Sunshine Meadows Snowshoe Trail
A snowshoe trip at Sunshine Village should be on everybody’s checklist and exploring Rock Isle Lake in winter is spectacular. Locals refer to this as ‘Snowshoeing on Top of the World’, and on a sunny day it’s easy to see why. The views are stunning on this easy snowshoe.
Drive 4.8mi west of Banff on Trans-Canada Highway and take the Sunshine Village exit. Drive 5.1mi on this lovely road to Sunshine Village ski resort. Buy your gondola ticket at the main building.
|When to do|
December - April
Yes - On Leash
Route Description for Sunshine Meadows
Anyone on a snowshoe trip should have Avalanche training, we recommend AST 2 for all backcountry travellers, and AST 1 is the minimum. It is important to note that when travelling through avalanche terrain it is extremely valuable to always have a companion.
The snowshoe trip from the top of Standish ski lift is a stunning trip, and we can’t recommend it enough. If you do it, plan it for a day with good visibility, as Sunshine Village gets a lot of snow, and if it’s snowing heavily you won’t have good visibility.
If you are new to snowshoeing, this is a great tour to use a local tour company, like White Mountain Adventures, who offer daily snowshoe trips along this route. The best part of going with a tour company is you are allowed to take the Standish Lift up, making this tour almost all downhill. If you go on your own, expect to have to snowshoe to the top of the Standish Lift.
From the top of the Standish lift, continue straight ahead, making your way to the Standish Viewing Deck. On clear days, the views here are spectacular. You can look down on Rock Isle Lake and Quartz Hill beyond, which is the route to Mount Assiniboine, a wonderful backpack in summer.
From the wooden Standish Viewing deck carefully descend the stairs and then make your way downhill. The route roughly follows the summer hiking route, though you can explore a lot more in the snow.
Soon you come to Rock Isle Lake, still beautiful in winter. It is recommended you stay off of Rock Isle in winter in case of thin ice.
From Rock Isle Lake, head to your left and contour around on a path that continues to slightly descend. You’ll soon pass the turnoff (going right) towards Citadel Pass, but continue contouring around to your left. You can see the ski runs off of the Great Divide Chair on your right, and on your left Strawberry chair and above it the Standish Express chair.
As you re-enter the Sunshine Village ski area, continue to head downhill, back to the base Village. You will have to cross ski-runs and/or go along ski runs. If you have to cross runs, be very careful and wait for a clear moment, as skiers are not expecting to see snowshoers. If you go along a run, stay to the side. We ended up taking various routes through trees to minimize our time on ski runs.
Once back in Sunshine Village, head into Mad Trappers for a burger and a beer to celebrate a great snowshoe trip in the Canadian Rockies!
Check out webcams and forecast at Sunshine Village before you go to make sure there is good visibility.
Always keep in mind that winter routes are constantly changing with conditions, if this route seems unapproachable on the day you head out, turn around and come back another day!
Snowshoeing in the Banff takes you into remote terrain. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency with warm clothes, extra food, matches and ideally a satellite transceiver, like a Garmin InReach. Cell phones do not work until you get to Canmore.
Always check the avalanche forecast for Banff before heading out.
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