Bridging the Gap at Nitehawk

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After 20 years off skis, Ginger Dumais attempts a comeback to bond with her son.

A nervous grin spreads across Ginger Dumais’ face as she picks up speed, reaching the edge of control coming down a steeper pitch on the run Will-o-way at Nitehawk Adventure Park, 20 minutes from Grande Prairie. Her expression is part thrill, part fear. In the split seconds of her descent, it’s hard to tell which will win out and whether she’ll manage to stay upright

Being back on skis was itself a feat, to begin with. A couple of years ago, Dumais had decided to pick up skiing again. And yet despite her best intentions, she found herself making excuses to put it off as time went by. Last season came and went, and she passed on another chance over the Christmas holidays this year.

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“I was just nervous,” she says. “I really thought that I would have no idea what I was doing, and I’d fall and hurt myself.”

Photo: Jeremy Derksen

Ginger Dumais took up skiing again to bond with her teen son Aiden.

After all, it had been more than 20 years since she last tried sliding downhill on snow — snowboarding as a teenager — and her last attempt hadn’t gone so well. It’s surprising how enduring those memories can be for adults, preventing us from taking risks or trying something new or unfamiliar. But getting past those mental barriers usually comes with a reward or incentive, as it did in Dumais' case.

“My son loves snowboarding, and I really wanted something I could do with him,” she says. “To bond with a teenage boy, you often have to do what they want to do … that was the main reason. And it’s better than Fortnite.”

Dumais finally plucked up her courage, threw her son Aiden and his friend Dane in the car and drove out to Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park, bringing us (almost) back to the present moment.

Photo: Jeremy Derksen

Learning some basic skills with an instructor helped Ginger regain her confidence on the slopes. 

As Dumais and the boys arrived, the Adventure Camp office (where ski lesson groups meet) was buzzing. Kids were pairing off with instructors, bright and obvious in their standard-issue red jackets, parents milling around.

First opened in 1960, the community-owned and operated ski area lays claim to being the largest non-mountain ski area in northern Alberta. It boasts nine runs, a mogul patch, two terrain parks, and a tube park, serviced by a triple chair, platter lift and two magic carpets, as well as a classic A-frame lodge with recent expansions, thanks to a legacy from hosting the Arctic Winter Games in 2010. With about 170 metres of vertical, Nitehawk offers a step up in scale and challenge for skiers and snowboarders in the region and is about a 1.5-hour drive from Dawson Creek, and just 10 minutes from Grande Prairie.

Photo: Jeremy Derksen

Ginger Dumais gets the hang of skiing pretty quickly, even though she was a bit nervous. 

Dumais' instructor, Amy, welcomed the trio and got to work. First the old one-ski push, and then on to the bunny hill to practice snowplowing and stopping. Dumais' first slides were shaky, and Aiden wasn’t so keen on hanging out on the magic carpet. But after a morning of coaching, Dumais’ confidence and ability had grown. Then came the big test, that top to bottom run down Willo-way.

So there she is, mid-plunge, staring down the very moment that might end her comeback and doom her to bonding over Fortnite… and something clicks. She holds her balance until the slope levels off, regains her composure, and cruises the rest of the way to the chairlift. Not bad at all, for her first time in over 20 years. “It was really nerve-wracking, kind of scary at first but it wasn’t as hard as I was expecting,” she says. “It was fun."

Photo: Jeremy Derksen

Instructor Amy and Ginger call the day a success.

And although Aiden is playing it cool, it has no doubt dawned on him that he has just seen his mom face her fears, and take a risk or two, all to spend time with him. It’s not always easy to connect with your teenage children, but from the smiles all around, this was a win for mom.

When You Go

Pretty much any time of year is a good time to be in Grande Prairie to enjoy the slopes of Nitehawk. Night skiing is a unique draw for the region in the wintertime, and snow seekers shouldn't be fooled into thinking this is just a place for kids. This place has changed a lot over the years. In just 13 years, Nitehawk has grown its operations six-fold, so you'll experience the momentum and have a blast ripping it at Nitehawk.

Grande Prairie is just 4.5 hours north of Edmonton via Highway 43.

Make sure to read more about skiing in Northern Alberta by checking out this great story about the Next Step program in Jasper.

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Set the compass north and Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association can help get you there.

For more on Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park’s menu of options, ski over to the website or search it out online at  #GoNitehawk.

Learn more about what Northern Alberta has in store for you this winter by visiting our #SkiNorthAB page, where more stories and videos will be coming out all season long.

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