Canada: A Short Guide To Skiing The North,

So, you've heard about resort after resort in Canada that sends skiers and riders home raving. A huge selection of mountain resorts spans the country, and the snow and terrain in Western Canada is among the world's best.

British Columbia outranks all Canadian provinces in terms of the number of mountain resorts. No wonder: steep mountain ranges start at the coast and line up one after the other all the way to the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Its location north of the 49th parallel causes wet Pacific storms to collide with arctic temperatures resulting in huge amounts of snow.

Head north of Vancouver, BC, to discover Whistler Blackcomb and Canada's biggest terrain. More than 8,000 acres on two mountains contain long groomed cruisers, steep chutes, big bowls, and glades -- all buried with an annual snowfall that totals around 33 feet. You can ski here for days and still not hit the same run twice. East of Kamloops, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, however, claims Canada's largest vertical at 5,620 feet from summit to base, and tops Whistler Blackcomb's snowfall with up to 60 feet.

Other B.C. areas cluster with resorts. The Thompson-Okanagan Valley, in the middle of the province, is known not only for its wines, but also for its dry snow. At the south, find Red Mountain Resort and Apex. The central valley area is home to Big White and Silver Star, while Sun Peaks sits in the north. Access any of these resorts in less than two hours from Kelowna or Kamloops.

Further east, a series of mountain ranges stack up adjacent to the Canadian Rockies. These contain Revelstoke, Whitewater, Panorama, and Kicking Horse — reached easily from Kamloops, Calgary, or Cranbrook. Two resorts—Kimberley and Fernie — sit within an hour of the borders of Montana and Idaho. Kimberley maintains a reputation as a family area while Fernie attracts big mountain skiers for its giant bowls of off-piste terrain.

B.C. is also home to most of Canada's heli-ski and cat-ski operations. You'll find these at Whistler Blackcomb, Revelstoke, and Kicking Horse, plus a host of independent companies in the inland mountains not associated with lift-served ski resorts.

Alberta lays claim to the Canadian Rockies for extraordinary long seasons with several ski resorts running their lifts well into May. Banff National Park is home to three resorts: Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, and Mount Norquay. These areas, located within two hours of Calgary--provide for gawking at the stunning rugged scenery on the Continental Divide. Marmot Basin, the only resort in Jasper National Park, is reached best from Edmonton or Calgary.

In central Canada, Ontario is home to smaller mountains than British Columbia or Alberta, but still packs in a number of ski hills—most clustered in southern Ontario where U.S. skiers can drive within a few hours. Blue Mountain, accessed in two hours from Toronto, is the province's largest mountain resort with 12 lifts and 720 feet of vertical.

Quebec's most popular mountain resorts surround Quebec City and Montreal. Le Massif, Mont Saint-Sauveur, Stoneham, and Mont Sainte-Anne are close enough to Quebec City that you can taste each with day trips and still enjoy the European flavor of the city or stay at the resorts for the full mountain experience.

Montreal serves as the base for reaching Tremblant. It boasts a vertical of 2,116 feet due to its location as the highest peak in the Laurentians. A few-hours drive from many U.S. cities can land you at many of these slopes.

Getting around is easy in Canada with English spoken nationwide (except for the patois of French-Canadian in Quebec). All U.S. visitors flying or driving in to Canada must now have passports or a passport card.

So grab your passport. It's your ticket to ride.

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