Got kids & want to ski Canada? We asked the editor of Holidays with Kids Ski & Snowboard Magazine, Hilary Doling, for her top seven kid friendly resorts.
Canada is a definite favourite with my family, which is probably why we’ve been more than once or even twice.
Some of the resorts have so few crowds we felt we were skiing on our own personal family mountain, others have kids’ clubs so cool my son wanted to move in permanently.
Add terrain parks, dedicated family runs, tubing, huskies and I too wondered why we had to go home.
Here’s my pick of seven snowy, family-friendly resorts.
The pretty pedestrian village at Sun Peaks is presided over by Olympic legend Nancy Greene who still runs regular guided mountain tours of her home resort.
Sun Peaks lives up to its name with plenty of sunshine to enjoy those bluebird days. This is the second largest resort in BC (after Whistler) and its three mountains come right to the edge of the village so there is plenty of ski in-ski out accommodation.
Sun Peaks is known for its family-friendly nature and kids will love Family Cup Week which is held each January, tying in nicely with Australian school holidays. Expect a variety of race events as well as other icy activities such as snowshoeing and ice skating. Best of all, kids can toast s’mores (chocolate, marshmallow and biscuit) on a campfire.
One of the joys of Whistler is that the ski resort is just over a two hours from Vancouver via the scenic Sea to Sky Highway , which makes it pretty easy to reach when flying direct from Australia.
Almost every other accent you hear in Whistler village is Australian, and no wonder Aussie families head here because there are over 200 trails to explore in a season that runs from November to June. Not to mention a pedestrian-style village which means everything from restaurants to shopping is in ski-boot clomping distance.
Within the village is an impressive range of family-friendly accommodation from the luxurious Fairmont to more budget style condominiums. Many hotels offer kids stay and ski for free deals.
There is also a huge range of slopes covering the two interconnecting mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb.
The mountains are linked by the Peak 2 Peak Gondola and kids will love the ride across the two with glass floors, (although there is often a queue to secure one). Look for the special family certified routes and family zones with reduced speeds.
Basing yourself in the ski town of Banff with its lively restaurants and shops means that you can ski both the popular Sunshine Village, and tiny Mt Norquay as well as Lake Louise. A tri-area lift ticket makes it easy to ski all three resorts.
At Sunshine we found wide open runs and a kid-friendly feel. The resort has one of the highest elevations in Canada hence the fact that you can ski above the tree line. There is a good ski school and daycare is available for kids 19 months to 6 years.
Mt Norquay calls itself “the best kept secret in the Rockies” with good reason. Because skiing here is like skiing at a club field there is not a huge variety of runs but there is a laid back feel with everyone converging on the one and only base station lodge for food and après ski.
This is a great place for a lazy day’s skiing out of Banff as it is only a few minutes’ drive out of town. Fewer punters mean that kids’ group lessons are often private by default.
This ski area is within Banff National Park (where numbers are strictly controlled) which means less people and shorter lift queues. The fact that there is no dedicated ski village at Lake Louise also keeps crowds down although the imposing Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise just nearby will fit luxury loving families.
On the plus side that doesn’t mean a small skiing area – there is plenty to keep the whole family occupied on Lake Louise’s slopes. For younger children and learners it is comforting to know that off each lift there is a green run, so everyone can ride the gondola together and then split off according to skill level.
Even if you don’t stay at Chateau Lake Louise it is worth going there to take a look at the ice sculptures, or to take a horse drawn sleigh ride around its rim.
Families love Big White. The 118 trails, spanning 3050 hectares means it is hard to get bored and the fact that 54 per cent of the runs are intermediate suits a lot of families who want to ski together.
Over 100 qualified instructors work here so you can expect a pretty good ski school too. Tot Town Day Care caters for 18 months up. Then there is the Mini Z snowmobiles, the Mega Snow Coaster tube park, dog sledding, ice skating and snowshoeing for even more fun in the snow.
The coloured buildings of Silver Star’s on-snow village already look like a toy town, so it is only fitting that families should feel at home here. The resort has plenty of kid-friendly runs such as Smiley bear and Peanut Trail for the little ones and teens will love the Rockstar terrain Park.
Extreme skiers need not fear however because the resort, just north of Vernon, also has its challenges. The steep and deep backside will more than satisfy the more adventurous skiers in the family. The Star Kids Centre has programmes for all age groups and there is also snow fun in the form of sleigh rides and tubing.
Skiing at Fernie is like skiing on your own personal mountain because there are so few people sharing the slopes.
Fernie was once a local skiers’ mountain and I’m sure they would have liked to have kept the wide slopes and pretty downhills all to themselves. However, new facilities and an improved base station have changed all that.
Now the rest of the world is finding out about the family-friendly side of Fernie. The resort boasts a dedicated kids day care program as well as a Kids Club.
The area is part of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and a RCR pass gives you access to other local resorts including Kicking Horse and Kimberly.
SnowsBest note: If you head to Fernie and want an even more remote hidden gem then take a day trip over to Castle Mountain, owned by a conglomerate of two hundred ‘locals’ most of them from ski patrol.
Hilary Doling is the Editor of Ski & Snowboard with Kids magazine.