Western Canada's Best Ski Resorts for Families

Skiing and snowboarding are great fun for the entire family but before the black diamond trails called Barely Legal, Parachute and Unnecessary Roughness are considered as a family outing, maybe tamer runs like Gentle Giant, Squirrel or Happy Valley should be under the boards. By finding those resorts with tamer trails, gentle terrain, and great lessons we can ease the little ones into an activity that will keep them happy in the snow for years to come. Here are a few Western Canada Resorts that help families have fun.

Most beginners are tiny tots and just putting on the winter coats, mitts, helmets, goggles, boots and snow pants is exhausting. Then there is the gear to carry from the parking lot. Trust me – mom and pop are whooped, stressed, cranky and sweating before the first lift ride. Resorts that have areas to unload the gear and the kids with easy access to the first lift makes the day start smooth.

Norquay – First for families in Banff since 1926

Norquay has always been there. And it has always put the family first. Take a look at what they offer. First off, the unloading area is flat, and a short jaunt to the lodge. If you choose to not use the unloading area, a handy tractor pulling a big flat wagon will add a fun adventure for the kids, take you to the lodge, and back to your car at the end of the day.

You know you are in the right place for beginners when you see just how many ski instructors are waiting for their eager students. And even better – you know you are in the right place because those eager students ditch you as soon as they see their instructors! The Little Rip N’ Rider and Wee Warrior lessons are aimed at 3 – 5 year olds and actually sell out fast! (Start those Olympians early)

Norquay is all about the family fun time and offer ski packages to entice the family. Check out their web page for the latest offer but expect to find whole day pass packages for a family of four including time in the tube park and a round of hot chocolates at the end of the day.

Norquay Photo Credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Norquay Photo Credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography


Nakiska – In Cree means “To Meet”

Less than an hour from Calgary you can spill the kids and the gear into the unloading zone that is a flat walk to the lodge and lifts. Two magic carpets in the beginner zone will amuse the little folks for hours. And when they say “Time Out” the new tube park is there to end the day on a positive note.

Nakiska offers 71 marked trails with almost 15 percent listed as beginner and 59 percent intermediate. Almost all of the beginner slopes are within a short stroll to the lodge. When it’s time to move beyond the magic carpet, the Bronze chair is short 6 minute ride to the green trails like Sweetgrass and Chinook (what sounds daunting about names like that?)

A reward at the top of the Silver chair are blue runs including the Minute Maid Kids trails and the Homesteader with an easy bypass to eliminate one daunting pitch.

Nakiska’s Winter Sports School offers lessons for any level (including ladies only). That means while the beginners hone their skills you can check out the new glade trails off the Gold Chair. That way everyone piles happily back in the car after a great day on the slopes. Or better yet, take the two minute drive to the hotels in Kananaskis Village and make it a weekend. Those hot tubs are calling you!

Nakiska Photo Credit: Perry Thompson

Nakiska Photo Credit: Perry Thompson

Panorama – Make it a weekend away

Panorama – or for those of you in the know – “Pano” is great for the families who want that ski-in/ski out experience of a classic ski village. Getting to the slope is as easy as opening the door. Chairlifts drift above the condominiums, shops and restaurants taking you to the action while trails will lead into the village bringing you back for lunch or the end of the day on the slopes.
With 120 named trails, 75 percent caters to the beginner and intermediate visitors leaving 25 percent to the folks who chase the steep and deep in Taynton Bowl.

You’ll want to be a kid again after you see the programs for beginners. The “PanoKids” camps introduce the newbies with easy terrain, fun obstacle courses and trips through the trees to build confidence. And as that confidence grows, so does the terrain they use. The best part is the lessons can take the entire day – leaving you time to explore the resort too.

Pano has more than just slope activities to entertain the family. Also available at the resort are hot pools, cold pools, waterslides, saunas, heli-skiing, a tubing park, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobile adventures and yes…the spa.

Panorama Photo Credit:  Kari Medig

Panorama Photo Credit: Kari Medig

Kimberley – Skip the yodel and give me a yahoo!

Kimberley is such a nice little town tucked into the Purcell Range of the Canadian Rockies. What was once called the “Bavarian village of the Rockies” is changing its tune. Forget the yodel – it’s time to hoot and holler! Only minutes away is one big beautiful all-season resort offering tons of everything. Stunning scenery, 80 named trails and glades, entertainment, restaurants and on slope accommodations. Beginners and extreme skier/boarders love this place so it’s easy to please the entire family.

Unloading at the base is a dream. The ticket kiosk is right before the day lodge which is only steps from the first chair that takes you up an amazingly long easy mountain face covered in blue and green trails.

Beginners will love staying at the Trickle Creek Lodge. Seriously – you can sit on the deck and when five of the six people in your lesson are at the Owl Learning area, you can pop out the door and be on time. And with group lessons called “Little Rippers” you know the kids are in for a good time. For beginners looking for a decent terrain park – this one rocks.
When the day is done, gather at one of the on slope eateries to hang a lip over the local’s favourite eats including waffle poutine fries or the Buckhorn Burger at the Stemwinder, Honkin’ Beef Ribs at the Montana’s Restaurant at the base village or just a gosh darn good Monster Dog at the Slopeside Cafeteria.

Kimberley Photo Credit: Henry Georgi

Kimberley Photo Credit: Henry Georgi

The snow cone called Sun Peaks

Just 45 minutes from Kamloops B.C. the snow just doesn’t quit and that’s where you will find Sun Peaks Resort – buried under at least six metres of snow every year. The alpine village at the base of three mountains is perfect for families on vacation. Once you’ve unloaded the car – that’s it – no more dragging of gear. The kids can roam around the village, the shops and slopes without a care in the world.

Accommodations are plentiful at Sun Peaks Resort with easy access to chairlifts or trails from almost every door. The resort is an all-season property but in the winter expect to find all the alpine terrain with 10 percent beginner, 58 percent intermediate and the rest listed as expert. The terrain park is 9 acres with distinct districts laid out for all abilities.

Lessons for the 3-7 year-olds in the Sun Tots program are one-on-one building self-confidence before advancing to the group lessons for 6-12 year-olds offered in a variety of options from half to full day.

Being classified as a destination resort, Sun Peaks Resort can cater to your length of stay. And, since you have the kids enrolled, maybe it’s time for a bit of a refresher or “me-time” for mom. The Ski Sisters Program, and the Ladies Day, are hosted and taught by the resorts best female instructors, tailoring the day to what mom needs to get her groove on the slopes back.
If you are done with the skis and snowboards for the day, there are dog sled tours, Cat Trax Groomer Rides, fondue dinners, horse drawn sleigh rides, skating, an aquatic centre, snowmobile tours, bungee trampolines and of course everyone’s favourite – the tube park.


Sun Peaks Village Photo Credit: Adam Stein

Sun Peaks Village Photo Credit: Adam Stein


Whistler Blackcomb are massive but so is the fun

Whoa, it’s big. Two enormous mountains linked by a gondola draped like Christmas lights across the gorge. How can it possibly cater to the little legs? Quite well, thank you very much! Just tell me what kid doesn’t want to find the enchanted Tree Fort and the Magic Castle in the forest?

Whistler Blackcomb, 2 hours’ drive north of Vancouver, doesn’t just have green runs at the bottom of the slopes; they are integrated all the way to the top so that everyone can feel the excitement of taming those massive mountains. The Children’s Learning Area and the Green Acres Family Zone are up the mountain accessed by the Gondolas and chair lifts. Green and blue runs can take the little ones back to the village with a huge sense of accomplishment. If they are too pooped to ski all the way to the village, a trip down on the gondola is just as fun.

What’s fun is Whistler Village. Trade the ski and boarding boots for skates and winter boots. Spin around the Olympic Plaza skating rink or experience the thrill of the Coca-Cola Tube Park. Restaurants and accommodations are plentiful.
Of course there are more!

Whistler Blackcomb Photo Credit: Paul Morrison

Whistler Blackcomb Photo Credit: Paul Morrison

Other resorts like Big White near Kelowna, Silver Star near Vernon, and Fernie near the town of Fernie all in BC cater to the young families. Check any of them out this winter and have fun.

Don’t forget the Grade 4 and 5 Ski Pass

The Canadian Ski Council’s SnowPass lets kids in grade 4 and 5 ski and snowboard three times at 150 participating ski are across Canada for only $29.99 for the season. Check it out at www.skicanada.org.