Spring is my favourite time to go skiing for warm weather, sunny days spent on the hill with no frozen fingers or toes, and for the abundant patio opportunities. It can also be a challenging time though with unpredictable snow (often changing by the hour) and temperatures that make us overheat just trying to carry gear from the parking lot to the day lodge.
Check out my ten simple tips below and discover how to fully make the most of your days on the hill this spring season.
- Be prepared for multiple wardrobe changes. We’ve already had a couple of warm ski days this season where I was sweating just trying to pack our skis over to the day lodge. We’d always cool off on the chair lift ride up the hill but then I’d be sweating again on the ski down. The biggest tip here is layering so that you have options for dealing with changing temperatures. Add a sweater, remove a shirt, ski with just a warm base layer and your ski pants, or take the lining out of your 3-in-1 ski jacket. I also recommend having some extra clothing options stored in a duffel bag in the day lodge (or in your vehicle) so that you can do a quick wardrobe change mid-day if you need.
- Fight thirst without breaking the bank. Unless you’re prepared to pay at least $3 for a beverage or even a bottle of water when the sun starts beating down on you, make sure you pack some water bottles in your day pack to leave in the lodge. You can always fill your own water bottle in the lodge (for free) so skip buying drinks and bring Gatorade crystals, flavor drops, or even lemonade powder.
- A spring sunburn is not a fashion statement. While a lot of people like to pull out their “funky fun clothing” for spring skiing, don’t think you’re going to look cool trying to accessorize with a sun burn after spending hours on the hill, snow reflecting the sun on to your skin. Sun’s out, Sunblock’s out!
- Get first tracks for the best spring snow. Get on the hill at 9am and you’ll have at least three hours before the snow starts getting slushy. By noon, if you have a seasons pass, you can always call it quits for the day if the snow deteriorates too badly and head over to Kananaskis Village for a walk, a skate on the pond, or even just a visit to the playground.
- Ski high for the best snow. The lower mountain will always get slushy before the runs off the gold chair will. Ski the lower slopes in the morning but move your way up the hill when the snow starts getting soft.
- Be prepared for all kinds of conditions (in the same day!) You might start skiing on iced corduroy for the first hour, move on to soft snow that resembles mashed potatoes for the next hour or so, and then slowly move into slushier conditions by noon. That’s the reality of spring skiing! My best suggestion is to send a strong skier out to try new areas on the mountain first before taking the kids up a new lift and discovering the runs to be icy or in a condition that your children can’t ski.
- Join in the fun of a spring fiesta. Nakiska will be holding Spring Fiesta weekends every Saturday and Sunday in April for the first three weeks until April 16th. Have fun with some spring skiing and DJ entertainment in a slope side lounge. A face painter and balloon artist will be on site for the kids.
- Stay local and enjoy a mini-ski vacation. Book your ski vacation through Resorts of the Canadian Rockies for great family deals on ski passes and accommodations at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge or Stoney Nakoda Lodge. For an affordable ski vacation, the HI Kananaskis Hostel has four private rooms and a fully stocked kitchen so you can make your own meals.
- Try something new this spring! Warmer days, sunshine, and bluebird skies call for new experiences and fun adventures. Try some family tubing at Nakiska, take a snowboard lesson, book a family coaching session and learn some new skills in a private ski or snowboarding class, register the kids in a spring break camp, or book a private lesson to get an introduction to doing tricks in the terrain park.
- Always have a backup plan for spring ski weekends. With unpredictable spring weather and snow conditions, it’s always good to have a few backup plans (especially if you’re staying at Kananaskis Village for a weekend and are only skiing half days.) Take a fat bike tour with Kananaskis Outfitters at the nearby Village, rent snowshoes or cross country skis from the Outfitters and check out the trails around the village, or take a hike to nearby Troll Falls and see if you can find some of the hidden trolls along the trail.
See you on the slopes this spring!
I’ve tried to teach my child a number of sports on my own and it’s usually ended with tears, frustration, and a severe dislike for the activity on a few occasions. Even when I’ve been moderately successful in teaching the “basics,” I’ve always chosen to call for outside help to reinforce proper technique, build skills, and take my child to the next level.
When it comes to skiing, I know I am far from being an expert. I am an intermediate skier (at best) and still fear wiping out on an easy run while my son passes me and gets to the bottom of the hill without me. Teaching him to ski by myself is therefore not an option I am willing to entertain.
Thankfully, we chose to start off correctly with skiing and we placed our son in lessons from early on. The first lesson was only an hour and a half long but it gave our son a good “first impression” of the sport in a positive supportive environment. The teacher was fun and relaxed, didn’t get angry or show frustration, and kept the pressure light. My child responded well to the lesson and was able to work on the skills he learned with us in the afternoon.
I have many reasons for being a ski school supporter but below are my top five:
- Quality training from a professional instructor. We all know that kids usually learn best when somebody else is the teacher and skiing is no exception. The Nakiska Ski School instructors have years of experience under their belts and are prepared with games, activities, and fun tricks to make your child’s ski experience a fun one.
- Ski School Offers a Relaxed Start to the Day. I find the first hour at a ski resort to be the most stressful. Just getting the family and gear to the day lodge exhausts me and I need a few minutes to sip a coffee and relax before hitting the slopes. Fortunately, I’ve learned that if I put my son in morning lessons, I will get that quiet time to unwind once the lesson starts and I can slowly work at getting my own skis on and making my way on to the hill.
- Ski School Offers Adults Time to Ski on their Own. My husband will tell you that as long as he gets a couple of hours to ski the more advanced runs in the morning, he’s happy to take it easy in the afternoon cruising down the easier terrain with the family. Ski school allows the adults in the family some time to ski on their own or to ski with older children while the younger ones are in their class.
- Nakiska Resort Offers Family Lessons. I took a mountain biking lesson with my son this summer and it was a lot of fun learning new skills together. I can imagine that for a family who is new to skiing, it would be a lot of fun to learn together. Nakiska offers affordable packages for the whole family to take a lesson together with individual tips offered to each member of the family.
- Ski Lessons Can Be Paired with Daycare. For the toddlers and little ones in your family, an hour on the hill might be all they can handle. Nakiska’s daycare program includes a lesson along with indoor and outdoor play time while the rest of the family enjoys their time on the hill. Packages can be purchased for the whole day or for just a half day if you still want to ski with your munchkin in the afternoon for a while or if you have a season’s pass and just want to spend a half day at the hill.
My son has taken a few private lessons now and has tried a resort daycare program as well with nothing but success and happiness. I don’t think there’s been a single tear and we still remember our first instructor’s name. Ski School has contributed greatly towards my child’s enjoyment of skiing and I’m grateful that we’ve chosen to invest in this program.
Follow Tanya’s adventures on her blog.
Words by Tanya Koob
Photos by Tanya Koob & Abbydell Photography
We got to try Nakiska’s brand new Tube Park while we were at the resort before Christmas. First impression, I honestly thought it looked like a miniature toboggan hill. It didn’t look like much and it wasn’t very big. I’d never tried tubing at a resort before so I guess I had built it up in my mind to be something much larger. I quickly changed my opinion after the first ride down though. It was the most fun I’ve had on a sled or tube – EVER. And it didn’t hurt!
I’m not generally a big fan of sledding because honestly, this body is just too old to handle all the bumps and jarring anymore. Tubing at Nakiska on the other hand was completely gentle, smooth, groomed, and adult-friendly! I’d go back again any day!
Words & Photos by Tanya Koob
I remember our first family downhill ski trip in great clarity because I had been extremely apprehensive of the whole sport as a “family experience.” My husband and I had done a lot of resort skiing back in the “good old days” before kids but had been nervous to try it with a child in tow. We were both envisioning the worst when we thought of taking a small child to a busy ski resort for a day, of having to find parking and get all of our gear to the day lodge, and of having to find space in a crowded lodge for our family to eat and rest. Add other fears such as having to get out of the house early in the morning to reach the hill in time to find parking, dealing with a cranky child who’s missed his afternoon nap, and having to deal with a tot who may or may not appreciate the long car ride out to the hill (and back) – and you can see why I was just a teensy bit apprehensive of the whole experience.
All I can say in a quick response to the above fears is thank god for Nakiska! One half day at Nakiska and all of my fears were relieved. We had a fabulous first day downhill skiing as a family and my son would now consider it to be his favourite winter sport.
Tips for a Relaxed Morning at the Hill
We tried to pack for our ski day the night before to save time in the morning. When we got up, we just had to have a quick breakfast and jump in the car. Other things we did to save time were booking our son’s ski lesson in advance rather than just showing up at the hill to register him, and buying him his own gear rather than renting at the hill. If planning to rent, allow for at least an extra half hour at the hill before you will be able to start skiing. (Something to keep in mind if you have lessons booked first thing in the morning.)
We arrived at the hill with plenty of time to find a good parking spot, to find our way to the day lodge, pick up our lift tickets, and to make our way to the meeting spot for lessons. We quickly discovered that registering our son in a lesson for first thing in the morning was the smartest thing we could have done as beginners to family downhill skiing. We only had to worry about getting one person dressed and set to go rather than getting all three of us ready at the same time.
As soon as our son was in his lesson, I distinctly remember grabbing a coffee and thinking about how relaxed the whole process had been. Because of the lesson, my husband got to ski on his own all morning and was able to do a bunch of his favourite runs rather than spending the morning on the bunny hill. Meanwhile, I spent a relaxed morning with my coffee near the day lodge and kept close tabs on the lesson process.
Lunch without the Crowds
We headed in for an early lunch after the lesson and discovered another secret to success: Eat early to avoid crowds! We had left a duffle bag with our personal belongings and lunch under a table in the day lodge and had no problem finding it when we went inside. We easily found space to eat, and had an enjoyable time in the non-crowded dining area.
Family Bonding at the Hill
We’ve gotten into a habit where we try to take advantage of children’s lessons in the morning whenever possible and then we spend the afternoon skiing together as a family. We can now bomb down the blue runs together with our 6 year old who’s become quite the proficient skier but on our first day at Nakiska, we enjoyed the bunny hill together and took a few spins down in the tube park. The Tube Park was a great add-on to our ski day and allowed some rest time from skiing. We had a snack in the lodge mid-afternoon and then left the hill early to avoid congested roads on the drive home.
- Bring a sled to haul gear into the lodge with or load your gear (and youngest tots) into a Chariot stroller
- Go as a group and alternate child care duties with friends or go with another couple and take turns with the men doing bunny hill/day lodge duty while the women ski, and vice versa.
- Bring a grandparent or family member along who is content to hang out in the lodge with babies or young tots not old enough to ski yet