Nobody was sleeping at the top of Banff's Sunshine Village. It was the first Friday in March, and the crew was at Trappers, tipping back shot-skis of Buttery Nipples and pitchers of Molson Canadian. One of us was trying to get some rest in her room, but kept popping up to peek at the snow gathering on her balcony railing. The beginning of the biggest Banff snowstorm in 40 years, it would dump more than four feet in one week.
The week began at Marmot Basin, where—on a bluebird day—it was so empty the lifties carved a realistic mountain lion's head near the base of the new Canadian Rockies Express. The resort lies in Jasper National Park, declared the world's largest dark sky preserve last March. That means when you're walking through a local glacier-made ice canyon, squeezing behind waterfalls at night, the moon and stars look real nice. And unlike the Colorado Rockies, the relatively low altitude of the park wasn't going to ass-kick my sea-level lungs: Marmot Peak, which I hiked for laps in Charlie's Bowl, tops out at just 8,570 feet.
Down the Icefields Parkway at Lake Louise, the clouds moved in as we made a beeline for the back bowls. The zone is riddled with cliff bands, larch and pine trees, and jumbled boulders sheltering hibernating bears. Other than a backcountry party setting out for the Skoki Lodge, we had the place to ourselves, which would hold mostly true the following day at Sunshine. Then murmurs of the approaching snow sucked the Calgary crowd to the base of the gondola.
No matter. Bleary-eyed on Saturday morning, we still owned the upper half of Sunshine—and the knee-deep powder in the chutes off the Mount Standish and Wawa quads. After sampling the Goat's Eye tree runs, it was crushing to know we were leaving the next day. The pain only grew more intense upon hearing how much snow fell after our departure. But the farewell was sweetened with rounds of Crown Royal. —Sarah Tuff