Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Affordable Family Ski Vacations in the Canadian Rockies

Downhill resort skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, sledding and tubing, ice skating, playing in the snow, and spending time with friends - How does that sound for a fun weekend getaway this winter?  Add affordable accommodations close enough to Calgary so you can drive out Friday after work, and I'm sure I can sign you up, right?

Winter Fun at Nakiska Mountain Resort

Affordable Ski Accommodations in Kananaskis

Every winter we spend at least one weekend at the HI Kananaskis Hostel  located a very short drive from Kananaskis Village and Nakiska Mountain Resort.   Most recently, we spent the weekend before Christmas at the hostel where we stayed with 3 other families.   We made use of the 3 private rooms in the hostel and fortunately the fourth family was able to use an empty dorm room since it was quiet over the weekend.  We even had the hostel completely to ourselves the second night!

Story time before bed at the HI Kananaskis Hostel

Private Rooms at the HI Kananaskis Hostel

Each private room at the Kananaskis Hostel sleeps 3 with a single/double bunk bed arrangement and all linens are provided so that you don't have to bring sleeping bags.  Mattresses can also be provided for a fourth person so that the whole family can fit in one room.  While the sleeping arrangement isn't glamorous by any means, it's pretty hard to beat the affordable room rates at the hostel (a room is under $70 per night,) and it's a heck of a lot warmer than camping.  Personally, I'd rather save money on the hotel if it means I can actually afford to go skiing!

One of the private rooms at the hostel

Kitchen Facilities On Site

Thanks to a fully stocked kitchen, we are always able to make our own meals at the hostel which cuts down further on expenses for the weekend.  On this trip, we divided up meals so that each family cooked for one breakfast or dinner, and we took turns with dishes.  This was definitely the way to do it and we all enjoyed only having to cook once over the trip. Our meals were nothing fancy, but the kids liked them and we saved a heap on not having to eat out at the Village.

Dinner at the hostel with plenty of room for 4 families

And, FUN, Fun, Fun

Savings aside, the main reason we love to stay at the HI Kananaskis Hostel (and return every year) is for the myriad of activities we can do outside without ever having to get in our cars.  This year we chose to drive a bit more than in previous years to reach the Village and nearby trailheads, but you certainly don't have to.

Without ever getting into your car, you can easily:

  • Ski, snowshoe, or hike up to Kananaskis Village on the on maintained winter trails (and if you bring your skates you can go ice skating on the village pond.)

  • Snowshoe, ski, or hike to nearby Troll Falls (trails are maintained for skiing but snowshoers can hike on the sides of the trails)

  • Play in the snow outside the hostel, build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or make a snow fort

  • Roast marshmallows or hot dogs in the fire pit outside the hostel 
Ski in, Ski out - right from your door at the HI Kananaskis Hostel
Not a bad way to spend a cold afternoon at the hostel

We chose to drive up to the Village to go skating since it was an easier option with our young kids this year and we also drove to the nearby Stoney Trailhead to ski to Troll Falls because it cut off a couple of kilometres. 

Skating at Kananaskis Village on the pond
Skiing to Troll Falls
Troll Falls

Downhill Skiing and Tubing at Nakiska Mountain Resort

We go skiing or hiking every year when we stay at the HI Kananaskis Hostel but this year we decided to check out the Nakiska Mountain Resort as well.  Located a short drive from the hostel, it's an ideal place to spend the day!  The children are now of the age that they enjoy spending time on the beginner hill, and our family was eager to try out the new Tube Park. 

To read my review that I recently wrote on Nakiska, please follow this link to Nakiska Mountain Resort - Raising the Bar in Family Excellence.

Skiing at Nakiska Mountain Resort

We actually spent an entire day at Nakiska (something I never dreamed possible with a 4 year old) and had a blast.  We will definitely be adding downhill skiing and tubing to the mix of activities we do at the hostel each year from now on.

Tubing at Nakiska Mountain Resort

Final Photos from our recent trip to the HI Kananaskis Hostel

Below are a few final photos of our kids having fun at the hostel as we made gingerbread houses, read Christmas stories, and tried to keep them busy when we weren't outside in the snow.

Story time at the hostel
Playing by the fireplace
Making gingerbread houses
This was a great way to spend a morning!

He was very proud of his gingerbread house!

I want to say thank you to Hostelling International Canada for graciously putting all of us up at the hostel for our two night stay.  We had a fabulous time and I highly recommend this hostel for your family's next ski vacation!

An easy hike or ski to Troll Falls - Right outside the door of the hostel

 Plan Your Next Ski Vacation

HI Kananaskis now offers ski packages for Nakiska Mountain Resort from $79 per adult.  Private room upgrades may be done as well.  For more information, contact Hostelling International.  

To check out other family-friendly wilderness hostels in the Canadian Rockies and to start planning your next ski vacation, follow the links below to previous hostels we've stayed at.

The HI Mosquito Creek Hostel is located in Banff National Park, 29km from Lake Louise where you'll find a world class ski resort and many great cross country trails.  The hostel has a private cabin with two rooms, living area, and kitchen.  It's a pretty sweet hostel for families!  Book both private rooms in the cabin with another family and enjoy the whole cabin to yourselves.

To read the story from our first trip go to:  Winter Paradise at Mosquito Creek

The HI Mosquito Creek Hostel in winter

The HI Athabasca Falls Hostel is located in Jasper National Park, and is a very short drive away from the popular Marmot Basin ski hill. Other opportunities abound near the Town of Jasper for ice skating, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. The hostel is great for families with two private rooms sharing a cabin.

We haven't stayed here in winter yet but are planning our first trip in February.  To read the story I wrote after our spring trip a couple of years ago though, follow this link to:  Spring Adventures in Jasper

HI Athabasca Falls Hostel in Spring

The HI Hilda Creek Hostel  is not located near any ski hill or resort but if you're looking for something more rugged, backcountry-esque, and wild - this is the place for you!  It's also easy to book the whole hostel for your family because it only sleeps 6. 

Check out the photos in my story, Making the Most of Late Season  Snow , or in my story for Snowshoe Magazine, Spring Adventures on Alberta's Icefields Parkway. There is no shortage of snow well into April for snowshoeing or skiing here.  In fact, we had to snowshoe from the highway just to reach the hostel!

Pulling kids and gear into the HI Hilda Creek Hostel in Spring

Have a favourite place you like to stay when you go skiing?  I'd love to hear about it.


  1. So many neat ideas for places to stay!! Must start checking out the hostels... there's one in BC that has caught my interest as well... where you stay in train cars!!

    1. I've heard about the one in BC too where you sleep in train cars. http://www.hihostels.ca/westerncanada/173/HI-Shuswap_Lake.hostel
      We tend to hostel in winter though, and camp in summer.

      I'm thinking of planning a girl's trip in Waterton next winter at the hostel there, and we really want to stay at the wilderness hostel in Nordeg. http://www.hihostels.ca/westerncanada/1384/HI-Nordegg,_Shunda_Creek_Hostel.hostel