For those in Canada wanting to try out something new for winter, I have just one suggestion — snowboarding. It’s honestly one of the most enjoyable sports I’ve ever tried, and the better you get at it, the more fun it seems. I will have to warn you though; you need patience at the beginning of your learning curve, but stick with it. Snowboarding in Canada can be quite special.
When I started out, I had some lessons up at Canada Olympic Park (COP) with a girl called Candice, and she was really good. She taught me the basics during my first lesson, and then I learned some more turns and techniques during my second lesson. The best way to describe snowboarding is probably that you are on a board similar to a skateboard, and your feet are strapped on, and you’re zooming down a mountain. Sounds fun, right? Once you overcome that initial fear factor, it’s just amazing.
Personally, I would recommend lessons – it gives you a really good grasp of what to expect, plus you don’t have to buy everything at the start. Try renting the equipment to see if you really enjoy the sport. Some of our friends, however, chose not to take lessons and just came out to one of the mountains with us, and they learned the basics very quickly. One of our friends is a great teacher and has lots of patience, so I think that certainly helps for our other friends. It’s also important to note that there are three categories of difficulty: green is usually beginner level, blue equates to intermediate level, and black is the most difficult. Of course, you can also have double black and triple black runs.
Of all the resorts that we’ve been to so far, I have really enjoyed Kicking Horse, just over the provincial border in British Columbia. I went there with only a few full days of snowboarding under my belt, and I’m not going to lie – it’s intimidating. It’s not the easiest of mountains, so I would certainly suggest having at least four to five days of snowboarding on mountains completed before tackling Kicking Horse. It’s a fantastic mountain, and when we were there in March of last year, the snow was great, which made for awesome snowboarding.
So far this year, we’ve visited Nakiska, Lake Louise, Sunshine (all Alberta) and Fernie (BC). Of the first three, in terms of snow, Sunshine is undoubtedly the best. However, there is one flaw to this mountain, and it is the flat portions evident throughout the mountain. When you really get a feel for snowboarding, you’ll develop a thrill for zooming down the mountains at a fast pace. When you hit a flat part of the mountain, however, no matter how fast you will be going you will most likely have to unstrap from your board and walk a little portion. It’s very frustrating when you have to do that, as you lose your rhythm somewhat, and carry your board (believe me, when you’re tired and this happens, it’s not a fun experience). Overall, Sunshine is a great mountain and always seems to get such large snowfalls. We also went to Castle, BC last year but we were quite unlucky as it was extremely icy on the day, which meant that it was difficult to have full control of your board, particularly when linking turns.
We recently visited Fernie for their official opening weekend, and it’s certainly a mountain I would highly recommend going to. When we were there, all runs and lifts were open, which meant that a total of 80 runs were available to test out — a huge number. We stuck to the right side of the mountain (the mountain has a total of five bowls), as we were advised by one of their staff members that visibility was quite poor on the left side of the mountain, which wasn’t ideal. We used mostly blue runs, which are generally quite steep, and one particular part of the run was no exception. However, it was great practice as you usually have to overcome steep parts on many runs.
Of all the mountains we have frequented so far since we started snowboarding, the BC mountains fare better in terms of bigger snowfall. They tend to have much bigger bases on their mountains, which is great when you fall as it won’t hurt as much. In terms of challenging runs and great powder, I’d highly recommend either Kicking Horse or Fernie – it’s usually worth the three hour drive and you’re nearly always guaranteed such a great day!
For information on snowboarding in Canada, see our Winter sports in Vancouver page.
Sharon is a recent Journalism and New Media graduate from the University of Limerick, and originally hails from Clonakilty in West Cork, Ireland. Always keen to embark on a new adventure, she has been residing in Calgary, Alberta since November 2012 and is currently working as receptionist with an accounting firm in Calgary. She has written for a variety of newspapers and publications, both in Canada and Ireland, and is delighted to be a part of the Moving2Canada team.