Even though Mt. Norquay is the smallest of the three Banff National Park ski resorts, it still has a punch. With three quads, one double, and a magic carpet, its 28 runs service flat ski-with-the-tots terrain to aggressive, steep mogul fields off the North American chair. Its Mystic Express Chair--the area's only high speed lift--services 1,300 feet of fun fall line cruisers cut along various aspects of the ridge's undulating terrain.
This is one resort that knows how to groom. Even though the ski hill hadn't received new snow in nearly a week, the groomers buffed out the courduroy wall-to-wall on runs. Ridgelines left between groomer passes were imperceptible. In the afternoon, you could still find edge swaths of uncarved corduroy.
The ski hill's most challenging terrain is found on the North American chair, left untouched by grooming machines. The views of the Banff Townsite and surrounding peaks are worth the ride alone. But once there, you must navigate a narrow switchbacked, hard pack trail that drops a hundred feet downslope into the moguls. While most of us tiptoed our way through the Volkswagon-sized creatures, one of our party flew out of both skis and careened a good 500 feet down slope before stopping.
With its quick 10-minute distance from town, Norquay lures those who just have a couple hours to ski with tickets sold by the hour. Banff locals hit the area between shifts at work. With no lift lines, you can cycle the lifts like a gerbil, tallying up vertical in a short amount of time.
A large two-story timber-framed day lodge built in the 1990s services the area. Roomy and open, the lodge corrals skier conveniences--a lesson desk, cafeteria, bar, and restaurant--all with upslope views to the limestone ridge above.
Under new ownership this year, the resort is resurrecting several traditional events from Nordic jumping to the Mountain Smoker. Norquay may be the smallest of the three Banff ski hills, but it's worth a stop on the ski tour.