get there by shuttle bus. You’ll then need to take the 20 minute gondola to the base of Sunshine Village so it can take a while to actually get on the slopes.
Getting to the Resorts
As we’ve already addressed the proximity of the villages and accommodation to the slopes themselves, we’ll be looking at how accessible these resorts are from other locations in this section.
If you’re planning on going to Banff then the closest airport is Calgary International Airport which takes approximately 1.5 hours. Out of the three resorts, Lake Louise is located the furthest from Calgary, Banff and the other two resorts. Mt. Norquay is the closest to Banff and about 25 minutes away from Sunshine.
Here is a table showing the drive time from each resort in Banff to other major locations.
|Location||Time from Lake Louise||Time from Sunshine Village||Time from Mt. Norquay|
|Calgary||2 hours||1 hour 30 mins||1 hour 20 mins|
|Calgary Airport||2 hour 15 mins||1 hour 45 mins||1 hour 30 mins|
|Banff Town||40 mins||20 mins||10 mins|
|Lake Louise||N/A||45 mins||40 mins|
|Sunshine Village||45 mins||N/A||25 mins|
|Mt. Norquay||25 mins||25 mins||N/A|
To get to Whistler-Blackcomb, the nearest airport you’ll likely be travelling to is Vancouver International Airport. The transfer time is approximately 2.5 hours from the airport to Whistler-Blackcomb which is significantly longer compared to the transfer time from Calgary to Banff.
Still not narrowed down your choice of resorts? Scroll ahead to the end of the article for a list of more comparisons of Whistler and Banff to other ski areas.
All Banff resorts, and Whistler-Blackcomb offer a range of ski/ snowboard lessons to suit all abilities and ages. You can choose either private or group lessons of varying lengths and both ski schools have an excellent reputation.
However, the main difference between Banff ski schools and the Whistler-Blackcomb ski schools is the price. Ski and snowboard lessons can cost 2-3 times more in Whistler-Blackcomb compared to Banff.
The price of lessons in Whistler-Blackcomb vary depending on the date, with peak season lessons being much more expensive.
In Banff, you can choose from Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mt. Norquay ski schools. Mt. Norquay offers the best rates but the slopes are more limited.
Here is a table below showing the most up to date ski school prices I can find at the time of writing this article.
Keep in mind that all these prices are subject to change and you should check each resort individually for more up to date prices. Note that not every lesson is listed below, just a few for comparison.
The price of the private ski lesson for adults is based on a 2 hour lesson in Banff and a 3 hour lesson in Whistler-Blackcomb as this is the shortest length available.
|Lesson||Price in Banff (CAD)||Price in Whistler-Blackcomb (CAD)|
|2/3 Hour Private (Adult)||Lake Louise – $339|
Sunshine Village – $325
Mt. Norquay – $279
|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
|2 Hour 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
Day lift tickets for adults are fairly similarly priced in Banff and Whistler Blackcomb, however child/ teenager tickets are significantly cheaper in the Banff resorts. Equipment rental is also cheaper in Banff compared to Whistler-Blackcomb.
Check out the tables below for more details.
Note: the prices listed below 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.
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.
|Ticket Price Day Lift (Peak Season)||Banff Resorts||Whistler-Blackcomb|
|Adult||Lake Louise – $129|
Sunshine Village – $136
Mt. Norquay – $97
|Teenager (13-17)||Lake Louise – $99|
Sunshine Village – $106
Mt. Norquay – $74
|See adult prices|
|Child (6-12)||Lake Louise – $39|
Sunshine Village – $53
Mt. Norquay – $38
|Senior (65+)||Lake Louise – $99|
Sunshine Village – $106
Mt. Norquay – $74
|See adult prices|
|Equipment Rental (Daily)||Banff Resorts||Whistler-Blackcomb|
|Skis and Poles/ Snowboard||Lake Louise – $44|
Sunshine Village – $46
Mt. Norquay – $33
|Boots||Lake Louise – $20|
Sunshine Village – $21
Mt. Norquay – $17
|Helmet||Lake Louise – $13|
Sunshine Village – $14
Mt. Norquay – $10
|Skis, Poles/ Snowboard and Boots||Lake Louise – $55|
Sunshine Village – $57
Mt. Norquay – $45
Which Location is Best?
Banff and Whistler Blackcomb are both amazing places to ski, but in my opinion Whistler Blackcomb is the best option. Not only do you have easy access to the full skiable area thanks to the Peak 2 Peak gondola, but you also don’t have to catch a shuttle from the accommodation to the slopes in most cases.
With that said, the resorts in Banff offer better value for money and a shorter airport transfer time. The relaxed atmosphere also makes it a great option for families who might find Whistler Blackcomb a bit too busy.
Check out the following articles for more ski resort comparisons: