LAKE LOUISE: THE SCENIC RESORT
For those who crave excitement and beauty, the slopes of Lake Louise, Canada's largest and most scenic ski resort, await. Four thousand acres of skiable terrain stretch across four mountain faces, including 105 marked trails and thousands of acres of open bowls. All the runs are tied together by 11 interconnecting lifts dotting the hills of pristine champagne powder.

"To an aficionado, this champagne powder snow is a skier's heaven.The fluffy stuff is easier to ski in, and if you fall, you're falling on soft snow," says Fabbri, who credits the better snow conditions to their drier weather.

Lake Louise plays host to the Men's and Women's World Cup Downhill and Super-G races, held at the resort in late November and early December. The event kicks off the World Cup ski circuit on terrain littered with black and double black diamonds. Novices shouldn't worry, though - the resort promises at least one easy run from every lift on the mountain, a relief to those of us who spend considerable time on our backsides.


BANFF MOUNT NORQUAY: HOMETOWN HILL
Conveniently located minutes from downtown Banff, Banff Mount Norquay is the most affordable of the three ski resorts. At 31 runs, it's considerably smaller than Lake Louise. But like a daredevil little brother, it makes up for its diminutive size with reckless abandon. The emphasis here is on speed and challenging terrain, like the five super-steep, mogul-studded freefalls that welcome visitors upon arrival and the dynamite double black diamond duo, Upper Lone Pine and Gun Run, favored by regulars. (Word has it that the Snow Cats need to be hoisted up by a winch to the top to groom the steepest runs.)

The mountain also prides itself on its impeccably groomed beginner and intermediate cruising runs. In fact, they guarantee their groomed conditions or your money back.

SUNSHINE VILLAGE: FAMILY-FRIENDLY
Sunshine Village touts itself as a family resort, but that doesn't stop them from offering some extreme excitement. Newly reopened Delirium Dive, which had been closed for almost 20 years, is enough to make even the most confident skier think twice. Located on the north face of Lookout Mountain, the incline ranges from a challenging 39 degrees to a mind-numbing 50 degrees. Because of the danger of avalanches, all skiers and snowboarders must pass through a check-in gate, wear an avalanche transceiver, carry rescue shovels, and go with a partner. Anyone who doesn't want to sign his life away can take advantage of the other 91 runs at the resort, a comfortable mix of beginner, intermediate, and expert trails, with the longest run stretching a rambling five miles.

Sunshine's biggest appeal is its on-site lodging and 100 percent natural snow. Cars aren't allowed in the village and the lack of them at the ski-in, ski-out resort is a pedestrian pleasure. A high-speed gondola carries skiers from the parking lot up to the lodge, restaurants, and lifts. When you're ready to leave, you can go back in the gondola or ski right down to the parking lot.

Each of Banff's top three resorts has recently gone through renovations - like improving its lodge and adding high-speed quad lifts - in the hope that this will increase the number of international visitors hitting the slopes. But be careful what you wish for. Every winter, the quiet town of Aspen swells from between 6,000 and 7,000 residents to include nearly 30,000 ski buffs. Prices are raised, velvet ropes go up, and the slopes are overrun. Would it really be so bad if we kept this Canadian Rocky Mountain secret just between us?