A gondola over Sunshine Village.
Paul Zizka/Banff Lake Louise Tourism
Drop-in chutes line the ridge, but I choose the less-intense path: a set of access stairs that lead to a gap in the cliff band. The Dive requires quick turns, but the steep terrain of reliably soft snow shouldn’t intimidate an experienced skier. This off-piste bonanza proved so popular, Sunshine Village opened additional terrain called the “Wild West” in 2003. Soaring to 9,200 feet, Goat’s Eye Express reveals terrain containing more diamonds than a Tiffany & Co. showroom, progressively steeper runs that wash into glades reminiscent of the best heli-skiing and snowcat habitat.

Sunshine Village is known for its expert terrain, but intermediate and beginner skiers will wallow in the WaWa Bowl, Little Bunkers­ and Creek Run; long and wide routes that provide perfect pathways for improving turns. Like the best family areas, several sets of parallel green, blue and black runs allow a mixed-ability group to ski in close proximity but separately on customized slopes.

If Sunshine Village provides the equivalent of a hermit’s hideaway, Lake Louise proffers a “come one, come all” playground, whether you’ve never clicked into a binding before or you soar over the infamous “Coaches’ Corner” jump during the annual Alpine Skiing World Cup events in November.

“Lake Louise is all about choice,” says local legend and ski guide Sandy Best. “Show me a skier or snowboarder, and I’ll lead him or her to the perfect terrain on this mountain.”

“The Lake’s” 4,200 skiable acres are ­second only to Whistler-Blackcomb in Canada. Intermediate runs comprise 45 percent of the mountain; expert and beginning runs divvy up the remainder. Best of all, novices won’t find themselves sequestered on bunny hills within a ski pole’s length of the Whiskyjack­ Lodge, the timber-framed day lodge that houses the region’s best après-ski ambience. Green runs depart from the Glacier Express and Top of the World Express chairs, as well as the Grizzly Express Gondola. Every kid, whether on her first day on the snow or while prepping for weekend junior races, likes to ride in the gondola.

I never tire of a gondola ride either, especially when it leads to the backside Powder Bowls, among the best stack of porcelain vessels on the planet. From Boomerang to ­Paradise, so many runs spill into these bowls that I expect to see one or two saber-toothed tigers, historic residents of the valley, lapping up the cream. Running laps through the trees in the Larch Area, an excellent intermediate section, also will turn legs rubbery after a few cycles around the six-minute Larch Express.