Red Deer’s Canyon Ski Resort makes family skiing easy
Canyon's small size and easy-going instructors make an introduction to skiing for a kids a breeze.
Photos by Jeremy Derksen
RED DEER, AB - Having conducted my own family circus for a few years now on skis, I like to pride myself on having a bit of skill as a ringmaster, even if it is a bit dramatic at times.
With three kids ranging in age from three to eight, it’s not easy to keep them all happy while doing one activity together. Ability levels, attention spans and moods vary greatly between toddler and pre-tween. If the lion tamer, juggler and clown collide mid-act, watch out.
Yet here was our ski instructor, Rick Lawrence, putting on a virtuoso performance without megaphone or bullwhip. Arms spread in an airplane pose, a wide grin across his face, my three year-old son pushed himself across the flat slope of the bunny hill on one ski. Up above him, my eight year-old worked on edging his skis to make racing turns, while my six year-old executed pizza pie-French fry transitions.
I stood at the base of the Canyon Ski Resort beginner hill looking on as this small miracle unfold before me. It was all the more impressive as we had met Rick for the first time only half an hour before.
Canyon instructor, Rick, was a hit with the kids.
A lot of ski areas claim to cater to families, but there is something different — special —about Canyon. It stems from being a family-owned and operated hill, with two generations of skiing heritage. David Martel and his wife Robyn, her brother Tomas Kunc and their parents Alois and Marie Kunc bought the hill in 2010, and now run it together.
Their shared love of the sport brings the family together. Now, as the Martels and Tomas raise their own families around skiing—the Martels’ daughter Charlotte has become a regular at Canyon at age two — they are passing it on to a third generation.
Those family values inform the entire Canyon experience, from the homey alpine chalet-style lodge to the giant, soft building blocks scattered across the beginner slope. Set within a narrow valley, down a switchback road 10 minutes from Red Deer, the hill is not huge but it has a good variety of runs, including gentle beginner slopes as well as some steeper, more challenging pitches to match the various ability levels of a young family.
It's easy to keep the kids entertained at Canyon.
Our instructor, Rick, is himself a grandparent. Perhaps it’s his gentle, confident manner, his curly white beard or the hint of a twinkle in his eyes, but kids have even told him he looks a bit like Santa Claus. He has spent over 20 years as an instructor and ski patroller, teaching his own children and now grandchildren, as well as multitudes of young skiers over the years.
With each successive run, my kids improve and gain confidence. Soon my oldest son is itching to explore, so after some last instructions from Rick, he’s let loose. With a layout that funnels skiers back to the base area and the lodge, it’s easy to give him a bit more free rein. Meanwhile, my three year-old is tiring out and my daughter, the six year-old, is still working on technique.
All in all, it’s the kids whose opinions dictate what makes a good family ski experience. As we prepare to depart, my three year-old spontaneously says, “Skiing is fun. I like skiing.” (He’ll repeat this sentiment many times over the next few days, mixed in with comments about skiing with Rick again.)
Learning new ski skills at Canyon.
As the late afternoon light wanes, the winter circus draws to a happy, lazy close with juice, snacks and a promise to my kids that yes, we’ll come back again, soon.
For more information about Canyon, head to their official website.
Learn how Canyon came to be a community hub of fun in the heart of Alberta.
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