I practically grew up on skis. My siblings and I learned young and we spent our weekends at the local hill. Most Saturday mornings, we were dropped off with bagged lunches and a couple of dollars for hot chocolate. Skiing gave me a sense of independence. I could spend the day deciding exactly what to do, where to go and what kind of adventure to have along the way. I have many memories of those Saturdays and our family ski trips that I want my kids to look back with the same fondness.
So this is the year that my children (6 & 9) learned to ski.
For our winter holiday, we decided to skip the beach vacation and head to a ski hill for a few days so we looked at our options within a reasonable drive. We wanted to find somewhere right on a hill with ski-in-ski-out access, on-hill amenities, a reputation for amazing skiing, and a great kids’ program.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort might not yet be known as the most conventional place for a family ski vacation, let alone with beginner skiers, but it turned out to be the perfect place for our family escape. It offers a great little village experience that combines the Sutton Place Hotel experience with amenities like dining options, a day spa, daycare, ski school, equipment rental, retail shop and the ROC, an outdoor concierge service that can book outdoor adventures such as dog-sledding, guided back country ski tours, cat skiing and heli-skiing.
But the best part of our time there was watching our kids delight in showing us their new found skills and confidence, as they made their way onto the gondolas and chairlifts and then down the runs.
Before arriving, we booked our kids into the Revelstoke Mountain ski school program. The plan was for my husband and me to get up to the top of the hill and spend our mornings exploring the mountain while our children were in lessons. We would meet for lunch and spend our afternoons together as a family.
The plan was close, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly our kids would progress from skiing in the beginner park to exploring the mountain with us. Our kids’ experiences in the program were fantastic – the instructors were able to help them build skills and confidence to get down the hill. And the friendliness went beyond the lifts – walking through the village, mountain staff would come over for a fist-bump and ask about the kids’ day.
The epicenter for kids at Revelstoke Mountain is at the very aptly named “Kids ROC“. This is the drop off point for their half and full day ski-school programs and family fun activities that run in the evening on most weekends and during school holidays. The foam pit, climbing wall, movies and healthy meal options are what you see when you go in, but what makes this facility and program really special is the staff that run the programs. Kids ROC is a philosophy felt across the resort.
On the hill, directly across a pathway from Kids ROC and beside the gondola is a magic carpet that provides access to the Turtle Creek beginner ski area, tube park and rail park. The close proximity of the Kids ROC facility means that kids can quickly warm up if needed and get right back out on to the hill. The Turtle Creek terrain was specifically designed for new skiers, ensuring a variety of grade, as they progressed and built confidence.
The whole magic carpet experience is far more civilized than the old rope tows formerly found on beginner hills. As a child, I’d stand there, try to grab hold and hope I could keep my balance enough to get to the top. I remember feeling tired and frustrated before we got started. With the magic carpet, kids slide onto a moving sidewalk that carries them up the hill to a beginners’ park that is staged with obstacles and activities to accommodate the levels of the kids in the program on any given day.
On our first day, we dropped the kids off at 8:30 as the first gondolas left the village. Their lessons started at 9:30 which gave them some time to enjoy the facilities at Kids ROC. Both of them spent the morning in the beginners’ park learning skills to start and stop, turn, fall, and get back up. By day three, both of the kids were skiing from the top of the mountain – our youngest spent the morning making her way down the Last Spike, a 15 km green run that took us all over the mountainside and our eldest was skiing blue groomers and bumps covered in more than 20 cm of snow that fell overnight.
We bumped into the kids’ lessons on the hill a few times and were able to watch their instructors in action. Each time, the instructor introduced themselves, told us what skills were being learned and encouraged us to watch for a minute before continuing our run.
Over gelato, from La Bagette in the village, our 9YO recounted his highlights; debating the merits of facial hair on a windy day with the men in the gondola; getting hot chocolate with his instructor at the top of the hill; falling into a snow drift that was actually several feet of powder and skiing with his dad from the top of the hill, along Wooley Bully and 007, all the way to the bottom of the mountain. Our 6YO had similar favourites – she loved doing a 360 into the foam pit, meeting two little French girls that were her new besties, the cookie that she shared with her dad part way down Last Spike, and riding in the gondola.
As a parent, one of the things I appreciated the most about their ski school was getting a daily report about the skills the kids had learned, which runs they had been on, and how I could support them in their skiing.
At the end of each day, the kids had rosy cheeks and smiles on their faces. They both fell asleep in a matter of minutes and we sat back with a bottle of wine. The combination of fresh mountain air, full tummies, and very comfortable beds made for very good sleeps. And in the morning, we didn’t have to ask them twice to get dressed to go back up the hill.
Tips for skiing at Revelstoke Mountain Resort with kids:
• Take advantage of Kids ROC opening when the lifts open. Drop your kids off early, let them play and make some new friends, and get in some great runs on your own. Kids ROC is open daily from 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
• Check out the activities both on the mountain and in town (5 minute drive) – Kids ROC offers family night programs that include disk golf, craft nights, scavenger nights and music around a fire. The Turtle Creek tube park is also open Friday through Sunday starting at 2 p.m.
• Bring a couple pairs of gloves. Especially on the first day of learning, their mitts were soaked after the day of skiing. Dry mitts came in handy when we extended our outdoor fun.
• La Baguette is open daily until 5 p.m. and has a delicious assortment of fresh baked goods, locally roasted coffees and in-store made gelato. The 6YO says bubblegum is the best, but I’d also recommend the cherry or Mayan chocolate.
• There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in the hot tubs and pool at the Sutton Place Hotel as big fluffy snowflakes land on your head. If you are looking for a more active pool experience, the leisure centre in the town of Revelstoke has a waterslide, swim lanes, a lazy river and kids play area.
A big thank you to Revelstoke Mountain resort for providing accommodation & lift tickets to facilitate this article.
Lisa’s a Calgary newbie. She spends her days working as a marketer and her free time taking her kids on adventures. She’s a mom of two, wannabe cork dork, baker extraordinaire, occasional runner and always has a supply of bubbles and sidewalk chalk. Follow her adventures @Lisa_Corcoran