I’m so loving Canada right now. The snow is gently falling and Sunshine Village Ski Resort is now open. Bye bye boring shoulder season. Hello swooshing down the mountain and more importantly, getting my après ski on. But wait! I’ve got a kid. What to do about them? Cue the ski school.
Pretty much every resort has some kind of lessons of programs to take the youngsters off your hands. As a family, we’ve checked out many ski schools in and around Banff. We’ve also hit several resorts across Alberta and Canada, too for that matter. I like Norquay. I’ve got no beef with Lake Louise, either. There is one ski school, however, we keep going back. Whether you snowboard or are into skiing, Sunshine just might be my favourite ski school near Banff for kids.
Get schooled, fast
When we moved back to Canada from London, we’d hit Sunshine Village every Wednesday. We were both consulting, so it was no biggie to drive up to Banff on a weekday. Now, I’m no ski snob, but The Huz likes to pretend he is. He needs to snowboard Goat’s Eye mountain at least 10 times in three hours to feel like he’s had a day. But with our then three-year-old, that wasn’t likely to happen.
Enter Tiny Tiger’s Daycare at Sunshine Village. They take babes as young as 19-months-old. Eve was as happy as a clam with their games, lunch and getting outside to play in the snow with the other kids. The school also taught also her how to ski, of course. Tiny Tigers ride their own magic carpet in a fenced off area, allowing them to safely ride, slide or play with big soft, snow toys. Those were the glory days.
When Eve hit school age, we switched to ski weekends. She also hit the age when she wanted to tag along with us. She didn’t want to be in school anymore. She wanted to explore the entire ski resort. Problem was, as snowboarders, we had trouble coaching her along so she could advance her skiing skills. “You just, you know, turn…” wasn’t cutting it. Luckily Sunshine had a great solution for that too, just up the hill.
The best early season ski school in Banff
It’s called Jump Start, and it’s an early season four-week ski or snowboard program starting at the end of November. One of my girlfriends Jump Start-ed her children first. When we took a little Banff ski vacation with our two families over the Christmas holidays, her kids were leaps and bounds ahead of mine.
That was proof enough. The following November I enrolled Eve in Jump Start and for real, it transformed her (and our) skiing experience. By the time the school finished in mid December, her confidence had soared. Suddenly she had morphed out of snowplowing and was linking turns.
Then disaster struck over the summer: she was bent on snowboarding the next season. She was still a bit young for a board, but she was 100% sure she was ready.
We acquiesced, and Eve started the next season on one plank instead of two. That set us back to patiently waiting while she cautiously made her way down the mountain. We hadn’t put her in a resort school. Probably we should have. No matter, that November it was back to Jump Start. This time, Eve was on a board, and it didn’t hurt that she had a friend in the program, too.
Options for ski lessons in Banff
I should’ve thought the friend thing through better. The other kid was on skis and therefore in a different lesson. Still, it made getting to the resort less of a struggle. There are bus, lunch and rental options available, but we went the basic (cheap) route. It was totally affordable. You can’t beat a full day lesson sub $50 a time. Especially in Banff National Park!
Not that many kids are on boards anymore, which is excellent news for kids taking these kind of lessons. In Eve’s case, there were only a few other kids in her Jump Start class. They didn’t always show up, so sometimes she ended up getting a private lesson from a certified, super sweet, Auzzie (natch) instructor. For the entire day! The next time we skied OK snowboarded together as a family it was bliss. Refining skills and getting that refresher at the start of the season was invaluable.
Go ahead and put yourself, your child or teen in regular lessons if you want to. (Tip: best to register for any programs in advance, not day of.) The schools are good, and you’ll always get something out of it, whether you’re a beginner or intermediate. I even nab a guide and jump into a half-day lesson once a year myself. Most resorts offer private, semi-private or the group route. At a minimum, you gain confidence and learn a few skills through the lessons. But if you live in Alberta and you really want to start your season off on the right foot, think about Jump Start.
Have you ever put your kids in a ski school either in Canada or abroad? How did that work out for your family?
This post is presented in partnership with Sunshine Village Ski Resort. Each year our family buys Sunshine Super Cards ($99 each) that give your 1st, 4th and 7th visit free. We also paid (0ur own money) to put Eve in the Jump Start program. Still, Sunshine occasionally offers me a free day of skiing, which I greedily accept. Sunshine Village did not review nor edit this post before publication. As always, my opinions are my own.