In amongst the high and steep mountains which tower above Banff are some superb, easy ski tours which are perfect for learning the touring game!
Banff is a premiere mountain destination for skiing enthusiasts. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada, this quaint little town provides a nice location to base yourself out of for some great on and off-piste skiing.
The four tours in this guidebook lie between Banff and Lake Louise and are a good sample of the terrain in this area. Sunshine Ski Out and Slack Country as well as Healy Pass are in the area of Sunshine Village ski hill, which is 20 minutes from Banff. If you are without a vehicle you can catch a Sunshine ski hill shuttle to take you to the base of the mountain where these tours start. The ski hill does not require you to pay or have any pass to tour up the designated runs as it is part of the National Park and they are required to accommodate many modalities of travel.
These tours - being close to amenities such as washrooms, restaurants etc. - are a great way to familiarize yourself with the area. The on piste touring option up the "Ski Out" piste is perfect for those who have a very low risk tolerance and little to no avalanche training. Don’t let the mellow nature of this description fool you, you will still be ascending a mountain and afforded lovely views; safe and mellow does not always equate to boring!
Moving West toward Lake Louise we have the Helena Ridge and Taylor Lake ski tours. These tours are on opposite sides of Highway 1 so it is worth doing both on different days to check out the terrain.
Helena Ridge is a perfect place to head for people who like to get into the alpine. The ascent route leads through fairly simple terrain up a mellow open slope to a spectacular ridge and view. These ski tours are rated "beginner" in terms of terrain choice and technical skiing but they are still long, physically demanding ski tours with both involving over 1000 vertical meters and 15 kilometres. Having said this, at any point you could turn around making this a great option for beginners as you ascend and descend the same way.
Taylor Lake is the last tour in this series and if you make it to Panorama Ridge you will not be disappointed with the view. The majority of this tour is sub alpine but it's worth doing the last 75 meters in the alpine to the ridge.
These beginner tours are not cross country skis so be sure bring proper alpine touring equipment, lots of snacks, a great attitude, and a sense of adventure!