Wednesday, October 12, 2016

5 Reasons to Make Nakiska your Local Ski Hill this Winter

After last weekend's snowy weather in Calgary, it's hard to deny that winter is on its way! And while many hear the "s word" with dread , my family is very excited to get back on skis - and to have a very snowy winter! "Snow" is only a bad word if you decide to hibernate indoors all winter long without embracing a whole new set of seasonal sports. Bring on the snow I say because we are ready to hit the trails and slopes (and tomorrow really couldn't be too soon.)

For  those of you who are just as excited about the approaching ski season as my family is, I know you have two big things on your mind right now as we creep towards November and ski hill opening dates. One, you're trying to find new skis, boots, winter clothes, and gear for your kids. (and I'm with you on that one!) Two, you're trying to decide which ski passes you should purchase for the upcoming season and where you will focus your resort skiing this winter. (and yes, I'm with you there too!)

Winter wonderland at Nakiska Ski Area, Kananaskis

For my family, we are choosing Nakiska Ski Area as our "local ski hill" for the fourth year now. We'll ski at Winsport's Canada Olympic Park when we're hanging out in Calgary since you can't beat a hill that's 10 minutes from your house, but we plan to spend weekends out at Nakiska, our chosen "close to home" mountain ski resort for another year.

Learning to ski at Nakiska Mountain Resort

5 Reasons to Make Nakiska your Local Ski Hill this Winter

1. Affordable Skiing

Ski as a family for as low as $699.00 for the Entire 2016/2017 season with a family season pass at Nakiska. The family pass was originally priced just under $2000.00 for a season but has been drastically reduced - until October 15th! And that's this Saturday. So buy your season pass now for the best deal you'll get this year.

If you don't need a full family season pass, you can also buy adult passes individually for $299.00 - again until October 15th.
This kid will ski for $20 this winter!

And I've done the math for you. As an adult, you have to visit Nakiska 4 times to have fully paid for your season pass. After that you are saving money. Ski once a month from December through March and that's already 4 times. Ski more, and you're really saving.

Don't want to buy a season pass? You'll still find Nakiska to be one of the most affordable ski resorts near Calgary with lift tickets costing roughly $20.00 cheaper than most other resorts.

You can also buy an RCR Rockies discount card (or ask for one as a Christmas present) which gives you your first, fourth, and seventh ski day free at any of the four RCR (Resorts of the Canadian Rockies) hills. This would include Nakiska Ski Area, Fernie Alpine Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. The other days are highly discounted (up to $30 savings per day,) and you typically receive other deals with your card at local hotels and restaurants.

Official word from RCR is that news on the discount cards for the 2016-2017 season should be released right after the season pass sale ends. (Hopefully on Monday, October 17th.)

And for families with kids in grade 2 - here's what you'll want to know: Your child can ski at any of RCR's four resorts for $20.00 all winter long! The Grade 2 Fun Pass is available on the RCR website and you can believe I bought one for my son!

My boys cruising down the easy groomers at Nakiska

Other affordable perks at Nakiska

Children 5 and under can ski all winter long at all four RCR resorts for $20.00 with an RCR Rockies Tiger Pass, available for purchase on the RCR website. Families can also buy the Super Pass Tiger (which includes Lake Louise) for the same price.

Note as well:
"Kids 5 and under are technically free at all RCR ski resorts. To get them on the lift they need to have a lift ticket to be picked up at the ticket window for free each day they are there.  The Tiger pass however allows parents to skip going to the ticket window each day to get a free ticket and allows them to go straight to the lift all season like a regular pass."  

Students aged 18-24 receive discounts on student season passes, with the cost as low as $239.00 right now until October 15th. (Full details on the Nakiska website)

There are also specials for seniors if you visit the Nakiska website (with those over 80 only paying $59 for a season pass!!)

Children and adults alike have generally been allowed to ski for free in the beginner area at Nakiska serviced by the magic carpet. (Note you will still have to get a magic carpet pass from guest services but there has been no cost for this beginner pass in previous years.)

For all other passes and for full information, visit the Nakiska website.

Practicing in the Beginner Area at Nakiska (which is free for adults and kids)

2. Nakiska is GREAT for beginners

If you didn't see it in the previous paragraph, it bears repeating: Children and adults alike have generally been allowed to ski for free in the beginner area at Nakiska serviced by the magic carpet.

You will still have to get a magic carpet pass from guest services but there has been no cost for this pass in previous years. 

Official word from RCR for the 2016-2017 season however is:
"The Magic Carpet/learning area is part of our beginner lift ticket cost. We are still waiting to hear what that will be for this coming season."

Hopefully beginners will continue to be allowed to ski for free in the learning area because if you've ever tried running alongside your child on the bunny hill (not wanting to buy a lift ticket just to help a 2 or 3 year old learn to ski off the magic carpet run,) it's a lot of work. It's much easier to chase after a child if you, the adult, also have skis on rather than running down the hill in your boots.

Also, most kids who are just learning to ski will have a very short attention span and will only last at the hill for an hour or two. It's nice if you don't have to pay for skiing until they can manage half a day of skiing off the chair lifts.

My husband teaching our son to ski in the beginner area at Nakiska

Other Great Features at Nakiska for Families with Beginner Skiers 

The Nakiska Tube Park is conveniently located right next to the beginner ski area. Yes, the kids will beg to go tubing, yes, it's a lot of fun, and yes, you should try it at least once. If you think you'll be doing a lot of tubing, you can purchase a family tube park pass as well for the season. (Note that children must be 42" tall or 3+ years old with an Adult. Also, kids under 5 can get a free ticket with a paying adult)

The hill is easy to find your way around on. There is no back side and the resort is small. You'll feel quite comfortable your first visit. (which I wouldn't say for bigger resorts)

The Bronze chair is a great place to start with novice skiers who are ready to progress past the beginner area. Every run off this chair is green and the runs are short so little legs won't get tired half way down. As an adult who's spent many days skiing with a young child, I've always found it comforting to know that we can't ever get into trouble on this chair. There's no "accidentally ending up on a blue," or "getting lost and having to guide a child down a black run."

Know in advance however that the Bronze Chair is not always open in November when the resort officially opens for the season. It is often one of the last chair lifts to open as the lower runs don't get as much snow as the ones higher up do. Also, once kids progress past the Bronze Chair, they will have to be ready to ski intermediate terrain. 59% of the hill is intermediate terrain with only 13% dedicated to beginner runs.

Finally, new skiers will appreciate the quality and amount of grooming at Nakiska. For me, an intermediate skier, I love Nakiska's smooth groomers and am often scared at resorts that focus on more "natural" terrain. Moguls and powder may be awesome for more advanced skiers, but beginners will appreciate the perfect Nakiska corduroy. 

First visit to the Nakiska Tube Park -and it was a blast!

3. Location, location, location!

Nakiska is Calgary's closest mountain resort and I can be parking my car in front of the day lodge within 45 minutes of leaving my house. This is great news for families who don't want to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to Banff, find parking at a big ski resort, get on a gondola before the resort opens, and be ready for first lifts - by 9:00!! Love for Sunshine Village aside, it's just not practical for my family. I love my grooming and I want first runs. My husband loves his powder- and also wants first runs. Add lessons for the kids and you'll need to be at the day lodge before 9am.

This winter I'm also looking forward to getting out to Nakiska Friday afternoons. My son finishes school every Friday at noon and I'm thinking if we eat in the car, we can be on the lifts by 1:30. With season passes, this is very doable and we only need to ski for a couple of hours to make the trip out worthwhile.

I am looking forward to lots of skiing this winter!

Other perks for having a mountain that's close to the city:

  • It's easy to return home for a mid to late afternoon nap if you have younger kids

  • You can master the art of the "relaxed start" - especially if you have a seasons pass

  • You'll never spend more time in the car than you will skiing

  • You'll definitely be home for dinner (even if you leave after the chairs close for the day)

  • It's easier to justify a half day of skiing with younger kids (something you wouldn't do if you had to spend 3+ hours driving to and from the hill)

  • You'll appreciate the proximity of Nakiska on snow days when roads are icy and you wonder if you should even be out on the highways
Learning to ski at Nakiska Ski Area

4. Nakiska is EASY

There is no gondola that you must first ride to get to the ski area.

The day lodge at Nakiska is cozy and comfortable. It feels like home and we often just throw our hockey bag of gear/lunch/extra clothes under a table in the lodge. It's that casual.

You'll never struggle to find parking. And no matter where you park, you're never far from the day lodge and the lifts.

Kananaskis Village is conveniently located just down the road and is a great place to spend time after skiing or to hang out with younger kids who tire easily while the rest of the family is still at the hill. We like to get a coffee at the cafe in the Delta Lodge and then we go hang out by the fireplace in the main lobby. (and they never seem to mind our crazy kids running around there)

There is on site day care offered for families with children as young as 19 months.

The kids snow school at Nakiska is fabulous! And it's a great way to ease into your day. Drop the kids off at their lessons, go hang out in the lodge and grab a coffee, slowly bring all of your adult gear in from the vehicle, go out for a warm up run, and just relax for an hour or so. (or maybe that's just me as my husband would be out on the hill as soon as our son was dropped off at his lessons.)

This is the "peaceful way to start the day at Nakiska - kids in snow school!

Save time by reserving rental equipment ahead of time online.

Rent ski equipment for the kids for the season for $179.00 and then return the gear at the end of the season with the Wings Leased Ski Program. For this price, you'd be hard pressed to find new gear for the kids for a season. (And you know that their feet are going to grow again for the following year or that they'll need longer skis.) Avoid the hassle of buying new skis each year with this program aimed at kids 12 and under.

Finally, there are plenty of options nearby for the non-skier in your family. There are cross country ski trails that leave right from the Nakiska parking lot, there are snowshoe trails located at Kananaskis Village or at the Ribbon Creek Trailhead down the road, and there's an ice skating pond at the Village along with a small sledding hill. You can also rent cross country skis, snowshoes, and skates at the Village. With all these options, you just might have to spent the weekend!

Cross country skiing at Kananaskis Village below Nakiska

5. A Family Can Plan an Affordable Ski Weekend at Nakiska

My husband would be the first to tell you that "affordable" is a relative term but if you compare options, a weekend in Kananaskis doesn't have to break the bank.There are three main options that families can look into if you'd like to make a mini-vacation out of your ski day at Nakiska.

The Super Affordable Option: The HI Kananaskis Hostel is located down the road from Nakiska and offers reasonable rates in either private rooms or dorm rooms (divided by gender.) Kids have to be 6+ to stay in a shared dorm room but can be younger in the private rooms. For more information, check out the HI Kananaskis Hostel's website or read my previous blog post: Affordable Family Ski Vacations in the Canadian Rockies.

The "affordable" option: Not as cheap as the hostel above, but you get your own hotel room with this one.  The Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino is more family-friendly than one would think given that there is a casino on site. It's also less than a 15 minute drive away from Nakiska and has an indoor pool with waterslide. There are often great deals on the RCR website that include lodging at the Stoney Nakoda along with lift tickets for Nakiska.

The "fancy" option:  For those with a larger budget (or if you just really want to treat yourselves to a nice weekend away) there's the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis (now a Marriott hotel.) We love staying here and relaxing in the pool with outdoor hot tub after a day on the slopes. And even we don't stay overnight, most of our ski days end up here for at least coffee, drinks, or dinner.

Note that the Delta Lodge is now under new ownership and is a Marriott Property. More info. can be found on the Kananaskis Lodge website.

Visit the RCR website for more on ski vacations, packages, and hot deals.

Winter at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge

Additional Reading

To read about our first ski weekend at Nakiska last year while staying at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge, read my post: Off to a Great Start at Nakiska Ski Resort.

To read about one of our first experiences skiing at Nakiska, and why we fell in love with this small resort, read: Nakiska Mountain Resort - Raising the Bar in Family Excellence

To read about our experiences with ski school at Nakiska, read: In Support of Ski School - Quality Training and Fun

Looking forward to the start of ski season in less than a month!

Visiting other RCR Ski Resorts this Winter

One of the reasons we've chosen to make Nakiska our local hill is because we want to focus on RCR resorts for our ski vacations that we plan this winter. We love Fernie and Kimberley Alpine Resorts and can't say enough good things about these two resorts for families.

Read about our trip to Fernie Alpine Resort last winter.

And read about our trip to Kimberley Alpine Resort last winter.

Kimberley Alpine Resort has awesome tree runs for kids

Want to visit one of RCR's other resorts this winter?

Purchase a Nakiska season pass and choose the Ski BC add on option.  You'll receive 2 Ski Days at either Fernie, Kicking Horse or Kimberley. The option is valid all season long but you must purchase the pass at the same time as your Nakiska Seasons Pass.

Alternately, buy a RCR Rockies Discount Card (more details to be released soon for winter 2016-17) and you'll get your 1st, 4th, and 7th day free at any RCR resort. I've found that these make great Christmas gifts!

And when the time comes to book your vacation with accommodation, you can search for packages, deals, and vacations on the RCR website. You can also sign up for last minute deals that you'll receive via email.

Fernie was our first big mountain resort that we skied at as a family last winter

Tentative Opening Weekend for Nakiska is November 5th and 6th and we're very excited for that! Fingers crossed I find my son a new pair of skis by then!

Disclaimer: I am receiving free skiing with Resorts of the Canadian Rockies this winter.  However, I was not paid to write this post and as always, all opinions are my own. We love RCR ski resorts and have very happily chosen to partner with this great group of resorts again for another winter.

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