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Snowboard Trip Late January- Lake Louise or Marmot Basin?

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Hello!

I am planning a trip to Edmonton, AB in late January to visit my sister as she attends the University of Alberta. We are planning to take a weekend snowboard trip west in the Canadian Rockies. We have traveled to Banff/Jasper twice in summer for hiking and absolutely loved both of our times there. We are avid snowboarders and have been many places in Colorado. We enjoy the groomers as well as back bowls and hike-to-terrain. Would love some ideas or opinions as to which resort is favored or preferred. We are leaning towards Lake Louise just because it's always been something we have wanted to do, but would love some advice/input. We have stayed at HI hostel in Banff and had a good experience, and are wanting to possibly explore similar budget friendly lodging. We are also planning on driving from Edmonton and have never made the drive to Banff in the winter time. Thanks in advance!

Cheers,

Kenzie

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    This is a strange place to post re skiing/riding: some on here may be good skiers/riders, but most are likely to have impressions mostly from a travel perspective. But if you are more interested in the travel and lodging aspects, this is a great site.

    If its the skiing/riding that you are most concerned about, read reviews in the big skiing and outdoors magazines.
    Here are a few reports specific to Canada:
    From Powderhounds: http://www.powderhounds.com/Canada/Ski-Resorts-Ratings.aspx
    From Ski Canada (in the US you may not have heard of this magazine since its subject is only Canada: http://skicanadamag.com/tag/alberta

    Having said that, there's good skiing/riding at almost any decent area, and both Marmot/Jasper and the Lake Louise and Banff areas are *much* better than decent. So your choice may come down to lodging, ease of access, and whether or not you want to explore something that's new to you.

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    Greetings

    As far as the skiing terrain, I think you'd be happy with either Marmot or the options in the Banff area (Lake Louise/Sunshine/Norquay). I've not skied at Marmot, but it always gets excellent reviews.

    As to hike to ski - unless you have avalanche safety training and gear, that's not a safe option out here. Any area outside the ski hill boundaries (and some within - like the far back of Lake Louise and the one section of Sunshine where avy gear is required) is not going to be assessed for risk & cleared or closed. It's ski at your own risk, and often very significant risk (and risk for those who have to come rescue you...).

    Anyway, I think the real issue is going to be accessibility. If you only have a weekend, I would stick with Banff/Lake Louise. Would this be going on Saturday and returning on Sunday? It's doable, but remember that winter weather can make the roads a mess very quickly, so you need to have back up plans in case you can't get to Banff/Jasper or you can't get back to Edmonton as planned. Days in January will be very short, and driving after dark presents a whole new challenge.

    For Marmot, you are looking at a minimum of 4 hrs driving to get to Jasper (longer if the road conditions are bad), plus more to get up to Marmot. As far as I know, there aren't any budget accommodations up near Marmot, so you'd be looking at one of the hostels near Jasper.

    There is one tiny private hostel and one new 30 bed private hostel in town, but the Hi Hostels are all outside of Jasper. The main one (Whistlers) is not recommended - huge dorms, loud and aging facilities. The others are wilderness hostels with no running water/showers - and to access Athabasca Hostel you would need a car with snow tires. (Technically I think you would need snow tires for Marmot too since it requires a short drive on the Icefields Parkway, where snow tires are required).

    I think Banff makes a lot more sense - in the winter, the only feasible option from Edmonton is to go via Calgary - probably about 4.5-5 hrs if road conditions are good. You can stay in Canmore, Banff or Lake Louise - there are good Hi Hostels in all three locations. Weekends can be quite busy, so I would make reservations ASAP. The hostel in Lake Louise would be the closest to the slopes, but the one(s) in Canmore would be the shortest drive from Calgary.

    If you are coming to Alberta from somewhere else, perhaps it would make sense to meet your sister in Calgary (i.e. fly in to Calgary). She can either drive down (if she has a car) or bus down and you can rent a car there.

    Also, how old are you and your sister. It's usually near impossible to rent a vehicle if you are under 21 and very expensive if you are under 25 (you pay a daily surchage). If that's the case, you might be better off taking a shuttle to Banff/Lake Louise and taking the shuttle ski each day.

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