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Head for the Hills! Mountains of Fun for the Whole Family

Who wants to be a spectator while the kids have all the sporty fun? These days, it’s all about getting the whole family involved, learning new things together, experiencing caching and healthy activities. And, of course, winter sports are the perfect fit when we live so close to world-famous ski hills.

First stop: Winsport, a winter playground in the city. Terrain parks are trending among younger skiers and snowboarders, says Winsport’s Dale Oviatt. “They can easily spend most of their day on the rails and jumps, which not only helps them improve, but also keeps them active rather than spending their time in front of a video screen.” And new Canadians love having skiing on their doorstep. “They’re not only excited to embrace Canadian winter, but can’t wait to try skiing or snowboarding,” says Oviatt. Requiring no special skills or ability, the Acura Tube Park is also a hit. “It’s also done in a safe environment - unlike the neighborhood tobogganing hill - and there are lanes that even the younger kids can do by themselves,” says Oviatt. To plan your family’s winter fun at Winsport, visit winsport.ca.

The nearest resort to Calgary, Nakiska, makes the perfect family getaway on wintry weekends. There’s something for everyone at Nakiska, with beautifully manicured slopes from green to black, as well as the roller-coaster bump and grind of Monster Glades, rail park, and tube park. Get coupons for free kids’ tickets at local ski shows at skinakiska.com.

Even families with newborns will feel at home at Mt Norquay where Lone Pine Lodge resembles a mom-and-baby group during the week. A great spot for kids to learn to ski/snowboard via affordably priced eight-week programs for all ages. At age 10, a child can join the new All Mountain Experience. For more information, visit winter.banffnorquay.com/snowschool/junior.

The Robak family from Calgary has skied at Mt Norquay for seven seasons. “Franco is now 13 years old and he can hardly wait to get on his boards for his eighth season,” says proud dad, Brian Robak. “Over the years, he has also developed great relationships with his ski buddies, now very good friends with the same skiing abilities.” Added to the Norquay program, the family skies other resorts around Alberta and BC. “That gives our family health, happiness, and togetherness for four months of the year,” says Robak. “Each weekend is like a mini holiday.”

“There’s been a resurgence in family playtime at Sunshine Village,” says Kendra Scurfield, daughter of owner Ralph Scurfield. “More families are taking the time to spend time together doing activities that all family members can participate in and enjoy,” says Scurfield, Media & Communications Manager for the rugged and ritzy resort. While kids are bonding in ski school, parents can enjoy time skiing with other adults or working on technique with instructors, explains Scurfield. “Families, in particular, love it that they can split up for a little bit, and then return for some family skiing and activities after their perspective lessons.” Staying on-hill means the play continues all evening. “The five-day program includes lift tickets, lessons, and stay at our Sunshine Mountain Lodge for about a grand a person,” says Scurfield. To plan your family’s playtime at Sunshine Village, visit skibanff.com.

Iconic ice-skating and sleigh rides at Chateau Lake Louise are signature experiences, with photo ops framed by Victoria Glacier. Save money on weekend retreats by booking family suites at Mountaineer Lodge or Lake Louise Inn, and then indulge in a family fondue at The Post Hotel. At the 4200-acre ski hill, fun focuses on ‘terrain-based’ learning. “We use natural and man-made features to help young riders and skiers develop balance and confidence on their equipment, progress to a higher level of riding, and set them up for a lifetime of fun on the mountain,” says Dan Markham, Communications Manager. Lake Louise offers a Parent Pass: One parent skis with an older child while the other takes the toddler (free) to the Beginner Fun Zone. Christmas and New Year holiday highlights include the Torchlight Dinner & Ski - starting mid-mountain and progressing via a freshly-groomed run to the Sitzmark smorgasbord. To plan your family’s signature experience at Lake Louise, visit skilouise.com.

Weekenders, check out Panorama where family freedom is foremost. Think skiing and snowboarding, plus a menu of après-ski activities scheduled so everyone can investigate their inner winter warrior. Tandem paragliding, fat biking, snowmobiling, skating, snowshoeing, and even glass bead-making means everyone brings back different tales to the dinner table. Enjoy great family get-togethers in huge slope-side pools. A new après-kids program enables parents to savor Happy Hour. “The tube park seems to be a huge hit across all ages, and we suspect it will quickly become one of our biggest family/multi-generational attractions this winter,” says Panorama’s Laura Matthew. Holiday Season includes paragliding Santa on Christmas Day and a Torchlight Ski Parade with fireworks on New Year’s Eve. To unleash your inner winter warrior at Panorama, visit panoramaresort.com.

‘Togethering’ is in vogue at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR), giving generations the chance to get outdoors for family frolics all winter. “We are seeing more multi-generation ski vacations, not only to share the cost but more importantly to use time togethering,” says Matt Mosteller from RCR. More families are setting up mountain lifestyle basecamps. “We see growth in families purchasing places in communities like Kimberley, Fernie, and Golden,” adds Mosteller. For a taste of the weekender lifestyle at Fernie, there’s luxurious Lizard Creek Lodge, skifernie.com.

Along with fat biking at RCR resorts, there’s also an emphasis on up-touring, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, says avid ski tourer ‘Powder Matt.’ Kicking Horse - known for its Big Mountain Camps and Junior Freeskiing opportunities in gnarly chutes and open powder bowls - also encompasses an expansive chairlift-accessed beginner area, kickinghorseresort.com. In addition to 33 kilometres of Nordic trails from Dawn Mountain, there’s ice-skating, tubing, and snowmobiling at the resort.

Kimberley offers a year-round family lifestyle as well as a holiday haven. Resident Andy Miller moved to Kimberley from the UK to find the perfect family community. At the first snow of the year, the family of four jumps into their 4x4 for an off-road drive adventure. “The kids understand that the snow is high up and they get to call ‘left’ or ‘right’ when we get to a junction,” says Miller. “We don’t stop until we’ve thrown the first snowballs of the year.” The excitement mounts when they start buying ski gear, setting new season goals, and meeting ski coaches. A fun family diversion throughout the five-month season is mountain café ranking. “It’s all about hot chocolate with sprinkles, which [café] has the best this year, and involves trying them all on a regular basis,” explains Miller.

As well as skiing, the family skates at the resort’s outdoor rink and, on Sundays, at free sessions at Kimberley Arena. The holidays are a particularly fun time. “We all love the Turkey Run-Off,” says Miller. “It’s a family-friendly snowshoe trail race hosted by the Kimberley Orienteering and Trail Running Club.” And he says everybody goes to the New Year’s Eve candlelit cross-country ski with fireworks after dark at the Nordic Club, skikimberley.com/purchase/winter-activities.

Marmot Basin, with the bounties of Jasper National Park, is a wonderland of winter options. The Marmot Escape Card is an affordable discount program for families, with half-price passes and 20 per cent off junior tickets. With real moose and elk to delight, Marmot also has Santa and Jasper the Bear skiing around the mountain at Christmas. The Jasper in January festival continues the celebrations with scavenger hunts, street parties and dogsledding.

And don’t miss the $20 Grade 2 Fun Pass giving kids aged seven free skiing all season, skilouise.com/passes-and-products/grade-2-pass.php and the Canadian Ski Council’s Grade 4 and Grade 5 Snow Pass, giving three free days of skiing at over 150 resorts for a one-time fee of $29.95, skicanada.org/grade-4-5-snowpass.

Louise is a ski journalist and author of Winter Sport Tourism: Working in Winter Wonderlands, goodfellowpublishers.com/wintersporttourism. Keep up with her all winter at onetwoski.blogspot.com, Twitter: twitter.com/skiblogger, and Facebook: facebook.com/louise.hudson.963

Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2017 Calgary’s Child