Whistler vs Banff: 2 Epic Options for a Canadian Ski Vacation
When choosing where to go for a British Columbian ski vacation, Whistler and Banff are the two resorts that probably come to mind.
If you’re looking for excellent snow, luxury hotels, plenty of Australians and a great time, both are stellar options. But, maybe you need a deep dive into Whistler vs .Banff covering the snow conditions, powder days, available restaurants, and off-mountain activities.
Here’s our unbiased comparison of these two gorgeous Canadian ski resort towns.
What Is The Better Mountain Better For Skiing and Snowboarding?
The “which mountain is better” question is a tough one that truly depends on what kind of skiing or boarding you enjoy. Are you a solo rider? Are you a powder lover? What mountains do you typically ski? Are you looking to ski park? Bowls? Do you care about diverse terrain? These are all questions you need to ask yourself before making your decision between Whistler vs. Banff.
Generally, those living in Vancouver tend to opt for Whistler Blackcomb due to its close proximity to the lower mainland and warmer temperatures than Banff. Because of the weekend warriors coming up from the city and its title of a world-class resort, Whistler is typically a busier mountain than its Albertan counterpart.
Another main difference between the two is that Banff is a town, whereas Whistler is more of a resort city. In Whistler, you can stay at several hotels and accommodations within walking distance to the slopes. In Banff, the hills are all a short drive away with limited accommodation and eats near the mountain.
Of course, these few bits of information aren’t enough for you to make your final holiday decision — we’re going to break down the Whistler vs. Banff debate in further detail for you.
Whistler vs. Banff Snow Conditions
The main difference between the British Columbian ski resort and the Albertan ski town is, of course, the mountains.
Whistler has two skiable mountains: Whistler and Blackcomb. The two have gondolas that start and end right in the heart of Whistler Village and connect via the Peak to Peak gondola. The mountains are known for their diverse skiable terrain with over 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers combined. A great thing about skiing Whistler and Blackcomb is that one ski pass offers access to both mountains.
On the other hand, Banff has three mountains: Mt Norquay, the Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Sunshine Village. The mountains each require separate ski lifts and are around a ten to 30-minute drive out of the main town of Banff.
Mt. Norquay is known for its diverse terrain as well as night skiing and night snowboarding on Fridays and Saturdays. The mountain opens in October, offering one of the earliest ski start days in the country. The mountain itself has 60 runs spread over 190 acres.
The Lake Louise Ski Resort is more extensive than the former, with 139 runs for beginner, intermediate, and expert skiers and riders. The resort includes big open bowls, four skiable mountain faces, and a sunny tube park. If you don’t feel like toting your kids along, you can even drop them off at the daycare center for infants and those up to six years old.
Sunshine Village is the third and final mountain in Banff. It is great for spring skiing and tops out at 2,730 meters (8.954 feet) above ski level. Many riders prefer Sunshine Village for Spring skiing, as the season runs longer than in Whistler or its other Albertan counterparts. It also has Banff’s only ski-in and ski-out hotel.
Whistler vs. Banff Snow Statistics
Snow is snow, right? Wrong.
Whistler receives an average of 1,163 centimetres (458 inches) of snow annually, while Banff typically only gets an average of 1671 mm (65.79 inches) of snow annually. Yes, that’s still a significant amount of skiable snow, but you surely won’t get as many fresh snow and powder days as Whistler.
Beginner snowboarders may want to avoid the fresh pow, but to experienced boarders and skiers, pow days are where it’s at.
Whistler has seen numerous record-breaking powder dumps. It’s well known that you can ski for days on end and not travel the same terrain twice.
December and March typically see an average of 3 powder days a week in Whistler, with plenty of bluebird days scattered throughout the season.
Banff sees more bluebird days than Whistler but averages less than one powder day a week. We think the decision here is clear. Powder is king.
Whistler vs. Banff Restaurant Options
Whistler Village has it all, whether you’re looking for sushi and ramen, Mexican food, Italian fare, or a scrumptious American-style burger. With over 170 places to grab food, you could even take yourself out on a mini culinary vacation within your ski holiday.
Although Banff’s culinary offerings don’t quite compare to Whistler, they shouldn’t be ignored. Between farm-to-table flavours, a bakery, and several other touristy stops, you’re sure to stay fully-fuelled for your next big run.
Bottom line: if you’re looking for great food alongside your skiing, we suggest Whistler. If you don’t really mind what grub to grab, Banff may be your best bet. Restaurants in Whistler range in price from cheap eats to five star, Gordon Ramsay-approved fine dining, while Banff primarily caters to the tourists with mid-range prices.
Whistler vs. Banff Off-Mountain Activities
If it were the summer and you were picking between off-mountain activities in Banff vs. Whistler, we’d say your options were about even. But, unfortunately, in the wintertime, there’s far less to do in Banff.
In Whistler, no matter the season, you have your pick between indoor and outdoor activities. Indoor activities include axe throwing, brewery hopping, nightlife, and even checking out the local movie theatre. Outdoor activities are pretty much unlimited and range from free hikes to cross-country skiing, incredible backcountry snowmobiling, interactive night walks, ice skating, and more.
So Which Of the Two Will You Choose?
While we don’t want to make the call for you, we do have some final recommendations.
If you’re looking to solely ski and snowboard, and don’t care too much for accommodations, food, or activities outside the hill, check out Banff, Alberta.
If you’d rather vacation with nightlife, ski-in and outs, great restaurants, and incredible nature views, then Whistler, British Columbia, should be your next go-to destination.