As a family, I have taken many ski getaways, and have learned over the years how to plan a trip that will really stand out as our winter highlight. My suggestions below are the consistent top three factors for my family’s ski weekends success.
1. Choose a ski resort with nearby accommodations.
In an ideal world, my family would always have a ski-in/ski-out two-bedroom condo right on the hill with our own kitchen (and a private hot tub on the patio - though that’s just dreaming, right?).
Private hot tub aside, I do recommend staying on the hill if you can afford it. It takes away much of the stress and morning craziness if you only have a one-minute walk to the closest chairlift. It means you can sleep in a bit, enjoy a nice breakfast, and still be first in line for the lifts.
Other advantages to staying right on the hill are you can return to your room afterward for lunch (bye-bye crowded day lodge), you can put younger children down for an afternoon nap and still return to the hill later for a few final runs, and you have a place to hang out after skiing if some family members want to call it quits early.
Fernie Alpine Resort - My family likes the slope-side hot tub and swimming pool at the Lizard Creek Lodge. This lodge also hosts a fun Saturday night kids’ party that includes supervised swimming, dinner, and a movie (hello date night!). Note: There is a cost associated with the kids’ party.
Kimberley Alpine Resort - My family likes the Trickle Creek Lodge for its slope-side pool and hot tub. We’ve also stayed at other condos on the hill with their own outdoor pools. Many properties also have private hot tubs (back to the dream…).
Panorama Mountain Resort - All lodging guests staying in the village receive access to the Panorama Springs Pools (by far the largest hot pools we’ve found at a ski resort). We like staying right at the Panorama Springs Lodge, where the pools are located, but you’ll find no shortage of condo properties spread out around this mountain village.
2. Choose a resort that works for the whole family.
Some of the things you’ll want to look for are:
Variety of terrain - My family loves Fernie Alpine Resort where you’ll find short beginner runs off the Deer Chair, cruisy groomers off the Elk Chair progressing up to the wide-open bowls, and steep terrain higher up the mountain. There’s something for all abilities and styles of skiing here.
Progression for learning - Take the family to Panorama Mountain Resort where the kids can transition from the magic carpet lifts to the silver platter, and finally to the Discovery Quad (a short chairlift which accesses easy beginner runs and a fun kids’ trail that winds through the trees). Once the kids have mastered the Discovery Quad, they will be ready to move on to the Mile 1 Express where they can search for the hidden tree house with slide.
Fun kids’ runs - My family loves visiting Fernie and Kimberley for the Minute Maid Kids’ Trails located on the lower mountain of each resort. These trails resemble luge tracks as they wind through the trees and are a lot of fun for kids on short little skis. The kids can also look out for fun forest creatures on signs as they ski down these trails.
A variety of runs off every chairlift - Last winter, my family traveled to Jasper to ski at Marmot Basin and were impressed by the layout of the resort. We were able to ski as a family from every chairlift where there was always an easy way off (even if it was a gentle traverse from the highest chair). Each chairlift accessed beginner to expert terrain for skiers of all abilities.
My son is also a fan of terrain parks and was thrilled to find three different parks at Marmot Basin spread out around the hill. Even better was that we could visit all three in one long run down from top to bottom.
And while Jasper doesn’t have any lodging on the hill itself, we still enjoyed staying in a hotel in the nearby town (with convenient access to dozens of great restaurants!).
3. Choose a destination that goes beyond downhill skiing for activities.
This one is especially important if you’re planning a trip over a holiday period and want to stay beyond a weekend. You’ll also want a variety of activities near your resort if you’re traveling with extended family members who might not ski, or if you have younger children who won’t be able to spend multiple days (or full days) on the hill.
Lake Louise - My family likes to stay at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre, a very comfortable hostel located in the village of Lake Louise. The hostel has private rooms for families, a large communal kitchen, and a beautiful fireside room. Staying here as your basecamp, you can drive up to the lake to enjoy ice skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing. You can also ski or hike right out the door of the hostel onto the village trail network.
Drive over to the nearby Lake Louise Ski Resort and enjoy downhill skiing, guided snowshoe hikes, sightseeing trips up the gondola, or tubing. There’s something at the resort for every member of the family.
Panorama Mountain Resort - My family loves staying at this cozy alpine village where we can try downhill skiing, fat biking, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing (with rentals available for all sports, including plus size bikes for youth who want to try fat biking on the village trails). There’s also an ice-skating rink and a small tubing hill. Add the Panorama Springs Hot Pools and nobody is going to run out of fun activities to enjoy!
You can also travel down to nearby Invermere to skate on Lake Windermere where you’ll find the longest outdoor ice-skating path in the world.
Road trip to Jasper - This is a great option for a long weekend or a school holiday. Travel the beautiful Icefields Parkway to Jasper, set yourself up in one of the hotels in town, and then enjoy a wide variety of winter sports.
My family likes downhill skiing at the Marmot Basin Ski Resort, ice skating on Pyramid Lake, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on the trails around town, and you have to go explore Maligne Canyon where you can take a guided tour down inside the frozen canyon to see large icefalls.
Jasper is one of the best destinations for those meeting up with extended family where you’ll find activities for all ages and abilities.
You’ll also find no shortage of activities at Fernie or Kimberley Alpine Resort if you want to explore the cross-country or snowshoe trails around each town. Both resorts have Nordic trails at their resorts as well, and fat biking tours with rentals for adults. My family has also enjoyed night skiing at these resorts while staying in a ski-in/ski-out condo on the hill.
Happy winter travels and here’s to awesome trip-planning!
Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky boy. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.
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