Western Canada's second ski hill to open this season: Nakiska, AlbertaNakiska, Calgary’s nearest ski hill, is the second resort to open in Western Canada. Although it will only be open weekends initially, it’s a great start to a long season which stretches to mid April. It is also the 25th anniversary for the Olympic hill which was originally developed for the 1988 Calgary Games.
Throughout November Canadian and international athletes will be put through their paces on Mapmaker and Whoop-Up, training at Nakiska for early season World Cup races and Sochi qualifiers. New for the resort this year is Alberta’s first ever World Cup Ski Cross event which will feature the best athletes in the world in exciting head-to-head competition. Get out there and watch them!
Another claim to fame: Nakiska was the base for actors Leonardo Di Caprio, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page and Cillian Murphy while filming for the movie Inception. They stayed in the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis right next to the resort and many of them were seen incognito on the slopes. You never know who you’ll be sharing a chair with there!
Alpine Canada’s Director of Events, Pete Bosinger will be spending a lot of time at Nakiska this season. Former Olympian and head coach of the Canadian men’s team, Bosinger has been a regular at Nakiska since competing there in the 1988 Olympics. “Nakiska has long been a part of my ski racing career as an athlete, coach and event planner,” he says. His coaching career brought him back initially and this season he will be directing the Ski Cross World Cup (Dec 6-7) and the North American Alpine Championships in March.
As well as great race tracks, Nakiska’s ski terrain ranges from manicured, fall-line groomers to well-spaced glades to long bumps runs under the top chair. “The Gold Chair offers top class race and training slopes,” says Bosinger. “And on a powder day it also has some of the longest runs you will find in the Rockies.” On weekdays, this powder can last long into the afternoon in the upper bowls. One of the resorts’ hidden secrets is that many gung-ho powder skiers eschew it for the bigger resorts, leaving more untracked snow for Nakiska know-alls.
Expanding every year, Nakiska now boasts 41 runs over 1021 acres, with 12 trails in the 70-acre Monster Glades area. “The Monster Glades provide some of the best tree skiing in the Alberta Rockies,” says marketing manager, Matt Mosteller. From summit to base the vertical is 2,412 ft, a real thigh-burner for down-in-one cruisers.
A great place to learn skiing, Nakiska sports a 350-ft Magic Carpet with colourful obstacle courses and lively music. The nearby daycare offers ski and play programs which are both child- and parent-friendly. How reassuring to know your kids are having a fabulous time learning, playing and socializing while you ski the mountain – it’s called parallel play! And it’s not just kids who are learning at Nakiska. The Discover Skiing or Riding deals include lesson, lift ticket and rentals, an affordable introduction to the sport for ages 13 and up. The program is suitable if you’re a total beginner, want to cross over from skiing to boarding or vice versa, or just want to refresh your technique after years of absence from the sport.
Nakiska really caters to family bonding, offering a huge range of facilities and programs to attract all age-groups to its no-nonsense layout. The main lodge is right by the drop-off point, near the carpark, and has facilities for packed lunch eaters, self-service, and groups, as well as a topnotch restaurant upstairs. Tickets and rentals are easily accessible just opposite, with daycare positioned right by the beginners slope. Everyone fills the lodge with bags and backpacks so they have everything conceivable at hand for their ski day.
The design of the hill is comprehensive, with chairs entitled Bronze, Silver, Olympic and Gold, roughly denoting the level of difficulty as well as increasing altitude. With one of the most effective snowmaking systems in Canada, Nakiska supplements its 250 cm of natural annual snowfall with perfectly groomed manmade corduroy over 95 percent of the runs. It has a gated rail park, too, dubbed Najibska, available with a $5 access pass.
There are also cruisy cross-country trails crisscrossing the 4,000 square kilometres of Kananaskis Country, the Provincial Park and wildlife area surrounding Nakiska. There’s plenty of accommodation in Kananaskis Village right by the resort, including the Delta Lodge where the G8 world leaders stayed a few years back.
For those who want to try out new techniques on the latest skis, there are Rossignol Demo Days – the next one coming up on Nov 30. This program, run by Ian Hunter, helps skiers find the best ski for their style, ability, slope and snow preferences.
At the end of a long ski day at Nakiska, visitors, locals athletes and coaches all refuel at the Finish Line Lounge, upstairs in the main lodge. One of my family’s favourite ways to top off an energetic day is to drop by the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis skating pond. With hot chocolate served al fresco at weekends and holidays, it adds a European-influenced après-ski charm to finish off the day.
As well as free community ski day, there are lots of ski pass deals at Nakiska throughout the season including the Husky Snowstars Funpass which gives free skiing all season for kids in Grade 2. Kids in Grades 4/5 can get free coupons for 56 Canadian ski hills with the Snowpass. Check the Nakiska website out for this year’s kids’, youth and adult deals.
The word Nakiska means “to meet” in Cree so I hope to meet you there sometime this season!