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More Banff for the Buck

Western Canada is adrift in last-minute ski bargains, including seven nights at a five-star resort and a six-day lift ticket from $589
Image: Banff
The frozen Vermillion lakes, just west of Banff, Alberta, are enjoyed by a family as the sun sets behind the Rocky MountainsMike Blake / REUTERS

When cabin fever starts to set in during the darkest and coolest winter months, I begin to day dream about the out-of-doors. Casting my eyes farther the four walls immediately surrounding me. Moving my atrophied muscles. Breathing fresh air. While many of us crave sun-kissed beaches during the deep winter months, I long for the slopes and find them the best cure for what ails me right about now, and find my mind wandering away from the oft-times ice-crusted slopes of the East to powedery pistes of the west.

Without a doubt, one of the best ski destinations on the continent is Banff, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies. A down-home resort town free of the sniffy airs found in most top resorts in the United States, Banff beckons with stunning views of the serrated mountains that surround it, far fewer crowds, and three easily accessible resorts. It sits smack in the middle of a national park, brims with small town charms, and during the winter months, which are considered the “low season,” bargains abound.


Seven nights of snowy luxury

Once in a while a travel agency/tour company whose vacation offerings cover everything under the sun comes out with special deals at ski resorts that brand them with insider appeal. Such is the case with Liberty Travel (www.libertytravel.com), which is dangling a Banff package offering superb value in front of the skiing public. Here are the details; for $589 per person based on double occupancy, you get seven full nights (a full week!) at the top-rated, five-star resort Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, plus six days of lift tickets. This vacation costs a whopping $923 for solo skiers.

Perched on the shores of Lake Louise, the 489-room property overlooks Victoria Glacier in Banff National Park. Each alpine motif room offers a list of deluxe amenities, and the hotel has even offered complimentary indoor storage for your equipment when you’re not on the slopes. We say this price is a good value, because during peak ski season room rates can reach as high as $300 per night—do the math, and you’ll see what we mean. In addition, there’s an on-site indoor pool and hot tub for your enjoyment, and the Chateau Lake Louise is a convenient swoosh to all three of the area’s major ski areas: Lake Louise, Norquay and Sunshine. The trick with Liberty Travel’s special are the dates; you must be ready to act fast and book your package by Feb.8, 2004, after that the price goes up by $200. To make a reservation, call Liberty Travel (www.libertytravel.com) at 877/999-3914.

The abridged version

The ever-dependable source for ski bargains, Lynx Vacations (www.lynxtours.com), has a four-night Banff special from $429 per person based on double occupancy. Like Liberty Travel’s deal, this is also for the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, making it an appealing option for those who don’t the time to spend seven full nights on the mountain. It also includes three days of lift tickets and covers your airport transfers, and offers guests a free upgrade to a lake-view room based on availability, but offers champagne as consolation should the upgrade not be possible. Singles pay $628. You must hurry if this abbreviated Fairmont special best suits your ski vacation schedule; it’s valid until Feb. 8, 2004. For more information, call Colorado-based Lynx Ski & Gold Vacations (www.lynxtours.com) at 877/284-7544.

Sweet sources for ski specials

If Banff to too far-flung for you, and you’re in the mood for a ski get-away closer to home, then you might want to check out the follow list of ski vacation resources culled by my colleague and associate editor of Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine, Brad Tuttle. The following is a reputable, solid list of companies that consistently offer excellent winter bargains to ski resorts across North America, and beyond:

For Europe (these packages usually do not include lift passes, but booking airfare and hotels together often saves money):

{Editor's Note: Have you ever skied Banff? Do you have a money-saving hint, tip, or anecdote that would be helpful to other travelers? We'd love to hear it and possibly reprint it in our letters to the editor column. Simply to send a letter to our editors.}