Where to learn to ski in Alberta

Whether you are getting into skiing yourself or you’re looking to persuade that one stubborn friend to strap on a snowboard for the first time, it’s all location, location! Choosing which Alberta ski area to visit for that first foray is a major decision.

If you're getting out for the first time, you want to find somewhere that is convenient, easily accessible and offers the support you need, from the rental shop to the ski instruction on the hill. Natural beauty, good food options and other recreational activities nearby may also factor into your decision.

For the experienced riders coaxing their friends into the sport, the option to hit some gnarlier terrain or tackle a new skill with some advanced coaching could be considerations as well.

Four great places to learn to ski in Alberta

For the past few years, SnowSeekers’ #NewSkiAB expedition has introduced hundreds of new skiers and snowboarders to the slopes. What's more, we've been there for big firsts with new and first-time skiers from Mexico, Asia and Africa, cheering them on and sharing their learn to ski stories. We know what makes the beginner experience successful, and how to graduate skiers’ ability as they go.

Here are four friendly Alberta ski areas with beginner slopes that will make the introduction to skiing and snowboarding easy and fun. Winter is here, so now's the time to start planning!   

Nakiska Ski Area, Kananaskis 

Just an hour west of Calgary, you can step out of the plains and into the rocky mountains at Nakiska Ski Area. The venue was purpose built for the 1988 Winter Olympics, as a legacy for Albertans. 

But while there are some steep downhills for elite racing, it also offers some seriously mild beginner terrain on the bunny hill, and off the Bronze Chair. (Yes, the lifts are Bronze, Silver and Gold, and progress logically from least to most technical, for ease of decision making and run selection.)



“It was a great experience,” says Ethel Telavera, of her first day on skis at Nakiska. “It was so fun. The instructor, oh my gosh, he was so good.” 

Telavera was so inspired after her first ski lesson with an instructor that she went from ski lessons to season pass holder in one day.

Run recommendation: A step up from the magic carpet will find you at the aforementioned Bronze Chair, with a short 550-metre gradual rise to set you up for relatively short and gentle laps.

Marmot Basin, Jasper

Marmot Basin’s recent expansions have increased upper mountain access and opened up new expert terrain, including black and double-black diamond ski runs. But don’t let that intimidate you. 

More lift access to the upper areas is actually a benefit to the beginners and intermediates as well. The more advanced skiers quickly depart the lower mountain and leave it to the learners. And a large swath of beginner terrain between the Magic Carpet and School House lifts provides ample space to practice those turns. 

Run recommendation: School House chairlift is in a dedicated beginner area with wide flats and gentle dips, which will allow you to go at your own pace and gain some confidence before you move up the mountain for some longer runs.

Snow Valley Ski Club, Edmonton

If you are in the Edmonton Area, then you don’t have to go far to get some downhill practice in with Snow Valley, located just off the Whitemud freeway in the Whitemud ravine.

With over 85% of their runs graded for beginner and intermediate level skiers, you will be sure to get in some great turns and build the confidence to move up to bigger mountains and steeper runs in no time, but the convenient location will keep you coming back for years to come.

Check out this story about how two friends returned to skiing for the first time since childhood, and what the Snow Valley experience was like for them.

Run recommendation: Old Road is the friendliest of all Snow Valley’s terrain beyond the magic carpets, but you can ski pretty much anything on the mountain with just a little practice. It is such a friendly hill that with a little determination and practice you can go from never skied to the hardest runs at Snow Valley all in one day.

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Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Lake Louise is not just a hot spot because of its picturesque terrain everywhere you turn, but it is also a great place to take your first stride whether on skis or a board. The beginner area is spacious, set on a rolling, gentle slope with wide flats and within easy reach of the Lodge of Ten Peaks. 

“For me, I can’t even describe the feeling I got when I went skiing and started putting together how to do it, it was mind-blowing actually. I never thought winter would be so fun and we are already planning our next visit,” says Tesfatsion.

With its new Juniper Chair opened this year, Lake Louise expanded its beginner and intermediate terrain for those taking the next step up from the bunny hill.

Read about Meron’s experience coming from East Africa to Calgary and learning to ski at Lake Louise.

Run recommendation: Sunny Side. All the big mountain views, none of the big mountain falls.


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