Head to the hills for a half term of National park scenery, unparalleled snow and good old Canadian cheer. From trails tailored to beginners to pro-standard backcountry and parks, this is a nation made for snow lovers and you can bet your bottom dollar it’s worth the extra flight time.
Catered chalets aren’t as widespread in Canada as in Europe but there are some great self-contained alternatives with the same intimate feel of a chalet - sometimes graced with a moose head or two.
It’s hard to beat huddling round a board game in one of Banff’s Rocky Mountain Condos after a day skiing the awesome ‘Big 3’. Carefully built in Alpine-chalet style, these are usually self-catered, so you can knock up your own nosh (great if you’re on a budget or with fussy eaters). Alternatively, head downtown for a smorgasbord of restaurants... Half terms were invented for stuffing yourselves with steaks at The Bison, kalamari at the Balkan, Japanese at the Sushi House and veggie food at Nourish Bistro.
With tots in tow, it makes things simpler to have everything in one place - shack up in one of the chalets or cabins set around the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and the hotel’s restaurants, bars and scores of other facilities will be a short walk away.
You’ll also find lower-key options for a half-term that’s all about the skiing. The name says it all at Fernie’s Slopeside Lodge: you can ski right out. Plus, the Ski School’s practically on the front porch and 4 nearby lifts will see you straight up and away. For Canadian town life, Banff’s High Country Inn on Banff Avenue puts you right in the middle of the action.
For families, Mont Tremblant gets a gold star – it feels a little like Disneyland with all those colourful streets and also has one of the shortest flights and transfers in North America. The Kandahar and Hotel Ermitage Du Lac are a quick walk from the Télécabine Express in the pedestrianized Old Village. They also overlook Lac Tremblant which might leave you raring to get your skates on before you’ve even thought about the skis…
It’s always nice to have some home comforts when you’ve travelled across the pond – and self-catering lets you do just that. Rather than making do with the local Sherpa, stores are usually bigger and in better supply over here - the Village Condos in Whistler put you within a ten minute walk of the shops, including the big Marketplace IGA which should have everything you’ll need for home-cooking.
Of course staying in an apartment doesn’t have to confine you to the kitchen all week – there are some terrific restaurants in this neck of the woods and menus are often surprisingly cheap. Not only do they resemble Disneyland on the snow, the Marriott Residence Inn Apartments are moments from restaurants like Coco Pazzo, where Luigi serves up tasty Italian classics and Caseys, which has a terrific Grill Menu.
If the vital ingredients for half term are snow and relaxation, ski Panorama. The Upper Village Condos are so close to the lifts that some are ski-out and Panorama’s famous hot springs are only a few yards away.