Step into the limelight with glow tubing at Nitehawk
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SKI SEASON IS OPEN AS OF NOV 26, 2022
Nitehawk glow tubing, snowshoeing experience and a new T-bar create night-time festive community atmosphere. #SkiNorthAB #GoNitehawk
Grande Prairie, AB - Colourful flashing lights, pumping beats and laughter punctuate the evening air at Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park in Grande Prairie. There’s a celebratory mood around the ski resort lately, and it’s not just the glow tubing scene. (Yes, a lot of it is the festive night-time snow tubing experience Nitehawk puts on, but it’s not that alone.)
The mood here is optimistic these days, in stark contrast to May 2020 when a landslide tore out the hill’s main chairlift and two-thirds of its terrain. The timing, just as the pandemic hit, couldn’t have been worse. But what could have been catastrophic for this non-profit recreation venue turned into a success story, through careful planning, hard work, community and creativity.
Nitehawk may be its name, but this ski area is a phoenix, and the good times are rising once again as the hill opens Nov 26 for the 2022-23 season.
May 19, 2020, in the wee hours, power went down at the hill. Johnathan Clarkson, GM at Nitehawk, got the alert and asked his maintenance manager John Gibson to check what he thought was a routine outage.
Around 8 a.m., Clarkson recalls, he got a text from Gibson. “He sent me a picture from the bottom of the hill with the words, ‘you better get down here.’”
The devastation was incredible. Not just the chairlift towers but their foundations, weighing 30 tonnes each, were ripped from the ground. But what happened once word got out was nothing short of remarkable. It seemed the entire city showed up to offer help, Clarkson remembers.
“That just really tugged at your heart,” he says. “The day after… the emails, text messages, Facebook messages were rolling in. The community was really rallying, asking ‘what do you need, what can we do?’”
Replacing major infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight. So while the hill’s non-profit board and operating staff went about figuring out how to restore over half their terrain, they also came up with new experiences and offerings that would allow Grande Prairie locals to get out and enjoy the outdoors. With the pandemic, Clarkson and team knew there was a pent-up demand for outdoor activities and community.
Thus, glow tubing was born. Floodlights already lit up the hill at night for night skiing, supporting local freestylers, racers and recreationalists. But more families and couples were seeking evening activities outside. It was a - pardon the pun - lightbulb moment for Nitehawk.
With black light LEDS, laser lights and multi-coloured spotlights, as well as some speakers to pump out the jams, Nitehawk took snow tubing to a new level. Friday and Saturday evenings, the Aquatera Tube Park is a buzzing place with people of all ages zipping down the 600 foot-long snow tubing runs.
Excited screams and laughs whip the air, seeming to travel a little slower than the riders in their tubes. A quick magic carpet ride up, and you can reset and do it again and again.
Matthew and Meaghan Vavrek and their kids, Ada (11) and Callum (12), were out to enjoy the park on a recent evening.
“In the middle of winter, it’s typically already dark after work or school so it’s nice to have activities to do together,” he said. “The kids really liked all of the black lights and lasers along with the tubing. It makes it especially fun at night to have it lit up like that, it made it more of a party atmosphere.”
For a quieter, more laidback (i.e. romantic) experience, a new 500-metre snowshoe trail in the forest is lit with Christmas lights leading to an igloo. Day time, an approximate 2.5 kilometre snowshoe trail (one way) from Nitehawk to the top of Temptation Point offers one of the most breathtaking views of the Wapiti River valley.
February 2022 marks a major milestone for the hill, as the new t-bar is set to begin spinning. A big swath of terrain is becoming accessible again in less than two years from the slide, and that’s no small feat.
For Nitehawk, now approaching 62 years in operation as a non-profit community venue, the process has reaffirmed the hill’s place as an anchor for recreation and community in the region.
From the laughter, smiles and hollers as the hill swarms with action - tubes flying downhill, skiers and snowboarders launching air in the terrain park, a handful of snowshoers out on the trails - it’s clear that this is the place to be in Grande Prairie.
And the party's just getting started.
WHEN YOU GO
Stay and save
Save with #SkiNorthAB when you book a stay at the Sandman Hotel Grande Prairie.
Check out this story on Nitehawk by Canada West Ski Areas Association for more details about the recovery efforts.
Check out more #SkiNorthAB Adventures
Alberta's north abounds with winter activity. Visit our #SkiNorthAB expedition page, or check out some of the stories below for more winter inspiration.