Ski resorts are quickly becoming year-round destinations for adventure and fun. This summer, families can visit 10 different resorts spread across southern Alberta and the BC Rockies, trying everything from a thrilling rollercoaster ride down the hill to lift-accessed hiking through alpine meadows.
My family loves visiting ski resorts on our summer travels because there is always lots of parking, and we can easily find a spot for our trailer - not to mention great dining, mountain-top patios with fabulous views, and accessible adventures for the whole family (including family members with limited mobility).
Five ski resort adventures in Alberta and BC to try this summer:
1. Visit WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park (in Calgary) to try their Skyline Luge. The skyline luge is a unique ride where participants have full control over speed and steering as you descend a 1.8-kilometre track in a small cart with wheels. Ride a chairlift up to the top of the ski hill and then enjoy your ride down as you drop more than 100 metres on descent. Families can ride tandem with younger children.
Once you’ve tried a couple of runs on the skyline luge (once won’t be enough!), you can move on to bigger thrill rides with the summer bobsleigh ride, reaching speeds of 80 kilometres per hour or try the brand new ‘free fall’ attraction (bungee jumping off an eight-storey platform).
2. Enjoy a scenic chairlift or gondola ride with mountain top dining and hiking. For those who’d rather have a peaceful chairlift ride up and back down the mountain rather than a wild luge ride, most ski resorts offer a summer sightseeing chairlift or gondola ride.
Here are a few Calgary-area options:
Mount Norquay - Ride the North American Chairlift to the Cliffhouse Bistro. Note: There is no hiking available from the top, but there is a beautiful viewing platform. And for the thrill seekers, you can sign up for a guided Via Ferrata Climb using bolted cables and metal foot/hand holds along with airy suspension bridges. It’s quite the adventure!
Sunshine Village - Enjoy a gondola ride up to the Village followed by a ride up the Standish Chair to a beautiful viewing platform. From here, there is a short 800-metre hike around the Standish Viewing Deck Loop.
For families wanting a longer hike, you’ll be at the highest lift-accessed sightseeing elevation in the Banff and Lake Louise area once you arrive at the top of the Standish lift. From here, you can hike farther to visit three alpine lakes before walking back down to the Village for lunch.
Once back at the Village, there are six different places to grab a beverage, a snack, or to sit down for lunch.
Note: The gondola only runs Fridays through Mondays, but there is bus access up to the Village mid-week.
Lake Louise Ski Resort - Visitors can choose to ride up the hill in a closed gondola or open chairlift. Once at the top, it’s a short hike to the Whitehorn Bistro (with a gorgeous patio looking down on Lake Louise) or a short shuttle van ride for those with limited mobility. Either way, everybody can reach the restaurant and the wildlife interpretive centre located within.
Beyond the top of the gondola there are a few hiking options, as well. My favorite is to the top of the Kicking Horse Viewpoint in a 1.7-kilometre round trip walk.
Families traveling around British Columbia on their summer vacation will also want to check out the lift accessed sightseeing and hiking at Fernie Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, and Panorama Mountain Resort outside the town of Invermere. I especially recommend Kicking Horse for its Grizzly Bear Refuge that you’ll pass over in the gondola (with daily sightings of Boo, the resident grizzly bear).
3. Try lift accessed mountain biking at one of several resorts. Calgary families won’t have to travel far to try this one. Visit WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park, rent a bike if you don’t have your own, and then cruise your way down ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ before moving on to ‘Green Tea’ and ‘Tender Vittles.’ Once you’ve mastered those three downhill runs you’ll be able to move up to harder terrain with technical trail features, ramps, and jumps. And if you’re a little nervous about riding your bike down a mountain, rest assured they offer lessons, as well.
Once you’re comfortable at WinSport, you can then visit other resorts across British Columbia including Panorama, Kicking Horse, and Fernie.
4. Conquer your fear of heights with a zipline or aerial park adventure. Last year, my son and I traveled north to Edmonton to try out the new aerial park at the Snow Valley Ski Club. We had a lot of fun, and it’s definitely on our list to visit again. (Next time I’m determined to reach the top platform!) And if you’re looking for a place to stay, the Rainbow Valley campground is located right on-site.
Fernie Alpine Resort in BC also has a great aerial park for older children and teens along with a junior version (that’s free) for kids still too short to play in the big park. The Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in BC just opened a Zipline Adventure Course that is becoming very popular in the Columbia Valley.
5. Visit Revelstoke Mountain Resort to try their epic Pipe Mountain Coaster. This has become an annual attraction for us while driving out to the Okanagan in BC each August. We drive to Revelstoke Friday after work, take a ride on the pipe mountain coaster first thing the next morning before lineups begin to form, and then we continue our drive west.
Young children can ride tandem with adults, and you get to control your speed in case you’re worried about how fast your little cart is going to rip down the mountain.
And since there’s really no way to describe the feeling of sitting in a tiny car attached to a pipe (as you drop off the side of the ski hill), I recommend visiting the resort’s website to watch a video of the experience. The imagination behind this attraction is incredible.
Please contact each resort directly or visit their website for information on minimum age requirements, costs, and hours of operation.
Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky boy. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.
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