Every Saturday for 10 weeks during ski season, Caroline St-Mars and her husband pack up the car and drive themselves and their four children from Calgary to Lake Louise Ski Area (http://www.skilouise.com/) for the day. Her two oldest boys participate in the Bow Valley Kids ski program while the toddler plays in the daycare. Her baby spent his time in the day lodge with Mom or Dad last winter but this season he’ll also hang out in daycare so St-Mars and her husband can ski together.
“I think it’s great because we leave the city for the whole day. Darren and I get to ski together without the kids,” says St-Mars. “We meet the older boys for lunch at Whitehorn Lodge and we love the social aspect at the end of the day, meeting other families for a drink.”
Skiing is a fantastic family sport — it gets the whole family outside exercising and having fun, and it gives parents and kids a chance to bond on the chairlifts and during the drive to and from ski hill.
“It’s great for families to go out and enjoy a day in the mountains together,” says Mike Moynihan, sales and marketing manager for Lake Louise Ski Area.
The resort already appeals to Mom, Dad and the kids because of its set-up (there’s a green run off of every chair) and amenities such as its daycare and Bow Valley ski and snowboard programs. This season the Banff National Park (http://www.banfflakelouise.com/) ski resort has upped its family friendliness by adding more family attractions and pricing. Here’s what you need to know to maximize family bonding on the slopes.
Season’s pass for parents
The biggest news for families is the Parent Pass (http://www.skilouise.com/lake-louise-season-passes.php), a season’s pass that’s shared between two adults who have a child age five or younger. The interchangeable pass costs $1,439 — a substantial savings over buying two adult passes — and includes a free beginner’s area pass.
Mom can take off for fresh tracks in the morning while Dad takes junior skiing in the beginner area, then she can hand off the pass to Dad so he can ski in the afternoon while she watches a movie in the day lodge, for example.
A shared pass is a relatively new idea. “I believe we’re the first Alberta resort to do it,” says Moynihan. “It’s offering flexibility for parents who have someone little.”
New surface carpets
Say goodbye to the Sunny T-bar. Lake Louise removed the iconic bunny hill transport (notoriously difficult for beginner skiers and snowboarders to learn how to ride), and replaced it with two new surface carpets. Now newbie child and adult riders can reach the top of the beginner area by standing on the conveyor belts. Moynihan says the new system will be “much friendlier for all beginners.”
The original surface carpet will remain on the more gently graded portion of the beginner area, while the two new moving carpets will work in tandem to take beginners higher up the hill as they advance.
“That’s awesome!” says St-Mars, who is planning to enrol her two-year-old son in morning lessons. “There’s no way he could ride the old T-bar.”
Beginning in January Lake Louise will be opening a two-track tubing park accessible from the top of the surface carpets in the beginner area. The park will operate during ski hill hours and gives families another option for keeping busy at the resort.
“It will be fun,” says St-Mars. “If we decide not to ski all day we can go tubing with the little ones.”
Pricing for the tubing park has not yet been determined.
Hollywood Bag Jump
Every wonder how stunt men land their crazy jumps and rolls without breaking a leg? They crash into a “Bag Jump,” a giant air-filled mattress that absorbs the impact. Beginning in January, big air seekers at Lake Louise will be able to practice terrain park tricks safely as well — the resort plans to make its Hollywood Bag Jump available one Saturday a month, increasing its public use in the spring.
“Kids can do tricks in a safe, controlled way,” says Moynihan. “They can land on the Bag Jump and it will absorb their fall.” He says it’s intended more for teenagers to use, but parents are welcome to relive their ‘80s glory days by trying a daffy.
“Our boys love going in the terrain park,” says St-Mars. “They will probably want to try it.”
Season Pass Charging
Lake Louise is aiming to simplify the ski day through season pass charging (http://www.skilouise.com/season_pass_charging.php). Parents can easily load cash or link a credit card to their season’s pass (or their child’s pass) and then use the pass to purchase everything from lunch and lessons to sunscreen and ski rentals.
“It’s going to be the perfect option for some of our customers,” says Moynihan, who notes that many parents don’t like to send cash with their kids because they have no idea how it gets spent (or, the child loses it). “This way the parent is sent an e-mail for every transaction. They can see what their child is spending money on.”
Families who don’t have a season’s pass can still take advantage of resort charging on their Louise Plus Card or by purchasing a gift card.
Full details about Lake Louise are at www.skilouise.com.