Snow sports like skiing and snowboarding are a big part of winter life in the Calgary area and many families are excited to get their little snow bunnies on the slopes almost as soon as they’re able to walk. The ski hills and resorts in Southern Alberta are happy to accommodate families and offer learning areas, lessons for youngsters and/or quality childcare so that older family members can enjoy a day of skiing. All these ski facilities offer reduced prices for kids, family packages, or even free lift tickets for children under the age of six (visit the facility’s webpage for current prices).
Here’s a rundown of the major ski hills within easy driving distance from Calgary, including a brief summary of some of the things they offer to keep kids and their parents happy and loving the mountains and the winter.
Be sure to check with the hill regarding specific services and guidelines for the winter of 2020-21. There have been many “tweaks” to operations due to COVID-19, such as a postponement or cancellation of daycare services or no group lessons for preschoolers.
WinSport Canada Olympic Park
Where: 88 Canada Olympic Road SW, Calgary, AB
What could be more convenient than getting to ski without even leaving the city? WinSport is a great choice for families who want to hit the slopes without making an entire day of it (but you could!). Because the hill is relatively small, it’s the ideal place for first-time skiers, but it also offers a progression park, terrain park and superpipe to keep things interesting. Winsport offers lessons for kids ranging from preschool age to teens (and of course adults too). Check with the hill for the specific impacts of COVID-19 for the 2020-21 winter season.
Where: 3 Mount Allan Drive, Kananaskis, AB
Just 45 minutes outside of the city, Nakiska is another great choice for families that don’t want to commit to a full day on the slopes or aren’t sure how long their kids’ stamina will hold out. Nakiska’s TELUS Winter Sport School offers lessons for kids as young as three, as well as lessons that can be combined with childcare so that your little ones will be occupied while older family members spend their entire day skiing. Childcare is offered for kids as young as 19 months. You can buy half-day lift tickets for a shorter excursion and a later start. Check with the hill for the specific impacts of COVID-19 for the 2020-21 winter season.
Where: Banff National Park, on Mt. Norquay access road
Norquay is a medium-sized hill that isn’t as busy as some of the bigger ones in the area; this makes it the top mountain choice for many families looking for a quieter day on the slopes. There are plenty of programs and lessons for kids as young as three with optional daycare add-ons, plus Norquay puts on kids’ camps during school breaks. Anyone who isn’t into skiing (or just needs a break!) can check out the awesome tubing park for an alternate way to enjoy the snow. Lift tickets are also available in half-day or last hour options, so you don’t have to pay for a full day if you just want to do a couple of runs with the kids. Want the chairlift experience and the amazing view without having to ski back down? Try the Winter Sightseeing Chairlift! Check with the hill for the specific impacts of COVID-19 for the 2020-21 winter season.
Where: 1 Whitehorn Road, Lake Louise, AB
This is a bigger and more challenging hill than Norquay, but there are still plenty of opportunities for families and kids. Kids and beginners enjoy the Beginners Fun Zone, featuring progressive slopes with user-friendly carpet lifts and whimsical decorations to help keep learning fun for kids. There are plenty of options for child and youth lessons, including the Bow Valley Ski & Snowboard Programs, which run on consecutive Saturdays or Sundays and have options for kids age 3 to 17. Lake Louise also has a licensed daycare on site and you can combine daycare with lessons to keep little ones busy all day. Check with the hill for the specific impacts of COVID-19 for the 2020-21 winter season.
Where: Banff National Park
Sunshine offers extensive ski and snowboard lessons, including 3-day camps during school breaks (for kids as young as three, right up to adults), which can be combined with the licensed Tiny Tigers daycare (for kids aged 19 months to 6 years). Even if they spend the whole day in daycare while you ski, young kids will still have the thrill of riding the gondola up to the lodge. Check with the hill for the specific impacts of COVID-19 for the 2020-21 winter season.
Where: Near Pincher Creek, AB
Castle Mountain’s childcare program is only open on weekends and holidays, but their Kids’ Club ski programs provide lessons and playtime for very young children. (Child-minding not available in 2020-21.) Lessons are priced for packages of 1, 2, 4, 6 or unlimited lessons for the season! Lift tickets are available for full or half days. Check with the hill for the specific impacts of COVID-19 for the 2020-21 winter season.
New for the 2021 ski season, Castle is pleased to offer first responders a special discount on lift tickets as a gesture of appreciation for all of the important work done by frontline workers, particularly as we continue to battle the pandemic. Eligible first responders include Canadian-based police, fire, EMS, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and military; they will now enjoy a 25% discount on midweek lift tickets at Castle. Additional information about this offer can be found here: www.skicastle.ca.
Now, get out there and LOVE your winter!