We spoke to locals to uncover the best backcountry and slackcountry near Canada's most popular ski resorts:
Whistler: Best Backcountry
Longtime local Vanessa Murphy makes a point of getting into Callaghan Country’s Journeyman Lodge for a couple days every winter for sleeper-good touring and more snow than Whistler Mountain. For an adventurous day trip, ski-tour from the new Sea to Sky Gondola, out of Squamish. For a more solitary experience, drive north to Duffey Lake Road and try the Marriot/Rohr Drainage. On resort, the easy-to-find slackcountry of Flute Bowl is always good.
Banff/Lake Louise: Best Backcountry
If you have the time, go to Skoki Lodge, a historic backcountry destination near Lake Louise (skoki.com). For an epic but quick-and-easy tour, when avalanche conditions are good, Surprise Pass provides quality entertainment with a long fall-line run as a reward. The best secret slackcountry is Hidden Bowl at Lake Louise. Climb Richardson Ridge and drop off the backside — out of sight, out of mind. (Find directions to both at backcountryskiingcanada.com.)
Mont-Sainte-Anne/Le Massif: Best Backcountry
The only thing approaching slackcountry skiing happens at Le Massif’s Mont-Liguori, in bounds but a bootpack from the resort. For more of a backcountry feel, head to the Discovery Centre at Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, where a 300-metre high, 100-hectare area has been gladed for ungroomed turning (sepaq.com). Longer overnight tours can be done within the park, with nights spent in huts along the way. A good place to start for backcountry newbies is Hok skiing at Station Touristique Deschesnay (sepaq.com/ct/duc). Using small, fat skis with skins on the bottom, anyone can climb through the woods and swoop back down.
Tremblant: Best Backcountry
For $6, Mont Tremblant will let you skin or hike up one of three designated runs to the summit and ride the gondola back down. A more authentic experience can be had by traversing from the ski resort along the summit ridge to Johannsen Peak. When the ridge ends, ski down through the trees to the bottom. Rent gear and get trail maps at Boutique Explore on the mountain (monttremblant.com). Head even deeper into the backcountry in nearby Parc national du Mont Tremblant where you can follow marked trails through the backcountry for days, sleeping at cozy cabins along the way (sepaq.com).
This article originally appeared in our Winter 2014 issue.