By Louise Hudson
We all know that families are growing all the time: one moment the kids are bouncing babies and next they’ve miraculously morphed into moody teens. A ski resort that suited the whole family when the kids were newborns and toddlers may not necessarily be as compatible as kids get older. So here are some age-appropriate reasons to ski en famille at a range of resorts this season.
5 and Under
When parents are new to the game, things really need to be easy. They have been used to thinking only of themselves, so suddenly having a burdensome baby in tow with all the necessary gear can put people off skiing and snowboarding completely! However, it is not as difficult as it looks, particularly at a resort like Kimberley, BC. Here the Wildhorse Childcare runs 9 am-4 pm, seven days a week (apart from Christmas Day) and is for ages 18 months to five-years-old. They offer flexible full and half days – with or without lunch – as well as morning or afternoon ‘learn to ski’ programs, escorting the kids to and from the nearby Magic Carpet.
Once kids really get into skiing, it is important to note that under 5s ski free (no lift tickets to buy), a huge saving during their first forays around the bunny hill and further, and a good reason to get them into the sport early. Ski lessons are reduced at off-peak times with ‘Value Rates’ at $10 less than at peak periods (these are Dec 23-Jan3, Feb 13-21 and Mar 23-Apr 9).
Family Clinics are increasingly popular, whereby two adults and up to three kids can join have lessons altogether. This works best if everyone is either skiing or snowboarding and at a similar standard: fun family bonding and (hopefully) enables the family to progress at the same rate. At Kimberley, the learning area is right in front of Trickle Creek Lodge, where Montana’s provides a handy haven for warm-up breaks, snacks or lunch. On clear days, these slopes are also in full sunshine most of the day.
If you choose to stay at Trickle Creek, the condos are all fully furnished for self-catering and have the added advantage of a huge pool and hot tub area overlooking the slopes. Peripheral play activities in group daycare can also be beneficial, getting the toddlers gradually into the idea of snowsports and surrounding the whole subject in fun perks. In contrast, struggling with teaching your kids yourself, without similar standard buddies for them to bond with, can actually lead to a demotivated dislike of the sport and hamper improvement. Group dynamics are also important in the day lodge.
Whereas some ski lodges are chock full of teens and Millennials, the Slopeside Café at Kimberley has a younger family vibe. Here, mums or dads hang out pre- and post-lessons with babes in arms and kids running around, all warming up over hot chocolate before heading out for more fun on the slopes.
6-11 age group
Sunshine Village is all about families, according to Kendra Scurfield, daughter of owner Ralph Scurfield. “After all we’re a family owned and operated resort,” says Kendra. “In the 1980s, when the Scurfield family purchased Sunshine, a primary reason for our purchase was because of how Sunshine was a place that celebrated family and community.” One of the chief advantages is the way the wide variety of terrain funnels down into just three primary bases: the Village, Goat’s Eye and, at the end of the day, the parking lot. “As big as Sunshine is, parents love us because there is very little opportunity for kids to get lost,” says Kendra who learnt to become an expert snowboarder there.
With its range of terrain for all ages and levels plus expertly-crafted terrain parks, it a perfect progressive playground. Having all natural snow is another bonus, as kids get to advance into powder skiing, bumps and glades at the earliest possible age. They all love taking the meandering ski out down the mountain at the end of the day and this is the one place that Sunshine uses snow canons during early season to make sure the base stays packed. Lift tickets are not too expensive for kids aged 6-12 – just $38 per day and they get free season’s passes when in Grade 2 and Grade 5. Focusing on satisfying all the generations, Sunshine offers Family Ski Week Programs including a week of lessons, accommodation in the high-altitude, ski in/out Sunshine Mountain Lodge and après ski activities.
“Families love the program because it gives them an opportunity to ski together, improve their skills, and meet other guests to create new lifetime friends,” says Kendra. It really helps to have the Lodge as a base, too, so that kids can come back for more clothing, snacks, drinks, warming up or, if they are tired, hanging out at the huge outdoor hot tub or in the TV or games room. If they get a second wind, then there are free snowshoes at the Lodge for the whole family to explore the resort after the day traffic has died down. Sunshine focuses, too, on animation on the mountain: “Each weekend we work to host family friendly events,” Kendra explains. “These include our weekly bonfires in the Bourgeau Base area, spring concerts, educational events like avalanche awareness, nightly tobogganing, and more.”
Utilising persuasive social media to entice families, Sunshine posts a minimum of three kid and family-focused photos each week. “It’s to show how accessible Sunshine is