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 sat down with Kirsten, instructor extraordinaire from our Winter Sports School and asked her why she thinks everyone can ski and why everyone should start skiing;
1) Many think skiing is hard who have never tried it- but we know different- why?
Skiing is easy and fun if you learn the right way, it’s a lot easier then it looks to pick up and master, once you have the basics behind you, all you need is mileage and some good encouragement, once you start you cant stop.
2) Why would you say new Canadians should try skiing?
Simply because you have the biggest playground in your backyard, winters in Canada can be long and cold, but when your skiing, those long cold days are something you can look forward to, it’s a great winter activity that the whole family can take part in and enjoy.
3) What does skiing provide guests who try it?
Fun, accomplishment, laughs and a great experience you can take with you for the rest of your life, yes some guests may not enjoy skiing as much as others, but at least you can say you have tried it. It also opens your eyes to a whole new world and a whole new winter activity, you get to see things from a different perspective and the views from the top of the lift are always worth it 😀
4) What is the first timer experience like? Can you break it down- teaching steps, dealing with weather, how to dress etc.
The first tier experience can be a bit daunting to some non the less the end result is almost always a good one, when you have your first ski lesson you will be shown how to handle the equipment (skis, poles, boots etc ). You will learn how to get around on your skis, how to move and how to stop… stopping is an important one, once you start feeling comfortable with all of that, you will be introduced to turning, once you are turning comfortably and are in control, the terrain will be adjusted and you will be taught how to get down various terrain safely while enjoying it.
There are many factors that go into a first time ski lesson, you will want to dress appropriately for the weather, generally you would want some good snow pants and a good snow jacket, under layers are important to, and the amount of layers will change depending on the weather, socks are another important one, you would want to get a good pair of ski socks, and one pair is enough, your toes will be nice and toasty. There are a ton of other options for those extra cold days to when it comes to keeping those feet nice and warm. I would advise wearing a helmet and having a good pair of goggles, gloves and a face mask will come in handy to, all of this is very important especially if its your first time, because you may fall over a few times while learning, it doesn’t hurt to fall over on your skis, I promise 😀
The more prepared and comfortable you are, the easier it will be to focus on your lesson and get skiing faster.
5) What made it special about teaching these two (new Canadians)?
They had never been skiing before, it was a new adventure for both of them. They were really excited and enthusiastic from the get go, they listened well and progressed quickly, they had tons of fun learning and wanted to keep going. It’s always a pleasure to introduce someone into skiing and seeing the joy it brings them.
Check out the video of Kirsten teaching two new Canadians to ski earlier this season, produced in partnership with Go Ski Alberta and Snowseekers on our YouTube channel;
As you dream about ski adventures next winter, here are 10 reasons to put the Canadian Rockies at the top of your must-do list.
1)Hot Springs. From au natural rock pools of steaming hot mineral water in the forest to commercial springs like Fairmont, Cave and Basin, and Radium, there are many ways to soothe post-skiing muscle aches and pains in the Rockies.
2)National parks. Fernie Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort and Nakiska Ski Area sit on the door step of Canada’s stunning mountain national parks of Yoho, Jasper, Banff, Waterton and Kootenay. Combined these natural treasures make up the globally recognized Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the largest protected mountain areas in the world.
3)Mountain views. Quadruple check. Fernie, Kimberley, Kicking Horse and Nakiska offer up some of the largest and tastiest vertical of any resorts in Canada together with stunning views of the Elk River, Columbia, and Kananaskis valleys.
4) Diversity of riding options. From destination resort skiing to cozy backcountry lodges, from heli to cat skiing, there ‘s a mind boggling variety and choice of winter experiences available in the mountains of Western Canada.
5)Mountain cuisine and craft beers. Got a hunger? Why not dine on Elk burger at the Eagle’s Nest, the restaurant with a sky high view at the top of the Eagle Express Gondola at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. In Fernie head into town for an après ski Project 9 Pils, Big Caboose Red Ale or another of the craft brewed beers at Fernie Brewing Company. Or sink into the chair for a cocktail by the hearth at Lizard Creek Lodge’s Cirque Restaurant.
6) Snow quality and quantity. You can bank on it. Fernie’s Lizard Range runs perpendicular to the Rockie’s north-south access, generating generous weather patterns that are a skiers dream. At the same time Kicking Horse Resort is renowned for champagne light powder snow. All you need is an adventurous nature and a trail map, or the knowledge of a level 4 instructor to help you find inbound stashes of the stuff days after the last storm.
7)Going steep. Alpine bowls and couloirs abound but perhaps a Big Mountain Clinic at Kicking Horse is what you need to tune steep skills, build enough confidence to point the tips down a couloir and get to the goods.
8) Access. It doesn’t get much better. Calgary International Airport (YYC) is serviced by direct flights from major Canadian, American and European centres. The drive west from the rolling prairies of Calgary to the soaring Canadian Rockies is breathtaking.
9)Crowds? You can leave those behind. With more than 8000 total skiable acres between Kicking Horse, Fernie, Kimberley and Nakiska, your legs will quit before the terrain does.
10) Value. American friends, you won’t find a better bang for your winter buck when you head north of the 49th parallel to ski the Canadian Rockies.
Our winter Early Bird season pass sale ends on Saturday, June 25th, order your season pass or multi week ski school lesson online through the RCR Webstore before the deadline for the best savings of next season.
Don’t forget about those lessons! Get the kids in multi week programs – view and buy ski school programs through the RCR Webstore.
NEW this year buy a $500 Food & Beverage card for just $399 when purchased with your season pass! Find out more about this new Member Benefit and all the others on the RCR Webstore.
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