Spring into skiing at Nakiska
Kananaskis Provincial Park, AB — Peter Wong and Cong Tran are swooping wide ski turns down the bunny hill at Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Treaty 7 territory. All around them is the intense granite majesty of the Canadian Rockies, freshly groomed snow and brilliant blue spring skies. For both men, now in their 30s, skiing and winter sport is brand new.
Meanwhile, as I watch from the sidelines, a battle is brewing nearby. Maddie, a young skier who comes up to about my knee, is fighting her instructor’s patient guidance.
All of maybe three or four years old, Maddie just wants to ski down fast. Her instructor, however, wants her to practice technique.
Watching this all go down, I wonder: who is going to progress faster?
WATCH: Peter and Cong learn to ski at Nakiska
A little backstory: Peter and Cong came to Canada separately, from Hong Kong and Vietnam respectively, and became friends upon meeting in Calgary. Neither grew up with winter culture.
Without familiar activities to turn to in the winter here, Peter says winter here can be “boring.”
“We are immigrants here, never skied before, never seen snow before, so what to do in the winter?” says Cong.
Contrast that with little Maddie. Not long after she learned to walk, she’s already gliding on skis and raring to go. While it may take a few lessons before she refines her technique, chances are she’ll grow up skiing and one day she won’t even remember what it was like not knowing how to ski.
I know, because that’s how it went for me and for my kids as well. Learning young has its advantages.
But coming to skiing as adults, Peter and Cong have the benefit of life experience. Both have attempted to learn once before, without instruction.
FACEBOOK LIVE: hear Peter and Cong’s impressions on their ski experience
“I tried snowboarding once before,” says Peter. “It was fun but I fell many times.”
Listening to and learning from an expert can help you develop new skills far faster than going it alone.
Soon, by studiously practicing each skill their instructor Tom shows them, their skills progress.
We leave Maddie behind on the bunny hill, and we’re off to the chairlift.
It can be scary taking those first steps onto the magic carpet (the conveyor belt lift that takes skiers up the bunny hill) or loading a lift for the first time.
But with instruction, both Peter and Cong glide smoothly onto the lifts. Just having some guidance as they go along puts them at ease. As does the warm spring weather.
Before the day ends, they have graduated from the bunny hill, to the Bronze Chair (mostly beginner terrain) to the Silver Chair (beginner to intermediate).
For their efforts, they are rewarded with a 360-degree panorama of breathtaking mountain views, and wide, gentle runs to continue practicing those smoothly flowing turns. And some great food and beverages awaiting them down at Nakiska’s main chalet.
Few things are as satisfying as tucking into some nosh and maybe a pint while enjoying the view of the slopes you just skied.
It’s not all smooth sailing though. At one point, Peter takes a tumble and both his skis come off. He has to remove snow from the bottom of his boots, wobbling as he scrapes them on his bindings, before he can put them back on.
On his second last run, taking on a bigger challenge, Cong tumbles four times. But each time, he laughs, gets back up, brushes off the snow and keeps going.
“Skiing is easier for me because I can find my balance,” says Peter. “It’s much more fun, I can still walk and have my balance. I just fell once, twice today.”
“Tom was so good, he explained everything so well and I can understand everything—every step, every instruction, he did a very good job.”
Like coming to a new country, or integrating into a new culture, there are obstacles to work through when learning to ski.
But with friendly instruction, mild spring weather and soft snow like Peter and Cong experienced here at Nakiska, you can soon find effortless fun and welcome here on the ski slopes.
WHEN YOU GO
Lift tickets, lessons and rentals
You can book your lesson and lift tickets online, in advance, to secure your time and make your visit smooth.
Kananaskis Conservation Pass
You do need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to visit Kananaskis Provincial Park (including the ski area). Passes are $15 per day or $90 per year, and can be purchased online.
Ready to get geared up? Our partner HEAD Skis can get you set up.
Nakiska spring events
Spring is a great time to visit! Nakiska will soon be announcing its spring lineup of live concerts and parties that routinely mark the spring season. Stay tuned to the Nakiska event calendar for more details coming soon.
About the area
Nakiska Ski Area was built as a host venue of the 1988 Olympics, and intended as a legacy for Calgary skiers and snowboarders.
The ski area is set within the Treaty 7 Territory region of Southern Alberta. Treaty 7 encompasses the traditional lands of the Îyârhe Nakoda Nations of Chiniki, Wesley, and Bearspaw, the Tsuut’ina First Nation, the Kainai, Siksika, and Piikani Nations of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) Confederacy, and Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III.
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Read on to get a better sense of what you're in for when learning to ski.