Located in Alberta, Canada, Nakiska Ski Resort is a great location for a day full of mountain adventures for your family. Only an hour drive from the city, Nakiska is Calgary's closest mountain and offers the best beginner and intermediate terrain in the Rockies. Primarily a family ski hill, Nakiska offers additional winter activities such as tubing and snowshoeing, right on the resort.

But did you know that right next door to Nakiska is Troll Falls -- an easy, beautiful hike featuring waterfalls that is accessible year-round?

Our Ideal Family Day is Any Day in the Mountains

Sylas and I are on a mission to conquer the mountains! At 17 months old, this little guy is full of energy and eager to learn, explore and experience all that life has to offer. And I am thrilled to be right there alongside him, fuelling his passions and helping him grow. So we get bundled up, hit the trails, and set off on new adventures every chance we get.

As an avid snowboarder and hiker, I am adamant about introducing my baby to these outdoor activities that bring me so much joy. With every adventure, I can feel him soaking up the sights and sounds of the mountains, and I can see the excitement and wonder in his curious, blue-eyes.

An Itinerary for Parents with Young Children

This adventurous day of family skiing and hiking is a combination day that we have done multiple times now. In fact, we just did this family ski/hike day again yesterday! We left the town of Cochrane at noon and finished up our day at 4pm. That was with a coffee stop and mama sneaking in one run off of Silver chair!

It definitely isn't the easiest option with kids, but is such a rewarding experience that will leave you feeling exerted, yet energized!

Family Skiing at Nakiska Ski Resort

Nakiska Ski Resort truly embodies the essence of family skiing. There’s a great beginner area that is on the base of the mountain, close to the main lodge.

The bronze chair area is the next level available after your little has progressed from the beginner area.

Furthermore, there is a longer, easier option off both the Silver chair and Olympic chair, if your family is ready for the ‘big-chair’ experience.

Gold Chair showcases more advanced terrain for those family members who are looking for moguls, trees, and steeper runs. There is no easy way down from this chair lift so it isn't recommended for beginners.

Activities to help Alleviate the Weekend Congestion

One of the major issues is that due its’ family-friendly features, Nakiska gets BUSY on weekends creating major congestion in the parking lots, inside the lodge, and in the lift lines. This resort sees up to 5,000 skiers on a sunny Saturday. And that doesn’t include people who are chilling on the resort.

The main lodge is at the base of the mountain making the ski lifts accessible. You can watch and teach your kid in the beginner area and still have access to your vehicle and lodge. For this reason, family members that aren’t skiing gather in the main lodge for the day making it really hard to find seating on weekends.

*There is a really important thing to know as a parent of a baby or toddler in diapers. There is only ONE change table in each of the men’s and women’s washrooms, and they are in the accessible bathroom stall. Because of this, we do a lot of diaper changes in our vehicle.

Other Family-Friendly Activities at Nakiska

While family skiing is primarily the outdoor activity that Nakiska offers, there is a playzone by the beginner area, and families can also do other outdoor activities such as tubing and snowshoeing. 

For beginner skiers or snowboarders, offering a reward like tubing can be a huge motivator! Open Friday-Sunday, the Wanidu tube park can be reached through the beginner area via the conveyor belt lift on the left. After an hour or two of sweating and learning a new sport, treating your young kids to some fun rides down the tube park is a great way to celebrate their efforts and make the experience even more enjoyable!

Nakiska also offers snowshoeing tours. You access the snowshoe trails from the top of Olympic chair. It’s a great way for non-skiers to have a family ski hill experience without the risks or frustration of learning a new sport.

Family Skiing Starts the Day

Whether your kids are already skilled skiers or snowboarders or just starting out, you can all hit the slopes together. If they're not quite ready yet, enroll them in a lesson and enjoy some solo runs

If they are nowhere near the age or capability of riding, then you can try the baby tradeoff. Side-note: I have one child. I imagine that this tradeoff becomes exponentially more difficult as the number of children increases! Oh, and kudos to you both for getting out with multiples!

Family Hiking at Troll Falls

Getting geared up and getting to the Trailhead

As most toddlers do, Sylas has a short attention span. We sometimes get very small windows before we need to switch up the activity. And as much as I love watching him taking it all in, I get bored and cold and need to get my body moving.

I always leave adventure equipment in my Jeep all the time (it's one of my top tips to help with family adventure days). Also, I try not to add to the congestion in the main lodge when I'm not purchasing anything.

Once Sylas has had his fill of exploring and snowboarding, we go back to the Jeep for a quick reset, which may include a diaper change and snacks. Then, we grab our hiking gear and return back to the main area, but instead of stopping, we continue on to the Olympic chair.

As you embark on your winter hike, you'll need to navigate a few ski runs, so it's important to be aware of your surroundings and cautious of skiers and snowboarders. Remember that they have the right of way on their terrain, so stay alert.

Continuing on past the Olympic chair, make sure to stay on the side of the ski run and descend. You'll eventually spot the Bronze chair on your right, but keep going straight across the ski run. Soon, you'll come across a cut-through in the woods that leads to the cross-country ski trail. Follow this short path and then cross another ski run before finally reaching the trailhead.

If you can’t see the cut out or miss it, continue on towards the Bronze chair and pass it, and walk up to the next ski run for a minute. You will eventually come to the trailhead on the right of the ski run. 

The Troll Falls Hike

Troll Falls is an easy to moderate hike offers stunning views of frozen waterfalls, mountains and dense, snow-covered trees. It features multiple waterfalls which I think is perfect because you can turn around at the first one if this is enough for your family.

I would recommend giving yourself about 1.5 - 2 hours to complete this winter hike. The three waterfalls are lower and upper Troll Falls, and Marmot Falls. You can reach lower Troll Falls in about 20 minutes from the base of Nakiska.

We haven’t had much snow yet this winter and the trails are slick. If you want to go past the lower troll falls, micro spikes are necessary in our current, icy conditions. Remember, put on your micro spikes before you get the baby on your back!

The trail begins with a three-way split -- go straight through.

Next is a gentle descent through a dense forest. On a clear day, you'll see this beautiful mountain backdrop through the forest.

As you approach the end of the downslope, you'll see another fork -- turn left towards the sign for Troll Falls. You'll quickly approach the first waterfall, Lower Troll Falls.

After the first waterfall, the trail becomes steeper and more challenging. I chose to go right and took the trail for Upper Troll Falls but you can also follow the recommended trail which leads you to Marmot Falls. Either way, they loop around.

Marmot Falls was our favourite part of this hike! It offers a very unique experience with the ability to get behind a frozen waterfall. Sylas's eyes were wide-open, taking in all the different sounds and sights that come with being in this cave-like atmosphere.

Ending Family Day with a Treat

After a day of nostalgic winter activities, there's nothing like a delicious and well-deserved treat. Imagine digging into a delicious, salty french fries, and sipping on a rich, creamy hot chocolate, ending the ultimate adventurous family day on a perfect note. Sylas loves exploring the lodge and being immersed in the energetic environment, and especially enjoys feeding his daddy french fries.

Spotty Comms in the Rockies

You're often in and out of cell phone service at Nakiska and Trolls Falls. It's important to let a friend or family member know of your plans when exploring the beautiful and rugged terrain of the Rockies.

Tips on Driving to Nakiska

Driving to the ski hill can be a fun and exciting part of your ski day, but it's important to be prepared for the unique challenges of winter driving in the Canadian Rockies. Having kids in the back of your vehicle, screaming at you, changes the game!

Here are some tips to help you arrive safely and sane, and ready to have the best family day:

  • Have lots of snacks within reach. Having cheerios in these containers help to keep my Jeep clean-ish!
  • Baby wipes. Always have baby wipes in your vehicle.
  • Have some favourite toys within reach.
  • Road coffee! 
  • Plan to be heading or coming back from Nakiska during nap time, if possible.
  • Check the weather and road conditions and make sure you have enough time to adjust your plans if the roads are bad.
  • Slow down and give yourself plenty of space. The roads are likely to be slippery, so be extra cautious and allow for plenty of room to stop.
  • Use winter tires or carry tire chains. This can help improve traction and stability on the snowy roads.

By following these tips, hopefully your drive to the ski hill is a safe and stress-free experience!

An Itinerary for Parents with Young Children

This adventurous day of family skiing and hiking is a combination day that we have done multiple times now. As an avid snowboarder and hiker, I am adamant about introducing my baby to these outdoor activities that bring me so much joy. With every adventure, I can feel him soaking up the sights and sounds of the mountains, and I can see the excitement and wonder in his curious, blue-eyes.