Norquay's Cascade Lodge at nighttime.
BANFF - Headlights on, my ski gear rattles in the back of the car as I pull into the dark parking lot less than two hours after finishing a workweek in the city.
Just a couple of rows of cars occupy the snowy lot, where sounds of laughter and easy-going chatter break the quiet air.
Parking a quick, 20-second ski boot walk from the lodge at Mount Norquay, snowflakes in the air, I suddenly feel like I?m in on a great secret.
While many people are still stuck on the bumper-to-bumper Deerfoot Trail in Calgary, I was going to start my weekend night skiing with a legend.
Moments earlier, I had checked in to the beautiful Juniper Hotel, located just off the highway at the base of Norquay Road in Banff. Offering great views of Mount Rundle and the town of Banff, the Juniper is a bit of secret in and of itself. Perched above the highway, it is a quiet retreat and an ideal place to start the weekend.
Ken Read skiing Mt. Norquay.
Back up on Mount Norquay, I meet up with legendary skier Ken Read, who became a co-owner of the ski area in 2006.
Read, who was part of the ?Crazy Canucks? - the Canadian downhill team of the late 1970s and early 1980s, has been a key player in Canada?s successful ski history. A two-time Olympian, Read won five World Cup races during his career.
As we ride up the lift, Read tells me about his interest in Norquay. ?I wanted to become part of the ownership team because I didn?t want to see Banff lose the ski hill,? he said, ?Working with the previous ownership team, we shaped our focus into being a strong community-oriented ski area for the Bow Valley, and that has worked well.?
Today, Norquay is home base for many events.
According to Read, ?Our ski school and ski racing programs are doing really well; they?re bursting at the seams.?
Zooming down the night-lit runs, it?s a thrill to watch Ken Read ski, even on mellow skiing terrain. This is an athlete and leader who has taken on the world?s best and won on legendary pitches in places like Kitzbuhel and Chamonix.
Mt. Norquay has a rich history. It?s been in operation since 1926, a time when Swiss guides and visitors alike were developing a passion for skiing the Canadian Rockies. Today, Mt. Norquay boasts a gorgeous day lodge, six lifts, a terrain park, tube park, and the area recently received approval for the installation of a via ferrata for summer climbing activity.
Offering night skiing on Friday and Saturday nights (a great way to warm up the legs for a weekend of turns), Norquay also offers skiing by the hour, half day or full day.
A few runs in, the snow starts falling a little more heavily, the lights of Banff twinkle below, and the stars start appearing in the sky above.
A typical room at the Juniper Hotel.
While most are setting their alarms for an early Saturday morning wake up to drive to the mountains, my bed is just five minutes away at the Juniper Hotel.
The Juniper is a great launch pad for skiing in the Bow Valley. You?ve probably seen it from the highway, but driving by does not do this property justice.
The Juniper features modern Rocky Mountain inspired architecture, a hot tub (for soothing those aching muscles from skiing or too much time in the office chair), an on-site bistro and cozy, well-appointed rooms. The guest service is second to none with a welcoming environment from the moment you enter the lobby.
Seconds from the highway and moments to the town of Banff, you can be back up to Norquay in the morning, or at your favourite Alberta snow spot ahead of the weekend crowds.
For more stories and detail on Banff check out our SnowSeekers' destination page.