Keeping Kids Warm in Winter

Gear you need to keep kids warm!

15 Things to Do in Calgary This Winter

Winter fun in Calgary from skiing and tubing to ice falls and festivals!

14 Things to Do in Canmore This Winter

With canyon ice walks, world class cross country skiing, dogsledding, and more, Canmore is a winter adventure playground!

10 Things to Do in Banff This Winter

Ski, skate, hike, or snowshoe, then hit the hot springs and dine in town!

9 Things to Do in Lake Louise This Winter

The Ice Magic Festival is amazing, but there's so much more to do in Lake Louise!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing at Castle Mountain

The Powder Stagecoach at Castle Mountain, one of only two cat skiing operations in Alberta, offers an amazing resort-based backcountry experience. Get first tracks in exclusive terrain with gorgeous views, a sweet ride, and knowledgeable guides. Besides the actual skiing, the best part was being able to put our kids in ski school for the day while we went out to play.


Our adventure begins in a private meeting room at the Castle Mountain Day Lodge where we meet everyone. Cam and Doug, our guides for the day, hook us up with backpacks, avalanche gear, and bagged lunches before launching a crash course on avalanche safety. It's a good refresher as we haven't taken avalanche training or used a beacon in several years. While it's a sobering subject, we are comforted in hearing there hasn't been an incident in Powder Stagecoach's 8 year history.

Next stop is the Huckleberry Chair. We will ride up, complete avy training, and meet the snowcat. It's a beautiful morning, mild and calm, unlike my heart. I gaze up at Mount Haig and wonder what the other side looks like - the cat skiing side. It's exciting, but daunting not knowing exactly what we're getting ourselves into. Jason Crawford, Castle Mountain Resort Sales & Marketing Manager, assures us the terrain is "mellower than the rest of the resort." That doesn't say much given that Castle has some of Canada's most challenging terrain, but I decide to put on my big girl pants.

Heading up Huckleberry Chair in my Big Girl Pants
By the time we've successfully rescued a backpack (beacon practice), the cat is parked and waiting for us. "Hey, everyone gets a seat!" someone jokes. While the cat can comfortably accommodate 12, there are only 9 of us on board. The cat skiing veterans in our midst quickly hook up their iPod so we have tunes for the ride. Van Halen's Runnin' With The Devil sets the tone and everyone is jovial. "We come here every year," the guy in front of us says gleefully, "One year we skied in 6 feet of powder!" Oh em gee... I can't even imagine! Our intrepid cat mates are warming up for a big trip to Revelstoke later in the season. Castle, they say, is a great place to get a taste of backcountry skiing in a safe atmosphere. The mountain is checked frequently and bombed as needed to reduce the risk of avalanches.

Avalanche Beacon Practice
Image Credit: Powder Stagecoach, Castle Mountain Resort
Kheang and the Snow Cat
One long song (Hotel California) later, it's time to disembark. Our instructions are simple - head down one at a time and follow calls in the trees so we all go down the same way. At the bottom, take the ski out back to the lift and repeat. Oh, and smile for the photographer!

Ready to Rip!
Image Credit: Powder Stagecoach, Castle Mountain Resort
We're the only people on the mountain and it's pure bliss. Aside from shusshing snow and the occasional whoop for joy, or signalling yodel from the guides, it's silent. There aren't even cars in the valley as the road is closed on this side of the mountain. I take a moment to savor it before making my first turns. Although there's another cat skiing group booked on the same day, we never see them as they ride up in the cat while we ski down. It's like we have our own private mountain!

Preparing to drop in!
Kheang on Roll Your Own
Image Credit: Powder Stagecoach, Castle Mountain Resort
Karen Cruisin' the Castle
Image Credit: Powder Stagecoach, Castle Mountain Resort
True to Jason's word, the terrain isn't too demanding pitchwise, but conditions are slightly challenging given the rain a few days prior to our arrival (rare for this area in January).  I'm thankful for my sweet loaner skis that can bust through the hard stuff, and for guides who know where the powder stashes are! It's definitely more fun skiing powder and Castle usually gets a TON! Two weeks after our visit, the mountain is hit with 90 cm of freshies. Next year, I'm going in February!!

Castle Mountain Storm Cam - February 6, 2017
Almost 40 cm of snow in 24 hours!!
After a fast ski out down Ski-Daddle Trail, we get to do it again. The cat drops us off at a different point on the ridge, so we can once more make first tracks. It's a pretty sweet setup! I wonder how they can keep ungroomed terrain "fresh" day after day and learn that the wind and new snow fill in tracks on the Powder Stagecoach's days off.

Amazing views
Image Credit: Powder Stagecoach, Castle Mountain Resort
Cat Skiing at Castle Mountain
Image Credit: Powder Stagecoach, Castle Mountain Resort
The cat runs 'til 3:30 pm, but we duck out early to check on the kids (little one is shy) and take a break. We're happy to hear the girls made some friends, had a hot lunch, colored, watched a movie, and are on their second ski lesson! After a quick bite, we head back out to ski until it's time for the après. We debate doing a couple more runs with the cat or resort skiing, but we've missed the cat, so we decide on the latter.

Mm.. lunch. Came with cookies, but I already ate 'em. 
Later, with drinks in hand, we mingle and check out the amazing photos from the day (professional photos available on USB for $30). The après event included in the cat skiing package is the perfect ending to a perfect day! I am inspired to ski better so I can go on more adventures like this!

Après-ski beverages sponsored by Big Rock
If you've always wanted to try backcountry skiing, but don't have avalanche training or gear, cat skiing with the Powder Stagecoach at Castle Mountain is the ultimate adventure made easy. Besides not having to get yourself to the top of a mountain, avalanche gear and training are provided, the terrain is monitored and bombed as needed to reduce the risk, your group has its own photographer, and great guides know where to find the best snow! Fat ski rentals are available onsite at Alpenland Pro Shop, and continental breakfast, lunch, and a beer are included. All you have to do is get down the mountain!

Read on for cat skiing tips!

Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing/Riding Tips

  1. Check conditions: Check the snow report and weather before you book to ensure you have the best time ever! If there's a huge snowstorm moving in, don't delay as those cat skiing spots will go fast!
  2. Level check: Strong intermediate skiers will be fine provided you are comfortable skiing ungroomed terrain, powder, and trees. If you usually ski groomers, you can prepare by going off-piste and in the glades more often, and take a lesson on skiing powder (I need to get off the groomers more often and gain more confidence in the trees!). Kids must be 14 or older to cat ski/ride.
  3. Rent fat skis: These puppies float on the fluffy stuff and cut through hard stuff much better than regular skis. Rent from Alpenland (next to the Day Lodge) for $40. 
  4. Keep warm: Dress in layers and bring a face mask and hand warmer packets for chilly days. The face mask keeps snow out of your face on crazy pow days too. Don't forget your goggles! 
  5. Hit the can: Use the washroom before you go as there are no facilities in the cat skiing area. The good news is that the lodge is close to the Huckleberry Chair, so if you need to pop in during the day, it's a short detour.
  6. Prevent motion sickness: If you're prone to motion sickness, take a nondrowsy anti-nauseant at least an hour before you board the cat. I took ginger Gravol the night before and morning of our trip, and sat by the window, and was ok. The cat bounces a lot, but travels in a straight line, thankfully.
  7. Watch for the Mardi Gras Tree (unofficial name): As you head up the Huckleberry Chair, you'll see a tall evergreen festooned with beads and underwear. If you find out what it's about, could you please let me know? :)
  8. Continue the aps at T-Bar Pub: They have great pizza, anything you want to drink, and live music on weekends! Fun times!
Chillin' at T-Bar

Getting There

Castle Mountain is located only 2.5 hours from Calgary, about 40 minutes SW of Pincher Creek.

Driving to Castle Mountain
Image Credit: Powder Stagecoach, Castle Mountain Resort

For More Information

To Reserve Your Spot on the Powder Stagecoach, or get more information, visit Castle Mountain - Powder Stagecoach.

For more info on skiing at Castle Mountain, please see my story Destination: Castle Mountain Resort, Alberta. My whole family loves this friendly resort off the beaten path!

If you wanna see some of Castle's extreme terrain, check out this rad video by Resort TV!


Disclosure

Castle Mountain generously hosted our cat skiing adventure (Thank you!), but all words and opinions are my own.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Reaping the Rewards of Every Day Outdoor Play

Sunlight sparkled on the snow as wind gusts bowed the trees. We watched, from the kitchen table, protected from the deathly minus-30-with-windchill cold. My daughter, without warning, picked up a pen and paper and painstakingly wrote "Do you want to play outside?" What magical words to come from a 5 year old on one of the coldest days of the year! She didn't know or care what the temperature was; she just wanted to play in the snow! I was overjoyed (although I knew we wouldn't last long out there)! Little POG raced me to the door and within moments was pulling on snowpants, zipping up her coat, shoving her little feet into boots, and putting on her toque and mittens. She was dressed before I was and the last I heard, she was hollering, "See you in the back yard!!" I raced to keep up.


It isn't always like this and it's been a long time coming. The biggest challenge has always been getting out the door. When the girls were small, it literally took longer to get ready than do anything outside on chilly days! By the time one kid was dressed, the other was hot and stripping down. If I put Miss Toasty outside, she would protest (loudly) that she wanted "Inside!"and come back in before the other toastlet and I were dressed. It was a lot like herding rabid cats. (For tips on how to dress your kids in winter, see Keeping Kids Warm in Winter.)

Little POG loves snow!
By the time my kids were 3 and 1.5, I was child wrangler extraordinaire with mad ninja moves, not to mention convincing (or conniving?) acting skills. "Mommy will be so LONELY at the park without you!!" I bribed them to no end too: "If we go [here], you can have a treat!" All the things I swore I'd never do when I had kids were coming home to roost. Whatever. We were getting out and living the good life, right? Yes. Undeniably yes.

We often bribed the kids with treats. Now treats are more of a reward!
Playing outside every day is something I committed to long before having kids for countless reasons. Along with that hit of Vitamin D, which is so good for our physical and mental health, it gets us moving and gets us into nature. Kids forget what they were fighting about while they roll in the snow, and you can have a moment's peace... until you dive in with them, and I recommend you do! Outdoor play is good for adults too! We all feel happier when we get outdoors, and once it becomes a habit, you don't have to fight to get the kids out the door. Try to do it every day - even if it's only for a short time! I promise it gets easier and your kids will be beating you to the door!

How we do grocery runs!
For fun outdoor play ideas and tips on getting outside with little ones, check out these stories:


See you outside!

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Small to Big: Growing your adventures with a baby and toddler

Today's story is a by Sarah McLean of Rockies Girl. She provides several helpful pointers on getting outside with a baby and toddler. As a mom of two kids 20 months apart, I can totally relate! 


Before my son, Baby Bear, was born, I felt like we had gotten into a groove in terms of family outings with my daughter (Little Bear). We knew how far she liked walking, how to dress her for various temperatures, what would motivate her to keep walking, and how long she'd be happy sitting in the car/carrier. I remembered the learning curve involved in getting one baby out and was a little apprehensive about how it would be getting a toddler AND a baby out of the house!  Turns out it wasn't as difficult as I anticipated though there were a few lessons I learned the hard way (snacks, don't EVER forget toddler snacks!). Here's what my experience looked like and a few things I learned along the way.

A chilly morning toddler hike on Fenland Trail
Image Credit: Sarah McLean, Rockies Girl

The first few months

When my husband and I are new to an area and wander around trying to figure out the best things to do, we joke that it is an exploratory mission.  I decided this was going to be my mindset the winter my son was born.  I tried to get out as much as possible on walks/outings with Baby Bear (while big sis was with the grandparents) to get used to his sleeping, eating, and transportation preferences.  My son was completely different in temperament and personality to my daughter so it was nice to get his routine down pat before adding in the toddler.

Getting out with a non-mobile baby and toddler

As spring rolled around, I was excited to get into more of a routine of getting outside with both kids.  No winter clothes = way easier to get out! Here are some tips to make outings go more smoothly:
  • Plan ahead. It's easiest to start with familiar, close locations at first. Inviting friends is also key. Not only for toddler entertainment, but for you! A stressful morning can be erased by a good laugh with friends. And friends usually have extras if you forget anything. 
  • Pack as much as possible the night before, in the car if possible. This includes snacks, extra clothes, diaper bags, strollers, run bike, etc. 
  • Organize your diaper bag. I use the packing cubes from MEC and have one for each kid with an extra outfit, diapers, sweater, hat & sunglasses. I also brought an emergency "fun bag" for the toddler with chalk, bubbles, a ball, and a shovel and pail.
  • Start with shorter outings. As you get more comfortable you can extend it to longer outings including lunch.
  • Feed everyone before you leave and be back home for lunch/naps. This allows you to get into a groove with fewer variables at first. 
  • However long you think you need to get ready, double it! It's much more relaxing to be early and go for a drive-thru coffee first.

Some of our favorite outings included trips to local parks to go on a nature walk or playground meet ups. 

Getting Ready for Bigger Trips

Our first out-of-town trip with both kids involved a 1.5 hr car ride each way. We discovered that unlike his sister, Baby Bear did not like to nap in his carseat. After that we decided to start with closer trips and work our way up to something longer. This allowed us to do half day trips where we could be back home for afternoon naps and possibly lunch if we left early enough! We also discovered that packing everything the night before was key.  Carriers, strollers, diaper/hiking bags, and a reusable grocery bag of extra layers for each person was all in the car the night before. Food was packed in a bag in the fridge.  In the morning we'd dress in whatever layers we wanted to wear in the car, grab our food and leave. 
Exploring the Banff Gondola catwalk with the bear cubs.
Great views and hot chocolate waiting inside the main building.
Image Credit: Sarah McLean, Rockies Girl

Do I need a double stroller?

For the first few months, we didn't need a double stroller as I was either going out with just the baby or if I went out with both, the toddler could use our single Chariot/BOB stroller and baby went in a carrier.  As Baby Bear got older and was better able to sit, we bought a Chariot Cougar 2. It gave me more options as both kids could sit in it (though usually it was one at a time), and I had more room to bring a bike, toys, diaper bag, food, etc.

 Exploring a close area, Forget-Me-Not Pond!
Great for morning excursions so you can be back home for naps. 
Baby bear was tucked away in the Chariot with his dad.
Image Credit: Sarah McLean, Rockies Girl


 Conclusion

In the end, I think the best advice for getting out is to know yourself and know your kids. Every family is different. Each parent and each kid has a different personality and likes/dislikes. Try not to compare your family to others. Getting outside is meant to be a time to refresh your batteries and provide a breath of fresh air (literally!) and each family will find their own way to achieve this. Pack as much as it makes sense to bring, pack as much as you can the night before, and don't forget a coffee for yourself!  

About Sarah 

Sarah is a hiker, climber, skier and outdoor mama to two little ones. She lives in Calgary, Alberta and enjoys adventures both big and small in mountains or in the city. Read more on her blog: Rockies Girl, or follow her on Twitter @cdnrockiesgirl, or Instagram @cdnrockiesgirl.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Destination: Castle Mountain Resort, Alberta

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains southwest of Pincher Creek, Castle Mountain Resort is a hidden gem. It's the kind of place where the stormcam tells you to get your snorkel, people smile and hold doors, and your kids beg to never, ever leave.


Over the three days we skied at Castle, we met regulars from all over Canada and as far away as Germany! Castlemen and Castlewomen return year after year for the epic natural snow (910 cm annually!), exciting terrain, and community feel. It was our first time there, and my husband's first time in a while, and we were instantly taken with the friendly, chill vibe. Fellow snow seekers greeted us in the lodge with a cheerful "Good morning!", waved us ahead of them in line so they could chat with friends just skiing out of their chalets, and told us about a hugging liftie! Skiers "go up blue just for the hugs!" from Marie Cameron, a Pincher Creek resident who has worked at Castle for more than ten years (Source). We hope to meet her next time!

The Castle experience is all about amazing snow and people, but not too many people. Liftopia just awarded Castle a Best in Snow Award for Least Crowded! If you want to ski powder without lineups, Castle's your mountain. Here's more of what we loved about Castle and why we'll be back!


Diverse Terrain

While Castle is best known for its champagne powder and steep, continuous fall lines, you don't have to be an expert skier to have a great time there! First-timers and experts alike can find fun at Castle with 79+ runs on 3 mountains including bowls, chutes, and glades; terrain parks; and cat skiing. As intermediate skiers, my husband, 7 year old, and I were able to ski runs off every chair lift, but did the most family skiing off the Huckleberry and Sundance (Blue) Chair Lifts. We also made good use of the Buckaroo Carpet and Green Chair with our 5 year old.

Skiing above the clouds!

Beginner Terrain

The magic carpet area is very gently graded and is perfect for the first time skier. Although it isn't too big, it was never really crowded, so my youngest was able to get a lot of practice stopping and turning.

Buckaroo Carpet, Castle Mountain
Those who have mastered their pizza (snowplow) can try beginners runs off the Green Chair. With only 49 m elevation gain, kids can get used to a chairlift, and start getting more speed. I would spend some time here making sure everyone can turn and stop well before heading to the other chairs where the runs are considerably longer.

The Green Chair is conveniently located beside the Magic Carpet.
Next up is the Huckleberry Chair (330 m gain). The Huckleberry Chair is great for families as it doesn't load too fast and the bar comes down low. Another cool thing about this area is that there are blue runs and green runs side by side! Families with kids of different ages/abilities can split up, then meet at the chair lift. There's a terrain park and glade skiing (advanced) here too.

For a long, cruisey ride, take North Run from the Sundance Chair (445 m gain). The views are beautiful!

Heading up the Sundance Chair (aka Blue Chair)

Intermediate Terrain

There are several fun runs for intermediate skiers and riders at Castle. The easiest blue runs from the Huckleberry Chair are Pony Express and Lone Ranger. From Sundance Chair, try Easy Street and Sundown; and on Tamarack Chair, try High Noon and North Run. Once you've mastered those, you can move on to pitchier runs like Harker's Highway or head into South Bowl. Our favorites were Easy Street, Centre, and Lone Ranger.

Feeling tall on Pony Express
Gorgeous view from Easy Street

Advanced Terrain

Advanced skiers and riders will be in heaven at Castle with all the chutes, glades and bowls. Ask the lifties where to find the most powder!

For a truly epic adventure, try cat skiing! Get first tracks on the cat skiing exclusive side of Haig Mountain with experienced guides. Check out my story, Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing at Castle Mountain, for details!

Cat Ski with the Powder Stagecoach at Castle Mountain!

Amazing Snow

With an elevation of 1410 metres (4626') at the base to 2273 metres (7463') at the top, you are pretty much guaranteed amazing snow at Castle! Fellow cat skiers told us they'd skied in 6 feet (1.8 m) of powder before at Castle! I was actually relieved there wasn't that much when we were there as I'm so short I'd probably have gotten lost in it!

On our visit, there wasn't as much pow as usual due to abnormally warm weather (that brought rain instead of snow a couple days before), but we found some powder stashes cat skiing on Saturday and then were treated to 10 cm of fresh snow on Sunday. It was so fun, we didn't want to leave!

Did you know Castle gets a whopping 910 cm of snow per year? That's about the same as Sunshine Village (914.4 cm)!

Little ripper taking a breather

Super Snow School 

Castle's Snow School is well designed for kids of all ages and levels. Big POG (7) received two 2-hour lessons, while Little POG (5) got two 1-hour lessons and some play time in the children's play zone. The amount of ski time for each of them was just right! They learned a lot and had fun!

When I asked my big girl what she learned, she said "Not much. We mostly just skied. He showed me how to ski backwards and in circles." The next day, however, she pointed at the glades and asked, "Can we ski in there? I skied there yesterday and it was so fun!" Turns out she also learned to ski moguls! Between "skiing bumps" and movies, she had the best day ever! Thank you, Victor!
Big POG and Victor heading up Huckleberry Chair
Little POG also improved over the course of the day. After her second lesson with Serena, she was almost skiing parallel! It helped that there was only 1 other student in the class and Serena was all smiles. Thanks so much!

Great On Mountain Accommodation 

Castle Mountain is a true ski-in, ski-out destination. There are beautiful condos, cabins, and chalets that sleep 4-18 people, that are at the base of the mountain, as well as hotel/hostel accommodations a short walk from the Day Lodge.

Castle Mountain Lodge and Hostel was our home away from home for 3 nights. It was clean and comfortable with a games room, coin laundry, sauna, and shared kitchen in the common area. We loved being able to walk to our room after a day on the slopes. Stay tuned for our review of Castle Mountain Lodge!

Coziness at Castle Mountain Lodge - 1 Queen, 1 Bunk Bed Room
If you want to keep costs down, you can even camp at Castle Mountain! Unserviced sites are available for a minimal fee.

For more information, please visit Castle Mountain Accommodations.

Affordable Dining

Castle Mountain Day Lodge puts together a hearty breakfast or lunch.  We enjoyed the french toast with cream cheese frosting, and grilled ham and cheese.

T-Bar Pub and Grub is your place for tasty, thin crust pizza and a pint, and live music most weekends. Carnivores will love the wings and mountain of meatloaf.

Portions were generous and prices were reasonable, which was a nice surprise at a ski resort!

For your morning java, visit Joe's Cafe. They make all the fancy coffees you need to recover from a night at the pub. ;)

Tucking in to meatloaf, pizza, and wings at T Bar Pub & Grub

Alpenland Pro Shop - Rentals / Sales / Service

If you forgot anything (goggles, gloves) or need to rent gear, Alpenland Pro Shop is your one stop shop. Besides high end skis and snowboards, they can hook you up with sweet fat skis for cat skiing. We loved the loaner skis we got; they cut through the hard stuff and floated on powder! The staff were knowledgeable and super nice too! Alpenland is conveniently located beside Castle Mountain Day Lodge.

Alpenland Pro Shop at Castle Mountain
Our sweet rental skis for cat skiing!

Loads of Fun Activities in the Area

From live music to guided snowshoe tours and cat skiing, there are lots of things to do at Castle!
  • Free daily resort tours with lift ticket purchase - see schedule by the Day Lodge
  • Snowshoeing along Castle River
  • Guided Snowshoe Tours at Castle Mountain Resort
  • Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing at Castle Mountain Resort. Check out our review here! It's resort based so you can check in on your kids throughout the day.
  • Playground beside the Huckleberry Chair
  • Cross country skiing at Syncline Cross Country Ski Area on 15 km of groomed trails. See ski report here.
  • Live music at T-Bar Pub & Grub
  • Snowmobiling
  • Night skiing at Pass Powderkeg
Snowshoe here from the resort in just a few minutes!

Promotions and Special Events

Fun upcoming events include a Ladies' Retreat on February 2 & 3 and Men's Retreat on February 9 & 10. For more information on these and other events, please visit Castle Mountain Events.

If you live in the Livingstone – Macleod Area, & Okotoks – High River area, check out the SnowKids Next Door Program that gives K-6 Students a Castle Season's Pass for $5!

This fall, pick up a Cruisin' the Castle Card to ski free on your 1st, 4th & 7th days, save $20 on other days, and save $30 on Thursdays!

You can also use your Lake Louise Plus Card at Castle Mountain!! See details here.

In Closing

I have yet to meet a mountain I didn't like, but Castle Mountain is one of my new favorites. Sure, it has epic pow and chutes that should be in pro ski videos, but the amazing atmosphere is second to none. Now that I've been, I get why people are so passionate about the place. More than once, I'd heard "Nah, Castle's better." when someone says which mountain is the best. Why are Castlemen and Castlewomen so happy? Is it the geography? Lack of crowds? Friendly locals? If you figure it out, let me know! In the meantime, let's keep this our little secret. 

Disclosure

Castle Mountain Resort generously hosted us for 3 days (Thank you so much!!), but as always, all words and opinions are my own.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Fun Family Skiing at Mount Norquay & Family Ski Day Giveaway

Mount Norquay is a family-friendly ski resort just minutes from Banff with fun runs for the whole family, an amazing ski school, great on-hill dining, and a wicked tube park. Best of all, there aren't long lines for the lifts so you can spend more time shredding! Ski here, then head into town for dinner or a soak in the hot springs for a perfect day.


"And now I'm going to take you to the best viewpoint in all of Norquay," Gord tells me and my husband. The winter scene that unfolds before us is undeniably gorgeous with Cascade Mountain to the left and Rundle straight ahead. It's hard to believe we're mere minutes from the town of Banff! 


Mount Norquay Ski Resort
Gord Fielding, Director of Mount Norquay's Snow School, is our guide and instructor for the morning while the kids are in ski school. He goes on - between dispensing invaluable pointers on skiing technique - to share some of Norquay's rich history and his favorite runs. We learn that many of the runs have been renamed to honor local legends: Giv'er Grandi, Rob's Run, Wiegele's, Monod's Legacy, and hEaD Hunter to name a few. If you're lucky, you might see some of them on the slopes! (I'm pretty sure Mr. Eddie Hunter told me where to find the best snow on our visit!)

At Mount Norquay
The morning passes quickly, but we notice an improvement from when we started. A few key things are sticking and it feels good! We decide right then and there that this is something we need to do more often. Over the past several years, we've focused so much on teaching the girls that we haven't advanced our own skills. Plus, it's pretty fun to ski kid-free once in a while!

Mount Norquay Magic Carpet Area
Our girls are enjoying their lessons too. Big POG (7) is tailing instructor Mike, jumping on her skis and beaming; and Little POG (5) is perfecting her pizza (snowplow) with Lou's patient tutelage. They are pleased as punch with their first-ever ski lessons and conspiratorially tell Gord that ski school is way better than Mom and Dad lessons! It's clear that the instructors are carefully selected and well trained, and Gord reveals they all must have experience working with kids. (Note: Little POG simply completing the lesson was a huge win! She's very shy and has bailed on classes in the past because she was scared of the instructor, but Lou was very friendly and non-threatening. Thanks, Lou!)

Little POG heading to her first ski lesson!
In high spirits, we make our way to Lone Pine Pub to refill our tanks. Big POG, our little connoisseur, orders salmon and corn fritters off the kids' menu. Little POG goes for  chicken tacos, my husband gets the salmon burger, and I order the steak sandwich.  Everything is delicious and Liz takes great care of us. While we could comfortably lounge all afternoon - there's good stuff on tap and the sunset is beautiful from Cascade Lodge - the mountain is calling.

Lone Pine Pub Chicken Tacos
After a few more fantastic runs, it's tubing time! A hot spot at the end of the day, the tube park line moves surprisingly quickly with many people riding down in groups. We soon experience the biggest vertical drop of any tube park in Alberta. It is breathtakingly FAST, but so much fun! We can't get enough and shut the place down. For more information and a video, please see Tubing at Mount Norquay's Tube Town.

Mount Norquay's Tube Town has a sweet view of Mount Rundle
Fifteen minutes later, we're choosing sweets at the candy store on Banff Avenue. It's the perfect ending to a perfect day! Gotta love a great ski hill so close to town!

Yumminess at the Banff Sweet Shoppe

What We Love

  • Location: Leaving your hotel in Banff at 9:15 am and getting to the ski hill at 9:30 am is awesome (especially if you're not a morning person)! Mount Norquay is only 6 km from the town of Banff so there are tons of nearby options for lodging and dining. See my Where to Stay and Where to Eat pages for ideas.

  • Short Lines: We never had to wait long for the chair lift. Spend more time skiing!

  • Small class sizes for group lessons make it easier to learn! Little kid classes (3-5 yrs old) max out at 2 students while 5 year old classes have 3 students. Big kid classes (6-12 yrs old) have no more than 6 students, but usually have only 3-4!

  • Terrain for all levels. There's a magic carpet area for first-timers, and green runs off Cascade Chair and lower half of the Spirit Chair (you can get off halfway). Intermediate skiers will enjoy skiing blue runs off the high speed Mystic Chair before easing into more advanced stuff. For more of a challenge, check out the Norquay 90 Glades, terrain park, and expert runs off the North American Chair!

  • Friendly staff! Everyone was awesome from management to ski instructors, lifties, and pub staff. The tube park guys even said hi to us in downtown Banff! 

  • Great On-Hill Dining Options: Grab a quick bite at the deli/cafeteria in the Cascade Lodge or North American Lodge; or dine at Lone Pine Pub. The pub has a great kid's menu, selection of craft beers, and delicious  For the best view in Banff, head up to the Cliffhouse Bistro. I recommend the charcuterie platter and game & fig flatbread!

  • Norquay's Toonie Days (ski for $2!) are a great way to check out the mountain before you commit to a season's pass. If you plan on skiing a few times this season, the Big Drop Card gives you your 1st, 4th and 7th ski days free with discounted visits in between for the price of one day ticket.
View from Mount Norquay

Mount Norquay Fun Facts

  • Norquay's Snow School is the longest running and most reasonably priced snow school in Banff! Children's winter programs fill up in September, so mark your calendars! 

  • Mount Norquay's tube park has the biggest vertical drop in Alberta so it's super fast and super fun. Read about our experience: Tubing at Mount Norquay's Tube Town.

  • Norquay's Terrain Park has just been upgraded with more fun features!

  • The only night skiing in Banff is at Mount Norquay! Fridays and Saturdays from 5 pm - 9 pm January 2 - February 25.  Fridays from 5 pm - 9 pm the rest of the season. 

  • Mount Norquay is Banff's first ski resort! It turns 91 in 2017.

  • Black Magic is one of the steepest runs in Alberta!  

  • The sightseeing chairlift is open year round! Enjoy the view from the lookout, then visit the the Cliffhouse Bistro for an amazing lunch. Please see this story for details: Experience Mount Norquay's Sightseeing Chair Lift and Cliffhouse Bistro.
Cliffhouse Bistro Charcuterie Platter

Disclosure

Mount Norquay generously hosted us for a day of skiing and tubing, including ski lessons and lunch, but all words and opinions are my own. A special thank you to all the friendly staff who made our day great! 

Mount Norquay Ski Resort

Giveaway

Now is your chance to win a Mt. Norquay Quality Time Family Package valued at $149! This package includes Ski Lift Tickets for 2 Adults and 2 Children/Youth (up to 17 yrs.). For complete details, see Mount Norquay Deals.


Fine Print: Contest is open to Canadian residents only, however, the winner must be able to pick up the prize at Mount Norquay. The Mount Norquay Quality Time Family Package is valued at $149, must be accepted as is (no cash value), and expires at the end of the 2016/2017 ski season. A winner will be randomly selected via the Rafflecopter app. This contest is in no way affiliated with Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  Contest closes January 30, 2017 at 11:59 pm MST! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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