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Best family-friendly ski resorts in Canada

It always blows my mind how quickly kids master skiing and snowboarding.

I first stood on skis at the age of 14, but it wasn’t until the age of 22 that I tried it again and started seriously trying to learn. By then, of course, the fear of falling has well and truly set in. I actually feel a little envious of all the kids flying past, kicking up clouds of powder, as they expertly duck and weave down the piste in single files like a line of ducklings scurrying behind their instructors.

If you’re thinking about taking your kids on a ski holiday, there’s no time like the present. The sooner the kids get comfortable on the snow, the sooner you can plan epic ski trips all over the world. Ski holidays are the kind of thing you’ll be able to enjoy for decades to come, even once they’re grown and living their own lives, because the old adage is true: families that play together, stay together. 

So where’s the best place to start? The northern ski season is beckoning, with Qantas and Air Canada both set to start offering direct flights from Sydney to Vancouver in coming months. If you’re planning a ski trip with your kids, you should make a beeline for these family-friendly resorts in the Rockies.

See also:

13 reasons to ski North America

What I never expected to find in Banff

All of the major resorts have excellent ski school and childcare options. Picture: Getty Images

Explore endless possibilities at Whistler/Blackcomb

Let’s start with the obvious choice. Whistler/Blackcomb is the mother of all ski destinations, where two mountains merged to create one of the largest resorts in North America. It’s only 120km north of Vancouver, which makes it an easy transfer, and its size means it has bucket loads of activities.

On the mountain, this includes the world-class Whistler Kids Snow School, as well as plenty of designated family zones where you can safely ski alongside your kids without worrying about experts flying past at top speed. Families should also check out the Magic Castle (on Blackcomb) and Tree Fort (on Whistler), which are free outdoor adventure playgrounds that allow kids to run around and unwind.

Off the mountain, there’s a huge number of shops, restaurants, and accommodation options. Kids will love the free outdoor skating rink at Olympic Plaza and the awesome Fire and Ice show. And of course, since no family ski holiday is complete without tubing, you’ll need to pay Tube Park a visit.

An afternoon spent tubing is a must for a family ski trip. Picture: Getty Images

An afternoon spent tubing is a must for a family ski trip. Picture: Getty Images

Try a Canadian family favourite at Big White

Next on our hit list is Big White, for a few reasons. It’s also located in British Columbia, about 50km southeast of the lakeside city of Kelowna. It’s easiest to make this short hop on a domestic flight.

There’s a good reason Big White is nicknamed, “Canada’s Favourite Family Ski Resort”. There are virtually endless things to do with kids, starting with a renowned ski school that includes the excellent “Mom/Dad and Me Are Skiing” option, which is a great way to introduce kids to the sport with games and fun activities if they’re still a bit nervous about being away from their parents in a new environment.

The Kids Centre and Tot Town Daycare were suspended in the 20/21 season due to COVID, however, they’re set to be back soon with a comprehensive COVID-safe plan. Kids can go for a half-day or full-day, providing a break from ski school and a chance to have fun and make friends with all the others.

There are also a whole host of family-friendly activities, including snowmobile tours, tubing, ice skating, horse-drawn sleigh rides, dog sled tours, and lots of fun events scheduled throughout the season.

Dog sledding is a great way to explore the forests with little legs. Picture: Getty Images

Dog sledding is a great way to explore the forests with little legs. Picture: Getty Images

Get an amazing 3-for-1 deal in Banff

The best thing about a ski holiday in Banff is that you don’t have to commit to a single resort. Ski Big 3 passes will let your family make the most of Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt Norquay, all of which are easily accessible from the Banff town centre. If you book early, you can save up to 35 per cent on ski and stay packages. Banff is a gorgeous town that does a lot of things well, but when it comes to the ease of booking accommodation, equipment rentals, transport, tickets, and activities, it’s in a class of its own.

The resorts offer everything from bunny slopes to world-class steeps, and the best thing about being able to access three is that you can choose based on the best conditions each day. All three resorts have great programs for kids, ranging from the Tiny Tigers’ Ski and Play at Sunshine, for kids aged 3-6, to the Terrain Park Lessons at Mt Norquay for kids aged 6-12. You can compare all the options here.

When you’re not carving it up with your kids, Banff is a winter wonderland with loads of family-friendly activities. There’s an annual ice sculpture festival at Lake Louise, hot springs in town, sightseeing trips, and lots of fun sledding and sleigh-ride trips the littlies will love. Those with older kids wanting to assert their independence and dial up the adrenalin can sign up for introductory backcountry skiing lessons, snowshoe tours, heli-skiing, ice climbing, or learning to ride a powerful 600cc snowmobile.

Kids will love the magical ice sculptures at Lake Louise, near Banff. Picture: Getty Images

Kids will love the magical ice sculptures at Lake Louise, near Banff. Picture: Getty Images

Which resort to visit first

On top of these, of course, there are many smaller resorts dotted all over the Rockies. The best thing about planning your first family ski trip to Canada, however, is that you can almost guarantee it won’t be your last. With excellent terrain, fluffy powder, and an incredible ski culture, you really can’t go wrong.

See also:

7 amazing things to do in Vancouver

I faced the one problem no skier should

20 amazing natural wonders only in Canada

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